Amazing Free Camping Sites in All 50 States

Camping can get pricey when you’re paying for food, supplies, and gas — but for the financially savvy traveler, there are spots all over the U.S. where you can camp for free.

camping in the mountains under the starry night sky
Updated May 28, 2024
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Being in nature can be incredible, and camping is an amazing choice to relax. Unlike other vacations, you won’t have to pay for hotels, but camping can come with costs of its own.

Many campsites charge fees for things like amenities and maintenance. Fortunately, there are also free campsites for those of us who may have a budget while camping — a great opportunity to save money and still be able to enjoy the outdoors. The downside is that the amenities that come with pay-per-stay campsites — like bathrooms or clean-up crews — may not be available at these free campsites. For many, though, roughing it in the great outdoors is worth it.

Below, we’ve gathered a list of 50 great free campsite options in every state in the U.S.

Brush Creek Park — Alabama

John McQuiston/Adobe sunset on the Tennessee River

Brush Creek Park in Waterloo is a popular destination along the Tennessee River. There are 10 camping sites, and you can set up your RV or simply head over with your tent. This spot is open seasonally, from March to October, and completely free.

Pro tip: If you’ve been working on your budgeting, stick to visiting free campsites that are just a short drive from your home to save on travel, too.

Deadman Lake Campground — Alaska

mtnmichelle/Adobe sunset over Deadman Lake in Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Alaska

Nature lovers head to Deadman Lake Campground , which is part of the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge in Northway. Visitors rave about the tranquil and well-kept campground. There are also complementary canoes to take out on the water. The site is open from April to October, weather permitting.

Forest Road 302 — Arizona

thaiprayboy/Adobe dirt and Mud road terrain into the forest after rainy day

If you’re heading to Arizona’s most well-known destination, the Grand Canyon, there are some incredible free campsites nearby. On the South Rim of the canyon, check out Forest Road 302 in Kaibab National Forest. It’s close enough to the canyon for easy access, but far enough to avoid crowds.

Sam’s Throne Recreation Area — Arkansas

Andrew/Adobe Northern Arkansas in the fall

Sam’s Throne Recreation Area in Ozark National Forest is popular among campers, hikers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts alike. There’s no fee to stay in the Newton County campground, but previous visitors have warned that those with large RVs may struggle to make their way toward the campsites on small, winding roads.

Joshua Tree South Dispersed Camping — California

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In a huge state like California, there are tons of options for free camping. One great choice is Joshua Tree South Dispersed Camping in Chiriaco Summit. Rave reviews point out the proximity to Joshua Tree National Park, the ability to camp in an RV, car, tent, or whatever your heart desires, and space to spread out.

Gordon Gulch — Colorado

Jonathan/Adobe rocky trail through pine forest

Colorado is another state that has an abundance of free campsites. An area along the southern Rocky Mountains, known as the Front Range, has some solid spots including Gordon Gulch . This spot has 15 designated sites and campers are welcome to stay for up to two weeks.

Mohegan Sun Casino — Connecticut

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Free campsites in Connecticut are scarce, however, the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville does offer a large lot for travelers to park their RV for a few days. While you’re there, a shuttle to the casino will also pop by regularly. In addition to saving money while parking, you could catch a ride to the casino and test your luck.

Blackbird State Forest — Delaware

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Dubbed primitive camping, the grounds of Blackbird State Forest is located just a short commute from major cities Wilmington and Newark. It is free and open to the public for activities like hiking, walking, jogging, and horseback riding year round. The trails system includes five campsites and four picnic sites.

Lake Panasoffkee Wildlife Management Area — Florida

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Florida has plenty of free camping for all sorts of wildlife enthusiasts. The Lake Panasoffkee Wildlife Management Area in Wildwood offers picnic tables and fire rings or grills. There are also horse stalls available for equestrian campers. While it is free, reservations are required.

Barrington County Park — Georgia

Richard/Adobe Sunrise on the Chattahoochee River

Barrington County Park in Townsend is not just beautiful, but convenient. In fact, some visitors have expressed surprise that it’s free since the site has real toilets and working showers.

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden — Hawaii

Christian Müller/Adobe Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, Hawaii

There’s no shortage of gorgeous scenery to see on the islands of Hawaii, but Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden on Oahu offers visitors the unique opportunity to see plant life from all over the world. The city-run campsite is a quiet option and camping is available for free Mondays through Fridays, but you will need to make a reservation.

Goodenough Creek Campground — Idaho

I Am G.Guide/Adobe tent near a brook with good weather in the forest

Even though the name literally says “good enough,” visitors of Goodenough Creek Campground who’ve reviewed this place tout it as much more than that. The grounds in McCammon offer gorgeous views as well as toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings. There are 10 designated camping spots — five for tents and five for RVs and trailers.

Turkey Bayou Campground — Illinois

ujjwal/Adobe Garden of Gods in Shawnee National Forest Herod Illinois USA

Turkey Bayou Campground in Shawnee National Forest is a fan favorite in Illinois. The grounds, located in Pomona, have a reputation for offering a nice, secluded camping spot with beautiful lake views and hiking opportunities.

Hoosier National Forest — Indiana

Richard/Adobe Hemlock Cliffs After a Light Snow in Autumn Indiana

In Indiana, camping is permitted on public lands as long as you are not on an established campground and stay within 125 feet of the road. One popular choice for free camping within Hoosier National Forest is Blackwell Horsecamp , located on Tower Ridge Road in Heltonville.

Jones Creek Pond — Iowa

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If you’re looking for a beautiful place to fish or just quietly enjoy nature, Jones Creek Pond in the Loess Hills State Forest is a perfect option. These campsites are often uncrowded, come with fire rings and picnic tables, and are close to hiking opportunities.

Sheridan State Fishing Lake — Kansas

Silver Edge/Adobe lake in the prairie hills

Several Kansas state lakes allow visitors to set up their tents and enjoy camping, fishing, picnics, or simply spending quality time in the great outdoors. One solid option, Sheridan State Fishing Lake , is located 12 miles east of Hoxie, just a mile north of Highway 24.

Turkey Foot Campground — Kentucky

Jim Vallee/Adobe Natural Arch In Kentucky

Most of the free camping in Kentucky is located in national forests. Turkey Foot Campground in Daniel Boone National Forest, is located in McKee and is known for trout fishing. It’s a clean and secluded option, but may be tough to get to if you’re in a large vehicle. Visitors can enjoy beautiful views, picnic tables, fire rigs, and tent pads.

Bonnet Carre Spillway Campground — Louisiana

sukanda/Adobe Camping green tent in forest near lake

If you’re looking for a free camping option near New Orleans, Bonnet Carre Spillway Campground is located just west of the Big Easy and offers views, fishing, and basic campsites. It’s an Army Corps of Engineer site, so a reservation is required.

Spencer Bay Campground — Maine

Brandon Schultz/Adobe Moosehead Lake 16

The Moosehead Lake area has lots of free camping options, including the Spencer Bay Campground, which has more than 30 sites for visitors to use. Moosehead Lake is New England’s largest body of freshwater, and offers camping, fishing, hunting, and hiking.

Furnace Town Parking Lot — Maryland

dvande/Adobe travel trailer camping in the woods at starved rock state park illinois

Free camping is hard to come by in Maryland. Visitors to the Snow Hill area can camp out for free in the Furnace Town Parking Lot . RV travelers have reported it’s a quiet spot to rest. It’s not exactly in the middle of the wilderness, but you can settle down in a tree-covered area and wander around the Furnace Town Historical Site.

Pro tip: If you love seeing the world, it’s worth looking into getting a travel credit card that may reward you for purchases while on the road.

Mount Washington State Forest — Massachusetts

katkami/Adobe Mount Greylock in Massachusetts

Mount Washington State Forest offers visitors some beautiful hiking and camping opportunities with over 30 miles of trails. There are several free tent sites, but wilderness camping is not currently permitted.

Perrault Lake — Michigan

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Michigan offers an abundance of free camping options, with several spots available in national forests and on land maintained by the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Perrault Lake in Toivola is an especially beautiful and popular DNR spot.

Harriet Lake Rustic Campground — Minnesota

Susan Rydberg/Adobe colorful Japanese garden near Lake Harriet in Minneapolis

With beautiful fields of flowers, Harriet Lake Rustic Campground in the Superior National Forest is located at an abandoned farm. Visitors can enjoy the scenery, swim in the lake, and bask in the serenity the large open campsites have to offer.

Jeff Busby Campground — Mississippi

jordan/Adobe green fields with horses with hills behind Natchez Trace parkway

The Jeff Busby Campground is one of three free sites along the Natchez Trace Parkway. It’s located in Ackerman at Milepost 193.1. Visitors say it’s a beautiful, basic, and well-kept place to spend a few nights with picnic tables, restrooms, trails, exhibits, and even an overlook on Little Mountain.

Pinewoods Lake Campground — Missouri

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Pinewoods Lake Campground in Mark Twain National Forest is a great place to stop to enjoy scenic lake views and hiking in a densely-wooded area. The campground is located in the southeastern part of the forest, just a short distance from Highway 60.

Carbella Rec Site — Montana

MJ Kerr/Adobe aerial view of Paradise Valley near Emigrant Peak Park County Montana

Located along the upper Yellowstone River in Emigrant, Carbella Rec Site offers visitors the opportunity to camp out, fish, or even take a dip in the lake. The grounds also have bathrooms, picnic tables, and fire rings for campers.

Streeter Park Campground — Nebraska

dvande/Adobe travel trailer camping in the woods at Branched Oak Lake State Park Nebraska

Streeter Park Campground in Aurora is one of those rare sites that comes with amazing amenities. Visitors can access free water, electrical hookups, and a waste water dump site. However, donations made to their donation box on site are encouraged.

Sacramento Pass Recreation Area — Nevada

Dominic/Adobe US Highway 50 outside of Great Basin National Park Nevada

Nevada is another state that has free campsites galore. Visitors rave about the Sacramento Pass Recreation Area in Ely. It has several hiking trails, a small pond for fishing, and is located near Great Basin National Park.

White Mountain National Forest — New Hampshire

haveseen/Adobe Echo Lake from Artist's Bluff in autumn

Haystack Road, one camping site within the White Mountain National Forest , offers campers an opportunity to set up shop in secluded spots and enjoy everything the forest has to offer. Campers should try to make reservations at least seven days in advance, per the Department of Agriculture.

Round Valley Recreation Area — New Jersey

MichaelVi/Adobe Round Valley Reservoir sunrise

Free camping is hard to come by in New Jersey, however, if wilderness camping is what you’re after, Round Valley Recreation Area in Lebanon is an option. It’s great for fishing, swimming, and camping, but know that you’ll be hiking at least three miles from the parking lot to the nearest campsite.

Joe Skeen Campground — New Mexico

Connor/Adobe El Malpais National Monument New Mexico

Joe Skeen Campground in El Malpais National Conservation Area is a hit with those traveling through New Mexico for a slew of reasons. It’s free, has great facilities (bathrooms, trash, picnic tables), and it’s close to gorgeous hiking areas.

Moose River Plains Camping Corridor — New York

bhamms/Adobe Mount Van Hoevenberg near Lake Placid New York

The Moose River Plains Camping Corridor is an incredible option for those looking to enjoy everything the Adirondacks have to offer like hiking, scenery, and of course, seclusion. The camping corridor has over 100 camping sites and most have a picnic table, fire ring, and an outhouse.

Santeetlah Lake — North Carolina

digidreamgrafix/Adobe Lake Santeetlah in Great Smoky Mountains

Santeetlah Lake is a popular option for both RV and tent campers The area, in Robbinsville, offers dispersed camping sites and an opportunity to see all the beauty Nantahala National Forest has to offer.

Scoria Pit Dispersed Camping — North Dakota

Zack Frank/Adobe Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Located in the Little Missouri National Grassland in Medora, Scoria Pit offers campers beautiful views, the chance to spread out, and close proximity to hot attractions nearby. The Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit is just a short drive away.

Hook Lake Campground — Ohio

vanden/Adobe fishing in the lake

Hook Lake is one of four free campgrounds in Jesse Owens State Park, and the McConnelsville-area spot is certainly a popular choice. It’s especially perfect if you’re traveling with kids, as it has youth-only fishing ponds, picnic tables, fire rings, and an archery ring.

Black Kettle Campground — Oklahoma

Brock/Adobe Black Kettle National Grassland

This campsite in Black Kettle National Grassland , located in Crawford, offers visitors a serene spot to spend a few days and comes equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and bathrooms. The area is known for hiking for all levels, and some truly stunning views.

Mount Ashland Campground — Oregon

Brock/Adobe Klamath National Forest Oregon

There is a lot of free camping to choose from in Oregon. In the southern part of the state, the Mount Ashland Campground in Klamath National Forest offers stunning views and allows campers to enjoy true serenity when staying along the Siskiyou Crest.

Moon Lake Recreation Area — Pennsylvania

Karbon Creative/Adobe small waterfall in the forest

The Moon Lake Recreation Area in Pinchot State Forest offers visitors basic grounds with fire rings and picnic tables. There’s plenty of space to enjoy the great outdoors, but campers do need to secure a permit (which is also free). The campsite is open April through November.

Twin River Casino — Rhode Island

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Rhode Island is another state without many free camping sites. The Twin River Casino in Lincoln does allow travelers to stay in a large lot for a few days. There’s plenty of greenery in the area and campers can hit the casino for food or a bit of gambling.

Pro tip: Use the best gas credit card for rewards to make the most out of your excursion.

Santee Coastal Reserve — South Carolina

Martina/Adobe Santee River Marsh South Carolina

The Santee Coastal Reserve campsite in McClellanville offers campers large, quiet, spaces on well-kept grounds. There’s no shortage of activities in the area — from hiking to birdwatching. There is a four night maximum for campers, and you will need to register when you arrive.

Nomad View Dispersed Camping — South Dakota

Don/Adobe Buffalo Gap National Grasslands US Forest Service sign in South Dakota

Offering vast open space with incredible views, the campsite in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland is especially magical after dark to see the vastness of the big night sky. The camp is open to all sorts of travelers, so you can bring your car, tent, RV, and your pets.

Meriwether Lewis Campground — Tennessee

Dee/Adobe Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee USA

This campground is located at milepost 385.9 on Natchez Trace Parkway and offers visitors an incredible opportunity to enjoy hiking trails, exhibits, and picnic areas. There are 32 campsites available and campers also have access to bathrooms and free drinkable water.

Magnolia Beach — Texas

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Texas is unique in that travelers can actually score free beachfront camping in the state. Magnolia Beach in Port Lavaca is an incredible place to set up your tent or RV. The spot also has amenities like bathrooms, outdoor showers, and trash pick up.

Valley of the Gods Dispersed Camping — Utah

Paulista/Adobe desert landscape at mexican hat Utah

You’ll be shocked that this site is free once you catch sight of the incredible views at the Valley of the Gods dispersed camping area. This spot in Mexican Hat, Utah, allows campers to spread out, enjoy the serenity, and glimpse some unforgettable views of the stars.

Mt. Moosalamoo Dispersed Camping — Vermont

Caleb Foster/Adobe Autumn on Mount Mansfield Vermont

This campsite in Ripton, is small, remote and near more than 70 miles of trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. It’s located in the heart of Moosalamoo National Recreation Area in Green Mountain National Forest.

Oronoco Campground Dispersed Camping Area — Virginia

Jesse Kunerth/Adobe Camping at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach

Located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, the Oronoco Campground is great for those seeking a nice tranquil spot in the Appalachian Forests. It’s located in Vesuvius and is easily accessible from Highway 60.

Fishtrap Recreation Area — Washington

Sam Judy/Adobe farm pond at Fishtrap Recreation Area

The Fishtrap Recreation Area in Sprague offers thousands of acres of beautiful landscapes to explore. There are no developed campsites, but the area has plenty of space to set up your RV or pitch a tent.

Hawk Recreation Area — West Virginia

jonbilous/Adobe Potomac Highlands of West Virginia

Within the Allegheny Mountains, the Hawk Recreation Area campground offers amazing hiking with easy access to the Tuscarora Trail. The camp is located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Wardensville.

Porcupine Lake Wilderness — Wisconsin

Craig Zerbe/Adobe Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Michigan Upper Peninsula

There are several areas to enjoy wilderness camping in Wisconsin, and Porcupine Lake in Bayfield County boasts stunning views, incredible trails, and plenty of fishing opportunities. Important note: Camping is prohibited within 100 feet of water or the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Upper Teton View — Wyoming

srongkrod/Adobe landscape of Grand Teton National Park

There are almost 200 sites that offer free camping across Wyoming. Upper Teton View - Toppings Lake Dispersed Campsites are popular due to their proximity to the Teton Range. It’s advised to try to get to the area in Bridger-Teton National Forest , located in Moose, early due to the site’s popularity.

Bottom line

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Camping is an incredible way to experience nature and to enjoy some time away without breaking the bank . Some of these sites are rugged with vast mountain views, while others are small lakeside campgrounds. What’s excellent is that they are all free and help you experience the beauty of the outdoors. Bring your camera to capture all of nature’s wonders.

Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.