Note: I posted this article last year as Dinah Dog and I were getting ready to head out on the road with Li'l Homey. Even though we live in our trailer all year 'round, a lot of people are just getting ready to go camping this summer so I thought it might be timely information for vacationers. Enjoy!
Now that Dinah Dog and I have lived in Li'l Homey for more than a year, I thought I'd see if I could update the information for our use and for others who might be just starting out, either full-timing around the country or just camping for a few days or weeks on summer vacation. Last year, in my Google-ing around for stuff like "free camping" and "boondocking" and "vintage-trailer-friendly campgrounds," I found websites that chronicle places on federal and state-owned lands and other places where you can stay for free or almost free. Even though I've been concentrating on the "free" part of the websites, almost free is good, too.
If you've been "out there" at all, you'll already know there are many well-known places to pull your rig into and park overnight for free – some Walmart parking lots, other retail locations, industrial area side streets, the road in front of your friend's house, the rest area along the interstate, the parking lot of the nearest casino. It doesn't really matter what your "rig" is – it could be a motor home, a trailer, your car or anything in between (except for maybe actually pitching a tent) – for the most part, no one will bother you in these locations I've listed, but it is always recommended that checking in with the local manager, if there is one, will go a long ways towards keeping you hassle-free for the night.
There are over 190 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands – the cool thing is that they don't charge an admission fee and the camping is free, as long as you stay out of the official campgrounds. Your neighbors will be the local wildlife, and perhaps other people who want to get away from it all and stay somewhere for free. The website is the US Forest Service but it's not very intuitive when it comes to finding locations. (At least, I didn't think so; maybe you'll have better luck than I did.) Click on Maps & Brochures on the left side, then click on Forest Maps, and you'll come to this page where the United States is divided up into regions, showing the different federal forests that you can get information about. For instance, if you're looking for the Columbia River Gorge, you would get this page by following the steps I just outlined. Clicking on Recreation will take you to another page where you can search for available camping. You can do this same process for any of the locations listed on the Forest Maps page.
Here are other sites that have more information about camping for free or almost for free:
- The Bureau of Land Management in the western part of the United States allows camping on most of its land for free or almost for free. After opening their webpage by clicking on the link, on the left side of that page, click on Visit Us and then Recreation Opportunities. The linked site that comes up allows you to search BLM land in different states.
- Information on finding free or what's called dispersed camping, in National Forests.
- Recreation.gov can help you search for National Forest land on which to pitch a tent or park an RV (my test search here revealed 313 locations in California!). Just type in the name of the state you're searching in, click on any filters you want to use, and click on the Search button.
- Free or almost free camping places – Free Campgrounds lists camping places that are ten dollars a night or less – just click on the state you want to search.
- Freecampsites.net is another site that lists both free and paid camping sites in the US and Canada as well.
- Great information page on boondocking or camping for free – probably one of the better pages I've seen so far.
- Very informational website kept up by Bob, a boondocker with lots of information about camping and living in your RV, van, trailer, etc. Check out Camping Locations in the Category listing on the right side of the page for some specific locations he's camped in.
Also try searching on Google to locate more information on free or almost free camping. Seems more info keeps popping up all over. If you know of a website that might be helpful to those of us reading this blog, myself included, please include it in a comment below.