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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

On my first car camping road trip across the U.S., I was shocked at how much I was spending on campsites. Campsites in and outside of National Parks ranged from $10-$40 and it was a cost I honestly did not prepare for. Years of spending long periods of time on the road, I’ve found what really works to not only find FREE camping near you, but some of the most beautiful campsites I’ve ever experienced while car camping and now during van travels.

Here are 4 tested ways to finding FREE Camping near you that is also scenic. Read here for all my tips to find epic camping and save money!

Types of Free Camping and the Difference Between Them

Find FREE Camping near you that is also scenic. Read here for all my tips to find epic camping and save money!

There are a lot of different terms used to define camping and it’s good to know what they mean to not only find free camping, but to know if it will be a good fit for your vehicle, set up and comfort level. Some campsites are not going to be ideal for tent camping out of a car, while they might be perfect for an enclosed car camping or van set up.

BLM Land

BLM Land or Bureau of Land Management is a government run management program under the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is essentially Public Recreation areas that often allow free camping, BUT not all BLM land means free camping.

BLM Areas offer two types of campgrounds typically:

  • Developed Campgrounds: this is Camping that has facilities (bathrooms, water garbage, electric, picnic tables, etc) and typically requires a FEE and is booked
  • Dispersed Camping: is Public land that is AWAY from facilities (no bathrooms, etc) and typically unmarked and could require All Wheel Drive or 4×4, but is FREE CAMPING

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed Camping, BLM Land, Forest Roads and more.  Read here for all my tips to find free camping and save money!

So, dispersed camping in BLM areas or National Forest Areas is free camping. Awesome. BUT, there’s a lot to know before you go.

Leave No Trace

First, if you are unfamiliar with Leave No Trace Principles or LNT please read this guide on everything you need to know before you go camping!

Leave No Trace is a Guideline that shows the best way to interact with the land to maintain it for years to come.

Most Important Leave No Trace Takeaways:

  • Pack it out!! Most Free Campsites do NOT have trash facilities. It is so upsetting to arrive at a beautiful nature area and see it littered with garbage.
    • Always pack garbage bags (and gloves) with you on a road trip for your own trash and if you are able, to clean areas you spend time in.
    • Pit Toilets may be available to you and are not trash cans. Pit toilets will be unusable if filled with trash. Please respect these areas so that others may continue to use any free facilities.
  • Stay on Trails and already established roads. Free Public Land does not mean you can make your own path and camp anywhere. Use existing sites to protect the land from erosion and other damage.
  • Fire Laws. I think everyone has seen the devastation caused by fires in our forest areas. Please consider NOT having a fire during fire season and always check to see if there are current fire restrictions. You can do this by going to BLM.gov and searching the area you will be camping at.
    • a good rule if fires ARE allowed is to only have fires in established fire rings during summer months.

How to Find Free Camping Near You

Here are 4 tested ways to finding FREE Camping near you that is also scenic. Read here for all my tips to find epic camping and save money!

Okay, thanks for bearing with me. Now we can get to the good stuff. It can be tricky to find free camping if you’ve never done so. I personally have found my favorite free camping sites using these websites:


Here are 4 tools to finding FREE Camping near you that is also scenic. Read here for all my tips to find epic camping and save money!

This is my personal favorite. This was the first website I was introduced to in my search for free camping and am rarely let down with a few tricks I’ll discuss below.

Use the the map tool to type in your location or the location you’re looking for camping and click on the tent icons to read more.

  • Green tents = Free Camping
  • Red tents = Paid Camping

By clicking on the description of a tent icon, you can obtain more details like the rating of the site by other people, reviews from people that have stayed, and even pictures of the site or other important info for directions/finding the campsite.


IOverlander is another great tool to find free camping near you. Very similar to the tool above. To start your search, click ‘No Thanks’ when prompted to donate. I mean of course feel free to donate if you are able, but it asks every time.

Note: On Mobile, scroll down and select no thanks before typing in the location otherwise it will glitch.


This one was recommended to me recently by a friend and I’m a big fan so far. It offers up pictures and campsites to browse if you’re planning a trip. Campendium offers filters to narrow your search and shows prices on the side bar. I did not find a filter to select FREE campsites but it did not take me long to scroll down and find free camping near me.


TheDyrt.com is gaining lots of popularity, although I have rarely used this platform. I have found it difficult to find the free access as it likes to try to get you to sign up for a Pro Membership at $35 a year (which is really not terrible, but this is a blog post on FREE CAMPING)

To access the free maps and campsite information, click out of any free trial or pro membership ads and type in the area you wish to search in the search bar! There seem to be lots of reviews about campsites and include very valuable information in a much easier layout to read and see than freecampsites.net.

Note: These campsites are first come first serve. Reservations are not available for free campsites.

Tips for Finding the Best Free Campsites

Here are 4 tested ways to finding FREE Campsites near you that is also scenic. Read here for all my tips to find epic camping and save money!

I’ve been really spoiled with incredible views staying at some of these campsites. By far my favorites have been in Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota.

To find the best views, I look for campsites on the map that are in areas outside of cities. Forest areas, mountain regions, etc. I then look to see if any of them are rated and look for ones with higher ratings.

My most important tip: READ ALL THE REVIEWS. I cannot stress this enough. For myself, as a woman, occasionally traveling solo I like to relieve as much anxiety upfront by doing my research and knowing what to expect at a free campsite. Often reviews will give you important info on the best views there, flattest ground and possibly even pictures of their stay.

Camping for Free on National Forest Roads!

Here are 4 tested ways to finding FREE car camping and van camping near you that is also scenic. Read here for all my tips to find epic camping and save money!

Here is another free camping option that I want to discuss. Some of these locations are found by using the websites listed above. There are lots of areas to stay at along National Forest roads if you know the rules.

Most people are familiar with National Parks, which have very strict rules on where you can and cannot stay and also typically don’t allow pets. National Forests, however, have much looser rules and sometimes even border National Park areas.

The typical rule for camping around forest roads is to camp 100-200 feet away from any road, trail, or any water source. There will often be visible pull offs or tire marks where people have previously camped and it is encouraged to camp at those spots to not disrupt the natural environment.

How Long Can I Camp For Free??

While it is free camping, there are some rules around how long you can stay at a location.

The general rule is you cannot stay for more than 14 days within a 28 day period. This includes separate visits and consecutive stays. When this limit has been reached you then have to move outside of a 25 mile radius of the location.

Time of Year Considerations for Free Camping

Road Trip tools to save money! Read here for more tips.

An important factor to consider when you are looking for the best free camping near you is WHEN you are going.

If you are traveling during the busy summer months when everyone is on the road going to National Parks, you’re going to have a much harder time finding available free camping.

  • Have flexibility? If you do, go before the evening to grab an available campsite.
  • If you have 4-wheel or AWD and can get to some harder to reach areas, there will be less people there as well

Vehicle Limitations for Free Camping

Another reason I highly suggest reading reviews and a description of the free campsites is to get an idea of how difficult it is to access the free camping spot.

Some of these free camping spots require going up some pretty gnarly roads where decent clearance, tires and 4×4 is recommended. Be sure to do your research on what it will require and come prepared.

Safety When Camping in Dispersed Camping Areas

Here are 4 tested ways to finding Camping near you that is free. Read here for all my tips to find epic camping and save money!

Expect No Cell Service in Free Camping areas

A lot of these areas that allow you to camp for free are off grid and do not have cell service. Reading the reviews of a camping area on the websites listed above can give you an idea of whether or not you may have service. It is best to come prepared.

Screenshot directions or download offline maps to ensure safety in getting to your camping spot and back out. Campendium.com has a tab on each campsite that lists what cell service is available.

Tip for Offline Maps: to Download Google Maps to a location, swipe the buttons to the left (directions, start, label, share…and then Download) and click download!

Pack for All Situations

I like to come prepared with the 10 essentials and extras for car emergencies.

10 Essentials for Safety

Car Safety

When car camping, it can be easy to run your car battery dead on accident. The Portable Jump Batteries are seriously a life saver and will run you $50+. Seriously do yourself a favor and keep one on hand (and charged) at all times!!


So, as you can see there is a lot to know about finding Free Campsites! Unfortunately for me a lot of this information was trial and error and finding out the hard way.

I hope this guide inspires you to get out there and find some incredible free campsites and save lots of $$ in doing so using:

  • Freecampsites.net
  • iOverlander.com
  • Campendium.com
  • TheDyrt.com

Need inspiration for your next road trip?? Check out my other posts:

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used any of these or not!

Here are 4 tools to finding FREE Camping near you that is also beautiful. Read here for all my tips to find epic camping and save money!

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