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Free and Low Cost RV Parking and Camping

November 8, 2008 by Mac McClellan · 22 Comments  
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We’re not just talking about Wally-docking and casino camping.  There are many free and low cost camping opportunities in places far away from a paved parking lot. 

As part of our “Ways to Save” week I’ve collected a list of links that will help you find parking and camping opportunities all across the country.  I’m sure I’ve left out many good resources, so if you know of one that I haven’t listed please share it with us all in the comments area at the bottom.

Links to Resources and Random Comments

Note to readers; since this is a “list of links” I’m posting the entire link instead of the neat and tidy hyperlinks that you may normally expect.

Federal Land and Parks

Many federal government camping locations are free, or low cost.  Some are unmarked boondocking areas; known as “dispersed camping”.  Others are actual campgrounds ranging from primitive to full hookup.

If you qualify for a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands discount pass (Access Pass, or Senior Pass) you can save 50% or more on facilities that charge a fee.  www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm 

www.publiclands.org  and www.recreation.gov are two all-purpose starting points for researching government owned recreation opportunities of all types. 

www.fs.fed.us/recreation/map/finder.shtml  The US Forest Service has many campgrounds, mostly in the western USA, and many of them are free.

http://corpslakes.usace.army.mil/visitors/camping.cfm  US Army Corp of Engineers Camping Locator

www.blm.gov  Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  If you’ve heard about camping in the “Long Term Visitors Area” (LTVA) at Quartsite and the surrounding area this is who manages the land, and many other areas, mostly in the Western states.  You can look at specific states by adding the state 2 letter abbreviation to the end of the hyperlink.  For example, this is for California: www.blm.gov/ca  

www.nps.gov/  The National Park Service website will connect you to all the national parks

Online Discussion Groups

With any discussion group, especially YAHOO! groups, be sure to look in the “Files” section.  Some have extensive compiled lists and links.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/campingtipsgroup:  The Camping Tips Group on YAHOO!

http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/walmartrving:  The Walmart RVing group on YAHOO!

http://rv.net/forum  The Open Roads Forum right here on RV.NET has an active community of boondockers and frugal campers who are glad to share information with those who ask.

Other Websites and Resources

www.OvernightRVParking.com:  This is the website of Jim O’Brient, who also posts here from time to time.  Jim has an extensive listing of free overnight RV parking locations nation wide including Wal-Mart’s, Cracker Barrels, etc.  There’s a small annual fee for using the site, but you can earn extra free access time by contributing reports about places you visit.

www.CasinoCamper.com:  My website listing casino-based RV parking and camping locations

www.freecampgrounds.com/  A free website with over 1600 camping locations listed nation wide.

www.militarycampgrounds.us/  If you’re active duty, retired, or otherwise qualify the military campground system can provide big savings compared to commercial campgrounds.

Print Publications, Camping Clubs and Discount Cards

Don Wright’s Guide to Free Campgrounds” is published in two editions; Western and Eastern.  We found it to be a good resource in our travels.

Good Sam Club; many RV parks give club members a discount www.goodsamclub.com/ 

Escapees RV Club; has a network of parks and many commercial parks give a discount to members.  Members have contributed over the years to a list of free camping locations called “Day’s End” which is available only to club members.  www.escapees.com

There are several camping discount programs offering 50% off on most camping.  These include:

Camp Club USA www.campclubusa.com/   

Passport America  www.passportamerica.com/

Happy Camper  www.camphalfprice.com/

Fraternal and Military Organizations

The Elks, Moose, VFW, and some other organizations have RV parking available for traveling members at many of their lodges.  This can range from “blacktop boondocking” to a full hookup site, and is usually free or a nominal charge.

What did I leave out? 

I know this list only scratches the surface.  If you have a favorite source of information about free or low cost camping post a comment below.

Happy travels, and good luck at the casinos,

Mac
www.CasinoCamper.com

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Comments

22 Responses to “Free and Low Cost RV Parking and Camping”

  1. Bob Difley on November 8th, 2008 4:19 pm

    Mac – What a great and comprehensive list of camping and boondocking options. That is a list of lings that every RVer should keep and have ready access to. A few other options that I can think of are: city parks in small towns often allow free camping for travelers passing through, sometimes even with an electrical hookup; county and regional parks are usually very inexpensive; the department of natural resources for each state (there is no common URL so the best way to find these is enter “department of natural resources” in google search and scroll down for your state) often have campgrounds. And don’t forget that you can camp anywhere in our national forests and on BLM land–even if it is not a designated campground–as long as you can get off the access road and it is not expressly prohibited (by a sign or fence).

  2. Mac McClellan on November 9th, 2008 7:44 am

    Thanks Bob. I agree about the city and county parks. Sometimes it seems you have to be lucky to find them. Some references that list these include the Don Wright books, the “Days End” list from Escapees, and a book by Nick Russell; http://www.gypsyjournal.net/free_campgrounds.htm

  3. Karen on November 9th, 2008 10:41 am

    Hi Mac – great list! We’ve used most of them over the years. Here are are couple more that i really like.

    This site has detailed information about all of the national forest campgrounds.
    http://www.forestcamping.com/index.htm

    This one has photographs and details of campgrounds where the people who maintain the site have camped. http://www.eugenecarsey.com/camp/default.htm

    A big thanks to you and all the others who make these websites.

  4. suzi dow on November 10th, 2008 4:30 pm

    Didn’t see U.S. National Forest Campground Guide (www.forestcamping.com) listed. Take a look and you might find it is a very useful resource for all our national forests. (FYI – There are 156 national forest stretching from top to bottom, east to west.) We personally surveyed each campground listed and provide the type of information other sources don’t consider worthwhile.

  5. Mac McClellan on November 11th, 2008 6:17 am

    Thanks Suzi, that’s one I didn’t know about. I’ve included it in my personal bookmarks.

  6. Larry Cantwell on November 22nd, 2008 8:03 am

    Good list, Mac. I especially like the military campground link as it not only has pictures of the parks but customer comments as well. Here is the link to the “official” Army guide: http://www.armymwr.com/portal/travel/paths/ It is not as detailed but may be more complete. It lists all military campgrounds, not just Army.

    Another great source of information, a don’t-leave-home-without-it, is the “RVers Friend”. I think it is mostly the Truckers Friend with a new cover but contains good information for RV travelers. It lists all the major truck stops and their facilities including dump stations. It also lists which Interstate rest stops have dump stations and a state by state listing of all state and federal parks. We find it invaluable when traveling across the country on the cheap, i.e., dry camping.

  7. liar:) on December 2nd, 2008 2:51 am

    Another great source of information,:) roma it was there ….:)http://www.vistafeel.com hope u feel better by now:P

  8. jenn on December 24th, 2008 11:23 am

    http://Freecampsites.net is a new kid on the block, but its a free campsite database that offers searching via a map, user submissions, and lots of other features all for free.

  9. Don Rose on January 10th, 2009 9:20 am
  10. Chip Martina on March 6th, 2009 5:16 pm

    I’m a member of Recreation USA. It’s a camp club like Passport America but the campgrounds in their program are only $10/night. Most have fewer restrictions than some of the other clubs. Check them out at: http://www.campingandcampgrounds.com/

  11. Dave Pracht on March 13th, 2009 10:50 am

    Great tips and info, another location worth considering is county fairgrounds. In my own area, Nevada County, Ca. our fairgrounds has been voted the prettiest in the state. All level with a forested setting, full hook-ups available, shower house and even a fish filled pond for kids. This is in the gold country so plenty of site seeing is also available.

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    Its a good habit to check each and every thing before
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  15. Charlie Curry on January 30th, 2011 2:36 pm

    I was hoping that you may be able to help us get the word out about Tents for Troops, see http://tentsfortroops.org Tents for Troops is a program that provides free Camping and RV sitea to all Active Military. Started at the Toutle River RV Resort in Castle Rock WA Tents for Troops has now spread out accross the Country and can be found in twenty States.
    It is our hope to have participating Parks in all fifty States soon. Please visit our web site to lean more about our program. Thank you, Charlie Curry, Tents for Troops

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