To determine the best states for free camping in the U.S., we looked at community reviews and considered the area’s natural beauty, availability, size, privacy, cleanliness of campsites, facilities provided, and ease of access.
Many free camping locations are located on public lands where campers boondock, or camp for free with no hookups or amenities. As with any boondocking location, follow Leave No Trace principles and local regulations. Make sure you’re prepared to camp without hookups and scout your location ahead of time. Stay up to date with the weather and don’t attempt to enter an area where your vehicle isn’t equipped to travel.
The following states are top-ranked for free camping.
Not only do you get a one-of-a-kind landscape in Arizona, but you can easily escape the chilly winter months if you head this way. Much of Arizona is public land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service, and National Park Service, and there’s free camping in many locations.
For just a taste of what Arizona has to offer, check out these two camping areas that serve as beautiful base camps to see the area’s desert landscape and national parks. They’re located off the beaten path and are known to have stunning sunrises.
“Beautiful place to spend the night. Woke up in the morning to coyotes talking. Not too crowded and off the beaten path.” —julzz1313
“Cost zero dollars to camp. Can’t get much better. Beautiful scenery and solid AT&T cell phone service. We worked and streamed video.” —Blckhwk79
“Lots of big spaces for big rigs like ours (40 feet, plus toad). We found a spot right across from the lookout tower, which is amazing for sunsets, and the start of multiple trails in the Kaibab National Forest.” —Pintsize
“Highly recommend staying here, we had such a good experience. Easy access from the main road—go past the cattle guard and up the hill a bit for the best sites.” —Vanessa
Utah is known for its vast landscape of stunning red rocks, but the state also has forested mountains, lakes, and miles of rivers. All of this prime outdoor recreation comes alongside a considerable amount of free camping throughout the entire state.
There are plenty of spaces in Utah that you can easily get to and spend the night for free, but these two campgrounds offer some of the best.
“My wife and I stayed here for 2 weeks while visiting Zion and Kanab and did all of the nearby hikes. I loved the view of the sunset on the mountains every night and walking the dog in the forest in the mornings.” —RockinandRoamin
“The views around here are stunning; there’s a historic petroglyph site with a short hike… Camping is great, the number of campsites is abundant, you can pretty much camp anywhere and everywhere. Loved it.” —Pash-Spice
3. New Mexico
New Mexico is well worth a visit for the free camping alone. The state’s high elevation makes it a tricky spot to camp during the winter, but the shoulder seasons of spring and fall can be heavenly, just as you’d expect from the Land of Enchantment.
These two campgrounds put you right at the edge of the wilderness. The views are spectacular and nearby adventures will excite and challenge you. Stop in New Mexico and appreciate all of the land available to boondockers for an off-the-grid experience
“The views of Angel Peak and the badlands below are amazing. The grounds are well cared for, and the road in was better than most BLM land with this level of seclusion and grandeur. The location is a good base for touring the Chaco Culture National Historical Park and the Bisti Badlands. We plan to revisit the Farmington area and Angels Peak Campground.” —Jason
“The views are amazing and the location is convenient as it sits between Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks.” —Theresa
“We stayed here for a while as we adjusted to our new full-time camper life. The sunrises and sunsets are incredible, the Carlsbad Caverns are really close. You can dump, fill up, do laundry, shower, and more at the RV park in White’s City, just 5 minutes away.” —Julie-Roxane
There is free camping almost everywhere you go in Wyoming, and it’s easy to find a beautiful area with few people around. While the most popular part of the state is near Yellowstone National Park, you can continue to travel south into the Wind River Range and see snow-capped peaks for much of the year.
Each of the four national forests in Wyoming allows for dispersed camping, and there’s free camping to be found near Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons as well.
“Only 2 miles of good gravel road coming in. Lots of spaces for any size RV. Very quiet and decent cell phone service. Located 20 miles from Colter Lake Campground (inside Grand Teton National Park).” —Julie H
“Located in the city park, there are a few tent camping spots and about 15 RV camping spots, some with electric hookups. Water and dump stations are located nearby.”—Jimmy
“Everything is pretty spaced out, but it’s hard to beat free electricity. There’s also mini golf, basketball courts, tennis courts, a small skate park, baseball fields, and a playground. We could have spent more time here.” —Bri
Even with the rise in tourism, it’s still easy to find free, beautiful camping that you can use as a base camp for climbing, mountain biking, skiing, or hiking in Colorado. Don’t miss a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park for an epic adventure destination.
“This is the best boondocking spot we’ve ever seen. Thank you, BLM, for making this accessible for everybody to use. They have a pretty large area to accommodate many campers and rigs of all sizes.” —Maritza
“This set of dispersed sites is amazing. Each one is separated by woods and boulders to keep privacy. I work remotely and love taking weeks to go camp and work in the woods. Good cell phone service is very important to get my work done using my mobile hotspot, and this campsite has great reception. And it’s beautiful.” —Logan
“We camped here for a week and loved staying here in our 30-foot fifth wheel. Colorado dirt roads are great, and this place is no exception.” —NomadsinNature
Texas has hundreds of miles of beaches and thousands of acres of publicly-managed land accessible for camping. Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains national parks offer many campgrounds for a small fee, but you can still find free camping in other locations.
“Humidity aside, this is a beautiful spot with beachside camping, plenty of space, and even free hot showers. Sure, the cleanliness of the facilities could be described as ‘average,’ but you get what you (don’t) pay for. Honestly, the best free camping spot I’ve found.” —TimB
“We stayed here right before the July 4 weekend, and it was great family fun. Clean, plenty of space, and the restrooms were somewhat clean. They have open camping and RV spaces, so you’ll see a combination of both.” —rodolfogtz30
“We’ve been here a week already, and we aren’t leaving just yet. First, it’s free. How can you go wrong with free? Second, you’re camping 20 feet from the water.” —Jlpoober
From the southern deserts near Death Valley and Joshua Tree to the northern rainforests of the Redwoods, you can move between drastically different landscapes within the Golden State. You’ll find spectacular views among the state’s 15 million acres of BLM land.
“Fantastic spot a mile off Highway 395 between Inyokern and Lone Pine. The road is good, and the land is flat. We pulled in before dusk and felt like we hit the jackpot.” —Big Daddy
“Easy to find, super close to the national park. Nice cement pads for flat parking. Insane view of the stars. We even saw shooting stars and planets.” —Mom I drove to Malibu
“Located 25 minutes from the Death Valley National Park visitor center. Because it’s about 3,000 feet higher, it’s about 15 to 20 degrees cooler. Great sunsets, but it can get windy. We were told that the pads are the patios from an abandoned housing project that was supposed to be built there. We loved it.” —Doug
8. South Dakota
You’ve probably heard about the state’s Black Hills and Badlands National Park, but you can find free camping in the grasslands throughout South Dakota. Here are two camping areas that stand out for their location and budget-meeting needs.
“This is one of my favorite camping sites. It’s very quiet, and you have a beautiful view of the town of Deadwood and the mountains.” —Megannew
“Toilets were clean and convenient. No running water or electricity. Beautiful views and a ton of prairie dogs to entertain you. Dirt road access.” —roofingit
Montana’s long list of national forests and well-kept, BLM-managed lands make it another state that’s ideal for free boondocking. Head north toward Glacier National Park or leave Yellowstone and drive into Big Sky and Bozeman.
“I can’t believe how great this place is. Located right on the Yellowstone River with easy access for any sized rig. There are tent sites as well as an enormous area for RVs. Short gravel road down to the river, super easy drive with well-packed gravel and no big ruts or potholes.” —Ronda Lynn
“Easy access and beautiful location surrounded by mountains. Has several camping spots with fire rings, and a 14-night camping limit. Beautiful place and about 15 minutes from the West Glacier park entrance.” —CP
Editor’s note: Some quotes have been slightly edited for clarity.