Skip to Content

The Ultimate Guide to Cheap or FREE RV Camping Sites

| Updated Jul 18, 2023

Buckle up because here is everything you need to know on how to find cheap or free RV camping sites…

Summary of this Post show

Camping can be expensive. Especially if you are spending more travel time in outdoor spaces or you’re living and working from your RV. 

Traditional campgrounds can also be crowded and noisy. It can sometimes feel like the opposite experience you are seeking by getting away from civilization and into nature. 

That may be why you are looking for cheap or free RV camping sites and that’s why I’m here to help.  I’m going to introduce you to boondocking in off-the-beaten-path campsites and then teach you how to find them.

The following is my guide to finding cheap or free RV camping sites that are more remote and farther away from the camping crowds and pricey campgrounds. The big sections of this post are:

The Best Resources to Find Cheap or Free RV Camping Sites

Buckle up because we’re going to cover a lot of helpful information and valuable resources!

But First, What is Boondocking?

Simply put, boondocking is self-contained camping without any access to commercial services like water, power or sewer. A lot of boondockers go to off-the-grid, remote areas to truly disconnect from city life. 

However, boondocking can also be near a city. For example, sleeping overnight in a parking lot while on a long road trip, is considered boondocking. 

Other common names for boondocking include dry camping, wild camping, and primitive camping. 

Boondocking in a Campground

image of camping on federal land free rv camping sites
Our Boondocking Spot in the Ottawa National Forest. Our National Parks Senior Pass. or America the Beautiful Pass got us a 5-% discount on the camping fee.

A third type of boondocking occurs at a campground. This form is not free, nor are you staying in a remote, off-the-grid location. 

Campgrounds usually have sites without hook-ups. They offer them for a reduced nightly rate! 

You are still able to use campground amenities, which may include restrooms, water, and other things. You just won’t have electric, sewer and water hookups at your site. 

If you are staying more than one or two days at a campground, it is a good idea to dump your grey and black water tanks. Then come prepared with a freshwater tank. 

You should also be able to run your generator during non-quiet hours to charge your batteries. That way you can still enjoy your power, but save money by not “plugging in.”

Many state and national parks also offer non-hookup sites. If you are open to boondocking there, it opens up more sites available for you to stay at. In other words, being open to campground boondocking can give you options! 

Boondocking at a campground allows you to enjoy simpler camping while enjoying nature. But, it also gives you access to some of the benefits of a developed campground. 

Boondocking in Nature

free rv camping sites
Pigeon River boondocking

Boondocking out in nature is my favorite type of boondocking! Jennifer and I love to truly escape civilization and be off-the-grid in nature. 

This is also what most people picture when they hear the word “boondocking.”

When you go boondocking in undeveloped campgrounds you are truly spending time in the wild. You have to gather your own firewood and use only battery-powered lights. 

If you do not have solar power, then you might find yourself powering up your generator to make coffee. 

Overall, this type of boondocking is truly remote, where you can “unplug” from normal life. 

Boondocking in nature is raw and requires you to be self-reliant. That means it can feel a bit nerve-wracking the first few times you do it. 

You will also want to be prepared when you go. But it is not hard to accomplish, and anyone can get the hang of it!

If you have never gone boondocking, and find yourself nervous about it, do not worry. Jennifer and I put together an ebook called “The Beginner’s Guide to Boondocking” to help ease you into this remote style of camping. In the book, we answer common questions and help you get prepared for your adventure. 

Save Money by Boondocking

Another benefit of boondocking is that it can save you money. 

Many RV parks and campgrounds can cost anywhere from $24-$100 a night. The cost adds up quickly! 

If you are a full-time RVer and you boondock for an average of 20 days per month out of 30, think about that savings! 

Staying at a campground every day for a month could cost anywhere from $720 – $3,000 (depending on the place). 

If you go boondocking for 20 of those days, then you are only spending about $240 – $1,000. Talk about saving yourself money!

Mike and Jennifer's Summer T-Shirts for your next adventure

The Ultimate Guide to Cheap or FREE RV Camping Sites 1
Your Adventure Awaits! New colors and designs are waiting for you.

The Best Resources to Find Cheap or Free RV Camping Sites

photo illustrating end of camping season from Holland State park - free rv camping sites
Holland State Park

If you now want to give boondocking a try, you’re probably wondering exactly how to track down those campsites. 

Jennifer and I love to go boondocking in National Parks, State Parks, National Forests, State Forests, and BLM Land (which is public land that is operated by the U.S. Department of Interiors’ Bureau of Land Management). 

These types of sites can vary greatly depending on your location, and they can be difficult to locate. 

It can be frustrating to figure out their locations because each of these entities is run by different government websites. And most of them do not relay easy-to-use information. 

That is why I have put together a useful list of these websites, along with an explanation on how to easily use them to find excellent cheap and FREE boondocking locations!

Finding Free or Cheap RV Camping Sites on BLM Land

blm free rv camping sites
BLM Land

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages several different programs in the U.S. Public Lands. 

In fact, BLM manages about ten percent of the total acreage of the entire United States! If you combine that with National Forest land, you are looking at 25%! 

That means 25% of the United States is available to camp on for free!

Finding an RV site can be a little bit tricky. Let me walk you through the process. 

Step 1: 

The BLM website has useful information, but you are better off starting with Type in your destination. 

Step 2: 

Most likely, a lot of options will appear as different dots on a map. To narrow down your search, click on the “More Filters” tab and select “Camping” under “Booking Types” and “RV/Motorhome” under “Allowable Equipment.” 

That will narrow down your search. However, many of these sites are “Group Sites” and can only be reserved as such. All of the other sites are first-come, first-served. 

This is not all bad news. The research has helped us. We now know the location of some BLM sites, and can assume there are individual first-come, first-served sites at the same locations. 

Step #3: Cross-reference your BLM research with another online resource. 

free rv camping sites

The one I like to use is Campendium. On that site, we use the process we did on To narrow down the results, I put “Public” under the “Category” tab and “$0-$30” under “Price.” That will bring up the various sites or campgrounds on public lands! 

The Campendium results also show us very useful information about the sites. Things like prices, reviews, images, number of sites, GPS coordinates, and cell service. 

You can also lower the “Price” tool on Campendium to $0. Those results show you only those sites that are completely FREE!

Finding helpful BLM information gets easier once you know where to look!

Finding Cheap or Free RV Camping Sites in National Forests or Grasslands

In America, we have 154 National Forests and 20 National Grasslands. There are more than 4,000 campgrounds in our National Forests! Many of those allow free camping. 

Camping in a National Forest is called “dispersed camping.” It is just another term for boondocking. 

So how do you go about finding these free sites? 

Resource #1: Buy a Benchmark Map

If you are spending a lot of time in one state, I recommend these maps. They are atlases that provide you with very useful information. 

They provide detailed descriptions of public lands, with point-to-point mileages. They also show campgrounds, recreation attractions as well as wildlife areas. 

Having a paper map is not a bad idea since cell service can be spotty at best when in the great outdoors. 

Resource #2: Use the National Forest Service App

In addition to a paper map, this app can be very useful. 

Go into the app. Click on “Camping & Cabins” and a U.S. map will pop up. The numbers show you the number of available campgrounds located in a specific area. 

Click on the region you want to travel to. As you narrow down your map, you will be able to click on the different options to find out more about the specific campground. 

You can see potential amenities, GPS coordinates, a description of the area, and whether the site requires a reservation. There will also be a link for more information located on the USFS website. 

You can also click on the “Trail” or “Road” option for even more information.

Once you have a specific area or some sites that you are interested in, it is not a bad idea to cross-reference it with other websites (like we did with the BLM example). 

Use Campendium or, cross-reference your findings to locate a campsite that works for you and your RV. Then compile a list of some backups just in case the first-come, first-served sites are gone when you roll in. 

Resource #3: Visit the Ranger Station

Motor Vehicle Usage Maps - FREE RV Camping Sites
Motor Vehicle Usage Maps

Another option to help you find dispersed camping sites is to visit a ranger station in the National Forest you are visiting. You can find their office address on the National Forest’s website. 

Talk to the staff. They can provide you with a free map and tons of first-hand knowledge about the forest. Many of the maps offer Motor Vehicle Usage Maps that can help you read the map and find the right roads when navigating the forest. 

The staff can also tell you information on any current hazards or bad road conditions in the forest. 

Resource #4:

This website provides a ton of good information about National Forests. They also have useful guides in their bookstore

Mike and Jennifer's RV Lifestyle hat collection

The Ultimate Guide to Cheap or FREE RV Camping Sites 2
Who needs a hat?

Who needs a hat? You do! Dad hats aren't just for dads. This comfy one's got a low profile with an adjustable strap and curved visor. Just the thing to wear on your next RV Lifestyle adventure.

Finding Cheap or Free RV Camping Sites run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE)

free rv camping sites

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) is composed of nearly 40,000 civilians and soldiers working to improve the nation’s infrastructure through projects such as constructing dams or building lake reservoirs.

The reason this is relevant to RVers is simple: the COE is present in 43 states and manages more than 450 campgrounds, which the public can access for fishing, boating, and camping.

The campgrounds are clean and well-maintained. Most of the campgrounds do not offer full hookups but all have basic amenities like showers, restrooms, potable water, picnic tables, and fire rings.

Some of these areas charge day-use fees. You can purchase an annual access pass for $40 to enter the day-use areas, but camping fees are not included with pass entry.

RVers who know about COE campgrounds consider them “hidden gems” because, quite frankly, it can be hard to locate the campgrounds and to find information about them.

In this section, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you locate and make reservations at COE Campgrounds.


We recommend “Camping with the Corps of Engineers: The Complete Guide to Campgrounds Built and Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” written by Don Wright. 

You can get this as a hardbound or Kindle book. It outlines basic details about COE RV camping throughout the United States. 

It includes directions to each campground, as well as descriptions of the facilities and amenities of each.

NOTE:  This guidebook was last published pre-pandemic, in 2018. So, some of the information may have changed. However, the locations are the same, which is the most helpful part of this guidebook. You can find the updated information online once you select a campground…

You can see ALL the books we recommend on this Amazon List – Books: Our Favorite RV Lifestyle Travel, Camping, and Survival Books


The guidebook is well organized. You can search by state and then narrow it down to campgrounds in the area you wish to visit.

Once you find appealing campgrounds, you can go back online…


Now that you know what COE campground you want to stay in, go to Search for the COE campground you pulled from the guidebook by name, and make your reservation.

Just be sure to check all the information on the campground description page to confirm it is the right campground for you. Compare the information from the guidebook to see if it is up-to-date, and make sure your rig isn’t too big, has the amenities you want, etc.

PRO TIP: Some COE areas may charge a day-use fee, and an annual pass for $40 can be purchased to use day-use areas. However, this pass does not cover camping fees. 

Finding Cheap or Free RV Camping Sites in National Parks

There are 61 National Parks operated by the National Park Service in America. They are protected areas of land that make excellent boondocking sites!

In fact, I recommend them for beginning boondockers as a place to start. That way, you are not too far from help if you need a battery jump

You will find that National Parks have a few more rules in place than National Forests or BLM land. That is because they have more visitors, but also more resources at your disposal. 

One restriction in many National Parks is a size restriction for rigs. Usually, you can have a 20-40 foot RV. And there are not a lot of pull-thru sites to access. 

Many National Parks do not come equipped with hookups. If they do, they are likely limited. 

While some parks have a reservation system, many operate as first-come, first-served. To snag a spot, you will want to come early. Aim for being there by 11 am. 

Resource #1: (Reservable Campgrounds)

To locate reservable campgrounds, your best resource is to use Search for the park you are visiting. Your results will populate. 

If you wish to reserve a campsite, click on “View Details.” A new window will pop up providing a lot of details, such as nightly rates, directions, and the date that it is open. 

Do note that since National Parks attract so many visitors, getting a reservation can be difficult! Try to plan out your visit six months in advance so that you can be ready to book the day the sites open. only shows campgrounds that are reservable. If you want to view ALL of the campgrounds in a given National Park, then check out Resource #2!

Resource #2: National Park Service (NPS) Website

To locate campgrounds, click on “Plan Your Trip.” Then click on “Things to Do” and select “Camping.” This will lead you to campground information that includes both the reservable and non-reservable sites. 

You can start with a handy map view too.

This site also includes information about campgrounds that are not recommended for RVs. This is usually due to poor road conditions.

Finding Cheap or Free RV Camping Sites in State Parks and State Forests

free rv camping sites
Stay in State Parks or State Forests

Another option is to stay in State Parks or State Forests. These areas are run by individual states, rather than the federal government.

This can be a little tricky since each state operates its own website. Sometimes they even have separate ones for parks and forests. 

It can be worthwhile, though. That is because State Parks tend to be less trafficked than National Parks. You can find beautiful places to stay without as many crowds. 

Resource #1: Search for a State Park Website

FREE RV Camping Sites
Or go back to the Campendium site and use the State Park tab.

My best tip here is to do a search for the state that you will be traveling to. Look for their specific website and go from there. Most websites will have a “Plan Your Trip” or “Find a Campground” tab to click on. 

You will likely pay about $18-28 per night in a State Park or $5-$20 per night in a State Forest. 

Resource #2: Wand’rly Magazine Article

This is another useful resource. I came across this Wand’rly Magazine article. It lists all of the state park campgrounds by state.

It also outlines the cost, number of sites, and hookup information for each. 

Free Camping and Overnight RV Parking Apps and Websites

FREE RV Camping Sites
This is the Heron Hill Winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York, part of our Harvest Hosts Review video

Here are some additional resources that can help make your search much easier! While you will still need to book through many of the previously mentioned agencies, there are other resources that can make your search simpler. 

Resource #1: Togo RV Roadpass Pro

Togo RV Roadpass Pro INCLUDES access to all 14,000+ free boondocking locations in the app! Roadpass Pro also includes new RV GPS navigation that considers weight limits, low overhead clearances, grades of terrain, and propane restrictions to give you turn-by-turn directions specific to your RV.

Just select a destination, add your vehicle size, and use the turn-by-turn in-app navigation. And it includes Roadtrippers Plus, where you can plan trips with up to 150 stops, collaborate with friends on route planning, and get real-time traffic along your route. Check it out – highly recommended! 

You can get $10 off your Togo RV Roadpass Pro annual membership using the discount code: RVLIFESTYLE21

Resource #2: RV Trip Wizard

RV Trip Wizard is now part of the RV LIFE Pro suite of tools! Now all subscribers have access to RV Trip Wizard + Premium features of RV LIFE – RV Safe GPS App + Maintain My RV!

Planning an RV Trip has never been easier than with RV TripWizard. It is a comprehensive tool that Jennifer and I use when planning a trip. It works seamlessly with all our devices and gives us access to the info we need on where to stop, what camping is nearby, and what we should do in an area.

Best of all, you can try it for free to see how it will fit into your trip planning process.

See all the information you're looking for on your devices. The RV Trip Planner is set up so you can do everything from one screen. Your trip on the left panel, your map centered, and your research panel to the right to find campgrounds, points of interest, and potential hazards.

You can save 25% with the discount code RVLIFESTYLE.

Resource #3: Allstays Pro

Many RVers are familiar with the AllStays app. It is awesome. But since Jennifer and I discovered AllStays Pro, the browser-based subscription site, we rely on it almost exclusively in our RV travels.

We use it for finding interesting places that really stand out, especially out of the way boondocking spots and free places to stay

Using this link and the discount code: rvpodcast you can save 10% off your All Stays Pro annual subscription.

Resource #4: Overnight RV Parking

Overnight RV Parking lists 13,000 locations to find cheap or free overnight camping. This is a great tool for long road trips. It can help you find a quick place to stay, without breaking the bank. 

Resource #5: Harvest Hosts

Harvest Hosts is one of our very favorite places to overnight. It is a unique membership service that lets RVers camp overnight FOR FREE at lovely outdoor venues such as wineries, breweries, museums, farms, orchards, and creameries (it is recommended that you patronage these venues that you stay at).

There are more than 2,000 such places across North America to choose from.

There is also an upgraded membership where you can also camp overnight at golf courses!

Using this link and the discount code: RVLIFESTYLE15 you get 15% off Harvest Hosts annual membership.

While it is free to stay overnight, you are encouraged to purchase something from the business. 

Resource #6: Boondockers Welcome

Boondockers Welcome is another unique service that lets you overnight on private property, often at the homes of welcoming hosts. It's now owned by Harvest Hosts but has a separate website.

They have over 2,000 members who have graciously opened up a spot on their property, where you can find a safe, quiet spot to spend the night as you are passing through the area.

The hosts are usually RVers themselves and I’ve never heard of anybody that has stayed at a Boondockers Welcome place that hasn’t come away with a new set of friends! Boondockers Welcome is a great option to turn to if you’re nearby a big city or in an area where it’s almost impossible to find a spot for the night unless you book 6+ months ahead of time.

If you’re interested in hosting RVers on your property, it is free to sign up and for every guest that visits you, Boondockers Welcome will give you 3 months free to their subscription!

You can get 15% off your Boondockers Welcome annual membership using the discount code: RVLIFESTYLE15

Resource #7: The Dyrt

You pronounce it “dirt” in case you were wondering and you can book campgrounds for tents, RVs, cabins, and glamping or find free camping at

They have created a great community of campers who love to review the sites they experience. And each campground has an abundance of information to explore before you reserve a spot. This is a great spot to create a campsite reservation.

Phew! You Did It!

free rv camping sites
Jennifer, Mike, and Bo say go for it!

Like I warned you, that was a lot of information and resources to cover.

But now you know how to find cheap or free RV camping sites all over the country. You’re equipped with lots of great resources to become a successful boondocker. 

Now it’s time to load up and head out. Happy Trails!

Want all the info in this post in an easy to read ebook? Here you go!

Need the Ultimate Guide to Cheap or FREE RV Camping Sites?

The Ultimate Guide to Cheap or FREE RV Camping Sites 3

Camping can be expensive. 

Especially if you are spending more travel time in outdoor spaces. Or, perhaps you’re living and working from your RV. 

Traditional campgrounds can also be crowded and noisy. It can sometimes feel like the opposite experience you are seeking by getting away from civilization and into nature. 

That may be why you are looking for cheap or free RV camping sites and that’s why I’m here to help.  I’m going to introduce you to boondocking in off-the-beaten-path campsites and then teach you how to find them.

This ebook (not a print book – but you could print this one out on your own if you wish) is available right now.

Here's your Ultimate Guide to Cheap or FREE RV Camping Sites

Mike Wendland

Published on 2023-04-15

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

7 Responses to “The Ultimate Guide to Cheap or FREE RV Camping Sites”

March 20, 2024at3:04 am, neet and angel said:

Love this guide! So glad I found it. I’m a total newbie to RV camping and this has been incredibly helpful in getting me started. Can’t wait to try out some of these amazing RV campgrounds and sites. Thank you! 😊


March 20, 2024at1:08 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thank you for the feedback and glad the story helps! Team RV lifestyle


October 03, 2023at11:19 am, Alice Carroll said:

Thanks for also talking about the kinds of campgrounds where people could stay in for free. I’d like to look for an RV site soon because I’m thinking about finding a good way to relax away from the city. RV camping would surely be a good idea.

[Link deleted]


October 03, 2023at3:30 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Glad it helped! Team RV Lifestyle


September 16, 2022at10:17 am, What’s Holding You Back From Full-Time RVing? (& Solutions) | RV Lifestyle said:

[…] The Ultimate Guide to Cheap or FREE RV Camping Sites […]


July 19, 2022at12:15 am, Jennylyn Gross said:

This is good to know thank you


July 05, 2022at6:15 am, Must-Haves For Every RV Owner (According To REAL RVers) | RV Lifestyle said:

[…] The Ultimate Guide to Cheap or FREE RV Camping Sites […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top