April 5, 2024 | Allison Robertson

Free Camping Destinations In Every State


Camp for Free in America

With inflation continuously skyrocketing prices of nearly everything, Americans are now on the hunt for freebies anywhere they can find them.

So, if you’re looking for an affordable vacation this summer, consider one of these free (or nearly-free) camping destinations—we’ve got one for every state!

desert camping split image

Prelude

Before we get right into the details, please make sure you always double check information about the camping destination before you go.

Rules and restrictions change often, and no one likes a surprise fee—or fence!

People camping in the woods.cottonbro studio, Pexels

Alabama

Tuskegee Primitive Camp, Tuskegee National Forest

Dispersed camping is allowed in Tuskegee National Forest, but a free backcountry permit is required. There’s a designated 14-site campground that offers camping with no amenities.

Bartram's Trail on the Tuskegee National Forest that is in the National Forests in Alabama - 2015US Forest Service - Southern Region, Flickr

Alaska

Chena Hot Springs Road, Chena River State Recreation Area

There are numerous places in beautiful Alaska where you can camp for free—but this one, comes highly recommended.

There are 3 establish campgrounds on Chena Hot Springs Road, but you can also drive further and find more (freebies) alongside the scenic Chena River.

Angel Rocks overlook, off Chena Hot Springs Road Alaska.Thor of Alaska, Shutterstock

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Arizona

Pumphouse Wash, Coconino National Forest

Pumphouse Wash, on Forest Road 237, is between Sedona and Flagstaff. It offers four designated free camping areas, but they’re large enough to accommodate RVs or groups, and are fairly private.

Pumphouse Wash (FR 237) Camping Loop 4 - 2015Coconino National Forest, Ariz., Flickr

Arkansas

Big Fir Campground, Ouachita National Forest

Bir Fir Campground offers 16 campgrounds around 40,000-acre Lake Ouachita. The 50+ sites range from established to primitive, and most come with stunning views of the water.

Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere in the forest.

Two Pink and Gray Camping ChairsMac DeStroir, Pexels

California

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine

Not far from the base of Mount Whitney, is a vast area known as Alabama Hills—a BLM-operated land covered in massive boulders and rock formations that create some relatively private camping spots.

Dispersed camping is permitted here, but note that it is actually quite popular.

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine Peak, CaliforniaSteve Berardi, Flickr

Colorado

Piney Lake, White River National Forest

The White Riber National Forest offers a handful dispersed camping sites along Piney River Road, just outside Piney River Ranch.

Camp in designated spots and follow all posted signage.

Campsite in the woods.Steve Cyr, Flickr

Connecticut

Green Falls Campground, Pachaug State Forest

Free camping in Connecticut is nearly impossible to find. But Green Falls Campground offers 18 forested sites that only cost $17 per night.

The sites are close to a pond that is excellent for fishing and paddling.

Row boat against wood dock in golden afternoon lightlittlenySTOCK, Shutterstock

Delaware

Blackbird State Forest, Smyrna

Camping at Blackbird State Forest used to be free, but as of 2021 they started charging $25 per night due to increased demand.

Their eight rustic sites are spaced well apart, but come with minimal amenities.

The Blackbird Pond on the Blackbird State Forest Meadows Tract in New Castle County, DelawareDelaware Forest Service, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

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Florida

East Tower Hunt Camp, Osceola National Forest

East Tower Hunt Camp is popular with small-game hunters, but anyone is allowed there.

The spacious plot of dirt allows free dispersed camping for up to 14 days, and is nestled into a grove of trees with Spanish moss and swamplands.

primitive camping Ocean Pond - 2015National Forests in Florida, Flickr

Georgia

Ball Field Dispersed Camping Area, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

Although there is a developed campground close by, the free campsites are located at the grassy Ball Field.

Close by is Lake Conasauga, which is a favorite spot among bird-watchers, anglers, and hikers.

Yonah Mountain in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest of North Georgia, USA.Sean Pavone, Shutterstock

Hawaii

Papalaua Wayside Park, Maui

In Hawaii, camping is allowed only in designated places and by permit—but there are fairly affordable campgrounds.

The county-owned Papalaua Wayside Park, on the west shore of Maui, has good snorkeling and is $5 per person.

Papalaua Wayside Park - 2020Kirt Edblom, Flickr

Idaho

North Fork of the Big Wood River, Sawtooth National Forest

This spot offers free dispersed camping, but they do have numbered campsites that you must use. This was part of their solution to recently high demand for dispersed camping in this area.

They fill up quick on weekends, so get there early.

Big Wood RiverIdaho Fish and Game, Flickr

Illinois

Dutchman Lake, Shawnee National Forest

There’s no official campground at Dutchman Lake, but free dispersed camping is allowed for up to 14 days.

There are a handful of pre-established sites that are close to the lake.

Beautiful Landscapes of the Shawnee National Forest and Dutchman Lake in Southern Illinois during the fall.tinkerscapes, Shutterstock

Indiana

Blackwell Horsecamp, Hoosier National Forest

The sites at Blackwell Horse camp are very large, accommodating RVs and trailers, and several tents. The campsite is a large open grassy field.

Campers usually hike the nearby trails and visit the Hickory Ridge fire lookout tower for a stunning view of Lake Monroe.

White and Brown Rv Trailer Near Green TreesJeff Stapleton, Pexels

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Iowa

Eagle Lake State Game Management Area, Britt

The Eagle Lake State Game Management Area isn’t exactly an official campsite, but dispersed camping is allowed on select areas for up to 14 days.

The camping spot is set within an open grassy field with no amenities.

A Couple Setting Up a Tent on Green Grass Near Treescottonbro studio, Pexels

Kansas

Woodbridge Primitive Park, Lawrence

At Woodbridge Primitive Park you can camp for free on the shores of Clinton Lake. Primitive tent camping is allowed in the large grassy area at the park entrance, and also along a 4.5-mile trail that skirts the lake.

Campsites along the trail have a designated fire pit.

Primitive camping Canoe Landing at James River State ParkVirginia State Parks, Flickr

Kentucky

Turkey Foot Campground, Daniel Boone National Forest

Turkey Foot Campground is located down a long, steep gravel road that is not suitable for trailers. But its 15 simple dispersed campsites are located along War Four Creek and offer a slice of wilderness heaven.

The campsites include picnic tables and fire pits, but no garbage cans or water on-site.

A young man sits on an outcropping of rock atop a mountain in Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.Harrison Kelley, Shutterstock

Louisiana

Rutherford Beach, Creole

Free beach camping is hard to find—but its available at Rutherford Beach. You can camp anywhere along this roughly two-mile stretch of sand along the Gulf of Mexico.

There’s a parking lot close by where you can park too. There are no other amenities, though.

Group of People in a Camping TripJuliano Ferreira, Pexels

Maine

Round Barn Campsite, Bigelow Preserve

At Bigelow Preserve there are both backcountry campsites and lean-tos throughout the reserve, and there are also 10 free campsites at Round Barn, where the Safford Brook Trail is right outside your tent.

Tents and a Chair in a CampЕвгений Шухман, Pexels

Maryland

Green Ridge State Forest, Allegany County

Camping in Green Ridge State Forest is neither free nor dispersed—it costs $10 per night.

The 100 established sites are fairly primitive though, so its as close as you’ll get to wilderness camping in Maryland. They do, however, offer picnic tables and fire rings, and have amazing hiking trails close by.

Green Ridge State Forest sign at Green Ridge Overlook parking area with logo for the Maryland Forest Service - 2021Rosemarie Mosteller, Shutterstock

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Massachusetts

Beartown State Forest, Great Barrington

Free camping in Massachusetts isn’t available, but this remote state-forest campground offers 12 primitive campsites that start at $14 per night.

It’s quiet, remote, and close to Benedict Pond—perfect for fishing, paddling or hiking.

Benedict Pond, Beartown State ForestCape Cod Cyclist, Flickr

Michigan

Hovey Lake Campground, Hiawatha National Forest

Hovey Lake Campground is a remote (and free) camping destination with limited cell service. Camp sites come with picnic tables, fire pits, plenty of privacy, and access to the lake packed with trout.

Hebo Lake Campground on the Siuslaw National ForestU.S. Forest Service- Pacific Northwest Region, Flickr

Minnesota

Six Mile Lake, Chippewa National Forest

This is a former established campground within Chippewa National Forest that now has a dozen free dispersed lakefront campsites with very limited services.

There’s a boat ramp onto Six Mile Lake next to the campground, with good fishing spots.

Camping chair near table on river shoreUriel Mont, Pexels

Mississippi

Point Pleasant, Enid Lake

There are only three public, free campsites at Point Pleasant, but they offer amazing lake views.

Enid Lake is a popular fishing spot, where a five-pound, three-ounce fish in 1957 still holds the world record for the largest white crappie ever caught.

Man in Camouflage Top and Pants Walking on Shore with Fishing RodAdi K, Pexels

Missouri

Pinewoods Lake Recreation Area, Mark Twain National Forest

Pinewoods Lake Recreation Area offers 16 free dispersed campsites within a designated area. It’s a wilderness experience with a side of convenience (toilets, a fishing pier and a boat ramp).

Pitch your tent next to the serene 32-acre lake for stunning morning views.

Woman Stretching Beside SeaLisbeth Bringebøen, Pexels

Montana

M-K Campground, Custer Gallatin National Forest

M-K is a free Forest Service-maintained campground that offers 10 riverfront sites with toilets and picnic tables.

If the campground is full, dispersed camping sites can be found along the road before and after the campground.

People Wearing BackpackMaël BALLAND, Pexels

Nebraska

Sandhills, Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

Nebraska allows free dispersed camping in most of its national forests, including Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest which has a 23-site campground with facilities, as well as backcountry sites just outside the campground.

Camping at forestNathan Moore, Pexels

Nevada

Spencer Hot Springs, Austin

Spencer Hot Springs is on BLM land about 20 miles outside the town of Austin. You can camp there for free, right next to the hot springs, on pullouts along the dirt road.

spencer hot springs – nevadaDominic Gentilcore PhD, Shutterstock

New Hampshire

Gale River Loop Road, White Mountain National Forest

Dispersed camping is allowed in the backcountry of White Mountain National Forest as long as you’re farther than 200 feet from trails or bodies of water.

Camping is allowed along designated roadways, as well as including 11 established free campsites along Gal River Loop Road.

Photo of Person Lying Down on HammockFilipa Beroš, Pexels

New Jersey

Bodine Field Campground, Wharton State Forest

The rustic campsites at Bodine Field Campground aren’t free, they’ll cost you $3 per night. But the campground offers 20 secluded sites that line the Wading River—perfect for launching canoes and kayaks right from your site.

Canoe at lake.Sasha Prasastika, Pexels

New Mexico

Cebolla Mesa, Carson National Forest

The campsites here are as backcountry as you can get. Cebolla Mesa has a handful of campsites literally on the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge.

Best of all, this rustic forest campground has amenities like picnic tables, fire pits and a pit toilet—and it’s free!

carson national forest - 2015greg westfall, Flickr

New York

Sugar Hill Fire Tower Recreation Area, Watkins Glen

The dozens of free campsites near the historic 68-foot-tall Sugar Hill Fire Tower are scattered around a wide-open field, surrounded by towering trees.

Camping is free, but a self-issued permit is required.

The Sugar Hill Fire Tower in the park is 75 feet tall.PQK, Shutterstock

North Carolina

Linville Gorge Wilderness, Pisgah National Forest

Camping overnight at Linville Gorge Wilderness requires a permit—but they’re free.

This 12-mile-long gorge plummets 2,000 feet to the Linville River and has a variety of stunning dispersed camping along the canyon’s western rim.

Plus, there’s over a dozen roadside campsites with views of Table Rock Mountain.

Linville Gorge, North Carolina, scenic autumn sunriseanthony heflin, Shutterstock

North Dakota

Camels Hump Lake, Medora

Campsites at Camels Hump Lake are free and come with picnic tables and fire pits. When those ones are taken, dispersed camping is available in spots nearby.

These ones aren’t very private or quiet, but they’re right next to the beautiful lake.

Picnic Table near TreesSefa Tekin, Pexels

Oklahoma

Black Kettle Campground, Black Kettle National Grassland

At Black Kettle Campground you’ll find a dozen free campsites equipped with picnic tables and fire pits. It’s peaceful and beautiful, and offers hiking trails and a boat launch close by.

Black Moshannon State Park, Pennsylvania, USA - June 10 2020manoj_kulkarni, Shutterstock

Ohio

Jesse Owens State Park, McConnellsville

There are four primitive camping areas within Jesse Owens State Park. They don’t have power or water but they do have picnic tables, a fire pit, and a restroom close by.

There are various beautiful lakes within the park that are popular for kayaking and canoeing.

Photo of a Man Sitting Outside the TentBazil Elias, Pexels

Oregon

Summit Rock, Fremont-Winema National Forest

Not far from the northern entrance to Crater Lake National Park, you’ll find Forest Road 960, in Fremont-Winema National Park—where camping is allowed on designated sites along the road.

Further sites are available up the road toward Summit Rock, giving a panoramic view from the top.

Fremont-Winema National Forest LandscapeMichael Bittner, Shutterstock

Rhode Island

George Washington State Campground, Chepachet

Free camping in Rhode Island is tough to find, but Geroge Washington State Campground offers decent gravel sites for $18, near the shores of Bowdish Reservoir.

There are 45 campsites available, suitable for RVs or tents, and close to hiking trails and water access.

Couple Setting Up a Tentcottonbro studio, Pexels

South Carolina

Santee Coastal Reserve Wildlife Management Area, Francis Marion National Forest

Within the marshy wildlife habitat—which is home to sea turtles and songbirds—is a free primitive campground with eight designated sites and zero amenities.

There are also several marked trails for hikers within the reserve.

A Woman Cooking OatmealTaryn Elliott, Pexels

Pennsylvania

Moon Lake State Forest Recreation Area, Pinchot State Forest

At Moon Lake State Forest Recreation Area you’ll find 12 campsites with picnic tables and fire pits. The sites are free, but do require a permit secured ahead of time.

Man Standing on Wooden Table with BenchesDārta Antāne, Pexels

South Dakota

Badlands Overlook, Wall

This campsite is also known as Nomad View, and it is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. You can set up your tent right on the edge of the badlands, offering wild views.

It’s even big enough for RVs and trailers.

Badlands National ParkTim Lumley, Flickr

Tennessee

Paint Creek Corridor, Cherokee National Forest

Along the five-mile stretch of Forest Road 41, you’ll find free dispersed campsites, offering views of Kelly and Dudley Falls.

It’s a popular spot on weekends, so get there early. Paint Creek Campground is also available close by if you can’t snag a free site.

waterfall, mountain stream, with strongly and rapidly falling with splashes down, with rocks on a summer day.sergo1972, Shutterstock

Texas

Grapevine Hills, Big Bend National Park

Grapevine Hills offers quiet views of the Chisos Mountains, and first-come, first-serve camping along a rugged backcountry road.

Unfortunately, it’s not free. It costs $10 per night for a backcountry permit.

View of the Grapevine HIlls Trail and gravel wash from Balanced Rock,Diana Robinson, Flickr

Utah

Muley Point, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Muley Point is an overlook within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It’s set atop thousand-foot cliffs above the San Juan River Canyon, near the town and rock formation known as Mexican Hat.

The free camping sites are not very private, but the views are postcard-worthy.

Muley Point is technically in the Glen Canyon National Recreation AreaWildEarth Guardians, Flickr

Vermont

Somerset Airfield Campground, Green Mountain National Forest

The Somerset Airfield Campground is a former airfield that offers a dozen free primitive campsites with easy access to trails and the Somerset Reservoir.

There are also a handful of great sites along the road as you drive in.

Somerset - 2010jessamyn west, Flickr

Virginia

Little Fort Recreation Area, George Washington National Forest

At Little Fort Recreation Area, dispersed camping is allowed as long as you’re set up outside of developed recreation areas (like trailheads or picnic zones).

There are nine primitive campsites that are free for overnight use, and is located next to the largest ATV trail system in the state—so be prepared to hear them in the background.

wolf pen gap atv trailrobert thigpen, Flickr

Washington

Quinault Ridge Road, Olympic National Forest

You cannot disperse camp in the Olympic National Park, but you can in Olympic National Forest.

There are roadside spots not far from the entrance of the National Park. They’re scenic, quiet, and easily accessible.

Quinault Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, WashingtonKen Lund, Flickr

West Virginia

Lake Buffalo, Monongahela National Forest

Lake Buffalo doesn’t allow swimming, but it does allow free dispersed camping. A handful of primitive campsites are available within walking distance of the lake, offering a private wilderness escape.

Boulders and eastern view of the Appalachian Mountains from Bear Rocks Preserve, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia.Jon Bilous, Shutterstock

Wisconsin

Porcupine Lake Wilderness, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

While dispersed camping is free at Porcupine Lake Wilderness, it comes with one condition—you’ll have to hike to your campsite. It’s about a half mile walk from the closest parking lot.

A handful of dispersed campsites line the shoreline, and the North Country National Scenic Trail runs right through the area.

A fiery sunrise over Lake of the Clouds, Porcupine Mountains Sate Park. Michigan's Upper PeninsulaJohn McCormick, Shutterstock

Wyoming

Shadow Mountain, Bridger-Teton National Forest

Located within Bridger-Teton National Forest’s approved dispersed roadside camp sites with incredible views. There’s even a restroom facility nearby.

This spot is extremely popular in the summer months.

Camping Site with Two Tents on Green Grass FieldPicas Joe, Pexels

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