Want to travel the US on a budget? Luckily for you, there are plenty of amazing public lands to visit. You’ll find many of the best free campsites are in places that you could only imagine in your wildest dreams 😴.
Backcountry camping, dispersed camping, and off-grid camping are popular ways to see the landscapes in this country for less. Public lands are areas that are often maintained and free to visitors. National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owned land are often great places to find free camping. There are tons of scenic camping spots ⛺️ to find and explore!
I have lived in a van for over a year and I have been to all 48 states. During the year, I stayed in spots that simply blew me away. Below you’ll find a list of my 10 favorite campsites including camping near national parks, state parks, and gorgeous lakes & mountains 🏔. So get out there and get camping!
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Table of Contents
Free Camping Reminders
Unfortunately, people take advantage of free camping and often leave their litter or trash the beautiful public land.
DO NOT BE THAT PERSON.
Many camping areas have closed even within the last year because people have not been taking care of them. You want to keep these camping areas for years to come so please follow the Leave No Trace Principles and keep the earth beautiful.
Free Camping Guidelines
👯♀️ Leave plenty of space between you and your neighbors
🗑 Pack in and pack out everything that you bring
💦 Park 200 feet away or more from a water source
🔥 Follow all local fire regulations and rules, put out all fires!
💩 Do not dump any grey water or black water tanks on the ground
⛺️ Follow stay limits, some can be as little as 7 days in a month
Best Free Campsites in the US
1) Bridger-Teton Forest, Wyoming
Although this list is in no particular order, this may be my personal favorite campsite in the entire US ⭐️⭐️. It doesn’t hurt that it is directly next to my favorite national park: Grand Teton. Directly to the East of the park, you’ll find the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the wonderful dispersed camping spots there.
There are tons of spots to choose from within the forest. All of them have spectacular views of the Tetons, but if you travel a little further up the rough road you’ll find spots to have to yourself. We stayed on a fantastic spot that had plenty of space and we were delighted to get some of the best views over the Tetons we had seen 👀. There is also great service, so you can set up camp and stay there for a long time. You may never want to leave.
2) Organ Mountains, New Mexico
I love this free campsite so much, that I went out of my way to go back there. It happened to be on the exact same day, one year later! The campsites in this area sit below the majestic Organ Mountains in New Mexico. Prepare yourself for some of the most amazing sunrises 🌄 you’ve ever seen. These mountains provide a stunning backdrop and the area is quiet, so you can focus on yourself.
There are about 10 spots next to the mountain, but you have to drive over a rough road to get to them. Once you’re there, they have excellent signal, fire pits, and plenty of space to set up camp. You can also choose to camp in the quiet flat land by the trailhead 🪧 nearby, but that’s not as secluded.
The Organ Mountains are just 45 minutes from White Sands and 30 minutes from Las Cruces. You can go on great hikes through the mountains or just stay there as a base camp for adventures nearby. Bonus: there’s a wonderful camping area right outside of the White Mountains, which you can see on my map.
3) Rim of the Badlands, South Dakota
If you’re driving across the country, then the Badlands is one of the best US road trip destinations. This park has wild landscapes and great wildlife 🦬. There’s nothing better than camping near national parks. You can dry camp right outside of the Badlands National Park along the rim. You’ll even get a sneak peek of the wonderful badlands themselves.
Although you’ll find a lot of RVs and vans here, you’ll find plenty of space to choose your own spot. We went in peak summer time ☀️ and were able to secure our own site with stellar views over the badlands. There is also great cell service, so you can stay connected to others if you want. Just drive down the road to get to see the infamous Wall Drug and get fantastic buffalo burgers!
4) White Mountains, New Hampshire
If you love Fall, then you need to visit the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Stunning reds, oranges, and yellows 🍂 light up the trees. You’ll feel as if you’ve entered a beautiful painting. Luckily, the White Mountains also have great free camping for visitors in the area.
White Mountain National Forest has 18 free spaces that line the river next to it. So, you’ll be able to wake up to the sounds of the running river. Each space has a firepit and plenty of space for one or two vehicles depending. It’s a great place to car camp, tent camp, or spend the night in a van 🚐. Then, you can easily access the beauty of the White Mountains while you camp.
5) Forests of Bend, Oregon
Bend, Oregon is a hot spot for van lifers and RVers, because it’s an adventure haven. There are so many great boondocking areas nearby that it’s hard to choose just one to include on the best free campsites list. I’ve chosen one of the forests 🌳 that had wonderful spots, few bugs, and close to town.
This forest is a wonderful place to stay for a few days. There isn’t service, so you’ll really have to get off-grid. However, you’ll be surrounded by tall trees and you’ll feel like you’re in an enchanted forest. You can drive to wonderful areas nearby like Tumalo Falls, Smith Rock State Park, and Sahalie Falls.
6) Desert near Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is another great city for van dwellers and RVers. There are tons of public lands around the city that are great for dry camping. It’s also a great way to leave the winter weather behind and spend some time in the sun. This particular area has many spaces to choose from amongst the Saguaro cacti 🌵.
Similar to many other areas that I love, this area has great cell service and is very quiet. You can watch sunrise over the mountains with tall cacti all around and hot air balloons rise 🎈 into the sky beyond. It’s a fantastic place to stay for a while to explore the wonderful activities in and around Tucson.
7) Gooseberry Mesa Near Zion National Park, Utah
Zion is another park that is in my top 5 national parks and this spot is in my top 10! You’ll have to drive up a large hill to get to the plateau of Gooseberry Mesa. There are signs at the entrance of the road that details where you can disperse camp. Campsites are spaced far apart and you can pick one that you like. But all of them are great options.
We stayed here for only one night, but I wish that we had set up camp here. There were killer views over the red rocks of Zion beyond. Up on the Mesa, you feel as if you can see for miles. Prepare yourself for incredible panoramas 🏜 and vibrant sunsets. It’s one of the best camping areas in the area.
8) Dispersed Camping Death Valley, California
Death Valley is one of the most incredible parks in the entire US (it’s in my top 5). Landscapes there are out of this world and it’s vastness is unfathomable. Because this park is so large, it’s great that you allowed to dispersed camp within it. There are very strict rules about camping there, so make sure to follow all these regulations.
The best parts about backcountry camping in Death Valley are the rugged rock formations surrounding you and the amazing stars at night. If you love astrophotography 📸, then this is a great chance to do it! Choose a backcountry area where you can park and is close to things you want to see the next day. We were able to stay in a spot that was only 7 minutes from Zabriskie Point, so we could easily watch the magical sunrise. I highly recommend visiting!
9) Last Dollar, Telluride, Colorado
If you’re a ski bum, then you probably want to find the best camping near a ski town. Well, Telluride is one of the premiere destinations for skiers and outdoor lovers ❄️. During the winter you may have a hard time getting to this spot. But, the very bottom of the mountain may be clear enough for you to park and spend a night.
We visited this area in the spring and absolutely loved it! You are just a short drive out of Telluride, you get amazing views of the mountains, and you may get to see elk! It’s one of those spots that I would definitely return to again.
10) Moonscape, Hanksville, Utah
Saved one of the best free campsites for last! As soon as you pull up to Moonscape Overlook, you will be absolutely blown away. It seriously looks like you’ve transported to Mars ☄️, it’s one of the places you have to see to believe. There are plenty of spaces to choose from along the rim with great views over the moon like landscape beyond.
This campsite is in Hanksville, Utah, which is just outside of Capitol Reef National Park and close to Goblin Valley State Park. Despite being on the moon 🌙, there is great service there. The only downsides to this campsite is that it can get extremely windy and photographers like to come at sunrise to get pictures. So, you may not be able to sleep in, but you probably won’t want to either!
Free camping is one of the best ways to see the US on a budget. It’s also a great way to get off the beaten path. Remember to take care of our public lands and leave them better than you found them! Happy camping!
Let me know if you enjoyed this list of free campsites in the comments!
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