32 Best Free Camping Sites
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MANDY FERREIRA

It’s easier than ever to find a free place to camp thanks to sites like Campendium and Freecampsites.net. In addition to the unforgettable campgrounds below, you can go dispersed camping for free on public lands throughout the United States and Canada. Just remember to check that you are not on private land, inside a fee campground, and/or within 200 feet of any water source like a lake or stream before staking down your tent.

You can camp on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service land for up to 14 days in most places. Whether you go off the beaten track or stick with the free campgrounds below, it’s crucial you follow the seven Leave No Trace principles to reduce your impact, protect the environment, and keep the animals and humans in the area safe.

 

California

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

It isn’t easy to secure a free night in the Marin Headlands–between Hawk Camp and Haypress there are only eight sites. The good news is that both campgrounds take reservations (call 415/331-1540 up to two months in advance). No potable water; no fires allowed; nps.gov/goga

Amboy Crater, San Bernardino County

Sleep alongside an extinct volcano in the Mojave Desert. The area has some shade, but it’s best to camp here when the weather is mild. In the summer, temperatures easily break 100 degrees. No potable water; vault toilets; blm.gov

Box Canyon West, Mecca

Can’t find a camping spot in Joshua Tree? Head south and camp inside this sandstone canyon instead. Plan a visit in February or March to catch the desert wildflower blooms. freecampsites.net

How to Set Up a Campsite Chili Bar

A hearty pot of chili is easily portable and feeds a big crowd at camp. Set it out with a host of toppings and campsite-appropriate decor for a fun night under the stars.

 

Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, San Benito County

Believe it or not, the area is known for its scenic waterfalls. Both Laguna Mountain and Upper Sweetwater campgrounds offer free campsites with level RV pads, fire rings, and picnic benches. No potable water; vault toilets; no trash collection; blm.gov

Mud Lake Trailhead, Lassen National Forest, Shasta County

Visit Lassen Volcanic National Park without spending a dime on lodging. The dispersed camping along the Mud Lake Trailhead is only 15 miles from the park, and it also offers prime access to the Pacific Crest TrailVault toilets; fs.usda.gov

 

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