Free Overnight RV Parking: 12 Places That Are Easy, Legal, And Safe
By Kelly Beasley
If you are an RVer, you've been in these shoes: that moment when you decide you were done driving and want to find some free RV parking so you can sleep.
Who wants to spend an average of $35-$40 a night just for a few amenities? I'd rather turn off my engine and crawl into bed using one of the free options out there.
There are much easier (and cheaper) ways to pull over and sleep than using an expensive campground with facilities for just a few hours. Ouch!
You probably already know about Walmart parking. But did you know that not nearly as many of their stores allow overnight parking as there used to be?
And did you know there are many other options for overnight parking out there? If not, you're about to find out. Overnight free parking is abundant if you know where to find it, especially if you don't need full hookups.
NOTE: I did not include the RV camping clubs Boondockers Welcome or Harvest Hosts in this free RV parking article as they technically cost money and you need to reserve. So they aren't as easy, and they are not free as the below-named places generally are.
Also, please remember, it is NOT your right to be able to park at these places. Instead, it is a privilege. Treat it as so.
OR, if you use/try the ones I mention that are, well, bordering on NOT legal, but are still pretty harmless, do it RIGHT and don't stand out or bring attention to yourself OR OVERSTAY YOUR STAY.
Ok, enough yelling at you, LOL. Let's do this!
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Walmart Free RV Parking
Free RV parking at Walmart isn't news to you unless you've been living under a rock.
There's a ton of information about how to park at Walmart parking lots on the internet, so I'm not going deep here.
We already have an article 100% dedicated to teaching you the do's and don'ts when taking advantage of Walmart RV parking overnight.
In short, Walmart is famous for allowing guest RVers and car campers overnight parking. This doesn't mean they allow CAMPING. You should pull in late-ish, park, eat, and go to sleep, being as 'stealth' and unobtrusive as possible.
Just be aware NOT ALL WALMARTS allow overnight parking anymore. Call and check with the Walmart you are interested in staying at before planning an overnight stay.
Or, use an App such as Allstays to find out if they allow parking or not.
Free Overnight Parking At Rest Stops
Rest stops are usually along the way when traveling on interstate and highways.
Some rest areas allow free overnight parking, and some do not. Even if they don't, you can likely pull in and sleep for a couple of hours without harm in an emergency.
When relying on this free RV parking, it's best to TRY to plan ahead by researching that particular rest stop.
However, they often don't give much more information than just the fact that there's a rest area.
I've never felt unsafe in a rest area. But if you feel iffy or unsure at one, move along and find other overnight RV parking locations.
Truck Stop Camper Parking
Camper parking at truck stops tends to have some controversy attached to it.
The controversy stems from whether RVs should park in the large spots truckers use.
First, know that almost any 'truck stop' gas station allows RV parking spots for the night. Of course, they also expect you to get gas there or otherwise patronize the business as 'payment.'
The controversy and big stink come from whether it's ok for RVs to park in the big spots. We have already covered our stance on RV parking at truck stops. (DO NOT park in their spots is our stance. You have other options. They do not. You are on vacation. They are working.)
The bonus of staying at certain truck stops is you can shower there and sometimes even do laundry! Of course, they have restrooms, too.
Get Creative When Parking At Truck Stops
Large truck stops like Love's or Pilot sometimes have pull-through spots MADE for RVs. If this isn't the case, you can try to find an area off to the side where you can park.
I mean, where would you park if you were going in the store but didn't need gas? You'd find a place out of the way. Do precisely that when looking for an overnight spot.
It's going to be a noisy night. Use your earplugs or sound machine or download a sound machine app on your phone and use it!
(I use this iOS White Noise app.)
Truck stops feel quite safe to me. Never felt in danger or uneasy. They are populated and busy, just like any other gas station.
Just keep your awareness about yourself. And obviously, lock up your stuff.
Not all gas stations have free places to park an RV. If they do, they often don't care if you're there.
It's not like the employee running the register goes outside to check on the parking lot for overnighters. (But they probably have cameras.)
In this event, I'd try to find a spot on the side where I am not blocking any traffic but am also not so far back in the shadows that I become a target for a criminal.
The bigger the gas station, possibly the better.
I wanted to stay overnight at a Buc-ees (a popular gas station) in Texas once, but they did not allow overnight RV parking. Maybe some do. Whatever gas station you want to try, you'll have to ask.
Your chances of success are probably better in a more rural area than an in-town busy station.
Free RV Parking at Hotels/Motels
You could ask to park... or arrive very late and leave very early.
I've done this a couple of times. Long as it's not a hotel or motel that needs a parking permit, this is a very viable option in some places.
In highly desirable areas where there are city ordinances banning overnighting in a vehicle, the hotels/motels are probably on to people doing this.
You're reaching if you try this in such an area.
I stayed overnight once at a motel next to a truck stop that was JAM packed, and I couldn't find a good spot out of the way.
The motel was across the street. I nestled myself back into a corner, fitfully spent the night, and left early in the morning. I was nervous about being called out.
But anyway, this could be an option for you. You decide whether to ask or to just 'risk' it.
City Park Overnight RV Camping
City parks that allow overnight RV camping may be more off the beaten path than your route. Regardless, some towns will offer free overnight parking for the night in one of their parks.
Be aware that this option, by nature, probably is one of the highest in terms of crime possibilities. Some city parks are havens for the homeless, drug deals, etc.
Being IN town, in a public space, and dark/quiet, the chances are higher that someone may try to break into your tow vehicle or toad in the night. Just be aware.
Otherwise, some parks allow free overnights, and some charge a small fee (especially if they offer potable water or electrical hookups).
It's simply one more option.
Also, be aware that the parking lot may not be very accommodating if you have a very long/large RV.
Use Google satellite view before you go to determine if you can get around the parking lot and where you could park.
My best suggestion for finding them is to use Campendium to see if there's a nearby park offering free overnight RV parking.
Little bonus- if it's nice, there is probably a picnic table you can use in the morning to eat breakfast. Double bonus if you have kids and they have a playground!
Overnight Free Parking on Side Streets
Some cities, such as Salt Lake City, allow overnight free parking on certain streets for X hours or days.
There will be rules. In SLC, in particular, you are only allowed to park an RV on the street for 48 hours.
However, you ARE NOT allowed to STAY in the RV overnight (oops!).
If you want to try for this, don't make it obvious you are inside if sleeping is not allowed (and it's probably not). If you can stealth camp, such as in a van, you may be able to get away with parking anywhere in SLC.
Happily, I disconnected my tow vehicle from my trailer, thinking it was OK. I had lights on inside at night. (No, I wasn't overnighting. I was staying. I didn't know that wasn't allowed.)
It wasn't long before I was reported and had to find another RV overnight parking spot.
The moral of the story is to find out what is and is not allowed. This is not an easy feat to do. Still, it's doable to find places to park an RV overnight almost anywhere, and you'll need to do your legwork.
I mean... do this at your own risk. This is also a place criminals might be lurking.
BUT, vacant lots might be an option if you are desperately looking for where to park an RV for the night.
You might find a nice open and well-lit vacant lot that will work for free RV overnight parking. (Watch for no parking signs.)
Be aware you may get a knock in the middle of the night. It could be the owner, and it could be the police.
Just be prepared to move on short notice. Don't draw attention to yourself, AKA don't put down your stabilizers, don't put out slides, don't have your step out, NOTHING. Lights off at night.
This will increase your chances of harmlessly sleeping for the night and leaving early in the AM without intervention. Just remember, these places aren't free campgrounds.
Camping World, among RV dealerships, will sometimes allow you to stay overnight.
Simply ask! Call ahead. They will often be exceptionally accommodating and offer free RV camping if they are doing some service work on your recreational vehicle the next day.
OR, let them know you are passing through and are in the market for a new rig. They will likely allow you to stay so you can peruse the lot the following day.
I have never utilized a dealership. I DID utilize a parking area at a service center before.
They allowed me and Marshall to park overnight as my axle was on order and getting replaced the next day.
Casinos are one of the best places to park overnight (if they allow it)! Well, they love the ones that come in and patronize their casino, anyway.
Since they have huge parking lots, there is plenty of room. Many allow a few nights (not just one!) of stay in the hopes you will stay to gamble.
You can go inside and use their restrooms.
As an overnight camper, you will have to go inside and register, so it's not the easiest of free stays.
Again- they aren't necessarily the quietest of stays, depending on the casino. Still, it's an option if there's one on your route.
There may be no room when you arrive. Don't think of casinos as free campgrounds or as a sure thing. Have a backup plan. Or reserve ahead if possible.
Ask Any Business To Park Overnight
Hey, if it's a parking lot and empties at night, it's possible! If you don't arrive too late, simply go in and ask the owner if they would mind if you stayed overnight.
Of course, it wouldn't hurt to patronize the business before you ask for permission.
And be very clear that you aren't going to cause problems, stay more than one night, etc.
The worst they can do is say no!
This works best for businesses that own the building and parking lot and stand alone. This means strip malls are out.
Think large furniture stores, movie theaters, and maybe propane stores such as Murdoch's or Tractor Supply. ANY privately owned place could work.
Even places like churches and big box stores (Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops, Costco, Petsmart, Lowe's, Home Depot, Sams Club, Top Golf, Kmart, some breweries, to name a few), independent grocery stores, and others are possibilities.
(Some Cabela's even have facilities such as a dump station!)
Ask the manager for permission. Or arrive after hours and take your chance.
If you do ask, kindness goes a long way. If you are kind and courteous when you ask, and the business owner knows you are simply in a jam or you JUST want to stay the night, they might say yes.
Again- this especially works if you drop some greenbacks into their business.
Overnight RV Parking Wherever The Heck
Say you are tired/falling asleep at the wheel and can't drive anymore.
In this case, I would recommend simply pulling over somewhere and looking for ANYWHERE to park. Even if it's at, say, a mall, on the street, a Cracker Barrel, a Bass Pro Shops, a grassy lot, or on the interstate off-ramp. Park and hit the hay.
The worst that can happen here is a cop knocks on your door. Still, if they don't know anybody is inside, what can they do?
Are they going to have you towed? Not likely. (But if a tow truck driver knocks on your door, you'd better acknowledge it!)
You may get a written warning citation on your windshield.
Even if you answer, you can tell them you were falling asleep at the wheel, so you pulled over.
A police officer still may direct you to leave, but you can ask them about other places to park an RV for free for the rest of the night.
They will probably know about a place or two where you can park an RV overnight.
Sadly, there may be someday ahead of us when free overnight RV camping is a thing of the past.
Walmarts have already had to cut back on many stores allowing overnight parking because of the people who are essentially squatting in their parking lots or who dump their tanks and litter, cause a ruckus, harass the patrons, and use it as their campground (like the guy above), etc.
Sometimes it's a city ordinance that causes the disallowance. Usually, ordinances like that happen for the same reasons listed above.
Either way, it's 2021, and as of yet, there are still some free camping options out there that don't include RV campgrounds.
Now you have a plethora of choices when it comes to free places to park overnight!
Other places to park overnight for free include staying on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) or in national forests (national forest RV camping).
But usually, those areas are a destination, not a place for just one night. This is why we didn't include them above - they aren't usually used when you are looking for quick and easy free overnight parking for RVs.
For other public places, follow the rules. And don't stay long, don't fire up your generator for hours (or AT ALL if possible), don't use slides if you don't have to, and keep your stabilizers up and folding RV chairs inside. Then leave early in the morning.
Patronize the business you're staying at if there is one.
Do all of that, and you should be happily on your way the next day, no matter whether you're in a travel trailer or a motorhome.
So, where can you park an RV for free? The decision is up to you! Which of these suggestions are you going to try?
Author: Kelly Beasley
I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.