Everyone wants to travel but not everyone can afford it. A campground with full hook-ups can cost anywhere from $25-$50/night and you often have to reserve a spot weeks if not months in advance. If you’re like us and fly by the seat of your pants, and don’t mind boondocking (primitive, no hook-ups camping) , here are some of our favorite spots we’ve stayed. We find these spots using the AllStays app, www.freecampsites.net, and dropping by the local NFS or BLM offices. Most of these spots are on National Forest, BLM, National Recreation areas, and Canadian provincial parks.
- Golden, B.C. Canada Waitabit Creek Recreation Area. Click for more info!Waitabit has 29 campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, and a few pit toilets around the campground. It’s easy to get to and is 2km from the Trans Canadian Hwy.
2. Mono Lake Basin Boondocking, Lee Vining, CA Click here for more info!
This is a great stop coming down from Yosemite on Tioga Pass as it basically dead ends at Mono Lake. This boondocking spot is a 5 minute drive from downtown Lee Vining and sits in a beautiful volcanic basin with the Sierra Mountains in the distance. Mono Lake has a pH of 10, making it 3x saltier than the ocean and helped create these tufa rock formations.
3. Dalton Wells Rd, Moab, Utah Click here for more info
Dalton Wells rd is just north of Arches National Park in Moab and the turnoff towards Canyonlands. This BLM area is known for it’s prehistoric fossils and colorful geology. Hiking up the hill, you get a great panorama of the area and can see arches in the distance.
4. Preachers Point Staging Area, Alberta, Canada Click here for more info!
Preachers Point sits along Abraham Lake, in between Nordegg and Saskatchewan Crossing at the Icefields Parkway. This is a great spot if you want to check out the Banff/ Jasper region and the Athabasca Glacier. The scenery is spectacular but you are far from any big town so bring your supplies and groceries or you will be stuck eating beans and creamed corn from the gas station for dinner!
5. East Fork Sevier River Dispersed Area, Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon, Utah Click here for more info!
This is a really pretty area hidden in the trees just past the Tropic Reservoir. You are close to Red Canyon State Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s about an 8 mile trip from a paved road, but it’s serene and quiet.
6. Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA Click here for more info!
This is one of our favorites and I truly cannot praise the Alabama Hills enough! Just a 5-10 minute drive from downtown Lone Pine (super cool retro town), sits this spectacular BLM area. In the backdrop is Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 and you are surrounded by otherworldly rock formations. The scenery is so strangely beautiful it has been a favorite place to film movies from Star Trek to John Wayne’s Westerns. Take a drive down Movie Road and just hike around to take in the beauty.
7. Forest Service rd 44, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Rainier, WA
Just 1 mile from the park gate is this gorgeous forested spot by Mt. Rainier and about a 15 minute drive from downtown Packwood. You are surrounded by huge evergreens and if you walk about 5 minutes past camp there is a little creek. Mt. Rainier is one of the most underrated National Parks and offers some of the most spectacular wild flower meadows. John Muir referred to it as, “…the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings.” Take a hike up to Paradise, you won’t be disappointed!
8. The Pads, Death Valley, Ca Click here for more info!
Death Valley is another one of those parks that most people don’t think about, but it’s definitely worth checking out. It has a surprising amount of color in the mountains, and you will see geography you won’t see anywhere else on this planet. The lowest point is 282 feet below sea level and some of our favorite natural attractions are Zabriskie Point, Badwater Salt Flats, Marble Canyon, Devils Golf Course, and the painted hills at the Artists Palette. “The Pads” is right off the highway on the left if you’re coming from Furnace Creek, easy to get to, lots of space, and quiet.
9. Deschutes National Forest, South of Lava Lake, OR
This spot was referred to us by the local National Forest office and sits right along the Deschutes River. If you are coming from Bend, head towards Mount Bachelor, pass Lava Lake, and you will turn left when you see the sign for NFS rd. 495 on your right. The road wasn’t in great shape when we were there, but the site was huge and flat so just use caution. We were also there during a drought so no fires but the view was all worth it.
10. Emery Bay, Hungry Horse Reservoir, Martin City outside of Glacier National Park, MT click here for more info!
If you are going to Glacier National Park, Emery Bay on Hungry Horse Reservoir is a great place to boondock. Swim, boat, and picnic on the beach, this place is gorgeous. Martin City is hardly a city and only has a few businesses, but on the way to camp, drop by the South Fork Saloon. It might look a little rough around the edges but it’s a cool western bar with great history, pool tables, and cheap drinks.
11. Lake Como Rd. Blanca, CO outside of Alamosa click here for more info!
This BLM site is a 15 minute drive from downtown Alamosa and sits below Mt. Blanca. The site itself is nothing special, but it’s just down the road from Great Sand Dunes National Park, which boasts the tallest sand dunes in North America and is one of the only dog friendly National Parks in the country. While in Alamosa, check out San Luis Valley Brewing for food and a tasty libation!
12. Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Sanford, Texas Click here for more info!
Lake Meredith is a gorgeous reservoir about 30 miles northeast of Amarillo. The campground is huge and all the sites come with a grill, picnic table, and awning. This was a detour while exploring historic Route66. Not much going on in the Texas panhandle but there are plenty of free camping opportunities to be had here!
13. Bastendorff Beach, Coos Bay, OR Click here for more info!
Bastendorff Beach is the only free camping spot along the Oregon coast. You can only stay here for one night but it’s a great stop if you’re driving along the coast. Bring your camera for sunset pictures! Downtown Coos Bay is a short drive and just down the road is Shore Acres State Park- a must see while you’re in the area.