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Where To Find FREE Overnight Parking In Vanlife

The biggest challenge of full-time vanlife is finding FREE overnight parking. You can obviously find campgrounds all around the U.S., but the price can add up quick if you choose that route every night. Therefore, we often look for places you can park overnight for free. We have been doing vanlife for over a year now and have found some great places to catch some zzz’s for free.

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map of free overnight parking atcampsites on iOverlander app

Websites/Apps To Find Free Overnight Parking:

In today’s world, we are super lucky to have the technology we have. There are a few websites and apps that help us find free campsites all around the world. Those apps are iOverlander,, sekr, or Campendium. You will find free campsites usually on BLM (Bureau of Land Management), public land or stealth street parking. 

Using these apps is the easiest way to find van parking near me. Most of them have technology to use offline.

Check out our article 3 Great Websites For Finding Free Campsites for more information!

Here is a list of all the places we feel are good options for FREE overnight parking in your van or small RV. 

BLM/Public Land:

As stated above, iOverlander,, sekr, and campendium will direct you to many different BLM, National Forest Land, and other public land campsites.

Plus many of the campsites are already designated campsites. You might even get lucky with a fire ring, picnic table, pit toilets, etc. But a lot of spots haven’t been marked on a map, so check the area you are traveling to and see if there is BLM or public land nearby. 

Another app we have been using lately to find van parking near me is Free Roam. This will show you an overlay of the land and color code the sections that are public lands.

This can be super helpful for finding newer sites that aren’t yet “established” or marked on the other camping apps. But as always follow the leave no trace principles. Therefore, if this area is grasslands, it is not advised to make your own site out on the grass.

Using this site to find new sites can be especially great in desert areas, where there is just dirt and not much damage you can do to the land.

We refer to the sites that aren’t marked on the map as boondocking or wild camping.

The typical rule is that you are only allowed to camp for 14 consecutive days in one spot.

This is by far our favorite way to camp in our van because you can usually set up camp and have your own personal space. However more times than not, you will have weak to no cell service. Which for people who work remotely or simply just like to stay in touch with the internet, these areas can sometimes be an issue. (You can always look into getting a Weboost, Wifi Booster, or Starlink to help keep you connected on the road).

Walmart Parking Lots:

A campervan parked at Walmart, one of the few businesses that sometimes allow overnight camping.

Walmart can be one of the best places to find free overnight parking near me. But do note, some popular areas are becoming more strict and no longer allowing overnight parking due to city ordinances changing or certain Walmart rules. You can always call and ask the individual store if overnight parking is allowed. 

Walmart allows this because they basically know you will most likely go inside and purchase something. And lets be real, there is always something you need when traveling on the road!

Sam’s Club

Walmart and Sam’s Club are affiliated. Therefore, the same rules apply as long as local ordinances allow overnight parking.

Rest Areas:

Rest areas are one of the best options if you are on a long road trip. Of course, rest area overnight parking rules depend on each state.

Pay attention to signs that either state if its legal or not to stay for extended hours at a time. Many times there is a time limit for how many hours you can stay.

A rest stop can be nice, because you have a bathroom, trash cans, and drinking water. But, they are only good for quick stops to catch some sleep along your route. 

You will notice many signs stating “no camping”, which often refers to tent camping. Therefore, you are still allowed to sleep in your vehicle to get some “rest”.

Truck Stops:

Similar to a rest area, truck stops are a decent place to stay for FREE. It is usually a well lit parking lot where you can feel relatively safe. But truck stops for overnight parking can be noisy due to truckers coming in and out all night. Plus they often leave their engines on idle for any electrics they use in their trucks (such as a fridge, lights, heaters, etc).

But a bonus to overnight parking at truck stops is having access to bathrooms, showers, food, etc. 

Similar rules apply to regular gas stations as well. Its always advised to go inside and ask the attendant if overnight parking is allowed.

Hwy Pull Off Along Hwy 1

Highway Pull Offs:

A lot of times there are highway pull offs that are level and a decent place to catch some shut eye. It’s especially convenient if its along your route, so you don’t have to venture too far off your route and can wake up and get right back on your way! 

We did this a lot along Hwy 1 on the West Coast, because there weren’t a ton of other places you could park. But I can see this becoming more of an issue and it seems like law enforcement might be cracking down and being a little more strict of this loose rule. 

Just look out for signs that state “No Overnight Parking” or similar. If you don’t see any signs, than you technically aren’t breaking any laws. The worst that can happen is a police officer knocking on your door stating that it isn’t allowed.

If that happens, respectfully explain that you didn’t know the rules and you will pack up and leave ASAP.  Chances are you will just walk away with a verbal warning and no ticket!

PLEASE follow the leave no trace policy!

Street Parking In San Francisco

Street Parking:

When traveling through cities, an easy way to park overnight for FREE is street parking. Just pay attention to signs about street cleaning and if a parking pass is required to park overnight. 

We have noticed city streets to be a little uneven due to the street having water run off the side. But, you can usually find a spot that doesn’t have too drastic of a slant.

Spot Angel: 

A super helpful app when traveling near major cities is Spot Angel. It’s an app that shows you how long you can park on each street and how much it costs. Therefore it can help you avoid parking meters or permit only street parking.

Parking Garages:

Parking garages can be another good way to find van life parking. But this obviously only applies to shorter vehicles. Garage parking is common in cities or towns with limited space. Parking rates may apply.

Stealth Camping When Free Overnight Parking:

Stealth camping is parking somewhere where you want to make it look like you aren’t inside your vehicle. Often times when you are parking in a neighborhood, city or at a business. You basically want to make it look like your van/RV is just parked and you aren’t living inside of it.

This is a good time to keep the lights off or have a way of blocking out your windows so no one can see inside. You are basically trying to make as little noise as possible, so no one gets suspicious that someone might be living inside.

When stealth camping, it’s best to cook somewhere else and do everything you need to do before bed (brush teeth, wash face, use bathroom, etc) in a different location, so you can create as little commotion as possible once you park. 

This is definitely not our favorite way to overnight park, but is an easy and FREE way to park near a city or when the above options aren’t available.

Trailhead Near Salt Lake City


Trailheads can be another great spot to find free places to park overnight. But not all trailheads allow overnight parking. If certain trailheads are located on National Forest land or on BLM, it might be okay for one night of van parking.

There will likely be signs if overnight parking or camping isn’t allowed.

If you don’t see signs, then it is probably one of the legal places to park overnight for free.

Trailheads that don’t receive much traffic or allow backpacking will often allow overnight parking. Just be on the look out for signs stating whether or not it is legal to do so. Sometime you might need a permit to place in your window if you are backpacking.

It’s an added bonus because you will have quick access to a hike and can get some exercise! This is one of our favorite ways to stay fit on the road.

Cracker Barrel Restaurants:

We have never personally stayed at a Cracker Barrel, but we hear it is a great spot to rest for the night. This option is technically FREE, but there is a certain expectation to go inside and eat. And we all have to eat right? So, it seems like a win/win situation!

I mean, they advertise 20 meals under $12 and $5 take home meals. So you should be able to find some home-style meals to warm the belly for a decent price!


Most casino’s offer free overnight parking and sometimes even offer full hookups for a fee. The idea here is to get you inside and spend some money, but you don’t have to fall into their worm hole if you don’t want to.

I would just go inside, maybe test your luck on a few penny machines or maybe grab a drink and then peacefully walk back to your camper. 

If you have a gambling problem or likely to go inside and drop some money, I would avoid casino’s all together. Because we all know it most likely won’t end up being a FREE campsite after all then.

Cabela’s/ Bass Pro Shop/ Camping World:

Similarly to Walmart, most Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, and Camping World’s location will allow free overnight parking. They tend to have large parking lots, so just park near the back to allow paying customer the front access. The one caveat to these location is it is a little harder to spend money at their facilities.

While it will probably be fine to just take the free van parking and not patron the company, it just feels a little worse than Walmart where you can literally buy anything you might need.

Just for sure follow the leave no trace principles here. If you see trash on the ground, pay it forward and keep the parking lot clean!

Planet Fitness:

If you have a Planet Fitness membership, then you will likely notices the abundances of campervans in the parking lot. Again, check for signs placed in the parking lot to see whether or not overnight parking is allowed or not. But Jake and I have successfully camped a couple nights at a planet fitness with no knock on the door.

Plus you can get in a nice workout and a shower, plus free parking, so it’s a triple win!

Hotels Parking Lots:

Staying in hotel parking lots is a gray area. It isn’t technically “allowed” but you can get away with it most times. I would choose hotels that aren’t 5-star rated or ones that might have a security guard that checks the area regularly. And with that, there is a trade-off of safety. So as this is not a good option A, it can be a fall back plan.

Public Transit Parking Lots:

Another grey area is public transportation parking lots. Such as a bus station, train station, subway, etc. Many of these parking areas allow free overnight parking because people are choosing carpooling rather than using their own vehicle. You might be able to get away with a few nights here and there, but I wouldn’t rely heavily on this as a permanent place to overnight park.

National Parks Free Campgrounds:

Some National Parks offer free camping within or near the park.

For example, Death Valley offers 3 free campsites within the park: Echo Canyon, Emigrant, or Wildrose.

If you are planning to visit any National Parks, type in the park with the works free camping. It will usually bring you to the National Parks Page and offer any free options. Of course, many of these sites will likely be crowded, especially during peak season.

Our Campervan at sunset
Parked At Wasatch View Ranch Via Harvest Host

Harvest Hosts:

Harvest Hosts isn’t a FREE option, but if you find yourself buying campsites along the road often, this will be a great investment. A Harvest Hosts annual membership starts at $99/year ($79/year with the code below). So basically the membership fee is paid off after 2 or 3 night stays.

How Harvest Hosts works, is there are wineries, breweries, distilleries, farms, museums, golf courses, etc that that allow free overnight rv parking spots and vanife parking via the membership. You call or book an overnight stay on their app at least 24 hours in advance to these attractions and reserve a spot in their parking lot or campground. Some businesses have water hookups for an additional charge.

In order to stay at Harvest Hosts locations, your RV or campervan must be self-contained with a toilet, water tank and inside cooking facilities. Read our Harvest Hosts review for all the details of a Harvest Host Membership.

Use this referral link to get 15% off a Harvest Hosts membership! Be sure to use code HHFRIENDS15 at checkout.

Boondocker’s Welcome:

Another awesome place to find overnight parking in vanlife is Boondocker’s Welcome.

Boondockers Welcome is an annual membership where travelers can stay on hosts private property. It’s a platform built for RV’ers or vanlifers, because you are required to have a self-contained rig. 

Locations are all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico offering so many great places to rest for a night or so. We wrote a in-depth review for Boondockers Welcome, explaining everything you need to know about the membership.

Use this Boondocker’s Wecome Discount Link for 15% off your membership.

Advice When Finding Free Overnight Parking:

Always Read Signs:

It’s important to pay attention to signs when living full time on the road. There are a lot of cities/towns that don’t allow sleeping inside a vehicle. While it’s often easy to get away with it for a night or two, it’s better to just find a different area to avoid a hefty ticket.

Also always look at street signs, because street cleaning is usually on a different day of the week and month on each street. It can be easy to get a ticket if you are parked in the wrong spot at the wrong time. 

Rule Of Thumb (Follow You Gut):

You always want to feel safe when you are finding a place to rest for the night. No one wants to be ½ awake all night because they have a bad feeling about an area. So if you don’t feel safe, find a new place to rest for the night. It’ll be worth extra nights rest!

Leave No Trace:

No matter which parking method you choose, it’s important to Leave No Trace.  Many of these options are available as a privilege, and a valuable one that we shouldn’t abuse.  Businesses are likely to stop allowing free overnight parking if they find trash or human waste in their parking lots.

And BLM lands or National Forests often operate with little resources for maintenance.  The way these places will remain available is by picking up after yourself. If you do see trash outside one of these places, please pick it up. Be respectful of the place and leave it better than when you arrived!

Also, for going to the bathroom on BLM land, please follow these rules:

  • Respect “Pack It In, Pack It Out” rules
  • Go 200 feet from any water source (ponds, streams, creeks, lakes)
  • Dig a hole at least 6 inches for solid human waste
  • Throw away toilet paper if it isn’t buried 

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Takeaway | Where To Find Free Overnight Parking In Vanlife:

All of these are great options for where to find overnight parking for FREE. Our personal favorite way to camp is on public land or BLM because you have your own space and are out in nature. But more times than not, you don’t have service, they are much harder to get to and further away from town, but the beauty and privacy always makes it worth it.

Jake and I have lived in our self-converted campervan for 4+ years, and have probably collectively paid less than $500 for campsites and memberships.

With these many ways to find free overnight parking, you are sure to save tons of money. So that’s why it can be nice to find other places to stay for FREE while living on the road. 

Where is your favorite place to overnight park for FREE?

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