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Are there many free/cheap campsites across the US?

We are driving for 4 and a half weeks from San Francisco to Nashville with lots of stops and we are on a budget so wanted to know if there are any free campsites we can just pitch our tent in across uS or what the price of a typical campsite might be? Does anyone know?
12 years ago, August 27th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #46979  
N Posts: 18
Is there anything we could buy or lok at in advance with all the campsites on it? Reply to this

12 years ago, August 28th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #47103  
Hello Rebecca 😊

I dont know about the US but some farmers here in Germany are willing to let people camp in their fields or sleep in their barns. It may be worth asking a few farmers in the US if they would allow that.

Mel Reply to this

12 years ago, August 29th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #47254  
I was reading a book called Don Wrights guide to Free campgrounds (eastern edition) i know there is an addition for the west coast. this edition is a few years old but maybe the book store or amazon.com has an earlier addition. you also look at the book and call the places to see if they are still in buisness. Some of the camp grounds are cheap but not free.
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12 years ago, September 6th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #48119  
Hello Rebecca. Yes there ARE free campsites scattered throughout the US. They are almost always primitive (occasionally will have a fire pit, not always guaranteed to have water or pit toilets) but they are usually very scenic! We did lots of camping across the US and were always on the lookout for free campsites so if you have a particular route/location in mind please feel free to post it here to message us and I'm happy to tell you where/if we found any in particular.

In general, you can camp in National Forests/Bureau of Land Management land for free if it meets the following conditions - 1) it has to be a certain distance away from the road and not viewable from the roadway 2) it cannot be in areas where clearly marked that camping is not allowed 3) you can't trample existing vegetation but have to camp in previously used sites 4) campfires are not allowed unless designated. Go to your local National Forest/National Park visitor station and ask for maps/information on "dispersed" camping. Rules vary with each forests so it's always good to call the ranger station and ask about specific places or rules since information on dispersed camping isn't really published or advertised.

Aside from that, campsites that have toilets, fire pits, tent sites, things like that generally cost about $10-15/night depending on where you are. The majority of these campsites are in national, state or city parks. Private campsites, like KOA or RV sites typically charge $25-30 for water, electicity, various other RV stuff (sewage?) even if you have a tent and don't plan on using it, so I would avoid these. Plus, then you end up being the only tent in a sea of RV's I always find that distracting to the whole camping experience.

While there may be a few farmers willing to let you camp on their land, MOST ranchers have huge tracts of land so it would be difficult to contact the farmer directly without first trespassing, something that is taken very seriously in some parts of the country.

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12 years ago, January 29th 2009 No: 5 Msg: #61676  
Hi Rebecca,
I agree with everything Stephanie & Andras just wrote. Bureau of Land Management land is the best bet for free camping in the West, but becomes more scarce as you get further east. It would be helpfull to have a map that showed BLM lands. State Parks are usually the best & cheapest deals for "pay sites". They are usually in very beautiful or interesting locations. They usually will have showers with hot water, too. I suggest you look up "State Parks" for the states that you will be traveling thru. Happy travels! Reply to this

12 years ago, February 1st 2009 No: 6 Msg: #61895  
Hi there,
I agree with most of the above information. My wife and I have motorcycled across the states three times in the last few years, mostly camping. State parks aren't always that cheap unless you find one that has fairly primitive sites as mentioned above. Don't totally count out the KOAs. We stayed in quite few of them over the years, mainly because we like the available amenities after being on a motorcycle all day. Many have very nice campsites, especially the ones that are in more rural areas, and are not always super expensive. After roughing it for a few days, you might want to consider one of the KOAs to get a hot tub, wireless internet, and swimming pool at the end of the day, if it is in the right location at the right time. You can always check them out at koa.com.

Many small towns operate campsites that are relatively inexpensive as well, usually run by one of the local service clubs such as the Lions or the Rotary. You can always visit a few websites of places you will be travelling through to see if they have anything available.

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