Home Camping Locations Safe Overnight Parking for RVs: Peace of Mind on Wheels
Safe Overnight Parking for RVs: Peace of Mind on Wheels

5 min

September 9, 2023

Have you ever thought about taking life on the road? Not in a Thelma and Louise way, but rather in the comfort of your home, a.k.a your RV? Like a turtle, carrying your shelter wherever you go, but with WiFi and a microwave? 

While campgrounds are the most popular choice for most, with about 94% of RV owners using them as their primary overnight stay option according to a survey by the RV Industry Association, they aren’t always available or within your budget. But don’t let this dampen your adventurous spirit! 

We’ve curated an exhaustive guide that navigates the many possibilities for parking your RV safely. When needing to find a quick spot to stay en route, or if you’re looking to settle down for a longer stay, we’ve got you covered.

RV Campgrounds: Your Ticket to Nature’s Backyard

When it comes to overnight parking, campgrounds are the metaphorical bread and butter of the RV world. They’re like the popular kids at school: everyone knows them, and they get all the attention. They are the go-to spots for your overnight parking needs, offering the safety of a community, the convenience of on-site amenities, and the charm of a campfire with marshmallows.

If you’re asking, “Where can I park my RV to live for free?”, look no further than the vast expanses of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Under the BLM’s jurisdiction are about 245 million acres of public land, mostly in the Western states, offering ample opportunities for what is known as “dispersed camping” or camping outside developed campgrounds.

BLM Lands: The Essence of Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping offers some of the best options for free overnight parking. Here, you’re allowed to live in your RV for free, embracing nature’s unadulterated beauty, with minimal human interference. It’s an ideal option for RV long-term parking, provided you adhere to the set rules and regulations.

Remember, with the freedom dispersed camping on BLM lands grants, there’s a responsibility that every camper must bear. These areas are devoid of facilities or amenities, emphasizing the need to respect the environment. As a camper, you’re expected to adhere to the principles of “Leave No Trace,” essentially having minimal impact on the environment and leaving the place as pristine as you found it.

Know Before You Go: Dispersed Camping Tips

Dispersed camping is not without its challenges. Here are some tips to prepare for your stay:

  • Locate BLM Land: Not all public land is BLM land. Make sure to use maps or applications that specify land management to ensure you are indeed on BLM territory.
  • Check Regulations: Each BLM field office may have specific rules and restrictions regarding dispersed camping. Always check the local rules before setting up camp.
  • Plan for No Amenities: Dispersed camping means no access to facilities. You need to pack in (and out) all your supplies, including water and waste disposal.
  • Follow Leave No Trace Principles: This includes camping at previously used sites, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
  • Safety First: Weather, terrain, and wildlife are some natural factors to consider. Always inform someone about your camping location and expected return time.
  • Road Accessibility: BLM lands can have rugged roads, so ensure your RV can handle the terrain.

Businesses That Allow Overnight Parking: Convenience at Your Fingertips

Many businesses welcome RV travelers by offering them a place to park overnight. These businesses understand that a large percentage of their customer base consists of RVers and other travelers, and they offer this service as a courtesy. It’s essential, though, to remember that these are not camping spots but parking spaces. 

Walmart: A Go-to Option for Overnight Parking

Traditionally, Walmart has been one such business that has allowed free overnight parking in their lots. According to a survey by Campendium, 78% of RVers have stayed overnight in a Walmart parking lot. 

However, policies can vary by location and city regulations. Some Walmarts, especially those in popular tourist areas or cities with ordinances against overnight parking, may not allow this. It’s therefore always prudent to check with the store management before setting up for the night.

Cracker Barrel: Comfort Food and a Place to Rest

With over 650 locations across the U.S., Cracker Barrel is another favorite among RV travelers. Not only can you enjoy their hearty meals, but many of their locations also allow RV overnight parking. The company is RV-friendly and typically provides specific parking spots for larger vehicles. As with any business, always ask permission before parking for the night.

Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops: Outdoor Retailers Embracing Life-on-the-go

Outdoor retail giants like Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops often accommodate RVers. Not only are these locations spacious enough to accommodate larger vehicles, but they are also generally located near major highways, making them a convenient choice for an overnight stop. Always call ahead to confirm overnight parking policies.

Harvest Hosts: An Unconventional Overnight Experience

Harvest Hosts offers a unique alternative to traditional overnight RV parking. For an annual membership fee, you get access to over 1,400 wineries, breweries, farms, and other attractions across North America that will allow you to park your RV overnight for free. It’s a wonderful option for those wondering “where can I park my RV to live?” as you’ll often find yourself in picturesque settings.

Remember that these are working establishments, and the etiquette is to patronize the business in some way. Buy a bottle of wine, take a farm tour, or purchase some fresh produce. It’s a win-win for both parties – you enjoy a unique overnight stay, and the hosts enjoy your patronage.

Boondockers Welcome: Embrace the RV Community

If you’re wondering, “where can I park my RV long-term for free?” or “where can I park my RV for cheap?”, Boondockers Welcome might be your answer. It’s an online platform where fellow RVers offer their land for other RVers to park on. For a modest annual fee, you can stay at any host location, often enjoying almost free RV parking with hookups like power, water, and other basics.

The duration of stay is usually limited (typically a few days), but some hosts may allow longer stays. You can filter hosts by amenities, length of RV they can accommodate, and more, making it a very user-friendly tool.


Many casinos across the United States allow RVs to park overnight in their lots for free or for a nominal fee. This is particularly true in gambling hotspots like Nevada and Mississippi, where casinos often cater to RVers with dedicated spaces, and sometimes even offer full hookup facilities.

Here are a few casinos popular among RV travelers:

  • Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, Washington: Besides a captivating view of the Pacific Ocean, this resort offers designated RV parking spaces.
  • FireKeepers Casino, Michigan: RVers report free overnight parking in a well-lit, secure lot.
  • Casino Queen, Illinois: Conveniently located near St. Louis, they offer RV spaces with full hookups for a reasonable fee.
  • Sky City Casino, New Mexico: This casino provides a dedicated RV Park with full hookups and a free shuttle to the casino.
  • Seven Feathers Casino Resort, Oregon: They provide a full-service RV resort adjacent to the casino, with both short-term and long-term parking options.

More Places Where You Can Park

State and National Parks – A Natural Haven

A trip through America’s State and National Parks isn’t just a journey through scenic landscapes; it’s a journey through the soul of the nation. With more than 10,000 state parks covering over 18 million acres and 63 national parks spanning more than 52 million acres, there’s a vast network of potential overnight RV parking spots to explore. Each park offers a unique blend of natural attractions, from the towering sequoias of Yosemite to the vast wetlands of Everglades National Park.

These parks often provide RV-friendly campgrounds with varying degrees of amenities. Some sites offer full hookups, while others might only provide basic facilities such as restrooms and picnic tables. Staying at these parks often requires a camping fee, ranging from $15 to $50 per night, depending on the park and services provided.

Reservation procedures and stay limits vary between parks and even within parks depending on the season. While some parks operate on a first-come, first-served basis, others use reservation systems, often filling up months in advance. A general rule of thumb is to plan and book your site well ahead, especially if you’re visiting during peak seasons.

Some examples include: 

  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: America’s first National Park, Yellowstone has 12 campgrounds, five of which accommodate RVs. However, only Fishing Bridge RV Park has full hookups.
  • Yosemite National Park, California: Ten campgrounds in Yosemite accommodate RVs, but hookups are not available. RV campers need to be self-contained.
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: Both the South and North Rims of the Grand Canyon have campgrounds suitable for RVs. Full hookups are available at Trailer Village on the South Rim.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: This park offers five campgrounds, some accommodating RVs. However, there are no hookups, and certain size restrictions apply.
  • Joshua Tree National Park, California: There are nine campgrounds within the park, some of which accommodate RVs, but no hookups are provided.
  • Glacier National Park, Montana: The park has 13 campgrounds, and many can accommodate RVs. However, no sites provide hookups.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina: It has ten campgrounds which can accommodate RVs. However, there are no hookups provided.

Remember that each park has its own rules and regulations regarding camping, so always check the specific park’s website or contact the park directly for the most accurate information. It’s important to note that some parks, particularly in more remote or environmentally sensitive areas, may have strict guidelines to ensure the preservation of the ecosystem.

RV Clubs and Membership Benefits

RV Clubs provide a community for like-minded adventurers, offering not just a sense of belonging, but also tangible benefits that can enhance your RV lifestyle. There’s a wide range of RV clubs out there, from general ones like the Good Sam Club to more specific ones like the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) or Escapees RV Club.

Membership in these clubs often comes with a plethora of perks. These can include discounted rates at affiliated RV parks and campgrounds, tailored insurance and roadside assistance programs, access to members-only events, and exclusive deals from RV-related businesses.

The Good Sam Club, for instance, offers up to a 10% discount at over 2,400 Good Sam Parks and campgrounds across the country. They also provide savings on fuel, propane, and more at participating Pilot Flying J locations. Similarly, Escapees RV Club offers a total support network for all RVers, providing mail forwarding services, a home-base campground, advocacy representation, and more.

While these clubs do charge an annual or lifetime membership fee, the benefits can often outweigh the cost, especially for frequent travelers. Do your research to find the club that best fits your lifestyle and travel plans.

Safety Tips for Overnight RV Parking

While there are many places to park your RV overnight, it’s essential to prioritize safety. Here are a few safety tips to consider:

  • Always Ask Permission: If you plan to park at a business or private property, always ask permission. Don’t assume it’s okay just because other RVs are parked there.
  • Stay Discreet: If you’re staying at a business, remember that you’re parking, not camping. Avoid deploying awnings, chairs, or grills.
  • Lock Up: Always lock your RV when you’re inside for the night and when you leave your vehicle.
  • Park Smart: Try to park under a light and in a spot that’s not isolated.
  • Arrive Late, Leave Early: This is especially applicable when parking at businesses. You’re there to rest for the night, not to camp for the weekend.
  • Respect Noise Levels: Be mindful of your surroundings and maintain a low noise level to respect other people around you, especially at night.
  • Keep Valuables Out of Sight: Avoid tempting would-be thieves by keeping your valuables hidden.
  • Follow Your Gut: If a location doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts.

Etiquette for Overnight RV Parking

Practicing good etiquette is crucial when you’re parking your RV overnight, especially when doing so on private property or at a business. Here are some guidelines to ensure you’re a welcome guest:

Do Opt for Quiet Residential Areas

One of the lesser-known secrets of urban RV life is that quiet, residential neighborhoods often make for excellent parking spots. They’re usually safe, quiet, and free from the constant hustle and bustle of city life. However, let’s not forget that we’re essentially temporary visitors in these spaces. Being respectful of the community is key. Keep noise levels down, avoid blocking driveways or mailboxes, and always leave your spot cleaner than you found it.

Don’t Set Up Camp Near Schools or Playgrounds

For reasons that should be obvious, parking near schools or playgrounds is a big no-no in the RV world. Parents are naturally protective of their children, and an RV parked near such areas can raise unnecessary concerns. So, as a general rule, steer clear of these areas when you’re searching for a parking spot.

Do Maintain a Low Profile

One of the golden rules of RV parking is the art of being unobtrusive. Keep your blinds drawn and limit exterior lighting. If you need lights on inside your RV, try to park near a street light. This will help to camouflage your internal lights and make your RV less noticeable. Remember, you’re not on a disco party bus; the aim is to blend in as much as possible.

Do Utilize Meters and Side Street Parking

Parking meters and side streets can be your unexpected allies in urban areas. These spots are often overlooked by locals, who avoid them due to morning street sweeping or metered parking times. This opens up perfect overnight parking opportunities for the savvy RVer. Just be sure to set an alarm, so you can move your RV before you risk getting a ticket.

Don’t Conduct Nightly Routines After Parking

This tip is straight from the savvy duo, Bre and Lacey, of the Ladies’ Van. When you’ve found your parking spot for the night, avoid carrying out your nightly routines like brushing teeth or washing dishes. This only draws attention to your presence. Instead, complete your personal hygiene tasks before parking and hitting the hay.

Do Stay Alert and Respect Local Laws

Being alert and aware of your surroundings is crucial in RV life. Stay vigilant, keep your doors locked, and don’t feel obligated to answer knocks if you don’t feel comfortable.

Residential RV Parking: Formal Guidelines and Considerations

Sometimes, the best RV parking spot is in your own backyard. Whether for convenience, to save money, or to use the RV as a guest house, parking at home has its appeal. However, doing so isn’t as simple as just pulling into your driveway.

Local zoning laws and homeowners association (HOA) rules can affect the ability to park an RV at home. Some cities or HOAs have restrictions on parking large vehicles on residential streets or driveways, while others may require the vehicle to be screened from view. Always check your local ordinances and HOA rules to ensure compliance.

From a practical standpoint, consider whether your driveway or yard can accommodate your RV without damaging the pavement or landscaping. You also need to think about access to utilities if you plan to use your RV while it’s parked.

Lastly, be aware that parking an RV at home could potentially impact your property taxes. Some jurisdictions consider an RV an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), which could increase your property tax assessment. It’s always a good idea to check with a local tax professional to understand potential implications.

Long-Term RV Parking: Things to Consider

When it comes to long-term RV parking, several considerations come into play. First, you need to consider the physical well-being of your RV. Vehicles are meant to be driven, and leaving an RV parked for extended periods can lead to issues with tires, batteries, and seals. Regularly starting and moving the RV can help prevent these problems.

Security is another concern. Whether you’re living in your RV or leaving it parked, you’ll want to ensure it’s secure against theft and weather damage. Quality RV covers can protect against the elements, while security systems and GPS trackers can provide peace of mind against theft.

Practical life issues also arise with long-term RV parking. Mail delivery, prescription refills, and access to health care are all considerations. Services like Escapees Mail Service or America’s Mailbox can handle your mail, while telemedicine services can handle many health care needs.

There are plenty of options for long-term RV parking, from RV parks offering monthly rates to long-term visitor areas (LTVAs) on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Prices and amenities can vary widely, so research and planning are key.

Remember, long-term RV living isn’t just about where you park; it’s about creating a lifestyle that suits your needs and desires. With a bit of preparation and flexibility, you can make your home on the road a comfortable and enjoyable place to live.

Summing Up

In conclusion, there are numerous safe and sometimes even free options available for overnight RV parking. From public lands to welcoming businesses and RV-friendly communities, you’re never too far from a potential rest stop. 

Always remember to respect the rules and regulations of overnight parking, and most importantly, leave no trace behind. Safe travels and enjoy the endless adventures that await you on the road!

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