How To Find Boondocking In National Forests
Many national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands across the United States offer primitive campsites with no amenities. Typically, you can camp anywhere in a national forest, as long as there is no signage noting otherwise. This makes boondocking a great option for RVers looking to visit the various National Parks. Follow forest access roads to find spots where you can park and camp for free.
If you have a big RV, some forest access roads might be difficult to access. Theyre often narrow and unpaved. Check with a local ranger station on where you might be able to park for the night.
The USDA provides guidelines on how and where to camp in National Forests and BLM land.
The US Public Lands app is also a great resource for finding public lands with free campsites. Just be sure to do the research BEFORE venturing deep into the woods, as youll likely lose cell coverage.
Montgomery Bell State Park
Montgomery Bell State Park, located just outside of Dickson, is ideal for families or groups looking to camp closer to their cars. The backcountry camping sites do not allow tents, but the park offers pet-friendly camping in the campground and a few sites along the river. The campground includes sites with electricity, picnic tables, trashcans and grills. Campers at Montgomery Bell can take advantage of several fishing lakes, an abundance of hiking and biking trails, a golf course, summer boat rentals and swimming.
Tennessee Dispersed Camping Areas
Camping laws in Tennessee: Unless stated otherwise, scattered camping outside of designated campgrounds is permitted throughout Cherokee National Forest for visitors looking to get away from it all. Within 100 feet of water, trails, trailhead parking lots, and developed recreation areas, camping is prohibited. There are no fees associated with dispersed camping, and no permits are necessary.
Area of Citico Creek:This region gives isolation as well as backcountry experiences. Fishing, horseback riding, camping, and hiking are all popular activities.
With almost 20,000 acres of Wilderness in Citico Creek and Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock, this location offers plenty of seclusion and backcountry adventures. In Citico Creek and its rocky tributaries, you can catch both native and stocked trout, as well as smallmouth bass and catfish in the creeks lower levels.
Area of the French Broad River:An large road and path system connects the areas wooded mountainsides and creek gorges. Fishing, hiking, horseback riding, creek play, and camping are just a few of the activities available.
Area of the Tellico River:This location offers fantastic fishing, camping, hiking, and picturesque driving options. The Indian Boundary Recreation Area and the Cherohala Skyway are also located here.
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Best Places For Camping Near Nashville Tn
There are many great places for camping near Nashville. I compiled a list of camping locations all within about an hour of the Nashville, Tennessee area for anyone visiting and looking for a good place to pitch a tent or park their RV for the night. Or maybe you already live in Tennessee and are just looking for some new camping ideas. Either way, if you know of any good ones that I missed please add it in the comments below!
What To Pack For Free Camping
When camping for free you have to take into consideration that many of the places will not have amenities. Because of this, you have to be prepared and pack to be a self-sufficient camper. The list of items for you to bring can range from person to person and type of camping that each individual plans on doing but for the most important items I would recommend bringing these essentials:
- Portable water for showers and other hygiene needs.
- Water filtration system for drinking water
- Outdoor hygiene essentials You can read my full Outdoor Hygiene Guidefor more tips and tricks.
- Car Camping Essentials I have a full Car Camping Essentials guide here that you can read for more details on what you need. There is also a free packing list for you to download and use. It covers everything you need for car camping including the best sleeping gear and camp kitchen items as well.
- Camp Kitchen items
- Extra fuel for your vehicle and camp stoves.
- Safety items such as a First Aid Kit, Tire Traction Kit, Portable Power Bank and Car Jump Starter, window coverings, and more.
- Items for sleeping such as a sleeping bag, pillow, pad, blanket, etc. This all depends on your method of camping. If you plan to sleep in your car then you should check out my Top Tips For Sleeping In Your Car On Road Trips.
- Items for comfort This can include items such as folding chairs, a small camping folding table, a canopy, etc.
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Free Camping In Oklahoma
30. Elk City Lake Park This is a city park on a lake and as a bonus, it has electric hookups!
31. Lucky Star Casino I don’t normally recommend casinos for a campground, but when you can get full hook-ups for free, it makes my list. Enough said.
32. Keystone Lake Project Camping on the Appalachia Bay you can’t get more beautiful than watching the sunrise to set on the water.
Did I miss any really good ones in the southeast? Share your favorite places to camp for free below!
Thursday 12th of January 2017
sounds like great places…. wondering where the cover picture was taken?? …. it’s an amazing scene!!
Thursday 16th of March 2017
To be honest I’m not 100% sure I have a folder of camping picture I pull from for posts like this since I have quite a few coming up 🙂
Best Sites for Free Camping in the USA – Roadschooling with The Frugal Navy Wife
Wednesday 6th of April 2016
32 of the Best Places for Free Camping in the Southeast USA – March 28, 2016
Wednesday 30th of March 2016
Hi Danielle, We are also full time travelers discovering America one back road at a time. Thanks so much for sharing this great information. Happy trails!!
David Crockett State Park
David Crockett State Park is another popular Tennessee state park open for year-round camping, including in the winter.
Named after American folk heroDavy Crockett, often called the Kind of the Wild Frontier, this state park islocated in the southern part of the state. It has two main campgrounds with thesecond staying open for year-round use. Cabin rentals are also available.
The winter campground has 52 totalcampsites with full RV hookups. Both tent camping and RV camping are allowed atthese sites during the winter.
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Blog Posts And Road Trip Guides
Blog posts and road trip guides are a great way to find free campsites. I often find fun things to do in the area by researching other guides and blogs. You can find these on social media platforms by following travel influencers and bloggers and also on Pinterest by searching for travel guides for specific destinations. I share a few travel guides on my website that can help you find free camping and fun road trips. For example, on my Death Valley National Park GuideI feature tips on places where to stay, things to do, and also include my favorite nearby BLM camping spot. I also have an in-depth guide about How To Sleep In Your Car On Road Trips.
Jackson Island Campground Watts Bar Reservoir
The Jackson Island Campground is located across the Watts Bar Reservoir from Rhea Springs Recreation Area. Although this area looks more rustic, there are vault toilets available for use.
The ground is not quite level and thus smaller vehicles might not be ideal especially when itâs wet. The campsites are shaded and the surrounding trees provide plenty of privacy. Camping generators are allowed but be sure to keep the noise at a minimum especially at night.
- Best season : Spring, Summer, Fall
- Closest town : Spring City, TN
- Map coordinates :M575+F7 Spring City, Tennessee, United States
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Why Youll Love Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort
If its not already, add visiting Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort to your bucket list immediately. Not only will you appreciate its location in the heart of the Nashville area, but youll also enjoy playing in the lagoon, sliding down water slides, riding zip lines, and renting boats. There is so much to do here that you may want to stay all season long so that you can take it all in a few times.
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Tent Camping On Buffalo River
This 16.5-acre site offers a creativity retreat center, named Camp Wonder Wander, and a lovely little farm nestled beds the Buffalo River. Located in the foothills of the Appalachia hills, surrounded by rolling hills and farm country, this is a great way to become really situated in the local landscape and to understand the areas agricultural life.
This is a perfect site for tent camping, with the campsite about three stories up from the river bed, meaning you can easily climb up the hill after a long day swimming and kayaking and sleep in a safe sheltered location, far above the high watermark. Theres even a pulley system so you can bring your equipment and kit up form the riverbank, and safely store it before the next days adventure. If you want a glamping experience, you could even stay in their lovely quaint treehouse!
There are a few options for backcountry tent camping here, including densely forested locations, which is perfect for hammock camping, and for hikers. Some locations are nearer to the animal inhabitants of the farm: rabbits, hens, camp cats and donkeys. You can also get involved in creative workshops, from collaging to pottery and purchase delicious fresh produce from the farm. One great feature of this campsite is how isolated it feels.
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What People Are Saying About Nashville Koa Resort
Best campground Ive ever experienced and Ive been to many. Pool. Ping pong. Yard chess. Hammocks. Nice tables. Daily trash pickup. Dining. Shuttles available. Convenient to all downtown events and entertainment. Sites are all completely level and nice. Marion, Google Review
At Safe Harbor RV Resort, youll get reasonable rates, especially for being right in Nashville. Youll also get the hospitality youve come to expect from being in the South. With a lake view and warm and friendly staff members, youll love every second at Safe Harbor.
Get Out And Start Boondocking Today
If youre new to the RV or vanlife world, you will undoubtedly go boondocking at some point. Perhaps you already have and didnt even realize it! Now that you know what boondocking is, its time to start planning your free camping trip! We recommend checking out this list of the best places to camp for free in your RV.
Either way, boondocking takes many forms, and you can find a style that works for you. Its a really effective way to save money, and spend more time camping and doing what you love. Dont miss out on this great opportunity to find free camping near you.
This article is brought to you by Banner & Oak
Their snapback trucker hats are the perfect addition to your next boondocking camping trip.
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Free Camping In Mississippi
8.Airey Lake Campsite Located to De Soto National Park there is a fully stocked fishing lake to enjoy.
9. Rocky Springs Campground Lots to see and do here, take a hike to visit a community that was run out by the Civil War and yellow fever, all that remains now is the church and graveyard. Owen Creek Waterfall Trail is nearby as well.
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Are Campgrounds Open Year Round In Tennessee
All but 5 of the Tennessee State campgrounds offer year round camping for RV campers. However, keep in mind, during the winter months, you may not have access to water or electric hookups.
While reservations are available at most State Park RV campgrounds in Tennessee during the season, winter camping may be operating on a first come first serve basis.
Its best to check with the Tennessee State Park or local campground for their winter camping policies before heading out.
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Rhea Springs Recreation Area Watts Bar Reservoir
The Rhea Springs Recreation Area was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of a hydroelectric power station on the Piney River. The recreation area is on Watts Bar Reservoir, where campers can fish or go boating and swimming.
The campsites are plentiful, here and theyâre spaced far enough to offer you some privacy especially during the summer. The campsite has fire rings, picnic tables, and a bathhouse for your convenience.
- Best season : Spring, Summer, Fall
- Closest town : Spring City, TN
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Prepare Your Boondocking Essentials
Image from The Dyrt camper David G.
When boondocking you need to ask yourself: do I have the bare essentials to be comfortable overnight? Do I have water, food, and warmth?
Prepare for your boondocking trip by downloading maps. The Dyrt PRO lets you download maps and campgrounds without cell service. My alternative to using pro would be to drive back out to cell service. PRO Map Layers allow you to find free camping on public lands like the National Forest Service and Burea of Land Management lands while offline!
If youre boondocking in a big box store parking lot, you can probably go buy anything youre missing. But if youre parking on a secluded forest road, youre going to need to bring supplies. Its important to plan out the length of your trip as well to ensure you dont run out of supplies.
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What Are The Campsites Like
Dry Camping often means bumpy roads, strange directions, and questionable sites. Meriwether Lewis Campground, however, is quite the opposite. The monument and campground are easy to reach by major roads, so your GPS/iPhone/Android wont let you down.
The campground consists of32 big rig-friendly sites in two loops, with most of them being pull-throughs in little turnouts from the loop roads.
All sites are asphalt and quite level .
There is also 1 ADA-accessible site on a concrete pad located by the bathrooms.
Sites do not have water, sewer, or electricity. We are dry camping after all, arent we?
However, if you are like us, youll start to fantasize about being a campground host here. The only host site has water, sewer, and electricity.
NOTE: our Verizon Hotspot received an adequate signal to browse the internet and easily watch Netflix at a low data level .
Smoky Bear Campground & Rv Park
The Smoky Bear Campground & RVPark is one of the premier places to go RV camping in Tennessee, bar none.
Thanks to its convenient locationin Gatlinburg, this Tennessee RV park is an ideal place for exploring GreatSmoky Mountains National Park. It boasts 46 full hookup RV sites with plenty ofpull-thru spaces. Tent camping and cabin rentals are also available.
Additional amenities includebathrooms with hot showers, free cable and Wi-Fi, and a clubhouse thatsperfect for family reunions. Kids love the heated pool and playground. Anon-site dog park is perfect for those RV camping with dogs.
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What Are The Campground Amenities
|Big Rig Friendly
Meriwether Lewis Campground is FREE, and no reservations are needed. Accommodations are on a first-come-first-served basis. If you pull up and see an open spot, you can take it whether you are in a tent, trailer, motorhome, van, or skoolie.
The campground allows for a maximum of 14 consecutive days and a total of 30 days of camping per year.
Oh, and yes, you can use your generator until quiet time. But youll feel guilty like we did every time we ran it.
How Do I Pick A Good Campsite
Many people drive out on Forest Service roads into the woods and find a clearing or a spot near a stream or with a view of the mountains. Do not drive on meadows to access your camping site. Drive on existing roads to prevent resource damage. You can also follow these tips:
- Ask a ranger. For an inside track into the best places to stay, keep an eye out for any BLM Ranger Station or visitor center and ask the true locals for their suggestions. Weve never been led astray and youll be amazed at how much theyll go out of their way to help you out.
- Scour Google Maps. Again, look for the green areas that signify public lands. Use Google Earth to get an idea of roads and landscapes.
- Attempt to camp on a paved road. If not possible, camp on bare, well-packed gravel. Note that this is done at your own risk: if renting an Escape Campervan, you are NOT covered by insurance and are NOT covered in the Escape Roadside Assistance plan if you are OFF a paved road. Camping on a level area also makes sleeping more comfortable.
- If youre going to an area where others have camped before, pick a site that has been used before. Plants, soil, and wildlife are impacted by new campsites so using existing ones will minimize your impact on the forest. Always follow Leave No Trace principles.
- Check out these online resources and apps that make it easy to find places to camp:
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