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7 Best Free Campsites Along Interstate 40 (from North Carolina to California)

7 Best Free Campsites Along Interstate 40 (from North Carolina to California)

When traveling along the interstate for several hours, there comes a point when you sometimes need to just stop for the night.

The monotony of the drive can be tiring, and it’s much safer to drive after a good night’s rest. Other times, especially when driving through scenic locations, you want to stop and enjoy the stunning landscape.

Numerous free campsites along Interstate 40 provide safe locations for travelers to do just that. Let’s learn more about these free camping sites and where you can find the best spots!

What to Know About Free Camping

Free camping is when RVers don’t stay overnight in a designated campground. Also called dry camping and boondocking, free camping means no hookups. RVs must be fully self-contained to pull off the side of the road and stay overnight in a parking lot or on BLM land. There must be water on board and a way to generate power.

When taking advantage of free camping, it’s also essential that RVers adhere to the Leave No Trace principle. The location should look exactly as you found it when you leave. There must be no trash on the ground, no damage to the asphalt, and no doggie bags sitting outside.

There should be no trace that anyone was ever there. This is vitally important to protect the environment and allow other travelers to enjoy the benefits of free camping.

Finally, having a backup plan is essential. You might have found a great dispersed camping site from Point A to Point B. But when you arrive, it’s already taken. If you don’t have a backup plan, you’ll be scrambling to figure out where you’ll stay for the night. You could also run into a road closure or a manager who decides that the store will no longer allow overnight RV parking. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to have a Plan B to reduce the stress of finding another place to park. Since there are no reservations for free camping, you’ll probably need a backup plan.

Rv parked in desert while boondocking
Go boondocking while road tripping across I-40.

Important Tools When You’re Boondocking

As already mentioned, when dry camping or boondocking, RVs must be self-sufficient. There are a few tools you must have to safely and efficiently camp without hookups. The main tools are ways to provide power.

Generator 

A generator supplies shore power to the RV so everything in the rig can operate. That includes an A/C unit, microwave, and all outlets. All generators don’t supply enough energy to run all those components simultaneously. Therefore, knowing how much power you need will help you decide which generator is best for your camping needs.

Solar Panels 

Solar panels are ways to recharge your RV’s batteries when not plugged into a generator. With a generator, you need nothing else to provide power to the RV. However, a charge controller, converter, and inverter are all needed in conjunction with solar panels. You don’t want to overcharge the batteries. You also have to change the 12V DC batteries to 120V AC power to provide power to the outlets. The RV is now pulling power from the batteries only when using solar panels and not a generator.

Cell Booster 

Although not essential to providing power to your RV, a cell booster is significant to providing cell service for digital nomads. People who work from the road must have access to the internet. For many travelers, this comes through various cellular providers. A cell booster enhances the signal so that internet browsing, sending emails, having video calls, and other duties can happen effectively.

First Aid Kit 

Finally, when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you’re generally far from emergency services. It’s critical to have a well-equipped first aid kit. If you’re free camping in the parking lot of a Walmart, this might not be as essential. But if you’re traveling out West and using dispersed camping areas, you’ll definitely want to have a quality first aid kit just in case something happens.

Pro Tip: First time boondocking? Make sure you know The Don’ts of Boondocking | 10 Rules to Follow for RV Campers.

About Interstate 40

Interstate 40 runs west-east through the south-central part of the United States. The road is just over 2,556 miles long, the third-longest highway in the country. Its western end begins in Barstow, Calif., while its eastern end begins in Wilmington, N.C. Much of the central part of Interstate 40 parallels or overlays historic Route 66.

Truck and Airstream boondocking in the desert in Arizona
Enjoy dispersed camping along Interstate 40.

7 Best Free Campsites Along Interstate 40

If you’re traveling from coast to coast, chances are you’ll venture along Interstate 40. There are many dispersed camping sites and free camping locations across the West. However, there are not as many opportunities for boondocking east of the Mississippi.

#1 Heart of the Mojave West

GPS: 34.7012, -115.6763

About the Campsite: There’s room for multiple rigs to park for the night, but the ground is very unlevel, so it might be difficult for larger RVs. A long dirt road leads to multiple camping areas.

Reported Cell Service: Very good cell service with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, all having at least four bars of coverage.

Boondocking Vibes: Beautiful views of the California valley and the Mojave National Preserve. Rated 4/5 stars.

#2 Six Mile Canyon Dispersed Camping (Cibola National Forest)

GPS: 35.4776, -108.4622

About the Campsite: A long 2-mile gravel road leads travelers to the camping location. There are a few washes, so drive slowly. Depending on the condition of the road, big rigs may want to avoid this location.

Reported Cell Service: Decent cell service with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, all having at least some coverage.

Boondocking Vibes: Beautiful sunsets over the New Mexico desert landscape. Rated 4/5 stars.

#3 San Jon Municipal Park

GPS: 35.1075, -103.3317

About the Campsite: Bathrooms are on-site and well-maintained. There are even a couple of concrete picnic tables with shelters available. It’s a very clean location for boondocking.

Reported Cell Service: Very good cell service with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, all having at least four bars of coverage.

Boondocking Vibes: Big rig-friendly location and available for all travelers. There isn’t much of a view, but the condition and bathroom availability make this a great spot for an overnight stay. Rated 5/5 stars.

#4 County Road 122 Dispersed Camping

GPS: 34.8361, -91.5489

About the Campsite: A few fire rings and fresh water are available. Loves is nearby for food and bathroom access. The ground is hard-packed gravel as long as you stay on the path. Wooded setting with a campground feel.

Reported Cell Service: Very good cell service with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, all having at least three or four bars of coverage.

Boondocking Vibes: It’s like a state park campground in the woods. Bugs can be bad in the spring and summer, so you’ll want to visit during the colder seasons. Rustic feel but a safe location with access to water. Rated 4/5 stars.

#5 Dagmar Designated Campsites

GPS: 34.8611, -91.3118

About the Campsite: Shaded, peaceful sites along the bayou for overnight camping. Several sites are available. There’s a wooded setting with a hard-packed gravel road.

Reported Cell Service: Very limited cell service with a few bars of AT&T reported but nothing more.

Boondocking Vibes: Very tranquil location with little traffic noise. Beware of bugs as it’s in the bayou area. Rustic feel as it’s surrounded by woods. Rated 5/5 stars.

#6 Welch Road Dispersed Camping

GPS: 35.2185, -112.3775

About the Campsite: Easy access right off Interstate 40. There is lots of space, so it’s big rig friendly. A dirt road leads to the dispersed camping sites.

Reported Cell Service: Very good cell service with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, all having at least three or four bars of coverage.

Boondocking Vibes: Beautiful sunsets over the Arizona desert landscape. Less red dirt here and more of an open field. Rated 4/5 stars.

#7 Walnut Canyon Dispersed Camping

GPS: 35.1784, -111.4992

About the Campsite: It’s a popular, convenient location for dispersed camping. A paved road leads to the area before turning into a dirt road. Numerous turns from the dirt road that opens into several camp spots.

Reported Cell Service: Decent cell service with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, all having at least some coverage.

Boondocking Vibes: More crowded due to the popularity of this area, but there are many campsites available. It’s a beautiful location capturing the landscape of this area of Arizona. The dust can be problematic during windstorms. Rated 4/5 stars.

Pro Tip: Long drive on I-40? Make sure to avoid these 5 Ways to Ruin Your Road Trip.

Save Your Money While Traveling I-40

When planning a road trip, it’s important to be frugal so that you can enjoy as much as possible. Maybe there’s a splurge here and there. But, if you want to save money, one tip is to take advantage of free camping.

These boondocking sites are perfect for overnight stays as you travel along Interstate 40. So the next time you’re booking campground reservations, skip a few nights. That way, you can enjoy the landscape and beauty as you travel through the south-central states of America.

Is dry camping for you? Will you be taking advantage of these free camping locations? Tell us in the comments!

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

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