The word “free” is music to almost every RVer’s ears. If you’re looking for free campsites while traveling along the 2,906 miles of I-80, you’re in luck because there are plenty of great options.
We’ve found the best free campsites on Interstate 80 between San Francisco, California, and Teaneck, New Jersey. If your travels take you along this route, you might want to consider stopping at some of these great spots! Let’s dive in!
What to Know About Free Camping
Free camping spots typically sit on public lands paid for by American tax dollars. Camping on these lands is often referred to as boondocking. There aren’t any amenities like power, water, or waste disposal. If you choose to set up camp at one of these spots, you’ll need to be self-sufficient and follow all the rules and regulations for the site.
These sites are first-come, first-served, meaning site availability is never guaranteed. It may be too late if you wait until the weekend to find a spot. It’s essential to research and have several options available in case one doesn’t work out. It’s also vital to have a backup plan because access to these locations can change quickly due to road conditions.
Everyone using these campsites is responsible for cleaning up after themselves. There are no camp hosts to come through and ensure campers took all of the gear or disposed of their trash properly.
Careless campers have completely ruined campsites due to trashing them during their stay. Everyone must practice Leave No Trace and always leave their campsites better than they found them.
Pro Tip: Use our Interstate 80 Road Trip Guide when planning your cross-country adventure.
These Are Important Tools When You’re Boondocking
Being vital is essential if you plan to have a smooth boondocking adventure. Let’s look at some important tools you should consider having when boondocking.
You’re going to need power while boondocking. A portable generator is a great option for consistently creating massive power. These are great ways to quickly charge your RV’s battery bank and use power-hungry devices like microwaves, air conditioners, and coffee makers.
Generators come in various sizes, so make sure you factor in how much power you’ll use during your boondocking adventures. Many RVers choose inverter generators that provide around 3,500 starting watts and 3,000 running watts.
This is enough to keep an air conditioner running and still have plenty of power for other items you might need to use. However, you’ll need to manage which heavy-duty appliances you use simultaneously to avoid overloading your generator.
Upgrading to solar panels can be an expensive project to tackle. However, the benefits of having solar panels mean keeping your RV’s batteries charged anytime the sun is shining. Depending on the weather conditions, you may still need a generator to top off your batteries. Solar panels harness power from the sun and send them to devices that transform them into usable power for an RV battery bank.
Some of the best free campsites are often in very remote locations. This means that staying connected can be challenging. A cell booster is a must-have item for many who frequently camp in these locations. Cell boosters aren’t magical and create a signal for your favorite cellular provider. However, if you’re in an area where the signal is weak, they can often greatly improve the quality and strength of a signal.
Cell boosters can help improve your signal, increase speeds, and most importantly, keep you connected. Staying connected while camping is essential as you never know what might happen or when you’ll have an emergency. You may not need a cell booster at every free campsite, but you’ll be glad you have one if you do.
First Aid Kit
You want to have a well-stocked first-aid kit while you’re camping. This can be useful for treating minor wounds and ailments. They can also help buy you time until medical professionals arrive in more serious accidents. You don’t want to go to use your first-aid kit and discover that it’s empty. So, check your first-aid kit before every trip to avoid finding yourself in a difficult situation when you want to use it.
7 Best Free Campsites Along Interstate 80
There’s an enormous amount of free campsites along Interstate 80. If you’re traveling through one of the 11 states that I-80 calls home, you might consider stopping at one of these campsites.
#1 Parker Flat Campground
GPS: 39.1289, -120.7635
About the Campsite: This is a popular staging area for those who want to enjoy their off-highway vehicles (OHVs). While there may be more traffic during the day from locals getting out into the wilderness on their motorcycles and other toys, it clears out at night. You may even have the entire spot to yourself. It’s incredibly secluded, quiet, and surrounded by beautiful trees.
There are barbecue areas, bathrooms, and a dump station nearby. This is a seasonal camping location and is available from May through October. However, check the road conditions as fallen trees can close roads until rangers can clear the debris.
Reported Cell Service: There’s no reported cell service for any of the major carriers.
Interstate 80 Boondocking Vibes: 8.5/10 – A private and secluded campground
rather undiscovered. Great for those looking to do some off-roading in their OHV!
#2 Bloody Shins Trailhead
GPS: 40.9703, -117.6963
About the Campsite: The campsites at Bloody Shins Trailhead tend to get a bit busy by the end of the day. Camping here is a great option for those who enjoy extreme mountain biking. Despite its name, there are mountain biking options for more than just elite mountain bikers. This is a large open lot that’s frequented by those on the mountain biking trails. However, the area clears out once the sun sets for the night.
There are no facilities here, but if you’re looking for a safe place to park for the night and enjoy a beautiful view, you’ll love it. There are some picnic tables available, but that’s about it. However, what it lacks in amenities, it makes up for in space and quiet.
Reported Cell Service: Users report getting two and three bars of service for Verizon and AT&T services. However, speeds with Verizon for many users were incredibly fast.
Interstate 80 Boondocking Vibes: 8.6/10 – If you’re looking for a quiet and secluded place to camp for the night in north-central Nevada, this is it! Easy access for all-size rigs and plenty of privacy!
#3 Water Canyon Recreation Area
GPS: 40.9295, -117.6736
About the Campsite: This is a great area to set up camp for a night or two. There are fire rings, grills, trails, and shelters throughout the recreation area. You’ll also find three vault toilets that users state are much cleaner than you might expect. There are also dumpsters available, so make sure all your garbage finds its way into them. Roads in and out are very well maintained and, as a result, are very easy to navigate.
The eight campsites are well-defined spots that are obvious. Due to the limited availability, it’s wise to arrive early to snag a site. We recommend arriving before 5:00 p.m. to avoid finding yourself without a place to stay. The maximum stay limit is three days, so ensure you don’t overstay your welcome.
Reported Cell Service: Users from T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon report three bars.
Interstate 80 Boondocking Vibes: 8.7/10 – Very secluded campsites with tremendous privacy. We only wish more sites were available, but it would take away from the privacy that makes this site special.
#4 Dugway Campground
GPS: 41.8601, -107.0565
About the Campsite: This is a small camping area with five campsites, one of which is a pull-through site. Most of the sites are big-rig friendly. You’ll find a vault toilet, picnic tables, and fire rings. The campground provides easy access to the North Platte River, which is great for fly fishing for trout and floating. This hidden gem hasn’t hit the radar for many boondockers passing through the area. However, once it does, it’ll fill up fast.
Reported Cell Service: Very little cell service among all major carriers. You’ll want to use a cell booster, especially if you depend on a quality connection. However, don’t expect blazing speeds.
Interstate 80 Boondocking Vibes: 8.4/10 – Paved roads, good scenery, and a maximum stay of 14 days? It’s hard to complain!
#5 Coyote Cove Campground
GPS: 40.6591, -115.7533
About the Campsite: This campground sits on the south bank of the South Fork Reservoir. There is a nearby campground, but Coyote Cove Campground is a better option because it’s level, free, and provides easy access to the lake. If that’s not enough, you’ll enjoy a better view of the Ruby mountains in the distance. If you’re looking for a great place to float around on a SUP board or kayak, this is a great place to stay!
Reported Cell Service: Users report four bars between AT&T and Verizon. You won’t have to worry about whether you’ll be able to stay connected for work or with your loved ones here.
Interstate 80 Boondocking Vibes: 8.8/10 – The best option for staying on the South Fork Reservoir for free. Easy access from I-80 and plenty of space to spread out during your stay.
#6 Bonneville Salt Flats
GPS: 40.7723, -113.9812
About the Campsite: This free camping location provides plenty of camping options. It’s a flat and barren area that provides plenty of space for those looking to camp to spread out and enjoy themselves. However, the vast open land means there’s no shade. It can get warm quickly in the summer months.
This is boondocking at its finest, but there are no amenities. You’ll need to come prepared to be 100% self-sufficient for power, water, and disposing of your waste. Bring your pet with you and enjoy exploring this incredible area with them!
Reported Cell Service: Great service and blazing speeds from all major providers! You likely won’t have any issues staying connected.
Interstate 80 Boondocking Vibes: 8.9/10 – You won’t have to worry about not finding a spot here! You’re just a few minutes from the actual site of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
#7 Government Gully Road Dispersed Camping
GPS: 41.2555, -105.4618
About the Campsite: If you’re looking for a free campsite with a view, it doesn’t get much better than Government Gully Road Dispersed Camping. There are no amenities, but plenty of campsites with incredible views down into the city of Laramie. Sites can be unlevel, so ensure you come prepared with leveling blocks and patience to get your camper level.
When you arrive at Government Gully, there are several campsites at the base of the area. However, some of the best views are from sites at the top of a large hill. The road ends at a large gravel lot. Several RVs can fit into the lot and have plenty of room. While there might not be a dump station on-site, there’s fresh water and a great dump station at the Historical Ft. Laramie. It’s only 10 minutes or so from the site.
Reported Cell Service: Excellent service from all major carriers! You’ll likely have no trouble streaming shows or getting work done here.
Interstate 80 Boondocking Vibes: 9/10 – The views and camping here are amazing. Be mindful that the campground sits at approximately 8,600 feet. If you’re coming from the east, it’s quite a climb in elevation, and anyone who suffers from altitude sickness may need time to adjust.
Pro Tip: Finding good free camping is an art form. Use these Tips and Techniques to make it easy!
Save Money and Enjoy Yourself for Free
Camping for free is a great way to save money. This type of camping is gaining in popularity, especially considering the price of gas these days. If you’re planning a road trip that involves Interstate 80, these campsites are worth considering. You can enjoy some incredible spots without spending a penny on them. Let us know if you check out one of these spots! We’d love to hear how you enjoyed your stay and what memories you made at them!
Which one of these free campsites on Interstate 80 would you want to stay at first? 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.
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