Did you know that you can camp for free throughout the winter? It’s true, you can boondock in warm locations with million-dollar views.
Keep reading to learn how and where to find free campsites in southern states to escape cold northern temperatures. Put on your sunglasses, and let’s jump in!
What Is It Called When You Camp for Free?
Free camping is usually referring to dispersed camping. It’s when you camp on dispersed public land, such as BLM (Bureau of Land Management) federal land or state forest land. However, not all public land allows camping.
It’s important to do your research and read all posted signs before camping on public land. Most free camping locations also have a maximum number of nights you can stay, and some require permits.
Is Dispersed Camping and Boondocking the Same Thing?
Dispersed camping and boondocking are two different things. However, you have to boondock when camping on dispersed land. Boondocking is when you camp without water, electricity, sewer, and amenities.
You can boondock places other than dispersed public land. For example, camping overnight in a Walmart parking lot is technically considered boondocking.
Where’s the Best Place to Camp in the Winter?
The best place to camp in the winter is certainly subjective. Some people prefer snow in the winter, and others prefer sun and hot temperatures. Where you camp in the winter is a personal choice. But if you’re looking for somewhere warm to camp in the winter, the southern states are the most popular destinations.
RVers frequent the southernmost states from late fall to early spring. From coast to coast, Arizona, Texas, and Florida are the top destinations in terms of the number of snowbirds.
The 10 Best Free Campsites this Winter
Looking for free campsites can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve identified the ten best options for the winter months.
1. Pump Station Road Dispersed Campsites
Location: GPS: 32.4448, -111.3717
About: Pump Station Road Dispersed Camping is in Marana, Arizona, at the Ironwood Forest National Monument. The free campsites have a 14-day maximum stay, and cell phone signals are reported to be good here. It’s on a washboard gravel road and close to Saguaro National Park.
2. Cibola-Colorado River Free Camping Area
Location: GPS: 33.3771, -114.7057
About: Cibola-Colorado River Camping Area is literally on the river. There are picnic tables with sunshades and a pit toilet on site. Located in Cibola, Arizona, it has a desert landscape with mountains in the distance.
3. Chiriaco Summit-Patton Museum Dry Camp Area
Location: GPS: 33.6634, -115.7232
About: Chiriaco Summit-Patton Museum Dry Camp Area in California has great cell phone service. The campsites are clean, and there’s a camp host to greet you and ask how long you’re staying. There are also off-road vehicle trails in the area.
4. Round Mountain Rockhound Area
Location: GPS: 32.4778, -109.0682
About: Round Mountain Rockhound Area is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Located in Duncan, Arizona, the camping area is flat with a lot of agates – a rock formation consisting of chalcedony and quartz. In addition, cell service is good.
5. Kowechobe Free Campsites
Location: GPS: 26.4979, -81.1296
About: Kowechobe Campground is a rare free camping area in Florida. The grassy wildlife management area in Clewiston is spacious and can fit any size RV.
Pro Tip: Kowechobe does require a reservation, but you don’t usually need to make them too far in advance as there are often open spots.
6. Florida River Island
Location: GPS: 30.1844, -85.0847
About: Florida River Island is another free camping spot in Florida. It’s a grassy area with no amenities except a pit toilet. The campsites are accessible by a smooth and easy-to-maneuver dirt road. It’s a quiet area and well-maintained.
7. South Beach Padre Island National Seashore
Location: GPS: 27.4155, -97.3016
About: South Beach Padre Island National Seashore is one of several places you can camp on the beach in Texas for free. North Padre Island’s South Beach is a beautiful stretch of shoreline to enjoy for up to 14 nights. Just be sure to check the tide charts so that you don’t end up in the water or sinking in loose sand.
8. Cieneguita Camping Area
Location: GPS: 31.7661, -110.6282
About: The Cieneguita Camping Area in Elgin, Arizona, is a secluded, quiet getaway. The area is big rig-friendly and has adequate cell phone coverage. You’re surrounded by beautiful prairie grasses here and a big open sky.
9. Amboy Crater Free Campsites
Location: GPS: 34.5577, -115.7769
About: Amboy Crater free camping is in the Mojave Trails National Monument in California. It’s a desert landscape with a mountain view. The quiet location is close to the crater. In addition, there are pit toilets on site.
10. Movie Flat Designated Dispersed Camping
Location: GPS: 36.6054, -118.1189
About: Movie Flat Designated Dispersed Camping in Lone Pine, California, is very picturesque. You’ll have a great view of Mt. Whitney from here, and there’s access to lots of hiking trails. Be sure to read the signs upon arrival as some areas are day use only.
Are Free Campsites Worth It?
Free campsites are worth it. As long as you’re set up in a self-contained RV, boondocking on public land is an affordable and fun way to spend the winter. You can bounce around a variety of campsites or stay in one spot for the maximum number of days allowed.
Camping on BLM land is the perfect way to be out in nature without breaking the bank or having to make campground reservations. We highly recommend it and hope you try it out.
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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