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CRACKER BARREL CAMPING: The Best Free Option for RVers

Hitting the road for a long-awaited camping trip can be exhilarating.  But what happens when what should have been a single day excursion turns into a never-ending journey, and you still haven’t reached your campground? 

Driving all night is unsafe, but trying to sleep at a truck stop isn’t much better. 

Why not pull in at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant for a peaceful night’s stay? You can even get a delicious hot breakfast just outside your door in the morning.

Wait… You Can Camp at Cracker Barrel?

Yup!  Most Cracker Barrels welcome overnight parking. 

In fact, they even encourage it, designating specific spaces for RVs on their properties.  This restaurant chain really pulls out all the stops when it comes to extending hospitality to the RV crowd. 

Image Source: Eli Christman on Flickr

How to Know Which Cracker Barrels You Can Legally Camp At

Now, let me rephrase the title above to read:  How to Know Which Cracker Barrels You Can Legally “Park Overnight” At. 

The franchise is very generous in allowing tired RVers to stay in their parking lots overnight. But they are not encouraging you to literally “camp” there. 

Don’t get out the lawn chairs and grill! Don’t pull out your awning and set up a dog fence around your rig when you arrive.  Cracker Barrel is offering you a safe and relatively quiet place to pull off the road and get a good night’s rest, not a new campsite with breakfast in bed!

Most stores in this chain are conveniently located just off interstates. They all have good safety lighting and quieter parking lots than some of the big box stores that also allow overnight parking. 

The hours of operation are also more conducive to less traffic during peak sleep times, with the doors opening at 7am and closing at 10pm.  So your snoring will not be met with booming music drive-bys in the wee hours of the morning.

Here are the DON’Ts of camping at Cracker Barrel.

Finding Cracker Barrel Locations for Overnight Parking

To uncover which restaurants under the Cracker Barrel umbrella allow overnight parking, start with a website called Allstays.

Because it is web-based, Allstays Pro is updated almost every day. This will give you the most current information on locations where parking is allowed, among many other options.

Check Google Maps satellite view to look at the restaurant in question from above.  Zoom in to see if there are designated RV parking spaces in their parking lot. 

Most spaces are about 50 feet long, so many RV sizes will fit. But don’t block traffic flow in the lot if you are longer or have a toad.  In that case, see if there is a side road next to the parking lot that will accommodate you. Then, call the manager of that restaurant to see if it is allowed.

In some cases, city ordinances do not allow overnight parking. So, restaurants and stores located under their jurisdiction will not be able to offer that service. 

Many of these laws have been established to appease local campgrounds that would prefer you pay them for an overnight stay. So, don’t get frustrated with the businesses affected by their rulings.

It is always a good idea to call the manager to see if overnight parking is acceptable at their restaurant.  This gives them a heads up about your arrival. And, it gives you the opportunity to thank them for such a helpful service.

How to Camp at Cracker Barrel

Here are several things to consider when planning an RV trip that includes Cracker Barrel stays:

Start by using Allstays Pro to find participating Cracker Barrel locations.

Look at the satellite view of the restaurant to see if they have designated RV spots in their parking lot.  This is usually a very good sign that they will welcome you and your rig.

Call the manager of each location to clarify. Ask where they would prefer you park when you arrive. Especially if you have a large rig or there are no marked RV parking spots in their lot.

Don’t overstay your welcome.  Most restaurants would prefer that you arrive after their traffic decreases significantly (about an hour before closing) and depart before their parking lot gets busy in the morning (about an hour after they open).

Don’t set up camp – this is just an overnight parking option.  Don’t run your generator or pull out slides.

Have a meal at Cracker Barrel as a thank-you.  After all, who can resist their hashbrown casserole or fried chicken?

Image Credit: Jshyun on Flickr

Is it Safe to Camp at Cracker Barrel? 

You will most likely find that Cracker Barrel parking lots feel much safer than sitting in a big box store lot with traffic flowing through at all hours of the night. 

The restaurant is not open 24 hours a day, so there is no reason for vehicles to be cruising there after hours, and the parking lots at Cracker Barrel are private.  They are unattached to other store lots, so there is no traffic until the restaurant opens.

Lighting is generally very good at these locations, and in most lots where RV parking has been designated, Cracker Barrel has even placed a trash can next to the spaces.  

How to Find Other Overnight Parking Options

If you end up looking for overnight parking in an area void of Cracker Barrel restaurants, Allstays Pro can provide other options, like Cabela stores, Walmarts and rest areas. 

Another website that can be of help is, and you may even find assistance with, although most of their listings are for official campsites (both free and paid sites).

In a worst-case scenario, if you just need a place to pull over and sleep a couple of hours, stop at the local police station to see if they can suggest a side road or parking lot where you can safely grab some rest. 

That way you won’t have someone banging on your door at 2am to send you on your way.

Comfort Food and RV Parking

Known for their southern hospitality to diners, Cracker Barrels across the country have become especially gracious to RVers. 

Many provide a safe overnight parking space for travelers to stay in their rigs and get a good night’s sleep before heading on down the road to their destination. 

Add these restaurants to your list of travel options, and don’t forget to get a good meal (or two) while you’re there!

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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  1. Linda S Boddy says:

    We know you love Cracker Barrel for an overnight alternative…you have mentioned it several times. However there are NO Cracker Barrels on the West Coast, and a LOT of people live and camp in the west.
    Just thought I would let you know that.
    🙂 Thanks.

  2. […] Now you know the answer, don’t you? The answer to the burning question which is “Can you park overnight at Cracker Barrel?“ […]

  3. Ray Davis says:

    Very good article. I am a fan of CB. It is important for me to scope out my route of exit, before settling in for the night. Some lots can be difficult to maneuver once the morning parking spots begin to fill. Don’t allow yourself to be caught in the trap of a narrow escape of curbs and low hanging tree limbs.