States That Allow Free Dispersed Camping

Free Dispersed Camping States


Almost every state park in Alabama has a ton of paid primitive campsites, but don't allow dispersed camping.

Bankhead National Forest allows free dispersed camping.


Dispersed camping is generally free in Alaska! Some parks, like the Denali National Park, require a (free) permit to camp.


Most public land allows free dispersed camping in Arizona. There are some rules regarding how long you can stay, group size, and how far away you need to be from water sources, so make sure you check those out before settling in for the night.


There are 13 dispersed camping areas in Arkansas, listed here. Some rules apply.


Dispersed camping is allowed on most public land in California away from developed facilities. Camping in a single area is limited to 14 days in a 28 day period, after which you need to move at least 25 miles away.


You can dispersed camp on most BLM land and national forests in Colorado. The US Forest Service has a great interactive map to help you check where you can camp.


Dispersed camping is allowed in the Ocala National Forest. There are some restrictions during hunting season.


Several of Georgia's Ranger Districts allow dispersed camping. You can also dispersed camp along the Appalachian Trail through the state.


You can dispersed camp on BLM land and Forest Service land in Idaho.


You can dispersed camp in most of the Shawnee National Forest, but you'll need to leave your vehicle at an approved overnight parking area.


Roadside and dispersed camping are allowed in the Hoosier National Forest. There's a 14 day limit, and you must camp at least 300ft away from trailheads and 100ft away from waterfronts.


Head to the Cimarron National Grassland. You can dispersed camp near the Santa Fe Companion Trail and the Turkey Trail.


The Daniel Boone National Forest allows dispersed camping. There also also free designated primitive campsites in the Coronado National Forest worth checking out!


The White Mountain National Forest is mostly in New Hampshire, but a portion of it extends into Maine. Dispersed camping is allowed in most of this area, although you have to be at least 1/4 mile away from facilities, 200+ feet from trails and water, and not in an alpine zone. There are plenty of free primitive campsites in the state, including those along the Appalachian Trail.


Not a great state for primitive or disperse camping, but the Green Ridge State Forest technically allows it. Head to the forest headquarters and ask for a backcountry camping permit.


You can dispersed camp on any state-owned land, but there's a weird regulation about posting a camp registration card. You can download a copy here. Technically you're supposed to leave it up when you leave, but people online report that it's fine to take it with you as long as you're leaving no trace - we recommend calling the manager of the location you're camping in to verify.


Minnesota politely asks that you use a designated campsite, but does allow you to dispersed camp in state forests as long as you're at least a mile away from designated campsites.


There are ten dispersed camping areas in Mississippi. Click here to view the list on the USDA's website.


Dispersed camping is allowed in the Mark Twain National Forest. Their rules are very relaxed - just camp at least 100 feet away from water, trails, and buildings.


Most of the national forests in Montana allow dispersed camping. Several state forests do as well, but you'll need to get a permit to do so.


Dispersed camping is allowed in several areas, like the Buffalo Gap National Grassland and the Nebraska National Forest.

New York

The Catskills and the Adirondack Park in upstate New York both allow free dispersed camping. There are several other parks in the state that allow it, but information can be a bit tricky to find.

New York City does not allow dispersed camping of any kind.


A whopping 67% of Nevada is open for dispersed camping thanks to BLM land.

New Hampshire

For a state with the motto "Live Free or Die", you'd expect dispersed camping areas to be more common! Head to the White Mountain National Forest, where you're allowed to camp in most areas at lower elevation.

I lived in this state for about 20 years. My friends & I regularly camped on state land and got away with it - but technically, the only legal dispersed camping is in the White Mountains.

New Mexico

A large portion of New Mexico is BLM land, which allows dispersed camping. Make sure you read the rules on site selection, fires, and duration of stay.

North Carolina

Finding dispersed camping in North Carolina is a bit confusing because some places that only allow primitive camping at designated sites are marked as "dispersed camping areas".

The Hot Springs area of the Pisgah National Forest allows some roadside camping. The Linville Gorge Wildernes area has dispersed camping, but you may need a (free) permit in some cases.

Definitely call the local ranger station before camping in this state!


Head to the Wayne National Forest for dispersed camping.


Both the Ozark National Forest and Ouachita National Forest allow dispersed camping. The forests are mainly in Arkansas, but extend into Oklahoma for a bit.


My favorite state to camp in. 16.1 million acres of BLM land to choose from! I recommend the Umpqua National Forest. Try to find a clearing near a forest road - the woods here are often too dense to set up a tent in.


In early 2020, Pennsylvania update their rules online. It used to allow dispersed camping in most state forests (permit needed if camping for more than one night), but it now explicitly prohibits dispersed camping. You can still primitive camp at established campsites, but you cannot simply set up camp wherever you want to.

Luckily, you can still dispersed camp in the Allegheny National Forest. Some areas of the forest have extra restrictions, so make sure you read this document (PDF) before setting up camp.

South Carolina

Dispersed camping is allowed in the Francis Marion National Forest and Sumter National Forest, but you'll need to get a free permit for most of the areas. You can get a permit by email or by visiting an office.

South Dakota

The Black Hills National Forest allows dispersed camping at least 1/2 mile away from developed sites. You're limited to 14 days of camping in a 60 day period.


Head to the Cherokee National Forest, which allows free dispersed camping with no permits, unless posted otherwise. Note that several areas have designated "dispersed camping sites" (an oxymoron).


There are over 22 million acres of BLM land to choose from, or you can head to one of the designated dispersed camping areas in the Fishlake National Forest.


Head to the Green Mountain National Forest. You'll need to camp below the alpine level and at least 200ft away from water.


The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests both allow dispersed camping. You're limited to 21 consecutive days of camping.


You have plenty of options here, between BLM land and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, which both allow dispersed camping.


The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is great for dispersed camping! They have a long list of rules, but they're reasonable and well thought out.


Take your pick of 18 million acres of BLM land, or check out the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Free Campsites, but no dispersed camping


There is no dispersed camping in the state of Connecticut. You may "backpack camp" for free along some trails, but you're limited to one night per site.


Primitive campsites are available for free at Blackbird State Forest and Redden State Forest. Permits are required.


There are over a dozen free campsites along the Appalachian Trail. We recommend heading west to the Catskills or north to Vermont for dispersed camping.


Texas doesn't allow dispersed camping, and most of the campsites are paid. The Angelina National Forest has a few free primitive campsites available.

West Virginia

The Monongahela National Forest has designated primitive campsites misleadingly labeled as dispersed camping. You'll find plenty of free campsites throughout the state, such as the Grandview Sandbar campground and the Gauley Tailwaters campground.

Paid Camping Only

New Jersey

There is no free dispersed camping in the state of New Jersey. There are inexpensive primitive campsites in Wharton State Forest ($3-5/night + $5 booking fee), or you can head to a neighboring state.


Travel to Hawaii is already fairly expensive, but if you're trying to save money by camping, don't try setting up camp anywhere you please. The locals will not treat you kindly!


There are plenty of reports of people successfully dispersed camping on Iowa state lands, but it doesn't appear to be legal. Head to a neighboring state if you can.


There no free dispersed camping allowed in Louisiana. Unimproved primitive campsites are on the expensive side, so we recommend heading to another state.

Rhode Island

Head over to western Massachusetts for free dispersed camping, or pony up for a paid campsite. I've gotten away with camping on the beach, but I was lucky.