Camping for Free or Really, Really Cheap

Here’s a price to go wild for: $0.

“Guess who owns 618 million acres of American wildlands? You,” Wilderness.org says. “You own red rock canyons and turquoise rivers. Desert plains and jagged mountain peaks. You own Arctic tundra, southern wildflower fields and cool northern forests.”

While you have to pay to visit many state and national parks, you generally don’t in federal wilderness areas that fit the descriptions above, BargainBabe says. Here’s what you should know about these and other cheap campsites, including those on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land:

  • There’s no fee to visit most BLM land or national forests, but even where there is, you can visit on a free day.
  • You may need a permit to visit federal wilderness, but it’s free. Check first before you begin your hike.
  • You can’t bring a car or bike into federal wilderness, and don’t expect to find non-natural running water or toilets. Some conservation areas managed by BLM have more traditional camping options, but generally assume that you’ll be on your own.
  • If you camp with an RV, you can find free or cheap RV sites at FreeCampgrounds.com.

You can find a searchable map of camping areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service at Wilderness.net.

If camping’s not really your thing, we have lots more advice to save on vacation travel. Check out the video below:

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