5 Things To Know About Free Camping

Teri Clifton’s collection of hilarious essays, THE THINGS I CANNOT DO, is now available on Amazon for under $5 and includes her misfit Mount Whitney summit.

Here at On A Dime, we talk about free camping a lot, a whole lot. We lead off our lodging article with freebie camping. Obviously, staying somewhere for absolutely no cost is pretty outrageous but for those of you who have never done this, you may wonder if it is too good to be true. Here are your answers.

1) IS IT REALLY FREE? Yes. It really is free, however, we would not want to leave out amazing campsites that cost very little so we include those anytime we have them available as well. Backcountry/backpacking is free or darn near free in most areas and a whole different experience from developed campsites. *Great example of free camping was on the north rim of the Grand Canyon!

Campsite along the river
Campsite along the river in the Hoh Rain Forest

2) ARE THEY REALLY NICE? We don’t feature any sites that we consider unappealing for any reason. We encourage you to Google sites for info but then also absolutely search for photos! Here is an example of freebie camping at Gumboot Lake photos (not taken by On A Dime) in the Mt. Shasta, CA area. Having been there, we can confirm that these photos accurately represent the campground.

On A Dime photo of Gumboot from a campsite

3) DO THEY HAVE RUNNING WATER? Not always and this is very important to note. We feel it is also not a bad idea to travel with adequate jugs of water anyway. Car trouble in rural areas with no water is no fun.

$5 camping at Tuttle Creek, approx. 10 miles from Whitney and elevation 5,120
$5 camping at Tuttle Creek, approx. 10 miles from Mt. Whitney, CA and elevation 5,120

4) WHAT ABOUT BATHROOMS? Also a wild card but often they’ll have pit toilets and for the most part, we’ve had luck in that they’ve been pretty clean and odor-free. Come prepared w/ a small garden hand shovel and be prepared to dig and cover. If you’d like a giggle, know that on multiple camp trips when the kids were little, this On A Dimer brought the kiddie potty with plastic bag liners and more than one adult was known to utilize it as well. This also comes in handy during car travel with wee ones needing to wee-wee.

Sunrise Lake Yosemite, no bathroom and 3 mile hike in
Fall is in the air
Fall is in the air in Kansas and yes, Elk City has bathrooms

5) IS IT SAFE? That is up to interpretation and asking the rangers in the area is beyond smart. We’ve had wonderful experiences and passionately love the pristine and Zen energy the non-fee sites  offer. Only once did we feel uncomfortable and leave due to there being no one in the area except a lone and unseen camper in a cave. This turned out to be kismet after a park ranger offered us an alternate site in an area nearby that turned out to be stunning and offered a view of the mountain range that houses Mount Whitney. Remember that there is safety in numbers and you save even more money (see Grand Canyon article) by splitting more ways!

*Fire, critter, and food safety? Check this link.

Finally, go ahead and try some free camping and enjoy spending your hard-earned, adventure dollars elsewhere. You deserve it!

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Grand cyn sunset
Grand Canyon, North Rim has some dispersed camping, south rim we camped at Mather for $28 w/ amenities
Kings Canyon $40 each for the whole weekend

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