View across Yarger Lake, Alaska! Photo taken Saturday evening.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Tok, Alaska.

Where are they going next? Beaver Creek, Yukon!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to find great boondocking campsites

We were asked several times over the winter how we find great boondocking campsites. And it's not a short explanation, so we put off answering the question until we had time to write a complete blog post about it.

Boondocking. To us, the term means camping away from it all without any services. As in "out in the boondocks". It does not mean parking overnight at Walmart. That is most certainly not boondocking. It's simply parking overnight at Walmart.

Last October, we wanted to prove how easy it is to find a boondocking spot so we embarked on a two week "border to border boondocking challenge" where we tried to find good free camping while crossing the U.S. from Canada to Mexico, with a different spot for 14 nights running.

Sherman, in Custer National Forest, South Dakota.
GPS 45.8735639,-103.485519

We use several online resources to find these sites. The first place I usually go is...

This website also supplies an app to your smartphone for a small cost. I have the app, and I love it! Ultimate campgrounds lists all campsites in both Canada and the U.S. that are public. In other words, you won't find any RV Parks listed. But, they also list all State and National Parks as well, so it's not just free camping.

The mapping program in the app is great, and you can use the GPS in your smartphone to see where you are currently, and what opportunities might be available that are close to you.

If I don't find anything worthwhile there, I then check

The only problem I've found with this is that a lot of the listings contain outdated information. But still, there is enough there to give you some ideas.

Sherman, at the Imperial Dam Long Term Visitor Area, California.
GPS 32.875939, -114.513310

Really, those are the only two online resources that we use, other than Google Maps and Google Streetview. Very often, I will check online to see where a particular dirt road leads and if it looks like there will be room to turn Sherman around if we take that road. 

And...we always have our eyes open for other possibilities. For example, there are many times we'll be driving along a secondary road and Ruth and I will all of a sudden look at each other and say "That would make for a great overnight spot"! Then, I will often walk down a road first or ride my bicycle to see if there may be somewhere worthwhile to overnight.

Sherman, boondocking at Inverness, Cape Breton Island, Canada. 
GPS 46.23053 -61.31824

Sometimes, we can't find a decent free or cheap camping option that we're happy with. That's when we have to look for other opportunities. Simply somewhere to park for free overnight. Like Walmart, but that's always a last option for us. We've learned that there is almost always a place better than Walmart if you use your imagination.

Heck, even Home Depot is better than Walmart. At least you'll normally be on your own without having to listen to someone else's generator whining away. Or that annoying parking lot street sweeper machine that does it's job at 3:00am.

Usually, in those situations where we can't find somewhere better, we end up looking for a church, or a baseball diamond or recreation field, or simply somethiing like this...

Not great...but quiet, and free.

Where there is an opportunity to do so, we always ask if it's okay to park. In eight years of doing this, we've only had our door knocked on twice by police, and both times we were okay anyhow.

So, that's how we do it. Any questions...ask away!

If you want to stock up on Kleenex, today is the day...30% off bulk quantities...


  1. It's also really nice that you include GPS coordinates of your boondocking spots. Thanks for sharing.

    1. We do now but in the beginning we didn't. Some day we will go back to the beginning and add the ones that we can. We always find it helpful when others do the same. :-)

  2. We are fixin' to head out and try some of these boondocking places! Oh boy!

    1. I am sure you will have a great time!

  3. Thanks for sharing these websites. We usually look for a KOA for an overnight but even those are getting pricey just for one night.

    1. You are welcome! :-)

      Yep, KOA are expensive for just an overnight but if you have young kids they would certainly appreciate the stop there.

  4. That's how it works for us. We see something, stop and ask. Sometimes we have to negotiate but it usually ends up free. In Mexico we have never been turned down. In the U.S. we have found some great Forest Service sites that are no charge like at the Grand Canyon.

    1. We have found wonderful boondocking spots both in all three countries, Canada, USA and Mexico. Rarely are we denied a place and usually it is free as well.

  5. We haven't had your luck with parking in giant empty lots with no one around to ask. The police seem to always show up and tell us we have to move so we've become pretty gun shy. Not sure why no one seems to be around even churches when we want to ask if we can pull over for the night. Thanks for your ideas here.

    1. Many times we will find a policeman first and ask if they know somewhere that we can park where we won't be a bother to them or anyone else and generally they have been super helpful.

      If the church is out in the country and there is no house around then we will tuck ourselves in at the back but if it is in a town then sometimes the office is open and you can ask there. Rarely have we had an issue parking at a church.

  6. Such great resources and intel. Thank you, Kevin and Ruth!

    1. You are welcome, and we hope that people find the information helpful.

  7. I have a Class B (2013 Roadtrek Agile) and have found many similar type spots to park in over the past year. And you're right, the more you do it, the better you get at finding good parking / boon docking spots.

    I typically find an "out of the way" and/or non-conspicuous place to park and just do it, the result is: I'm nervous because I don't have permission.

    I want to park without worry that I might get "the dreaded knock knock!"

    Your practice of asking is a good one and I will start to do that. However, If there is no one around to ask, do you "take your chances" and park anyway?

    Thanks for this blog, I've shared it far and wide. You guys rock!

    1. Yes, there are certain times that we have parked somewhere and wonder if will get that dreaded knock at night but it has never really happened. Once the knock came at 6am because it was Campus Police and he was being nice. We actually did get permission from someone at the university but they never contacted the Campus Police to let them know. We try as much as possible to park somewhere where we are both feel pretty confident that we won't get the "dreaded Knock".

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and for following along with us. May you have many undisturbed boondocking nights in your future! :-)

  8. Hi there. We are currently in PEI and will head to NS tomorrow for a couple of weeks and then on to NF for a month at least. We had great luck last year boondocking along the Alaska Highway, all through Canada and Alaska. Like you, we use a combo of Google satellite and street views. My question is about the spot you referenced in this article in Inverness, NS (46.23053 -61.3182). Satellite view looks like it is on property adjacent to a marina or harbor. Was this public or private property, and did you ask permission there? We hope to stay in Inverness one night, and that place looks great in your photo, but was it really?

    Thanks in advance!


    1. If I remember correcting it was a parking lot near the harbour/marina, those spots are usually fair game for parking overnight. We try to ask if there is someone around, if not and it doesn't look like we are interfering with anyone or anything then we just park. Please also keep in mind, when we were in Nova Scotia boondocking it was early in the season when there weren't tons of tourists around, I'm not sure how busy it will get during the middle of summer.

    2. Thanks, Ruth. We opted to continue on through Inverness. And there were/are definitely a lot of people! The campgrounds in Cape Breton are all pretty much to capacity. I’m not sure if there are more people or insects here! We’re now at Meat Cove at the northern tip of Nova Scotia at the campground. We’ve pretty much kept to campgrounds so far in Nova Scotia, but will be in Newfoundland for about a month beginning next week. We’re definitely anticipating some great boondocking opportunities there. Before buying our RV, we spent 9 years living on a sailboat. That was the easiest boondocking ever! Just drop the anchor and pour the wine. Safe travels!

    3. Yep, I would expect that it is pretty busy there in the summer. We also remember the bugs can be very vicious!

      We are headed to Newfoundland next summer and like you we expect to find some fantastic boondocking spots. Have fun and enjoy yourselves. Take lots of bug spray with you or better yet get a couple of bug jackets if you are wanting to do some hiking.

      Yep, I can understand "boondocking" in a sailboat would be pretty easy, maybe not so fun it a storm though.


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