All rules for using rest areas in Texas are codified as laws under the State’s Transportation Code. These are the only codified rest area rules that exist in the State of Texas. Any other rules you may see posted on signs are done on a case-by-case basis depending on the rest area itself, or by the organization contracted to maintain that rest area.
These are the actual, word-for-word text of the rules…
Title 7. Vehicles and Traffic
Subtitle C. Rules of the Road
Chapter 545. Operation and Movement of Vehicles
Subchapter A. General Provisions
Sec. 545.411. Use of Rest Area: Offense.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person remains at a rest area for longer than 24 hours or erects a tent, shelter, booth, or structure at the rest area and the person:
(1) has notice while conducting the activity that the activity is prohibited; or
(2) receives notice that the activity is prohibited but does not depart or remove the structure within eight hours after receiving notice.
(b) For purposes of this section, a person:
(1) has notice if a sign stating the prohibited activity and penalty is posted on the premises; or
(2) receives notice if a peace officer orally communicates to the person the prohibited activity and penalty for the offense.
(c) It is an exception to Subsection (a) if a nonprofit organization erects a temporary structure at a rest area to provide food services, food, or beverages to travelers and the Texas Department of Transportation:
(1) finds that the services would constitute a public service for the benefit of the traveling public; and
(2) issues a permit to the organization.
(d) In this section, “rest area” means public real property designated as a rest area, comfort station, picnic area, roadside park, or scenic overlook by the Texas Department of Transportation.
I live in Carrollton, TX. If I buy a “truck tent” that is designed to be set up in the bed of my pick up truck (another on the ground)… can I use it to sleep in at a rest stop in Texas? It’s a grey area in the rules?October 3, 2022 at 9:44 am
I understand it would be just a nighttime stay, then leave to travel on in the morning. I haven’t bought it yet, but it’s a cheaper way of retired sightseeing!
Ramon, as long as the tent is within the vehicle, you should be fine. The main issue that states have with sleeping overnight at rest areas is when people sleep on the ground, or on picnic tables, or inside restroom facilities, or when they erect tents on the ground. It always possible there will be an officer with a bad attitude that will take exception and order you to leave. But, I’m pretty sure as long as you keep your tent within in your pickup truck, you’ll be fine.October 3, 2022 at 11:10 am
What if I rode a motorcycle with a trailer and set up a tent for 6 hours then packed up and leftOctober 9, 2022 at 5:13 pm
Nicholas, Texas DOT regulation (as stated in the article above) does not allow visitors to erect tents on rest area grounds. If a law enforcement officer sees you with a tent on the ground, I’m pretty sure they will approach you and notify you of the rules. They will probably allow you to stay with your tent until the morning, but will probably cite you. If somehow, your trailer had the ability to host the tent on top of the trailer, then I think officers will allow that, being that the trailer is part of the vehicle itself.October 10, 2022 at 12:15 pm
What about motorcycles with tent trailers?April 23, 2023 at 12:46 am
Please see the comment I left for Nicholas.April 23, 2023 at 9:02 am