Is overnight parking allowed at Mississippi rest areas? How long can you stay at a rest area in Mississippi? What about camping? Is sleeping in your car allowed? What are the full Mississippi rest area rules?
Mississippi Rest Area Rules
The State of Mississippi has not adopted any official laws or administrative rules regarding use of its highway rest areas. However, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has established a set of guidelines containing its own policies. Below is a synopsis of those policies…
- Long term parking is not allowed. Vehicles remaining parked for more than eight (8) hours may be towed away.
- Camping is not permitted.
- Loading and discharging firearms is prohibited at roadside facilities.
- Animals are not allowed inside rest area buildings, except for service animals
You can read the full word-for-word guidelines on MDOT’s website… https://mdot.ms.gov/portal/guidelines_for_rest_areas_and_welcome_centers
Types of Mississippi Rest Areas
MDOT operates three different types of rest areas…
- Rest Areas – these are the standard rest areas we come to know, consisting of restroom facilities, parking for cars, trucks, and RVs, pet areas, and some kind of informational billboard or kiosk.
- Welcome Centers – these are similar to rest areas, but intended to serve tourists with maps, travel guides, and often a state-employee on site to answer questions. These are located on major highways near state lines.
- Hospitality Stations – A much more glorified rest area that operates similar to a welcome center, with employees on site, but intended to offer a higher level of service and “Southern Hospitality”.
How Long Can You Can Stay at a Mississippi Rest Area?
There is an eight (8) hour maximum. But this is a gray-area.
MDOT doesn’t say that visitors cannot stay any longer than eight hours. What they say is that “long term parking” is not consistent with the purpose and design of their rest areas. Certainly they do want drivers to use rest areas for the purpose of resting well enough to resume driving safely. This policy is more of an “ace up their sleeve” they can use to remove rude visitors who have become eyesore.
If you need more than eight hours to get rested up enough to resume driving safely, then stay longer. But if do you choose to stay longer, make sure you remain inside your vehicle and act like someone who is too tired to do anything else. Otherwise, if rest area staff witnesses you hanging outside enjoying some way too much time, they’re going to kick you out for sure.
Is Sleeping In Your Car Allowed at Mississippi Rest Areas?
Yes, sleeping in your car allowed. MDOT does not have any policy addressing sleeping in your vehicle. Part of the purpose of building rest areas is to give drowsy drivers a safe place to park and take a nap.
Can You Park Overnight at a Mississippi Rest Area?
Yes, overnight parking is allowed. MDOT does not have a policy prohibiting drivers from parking their vehicles at rest areas overnight. Because Mississippi rest areas are open 24 hours a day, you are allowed to arrive at night and remain there into the following morning.
They do, however, have a policy concerning long term parking. They don’t want drivers to remain at a rest area longer than they need to. They consider long term parking to be over eight hours in duration. It doesn’t mean you’re required to leave after eight hours. It’s just a tool use to remove visitors who have become bothersome and an eyesore. If after eight hours you are still too tried to resume driving safely, then just stay longer. If rest area staff or law enforcement tap on your window, explain that you’ve been driving for a long time, and you still need more time.
Is Camping Allowed at Mississippi Rest Areas?
MDOT has a policy against camping at their rest areas. But, it’s difficult to define what they mean by camping.
Camping tends to be recreational in nature, whereas sleeping in your vehicle and getting some rest is simply about highway safety. MDOT wants its rest areas to be used primarily to promote highway safety. However, most of their rest areas include facilities that are consistent with recreational camping. They have picnic tables, cooking grills, scenic walkways, viewing areas, pet areas, sculptures and memorials, and information kiosks. It’s difficult to understand where MDOT draws the line between camping and taking a badly needed rest.
Our advice is to enjoy whatever facilities a rest area has to offer. But try to spend most of your time inside your vehicle, and keep quiet. It’s the folks who spend most of their time outside, laughing, playing, and drawing attention to themselves that will be monitored and eventually asked to leave.
Where Can I Get a List of Mississippi Rest Areas?
MDOT does not publish an official listing of its rest areas. The Mississippi Development Authority publishes a listing of all Welcome Centers and Hospitality Stations on its website here… https://visitmississippi.org/welcome-centers/