How long can you stay at a New York rest area? Is overnight parking allowed at a New York rest area? Can you sleep in your car? Is camping allowed? What are the full New York rest area rules?
New York Rest Area Rules
Both the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Thruway Authority have adopted rules regarding the use of their rest areas, scenic overlooks, welcome centers, service areas, and parking areas. The rules are summarized below…
New York State Department of Transportation
NYSDOT governs all rest areas, welcome centers, scenic overlooks, and parking areas located along Interstates, U.S. Highways, and State Highways…
- There is a maximum time limit of three (3) hours. Commercial vehicles (trucks) have a maximum time limit of ten (10) hours.
- Camping is prohibited, no tents or shelters may be erected.
- Fires are prohibited except in cooking grills and fireplaces provided by the facility.
- All animals and pets must leashed or confined in cages or vehicles.
- Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.
- Loaded weapons are prohibited.
There are far more rules and details than what’s listed above. You can read the full rest area rules, word-for-word, at, “Rules for Using Rest Areas in New York.”
New York State Thruway Authority
NYSTA governs all service areas, rest areas, parking areas, and text stops along the New York State Thruway.
- Vehicles cannot be left unattended for more than four (4) hours anywhere along the Thruway system. After four hours, the Thruway Authority has the right to tow your vehicle away (Refer to 21 CRR-NY 104.1 Abandoned Vehicles).
- The Thruway Authority’s website states (at the very bottom of the page) that this four hour limit applies whether or not your vehicle is unattended or attended…
- “Please be advised that Thruway Authority Service Areas are posted for a maximum stay of 4 hours and are not designed for multiple day stays. Vehicles left for more than 4 hours at a Service Area will be towed at the owner’s expense”
- Unlawful discharge of firearms, fireworks, or explosives is prohibited.
- Using service area dumpsters to dispose of trash accumulated outside of the Thruway is prohibited.
- Soliciting money, selling products and services, or posting advertisements is prohibited.
- Loitering around any area of the Thruway system is prohibited.
- Consuming alcoholic beverages anywhere along the Thruway system is prohibited.
There are more rules and details than what’s listed above. You can read the full Thruway System rules that apply to service areas and rest areas at, “Rules for Using Service Areas Along the New York State Thruway“.
How Long Can You Stay at a New York State Rest Area or Service Area?
The maximum time limits are as follows…
- Ten (10) hours for commercial operators (truck drivers) at rest areas, welcome centers, parking areas, and scenic overlooks along Interstates, U.S. Highways, and State Highways operated by the New York State Department of Transportation.
- Three (3) hours for all other drivers.
- Four (4) hours for all vehicles at service areas, rest areas, parking areas, and text stops along the New York State Thruway.
Is Overnight Parking Allowed at New York State Rest Areas and Service Areas?
There are no laws or regulations addressing overnight parking. Because of the maximum time limits (see above), it may be difficult to park overnight effectively. However, rest areas and services operated by both the New York State Department of Transportation and the Thruway Authority are open 24 hours day, 7 days a week, you are allowed to arrive at these areas late at night and remain for the maximum time limit.
Can You Sleep in Your Car at a New York State Rest Area or Service Area?
Yes, you can sleep in your car. The State expects drowsy drivers to pull into a rest area or service area and get some sleep before continuing driving. They would prefer you sleep in your vehicle instead of sleeping on the grass or on a picnic table.
Is Camping Allowed at New York State Rest Areas and Service Areas?
Camping is not allowed. The New York State Department of Transportation has a rule specifically prohibiting camping, including erecting a tent or other shelter. If your goal is to camp inside your RV or van, you can certainly do so, as long as you do not exceed the maximum time limits.
Note that many rest areas, welcome centers, and picnic areas have facilities consistent with recreational camping, including picnic tables, cooking grills, children’s play areas, pet areas, scenic walkways and viewing. The State seems to welcome people using its facilities for recreation. However, if your goal is to stay overnight as long as possible, it’s best you remain in your vehicle and try to act like someone who is too tired to do much of anything.
Where Can I Get a List of All Rest Areas and Service Areas?
We have put together a map of all New York State rest areas, service areas, parking areas, scenic overlooks, and welcome centers. Visit, “New York Rest Area Map“
For More Reading
- New York State Department of Transportation, Rest Areas
- New York State Thruway Authority, Service Areas
More About Overnighting at Rest Areas & Truck Stops
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