Is overnight parking allowed at rest areas in North Carolina? How long can you stay at North Carolina’s rest areas? Can you sleep in your car? Is camping allowed? What are the full North Carolina rest area rules?
North Carolina Rest Area Rules
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has adopted some administrative rules with respect to its highway rest areas. The following is a synopsis of these rules…
- Erecting tents, booths, or structures of any kind for camping is prohibited at all rest areas, scenic overlooks or other parking areas along primary and secondary roads of the State.
- Unreasonably loud noises are prohibited.
- Soliciting contributions or support is prohibited.
- Erecting signs or distributing literature is prohibited.
- Use of public address systems is prohibited.
- Distribution or use of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.
- Endangering the life, property, welfare of the traveling public is prohibited.
You can read the full text of these rules, word-for-word, at, “Rules for Using Rest Areas in North Carolina“.
In addition, NCDOT has signs posted at all Interstate rest areas prohibiting overnight parking. Meanwhile, rest areas on secondary highways don’t seem to have these signs.
Finally, NCDOT has published a brochure listing all of its rest area locations, and inside this brochure is a statement that prohibits overnight parking and camping…
Loitering, camping, soliciting, consuming alcoholic beverages and staying overnight are prohibited at North Carolina’s Rest Areas.
You can download and view a copy of this brochure at, “North Carolina Rest Area System“.
How Long Can You Stay at a North Carolina Rest Area?
There is no maximum time limit. However, NCDOT prohibits overnight parking. But because these rest areas are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you are still allowed to arrive at night and remain for as long as it takes to rest and resume driving safely. This could mean staying overnight until the following morning.
Is Overnight Parking Allowed at North Carolina Rest Areas?
No, overnight parking is not allowed. NCDOT has posted signs at its Interstate rest areas prohibiting overnight parking. They have also published a brochure prohibiting overnight parking. However, because these rest areas are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you are still allowed to arrive at a rest area at night, and remain for as long as it takes to rest and resume driving safely. This could mean staying overnight until the following morning. It’s unclear how NCDOT differentiates overnight parking from night-time parking.
Can You Sleep In Your Car at a Rest Area in North Carolina?
Yes, you can sleep in your car. There are no rules prohibiting sleeping in vehicles while parked at a rest area. NCDOT expects drowsy drivers to sleep at their rest areas. They would prefer people sleeping in their vehicles rather than sleeping on the grass or on picnic tables.
Is Camping Permitted at North Carolina Rest Areas?
No, camping is not permitted. NCDOT has adopted a rule specifically banning camping at rest areas. They also go on to state that erecting tents or other camping structures is banned. However, they do welcome visitors to use their facilities for short-term recreation. This includes using their picnic tables, cooking grills, scenic walkways, viewing areas, pet areas, and informational kiosks. They just don’t want you to extend that recreation through the night, or into the following morning.
Where Can I Get a List of All North Carolina Rest Areas?
North Carolina Department of Transportation has published a map of all of its rest areas on its website at… https://www.ncdot.gov/travel-maps/ traffic-travel/rest-areas/Pages/default.aspx