How long can you stay at a Pennsylvania rest area? Is overnight parking allowed at rest areas in Pennsylvania? Can you sleep in your car? Is camping allowed? What are the full Pennsylvania rest area rules?
Pennsylvania Rest Area Rules
Both the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority (PTA) have adopted administrative codes regarding use of highway rest areas, welcome centers, and turnpike service plazas. PennDOT oversees all rest areas and welcome centers. PTA oversees turnpike service plazas. Below are synopses of these rules…
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT)
- Maximum stay of two (2) hours in a twenty-four (24) hour period.
- Vehicles remaining more than 24 hours will be considered abandoned and will be towed away.
- Parking at a rest area that is not located along an Interstate is prohibited from dusk until dawn.
- Fires are prohibited except in cooking grills provided for that purpose.
- Camping overnight, or setting up a tent, or sleeping anywhere except for inside your vehicle, is prohibited.
- Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.
- Discharging firearms or bows and arrows is prohibited.
- Using rest areas for bathing or washing clothes is prohibited.
- Speed limit is 25 MPH.
There are more rules than listed above. To read the full set of rules, word-for-word, visit, “Rules for Using Rest Areas in Pennsylvania“.
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
- Vehicles cannot be parked longer than 24 hours anywhere along the Turnpike, including service plazas.
- Vehicles parked longer than 24 hours will be considered abandoned and will be towed away.
To read the full text of these rules, word-for-word, visit, “Rules for Using Turnpike Service Plazas in Pennsylvania“.
How Long Can You Stay at a Pennsylvania Rest Area or Service Plaza?
Rest areas and welcome centers are limited to two (2) hours in a twenty-four (24) hour period. The rule does not clarify if this limit applies to all rest areas you visit in a 24-hour period, or if that limit resets at each rest area.
Service plazas have a twenty-four (24) hour time limit.
Is Overnight Parking Allowed at Pennsylvania Rest Areas and Service Plazas?
Yes, overnight parking is allowed. PennDOT has not adopted any rules prohibiting overnight parking at its rest areas and welcome centers. They have not posted any signs prohibiting the same. However, keep in mind that they limit parking to just 2-hours. Still, many people have left reviews of these rest areas stating they were able to stay more than 2-hours without incident.
Note that PennDOT also has a rule stating that rest areas not located along Interstates are closed for parking during night time hours. However, at this time, PennDOT does not operate any such rest areas. This rule would only apply to smaller roadside picnic areas, viewing areas, or other shoulder-based parking.
With respect to Service Plazas, the PTA has not adopted any rules prohibiting overnight parking. Their only rule regarding service plazas is that you cannot stay longer than 24-hours.
Can You Sleep in Your Car at a Rest Area or Service Plaza?
Yes, you can sleep in your car. Neither PennDOT nor PTA have adopted rules prohibiting sleeping in vehicles. Both expect drowsy drivers to pull into a rest area or service plaza and get some sleep before continuing driving. They have a rule that permits you to sleep in your vehicle.
Is Camping Allowed at Pennsylvania Rest Areas or Service Plazas?
No, camping is not permitted. PennDOT has a rule specifically prohibiting camping. They also prohibit erecting tents or other shelters. They specifically prohibit sleeping anywhere at a rest area except for inside your vehicle.
Note that all rest areas and welcome centers have facilities that are consistent with camping. These include picnic tables, cooking grills, hiking trails, pet areas, historical displays, etc. It appears that PennDOT welcomes its visitors to enjoy rest area facilities for some degree of recreation. They just don’t want visitors doing so for too much time. If you hope to remain at a rest area or welcome center overnight, it’s best to remain inside your vehicle and try to behave like someone who is too tired to do much of anything.
With respect to service plazas, camping is generally not tolerated. Even though the PTA does not have a rule specifically prohibiting camping, its service plazas are not conducive for outdoor recreation. They are largely oversized service stations with fuel pumps, convenience stores, and even repair shops. There is very little green area to support any kind of camping activities. Even if you were to set up camping equipment right outside your vehicle, it’ll likely to get run over by another vehicle.
Where Can I Get a List of All Pennsylvania Rest Areas, Welcome Centers, and Service Plazas?
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation lists out all rest areas, welcome centers, and service plazas on its website (click here)
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