How long can you stay at a rest area in Virginia? Is overnight parking allowed at Virginia rest areas? Can you sleep in your car at a rest area? Is camping allowed? What are the full Virginia rest area rules?
Virginia Rest Area Rules
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has adopted a set of administrative rules with respect to public use of its highway rest areas and waysides. A synopsis of these rules are presented below…
- Maximum stay at a rest area are as follows…
- Rest areas with no lighting are open from 8:00am to one hour after sunset.
- Rest areas with lighting are open 24 hours a day.
- Certain rest areas may have unique operating hours, which should be posted at the rest area.
- Overnight parking is not allowed.
- Camping is not permitted at any time.
- Sleeping in a rest area building is not allowed.
- Vehicles cannot occupy more than one parking space.
- All dogs must be kept on a leash. Only service animals are allowed inside rest area buildings.
- Soliciting is not allowed.
- All fires must be limited to cooking grills offered by the rest area.
There are more rules than listed above. To read the full set of rules, word-for-word, read, “Rules for Using Rest Areas in Virginia“.
How Long Can You Stay at a Rest Area in Virginia?
There is no maximum time limit for staying at a Virginia rest area. VDOT does, however, state that certain rest areas may have limited hours due to lack of lighting, or may have posted limited hours. However, as of this writing there are no such rest areas in existence. All Virginia rest areas are open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Is Overnight Parking Allowed at Virginia Rest Areas?
From a legal standpoint, overnight parking is not allowed. However, because Virginia’s rest areas are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you are permitted to arrive during night time hours and stay for as long as you need to up sufficiently. It’s possible that might take you overnight and into the following morning.
Note that all rest areas are patrolled by Virginia State Police, and some rest areas are staffed by personnel. If you do plan to stay overnight, it’s best to spend most of your time inside your vehicle, draw as little attention to yourself as possible, and try to act like someone who is too tired to do anything.
Can You Sleep in Your Car at a Virginia Rest Area?
Yes, you can sleep in your car. VDOT requires that all sleeping at rest areas occur inside your vehicle. They have a specific rule that prohibits sleeping in rest area buildings. If you were to sleep outside on the grass, they’ll likely cite you for camping.
Is Camping Allowed at a Virginia Rest Area?
No, camping is specifically prohibited. VDOT has a rule that prohibits camping “at any time”. However, this can be confusing. All rest areas have facilities that are consistent with recreational camping, including picnic tables, cooking grills, scenic walkways, viewing areas, pet areas, snack bars, and informational kiosks. It appears that VDOT welcomes its visitors to enjoy some level of recreational camping. We recommend to enjoy the facilities but do not extend your recreation through the evening or into the following morning.
Where Can I Get a List of All Rest Areas in Virginia?
The Virginia Department of Transportation publishes a list and map of all of its rest areas and welcome centers (click here)
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