Boodocking in California

Learn about camping and boondocking in the Golden State

California Rest Area Rules

California Rest Area Rules


Is overnight parking permitted at a California Rest Area? How many hours can you stay at a California Rest Area? Is camping permitted at a California Rest Area?

california rest area rules
Weed Rest Area Southbound, I-5, Weed, CA

California Rest Area Rules

The following rules were adopted by the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) and are current as of this writing (August 10, 2020). These rules were edited for easier reading. For the full (word for word) text of the regulations, please visit, “Rules for Using Rest Areas in California“…

  • Camping is prohibited.
  • Parking is limited to 8 hours in a 24 hour period.
  • Parking is for temporary traveler rest, not as a parking place for hiking, skiing, fishing, et al.
  • Do not pitch tents or other shelters
  • Use of gas-fueled stoves, barbecues, or other portable cook tops is permitted
  • Solicitation for money is strictly prohibited.
  • Park only in designated parking spaces.
  • Throw all litter in trash receptacles
  • Do not use noise amplifying devices, megaphones, amplifiers, etc.
  • Keep all animals on a leash.
  • You cannot hook up to the rest area’s electrical or gas utilities.
  • Selling items or commercial activity is prohibited
  • You cannot dump waste materials or sewage, unless in an RV dump station
  • Do not post any notices, advertisements, or posters
  • Do not block vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

Is Overnight Parking Permitted at California Rest Areas?

Yes. As long as your vehicle remains parked for no more than 8 hours, overnight parking is permitted at all California Rest Areas.

What About Vista Points?

california vista point overnight parking
Sign posted at the Las Flores Vista Point along I-5 prohibiting overnight parking.

Yes, overnight parking is allowed for vista points too. The same rules for rest areas apply to vista points. However, some vista points have signs prohibiting overnight parking for all vehicles except for trucks. As long as you don’t see such a sign, overnight parking is permitted.

Can You Sleep Overnight at a California Rest Area?

Yes. You are permitted to sleep overnight in your vehicle while at a California Rest Area. You just cannot stay beyond 8 hours. It’s worth noting that you must be inside your vehicle while sleeping overnight. This is because sleeping outside, either on the ground or on a bench could be construed as camping.

Can You Camp at a California Rest Area?

No. The first rule prohibits camping.

The difference between “camping” and “sleeping in a vehicle” is generally based on recreational use. Most state transportation departments and law enforcement agencies look to see if you’ve rolled out your awning, set out patio chairs, put down your leveling jacks, etc. They could make the argument that you are camping. But if you are inside your RV sleeping, with nothing else set up, then they consider that as just “sleeping in a vehicle”.

Sleeping in a vehicle is permitted at California rest areas, just as long as you don’t go over 8 hours.

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1 thought on “California Rest Area Rules”

  1. How about turning your car off? Guy pulled up next to me at a rest stop, left his pu truck on and I woke up noticing I’m breathing exhaust fumes.


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