Learn about camping and boondocking in Maryland

Maryland Rest Area Rules

Maryland Rest Area Rules


How long can you stay at rest areas in Maryland? Is overnight parking allowed at Maryland rest areas? Can you sleep inside your car at a rest area? Is camping allowed? What are the full Maryland rest area rules?

maryland rest areas
South Mountain Welcome Center, I-70 WB, Myersville, MD

Maryland Rest Area Rules

The State of Maryland operates rest areas, welcome centers, scenic overlooks, roadside picnic areas, and service plazas. The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is responsible for all except for service plazas. Service plazas are operated by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA). MDOT and MDTA each have different sets of regulations. For more details on MDTA service plazas, scroll down towards the end of this article under, “MDTA Service Plazas”.

MDOT Rest Areas, Welcome Centers, Scenic Overlooks, and Roadside Picnic Areas

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has adopted several administrative regulations with respect to public use of its highway rest areas. Below is a synopsis of these regulations…

  • Regulations apply to all welcome centers, rest areas, scenic overlooks, roadside picnic areas, and other public use areas within Interstate and State Highway rights-of-way.
  • Visitors to welcome centers are asked to sign the guest register.
  • Parking is allowed only in designated areas.
  • Trash cans are limited to just rest area and travel trash. You cannot bring in trash from home.
  • Fires are permitted only in designated areas and containers.
  • All pets must be kept on a leash. Only service animals are allowed in buildings.
  • Maximum length of stay is three (3) hours. Any additional time requires a permit from the rest area caretaker, or Maryland State Police.
  • Vehicles left unattended for more than three (3) hours will be towed away.
  • Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.
  • Camping and overnight parking is prohibited.
  • Discharge or display of fireworks, firearms, or weapons is prohibited.
  • Gambling is prohibited, except for state lottery terminals.
  • Blocking or interfering with a driveway or walkway is prohibited.
  • Loitering around toilet facilities is prohibited.
  • Selling merchandise, posting notices, solicitation, is prohibited.

To read the full set of administrative regulations, word-for-word, please visit, “Rules for Using Rest Areas in Maryland“.

How Long Can You Stay at a Maryland Rest Area?

There is a maximum of three (3) hours. If you need more time, MDOT will allow you to get a permit from rest area personnel or Maryland State Police. If you arrive at a rest area and feel you need more time than three hours, then find the caretaker and let him or her know that you are extremely tired and need to sleep longer.

Is Overnight Parking Allowed at Maryland Rest Areas?

No, overnight parking is not allowed. However, because these rest areas are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you are allowed to arrive at night and stay for up to three hours. That may effectively constitute staying overnight, but is still entirely legal.

Note that while rest areas and welcome centers are open for parking 24 hours a day, not all of their restrooms remain open. Many of the rest areas and welcome centers close their restrooms overnight.

Can You Sleep In Your Car at a Maryland Rest Area?

Yes, you can sleep in your car. There is no regulation against sleeping in your vehicle. MDOT expects drowsy drivers to get some sleep while at a rest area. They would prefer you sleep in your vehicle and not on the grass, picnic tables, or inside restroom buildings.

Is Camping Allowed at Maryland Rest Areas?

No, camping is not allowed. MDOT has a rule against camping overnight. Note that their rest areas and welcome centers all have facilities that are consistent with recreational camping. These include picnic tables, cooking grills, scenic walkways, viewing areas,  pet areas, children’s play areas, and informational kiosks. MDOT seems to welcome its visitors to enjoy some limited recreation, but through the night, and limited to no more than three hours total.

If you wish to obtain a permit from the rest area caretaker to stay longer than three hours, it’s recommended you do not spend any recreational time outdoors, and instead try to act like someone who is extremely tired.

Where Can I Get a List of All Maryland Rest Areas?

MDOT publishes a list of all of its welcome centers and rest areas on its website.

MDTA Service Plazas

The Maryland Transportation Authority manages all of the State’s tollways. As of this writing there are two service plazas, both of them located along I-95. The MDTA has adopted several rules regarding public use of its service plazas, as well as additional rules regarding parking a vehicle at an MDTA property (service plaza or other parking facility). Below is a synopsis of these rules…

  • Vehicles left unattended for more than 24 hours will be towed away.
  • Litter shall be placed in containers provided for that purpose.
  • Smoking is not permitted inside service plaza buildings.
  • Animals are not allowed inside service plaza buildings with the exception of service animals.
  • Loitering is prohibited.
  • Blocking driveways, walkways, entrances and exits is prohibited.
  • Commercial activity is prohibited.
  • Solicitation of money, advertising, or debt collection is prohibited.
  • Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.

You can read the full, word-for-word text of these rules.

MDTA Service Plaza Overnight Parking and Length of Stay

There actually are no rules relating to how long you can remain parked at a service plaza. There are not even any rules addressing the subject of overnight parking. The MDTA, however, does have a time limit on parking in an area where a parking permit is required, however service plazas do not require parking permits.

If you were to remain parked at a service plaza overnight, more than likely you will be required to pay the full fare upon exiting the tollway.

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