Learn about camping and boondocking in Washington

Washington State Rest Area Rules

Washington State Rest Area Rules


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

washington state rest areas
Maytown Rest Area Southbound, I-5, Maytown, WA

Washington State Rest Area Rules

The State of Washington has rest area rules codified into law (RCW) and in administrative code (WAC). The following rules are current as of this writing (August 11, 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 Washington“…

  • Parking is limited to 8 hours in a 24 hour period. Commercial vehicles are allowed up to 11 hours.
  • Camping is prohibited, including pitching a tent or other sleeping facility.
  • It is illegal to leave a disabled vehicle, including campers and trailers, at a rest area for more than 48 hours.
  • Parking is only permitted in designated areas.
  • Litter containers are only for picnic and automobile litter.
  • Pets shall stay in designated areas and shall be on a leash at all times.
  • Open fires are prohibited.
  • Aggressive solicitation for money or goods with the intent to intimidate another person into giving money or goods is prohibited.
  • Sanitary disposal systems are for dumping sanitary wastes only from recreational vehicles. Commercial vehicles are prohibited from using the sanitary disposal systems.

Is Overnight Parking Permitted at Washington State Rest Areas?

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

Can You Sleep Overnight at a Washington State Rest Area?

Yes. You are permitted to sleep overnight in your vehicle while at a Washington State 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 Washington State Rest Area?

No. The second above 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 Washington State rest areas, just as long as you don’t go over 8 hours.

More About Washington State Rest Areas

Read Related Articles

7 thoughts on “Washington State Rest Area Rules”

  1. At Marysville. In the Northbound lot. Parking spots have signs saying 1 hour parking.

    In the Bowhill Northbound Rest area. Some spots are marked 1 hour parking and others are marked 4 hour parking.

    In the Custer rest area there are 1 hour, 4 hour and 8 hour signs marking spots.

    • Thanks for the note. In Washington State, many rest areas have turned into homeless camps. Because the way state laws are written, the police are powerless to clear out these camps. It sounds like WSDOT placed these new signs there to help relieve the situation. But seeing how police are unable to get these camps moved out, I’m not convinced these new signs have any teeth.

  2. What are the penalties for camping longer than 8 hours. Seems like there is no financial repercussions for violators, and they know it. When is this state going to get tough on violating public lands, that us lawful tax payers help provide funds for its up keep!

  3. Ok…so… where should those people living in thier car sleep SAFELY?? A lot of the homeless who live in thier vehicles are NOT drug addicts and NOT low life, they are homeless for reasons beyond thier control… senior citizens with a limited income from SSA, disabled with no resources, etc.
    Judgement of these people is unnecessary…a SOLUTION is what is important! The highway patrol doesn’t want to wipe a simple f- ing police report, but they will tell homeless people to leave once a year… nice… the problem is NOT the people.. it’s a failed system!
    I moved up from Washington for family reasons, I was not given another choice BUT I can’t stay with my family, so I had to resort to living in my car for a few weeks, until I can return to Utah…
    I am permanently, severely disabled and SSA gives me just enough money to pay for gas and maintenance for my car…
    I AM married and my husband job supports us well enough…
    But with the extremely high cost of rent in this state, it’s impossible to stay over with rent AND furnishings AND utilities AND everything else that comes along with being a renter…PLUS we are STILL paying house payments for our home in Utah..I work, in my car on my laptop and my car is outfitted with everything necessary to survive save for a toilet and we go to the gym for showers…
    Been in this horrible disguising state for 31/2 months and from what I’ve seen and everything I’ve read on the topic homelessness is a HUGE problem here, so where are the funds, where are the government. Officials who are SUPPOSED to be taking care of the people?? Also,I read that the fed govt. Have wa. State like 11 Billion to help solve the crisis of homeless in the state. Where TF did all of that money go? Obviously NOT to help the homeless!
    So from one human being to another…STOP JUDGING HOMELESS PEOPLE unless you’ve walked a mile in thier shoes, you will never know the hardship they go through!
    PS is expensive to live in a vehicle!! Gotta run the had to keep warm, no place to cook, drive thrus and fast food all day…gym memberships for showers,wear and tear on the car and…GAS!(prices higher all over the country than they’ve ever been!)
    And I’ve met people who are homeless from evictions etc. And they have children and pets they are responsible for, too… that makes expenses much higher! We are ALL trying to survive out here…
    Also, the health issues that come with living in a car..back problems,incontinence, weight gain…
    Weekdays the hardest part of YOUR day?? Nothing like tiers, I’m sure! STOP JUDGING! WHO THE HE’LL ARE YOU TO THINK YOU ATE ABOVE AND BETTER THAN THE PEOPLE SLEEPING IN THE COLD AND FIGHTING EVERY SINGLE DAY JUST TO SURVIVE.. it could be you one day…STOP JUDHING! Those who judge others based on a hardship are exactly what is wrong with the world today…

  4. i agree!!! Im a medical traveler and I prefer sleeping in my car. Saves money so much bills to pay. Never judge anyone homeless. We dont know what they are going through. Instead have compassion and an understanding supportive heart.

  5. I agree ? my husband and I moved from Michigan to idaho and the house that we were shown beautiful pictures on line and then we show up and literally their was a ton of garbage all over the yard I’m talking like hot tubs whole ones and then just beer cans everywhere it was disgusting, and she expected to live there on the property and only pay 300 and my husband and I to foot the bill for for everything else we were ummm no thanks well now we are here without a house and we are “health care “hero’s” living in our vehicles we’ve only had to do it for a month because we were saving for a down payment and I can almost guarantee that we have more money in our checking accounts in 1month than most have in their accounts for 3-6 months at any given time we have at least 5500 in checking yes we have done hotel stays here and there but we also have 4 dogs so no Karen we don’t do drugs or drink we are simply in this situation because we were lied to and then when they told us what we are expected to just sit back and ignore it no thanks (hubs is an RN and I’m a CNA)


Leave a Comment