Boondocking Basics

Learn the core concepts of off-grid camping, boondocking, and overnight parking

Where Can I Park Overnight?

Where Can I Park Overnight?


You can park overnight at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Home Depot, Camping World, and a few other big box stores. You can also park along most city streets as long as you don’t see any “No Parking” signs. Rest areas are a good choice too. Most stores don’t mind overnight parking in their lots. Usually, it is the city that has enacted laws against overnight parking, or “camping”. Sometimes, the owner of the property will enforce overnight bans.

overnight parking
Parking overnight at a Walmart in Marana, AZ

Where You Can Park Overnight

Walmart & Sam’s Club

Most Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs allow overnight parking, however the cities they are located in may not. The larger cities typically have laws against sleeping in your car, or camping. If you happen to be in an RV, they consider that “camping”. Meanwhile, Walmarts located in smaller towns, or rural areas, are generally safe for overnight parking. Calling a Walmart to inquire about their overnight parking policies is a good idea, however we’ve found that you often get different answers depending on whom you talk to, the store manager or assistant manager. 24-hour Walmarts are better because it’s harder for security or law enforcement to determine if you’re sleeping overnight or parked to go shopping. Read more about Walmart at, “Can You Sleep in Your Car at Walmart?

Home Improvement Stores

Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, and other home improvement chains are often popular choices for overnight parking. Like with Walmart, the stores themselves generally don’t mind. However, the cities may have laws against sleeping in your car, or camping. The reason why home improvement stores are popular choices is because they open very early, hence security or law enforcement may think you’re just getting there early when the store opens. Most Home Depots open at 5:00am. Lowes, Menards, and others usually open at 6:00am. Read more, “Can You Park an RV Overnight at Home Depot“.

Costco and Other Big Bulk Retailers

Costcos are another popular choice for overnight parking. The large parking lots make it easier to maneuver longer RVs. The larger cities will usually have laws against sleeping your vehicle overnight, or camping. Smaller cities and rural areas are generally safe for parking overnight. You don’t need a membership to park overnight in their lot. Read more, “Can You Park at Costco Overnight?

Camping World

There are still several Camping Worlds that allow overnight parking in their lots, but many are starting to prohibit it. In the past, some Camping Worlds offered electrical and water hookups too, for free. If a Camping World doesn’t permit overnight parking on their lot, you can usually park along the street (city property), as long as there are no “No Parking ” signs. Usually, the staff at Camping World will think you are arriving early for service work, and won’t question it. Read more, “Can You Sleep Overnight at Camping World?

Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops

Both of these mega-sporting good chains are today owned by Bass Pro Shops. Both Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops allow overnight parking. Generally, the locations that own their own land have no problems. However, the locations that lease land from a property management company tend to have issues with police and security. Read more at, “Which Cabela’s Allow Overnight Parking?

Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel restaurants have emerged as a popular overnight parking choice. Most locations don’t mind you parking your RV overnight. However, most Cracker Barrel locations have small parking lots. Note that Cracker Barrels do most of their business for breakfast, which means you may find your rig blocked in by other customers. Cracker Barrel typically opens at 8:00am, so if you can leave by then, you’ll be fine.

24 Hour Fitness Centers

Many fitness centers are open 24 hours a day. 24 Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness, and Planet Fitness are popular choices for overnight parking. These places have smaller parking lots, so larger RVs may not be a wise choice to park here. Because these gyms are open 24 hours a day, security and parking enforcement won’t know if you’re sleeping in your vehicle, or working out.

Truck Stops

Some truck stops have set aside longer parking lanes specifically for RVs. These are usually located away from the truck parking area, and are generally free to park overnight. If you have a small RV or van, you can often get away with parking overnight in a smaller lane. Some truck stops will allow you to park your RV in the truck lanes. Many of them charge a fee. However, some truck stops simply have a large dirt lot where trucks can park for free. RVs are usually allowed to park there too.


Hospitals in rural and suburban areas typically have no gates blocking entrance to their parking lots. And because it’s common to see traveling nurses at rural hospitals sleeping in vans and RVs, you can usually get away with parking overnight at a hospital. We can’t say the same for hospitals in urban areas. Read, “Can You Park Overnight at a Hospital?


Most casinos have large parking lots, and many have set aside spaces for RVs and trucks. The majority of them don’t mind you parking overnight. Many even allow you to remain for up to three nights. Some have their own dedicated RV parks, that cost money to stay. But even then, these casinos will often let you park overnight in their general parking, if it’s just for one night.

Note: Be aware of parking lot shuttle drivers. These drivers act as the eyes and ears of a casino’s parking lot. Casino Security often rely on them to know which RVs have stayed too long, and which are not using the casino. If you want to stay for several nights, make sure to take a parking lot shuttle into the casino. Ask the driver about staying for several nights and what problems you may have with security. Be sure to tip the driver, they’ll likely put in a good word for you.

Rest Areas and Travel Centers

All states allow you to sleep in your car or RV at a rest area. However, many states have time limits on how long you can stay. Some have limits as low as two hours, while others go up to a full 24 hours. Many other states have no limits at all. For a state-by-state breakdown on time limits, read, “How Long Can You Stay at a Rest Area?

Most states do not address the issue of overnight parking at rest areas, preferring instead to enforce the matter through time limits. However, because all rest areas are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they will still allow you to arrive at a rest area at night, and stay up to the time limit, which may effectively be overnight. Camping and overnight parking are generally seen as two different things, with camping being recreational, and overnight parking being a matter of highway safety. Read more about overnighting at rest areas, “Can You Sleep in Your Car at a Rest Area?

Boondocker’s Welcome & Harvest Hosts

Both Boondocker’s Welcome and & Harvest Hosts are what’s known as, “moochdocking” because you’re effectively mooching off someone else’s private property for an overnight stay. Boondocker’s Welcome is owned by Harvest Hosts.

  • Boondockers Welcome charges you a membership fee to use its services. Once you’ve paid for a membership, you get to look up other people who have offered to let RVers park on their property overnight. For the most part, it’s legit. However, there are many cities that have made it illegal to sleep in a vehicle overnight, even if it’s private property. Many cities have also made it illegal to camp within their boundaries with exception of RV parks and campgrounds. The property owner is supposed to self-guarantee that it’s 100% legal to park overnight there. However, you should also do your own due-diligence. Read, “Is Boondockers Welcome Illegal?
  • Harvest Hosts also charges a membership fee to use its services. However, it’s different in that you’re mooching on commercial property, usually a restaurant, museum, winery, or brewery. Even though the same risks for Boondockers Welcome also apply to Harvest Hosts, commercial property tends to be less of an issue for local code enforcement simply because business owners generate more revenue for their cities, and therefore get a pass from city officials. Read, “Is Harvest Hosts Legitimate?

Street Parking

If a stretch of curb does not have a “No Parking” sign, and the curb is not painted red, yellow, or any other color, then you can legally park your car or RV there overnight. However, this does not mean you are allowed to sleep in that car or RV.

Sleeping in a vehicle overnight is generally illegal is most medium to larger sized cities. However, some cities have created zones where they allow sleeping overnight, and these are usually in blighted areas of town.

But, if you can make it look as if no one is inside the vehicle, law enforcement will leave you alone. To do this, make sure no light escapes from your window at night. Block it off with Reflectix. Keep your doors and windows closed. Do not run the generator. Do not play loud music or television.

Areas of a city that are zoned as “industrial” are ideal for parking. This is because industrial parks rely on a steady stream of trucks to deliver materials and carry out finished products. It’s common to find trucks parked overnight along these streets, and parking enforcement typically don’t patrol these areas. Cul de sacs in industrial parks are best because there is less traffic.

Note also that parking enforcement officers typically stop working after 6:00pm, but they resume working at 6:00am. So if you can arrive after 6:00pm, and leave by 6:00am, you can often get away with parking in a “no parking zone”.

Read more, “Can I Park on the Street Overnight?

Train Stations

If you are in a small RV or van, you can often get away with sleeping overnight at a train station. Most passenger trains run 24 hours a day. Hence, parking lots at train stations are usually open 24 hours a day. Moreover, it’s common for commuters who work graveyard shifts to park their vehicles at a train station, then come back the next morning. Note that some train stations charge for parking, but most still do not.

Empty Dirt Lots

You can often scan Google Map’s “satellite view” to find empty dirt lots. Many of these exist without fencing, allowing trucks to park overnight. Often times you find these on the outskirts of town. Even though these lots are owned by a private owner, they are rarely enforced. These lots exist because they are planned for future development, but the owner is waiting for the local economy to improve before moving forward.

National Forests

All national forests are open to overnight parking. The U.S. Forest Service sees this the same as camping. However, there are certain places you are not allowed to park your vehicle. These places are mostly day-use areas like visitor centers, viewing areas, picnic areas, boat launches, and trail heads. For more about this read, “Is Overnight Parking Allowed in National Forests?

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2 thoughts on “Where Can I Park Overnight?”

  1. Please do not use the touch spaces. Trucker driver’s have extremely limited places to park, are usually very short on time and they can be fined hundreds to thousands of dollars if their “drive time” expires. Were as an RVer can move on without getting fined .

  2. I am attending a wedding in Jasper, Alberta and all of the hotels and campsites are booked. Do you have suggestions on where is park overnight.


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