Massachusetts is a stunning haven of diverse beauty–there’s no denying that. There’s a slice of this state that’s perfect for everyone. This stretches from bustling urban hubs to striking forest habitats and from the peaks of soaring mountains down to the swaths of white, sandy beaches,
Within those slices of various landscapes, you will also find many opportunities to camp affordably and soak up all the beauty this state has to offer. Check out our roundup of the top spots to enjoy some low-cost or even free camping in Massachusetts, so you can start planning a budget-friendly camping trip today!
Free Camping Spots in Massachusetts
1. All Along the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail winds and wends not just through Massachusetts but through many other states up and down the eastern seaboard. If you are planning to hike the Appalachian Trail for a bit and are wondering if there are spots along it for free camping in Massachusetts in particular–the answer is yes!
There are several designated areas along the trail that are great for free camping, and we will mention a few of them below! But as you hike through the Massachusetts corridor of the Appalachian Trail, especially up in the Berkshires, you will find many locations to partake in some wilderness camping.
Independent of larger reserves and state parks that lie adjacent to the Appalachian Trail, there are also shared campsites that dot the trail as well. Many of these are free or low cost. As you enjoy these options for free camping in Massachusetts, be sure you follow the leave no trace policy by taking care not to leave anything behind, and always build your fires in the designated fire pits.
2. Cape Cod National Seashore
The Cape Cod National Seashore is well known for its stunning ocean views and has gained well-deserved renown as a great spot for some incredible Massachusetts beach camping. What it may be lesser known for, but also offers in spades, is a fantastic opportunity for free camping in Massachusetts.
Free camping at the Cape Cod National Seashore can be enjoyed on the seashore’s off-road vehicle corridor, right on the beach itself. You can stay up to 21 days consecutively, enjoying the surf, sand, and sunshine along this gorgeous slice of Massachusetts coast.
To enjoy free camping at Cape Cod National Seashore, you will need to acquire a free permit before you arrive or by 8 a.m. the morning after arriving if you happen to reach the National Seashore overnight.
3. Mount Everett State Reservation
As mentioned above, many of the most fantastic opportunities for free camping in Massachusetts are particularly accessible to those who are hiking down or otherwise enjoying the Appalachian Trail. A great spot to camp for free out here is at Mount Everett State Reservation, located near Mount Washington.
This beautiful forest location is fantastic for backpacking hikers, driving campers, and even boaters to enjoy. There are beautiful water bodies at Mount Everett State Reservation that make for a fantastic spot for driving your boat in or launching a canoe, kayak, or other watercraft.
If you are hiking the Appalachian Trail, make sure this free camping spot is on your list! You can also enjoy dry camping (which is camping in a vehicle without amenities such as RV hookups, water, sewage, or electricity) at the Mount Everett State Reservation parking lot.
4. Mount Washington State Forest
A close adjacent to the Mount Everett State Reservation is the Mount Washington State Forest. Cast in the shadow of the same gorgeous Massachusetts mountain, this state forest offers a fantastic opportunity to enjoy some free camping in Massachusetts.
One of the most popular locations for boondocking in Massachusetts, Mount Washington State Forest boasts several free camping sites for tents. These sites are primitive, so be sure you come prepared for the elements!
RV campers can also use the parking lot near the state forest’s park office for some free dry camping.
5. Cabela’s in Hudson
Want to do some boondocking in a parking lot near one of the best places to shop for the great outdoors? Then you will no doubt enjoy some dry camping in the parking lot of Cabela’s in Hudson!
It likely comes as little surprise that a behemoth of outdoor sports like Cabela’s would be a great place for some free camping in Massachusetts. This retailer giant welcomes RV campers to enjoy some free camping in any one of the eight designated RV spaces marked out in their paved parking lot.
Also, for a small additional fee, you can use the RV dump station on site–provided you also show a recent Cabela’s receipt. You must also clean up after yourself and be respectful of the store’s parking lot space.
All of this is a small price to pay for some safe and fun free camping in Massachusetts. As an added bonus with this urban location, you will easily have the opportunity to explore Cabela’s itself and other nearby shops during standard business hours.
6. Crystal Mountain
If you are interested in a classic outdoorsy, primitive camping experience, then you will love the free camping opportunities that await at Crystal Mountain! You will find this area situated roughly halfway between the landmark cities of Cheshire and Dalton, not far from the Greylock Traverse and the Appalachian Trail.
Crystal Mountain is available for both backpack tent camping and RV camping. However, the road to reach it is unpaved, and the entrance to the free camping options is quite rocky and rugged. So you will need to be sure your RV can handle the entrance.
Here at Crystal Mountain, there are two free camping spots that share a rustic privy between them. There is also a picnic table where you can enjoy your meals and a sturdy bear-repellant box to protect your food and other scented camping items from bears and similarly curious wildlife foragers.
Uniquely beautiful in its natural charm, Crystal Mountain is a particularly great spot to enjoy some free camping in Massachusetts during the spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom, and in the fall, when the trees erupt in a riot of wildfire colors.
7. Upper Goose Pond
Another great option for folks hiking along or simply enjoying a section of the Appalachian Trail is the free camping area at Upper Goose Pond, located near Lee. True to its namesake, this area is especially popular with bird watchers who are looking for a place for free camping in Massachusetts.
This rustic, primitive campground is open from May to October, provided there is a caretaker on duty to oversee it during those times. Campers here can stop over on their way along the Appalachian Trail, or you can take advantage of the free camping as an opportunity to explore the various hiking trails near Upper Goose Pond itself.
8. Mount Greylock State Reservation
Perhaps one of the most popular options for free camping in Massachusetts is at Mount Greylock State Reservation. This one is especially well-known and well-liked among backpackers looking for places to stay.
The various lean-to shelters at the Mount Greylock State Reservation can be found in Bellows Pipe, Peck’s Brook, Deer Hill, Wilbur’s Clearing, and Mark Noepel. Each of these lean-to shelters is first come, first served and free of charge, and each one can house a dozen campers at a time–so be mindful you may be sharing your space with strangers.
Do you have in mind a slightly less rustic, more traditional camping experience when looking for some free camping in Massachusetts? Mount Greylock State Reservation can meet that need just as well!
Here at the reservation, you can stay at campgrounds like Sperry Road Campground, located near Adams. These campgrounds are typically available from around Columbus Day through the end of March. They provide such commodities as picnic tables and fire rings, as well as bear-proof lock boxes for your scented items.
Located at the highest elevation in the state of Massachusetts, Mount Greylock State Reservation is a cut above the rest in every regard. This makes it arguably the best place to enjoy some free camping in Massachusetts!
Low Camping Spots in Massachusetts
9. Boston Harbor Island National and State Park
Are you looking to enjoy some camping that’s not too far from the hub of urban life in Massachusetts? Are you willing to pay a nominal fee to enjoy it? Then Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park is calling your name!
Local residents pay just $8 for a stay at this gorgeous island location, and out-of-state visitors pay $20. For that price, you can enjoy the various islands in this location which include Bumpkin Island, Peddocks Island, Lovells Island, and Grape Island. Here you can camp near the beach, and get the most out of the nearby ocean.
Fun recreations in and around this national and state park include ferry rides, hiking, beach combing, birdwatching, visiting the heart of nearby Boston–and so much more.
10. Federated Women’s Club State Forest
If you have your heart set on some low-cost or even occasionally some free camping in Massachusetts–particularly near the Petersham or New Salem area at the heart of the state–then you will want to check out the Federated Women’s Club State Forest!
For most camping at this state forest, you will pay a small fee of $8 for an in-state resident or $20 for out-of-state visitor camping. Here you will find a ton of primitive camping options scattered throughout the one thousand acres of forest, with lots of opportunities to enjoy fishing, hiking, and even cross-country skiing in the right conditions.
11. Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Reserve
If you have your own boat and want to truly get away for some low-cost camping in Massachusetts, then you will find nowhere better than Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Reserve. With an $8 residential camping fee and a $20 charge for visitors from out of state, this location is highly affordable for all the beauty it has to offer.
Take your boat from the launch at the Town of Falmouth White’s Landing and travel around Seapit Point up the river to Waquoit Bay, all the way to Washburn Island. Once there, you will find the campsites halfway down the island’s eastern coast, overlooking the bay.
Here at Washburn Island, you can pitch camp at one of the ten campsites, nine of which are for families and one that’s intended for groups of up to 25 people. Then, enjoy hiking the trails that crisscross the island, exploring nature and enjoying the beautiful, sandy shores.
This is a true reprieve for low-cost camping in Massachusetts, and you will find the nominal fees to be well worth the unforgettable experience of island camping here at the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Reserve.
Wrapping Up Free Camping in Massachusetts
Excited by the numerous and diverse options for low-cost and free camping in Massachusetts? That’s not the only kind of fun you can enjoy in this beautiful state! Check out our roundup of the best hiking in Massachusetts for some great ideas of places to hike and explore this stunning slice of the United States.
- About the Author
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Renee Dugan is a lifelong writer, professional editor, and lover of the great outdoors.
A Midwest girl born and raised, Renee has always enjoyed the deep, life-giving inspiration that connection with nature brings.
In addition to channeling the awe of outdoor life into her prolific novel-writing career, she currently enjoys sharing it with her son and spreading knowledge of safe, fun outdoor life with Beyond the Tent readers and anyone she can help face-to-face.
Renee can be reached at email@example.com