You have dozens upon dozens of options for free camping in Texas.
Not only is free camping a great way to save money on your next outdoor adventure, but many of the best free campsites in Texas are quiet, remote, secluded, and supremely beautiful.
These free campsites are located all throughout the region, including the plains of the Texas Panhandle, down near Big Bend National Park, in beautiful Texas Hill Country, and across the rest of this great state. Many are found in national forests, wildlife management areas, and on other public land.
Here’s everything you need to know about free camping in Texas.
Best Free Camping in Texas
Texas is home to a wide variety of free camping opportunities, but the majority are located in a handful of specific places.
Wildlife Management Areas
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better place for free camping in Texas than the state’s many Wildlife Management Areas.
Often shortened to WMAs, these public outdoor areas offer primitive camping in remote natural areas for a very low cost. Although not technically free, a $12 one-time fee gets you a permit that lasts up to 6 months across all Texas WMAs. Not only that, but the best Texas WMAs are usually just minutes from some of the best fishing, OHV riding, hunting, horseback riding, and birding that The Lone Star state has to offer.
Here are a few of the best Wildlife Management Areas in Texas by region:
- Big Bend Country – The Big Bend Country WMA Area has two excellent free camping areas: Black Gap WMA and Elephant Mountain WMA. Both are located near Big Bend National Park and are notable for their great hunting opportunities.
- Gulf Coast – Matagorda Island WMA and Tony Houseman WMA both offer free dispersed camping in the Gulf Coast WMA Area. Thanks to their locations near the gulf, both are known for fishing and paddling.
- Panhandle Plains – The Panhandle Plains WMA Area is home to several expansive WMAs, including two that offer dispersed camping: Gene Howe WMA and Matador WMA.
- Pineywoods – Covering a rich pine-hardwood forest, the Pineywoods region has numerous WMAs that allow free camping. These are Alabama Creek WMA, Alazan Bayou WMA, Angelina-Neches/Dam B WMA, Bannister WMA, Caddo Lake WMA, Moore Plantation WMA, North Toledo Bend WMA, Old Sabine Bottom WMA, and Sam Houston National Forest WMA. Other activities in these areas include hiking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and birdwatching.
- Prairies and Lakes – The Prairies and Lakes region is another expansive area with plenty of free camping opportunities. More specifically at Caddo National Grasslands WMA, Gus Engeling WMA, Pat Mayse WMA, Richland Creek WMA, and Tawakoni WMA.
- South Texas Plains – Last but not least is the South Texas Plains region, home to three WMAs, although only Chaparral WMA allows camping. The beautiful area is also popular for hunting, wildlife viewing, hiking, and bicycling.
Visit Texas Parks and Wildlife for even more information on these and other Wildlife Management Areas.
Although national forests in Texas are few and far between compared to other western states, they are still a decent option for free camping.
Remember that free camping in a national forest almost always necessitates dispersed camping. This means you’ll be camping on public land outside of a developed area. Don’t expect any amenities, although vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables are available at some dispersed campsites in Texas.
A few of the best national forests for free camping in Texas include:
- Angelina National Forest – Bouton Lake in Angelina National Forest is home to free dispersed camping as well as easy access to excellent fishing and hiking.
- Caddo-LBJ National Grasslands – East Lake Crockett in Caddo-LBJ National Grasslands is another free campground built alongside the shores of the titular lake.
- Davy Crockett National Forest – Also a trailhead, Neches Bluff Overlook offers free primitive camping in Davy Crockett National Forest.
- Sabine National Forest – There are three excellent free Texas campgrounds in Sabine National Forest: Haley’s Ferry Boat Ramp, Indian Mounds, and Willow Oak.
- Sam Houston National Forest – Kelly’s Pond Campground is a quiet, secluded campground with eight total campsites for tent camping only.
Visit the Texas forest service for more details on camping in these national forests and grasslands.
City Park Campgrounds
A somewhat unique way to camp for free in Texas is to look for one of dozens of city park campgrounds that welcome overnight guests.
Often located in very small towns in the veritable “middle of nowhere,” these city park and municipal parks are usually quaint, quiet places to sleep for the night. Some restrict camping to RVs and campervans only while others welcome tent camping with open arms.
Expect few amenities, although some Texas city park campgrounds do provide running water, restrooms (sometimes even with flush toilets and hot showers), and trash service. Of course, the park facilities such as basketball courts, playgrounds, and walking trails are also open for campers to enjoy.
- Silverton Municipal Park – This free city park campground is located in a sleepy Texas town. It boasts free water and electric hookups for RVs campers. Best of all, a handful of delicious local restaurants are located just across the street!
- Andrews County Chamber of Commerce – Although not strictly a city park, the chamber of commerce in Andrews County allows free overnight parking in their large paved lot for up to 3 days. Registration is required. Full hookups are available as well as an onsite RV dump station.
- Magnolia Beach City Park – Yet another free waterfront campground, this one is located in Port Lavaca. A beach is close at hand. The campground also has bathrooms with free hot shows.
- Schreiner City Park – Situated in the town of Junction, this small city park campground boasts beautiful views of the South Llano River. It has running water, bathroom facilities, and a swimming pool that costs just $2.00 per day.
- Fort Anahuac Park – One of the best free campgrounds in Texas, Fort Anahuac Park has several exceedingly lovely waterfront campsites. Shade trees, a swimming area, and bathrooms are available. The fishing here is top notch.
- Haskell City Park – The Haskell City Park is free for the first night. After that, the quaint campground costs $16 per night. Full hookups are available.
- Hereford City Park – Part of the Texas Panhandle, Hereford City Park has several campsites, including three RV sites with water, sewer, and electric hookups. This free campground is right next door to the Hereford YMCA and is set on a small fishing pond.
- Huber City Park – Located northeast of Amarillo, this quiet city park campground boasts roughly 10 free campsites. Most have water and electric hookups. An RV dump station and portable toilets are available onsite. There’s a 3-day camping limit.
Understand that many small towns allow free camping at their city parks in an attempt to drum up more business for nearby cafes, bars, restaurants, and stores. Although it’s certainly not required, it’s much appreciated if you stop in for a bite to eat or to buy supplies while you’re in town.
Other Free Campgrounds
Here are a few other places to search for free camping in Texas for your next trip:
- Bolivar Flats Free Beach – As a free beach campground in Texas, Bolivar Flats is very hard to beat. Easily accessible from nearby Galveston, it’s most notable for allowing overnight campers to park right on the sandy beach!
- Fritch Fortress Campground – Towering over Lake Meredith, this free campground provides not only beautiful views, but also a free place to stay overnight. Best of all, the restroom facility has free hot showers in addition to flush toilets!
- North Beach – Part of Padre Island National Seashore, North Beach is a must-visit free camping destination in Texas. You can actually camp right atop the sandy beaches with the beautiful waters just steps away. Free showers are available at the nearby park headquarters.
- Walmart Parking Lots – Many Walmart parking lots in Texas allow free overnight parking, although you must be in a self-contained vehicle. Some Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and casinos also offer free overnight parking in their parking lots.
- Stealth Camping – Need to catch some shut eye but can’t find a good place to pull off overnight? Then try stealth camping. Do know that this style of camping is against the rules in most places. It requires you to arrive late and leave early, respect all nearby businesses and residents, and stay within your vehicle the entirety of the night.
Best Boondocking in Texas
Free camping in Texas is arguably much easier in a tent than an RV.
The reason for this is that many free campsites in Texas are smackdab in the middle of nowhere with minimal maintenance and upkeep. This means that the dirt access roads are often very rough, especially after heavy rains.
That said, many Texas free campsites do accommodate RVs. It’s just important to do a little extra research, keep an eye on the weather, and scout ahead on foot if necessary.
Also important is to understand you’re likely in for boondocking. Also known as dry camping, boondocking is the most primitive form of RV camping. Simply put, don’t expect any water, electric, or sewer hookups. In fact, amenities are at a minimum all around. You likely won’t even have access to potable water or a flush toilet.
What we’re trying to say is that self sufficieny is a must for free boondocking in Texas. Know going into it that you’ll need to rely on your own stores of water and energy. Many serious boondockers invest in a portable power device, such as a generator, or even a full-fledged RV solar system, especially for long-term stays.
How to Find Free Campsites in Texas
Start your search for the best free campsites in Texas by looking for wildlife management areas, national forests, national grasslands, and city park campgrounds.
Almost every region of Texas has its fair share of these. The catch is that The Lone Star is vast and has many empty stretches. If you are visiting one of these sparsely populated regions, such as West Texas, advance planning is a must as free campsites are often few and far between.
Freecampsites.net is an invaluable tool for locating free and cheap camping in Texas. The handy online tool combines an interactive map with user reviews (often with pictures) of free and cheap campsites throughout the state. Campendium is another online tool to locate such camping areas.
Finally, keep your ear to the ground during your travels. I’ve consistently found that the best way to find free camping in Texas is by asking around. Chances are that other people camped at the same dispersed and remote campsites you’re at know of other such campsites in the area.
Gear You Need for Free Camping in Texas
Start with your normal family camping checklist before adding other important gear into the mix.
In addition to camping standbys like a sleeping bag, camping tent, and a stove, those planning to go free camping often require a portable power source, like portable solar panels, as well as a portable shower.
This is because of the often remote and dispersed nature of free camping with few to any amenities close at hand. You should also understand how to go to the bathroom in the woods without using a facility.
Of course, it’s always important to follow the leave no trace principles to a T when camping, but it’s even more important when dispersed camping. Remember to always pack out all trash, including human waste (when required).
Now that you know how and where to find the best free campsites in Texas, we want to hear from you.
What is your favorite place for free camping in Texas? Do you go free camping in a tent, RV, or camper van? Do you prefer camping in wildlife management areas, city park campgrounds, or another type of campground?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!