Best Free Camping in Missouri

Free Camping in Missouri

By Nathan Swartz

Small city parks offering free electric hookups, national forests named for America's greatest writer, roadside rest stops that welcome overnighters, and plenty of business parking lots provide a healthy network of places to find camping for free in the Show-Me State.

See a map of all free camping in Missouri.

Boondocking in Mark Twain National Forest

Nestled in the Ozarks, and with a handful of camping sites placing RVers near attractions like the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and access to the Ozark Trail, Mark Twain National Forest holds some of the best recreation areas and dispersed camping in the state. Despite being free, many spots--like Paddy Creek Recreation Area and Pinewoods Lake Campground--provide a modicum of amenities, such as picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets.

In addition to these designated camping areas, the forest also has free, dispersed camping such as that you'll find at Sulphur Springs near Greenville, Missouri. Mark Twain is likely your best opportunity to find a wide array of wild camping opportunities, positioned firmly in the Midwest's most famous mountain range.

Free Camping via Missouri's Department of Fish & Wildlife

The bulk of free campsites in Missouri are found on lands managed by the Department of Fish & Wildlife. From campgrounds with designated spots, including fire rings, to wide open grassy fields down long dirt roads, over a dozen of these camping areas can be found throughout the state. As the governing agency's name implies, fishing and hunting are popular activities; however, many of them also offer access to hiking, mountain biking, and waterborne sports.

Missouri is home to nearly 40 state parks that offer camping; however, none of them provide it free of charge. Therefore, between the Department of Fish & Wildlife and a few other similar state agencies, one can find plenty of land protected by the state that doesn't require camping fees. Free camping exists within Missouri's protected areas like Robert E. Talbot Conservation Area and Whetstone Camping Area, both of which include managing game via hunting as part of their conservation efforts.

Much of the state's rivers are also protected by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, such as found at Rochester Falls or Elam Bend Conservation Area, both found on the western side of the state.

Free Camping Near Gateway Arch National Park

Despite being located in the center of a city with a population of 300,000 people, you can still find a no-cost camping area only 20 minutes outside of one of the United States' newest national parks. Don't expect rustic forest living or even something officially run by the National Park Service, though. Camping near Gateway Arch National Park comes in the form of a parking lot at the River City Casino & Hotel. It may be best to call ahead first, as the exact details for who can or cannot stay overnight in the parking lot seem to change with short notice. Other parking lot camping options in St Louis include a Cracker Barrel about half an hour west of the Gateway Arch and a Walmart 45 minutes south.

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mobile device showing map of camping locations

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Recent Missouri Free Campsite Reviews

Rich Hill, MO

Old Town Access Area

Sep 23, 2021

"Wide spot on a gravel road."

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Ok place to spend a night. It has a nice fire ring and shade. View of a nearby pond with hiking trails. Expect 3 miles of slow speed gravel road to get the the camp area.

Leo VanDelft
1 review
Williamsburg, MO

Whetstone Camping Area

Sep 21, 2021

"Quiet"

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Just north of I70 at Williamsburg. From Williamsburg you have about 3 miles of dusty gravel. We drove right to the pin above. The pit toilet is there. That is mainly a tent area. The RV area is down the road to the right of the toilet. We had a 35 travel trailer that we were able to maneuver into a spot to one side. We were alone until the last...
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Jay Hanson
12 reviews
New Bloomfield, MO

Pine Ridge Recreation Area

Sep 19, 2021

"Closed for the season"

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Campsites closed since August 2021, will reopen April 2022. Parking lot, trail and picnic benches accessible.

Gail Raymon
1 review
Saint Charles, MO

Cracker Barrel

Sep 17, 2021

"Convenient and safe! Great breakfast"

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This was a perfect one night stop. Parking lot had trash cans for cleaning out the truck and camper, large pull through RV spaces, hot breakfast in the morning, right off 70. We slept with a noise machine so the traffic sounds didn’t bother us. Slept with windows open. Area felt safe and there were 3 other campers there. We will stop again!

Casey
3 reviews
Independence, MO

Bass Pro Shop

Sep 04, 2021

"Nice parking lot"

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Employees coming to work in the AM super rude parked next to us blew the horn, radio blasting. If you park here go way out to end of parking lot but only thing about that is next to interstate.