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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Recent Missouri Free Campsite Reviews

Feb 07, 2024

"Convenient To I-44 and Old Route 66. "

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Five gravel sites, none level, next to a minor highway that stays busy until dark, then very quiet. Out in the countryside on the edge of a 4300 acre wildlife area. Probably used by hunters in deer and dove seasons. Completely shaded. Fire ring at each site. Four sites very close together and one by itself. Only vans or tents will fit. A farm...
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19 reviews
Blackwater, MO

Roberts Bluff Access

Jan 02, 2024

"Nice Quiet Spot"

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Pulled in late on January 1, three other vehicles, all quiet. Very peaceful. Not horribly scenic, but it is central Missouri.

3 reviews
Boonville, MO

Isle of Capri Casino

Dec 26, 2023

"Overnight camping in corner of parking lot"

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Stayed here one night in July 2023 traveling from Wheatland, MO on the way to Indianapolis. Parking lot is next to Katy Trail where you can hike or bike.

1 review
Columbia, MO

Cracker Barrel

Dec 23, 2023

"Bad Area"

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This is not a safe place to overnight. Surrounded on 3 sides (within short walking distance) by known high crime neighborhoods.

1 review
Dec 05, 2023

"Clean and beautiful campgrounds"

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Newly paved campgrounds with level sites right on the Mississippi. Spotted bald eagles and enjoyed watching the barges and boats go by. Right by the train tracks but only a couple trains went by. Beautiful sunsets and night skies. Was our maiden trip close by— would definitely come back and recommend especially if you have a boat. Only one other...
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1 review