Best Free Camping in North Dakota

Free Camping in North Dakota

By Nathan Swartz

A vast prairie dotted with small, rugged oases, the Roughrider State can be as brutal as it is beautiful. High winds and higher temperatures send campers seeking the rare few forested free camping areas throughout the summer. With the shoulder seasons comes more bearable weather and an abundance of solitude.

Teddy Roosevelt, the president who essentially created the US National Parks, came here to experience the rough and tumble Wild West, and millions of travelers continue that tradition even today.

Free Camping Near Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Bison and feral horses are the main attraction at this park, named for our nation's 26th president. Entire towns of prairie dogs serve as roadside attractions, and the sweeping change in scenery from all of the Great Plains surrounding it, not to mention the quaint little tourist town of Medora, make this the most popular destination in the state.

Visitors can find free, dispersed camping within fifteen minutes of town at Scoria Pit, where RVing and tent camping alike is so popular that at times all of the many available spots are taken. This is wide open camping on rolling hills, with very little shade but ample cell service.

Should that area be full, half an hour west of Medora is the Camel Hump Lake Wildlife Management Area, which offers free camping as well–though not on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

If neither of those suit you, it's possible to pull an overnighter at Painted Canyon Visitor Center, about ten minutes east of Medora and the main entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park's South Unit.

Free Camping Opportunities on North Dakota Public Lands

While free camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and national forest lands is surprisingly scarce, there are plenty of places to find a free campsite on public land scattered across the state.

Several county and city parks permit overnight RV camping at no cost. For example, in the southwestern corner of North Dakota, primitive lakeside camping can be found at Gascoyne Lake Campground, a city park in the town of the same name. North Dakota Parks and Recreation also allow dry camping in the rest area parking lot of its Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, near Washburn, ND in the center of the state.

If you drive far enough to the north and east, you'll eventually end up in Michigan–without crossing a single state line! Michigan City Park–in Michigan, North Dakota that is–provides grassy campsites complete with picnic tables. Campers here are even treated to free 30amp electric hookups.

Even North Dakota's state parks and recreation areas get in on the free camping action, with Sheep Creek Dam offering up to 5 consecutive nights of free camping in a row. Some of these sites have electric hookups, and there is access to potable water at the campground.

Free Camping via North Dakota Game and Fish Department

One organization in the state offers more free RV camping than any other, and that's the Game and Fish Department. Some locations have electrical hookups, picnic tables, and fire pits–like the sites at Raleigh Reservoir Campground–while others are just open camping sites with no amenities, such as McKenzie Slough State Game Area.

With a clear emphasis on hunting and fishing the state's lakes, these locations are perfect for RVers, car camping, and tent sites alike. Other activities include kayaking or swimming, as campsites are often near a lake or dam. They're typically tucked well off the main road, providing quiet, star-filled nights. Many have amenities ranging from basic pit toilets to picnic shelters where you can score some shade.

Though you won't necessarily find things like a shower house, swimming pool, or even a fire ring, this is free camping in a gorgeous, natural setting.

All of this contributes to why North Dakota's Game and Fish Department campgrounds are some of the best free camping in the state!

Free Camping Near Fargo, North Dakota

If the big city is your destination while in North Dakota, that means Fargo. Luckily, an overnight trip to town doesn't have to come with a hefty fee when it comes to where you'll park your rig for the night.

The Walmart south of Fargo permits free camping. As with any business' parking lots, please remember to be discreet, respectful and it never hurts to get your shopping done as a way to say thanks for the space. Or for something totally different, stop in at the Bowler, knock down a few pins and ask staff if it's okay to park in their lot. With three bars, a restaurant, and a free place to call home for the night, you'll be feeling like a Kingpin in no time.

Dozens more free campsites are scattered across the state in various city and county parks, all of which can be found right here on Campendium.

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Recent North Dakota Free Campsite Reviews

Michigan, ND

Michigan City Park

Sep 29, 2022

"Great Little Town And Campground"

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Read the previous reviews but add this to your expectations. There is a short siren that goes at 6pm. ( Kids go home to eat supper ) and again around 10pm. ( Time to go to sleep ). Funniest thing ever!!!

Smith Travelers
6 reviews
Sep 19, 2022

"Too many people on a weekend"

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Road good we camped in the first turn off, a circle with two other class A’s. Many sites we could have gotten into. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and after that things got busy. People parked where they weren’t supposed to and You need to have a back up plan not trash the area. Then they get closed down. Some kind of week got in our...
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Outdoor Girl
116 reviews
Valley City, ND

Moon Lake

Sep 07, 2022

"Clean, Quiet Area, Great Views"

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Stayed here and there was one rig, a few vans, and a couple SUVs. Really nice spot area next to the lake, tucked in the middle of fields of farm land. Sunset and sunrise were beautiful. One bathroom, a few fire rings and some picnic tables.

1 review
Aug 28, 2022

"What A Find"

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Pulled In after closing around 6:00. Took the last of 3 spots, but probably could have parked anywhere in the free area near the cemetery if all 3 spots With fire pits and picnic tables were taken. It was quiet and pretty and the perfect place to stay before heading to TRNP.

1 review
Aug 27, 2022

"Beautiful, Great Location "

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Exit 23 - take a right onto dirt road at bottom of exit ramp, then your first right onto a narrow dirt road maybe a mile or two down. First site on the left is the biggest - it’s a circle with room for 3, maybe 4 rigs. Everything else is little sites off to the sides of the road. Well spaced, great views. We got in late the first night and it...
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3 reviews