Best Free Camping in South Carolina

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Free Camping in South Carolina

By Nathan Swartz

Camping in the Palmetto State is largely a paid affair, and the handful of free camping areas in the state are largely located near the coast. Fortunately, this is also the most desirable location to go camping in South Carolina, so it's a win-win for most campers traveling through the state.

See a map of all free camping in South Carolina.

Free Camping on South Carolina's Coast

We should clarify that much of this is camping near the coast instead of directly on the beach. It is rare to find parking permitted directly on the sand anywhere in the Southeast United States, and South Carolina is no exception.

What you will find, however, are free places to camp that put you within miles of the Atlantic. Basecamp experiences, if you will.

Several of these sites can be found in the Francis Marion National Forest and adjacent, state-run Santee Coastal Reserve Wildlife Management Area, located about 60 miles south of Myrtle Beach. The wildlife management area offers a handful of campsites situated in a live oak grove. Meanwhile, the national forest's offerings include largely dispersed camping in the form of hunting camps like Elmwood Recreation Area. Nearby Halfway Creek Trail Campground, a more formal but still free campground includes actual sites that include picnic tables and fire rings.

Boondocking in Sumter National Forest

While this national forest specifically prohibits car and RV camping as part of its dispersed camping accommodations (tent camping where you hike or canoe in are allowed), primitive camping opportunities are available at the Grapevine Campground, a more official set of numbered campsites.

The quieter of South Carolina's national forests, Sumter has plenty of recreation opportunities. Nestled along the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the area offers everything from primitive tent sites to easy access to state parks. Stunning hiking trails abound, like the Yellow Branch Falls Trail in the Andrew Pickens Ranger District. Fishing and travel by nearly every type of human-powered watercraft make for good times on the Chattooga River. Looking to take the motorboat out? Lake Jocassee and Devils Fork State Park live north of the forest, and all of these amenities are only some of what the forest service provides.

Easy Access Camping Along South Carolina's Highways

Not all camping requires actual campsites or campgrounds, and finding a free place to park your RV for the night doesn't always mean following a dirt road and a map into the mountains. All along South Carolina's state highways, you'll find businesses happy to let you stay the night for free, from Cracker Barrels and Walmarts to gas stations like the Flying J.

Even more opportunities can be found at boat launches and a county park here and there, perfect for those quick overnighters on your way to other camping destinations.

Always be sure to check with management before settling in for the night.

Recent South Carolina Free Campsite Reviews

Rock Hill, SC

Cracker Barrel

Jul 07, 2024

"Plenty Of Space "

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Plenty of space in the back of the store. Quiet and peaceful. We arrived late, only a couple campers here. Got up and enjoyed a great breakfast. Next time we need to get here before they close, they don’t serve dumplings for breakfast. Thanks CB for letting us stay.

2 reviews
Fort Mill, SC


Apr 08, 2024

"Overnight Parking Allowed On The Back Row"

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I asked the cashier if overnight parking was allowed she said yes if you park on the back row, it’s very clean quiet very friendly

1 review
McClellanville, SC

Elmwood Recreation Area

Feb 19, 2024

"14 days limit, free, 2 toilets, plenty of room."

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I arrived feb 18, there was already a few others. Very quiet, plenty of room, limit 14 days. Very nice place

2 reviews
Dec 07, 2023


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A beautiful campsite, tucked under live oaks. Very, very spacious. Would stay here again in a heartbeat.

3 reviews
Walterboro, SC

Cracker Barrel

Nov 25, 2023

"Convenient Access"

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We arrived after dark as store was closing. We watched the manager walk out a waitress, which we thought was awesome. And then he waved to us and wished us good rest. We didn’t think the noise was bad at all - we’ve stayed at much louder locations. We have a dually towing a 36-foot fifth wheel. Wouldn’t try for any longer as we were sticking out...
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12 reviews