Maryland is known for its beaches, and there’s no better way to enjoy them than with your family on a free Maryland boondocking excursion. Free Maryland camping spots, especially in the summer, like the Chesapeake Bay, has a lot to offer.
Want more ideas to round-out your trip to the New England States?
► Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Vermont ◄
- 6 Free Connecticut Boondocking – RV Parking & Camping Spots
- 4 Free Delaware Boondocking – Camping Spots & RV Parking
- 20 Free Maine Boondocking – RV Parking & Camping Spots
- 23 Free Vermont Boondocking – Free RV Parking & Camping Spots
Free Maryland Boondocking and Dispersed Camping
Camping in and around the Chesapeake Bay delivers on Maryland’s promises of sun-drenched shoreline, fishing, and boating. Maryland, on the other hand, offers a diverse range of additional adventure opportunities, including harsh mountains in the north and west, as well as the pastoral hills of Central Maryland. In addition, ancient villages and the great cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are all within easy reach of the thrills and leisure offered by free Maryland boondocking.
The beaches of Maryland have long been a favorite family holiday spot. On Assateague Island, a 37-mile length of beach and marsh where wild horses graze, campers can find quiet fishing and swimming, as well as breathtaking coastal sunrises, not far from the bustling Ocean City. There are dozens of other free Maryland boondocking spots and waterfront camping opportunities in Maryland on the Eastern Shore and in the Chesapeake Bay’s tributaries. Watermen have fished for blue crabs, oysters, clams, and rockfish for generations, and the towns have retained their red-brick charm.
Biking or walking parts of the old towpath for the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal is another popular way to visit free Maryland camping spots. To connect Washington, D.C. and Cumberland, Maryland, the 184.5-mile easy, shaded trail follows the Potomac River, passing through hundreds of ancient lockhouses, the spectacular Great Falls, and historic communities like Harper’s Ferry. Every few kilometers, campers can find a free Maryland RV boondocking spot.
Mountaineers will find free Maryland dispersed camping along the remnants of the broader Appalachian range in Maryland. These locations provide easy access to vistas and waterfalls, including the state’s tallest, Cunningham Falls, at 78 feet. Sugarloaf Mountain is a small peak south of Frederick, Maryland, with a Civil War history that now provides hikers, rock climbers, and campers far-reaching vistas of the surrounding vineyards and woodlands.
7 Free Maryland Boondocking
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1. Sideline Rest Area Eastbound
GPS: 39.715861, -78.280882
Management: Public – Rest Area (Unofficial)
The road in is Paved. Sideline rest area eastbound is open year round for Free Maryland boondocking spots. You may stay overnight at Sideline rest area eastbound. Quite moderately lit. I slept next to bike for 8hrs. Attendant checked on me multiple times and stated I could have pitched a small tent and nothing would be said.2.
2. Adirondack Shelters Camping Area
GPS: 39.67717, -77.48394
Management: (Official)The Free Maryland campong spots have two shelters with outhouses and fire rings. Very beautiful and secluded site. I accidentally found this site and have stayed there over 30 times. GPS is approximate. For those in search of backcountry solitude, there are two shelters that offer the bare minimum with regard to outdoor accommodation. A PASS or PERMIT is required at this campsite. The price is $10.
3. Deal Island WMA
Riley Roberts Road
Deal Island, Maryland
GPS: 38.175841, -75.910699
Elevation: 4’Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife Service (Official)A primitive camping area is available on the Free Maryland boondocking spots for overnight stays. Mosquitoes and other biting insects are common from spring through early fall. Bring insect repellent, minimize exposed skin and wear light-colored clothing.
4. Rest Area
GPS: 39.141032, -76.844413
Management: Public – Rest Area (Official)
Great rest area with overnight parking and a dump station with the free Maryland RV camping spots. Clean and not to much noise. Great spot! Always other campers there. Well lit. Monitored for safety. 100% workers empty trash cans, cleaning toilets, etc. Large mowed area for pets to roam and run. Picnic tables and grills. Enough space so that you are away from the road noise and truckers
5. Swains Lock (tent sites)
GPS: 39.031381, -77.243581
Management: Public – National Park Service (Official)
10700 Swains Lock Rd, Potomac, MD 20854 Multiple free Maryland boondocking spots with tables and fire rings. Porta-pottys and water fountain. 100 meters from parking to site. Right on the river with decent fishing and natural firewood.
6. E. A. Vaughn WMA
GPS: 38.077881, -75.391628
Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife Service (Official)
A free, primitive camping area is available for overnight stays in the free Maryland camping spots. The campsites is a fairly level dirt packed parking area. Anglers can bottom fish for sea trout, croaker, spot, flounder or bluefish. Crabbing is also possible. Hiking and all-terrain bicycling on one of the many unmarked trails.
7. Hugh T. Cropper Inlet Parking Lot
Ocean City, Maryland
GPS: 38.32612, -75.08655
Management: Public – City parking (Unofficial)
The road in is Paved. Hugh T. Cropper inlet parking lot is open year round for your free Maryland boondocking pleasures. You may stay overnight at Hugh T. Cropper inlet parking lot. Great view, right on the water! Nice spacious, well lit, parking lot. Free through winter until April. No signs mention parking time limit or overnight rules, but nobody bothered me in my minivan overnight! You can pay $0.50 so your plates are in their system, but not sure if it’s necessary.
Free Maryland Boondocking Locations
You’ll be astonished by the number of free Maryland boondocking locations that are near water or wetlands. Because many of these sites encourage fishing, it’s simple to eat what you catch when you’re in the vicinity of a dispersed camping place. You’ll find essential goods like fire rings at some of the sites you’ll come across throughout areas. Additionally, while many of the free Maryland dispersed camping spots are free, others may require you to make a reservation in advance.
☆ E.A. Vaughn WMA
The E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area, located in Stockton, has free Maryland RV parking that includes a primitive camping site where you can park your RV for overnight stays. Because the area is not paved, it may become muddy after a rainstorm. The location is also close to various marshes, where you may go bottom fishing if you have a license. Trout, croaker, flounder, and bluefish will all be available to catch. Despite the fact that it is a WMA, you are allowed to hunt here as long as you hunt in season and don’t kill endangered animals like the local fox squirrels.
☆ Deal Island WMA
The Deal Island State Wildlife Management Area encompasses nearly 13,000 acres of tidal marshland. When you visit this free Maryland boondocking location, you can enjoy some dispersed or primitive camping off of Riley Robert Road. This is a non-hunting place, however those who want to enjoy the animals are free to come. Because mosquito bites are common on Deal Island, you may want to bring insect repellant.
☆ Potomac State Forest Wallman Laurel Run
Potomac SF is located in Oakland, Maryland, and includes 36 locations in five different neighborhoods. When you’re partaking in free Maryland RV boondocking here, you’ll notice that there’s a sense of community. If you have friends who want to join you while you’re in our free Maryland dispersed camping areas, there’s even a group site. Even yet, this is a first-come, first-served location that can quickly fill up.
☆ Fifteen-mile Creek
Fifteen-mile Creek is located in Pratt and includes an unpaved rustic camping area that is first come, first served. There are no hookups at this free Maryland dispersed camping site, but there are numerous spacious sites with grills and even chemical toilets. On the C&O Canal Towpath, this location is at Mile 140. You may visit a nearby canal, and the creek is home to a variety of fish.
☆ Ocean Downs Casino
To camp at this Berlin-area Casino, you’ll need to check in with security, but there’s a large open paved area where you can stay for a few days. While you can’t park with your sides out and stabilizers down, the terrain is level, and there’s plenty of room for a Class A or a big-rig. Designed for free Maryland RV Boondocking.
Free Maryland Camping Spots
Keep in mind that free Maryland boondocking spots have a lot of wetlands and canals when planning your boondocking vacation. Mosquitoes are also particularly frequent in the camping areas in all season save winter, thanks to the several miles of coastline. If you plan on sleeping outside of your RV, carry bug repellent and mosquito netting. Also, many of the sites in Maryland aren’t paved, so be prepared for some muddy spots, especially given the state receives 44 inches of rain each year on average. As a result, if possible, contact beforehand; at times our free Maryland dispersed camping locations are sometimes forced to close owing to water.
In addition, the existence of fire rings in state parks and woods is particularly beneficial. It’s a lot easier to light a fire and do some cooking with these. Some of the rustic camping spots here also include nearby bathrooms and outhouses, making your boondocking experience a little more convenient. The majority are first come, first served, but you should have little trouble getting a spot once you arrive. Most campsites in the state have cellular service, so you should be able to stay in touch with loved ones who weren’t able to join you on your adventure.
There will be much to do while in the state. For example, tent camping in Maryland or scattered camping is permitted in a few wildlife management zones and state forests, so be prepared to encounter a variety of creatures. This is especially true in marshy places, where ducks, hunting birds like peregrine falcons, and huge mammals like bears, beavers, and mountain lions can be found. You’ll also discover that free Maryland RV boondocking has a vast network of abandoned trains to investigate. If you’re still undecided about what to do before you leave on your trip, read our blog to learn everything you need to know about boondocking.
Free Camping in Western Maryland
You may get a free night or two of quiet, polite camping in these free Maryland RV parking lots thanks to the generosity of some local companies, including a Cracker Barrel and a Walmart in Hagerstown, MD. Cracker Barrel even has two reserved parking spots, although Walmart’s larger lot is excellent for individuals towing a toad or with huge RVs.
You won’t find a picnic table or a fire ring here, and you won’t be allowed to pitch your tent here. They’re just ordinary RV-sized parking places in a parking lot where you may rest after visiting the neighborhood.
Free Camping Near Baltimore, MD
The Maryland Welcome Center, which has a free dump station, is the final stop worth noting. While camping here overnight is officially prohibited, it is occasionally tolerated with the agreement of local staff or the state police.
Free Maryland Camping Spots in State Parks
First time campers: So you’ve heard about our beautiful state parks and now you’re ready to camp. That’s great and we can’t wait to see you. If you’re new to camping or maybe just new to camping in Maryland, we’ve created a frequently asked questions page just for you. We want to eliminate the guesswork and make your visit to our Maryland State Parks more enjoyable. We’ve also included a list of what to bring that should be helpful to you, even if you’re a seasoned camper. (*see below)
FAQs on Free Maryland RV Boondocking and Free Maryland Dispersed Camping in Their State Parks
Do I need to bring my own equipment?
You are responsible for your own camping gear. Campsites are equipped with a picnic table and a fire ring. Some parks have fire rings with grills for cooking, but it’s a good idea to check ahead or bring a grill grate with you as some parks only have open campfire rings. Some parks also provide a lantern post for hanging a lantern. Most parks have camping pads that are stone dust based; Assateague camping areas, however, are sand based. We recommend you bring a foam sleep pad or inflatable pad/mattress for your comfort.
Click here for a list of additional recommended items to make your camping trip a more enjoyable experience.
Does the length of the camping pad include the tow vehicle length?
The camping pad area dimensions are for placement of camping equipment (tent) and does not include the driveway length.
Will I need a container to carry water?
Yes, you will need to bring a container. Potable water is available within or near each camping loop.
How many people can I have at my campsite?
A maximum of six people at a time (children count as people). There is normally a maximum of 2 tents or sleeping units (campers, RV, trailer, screen tent, etc.) at a site. However, these may differ by park, so check ahead of time to make sure how many people a site can accommodate. Two vehicles are allowed to park at each site as long as they fit on the paved surface.
Is firewood available at the park? How much does it cost?
Yes, firewood is sold in the campground. It is sold by the bundle and usually $5-7 per bundle. You cannot bring firewood with you in an effort to stop the spread of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer.
Is there a store in the park to buy basic supplies?
Yes in many, but not all parks. Camp stores have basic supplies like ice, marshmallows, bug spray, etc. Some parks have larger concession operations with food service and souvenirs. Call ahead to confirm.
Where can I find a map or layout of the campground?
Maps of the camping areas can be found on the individual park web pages. You can also view photos of the actual campsite in addition to the layout of the camping loops in the park on our Reservation website at parkreservations.maryland.gov.
Is the campground wooded?
Most of the campgrounds are wooded, with a few exceptions such as Assateague and Point Lookout.
Can we collect wood in the park to burn in our campfire?
Yes, you can gather kindling and downed branches to burn in your fire ring. Campfires must be in the fire ring only. Cutting down trees is prohibited. Use of chainsaws is not permitted.
How do you cook outside?
Each campsite has a fire ring, but not all parks have fire rings with a built-in grill. You should check ahead of time or bring a grill grate so that you are prepared for cooking. You can also bring a camp stove.
Are there bathrooms near the campsites?
There is a bathhouse (with electric outlets for hair dryers, etc.),which has both restrooms and showers in or near each camping loop. Showers have hot and cold running water and bathhouses have flush toilets. Usually, they are centrally located with various access points in the campgrounds.
Hiking with a pet: Can we bring our dog camping with us?
Good news! We have pet loops in many of our campgrounds, but not all. Please read the Maryland Park Service Pet Policy to understand our policies, and to ensure a safe and enjoyable camping experience. When making reservations please make sure you reserve a designated ‘pet-friendly’ campsite.
Do I have to pay in full when I make my reservation?
Yes, full payment is required when completing reservation both Online, Call Center and walk-in at the Park.
I noticed you have equestrian trails in the park. Do you have horses for rent?
We manage the public lands and multi-use trails that allows for equestrian use at many state parks. We do not rent horses. There may be horse stables nearby the park and additional information can be found on the Maryland Horse Industry Board website.
Can our kids ride their bikes on the road in the campground?
Children and adults are permitted to ride bicycles in the campground. Children under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet.
If we have a problem at night, is there anyone working in the campground?
To report a problem or concern please contact the Natural Resources Police Communications Center at 1-800-628-9944 or 1-410-260-8888 at any time, day or night. This number is also posted in the campground. The dispatcher will identify the nature of the call and assist in getting help as needed.
Can we put our tent on an electric site or are electric sites reserved for RV’s only?
You sure can! As a tent or pop-up camper, you may reserve an electric site. When reserving campsites that accommodate RV’s, do not assume you are getting amenities with full hook-ups. Site amenities will be listed with electric/water/sewer if available at the site you are reserving. Also be aware, that your tent may be located next to an RV.
Is there WiFi in the campground?
There is not WiFi capability in the campground area, however, some parks offer Free WiFi – Janes Island State Park (Camp Store and Lodge), Pocomoke River State Park (Camp Store), New Germany State Park (Lake House) and Deep Creek Lake (Discovery Center).
Will I have cellular service in the campground?
Most state parks report cell service, although it can be spotty at times. There are two locations in western Maryland where currently there is limited to no cell service in the campground – Herrington Manor State Park (depending on your service provider) and New Germany State Park. To some folks, that’s a good thing!
What is your policy on alcoholic beverages?
Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the campgrounds, except for inside motor homes and full-service cabins. To maintain and ensure a safe, family-oriented outdoor recreational experience for all park guests, the Maryland Park Service regulates the consumption of alcohol in State Parks. This policy has been adopted in the interest of all park patrons to maintain the family atmosphere in our campgrounds. For more information, review our Alcohol Policy.
Where do I put my trash?
All Maryland State Parks are “trash-free!” What does this mean to you? It means there are no trash cans to ruin the view, or to attract flies, bees, and other wildlife in our day-use areas. In the campgrounds, you will find dumpsters for campers to dispose of trash. Whenever possible, we encourage visitors to take their trash home with them. Maryland State Parks promotes reduce, reuse and recycle. Please do not burn your trash within your fire ring.
Are there wild animals in the area?
Yes, there is a wide variety of animals that live in the parks such as chipmunks, squirrels, fox, skunks, bears, snakes, mice, beavers, deer, raccoons and birds. At Assateague there are wild ponies. Please secure your food items to avoid attracting hungry wildlife. This means keeping food in locked coolers, sometimes with even using a bungy cord, and in Western Maryland, using bear food lockers at the campsites.
Are there going to be bugs in the campground?
Yes. Bugs are certainly a part of our natural environment. You can expect and prepare for flies, mosquitoes and ticks. Be sure to bring insect repellent and/or a screen tent.
Kid playing in a park: How do I find out about events at the park such as nature walks or kids’ programs?
You can check the Calendar of Events for some programs before you go. Be sure to also check with park staff or on the bulletin board when you arrive at the park for additional programs not listed on the website.
How big are your campsites?
Gravel pad areas vary from park to park, an average size is approximately 20×20; some sites are smaller and can only accommodate 1-tent/1-vehicle; and other parks camping pad area are 24×24 or larger. Details are available when making reservations. Make sure all camping equipment is on the camping pad and not on the surrounding area. For site-specific information, check the Reservation website.
I see there is fishing offered at your park. Do I need a fishing license?
If you’re planning on fishing at one of MD’s state parks, and you are 16 years of age or older, a valid fishing license is required. For more details about the licenses and how to obtain one, visit the DNR Licensing website.
Do I need to pay the daily entrance fee if I am camping?
No, you may enjoy all of the park amenities while camping. Be sure to display your camper hang tag in your vehicle.
How late can we check in? What happens if we arrive after check-in time?
Campers check in by driving to the ranger station/camp store designated as a check-in location. At these locations, park staff will verify your name, the number in your party, confirm holders of golden age/other passes, and provide gate codes for re-entry into the park. Campers are required to be set up by quiet hours (10 p.m. – 7 a.m.) If you anticipate arriving after 8 p.m. you should check for instructions by calling the park directly.
Are generators permitted in State Park campgrounds?
Generators are permitted, but all aspects of their use and operation must conform to the established quiet hours at each park and all applicable safeguards designed to prevent disturbing other visitors and to preserve the peace and tranquility of the park environment.
Revised Generator Policy – Effective January 1, 2017 – The operation of generators is prohibited during the established quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. At times outside of quiet hours, all aspects of their operation must conform to standards designed to prevent disturbing other visitors and to preserve the peace and tranquility of the park environment.
*We encourage you to visit the WEB PAGE OF THE STATE PARK where you plan to camp for details on that park and their amenities.
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