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Free camping? You bet!

By Staff | Nov 18, 2008

It’s usually about this time of year when I start planning a vacation. You know how it is. The weather turns cold and it gets sort of miserable outside, so you turn toward indoor pursuits.

There’s a part of all of us that loves the outdoors, though, and some of us like to do things like read seed catalogs, look at building supply books for materials for next spring’s deck or patio project or plan a vacation.

I recently struck a gold mine when I stumbled onto the Web site freecampgrounds.com. This great Web site lists campgrounds around the country that cost $10 or less and many of them are free.

Following are some great campgrounds you stay at absolutely free.

Yellowstone, anyone?

If you’re taking the scenic route to Yellowstone, yo might try Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area near Lovell, Wyo. They have 30 campsites and you can stay up to 14 days absolutely free.

This campsite gets a scenery rating of 5 out of five and a noise level of just 1 out of five – or absolutely perfect!

Amenities include water, dump station and restrooms. and it’s open year round.

Following is what one visitor said of the campground.

Free campgrounds surrounding the lakes formed by the Yellowstone Dam in gorgeous canyon surroundings. This location is definitely worth routing towards. It’s an official National Parks facility. There is a $5 park admission fee (self pay: the machine was broken when we arrived with a sign that said ‘Enjoy!’). However, if you have a National Park pass, admission is included. There are entrances to the park (that don’t connect to each other) in the south off Highway 37 via Lovell, Wyo., or in the north near Fort Smith, Mont.

We stayed at the Horseshoe Bend Campground off 37 about 14 miles north of Lovell. It had two big loops with 59 campspots, each with picnic tables and fire ring. Several had shade structures. There were also two comfort stations with flush toilets and sinks. Most sites seemed to only be able to accommodate smaller setups, so this might not be ideal for large motorhomes and trailers. There is a marina just down the road with a camp store, playground, boat launch and additional facilities. (Wasn’t open when we were there in October). And the scenery was beyond stunning. For more information on the camping available Bighorn Canyon: http://www.nps.gov/bica/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

Pheasant heaven

Hav-A-Rest city park in Redfield, S.D., is at the heart of pheasant hunting country. Open all year, it has 10 campsites where you can stay free for up to five days. Amenities include comfort station, water and electric hook-ups.

Following is what a visitor wrote about the campground.

In 2004, our family stayed two comfortable nights at this rural park on the edge of Redfield at 626 Main St. There is a winding gravel lane that leads to the sites, overlooking a pretty little lake. Further down the lane is a picnic/play area. They were finishing building restrooms when we were there. There is water, electric and campfire rings. Town amenities–groceries, gas, Subway, Dairy Queen, etc., are close by. Stop by the Pheasant Drive-In in the summer for an old-fashioned drive-in movie.

The Oregon Cascades

Deschutes National Forest near Sisters, Ore., has 10 campsites where you can stay free of charge for up to 30 days. It’s open May through September but check when you get there in case of high snow levels. The Oregon Cascades measure snow in feet, not inches.

Following is a description.

Near Jack Creek Campground, several spots right on the river. From Sisters, 12.4 miles northwest on Highway 20, then 4.5 miles north on Forest Road 12, and then 0.6 miles north on Forest Road 1230. The turnoff to Jack Springs Campground ($10) is on your left–just after that, take a right onto Forest Road 200. There are about five separated places that turn off to your right within a half-mile or so, and could each take two rigs camping together, right along the swift flowing creek. This is 3,100 feet but on a ridge or something, very flat, in the Cascades. Thirty-day limit (consecutive, once per year), and it’s not a bad drive into Sisters for groceries and dump. Sisters City Park has a $5 dump. Pit toilets a mile away at Jack Creek Campground. Great hiking nearby, wildlife, Douglas fir forest, volcanic rocks. Bring the mouse traps.

The Oregon Coast

Trinity Lutheran Church at Brookings offers 10 free overnight parking spots every weekend from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Brookings is located five miles north of the California border on 101.

Following is a description of the available facilities submitted by the church.

Both the highway in Brookings and our church have undergone extensive upgrading and we are anxious to show them off to visitors! Our parking lot and church are conveniently located within walking distance to downtown Brookings, many restaurants, and Harris Beach State Park. Our church offers a full kitchen, public facilities and, of course, beautiful parking spots with an ocean view. We’ll leave the light on for you! 1200 Easy Street, Brookings, OR 97415 541-469-3411.