5 Boondocking Locations in North Carolina



There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but there are such things as free campsites. Whether you call it boondocking or “dispersed camping” (in romantic bureaucratese), there is great appeal to setting up camp in an undeveloped area. Choose your own spot with no need for reservations, stay for a week or two, and pay nothing (or comparatively very little) to camp at one of these North Carolina boondocking locations.

You’re not just going off the electrical grid, as with dry camping. The absence of practically any amenities beyond a parking space means you’ll likely need your own generators, batteries, solar panels, and supplies of fresh water when boondocking — say goodbye to Wi-Fi! North Carolina has several suitable locations for boondocking, so read on to discover why boondocking in NC may be right for you!

Can I Go Boondocking in North Carolina?

Boondocking is legal across North Carolina at several designated areas within the Croatan, Nantahala, Pisgah, and Uwharrie National Forests. As long as you do not encamp near trailheads and follow all regulations related to fire safety (especially in summer), you’re usually good to go.

Fees do vary depending on where you choose (generally ranging from free to $20), so check online or visit local ranger stations if you have any questions about site-specific fees, rules, and regulations.

Now, it’s time to familiarize yourself with North Carolina campgrounds and choose where to go boondocking!

Top Locations for Boondocking in North Carolina

North Carolina is a state filled with bucolic beauty, and a boondocker’s toughest decision may be choosing where to set up camp. But given the low (or non-existent) price tag for boondocking, North Carolina campgrounds set aside for that purpose are popular. 

Take a look at a few boondocking-friendly campgrounds, and see which ones appeal the most to you!

Basin Creek Camping Area

Amenities: This free camping area, located on the Thurmond Chatham Game Land, is near the Blue Ridge Parkway but remote enough that cell service is unavailable. Hikers will love access to trailheads. There is a 14-day limit on your stay, but with a window of opportunity like that, you’ll be able to enjoy it all and then some.

Capacity: 6 campsites are available, but space may be greater depending on the size of the RVs or other trailers.

More information: Basin Creek Camping Area

Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River

Amenities: Located in the Grandfather Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest, the Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River Area is ideal for hikers and anglers alike. Kayakers can also revel in the scenery and activities too. Boondocking sites are available throughout the forest, provided that you set up at least 500 feet from any water.

Capacity: The number of sites is unspecified. Sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and this area is popular — your chances may be better in the off-season. 

More information: Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River

Snowbird Creek

Amenities: Space is extremely limited at Snowbird Creek in the Nantahala National Forest. Lucky boondockers who snag a site will have the opportunity to trout fish in some of the best waters in North Carolina. If game fishing isn’t your thing, but hiking is, then lace up your boots and head out to see some unparalleled beauty. As with other areas, no camping is permitted near trailheads, and efforts must be made to minimize evidence of human presence.

Capacity: Sources are limited as to available camping spaces. Most that can be found show that “one site” is available, which usually translates into multiple spaces available for parking RVs or trailers, depending on their size.

More information: Snowbird Creek

Shining Rock Wilderness Area

Amenities: Beyond the undeveloped natural beauty of this federally-designated wilderness area, one of the advantages of boondocking in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah Ranger District is the price — It’s free. In exchange, you’re expected to follow their rules to minimize evidence of human presence, which means no campfires or groups larger than ten are allowed. Be sure to keep your food in bear-proof containers, too. 

Capacity: The number of campsites is unspecified. Boondocking/dispersed camping in the Pisgah Ranger District is limited to the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. 

More information: Shining Rock Wilderness Area

Uwharrie National Forest

Amenities: Within the Uwharrie National Forest, there are two standout areas for boondocking in NC. The Badin/Old Horse Camp (free) is an open field with tie-outs for horses — and that’s it. Similarly, Overflow Horse Camp (free) offers a primitive camping experience with no water or bathrooms. From both, you must take your trash with you when you leave with the option of disposing of it at the Canebrake Horse Camp dumpsters. No alcohol is permitted in either camp.

Capacity: The number of campsites is unspecified. Badin/Old Horse Camp and Overflow Horse Camp are first-come, first-serve, so your ideal spot may not be available depending on when you’re planning your visit.

More information: Uwharrie National Forest

Explore the Primitive Nature of North Carolina with Cruise America

So, you want to go boondocking in NC and now you know where you can do so. But how will you get there? The answer is in a Cruise America RV. Cruise America offers convenient RV rentals to keep you safe and comfortable in the wilderness. You won’t find a better deal for boondocking in an RV than with Cruise America’s fleet of modern RVs. 

Ready to get away from it all? Then get in touch with Cruise America to arrange your North Carolina RV rental today!