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  • Writer's pictureLucian@going2paris.net

Which States Allow Overnight Parking At Rest Areas?


Charlottesville

December 20, 2021


Useful information from www.boondockersbible.com.

Most states allow overnight parking in rest areas. Only a minority of them do not. But even in states that prohibit overnight parking in rest areas, those rest areas are still open 24 hours a day. This means it is still technically legal to arrive at a rest area at night, and remain there for as long as the state allows.

Which States Allow Overnight Parking in Rest Areas?

The following states have no laws or regulations prohibiting overnight parking in rest areas. (yes = allowed, no = not allowed)

Note: click on the state to read full rest area rules on overnight parking…


  • Alabama – yes

  • Alaska – yes

  • Arizona – yes

  • Arkansas – yes

  • California – yes

  • Colorado – no

  • Connecticut – yes

  • Delaware – yes

  • Florida – yes

  • Georgia – yes1

  • Hawaii – no2

  • Idaho – yes

  • Illinois – yes

  • Indiana – yes3

  • Iowa – yes

  • Kansas – yes

  • Kentucky – yes

  • Louisiana – yes

  • Maine – yes

  • Maryland – no

  • Massachusetts – yes4

  • Michigan – yes

  • Minnesota – yes

  • Mississippi – yes

  • Missouri – yes

  • Montana – yes

  • Nebraska – no

  • Nevada – yes

  • New Hampshire – yes

  • New Jersey – yes5

  • New Mexico – yes

  • New York – yes

  • North Carolina – no

  • North Dakota – yes

  • Ohio – yes

  • Oklahoma – yes

  • Oregon – yes

  • Pennsylvania – yes

  • Rhode Island – yes

  • South Carolina – no

  • South Dakota – yes

  • Tennessee – no

  • Texas – yes

  • Utah – yes

  • Vermont – yes

  • Virginia – no

  • Washington – yes

  • West Virginia – yes

  • Wisconsin – yes

  • Wyoming – yes


1 Georgia allows overnight parking at rest areas, but not at its welcome centers. 2 Hawaii has no rest areas, but bans sleeping in vehicles parked along highways. 3 Indiana allows overnight parking at most rest areas; a few have signs prohibiting such activity. 4 Massachusetts allows overnight parking at most rest areas; a few have signs prohibiting such activity. 5 New Jersey allow overnight parking at most rest areas; a few restrict overnight parking to commercial vehicles only.

States That Ban Camping in Rest Areas, but not Overnight Parking

Many states specifically ban “camping” in rest areas, but do not otherwise ban overnight parking. Camping is generally considered as either sleeping on the ground, sleeping on picnic tables, benches, inside rest area buildings, or pitching a tent or shelter.

Sleeping inside a vehicle is generally permitted across all states (with the exception of Hawaii) and is not considered camping. However, if you put out camping equipment at a rest area, such as patio chairs, barbecue grills, dog fence, outdoor television, a law enforcement officer may use their discretion to decide if that crosses the line into “camping”…


  • California

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • Idaho

  • Illinois

  • Iowa

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • New Hampshire

  • New Mexico

  • New York

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • South Dakota

  • Utah

  • Vermont

  • Washington

  • Wisconsin

  • Wyoming


How Long Can You Sleep at a Rest Area?

Most states do not specify how long you can sleep at a rest area. This does not mean, however, you can remain for as long as you want. At some point, a law enforcement officer will tap on your window or door to check on you. However, there are several states that do have time limits.

Note: Read our more detailed state-by-state analysis on rest area time limits, “How Long Can You Stay at a Rest Area?

  • Alabama – no time limit

  • Alaska – no time limit

  • Arizona – no time limit

  • Arkansas – no time limit

  • California – 8 hours

  • Colorado – no time limit

  • Connecticut – no time limit

  • Delaware – 6 hours at Smyrna Rest Area, no time limit at I-95 Welcome Center

  • Florida – 10 hours for commercial vehicles, 3 hours for all others

  • Georgia – no time limit

  • Hawaii – no time limit

  • Idaho – 10 hours in Interstate rest areas, 16 hours on all other highways

  • Illinois – 3 hours

  • Indiana – no time limit

  • Iowa – 24 hours

  • Kansas – 24 hours

  • Kentucky – 4 hours

  • Louisiana – no time limit

  • Maine – no time limit

  • Maryland – 3 hours

  • Massachusetts – no time limit for most, some rest areas have a 2 hour limit

  • Michigan – no time limit

  • Minnesota – 10 hours for commercial vehicles, 4 hours for all others

  • Mississippi – 8 hours

  • Missouri – no time limit

  • Montana – no time limit

  • Nebraska – 10 hours

  • Nevada – 18 hours

  • New Hampshire – no time limit

  • New Jersey – no time limit

  • New Mexico – 24 hours

  • New York – 10 hours for commercial vehicles, 3 hours for all others, 4 hours at service plazas

  • North Carolina – no time limit

  • North Dakota – no time limit

  • Ohio – no time limit

  • Oklahoma – no time limit

  • Oregon – 12 hours

  • Pennsylvania – 2 hours, 24 hours at service plazas

  • Rhode Island – no time limit

  • South Carolina – no time limit

  • South Dakota – 10 hours for commercial vehicles, 3 hours for all others

  • Tennessee – 2 hours

  • Texas – 24 hours

  • Utah – no time limits

  • Vermont – no time limits

  • Virginia – no time limits

  • Washington – 8 hours

  • West Virginia – no time limits

  • Wisconsin – 24 hours

  • Wyoming – no time limits


If a State Has Banned Overnight Parking at a Rest Area, Can I Still Park Overnight There?

Actually, Yes! The reason why is because all rest areas are open 24 hours a day. You are allowed to arrive at at night, and stay there for as long as it takes to get rested, or up to the maximum allowable time.

No law enforcement officer is going to force a drowsy driver to get back on the highway. As long as you can demonstrate that you are too sleepy to continue driving, they will let you stay. Therefore, it behooves you to act like someone who is too tired to continue. That is, don’t spend any significant amount of time having fun outside, stay inside your RV or vehicle, and turn down the volume on your television or radio.

Why Do Other Websites Publish Conflicting Information?

It’s because they are confused between the terms “camping” and “overnight parking”.

We’ve done a lot of research into this topic. Because we are boondockers, and because this website is intended to be the end-all, be-all, resource on boondocking in the United States, we looked into this with a microscope.

When a state prohibits camping at a rest area, they are referring to erecting a tent or other shelter on the grounds, or sleeping on a picnic table or inside a rest area building. They are not referring to sleeping inside your vehicle. Sleeping inside your vehicle is uniquely different than camping with respect to rest areas.

The fact is that sleeping inside your vehicle is exactly what a rest area is for. Every state refers to their rest areas as “safety rest areas”. The last thing they want is a drowsy driver causing an accident along a highway. They “want” you to sleep at their rest area. The question is, how long will they tolerate you staying there?


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1 Comment


cnesbit
Dec 20, 2021

If only rest areas were truly "safe". Unfortunately criminal activity frequently occurs at rest areas, particularly after sunset. I would not be comfortable sleeping in a my car at a rest area today. Forty years ago, I wouldn't have given it a second thought.

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