Table of Contents Show
For decades, Walmart has allowed overnight RV parking. The company has been a staple among RVers because of this privilege.
Weary travelers could easily pull off the interstate, park in the back of the lot, and catch a few hours of sleep before setting out the following day.
But recently, Walmart has started cracking down on overnight RV parking, eliminating it in some locations. In West Memphis, Arkansas, one Walmart has even installed clearance bars at entrances. Is this the end of free Walmart overnight RV parking? Let’s find out!
Can RVs Park Anywhere Overnight?
Contrary to what you might see in the movies, RVers can’t just pull over on the side of the road for the night.
Many counties and cities have regulations against street parking and sleeping in vehicles. If you’re on a long road trip and need a place to stop for the night, you must do so in a permitted area.
The western United States offers more public lands where RVers can boondock on the roadside. But even here, you have to make sure overnight parking is allowed.
Travelers have more limited options east of the Mississippi because of the lack of public lands. But you can typically find free overnight RV parking in places like Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Planet Fitness, casinos, and churches. But this varies from location to location.
Is Free RV Overnight Parking Allowed at Walmart?
Nothing on the website states that overnight parking isn’t allowed at Walmart. Corporate hasn’t come out and said one way or the other. It’s up to the individual managers and specific city regulations as to whether or not RVs can park on the premises overnight.
If you plan on staying in a Walmart parking lot for a night, you need to call ahead to ask permission. If the manager tells you that overnight parking is no longer allowed, you have time to find another place to stop for the night.
But if you wait until you arrive to go in and ask permission, it might be too late to try to find somewhere nearby.
Sometimes, other RVers have ruined this privilege for everyone else because they have ignored the unwritten rules of boondocking etiquette.
They’ve left trash, stayed for more than one night, grilled out in the parking lot, or left dog poop sitting by the curb. Some managers are fed up and won’t allow overnight RV parking any longer.
Other locations simply don’t have a choice because of local ordinances. Some cities have stricter laws than others regarding overnight parking. Therefore, calling and inquiring several hours before you arrive is best.
Walmart Is Installing Clearance Bars at Entrances
One Walmart has deterred RVs and semi-trucks from entering the parking lot completely. The store in West Memphis, Arkansas, installed clearance bars at entrances.
The bar sits 12 feet 10 inches above the ground, much lower than your typical fifth wheel and motorhome height. Smaller trailers and camper vans may still be able to park, but it’s likely overnight RV parking isn’t permitted here.
A Facebook user posted a picture of these clearance bars in an RVing group. Other travelers mentioned this wasn’t unusual. Searcy, Arkansas, and San Angelo, Texas, were listed as other Walmart stores with the same clearance bars. RVers must use the truck entrance to enter the shop.
5 Alternatives for Free RV Overnight Parking
Since Walmart has started to crack down on RV overnight parking, many people are looking for alternatives.
Other places are more reliable and offer safe, convenient parking lots large enough for even motorhomes pulling a toad to enter and exit without much problem.
Cracker Barrel is well known as a common overnight stop for RVers. These locations are usually less than a mile from the major interstates and all over the country.
Most have designated RV parking spots. And the best thing about staying overnight in a Cracker Barrel parking lot is waking up to freshly brewed coffee and breakfast!
Keep in Mind: Have you heard of Long-Term Boondocking? Click to learn what it is and if you can do it legally!
Although not all casinos will allow overnight parking, many do. Again, call ahead and ask permission. Sometimes casinos will allow RVers to stay longer than one night, too.
It’s good business because RVers can head inside for dinner after a long drive day or relax and play a few slot machines or card games before heading to bed. Harvest Host members will find several casinos in this membership program.
Many churches are now signing up for the Harvest Host program, too. With large parking lots that remain empty for much of the week, it’s a wonderful way for churches to show hospitality to weary travelers.
Even if you’re not part of Harvest Hosts, you can call a church during work hours and ask if they would allow you to park for a night.
Fitness centers that operate 24/7, like Planet Fitness, will also permit RV overnight parking. These are some of the safest locations because security teams monitor the parking lot at night.
Plus, you can have access to showers and restrooms. Even if you’re not a member, paying a small fee to use the showers might be worth it. Usually, Planet Fitness locations are near dining and shopping options, too.
Sporting Goods Stores
Finally, sporting goods stores like Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops generally have huge parking lots. Because these stores cater to outdoor enthusiasts, they welcome RVers to stay overnight.
However, call ahead to get permission just to double-check before arriving. Like Planet Fitness, these stores are usually in convenient locations near food and fuel.
Keep in Mind: Taking care of your hygiene is always important! See how to find Clean and Safe Public Showers on the Road
Is RV Overnight Parking Safe?
Some RVers have never stayed overnight in a parking lot because they don’t feel safe. This is true if you don’t vet the location ahead of time. Even though Cracker Barrels are right off the interstate, leave and find somewhere else if you don’t feel like it’s a safe area.
Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club will typically allow overnight RV parking, too. But it’s not worth it to stock up on groceries and stay the night if people wander the streets, stray dogs sniff the trash, or it feels like a sketchy neighborhood.
But in general, most of these locations are in well-lit, safe areas, especially casinos and 24/7 fitness centers that have their own security patrolling the parking lot.
We wouldn’t hesitate to stay overnight at a Cracker Barrel or Cabela’s. We just pull up the map and quickly search the area. And if we arrive and feel uncomfortable, we immediately leave.
You can read more about safety tips when boondocking in our article “15 Boondocking Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life.”
Remember Etiquette When Staying Overnight in a Parking Lot
When taking advantage of this privilege of free RV overnight parking, please don’t ruin it for the rest of us. Follow the unwritten etiquette rules so these businesses don’t start eliminating this option for weary travelers.
Pick up your trash, don’t set up camp, stay only one night, pick up after your pets, and park far away from the front doors.
If you aren’t sure what is and isn’t allowed when boondocking in parking lots, check out our article “9 Rudest Things You Can Do While Boondocking! Boondocking Etiquette.”
Will This Be the End of Free RV Overnight Parking At Walmart?
With the installation of clearance bars at this particular Walmart in West Memphis, this may be the end of free overnight RV parking at Walmart. But don’t stress if you like to use these parking lots to catch some sleep after a long travel day.
Other businesses still allow tired RVers to park for the night. And you don’t have to worry about fitting under any clearance bars to access their parking lots!
Are you surprised that Walmart is deterring RVers from overnight parking?