The Best Free Dispersed Campsites in Montana

Today, I’m going to share my favorite dispersed campsites in Montana.

With over 30 million acres of public land (covering approximately one-third of the state), it’s no surprise that Montana is a dispersed camping and boondocking paradise.

Here are 11 of my personal favorites (as well as nearby alternatives for each) to make planning your next trip easier.

Quick Overview

Here are the free dispersed campsites I cover below:

Click on one that interests you to jump down for more info or browse them all on our Montana dispersed camping map.

Please always follow the Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping, especially packing out all of your trash, including human waste.

My Favorite Dispersed Campsites in Montana

These are my personal favorite free dispersed campsites in Montana each with GPS coordinates, nearby alternatives, and contact info for the relevant public land authority.

Beaver Creek Road

Quake Lake near Beaver Creek Road.

Image Attribution: “Earthquake Lake (Madison County, Montana, USA) 1” by James St. John, CC BY 2.0

Quiet nights are what dispersed camping on Beaver Creek Road (Forest Road 985) is all about.

Although these campsites are now very popular due to their close proximity to West Yellowstone, they’re spaced quite far apart so you’ll still have plenty of privacy and solitude.

Yellowstone’s West Entrance is just a half hour away, making back-and-forth day trips possible. The road is regularly patrolled by rangers so it’s fairly safe to leave your trailer or other camping equipment at your campsite when you visit the national park for the day.

Beaver Creek Road isn’t too rough but do expect potholes. RVs and trailers up to about 25 feet are okay here, but I’d feel uncomfortable in anything much longer than that. The creek is prone to flooding so keep an eye out for mud, especially on the “driveways” into each campsite.

Important Tip: Camping on Beaver Creek Road is now restricted to 8 designated dispersed campsites. It’s also important to remember this is bear country – including grizzlies – so make sure to properly store your food. Each campsite has a bear box.

Other Free Campsites Nearby: Hebgen Lake Recreation Area has a ton of dispersed camping opportunities, including along Forest Road 209 (West Fork Madison Road) and Forest Road 681 (Red Canyon Road).

See on YouTube:Beaver Creek Road Montana” by trailsoffroad.com

More Info:

Beaver Creek Road is part of Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Designated dispersed camping is allowed for up to 16 days at a time.

Call the Hebgen Lake Ranger District for more info: (406) 682-7620

Official Map: Beaver Creek Designated Dispersed Camping Map (USFS)

GPS: 44.888917, -111.355083

Carbella Recreation Site

Campsite at Carbella Recreation Site.

Carbella Recreation Site is an awesome place to camp for free near Yellowstone’s North Entrance.

It’s less than 30 minutes to the town of Gardiner, making it an ideal homebase for exploring the northern part of the national park, including Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Fall, and Lamar Valley.

But, be warned – because of its convenient location just off Highway 89 right alongside the Yellowstone River, Carbella Recreation Site is extremely busy, especially during the summer months.

Almost every campsite is large enough for RVs and trailers, including big rigs. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring, and bear box. Well-maintained vault toilets are available. There’s also an on-site camp host during the peak season.

Important Tip: You must now camp in designated campsites only (I believe there are around a dozen total).

Other Free Campsites Nearby: True dispersed campsites are available about 10 miles up Tom Miner Road near Tom Miner Campground (just make sure you cross over into Custer Gallatin National Forest before setting up camp).

See on YouTube:Carbella BLM Campground MT” by DebraElaine McDonald

More Info:

Carbella Recreation Site is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Free camping is allowed up for to 14 days at a time.

Call the Butte Field Office for more info: (406) 533-7600

Official Map: BLM Carbella Recreation Site Online Map

GPS: 45.203875, -110.900872

Related Post: My Favorite Free Campsites Near Yellowstone National Park

Dunn Creek Flats Recreation Area

Libby Dam on the Kootenai River.

Image Attribution: “Libby Dam on the Kootenay River – Lake Koocanusa Reservoir, Montana” by Tony Webster, CC BY 2.0

Dispersed camping certainly isn’t in short supply in Northwest Montana thanks to the Kootenai National Forest.

However, whenever I pass through Libby, I opt to set up camp at Dunn Creek Flats Recreation Area on the Kootenai River about three miles from the Libby Dam.

Although it’s not true dispersed camping, this 13-site campground is completely free. It’s basically a large, open field with campsites right on the river and plenty of room for everyone to spread out.

The campground is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers and can accomodate RVs and trailers of all sizes, including even the biggest rigs.

Other Free Campsites Nearby: Look to the Koocanusa Area of nearby Kootenai National Forest for true dispersed camping, such as along Forest Road 615 off of Pipe Creek Road.

See on Youtube:Free camping in Montana, Dunn Creek Flats Campground” by Coddiwomple with the Wyatts

More Info:

Dunn Creek Flats Recreation Area is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Free camping is allowed up for to 14 days at a time.

Call the Libby Dam Visitor Center for more info: (406) 293-5577

GPS: 48.381520, -115.320438

Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area

Birds flying above Freezout Lake.

Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area, a very popular birdwatching destination, is an excellent place to set up camp for a couple nights just 45 minutes from Great Falls.

Campsites here consist of little more than grassy pull-offs from the main gravel road. Each is marked with a picnic table. You won’t find fire rings here as campfires are never allowed. I believe you can also camp in the large gravel lots near the vault toilets.

The views across Freezout Lake are incredible with the Rocky Mountains far in the distance. However, almost every campsite is very exposed to the elements, including the wind and the sun.

Several of the campsites are suitable for RVs and trailers, including big rigs. The gravel access road is usually well-maintained. Expect minor washboarding at the worst.

Important Tip: Camping is limited to just two nights at a time.

Other Free Campsites Nearby: I’m not aware of any other free campsites in the area, but nearby Choteau City Park does offer first-come, first-served camping for just $10 per night. An RV dump station ($5) is also available here.

See on YouTube:Freezout Lake WMA” by MontanaFWP

More Info:

Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area is managed by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

Free camping is allowed for just 2 nights at a time.

Call the Region 4 Headquarters for more info: (406) 454-5840

Official Map: Freezout Lake WMA Online Map (FWP)

GPS: 47.669222, -112.017194

Wisdom American Legion Memorial Park

View of the Beaverhead Mountains from Wisdom American Legion Memorial Park.

Image Attribution: “Cycle Montana 2012 (18)” by CorrieRosetti, CC BY-SA 2.0

* Please leave a small donation if you camp here.

The Wisdom American Legion Memorial Park is a small, volunteer-run (by veterans) free campground near the Big Hole River just outside of Wisdom.

Expect roughly a dozen campsites marked with picnic tables and fire rings plus a couple of other grassy areas to pitch a tent if things happen to be busy.

Because it’s little more than an open grassy field, this is a perfect place for RVs and trailers to stop, especially since most other free campsites in the area have rough access roads.  

In addition to beautiful views of the Beaverhead Mountains in the distance, the amenities are the highlight of camping here. There are vault toilets, well water (not potable), and a small shelter (very helpful for dealing with the mosquitos) with electrical outlets, free Wi-Fi, and tables.

Important Tip: The Wisdom American Legion Memorial Park is a popular overnight stop for bicyclists riding across the country on the TransAmerica Trail, so expect lots of tired cyclists filtering in throughout the evening.

Other Free Campsites Nearby: Dispersed camping is available just off Highway 43 west of Wisdom in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest before you enter Idaho.

See on YouTube:Wisdom Montana Drone Footage” by komasow

More Info:

I’m not aware of an official website or any contact info for the Wisdom American Legion Memorial Park.

I’m also not sure of their camping stay limit.

GPS: 45.618565, -113.459051

Far West Fishing Access

Confluence of Rosebud Creek and Yellowstone River.

Image Attribution: “Where the Rosebud Meets the Yellowstone” by Frank Bodden, CC BY 2.0

Far West Fishing Access has a nice little free campground just off I-94 about a half hour west of Miles City.

Now, this isn’t exactly a remote or very private place to camp, but it is a safe, quiet, and well-maintained spot to stay for a night or two on your way through Eastern Montana.

I think there are about a dozen campsites in total here. Several would accommodate RVs and trailers up to around 30 feet, but I believe there’s a 20-foot limit (although this seems largely unenforced).

The campground is about a half mile from a boat launch on the Yellowstone River. The campsites themselves, however, are set on a small pond, perfect for swimming in the summer.

Other Free Campsites Nearby: I’m not aware of any other free campsites in the area. But the Walmart in Miles City does allow free overnight parking for camping as of Fall 2023.

See on YouTube:Enjoy the Sounds Along the Yellowstone River Montana” by Sarcastic Stranger

More Info:

Far West Fishing Access is managed by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

Free camping is allowed for up to 7 days at a time.

Call the Region 7 Headquarters for more info: (406) 234-0913

Official Map: Far West Fishing Access Site Online Map (FWP)

GPS: 46.279389, -106.475417

Acton Recreation Area

Rough dirt road leading through Acton Recreation Area.

Acton Recreation Area is just 18 miles north of Billings (as the crow flies, driving here clocks in at about 30 miles) and spans nearly 4,000 acres.

After navigating a relatively well-maintained gravel access road for about 10 miles, you’ll reach a large gravel parking lot, mostly used as parking for mountain bikers. This is a great spot to set up camp, especially if you’re traveling in an RV, trailer, or low-clearance passenger vehicle.

For more private campsites, continue on down the dirt road. Just be careful – although the first couple hundred feet aren’t usually very rough, the road does quickly become much steeper, rockier, and rougher (as seen in the photo above) and generally requires high-clearance and 4WD.

Most campers seem to stick to the uppermost gravel parking area or one of about a half dozen dispersed campsites before the road gets steep. Several campsites are marked with picnic tables (these have the best views of the canyon below as well).  

Important Tip: The access roads from Highway 3 (Heag Road and Oswald Road) get very muddy and rutted after heavy rain. RVs and trailers, in particular, should avoid camping here if rain is in the forecast.

Other Free Campsites Nearby: A handful of free campsites are available at Captain Clark Fishing Access Site about 45 minutes east of Billings just off of I-94.

See on Youtube: Acton Recreation Area” by Arbuckles Adventures

More Info:

Acton Recreation Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Dispersed camping is allowed for up to 7 days at a time.

Call the Billings Field Office for more info: (406) 896-5013

Official Map: Acton Recreation Area MVUM

GPS: 46.042011, -108.658671

Graves Creek Road

Looking towards Graves Creek.

Image Attribution: “Grave Creek, Montana” by USFWS Mountain-Prairie, CC BY 2.0

Graves Creek Road turns into Petty Creek Road to form a 17-mile stretch of mostly gravel road that connects I-90 to the north (near Alberton) to Highway 12 to the south (near Lolo Hot Springs).

Roadside pullouts along both Graves Creek Road and Petty Creek Road can be used as dispersed campsites – just make sure you’re not on private land. For more secluded campsites, head down side roads, such as Forest Road 33.

The middle section of Graves/Petty Creek Road (about 10 miles) is unpaved. It’s not very rough, but it does consist of loose gravel with a few hills, blind corners, and narrow sections. I’d be a little hesitant navigating it pulling anything bigger than about 24 feet.

The drive down Graves/Petty Creek Road is very scenic. My favorite campsites are about a mile north of The Jack Saloon right before the turnoff for FR 33 (Wagon Mountain Road). These campsites are just 45 minutes from Missoula.

Important Tip: Graves Creek Road does cross through private land. Make sure you’re in Lolo National Forest before setting up camp.

Other Free Campsites Nearby: You’ll find tons of dispersed campsites in Lolo National Forest, such as along Forest Road 37.

See on YouTube:Montana Ridin’: Graves Cr, Petty Cr & Southside Rd” by John & Glenda Copeland

More Info:

Graves Creek Road is part of Lolo National Forest.

Dispersed camping is allowed for up to 14 days at a time.

Call the Missoula Ranger District for more info: (406) 329-3814

Official Map: Lolo Creek to Missoula West MVUM

GPS: 46.834250, -114.418056

Blankenship Bridge

Confluence of North Fork Flathead River and Middle Fork Flathead River.

Image Attribution: “Confluence of Flathead River’s North and Middle Fork” by Sam Beebe, CC BY 2.0

Blankenship Bridge is one of the best free campsites near Glacier National Park.

Also known as Blankenship Southwest, this dispersed camping area is just a half hour from the park’s West Glacier entrance and roughly the same distance to both Kalispell and Whitefish.

Many of the campsites are located right on an expansive gravel bar on the banks of the Middle Fork Flathead River just southwest of the titular bridge with easy access for swimming, fishing, and rafting.

It does get extremely busy here, especially during the summer. Don’t expect much privacy. The access road is often extremely rough, although plenty of RVs and trailers make it down.

Important Info: Locals are currently petitioning to close Blankenship Bridge to camping. But, as of fall 2023, the USFS has decided to keep the area open. Please respect local private property and absolutely follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles.

Other Free Campsites Nearby: For more privacy, consider dispersed camping elsewhere in Flathead National Forest, such as near Hungry Horse Reservoir.

See on YouTube:PNW Truck Living – Blankenship Bridge” by PNW Vanlife

More Info:

Blankenship Bridge is part of Flathead National Forest.

Dispersed camping is allowed for up to 3 nights at a time.

Call the Hungry Horse Ranger District for more info: (406) 387-3800

Official Map: Hungry Horse Ranger District MVUM

GPS: 48.465073, -114.072135

Related Post: My Favorite Free Campsites Near Glacier National Park

Fresno Reservoir

Sunrise at campsite on Fresno Reservoir.

Image Attribution: “Fresno Reservoir Dam Campsite Sunrise” by Tony Webster, CC BY-SA 2.0

Fresno Reservoir makes the perfect spot for free camping near Havre.

It’s located just 30 minutes west of town just off of Highway 2. The campsites are well-maintained and regularly-patrolled.

There are several different places to camp here. I believe all are managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. Fresno Reservoir Campground is the most popular (and is best suited for boondocking in RVs and trailers). Other options include Kremlin Bay Campground and Kiehns Bay Campground.

However, my favorite place to camp on Fresno Reservoir is the small free campground at the Fresno Tailwater Fishing Access Site (called “River Run Campground” on Google Maps) right next to the Fresno Dam.

Important Tip: Don’t confuse these Bureau of Reclamation campsites with the nearby free campground run by Walleyes Unlimited.

Other Free Campsites Nearby: Bailey Reservoir Fishing Access Site is another good spot for free camping near Havre.

See on YouTube: Beautiful Day Checking Out Fresno Reservoir and River Run Camp” by Van Campin Woody

More Info:

Fresno Reservoir is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation.

Free camping is allowed for up to 14 days at a time.

Call the Lower Marias Unit for more info: (406) 759-5077

Official Map: Fresno Reservoir Recreation Area Brochure

GPS: 48.596321, -109.956900

Fort Peck Lake

Overlooking Fort Peck Lake at Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

Fort Peck Lake is a fantastic place for free dispersed camping in Northeast Montana.

The expansive reservoir (the fifth largest in the country) is administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service largely as part of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. However, the majority of the free camping here is actually managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Out of the 27 recreation areas managed by the Corps of Engineers, I believe 12 of them welcome campers. This includes a mix of true dispersed camping, free developed campgrounds, and also large gravel lots for boondocking in RVs and trailers.

Boondocker’s Bible has an excellent guide to free camping on Fort Peck Lake which breaks down all of these COE campgrounds in more detail (and provides GPS coordinates for each).

See on YouTube:Ep. 269: Fort Peck Dam & Lake” by Grand Adventure

More Info:

Fort Peck Lake’s campsites are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Free camping is allowed for up to 14 days at a time.

Call the Fort Peck Interpretive Center for more info: (406) 526-3493

Official Map: USACE International Boundary Map

GPS: 48.017400, -106.372026

How to Find Even More Free Campsites in Montana

While they’re my favorite, the free campsites listed above make up just a handful of Montana’s dispersed camping opportunities. Here’s how to find even more:

  • Online Maps – Avenza Maps and Gaia GPS are super helpful for navigating USFS and BLM roads. Gaia GPS (as well as FreeRoam) both allow you to turn on public land overlays so you can see their exact boundaries.
  • Ranger Stations – I almost always stop by the nearest USFS or BLM ranger station before looking for a campsite. Not only can you typically pick up a free Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) and ask about current road conditions, but most rangers will also give you suggestions on specific dispersed campsites nearby.

If you truly can’t find any public land near you, there’s a chance you might be able to camp in a store parking lot nearby. Stores like Walmart, Cracker Barrel, and Cabela’s sometimes allow you to park overnight in their parking lots and sleep inside your vehicle.

A Montana-specific recommendation is the 50,000 Silver Dollar near Haugan just off I-90. The complex consists of a gas station, hotel, casino, and gigantic gift shop. They have a huge back area with free camping (including a handful of free electric hookups for RVs!).

Related Post: My Favorite Apps to Find Dispersed Campsites

Let Me Know If You Have Any Questions

Still confused about dispersed camping? Want more info on a specific campsite I mentioned above or need recommendations in a different part of the state?

Please don’t hesitate to ask your question in the comments below and I’ll get back to you with an answer right away!

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Post written by Jake Heller, the founder of Campnado. Read all Jake's posts. Or reach out to him directly: jake@campnado.com

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