11 Best Places for Free Dispersed Camping in Montana

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

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

Rather than list every free campsite in Big Sky Country (an impossible task), I’ve narrowed down your options to just 11 of the very best.

Related Post: Best Free Campsites Near Yellowstone

Please always follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping, especially packing out all of your trash, including human waste.

Best Free Campsites in Montana

Skip down to the free campsite you want to learn more about:

Or, browse our Montana dispersed camping map to find a free campsite near you.

Montana is bear country, including grizzly bears. It’s extremely important to store your food correctly and always practice proper bear safety.

My Favorite Dispersed Campsites in Montana

Here are 11 of my favorite places for dispersed camping in Montana (that I’ve personally stayed at) to help you find the perfect free campsite for your next trip.

Beaver Creek Road (Custer Gallatin National Forest)

Near West Yellowstone

Quiet nights are what dispersed camping on Forest Road 985 in Custer Gallatin National Forest is all about.

Although the area is now very popular thanks to its proximity to the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park (just 30 minutes away), it’s still relatively peaceful here thanks to the new “designated dispersed camping” rules.

Unlike traditional dispersed camping, these rules dictate that you must camp in one of 8 designated campsites. However, these are still primitive with nothing more than rock fire rings. They’re also spread quite far apart for plenty of privacy.

This map of Beaver Creek Road’s designated dispersed camping (courtesy of the Forest Service) shows exactly where each of the 8 campsites is located along Forest Road 985.

What I Like:

Beaver Creek Road is just 30 minutes from West Yellowstone. The campsites are quiet and peaceful. A handful are suitable for RVs and trailers up to about 30 feet. Nearby Beaver Creek is beautiful.

What I Don’t Like:

Not much to complain about here. But, because there’s only 8 campsites, you need to get here early, otherwise you’ll likely need to look elsewhere for a spot. This is heavy bear country, including grizzlies, so make sure to store your food properly. Bear boxes are located near each campsite.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Dispersed camping opportunities are abundant throughout the surrounding Hebgen Lake Recreation Area, including along Forest Road 209 (West Fork Madison Road) and Forest Road 681 (Red Canyon Road).

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: (406) 682-7620

GPS: 44.888917, -111.355083

Carbella Recreation Site (BLM Land)

Near Gardiner

Carbella Recreation Site is one of the best free campsites 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 region 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, Carbella Recreation Site is extremely busy, especially during the summer months.

I believe this used to be a true dispersed camping area, but, because of the popularity, you’re now required to camp in a designated campsite (I think there are somewhere between 12 and 15).

Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring, and bear box. Well-maintained vault toilets are located on-site. There’s even a boat launch for easy access to the Yellowstone River.

What I Like:

Many campsites sit right on the Yellowstone River. Almost every campsite will accommodate even the largest RVs and trailers, making this a great Montana boondocking spot. There’s an on-site camp host during the summer. Carbella is just a half hour from Yellowstone.

What I Don’t Like:

Dispersed camping is no longer allowed here. You’re now restricted to a little over a dozen marked campsites. It gets very busy here during summer, so arrive early to snag a spot for the night.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

For actual dispersed camping near Yellowstone, look no further than Tom Miner. The access road (Tom Miner Road) starts very near Carbella. The first campsites appear about 10 miles in once you cross into Custer Gallatin National Forest (turn left at the junction rather than right to Tom Miner Campground).

More Info:

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

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

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

GPS: 45.203875, -110.900872

Dunn Creek Flats Recreation Area (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Near Libby

Free camping certainly isn’t in short supply near Libby in Northwest Montana.

Surrounded by the rugged Kootenai National Forest, the adventerous camper will find hundreds of dispersed camping opportunities in the mountains surrounding town.

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

The 13-site campground here is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s basically a large, open field with campsites along the river. Even though it’s a developed (albeit primitive) campground, staying here is completely free.

Boondockers rejoice – the campsites here are large and flat. Most can accommodate RVs and trailers of all sizes, including even the biggest rigs.

What I Like:

The scenery at Dunn Creek Flats is beautiful. There are sweeping mountain views in all directions. Most campsites are located on or near the river. Most campsites can accommodate RVs and trailers. This is a popular spot for fishing.

What I Don’t Like:

Not much to complain about here – aside from personal preference. If you don’t like camping near others, look for dispersed camping in the surrounding Kootenai National Forest. But, if you don’t mind free camping in a developed campground, then Dunn Creek Flats is for you.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

There’s an abundance of dispersed camping in nearby Kootenai National Forest. A good bet is to head north out of town on Pipe Creek Road before turning onto a secondary forest service road like FR 615. Take a little time to explore on your own and you might even find a dispersed campsite on Lake Koocanusa!

More Info:

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

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

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

GPS: 48.381520, -115.320438

Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area (Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks)

Near Choteau

Just south of Choteau is another one of my favorite places for dispersed camping in Montana.

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

And, I believe, a couple nights are actually all that’s allowed here. Unlike most dispersed camping areas, stays at Freezout Lake are restricted to just two nights at a time.

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.

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

What I Like:

Freezout Lake boasts beautiful views across the prairies and lakes with the Rocky Mountains far in the distance. Early spring (usually late March) is the best time to take in the annual snow goose migration. It’s very quiet and peaceful here despite the proximity to Highway 89.

What I Don’t Like:

The campsites here are very exposed to the elements. It’s often windy with nothing to shield yourself behind. It’s extremely hot in summer with minimal natural shade. It also gets quite busy with birdwatchers in spring and hunters in fall.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

I’m not aware of any other free campsites in this general area. However, the cute town of Choteau does offer first-come, first-served camping in Choteau City Park for just $10 per night. An RV dump station ($5) is also available at the city park.  

More Info:

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

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

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

GPS: 47.669222, -112.017194

Wisdom American Legion Memorial Park

Near Wisdom

* Please leave a donation if you do camp here.

The Wisdom American Legion Memorial Park is a great place to stop for a night on your way through the Big Hole Valley.

This small volunteer-run (by veterans) camping area is located near the Big Hole River just outside the town of Wisdom. It boasts beautiful views of the mountains far in the distance.

The campground isn’t much to look at, sure – but it gets the job done. 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.

The Wisdom American Legion Memorial Park is a popular overnight stop for bicyclists riding across the country on the TransAmerica Trail, so expect tired cyclists to filter in throughout the evening.

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.  

What I Like:

This free campground is extremely clean and well-maintained. Amenities include the abovementioned picnic tables and fire rings as well as vault toilets, well water (not potable), and a small shelter with electrical outlets, free Wi-Fi, and tables. Don’t forget to check out nearby Big Hole National Battlefield.

What I Don’t Like:

Mosquitos are abundant here. If you have an RV or trailer, that’s not a very big deal. Tent campers, on the other hand, will be thankful for the completely screened-in shelter to take refuge from these pests. Just make sure to limit how often you open the shelter’s door!  

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Head west from Wisdom towards Idaho on Highway 43 until you enter Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Here you’ll find several large roadside pull-outs ideal for RVs and several forest service roads for tent camping. On my most recent visit, I found a very nice site near these GPS coordinates: 45.630771, -113.682574.

More Info:

I’m not aware of a good website or contact phone number for the Wisdom American Legion Memorial Park.

I’m also not aware of their free camping stay limit.

Please let me know if you have any more info on this location: jake@campnado.com

GPS: 45.618565, -113.459051

Far West Fishing Access (Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks)

Near Miles City

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

Now, this isn’t a remote or very private place to camp, but it is a really 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 lake, perfect for swimming in the summer.

I don’t think it’s technically allowed, but if the campground is full, I’ve seen people camping down near the fishing access area without a problem.

What I Like:

Super convenient location off of I-94. Just 30 minutes to Miles City and about 90 minutes to Billings. Quiet and peaceful at night despite heavy day-use traffic. Just a few minutes from the small town of Rosebud.

What I Don’t Like:

Pretty wide open without much privacy between campsites. Mosquitos are a big problem during the summertime.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

I’m not aware of any other free campsites in the area, aside from the Walmart in Miles City (overnight parking is still allowed as of summer 2022).

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: (406) 234-0913

GPS: 46.279389, -106.475417

Acton Recreation Area (BLM Land)

Near Billings

Acton Recreation Area is one of my favorite places for free BLM camping in Montana.

It’s just 18 miles north of Billings (as the crow flies, driving here clocks in at about 30 miles) off of Highway 3 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.

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).  

Those with high-clearance and 4WD can continue down the steep hill. I believe there are about 6 miles of unpaved road in total open to motorized vehicles. Just make sure your vehicle is up to the task.

This map of Acton Recreation Area from the BLM gives you a better idea of the area’s roads, trails, and dispersed campsite locations.

What I Like:

Just a half hour from Billings. A beautiful and surprisingly diverse landscape. Great views all around, but especially on the canyon rim. Abundant wildlife. Lots of recreational opportunities, including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and more.

What I Don’t Like:

The BLM roads and even the access roads (Heag Road and Oswald Road) get muddy and rutted after heavy rain. It also gets crowded here, especially with day-use visitors in the main parking lot, especially on summer weekends.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Billings seems to be in something of a dispersed camping desert (from my experience). I don’t know of any other free campsites nearby – aside from parking lot camping – except for down near Red Lodge, which is about an hour away.

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: (406) 896-5013

GPS: 46.042011, -108.658671

Graves Creek Road (Lolo National Forest)

Near Lolo

Dispersed camping in Montana doesn’t get much better than along Graves Creek Road.

Part of Lolo National Forest, Graves Creek Road connects with Petty Creek Road to form a 17-mile stretch of road that connects I-90 to the north (near Alberton) to Highway 12 to the south (near Lolo Hot Springs).

Although you’ll find dispersed camping along the majority of this 17-mile road, my favorite campsites are located along the Graves Creek stretch near The Jack Saloon.

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 to navigate it pulling anything bigger than about 24 feet.

What I Like:

The drive down Graves/Petty Creek Road is very scenic. There are a ton of dispersed campsites here, almost all of which are private and peaceful. My favorite campsites about a mile from The Jack Saloon are just 45 minutes from Missoula.

What I Don’t Like:

This isn’t the best place for RVs or trailers. For all but the smallest rigs, look at the cheap camping behind The Jack Saloon (not positive on the price) or at nearby Lolo Creek Campground ($15 per night).

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

There’s an abundance of dispersed campsites in surrounding Lolo National Forest. Just take some time to explore the many nearby forest service roads, such as Forest Road 37, and you’re sure to find the perfect campsite to stay in.

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: (406) 329-3814

GPS: 46.834250, -114.418056

Blankenship Bridge (Flathead National Forest)

Near Glacier National Park

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 entrance and roughly the same distance to 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.

Do note, however, that because of its great location, it does get extremely busy here, especially during summer. Don’t expect any privacy when camping here.

The access road to the river is often extremely rough, although plenty of RVs and trailers make it down.

Important Info:

Blankenship Southwest has been riddled with problems over the last several years.

Left behind trash, improperly disposed human waste, and illegal campfires might well lead to permanent closures in the future.

In fact, neighbors are currently petitioning to close Blankenship Bridge to dispersed camping.

As of spring 2023, I believe the Forest Service has decided to continue to keep the area open (but please update me if you’ve visited more recently). 

It’s vital to pack out all trash, use onsite porta-potties or pack out human waste (don’t bury it), respect campfire bans, and don’t overstay the 3-night stay limit.

And, if you want more privacy, consider dispersed camping elsewhere in Flathead National Forest, such as near Hungry Horse Reservoir.

What I Like:

I love Blankenship Bridge’s great location on the Middle Fork Flathead River just a half hour from Glacier National Park. If you like socializing while camping, this is a great spot to do that.

What I Don’t Like:

Unless you visit in the off-season, it’s almost always very crowded here. Luckily, it’s not usually a noisy, party crowd (except on weekends). Instead, you’ll likely find other campers enjoying the scenery on their way to or from Glacier National Park.

More Info:

Blankenship Southwest is part of Flathead National Forest.

Dispersed camping is allowed for only 3 nights at a time.

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

GPS: 48.465073, -114.072135

Related Post: The Best Free Campsites Near Glacier National Park

Fresno Reservoir (Bureau of Reclamation)

Near Havre

For free camping near Havre, look no further than Fresno Reservoir.

Located just north of Highway 2, these well-maintained and regularly-patrolled free campsites are just 30 minutes from town.

There are actually several different places to camp here. I believe all are managed by the Bureau of Reclamation and welcome campers for up to 14 days at a time (for free).

Fresno Reservoir Campground is the most popular. Located alongside the Fresno Beach Day Use Area, this free campground has a large upper gravel lot for RV and trailer boondocking plus a lower grassy area for tent camping.

Camping is also allowed at the nearby Kremlin Bay Campground and Kiehns Bay Campground, both of which are basically dispersed camping in a designated area.

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.

What I Like:

Lots of different options to choose from. The large, level campsites at Fresno Reservoir Campground are perfect for RVs and trailers of all sizes. Beautiful views of the reservoir and amazing fishing are close at hand.

What I Don’t Like:

Walleyes Unlimited runs a free campground (open to public if it’s not full) right next to the Bureau of Reclamation camp (Fresno Reservoir Campground). Nothing against Walleyes – they run a great operation – it’s just easy to confuse the two.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

Bailey Reservoir is another place for free dispersed camping near Havre. I believe there are three campsites marked with picnic tables and fire rings. The camping area is managed by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

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 Marias-Milk River Division Office: (406) 759-5077

GPS: 48.596321, -109.956900

Fort Peck Lake (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Fort Peck Lake

Free dispersed camping is super easy to find near Fort Peck Lake.

Located in Northeast Montana, just off Highway 2, this 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 27 recreation areas managed by the Corps of Engineers, I believe 12 of them welcome campers. These feature a mix of true dispersed camping, large gravel lots best for RVs and trailers, and free primitive campgrounds.

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 to each).

What I Like:

I love how many options you have for free camping on Fort Peck Lake. For easy access, stick to the northern campgrounds. For more remoteness, head to the southern reaches of the reservoir.

All of the free campgrounds here are incredibly beautiful. Many even provide picnic tables, fire rings, shade shelters, vault toilets, boat launches, and other amenities.

What I Don’t Like:

Camping at Fort Peck Lake has just two downsides. The first is the wind. It doesn’t always blow – but when it blows, it sure does blow. Second is the mosquitoes. A ton of bugs come out on summer evenings.

Other Free Campsites Nearby:

With twelve free campgrounds located around the reservoir, you already have plenty of room to spread out and find the perfect campsite. But, do know, that true dispersed camping is available on BLM land in the surrounding area, although all of this is at least a mile or more from the lake.

More Info:

Fort Peck Lake’s campgrounds 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: (406) 526-3493

GPS: 48.017400, -106.372026

How to Find Even More Free Camping in Montana

Group of horses crossing a stream in a field in Montana.

The eleven free campsites above are just a small handful of places to go dispersed camping in Montana – there are literally hundreds of others.

Here are a few tips to find even more:

  • Online Maps – Avenza Maps and Gaia GPS are super helpful for navigating USFS and BLM roads to find National Forest and BLM dispersed camping.
  • Ranger Stations – I almost always stop by the nearest USFS or BLM ranger station before looking for a campsite. Not only can you pick up a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) and ask about current road conditions, but most rangers will also give you directions to the best dispersed campsites nearby. 
  • Explore on Your Own – My top tip is to give yourself plenty of time to explore USFS and BLM roads on your own. I’ve found most of my very favorite dispersed campsites – many of which I keep secret – by simply wandering around public land for a few hours.
  • Parking Lot Camping – A great backup is camping in a store parking lot (Walmart is most common) if you can’t find a good dispersed campsite nearby – or, if you just need to stay in town or near a highway for a night.
  • Stealth Camping – If you really can’t find a good spot for the night, I recommend looking into stealth camping which can be done almost anywhere, even in cities, with the right rig.

Related Post: Best Free Campsites Near Grand Teton National Park

Montana Dispersed Camping Rules and Regulations

River, mountains, and forest near Gardiner, Montana.

It’s absolutely essential to respect our public lands when dispersed camping.

If you’re new to camping outside of developed campgrounds, I strongly encourage you to look into the 7 Leave No Trace principles.

Following these simple rules helps us limit our human impact on the land and protect nature from “overuse, trash, and harming endangered wildlife.”

Most important, in my opinion, is packing out all your trash. Dispersed campsites don’t have trash cans, so you need to plan ahead to pack out any garbage, including food waste.

Just as important is properly disposing human waste while camping. The cat hole method is one approach, but I personally recommend packing out your human waste with a WAG bag or a portable toilet.

Other important rules to follow include using previously used campsites whenever possible, respecting any stay limits (usually 14 days in national forests and on BLM land), and properly storing food in bear country.

And, when dispersed camping in Montana, it’s vital to respect any campfire bans as wildfires are common – and devastating – here.

Related Post: Best Dispersed Camping in Wyoming

Let Me Know If You Have Questions

Still have questions about free dispersed camping in Montana?

Don’t be a stranger and please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to help you find the best free campsites (dispersed or otherwise), even if they’re not listed above.

More Help: jake@campnado.com