Free Camping for Service Members and Their Families

Military Members Camp For Free

Camp for Free With Tents for Troops

Summer plans are up in the air in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. As traveling restrictions start to slowly ease up, however, people are searching for low-risk ways to get out and have fun this summer. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer—go outside!

Take a road trip to a beautiful place in nature and camp under the stars. Active duty military members and their dependents get free access to every National Park in America, but nonetheless, travel can be expensive. Another military travel perk you might not have known about is the program Tents for Troops.

This program partners with campgrounds across America who commit a minimum of two of their campsites to the use of active duty military members and their families completely free of charge, for a minimum of two nights. Some parks even have RV units that can be used for a week for just a $35 nonrefundable deposit. Below are a few great participating campgrounds located conveniently near to some of our beautiful national parks, from Alaska to Tennessee.

Diamond M Ranch Resort

This ranch does it all. It is run by three generations of Alaskans who strive to make Diamond M Ranch Resort both family and community friendly. Located on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula—home to the Kenai Fjord National Park—the site overlooks the Cook Inlet and the Kenai River. They offer free weekly farm tours and free guided hikes to resort guests. Just across the inlet are two more national parks: Katmai and Lake Clark.

What to do in the area:

  • Catch trophy salmon in the nearby rivers
  • Fish on the ocean for halibut
  • Go on a glacier tour by boat to catch sight of whales, sea lions, and other wildlife
  • Go on a bear viewing trip

Yosemite Pines RV Resort & Family Lodging

This campground is located just under half an hour from the Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite National Park in California. It boasts a pool, its own general store, plenty of activity spaces like a volleyball court and horseshoes, and you can even pan for gold!

What to do in the area:

  • Hike to the top of Yosemite Falls
  • Climb or hike the famous rock formation, Half Dome (if you’re a rock climber, there are plenty of bucket-list worthy climbs in this one park)
  • Go wine tasting at family-owned wineries in one of the oldest grape-growing regions in America on the nearby Madera Wine Trail
  • Visit the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, where 500 of these gargantuan trees stand—even one you can drive through!

Dubois Wind River KOA

This campground in Wyoming makes a great base to explore not only one, but two beautiful national parks: the famous Yellowstone and the lesser known Grand Teton National Park. The mountains of Yellowstone are part of the Rocky Mountain Range which starts in Canada and spans seven US states, all the way down to New Mexico.

What to do in the area:

  • Go trout fishing in the Wind River
  • Enjoy an on-site heated indoor pool
  • See Old Faithful, the famous erupting geyser
  • Go rafting on the Snake River
  • Take a dinner cruise on Jackson Lake
  • See the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which was created by a massive volcanic eruption about 600,000 years ago!

Little Arrow Outdoor Resort

This highly rated resort is located in Townsend, Tennessee, on the outskirts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to the camp store, there is a wide variety of food trucks that come to the site. There are also bath houses, fire pits, and a community garden.

What to do in the area:

  • Get an amazing view from an observation tower built upon the tallest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Clingmans Dome, which stands at 6,643 miles above sea level and is part of the Appalachian Trail
  • Hike Rainbow Falls, named for the rainbows that appear in the mist of the waterfall
  • Visit the impressive Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in nearby Gatlinburg, which houses over 100,000 exotic sea creatures—the aquarium offers a 50% discount to active duty, veterans, retired military, and reserves, as well as a 30% discount for their dependents

Instead of feeling stuck at home this summer, take advantage of the current situation to unplug and view what the great outdoors has to offer you—from sea to shining sea!

Note: Some National Parks and campsites participating in the Tents for Troops program have varied plans for when they will reopen within the context of COVID-19. Be sure to check for closures before you start planning your trip.

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About the author

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Marissa Fuller is a freelance writer and editor with a degree in Creative Writing and Classical Civilizations from the University of Arizona. She can be found translating Shakespeare into Ancient Greek in the English countryside, where she is currently stationed with her Airman and their faithful hound.