One of my most enduringly popular posts on this blog is the one about free overnight camping (ahem, parking) in Walmart parking lots in the southwest U.S. I’m not sure if readers are charmed by the witty account of my overnight adventures or just stumbled across it when looking to buy a laptop.
Most likely, they’re simply searching for Walmarts that allow overnight parking. Given that Walmart doesn’t officially acknowledge the practice but gives permission in many cases, it’s up to the likes of the excellent Allstays site for recent user information and experiences.
To help the cause, I’m listing Walmart parking lots I was permitted to stay in during a road trip through mountain states in April 2013. My strategy is pretty simple. If I see a bunch of campers/RVs in a distant corner of the lot, I pull up nearby. If not, I wander into the store and ask at the information desk.
My stays on this trip were pretty uneventful, other than one night in Albuquerque when flashlight-toting officers in two police cars spent an hour grilling the occupants of a nearby beater car. I kept the bear spray handy that night.
Here’s the list of Walmarts I stayed in:
Idaho Falls, Idaho – 500 South Utah Street
Montrose, Colorado – 16750 South Townsend Avenue
Gallup, New Mexico – 1600 West Maloney Avenue
Albuquerque, New Mexico – 2701 Carlisle Blvd NE
Santa Fe, New Mexico – 3251 Cerillos Road
Roswell, New Mexico – 4500A North Main
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico – 2001 HR Ashbaugh Drive
I pretty much struck out in Arizona. I couldn’t find any Walmarts in Tucson or Phoenix that allowed overnighting and instead stayed at the 24-hour Casino de Sol (5655 West Valencia) parking lot outside of Tucson and at a nice airbnb host house in Phoenix.
I camped a few times in Utah. The best deals were $10 a night in Capitol Reef National Park (no park entry fee if you’re just passing through) and free at the climbers’ camp in Indian Creek, near Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument. From a price perspective, these sure beat busy Zion National Park, where it costs $25 per vehicle just to get into the park (no doubt partly to pay for the shuttle-bus service), plus $16 and up to camp, if you’re lucky enough to find a free spot.