When you're traveling by bicycle, you have a number of choices for where to spend the nights.
If you're looking for comfort and security, or need access to amenities such as room service, laundry, and electricity, places such as hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and commercial campgrounds are fine choices. Sure, you may pay a bit more, but if the weather is foul, or you feel you've earned a night of luxury, they can be just the ticket.
However, if funds are tight, commercial options too expensive, or if you're just looking for a place to spend the night in peace and solitude, there are a number of options to choose from for finding free places to camp in the state of Kansas.
This site provided detailed listing of a large number of Free Campsites in Kansas, but the following information highlights some of those options in more detail, to help you find the one that best fits your situation and needs.
State Fishing Lakes
Kansas has a large number of state fishing lakes, managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Many of these lakes provide primitive camping areas, usually at no cost. However, these lakes often provide few or no services, so you'll need to be prepared with food and water. Camping is often restricted to certain designated areas.
- See complete list of Bicycle Camping at Kansas State Fishing Lakes.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism also manages a number of Wildlife Areas around the state (most associates with reservoirs), managed primarily for hunting. Some (but by no means all) of these offer primitive camping opportunities, usually at no cost. However, these areas often provide few or no services, so you'll need to be prepared with food and water. Camping is often restricted to certain designated locations.
- See complete list of Bicycle Camping at Kansas Wildlife Areas.
Community Lakes and Community Parks
Many communities in Kansas – counties, cities, small towns – provides lakes and parks for their citizens, and for visitors as well. So of these places charge a fee, but many are free. Amenities vary greatly, of course, with some sites providing nothing except a secluded spot of grass, while other sites offer restrooms, showers, and more.
- See complete list of Kansas Community Lakes and Kansas Community Parks that offer camping for Bicyclists.
Many small towns in Kansas offer free primitive camping in their city parks. These offerings are often not advertised, but are well-known among cyclotourists, particularly along established bicycle routes. These city park campsites are best discovered by asking the local police or fire department, which can advise you of what is permitted, and where.
- See complete guide to City Park Camping in Kansas.
As an amenity to travelers, Kansas offers a network of roadside parks on many of the major and minor highways in the state. Often, these can be fine places to camp overnight while bicycle touring.
- See complete guide to Camping in Kansas Roadside Parks.
Stealth camping is sleeping in a location that is not a designated campsite. There are a number of reasons that you may want to, or need to, stealth camp, especially if you find yourself in a remote location far from any established campgrounds or city parks.
- See complete guide to Stealth Camping in Kansas.
According to KDWPT: "Most streams and rivers in Kansas are privately owned. The public rivers are the Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri. They are open to the public between the ordinary high water marks on each bank. This is the line that can be seen where high water has left debris, sand, and gravel during its ordinary annual cycle."
So, you may freely camp along the Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri Rivers, as long as the water is down, and you can access the river via public property (bridges, parks, or boat ramps, for example). Do not trespass on private property to access the rivers, and if inclement weather threatens, or if the water level is high, do not attempt to camp along these rivers.
In addition to the possibilities detailed above, here are some additional ideas you might consider for finding free or low-costs places to sleep at night:
- WarmShowers.org – The Warm Showers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink. CouchSurfing.org is a similar service.
- Many churches, particularly in rural communities, will allow travelers to pitch a tent on church property for a night. This can work especially well if the church matches up with your own faith or denomination.
- Small-town or rural fire stations may allow you to camp next to or behind their firehouse. Be sure to ask first!
- Small-town police departments can often provide good advice about where to safely, cheaply, and legally spend the night.
- Call the chamber of commerce in your destination community, and ask for their suggestions.
- Family, friends, old schoolmates, fraternities or sororities ... many of these can not only provide safe lodging, but company and comfort on the road, as well as reliable local knowledge about where to go, what to see and do, and what to avoid.