Wal-Mart and its no-frills overnight RV parking

A travel trailer on the fringes of Wal-Mart's parking lot in Hurricane, Utah, March 28, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Wal-Mart isn’t just a retail behemoth. Its stores’ parking lots also double as RV parks and it stands to reason that warmer weather brings more motorhomes and trailers staying overnight on its pavement.

Not surprisingly, there are apps and websites dedicated to detailing the best and worst Wal-Marts at which to stop and stay the night while RVing as well as the Wal-Marts that do not allow overnight campers, which, according to rvtravel.com is only about 10-15 percent of Wal-Marts nationwide. Online videos are also available, including one by rvtravel.com, that tell RV travelers the do’s and don’ts of RV “boondocking” – parking somewhere without hookups also sometimes called dry camping – at Wal-Mart.

Two travel trailers on the fringes of Wal-Mart’s parking lot in Hurricane, Utah, March 28, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

Within Washington County, the Hurricane and Washington Wal-Marts allow RV stays while the Bloomington Wal-Mart in St. George does not.

In Iron County, the Cedar City Wal-Mart allows RV stays subject to compliance with city ordinances, its representative said.

An example of city ordinances RVers must comply with is Cedar City’s prohibition of parking within any fire lane (red zone) of a private parking lot.

Except as noted, area Wal-Mart store managers and assistant managers deflected calls requesting information for this story to the home office in Bentonville, Arkansas. On its corporate home page, however, Wal-Mart outlines its policy for overnight RVers.

“Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers,” the website states. “Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”

The Hurricane Police Department said there is no ordinance restricting overnight parking on private property – it is up to the individual owners as to whether they will allow it. The department also said it’s had very few disturbances with RV boondockers at the Hurricane Wal-Mart.

Allstays.com features an app and a website (another one is Wal-Mart Locator) that lists the Wal-Marts in each state that welcome overnight guests along with comments from RVers who have spent the night at those store parking lots. Among the comments on the website, the Hurricane Wal-Mart gets the highest marks.

One anonymous RVer, writing about a stay in the Hurricane Wal-Mart parking lot just this month, said that it is in a “good neighborhood” and that cops drove through and never bothered him or her. Interestingly, this commenter said they strategically parked on the west side of the store by the tire shop to be able to access Wal-Mart’s Wi-Fi in order to get Netflix.

“Sadly this is where the sewers are but it works!” the commenter wrote.

Another commenter on allstays.com, posting in August 2015, parked on the east side of the parking lot, enjoying that spot for its trees and adjacent desert landscape but also because he or she could face the RV door to the east to have a little privacy.

“It is the nicest non-Super Walmart we have seen – modern and well-stocked,” the August 2015 commenter wrote. “Well lit at night. Quite a bit of highway noise, but very tolerable.”

“One of the nicest Walmarts we have parked at,” another allstays.com RVer said of the Hurricane Wal-Mart in October 2014.

Reviews on the Washington Wal-Mart posted to allstays.com aren’t quite as positive. They toggle back and forth on whether the store will allow RVers. For example, the most recent entry about the Washington store, posted in November 2016, said, “very noisy with traffic”; the commenter admitted he or she parked near Telegraph Road but next time around would park near the garden center.

“Thank you, Walmart,” the Washington store reviewer said at the end of his or her post. “People, please ask permission and express gratitude … that way, we will all continue to enjoy Walmart’s generosity.”

Report continues below.

RVs parking in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Washington, Utah, March 28, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

Asking permission and expressing gratitude are common themes in the do’s and don’ts of overnight RVing at Wal-Mart. RVers traveling through Washington County, if inclined to overnight at a Wal-Mart, should know the “rules” for overnight RV stays at Wal-Mart:

  1. As a general rule, stay only one night.
  2. Treat Wal-Mart as a stopover, not a destination.
  3. Park in out-of-the-way places.
  4. Don’t extend your slide-outs, no tent trailers and no tents.
  5. Don’t set up barbecues, stoves, or camp chairs.
  6. Don’t put down automatic levelers.
  7. Carry out all your trash.

The obvious advantage of RV parking at Wal-Mart is that it is free. Another plus is that supplies are only steps away. There are, however, several disadvantages, one of them being that it’s not really a campground so it does not have hookups or a dump station. Additionally, there is no spectacular scenery, “no pine trees, no bubbling brook, no ocean beach,” said RVtravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury in his video. Other drawbacks are lack of privacy and, as stated in the unwritten “rules,” one should not break out the grill or camp chairs – it’s not a true camping experience.

“Walmart is a pit stop,” said RV traveler Kevin Myers in a comment about RVtravel.com’s YouTube video on staying at Wal-Mart. “No one uses it as a destination. Everyone I know stops in late, sleeps til morning, shops for breakfast, and leaves.”

Some, however, cast a stigma on Wal-Mart RV overnighters.

“To me, camping at Walmart has got to be the most low-life, white-trash, thing one could do,” RVer Dwight Stewart said in the comments about RVtravel.com’s video. “I mean, come on. It’s a store parking lot. That’s not camping.”

The alternative, of course, is staying in an actual RV Park, one of which just happens to be practically next door to the Hurricane Wal-Mart: Zions Gate RV Park.

Zions Gate Manager Curt Powers said RV overnighters at Wal-Mart do not affect his business much.

“It might in the summer,” Powers said of the effects on his business.

But Powers’ park is full nearly year-round, he said. Some of the overnighters who end up staying at Wal-Mart come to Zions Gate first, he said, adding jokingly that his park wouldn’t even want the ones that go straight to Wal-Mart and bypass his park.

Wal-Mart is not the most ideal destination for RVers and doesn’t offer frills, but it can offer a place to rest on the way to those real destinations.

Email: rwadsworth@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Utahguns March 31, 2017 at 9:25 am

    You’re right. Walmart isn’t a top drawer destination, but, it’s free. We’ve used the ol’ parking lots several times for occasional overnighters while traveling in our RV, which made it convenient in stocking up on provisions. We’ve occasionally located the store managers the next morning and thanked them for the use of their parking lot. They’ve always been polite and considerate.

  • comments March 31, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    I’ve heard that some walmart lots have turned into encampments where homeless live out of their RV’s or campers.

    • comments March 31, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      or even people living out of their cars

      • mesaman March 31, 2017 at 8:30 pm

        Or even on their bikes.

  • Caveat_Emptor March 31, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    This has been a terrific benefit for RVers, and even some of us folks who were able to get a quick nap in the car on the way home from Alaska. Between the groceries, restrooms, and reasonably secure parking space, it is a win-win, since the real estate does not get much utilization during the overnight hours.
    Thanks go to Wal-Mart!

  • utahdiablo March 31, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Yeah, just watxh what you wish for as we had to call in the Sheriff department to the Hurrican Walmart a few years back at Irish Travelers ( Gypsies ) were camped in the parking lot for over a week and panhandling people as they came out to their cars, we called the walmart store manager and they did not know what a Traveler was, but afet a car was brokern into the next day? That’s when the Sheriff got involved and ran them out, then they camped out under the SR 9 / I-15 bridge for a few days more until residents called the police and they ran them off….you don’t want these low lifes anywhere near you or your home

  • wickeman11 March 31, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Bloomington Walmart doesn’t allow it? Lol. Might want to tell the 4-5 RVs I saw parked in the northeast end of the lot about a half hour ago 😀

    When Sandra Bullock was in Tucson trying to work things out w Jesse James a few years back, she camped out in her big luxury rig in the parking lot at a super Walmart on the NW side

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