trucks in a rest stop

Sleeping At Rest Stops in California: What you need to know?

Something people don’t realize is that Tired driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Therefore, anyone driving through the interstate should be aware of rest stops and use them appropriately.

Distracted driving is one of the causes of most accidents in the US. One way you can be less distracted is to have a proper sleep before driving from one place to another. Rest stops are the perfect place for you to take a break from driving.

You can sleep at rest stops in California. You can take a power nap, catnap, or even a small break from driving. Unfortunately, the state law doesn’t allow you to stay beyond 8 hours in the rest area. Rest stops are significant sleeping areas when you are traveling interstate.

If you have never slept in a rest area and don’t know what it is meant for, I will walk you through everything you need to know about rest areas in this article. Let’s get started, shall we,

What is a Rest stop?

Rest stops are public facilities managed by the state government to help interstate travelers rest on continuing their journey. In addition, Interstate rest stops provide various valuable amenities like drinking water, restrooms, and lots and lots of picnic tables. Rest areas were initially modeled as roadside parks; later, they developed into safety rest stops for interstate travelers. Some rest areas also come with welcome centers when you cross their state border. Welcome centers offer information about the state and other information you might need while traveling through the state.

The distance between each rest area is about 1 to 2 hours. Welcome centers have trained and certified people who can provide information to interstate travelers with information. Some welcome centers also offer free juice. There are a total of 88 rest areas or rest stops in the state of California, along with 19 welcome centers. These rest areas and rest stops also serve as grey water and black water dump facility for RVs. 

Rest stops also might have scenic overlooks, trailheads around them in some areas. Always look at the reviews for a particular trailhead or rest stop online to know more about the experience of people who visited that place. Looking at reviews will allow you to know if that specific area is patrolled often or if it had problems or safety issues before. 

Click here for maps for all rest stops in California.

Click here for maps for all welcome centers in California.

Click here for maps for all Rv dumb areas in California.

Rules of Rest stops or Rest Areas:

Rest areas are being managed by CalTrans(California transportation). However, the Rules mentioned below are mandatory to ensure convenience for the travelers to have rest. Therefore, these rules are made compulsory.

You cannot camp in rest stops:

camping in rest stops is entirely prohibited. You cannot stay beyond 8 hours in a rest stop in 24 hours. Unlike a national park, you cannot camp in a rest stop or a rest area. This rule is also accompanied by the prohibition of tents as well as any erection of shelter-based belongings. You are also not allowed to make campfires or any open fires. 

Parking in Rest stops:

you are not allowed to park in rest stops, just for the sake of parking. In addition, you cannot park your vehicles in a rest stop for activities that you are doing outside of rest stops. It intends to prohibit people from parking their cars at a safe roadside rest area or vista point to engage in cross-country skiing, off-road vehicle use, fishing, hiking, camping, or hunting.

Animals and Pets in Rest stops:

if you are bringing pets or animals with you on your Rv or car, they should always be on a leash. It protects your pets from being run over by large trucks that come and go into the rest stop. In simple words, you cant allow your pets to run free in the rest stop. All liter and trash should be in the trash receptacles provided.

Behavior in Rest stops:

no one is allowed to block vehicular or pedestrian traffic; any belongings that are blocking traffic will be removed. You cannot attach Signs, cards, handbills, flags, pennants, streamers to trees or anywhere in the rest area. Even though it’s a federal property managed under the state government, it’s meant for safety rest stops under 8 hours alone.

Waste Dumps in Rest Stops:

if you have any sanitary waste, it should be dumped in the designated clean dump stations. You cannot sell or publicize anything in the rest stops. The electricity, water, and gas at a rest stop cannot be used unauthorized. Noise-producing instruments like megaphones and musical instruments are not allowed. Vehicles should be parked only in the parking area as cameras monitor them. 

Things to do at Rest stops:

  • Rest stops have good walking zones; you can go for a morning walk.
  • Some rest stops have pets play areas, which might be beneficial if you have a pet.
  • With all the picnic tables available, you have a small afternoon or morning picnic at the rest stop.
  • If the rest stop has a welcome center, you can use the free wifi to browse the internet and go through their merchandise and literature about the state.

Pros of staying at Rest Stops:

  • Rest stops are monitored; they mostly have security going through 24/7.
  • Since many people around, it will be an excellent spot to take a break from driving.
  • When you have many trucks coming through and cars coming through, there is a lot of lighting, and it’s generally safe. Even if you scream because of something, somebody is going to hear and help you out.
  • Finding clean bathrooms while traveling is trouble; rest stops have the most immaculate bathrooms, as they are taken care of three to four times a day.
  • Stopping at a random place to read a book or make some coffee or answer some emails might not work out; that’s when the rest stop picnic tables will serve you as a great tool.
  • If you are staying in places like the Walmart parking lot, most times, they might not be closer to the highway. However, rest stops are closer to the highway; you can pull in and pull out.
  • The most important aspect of a rest stop is that it’s FREE!

Cons of staying at Rest Stops:

  • You cannot stay more than 8 hours, which might be a problem if you are trying to camp your RV.
  • The noise might be another issue as trucks are going in and out of the rest stop.
  • If you are someone who gets paranoid quickly, then rest stops at night are not for you. People might park their vehicles next to you and mind their own business, but it will scare the heck out of you if you are paranoid.
  • Privacy might be a problem as you are in a public place; people can walk by you, talk by your spot.

What to do at Welcome Centers?

  • All California welcome centers have free wifi access. If you are on a long drive and don’t have internet access, this is the best spot to visit.
  • They are open seven days a week; you can see them any time you want.
  • They will offer free maps and free brochures about the state and its local attractions.
  • They will also provide you with insightful information about hotels and how to travel through the state.
  • Some California welcome centers also have vending machines.
  • Sometimes they also have regional tickets for attractions as well as state merchandise. So if you were trying to get a souvenir on visiting a state, this is the best stop to get them.


Rest stops, in general, are safe; when it comes to Californian rest stops, most of them have highway patrol quarters there and are heavily monitored by the CalTrans people. Always follow your intuition if something doesn’t feel right when you visit a place. Rest stops are safer than Walmart parking lots. The only difference might be the noise that you have to deal with at the rest stops.

Take care of yourself at all times; the best advice that I can give about rest stops is that you have to sleep there and get yourself out of that place. The more time you stay, you might have problems with the rest stop securities or even people who might target you for the wrong reasons.

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