Plumas National Forest Dispersed Camping
Plumas National Forest is loaded with dispersed campsites for the frugal-minded. In each of the four ranger districts, campers can find hordes of California free camping in areas like Feather Falls, Little North Fork, Bucks Lake Recreation Area, and Red Bridge.
In terms of recreation, theres an activity for almost everyone at Plumas. From rock climbing in the Mt. Hough Ranger district to wildlife viewing of rare species like the Pitcher Plant in Butterfly Valley, you can practice your preferred outdoor hobby or even take up a new one.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is a national park of extremes. The below sea level basin is a land of record summer heat, snowy winter peaks, spring wildflowers and a diverse wildlife. Despite its morbid name, the national park is a top destination for outdoor recreation and seasonal camping. Its one of the best winter camping spots in California, but if you want to feel the heat, check out Death Valley in the summer!
Tamarisk Grove Campground Anza
The largest and one of the best state parks in California, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park encompasses over 600,000 acres. The best time of year to visit Anza-Borrego is between October and May, when the 100-plus-degree summer heat subsides. One of the best campgrounds in the park is the Tamarisk Grove Campground. The most developed campground within Anza-Borrego, Tamarisk Grove is centrally located, with both campsites and cabins available. Drinking water is available for purchase at the campground.
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Sweetwater Laguna Mountain Campground
Location: San Benito County
Amenities: Vault toilets, shade structures, picnic tables, firepits, and a kiosk . Electricity, trash collection, or running water are not available.
Activities: Hiking, hunting, and wildlife watching
Dogs allowed: Yes
This free campground is situated within the rugged, rolling hills and oak forests that make up the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. The scenery is stunning, and as you traverse through the region, youll pass through forests, meadows, and a desert landscape with unique rock formations. With hiking and biking trails leading to Laguna Creek, to cliffs overlooking the expanse, and to a series of scenic waterfalls located in the gorge, which path will you take first?
Los Padres National Forest Primitive Camping
Location: Los Padres National Forest
Amenities: Picnic tables and firepits.
Activities: Bird watching, hiking, and hunting
Dogs allowed: Yes, but only on-leash.
Considered one of the best places to explore in California, Los Padres National Forestthe Golden States second-largest national forestis the perfect place for a wild weekend getaway. Covering over 1.7 million acres, this forest is home to plenty of primitive campsites and offers numerous activities, including rock climbing, day hiking, and hunting. The basic yet beautiful camping grounds range from sea level to nearly 9,000 feet in elevation and from riverside to forested, so youll have your pick of where to camp in the wilderness .
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Russian Gulch State Park
Take in some of northern Californias most captivating, rugged coastlines just north of Mendocino at Russian Gulch. The state park has stunning landscapes that include windswept headlands , a leafy canyon that spans three miles, a glittering beach, and a 36-foot waterfall that cascades into a bower of redwoods. Campers can take their pick of 26 standard sites, one group site, and four equestrian sites on the northeast edge of the park. Take note: camping is available only in the summer.
Best For Tree Huggers: Redwood National And State Parks
If you didnt catch enough of those tall timbers in Sequoia, Redwood National Park is home to the tallest trees on earth. You can bring your pets and make it a family affair with backcountry glamping, you just might need to apply for a few permits before you venture out. And, before you visit check for air-quality conditions as this can be affected by seasonal fall fires in the region.
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South Carlsbad State Beach Campground
For some of the best beach camping in Southern California, the 50-mile stretch of the San Diego coast is lined with stunning state beaches. Among the most popular for camping, thanks to the 220 bluff-top sites available, is the South Carlsbad State Beach Campground. With ocean views and easy access to the sprawling beach, all overnight guests at South Carlsbad are also within proximity to flushing toilets and coin-operated showers.
Castaic Lake Recreation Area
Castaic Lake State Recreation Area offers 60 self-contained overnight camping sites at its lower lake lagoon, accommodating travel trailers, campers, and RVs. Tent camping is also available on a limited basis. The campground makes the perfect place to set up your base camp for all your recreational activities.
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Lake Tahoe Campground Highlights
Campgrounds along Lake Tahoe’s western shore range from quiet little gatherings tucked back among the trees to grand state parks with lake views and desirable amenities.
- D. L. Bliss State Park – The premier campground along western Lake Tahoe’s shore. Great campsites, many with lake views, good amenities, and sandy beaches.
- Sugar Pine Point State Park – A popular campground with many campsites set back from the lake. Day use area along the shore.
- Fallen Leaf – Spread between Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake. Nice campsites, close to Emerald Bay and South Lake Tahoe.
- Other campgrounds – Find campgrounds along the Truckee River and all the way south to a city run campground with full hook-ups in South Lake Tahoe.
The beautiful Crystal Basin off Highway 50 a short distance east of Placerville is a wonderland of lakes and trails.
- Union Valley Reservoir – A favorite for camping, fishing and waterskiing. Campgrounds nearly encircle the lake.
- Wrights Lake One of the most beautiful lakes in the Sierra. With no water skiing, it attracts paddlers of kayaks and canoes as well as anglers. Trails lead out to the Desolation Wilderness.
- Loon Lake – This scenic mountain lake is a popular place for those who want a little more solitude
- Ice House Reservoir – Ice House is known for good fishing and boating
- Sly Park Campground and Jenkinson Lake – Operated by the El Dorado Irrigation District, Sly Park has great amenities for those who want a little more comfort in their camping.
Inyo National Forest Dispersed Camping
Image from The Dyrt camper Daniel S.
According to the USFS, most of the land in Inyo County is publicly owned, so anywhere you can find to park and camp for the night is fair game. While the Forest Service recommends purchasing a map to distinguish public land from private, you can find somewhere to camp with enough space to hang up a hammock and enjoy the surrounding flora and fauna.
At Inyo, campers can remain for 28 days per every six months in each of the four ranger districts and campsites can be found along the road in compacted pull-outs, many of which have established primitive fire rings. If you do decide to have a fire, always check with the ranger station to understand the fire danger levels.
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El Capitan State Beach
Among a string of campgrounds along the Santa Barbara coast, El Capitan offers spacious campsites set on a coastal bluff. During the day, explore the driftwood-strewn beach with exceptional tidepools found toward the northern end. Pack a swimsuit and surfboard the rolling tide provides the perfect setting to frolic or catch a few waves. Theres also a camp store with beach essentials and hot showers to clean up before a BBQ dinner around the fire pit. Visit soon as the site will be closed for roughly nine months starting August 1st, 2022.
Modoc National Forest Dispersed Camping
In the northeast corner of California, where Oregon, California, and Nevada meet, Modoc National Forest sits quietly, away from the hustle and bustle of Californias more popular parks and forests. Here youll find pull-offs and spurs for dispersed camping in all four ranger districts: Big Valley, Devils Garden, Doublehead, and Warner Mountain.
The landscape is diverse enough to keep you occupied for weeks. From high-alpine terrain in the Warner Mountain Range to the central lava flows, you wont want for ecological diversity. If anything, itll make you wish you had more time to explore.
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Lava Beds National Monument
The Lava Beds Campground is a bit off the beaten path, but its one of the most remote campsites in Northern California.
It provides stunning views and also has some cultural sites to explore if you have time before or after your camping adventure with your family.
The Lava Beds Campground has 43 sites that are operated by the National Park Service open year-round.
The campgrounds offer tent sites for those who enjoy camping and RV hookups for travelers looking for a more comfortable stay.
The park offers both days trips such as guided hikes or bike rides and extended trips such as the long-distance backpacking trip at Tule Lake.
There are flush toilets, showers, and potable water available for those who need them on site.
There is also a dump station for those campers with RV hookups or sewage disposal systems to make life more manageable while staying at the campsite. Other amenities include laundry facilities and cable TV access in some of the yurts.
The campground is a great place to bring the entire family and enjoy an outdoor vacation.
They have many activities available, such as fishing in the nearby lakes or hiking along with one of the trails on site.
There are also pavilions for those who would like some shade while they explore Lava Beds Campground. With campsites available starting at $10 per night, this is a great spot to stop and enjoy for the weekend.
Address: 1 Indian Well, Tulelake, CA 96134
Best For Surfing: San Elijo State Beach
We are in California after all, so grab your long-board and head south to San Elijo State Beach close to the San Diego seaside towns of Encinitas, Solana Beach and Cardiff by the Sea. This is one of the most popular surf spots in the Golden State and the campground allows for easy access during dawn patrol. There are also volleyball courts, picnic facilities, showers and a nearby camp store where you can buy firewood, boogie boards and other necessities. You may never return to civilization again.
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Best Campgrounds In Southern California
Written by Brad LaneDec 2, 2019
Nothing caps off a California adventure like camping under the stars, and numerous campgrounds in Southern California deliver with big natural features and dark night skies. From beach camping in the summer to winter camping in the desert, there’s a Southern California campground to visit every month of the year.
Catering to both tent and RV camping, places like Point Mugu, Palomar Mountain, and Death Valley offer scenic campsites on the coast, in the mountains, and across the deserts of Southern California.
For the ultimate desert attraction and great spots to camp in winter, Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park offers a stunning environment to wake up to in the morning. One of the best state parks in California, and the largest, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park also delivers with desert landscapes, including Tamarisk Grove Campground.
For coastal camping and a reprieve from summer temperatures, the Southern California coast is filled with postcard spots like Souths Carlsbad State Beach and Crystal Cove State Park.
Many quintessential hikes in Southern California stem from the region’s best campgrounds. Campers looking to bag the peak of Mt. Baldy will find the Manker Flats Campground accommodatingand easy access to Mount San Jacinto can be found at the Fern Valley Campground near Idyllwild.
For lakeside camping, look no further than the banks of Big Bear Lake and 100-plus RV and tent sites at the Serrano Campground.
Best Northern Californias Campgrounds
Northern California is magnificent, and there are so many campgrounds that it can be hard to pick which one you should go to.
It has the most amazing views, seclusion, peace-you name it!There are so many unique campgrounds that deciding which one you should go to can be challenging.
There are campgrounds in both mountains and the ocean, from green wooded hillsides to golden sand beaches.
If you want a secluded and rugged campground, then look at our list of Top Fifteen!
Suppose youre looking for something more on the relaxing side with lots to do look no further than these Top Seven campgrounds.
No matter what youre looking for in a campground, Northern California has something for you.
Weve compiled a list of the 15 Best Campgrounds in Northern California where you can enjoy the outdoors and make memories with friends or family all summer long!
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Butte Lake Northern California
Butte Lake is perched at nearly 6,100 feet in the northeastern section of Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. The campground provides visitors with the perfect blend of seclusion and civilization amidst mountain hemlock, Jeffrey pine, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and numerous other tree species.
Why Youll Love Mountain Gate Rv Park And Cottages
This RV park is perfect for traveling in comfort, with its pristine bathrooms, a convenience store, a fenced pet park, and a pool and brand new hot tub. When youre not enjoying the many amenities that Mountain Gate RV Park offers, you can head to Mt. Shasta for a breathtaking hike, head to one of the many local wineries and breweries for a day of wine and beer tastings, or head into the city of Redding to spend the day shopping. Staying at this park gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to enjoying Californias natural beauty and experiencing city life.
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Alabama Hills Recreation Areaat The Base Of The Eastern Sierras
Image from The Dyrt Jennifer D.
As one of the highest rated free camping in California sites on this list, Alabama Hills Recreation Area welcomes hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors each year. Alabama Hills sits between the desert and the mountains, for some of the most epic views in Southern California. Each site is easy to find, with most boasting an established fire pit.
At Alabama Hills, campers must be 100% self-contained because there are no amenities. Lone Pine is the nearest town if you need to stock up on necessities, but its not close enough to feel the proximity of civilization. Get a fire permit if you plan to sit beneath the stars around an open flame. Otherwise, enjoy this slice of public land.
Steiner Flat Campground Shasta
Situated along the shores of the Trinity River, the Steiner Flat Primitive Campground boasts 6-15 campsites that can be used for tents or small trailers. While staying at the site, plan on partaking in some swimming, fishing, hiking, or, if youre seeking more of an adrenaline rush, white water rafting!
Nearest Town: Douglas City, Trinity County
Amenities: Vault toilets, fire ring, and picnic tables. No potable water.
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Plum Valley Campground Modoc National Forest
Located in Modoc Forests Warner Mountain Ranger District, this scenic little dispersed campground is perfect for both hiking enthusiasts and obsidian rock collectors alike. Being close to the Sugar Hill Look-Out and a crystal-clear creek, get up close and personal with nature under the shady pines!
Nearest Town: Davis Creek, Modoc County
Amenities: Fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets. No potable water.
Abbott Creek Camping Areasequoia National Forest
Abbott Creek Camping Area draws OHV users to rev their engines and explore the nearby area with gas-powered fun. Each of the campsites is within a convenient three-mile drive to the OHV staging area.
While usage is light at this campground, its primarily for OHV users, so if youre more interested in an idyllic getaway there are better areas near Sequoia National Forest to camp.
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Serrano Campground San Bernardino National Forest
Walking distance to the refreshing waters of Big Bear Lake within the San Bernardino National Forest, the Serrano Campground provides some of the best lake camping in California. Over 100 campsites accommodate tents and RVs at the Serrano Campground, which is located next to the Lighthouse Trailer Resort and Marina.
Mountain biking and hiking are just as popular as fishing and water sports at Serrano Campground with trails like the Cougar Crest Trail nearby.
A thirty-mile drive west from Serrano Campground, and accessible via the Rim of the World Scenic Byway, the Dogwood Campground is another popular place to spend the night in the San Bernardino National Forest. Seasonally available during the summer and shoulder seasons, the 87 sites at Dogwood Campground cater mostly to tent camping.
The neighboring and tourist-friendly community of Lake Arrowhead can be reached from the Dogwood Campground with a five-minute drive.
Address: 40800 N Shore Drive, Fawnskin, California
Mud Lake Trailhead Campground Lassen National Forest
Situated alongside the famous Pacific Crest Trail, the Mud Lake Trailhead is the perfect campground for through and day hikers alike. Located just 3.5 miles from the town of Old Station, staying at Mud Lake Trailhead will allow you to enjoy sites such as the Subway Cave Lava Tubes and Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Nearest Town: Old Station, Shasta County
Amenities: Vault toilets, hitching rails, tables, and fire rings. No potable water.
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Greater Lost Angeles Area Campgrounds
With the Angeles National Forest and a number of great lakes, residents of the greater LA area have a wide range of camping choices close at hand.
- Silverwood Lake – Camp on the shore of one of the area’s most popular lakes. Fish, jet ski, waterski, relax, and enjoy the warm sunshine.
- Angeles National Forest – Drive up the Angeles Crest Highway for wonderful views of the area and a variety of campgrounds. Hike, mountain bike, sit by the campfire, and gaze at the stars.
- Castaic Lake – Camp beside the Lagoon where you can fish, swim, and paddle your kayak. Or take your boat up to the main lake for waterskiing and wakeboarding.
- Lake Piru – Find nice campsites at Lake Piru in the shade of olive trees. Enjoy boating, waterskiing, fishing, and now even jet skis.
- Malibu Creek State Park – Tucked away among the trees north of Malibu is a pretty little state park with hiking trails and a pleasant campground. Close enough to drive to the beach for the day.