Free Ca Camping Sites
- Willow Creek Road : This is a forestry road that branches of Hwy 1 . It’s a good half hour drive up a curvy mountain road, the first mile is paved, then you hit a dirt road. The sites are scattered without notice all along the side of the slope. I recommend heading up the road a good thirty minutes and finding a spot few people have claimed. Plus, you get a better view. For me, camping is best when I don’t have to listen to my neighbors, who probably love hip hop so much they have to blast it throughout the campground for everyone else to enjoy. Pack your trash and you’ll have to dig a scat hole, or hold it until you get to Gorda. Free camping typically means little to no amenities. This is what I seek when I want good, non-parking lot style camping, or glamping. Otherwise you’re heading to Plasket, Lime Kiln Creek, etc., but those are packed and booked six months in advance.
- Another stellar set of free sites are further north from Willow Creek Rd. also off Hwy 1, about 30 minutes north of Gorda, up Nacimiento Road .
Cole Creek Free Camping
Lumsden Bridge Campground
Big Sur Camping: Finding The Magic Of Big Sur
On the Central California coast, a magical, sparsely populated land of waterfalls, rugged mountains, redwood trees, stunning beaches, and blazing sunsets has been attracting people of all walks for decades. Artists, hippies, surfers, hikers, beach bums, burnouts, and every shade of tourist ventures to this land that land is called Big Sur.
In recent years, I have spend a lot of time exploring Big Surs beaches, mountains, canyons, and rivers hunting for the best Big Sur camping spots. This ultimate guide to camping Big Sur is the result of my experiences getting to know this beautiful and wild stretch of coast.
This epic Big Sur camping guide will show you the best places to camp in Big Sur. Join me as I break down the best time of year to go camping in Big Sur, the best free campsites, top paid campsites, the best car camping spots, and maybe even a glamping spot or two.
Lets dive right in
Best Places For Free Dispersed Camping In California
Today, Im going to share just under a dozen of my favorite places for free dispersed camping in California with you.
Although Im keeping my absolute favorites secret for now , these 11 dispersed campsites are still truly some of the best the state has to offer.
Lets dive right in to where to go dispersed camping in California on your next trip.
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How To Camp For Free On Your Road Trip Any Time Any Place
Knowing how to camp for free its pretty much the ultimate road trip hack.
Between gas, food, and admission to attractions along the way, travel isnt cheap. Finding ways to make your money go further means your trip can go a little further, too. Free camping might not be the most glamorous option, but its got a certain romance of the open road appeal to it. Heres our advice on how to camp for free anytime, anywhere.
Tent & Rv Camping In Big Sur
Big Sur campgrounds are popular options when looking for the best place to camp in Big Sur, hence why many of them are booked almost six months in advance. With some surrounded by gorgeous forest and others boasting stunning ocean views, here are some of the best tent & RV camping options youll find in Big Sur.
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Is There Dispersed Camping In Big Sur
Unlike some areas in California, Monterey County prohibits camping along Highway 1 from the Carmel River to the Monterey-San Luis County line. Motorists and RVers can stop for temporary rest, but camping is not allowed, nor are campfires or BBQs. There is also no camping allowed alongside Nacimiento-Fergusson Road except in established campgrounds.
Pro Tip: Big Sur is a place sure to take your breath away. We found some of our favorite campgrounds and spilled all of our secrets here: These Big Sur Campgrounds Are Magical
Big Sur Free Camping Spot #: Nacimiento
The Nacimiento-Ferguson Road was the classic free Big Sur camping spot. It also became one of the most popular, but for good reason.
Located a few miles south of the tiny town of Lucia, the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road is a windy, steep road dotted with a variety of small campsites. Really these campsites are just flat spots off of the road where people have been setting up shop for decades.
In the past, some folks even parked here semi-permanently, though I think law enforcement has put an end to long-term camping here.
Any time of the year you could find people camping along this road. Im not sure exactly how many spots there are possibly, nobody knows. The fact is, there are lots of places to park and pitch your backpacking tent, and the higher you go up the road, the better the views are of the sea.
In the peak of the summer in years past, the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road was absolutely loaded with cars and people. You might have found yourself driving the road for 20-30 minutes before finding an available place to stop.
Sanitation and rubbish issues are a big problem on the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. With zero facilities on offer, it is not a surprise that campers here have made a mess of things.
UPDATE: Nacimiento-Ferguson Road Camping Prohibition for 2019/2020
Note: The Forest Service order says you cant camp within 300 feet of the road. So, if you park and walk into the bush more than 300 feet, in theory, this is allowed.
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What To Bring When Camping In Bc
The following are items we are always sure to bring whenever we head out camping in British Columbia.
- Lightweight tarp Whether youre in BCs mountains or temperate rainforest, you cant go wrong with carrying a lightweight tarp for shelter or shade. Rain is possible at any time of year
- Mosquito repellent The mosquitoes in some areas of British Columbia can be brutal, especially in spring . Some kind of repellent is a must , and perhaps consider an appliance such as the ThermaCell
- Bear spray I hope you never have to use it , but having bear spray is a good idea when exploring the wilderness of BC. Be sure to understand how to use it, keep it handy and also learn how to be bear aware
- Portable air compressor We once blew a tire on a logging road and with our spare tire being flat, we wouldnt have got very far without our air compressor!
- Camping stove Never solely rely on campfires for cooking food. Campfire bans can come in at any time or the wood may be too wet to light properly
- Lighting Always bring a separate source of light, be it a headlamp or lantern. The latter is great for long evenings playing cards or hanging out by the fire
Northeastern Ontario Backroad Mapbook Map 17/e3
These multi-tiered falls are some of the biggest in the Lake Huron watershed. Their isolated location, about 80 km north of Lake Huron, means that you will probably have this free, unmaintained camping spot all to yourself. The drive to the falls along Highway 129 is very scenic as well, winding through the rugged Canadian Shield Landscape, but be sure to fill up on gas before heading out as there are no amenities along this pleasant but isolated backroad.
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Big Sur Bakery And Restaurant
Comfort food is done the right way at Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant. Chill out in this rustic setting and enjoy everything from wood-fired pizza to fresh pastries. Before you leave you absolutely must try one of their scrumptious desserts we recommend the flourless brownie with hot fudge or the lemon ice cream pie!
+ Limekiln State Park
Beach camping in Big Sur is at its finest at Limekiln State Park. 33 campsites have their home here, with a number of them have stunning ocean views. If youre not facing the ocean, then youll be surrounded by stunning redwood trees, either way you cant lose. Like most other sites, camping reservations in Big Sur for Limekiln State Park open six months in advance and often sell out quickly. A perfect mix of ocean views, forest, and the interesting history of limekilns, its not hard to see why Limekiln State Park is such a popular camping destination.
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The Dyrt App And The Dyrt Pro Membership
Most free camping in California is on BLM and national forest service land. But how do you recognize or find that land?
Enter The Dyrt Pro Membership. This is a simple upgrade on The Dyrt Pro app that allows you to look at layers on a map. You can layer by both BLM and National Forest Service Land, making it way easier to see where youre camping and which roads to drive down to find boondocking sites.
I also like to use filters, like Dispersed, and Free. See screenshot below.
Another handy feature of The Dyrt Pro Membership is that you can download entire areas of offline maps to find campsites on the fly. If you need a break from boondocking, this app also gives you paid campsites, which you can filter by amenities like showers, water and price. All this is downloadable even trip planning!
Wallmart And Supermarket Parking Lots
It is well known that many Walmart stores across the country allow RVs and other self-contained vehicles to stay overnight in their parking lot. The same goes for other Supermarkets like Superstore and Save On Food.
Not all Walmart and Supermarkets allow overnight camping, make sure to check on it before you park for the night. Its an offered privilege if they do allow it and by no means a right, therefore be considered and keep a low profile. Dont put up tents, tables and chairs and no cooking in front of your vehicle.
Of course, spending a night at a parking lot is not real camping, but it comes in handy at times when you just need a place to sleep for a night.
The problem arises if you dont have a portable toilet in your vehicle. Between when the store closes and opens up in the morning is a long time to be without a bathroom. In my case, I usually dont drink anything for hours to make sure I can hold on for that long, and in the morning Im nearly dehydrated.
Arrive late and leave early is the game here.
Also Check: Best Portable Fire Pit For Camping
Mendocino National Forest Dispersed Camping
One of the greatest allures of the Mendocino National Forest is the fact that no major highways or paved roads cross through the forest. So if youre looking for tranquility and seclusion, Mendocino is the place to go. Like other national forests, Mendocino offers dispersed primitive camping anywhere throughout the forest. There are also three dispersed campgrounds in Mendocino National Forest: Grizzly Flat, Lakeview, and Lower Nye.
Once youve established your free campsite, take your pick of activities, like horseback riding, swimming at Stonyford Recreation area , and hiking in the Chico Seed Orchard and Red Bluff Recreation Area.
Where To Camp In Big Sur
With 90-miles of pristine coastline, Big Sur is just about the dreamiest place to cruise out of cell service and pitch a tent. There are redwoods and waterfalls, craggy alcoves and socked-in canyons, and on a clear, late summer day you can see whale spouts off in the distance.
Look up in the sky to spot a condor you cant miss them, theyre the ones with the 10-ft wingspan or peek over the cliffs to watch the otters bob in the waves. From the birds to the bakery , the mossy rocks and the babbling brooks, the silent hikes to the crashing swells heres our guide to the best campsites in Big Sur. Dont forget your long johns.
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Where To Find Overnight Free Camping In Canada
The following free camping options are those we only use for brief, overnight stays. Think of this as convenience camping, often used when travelling from point A to point B.
We wouldnt purposely go on a camping trip to stay at any of these places. These free camping options are only for adapted cars, vans and RVs, not tent users.
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Why I Love Dispersed Camping
- Its free! Theres really nothing more to add to that lol.
- Peace & quiet & PRIVACY Most of the time, youre completely alone! Most people either dont know about them, or dont want to stay somewhere without bathrooms and a potable water source. And, even if there are other people around, like the case at Joshua Tree, Ive found that the free sites tend to be more spaced out than traditional campgrounds. This means youre probably likely to spot more wildlife, too!
- No paperwork or registration Theres no need to apply for these sites . Theyre pretty much all just first come, first serve. This means you can also decide on a last minute trip and not have to worry about snagging a spot before you go!
- Helps prevent overcrowding Having access to free, often less used sites, gives overly popular places a bit of a break!
- Pets abound There arent as many rules regarding pets in dispersed camping sites, so you can bring Fido with you. Some do state that you have to keep them on leashes, so be sure to pay attention to that.
Blair Valley Campgroundnear Joshua Tree National Park
Both primitive and tucked away, with incredible views of the night sky, Blair Valley Campground acts as an ideal stopping point when visiting Joshua Tree National Park. The area is expansive so you dont have to worry about camping feet away from someone else, but dont venture too far in if you have a heavy rig or low clearance, as the roads can become sandy to the point of impassable.
Climbers can find sandstone routes nearby, while hikers and mountain bikers will be delighted by the number of trails. Theres very little shade, so pack a canopy or tarp to create some for yourself. Bring enough water to sustain your visit and pack out anything you packed in.
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Bureau Of Land Management Land
dispersed camping on BLM land
What is BLM land you ask? Its public land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. You can camp on many dispersed camping sites on BLM land for up to 14 days.
There are some areas that will have no camping signs so pay attention to those, too.
Here is info on camping in California. Ive honestly never found their site that helpful in terms of finding campgrounds, so I just prefer to use freecampsites.net as it lists BLM land sites, too.
Snag Lake Campground Tahoe National Forest
Camp among clear mountain lakes, granite ridges, and pristine forest as you hike, fish, or swim to your hearts content! Located just five miles north of Bassets on the Gold Lake Road, the Snag Lake Campground is home to 12 undesignated campsites for tents or small trailers.
Nearest Town: Bassets, Sierra County
Amenities: Vault toilets. No potable water or dumpsters.
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Free Camping In California
As a heads up, free campgrounds California are much harder to find. We found most of our free campsites in Oregon. Once we crossed state lines, we had to resort to paid California campgrounds due to the lack of safe or decent free spots.
Free camping along Highway 1 I think used to be the norm. There are so many large, beautiful turnouts on the highway that must have been homes for road trippers for years. But, recently, many of these popular spots have been trashed and closed down or have no parking signs installed.
I think theres an art to camping California, at least on the coastline. Lots of stealth, guts, and time to locate safe places to spent the night. We had a campervan that required us to spend a lot of time outside of our van
Because of this, we couldnt just pull off and park on a narrow turnout that is approved by the apps. I wasnt keen on setting up my camping chair 2 feet from speeding traffic! But, if you have a larger van that you could sit inside, I think it would be a lot easier to do this.
So, let go of the idea of free beach camping in Northern California. Most of the beaches dont allow overnight parking. You may have better luck in Los Angeles I havent checked the signs at the beaches down there in person so Im not 100% sure.