You've got your camping gear & the perfect destination all mapped out, now all you need is to gas up the car, shop for groceries & oh yeah, firewood. Make sure you bring your own camp fire wood (at least one nights worth). See below on where to expect to buy wood, obtaining a firewood permit & all the various types of wood. Learn all you need to know about camp fire wood (including where to find free wood)
This California fire wood list is also a great resource for those who heat their homes with firewood: Wood burning stoves or Fireplaces. Bookmark it today!
The most comprehensive list of firewood dealers in all
Click the regions to the left to find a wood supplier in your town or on the road along the way.
Small town general stores & National Park services are out to make their money off of seasonal campers buying wood & forgotten personal items. These places tend to be extremely overpriced. This is where your so called "cheap camping trip" ends up costing a lot more than you expected. Plan ahead. Buy large quantities of firewood for a better price & have some left over for the next trip. Small town residents buy from locals who advertise locally on bulletin boards or local towns newspapers.
The Night Run
Gathering wood at night while camping? (hey, it happens) Sometimes you need to make a night run. Nope, not to the general store for beer, for more firewood. Free wood in the wild forest w/ animals. Brings a crew! Take your work Gloves & hands-free Head Lamp. This way you are not tripping ahead, spilling all your valuable collections. Trapesing up a hillside in the dark gathering firewood is no easy task. Believe me, Miss Experinced. Gardening or work gloves are always a big savior. No fun in digging splinters out, after dinner, in the dark, without tweezers, by campfire light. Nuthin' a lilwhiskey won't fix.
Drown that Puppy!
Don't forget to thoroughly saturate that camp fire. You do not wanna be responsible for the seasons biggest wild fire on the 11 o'clock news.
Remember: Always bring at least one small bundle & some kindling, no matter how good the wood collecting is... it's best for each vehicle to have a minimum of one bundle.
Heavily camped areas, even a few months outta the year, can be slim pickins for easy firewood. You may need to walk well away from your campsite to find a decent stash. Plus it's possible to go "off the beaten path" in your vehicle for a 'firewood run' (before sunset is key).
DRY & /or DOWN wood is usually depending on several factors:
how wet is it? how much snow is still on the ground. how late were the last of the seasons storms?
do you have an adequate saw?
your vehicle's clearance, 2WD dirt road exploration & willingness to hike off trail more than 20 feet
You can also try the area Visitors Center for local knowledge snow/weather conditions. Instead of hoping for the best circumstance, know the real conditions.
Down or Downed Wood - This is fallen limbs, dried, ready to pick up, haul off & burn. Sunny locations are best, so look at the south west base of a old tree & the further back the better. If you break branches off of trees, make sure they are already dead limbs.
Campfire Burning Permits & Firewood Cutting Permits - Some experienced campers cringe when they see the signs: "Campfires in Developed Campgrounds Only." Crap! This means high fire dangers in California, usually in summer & fall months.
Wanna bring the chain saw out & cut your own down wood, best look into getting a firewood cutting permit too.firewood cutting permits: Get a firewood cutting permit from the authorities in the local NF. Call ahead at the rangers station for any restrictions.
The Firewood Shortage:
As more & more people head into the forest for their weekend camping trips, rules get tougher & finding wood in the wilderness can be a rough job.
National Parks - will not allow you to cut or even gather down wood. You must bring your own.
National Forests - allow cutting of big dead wood - with a cutting permit in posted areas. Campers can usually collect down wood unless otherwise posted.
State Parks - check with the rangers on fire regulations and gathering. Most State Park do not allow wood collecting Anza Borrego SP does allow primitive camping almost anywhere, but does not allow ground fires. Bring a metal container to burn your fire in & take your ashes with you.
BLM- fires are allowed just about anywhere safe in a rock ring, always use good judgment. Check with local officials for exact regulations.
Rock Rings - a clearing 10 feet in diameter with a small wall of rocks to keep the fire contained. This practice is not allowed in National Park or State Park campgrounds at all, unless you are a backpacker in the back country. Self-made campfire rings are limited in Southern California to some fire safe areas in the National Forests & State Parks Check with Rangers or Park Regulations to find out if campfires are even allowed in dispersed areas. Most of the season you will see the yellow & red posted signs "Campfires in Developed Campgrounds Only."
tip Check with the Ranger & KNOW THE RULES regarding campfire and the high fire dangers. Fire season in California can be deadly &/or cost a small fortune. Do not be the cause of terrible destruction, you could be legally responsible.
tips: Oak & Cedar smell the best when burning at a campfire.
Eucalytus smoke can be irritating to people with allergies.
Manzanita is a protected wood. It is illegal to cut or burn it. Hard burgundy red wood from chaparral brush area & very abundant in California.
Make sure you that are Fire Safe while enjoying nature.
Where to find FREE wood:
behind your local Home Depot, old lumber ...ask when garbage day is & get there the night before
at Construction sights, scrap piles, but don't be jumping any locked gates or fences
inside Industrial Parks, palettes & such can be found in abundance behind these commercial concrete alleys. These puppies mean bon fire action with flames above your head.
local Parks & Recr.. near maintenance buildings, whenever they just trimmed the trees
vacant lots being cleared, real estate land that is recently under development, trees being thinned out
National Forest Lands - while camping in NFS areas, collecting down wood for camp fires is allowed, unless otherwise posted. Bring your chain saw, get a permit from a ranger station & chop all the wood you want, all for your taking.
super market bundles -
Approx. one cubic foot. Small wrapped campers packs. 6-10 pieces. Sold in grocery & general stores.
Overall price per piece is expensive.
If you have space for storage in the backyard, shed or garage, consider buying larger quantities, such as:
cord - size 4' x 4' x 8', will fill up 2 standard pick up truck beds.(level w/ sides)
half cord - size 4' x 4' x 4', will fill the back of a standard pick up truck bed (level w/ sides)
1/3 cord - size 16 cubic feet - will fill the back of a mini pickup truck bed ... perfect for a few camping trips ! - $30 -$60 (ask for a mix of hard & soft woods)
1/8 cord - equal to about 12 supermarket bundles
tip Wood storage in a shed or garage for longer periods of time? Use moth balls to keep rodents away.
seasoned - cut & dried for 2 full seasons , at least 6 months old
green wood - recently cut wood that is not dry yet, hard to catch fire & smokes when it is burned.
down wood - trees & branches fallen or previously cut that are already on the ground.
tip Collection of down wood is sometimes difficult around campgrounds & popular primitive camp areas. Best bet is after a day of sightseeing in the car, when heading back to the camp spot, pull off along the Hwy & run up into the forest. You are bound to find areas that have never been touched.