Where to Camp

Where to set Camp in California?
Camping Spots
Small campgrounds have fewer facilities than the larger developed campgrounds, but less sites means more nature and less people. Roughing it on the back roads with dispersed camping is by far the best experience for seclusion and privacy

real peace and quiet.

Primitive, free camping requires more thought and planning than just pitching a tent in a flat spot at a developed campground.

First off, you will need a decent topo map to find the dirt back roads, the trailheads and the creeks with the best camp sites; a dependable and capable rig to get you out there, plus your camping gear.

Campfire permits are usually required for camp stoves, BBQs and any open fires. (bucket & shovel needed).

And most importantly, since California is known for its super dry climate and seasonal wildfires, make sure to check with local rangers to find out about any current campfire restrictions.

Streamside Camping
some tips for a good camping experience – without scoldings or citations from Mr. Ranger:

  • Choose existing campsite in a used area – rather than creating another rock ring & trampling a fresh spot.
  • Always know fire conditions; get a fire permit if you have a campfire outside of a developed campground.
  • Set up camp away from other people. The majority of people go to the wilderness to experience quiet, peace, & solitude. There is plenty space for everyone, so spread out.

mountains

  • Never set camp in a meadow. It is a very fragile ecosystem.
  • Use an existing camp site when possible. Rebuilding and cleaning campfire pits is part of the job!
  • Camping right on the a creek bed or lake shore is damaging to the vegetation and wildlife areas. Place tent at least 20+ feet away from waters edge. Many camp site already exist in prime areas on creek front, so seek out those first. The deeper you go into the wood, the more you will find. Seclusion is possible, if you want to drive beyond the pavement.
  • Do not camp beneath large dead trees. Check tent spots for old overhanging branches too.
  • Do not camp near a mine shaft; Toxic heavy metals or radioactive debris could be present in the dirt.
  • Camping next to a lake, wetlands or a meadow can often result in abundant mosquitoes & insects overall.
  • Snow is possible anytime from October to May above 5000′ elevation. Chilly nights are common in summer.

deserts

  • Avoid camping inside desert canyons when the threat of rain is approaching: possible flash floods.
  • Consider the benefits of potential windbreaks in desert terrain. Large rocks, bushes, trees, your vehicle & even a hillside.
  • Picking a camp spot on a ridge line means sun exposure and windy conditions. Breezes will keep the bugs away and you can’t beat the better view, but wind can pick up at any time especially in desert regions.
  • Low elevation in late spring and fall means very warm temps;┬ásummer is triple digit heat most days.
  • Do not camp near a mine shaft; Toxic heavy metals or radioactive debris could be present in the dirt.

coastal

  • Avoid camping on fragile coastal cliffs; unstable, which can give way, caving in, resulting in danger to you.
  • Camping on the beach means watching the tides. Know where high water mark is before you set camp up.
  • Beach camping in early summer means low clouds and fog are likely. June Gloom can last months.

countryside

  • Avoid building campfires up against a large boulders or against a rock face.
  • Rivers controlled by hydroelectric dam systems mean that the water levels can change at any time without warning.
  • Never set camp in a wildflower meadow. It’s too fragile of an ecosystem.
  • Lower elevations in summer time means potential triple digit heat during mid-day.
  • Do not camp near a mine shaft; Toxic heavy metals or radioactive debris could be present in the dirt.
National Parks National Forests State Parks California BLM OHV routes California Wilderness
Beach Camping
California Forests
Wineries
Desert Parks
California Back Roads California Lakes