Bureau of Land Management

free desert washes

California BLM

desert figure blythe

Giant figures INTAGLIOS, on desert floor, near Blythe, CA

Camping while traveling. The east-west corridors across the California deserts are well traveled routes. If you plan to camp, get to know areas managed by the California Bureau of Land Management.

All BLM Offices in California BLM CA

  • 4×4
  • Back Roads
  • Car Camping
  • Canyons
  • Deserts
  • Dirt Bike Trails
  • Dunes
  • Hiking
  • Historic Sites
  • Hot Springs
  • Intagios
  • Mountain Bike
  • Off Road
  • Palm Canyons
  • Petroglyhs
  • River Camps
  • RV Camping
  • Slot Canyons
  • Tent Camping
  • Wildflowers

ocotilloBLM

BLM lands in California are often known as the ‘free camping’ option. freeway close campingNo charge camp sites, convenient, in-route locations, many areas along major highways or interstates. Campfire permits are always required for any open fires, BBQs and campfires.

BLM Field Offices in California located in neighboring towns can provide maps, information and campfire permits. 

giantcholla

DESERT WILDFLOWERS can be found annually, February – April in most of these areas. Springtime blooms draw the crowds, but few visitors actually camp out overnight.

When searching out premium camp sites – drive slower than 50 mph & look for the brown recreation signs. Since people like to drive fast in the desert, make sure to put your hazard lights or blinkers on, so traffic knows you are slow poking. Typically dirt roads are only marked with small, thin reflectors, maybe numbers or letters, if you’re lucky.

Traffic noise will be minimal if you camp away from the main drag at least ONE mile or more. Motorhomes may not have the luxury to travel that distance; they often prefer to stay in large, level, flat pull outs, right near the pavement.

If daring to venture more than 2 miles from the pavement, be prepared for rough conditions. 4WD drive may be needed in certain spots, or in the wettest of weather. Wind is always a factor in desert regions, so keep that in mind. Deep sandy washes, tow strap anyone? No facilities, no services, no toilet. Spotty cell phone coverage. Basically – the boonies!

BOONDOCKING
is the latest phrase for “open, free camping”

Palo Verde Washes

 

SEEKING QUIET CANYONS? stay away from the off-roaders. They usually congregate in dunes and specified OHV areas. Trails and dirt roads are for multi-purpose use, so a variety of recreation can be had. Many people use these public lands, so leave them clean and better than you found it. Boulder coves, palm gardens, primitive hot springs. There are plenty of hidden camp spots within the vast desert region of SoCal.

Several BLM lands are near Wilderness Areas. Camping is allowed close by, mountain biking & hiking are usually abundant. Off roading prohibited within Wilderness boundaries.

hikes tent camping 4x4

URLs within the official BLM site keep changing, which is why we are rebuilding our BLM pages. So you can find what you need, easily.

ca.blm.gov
blm.gov/ca

www.blm.gov/ca
https://www.blm.gov/california

road BLM

Your Public Lands

California’s Public Lands for Recreation

Federal lands, government managed parks, USDA National Forests, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuge, BLM, State Parks, State Forests, County Parks, Regional Open Spaces

Sierra Rivers

State Park / National Park / National Forest / BLM / SHP / SVRA / OHV
what’s the difference?
a simple explanation of your public lands & what you can expect to do on them

National Forest Campground
NPS

California National Parks – most National Parks are so crowded you can’t even enjoy the experience in the summer time. Try the off-season times for your best stay. Neighboring National Forests are a much better bet for abundant space, privacy & less taxing on the wallet for fees. These popular (NPS) parks are subject to federal budget cuts and closures.

NF boundary

NFS

California National Forests – protected wilderness areas throughout state are surrounded by National Forests (NFS), and most National Parks (NPS) are surrounded by National Forests. Tons of small campgrounds & primitive spots for real seclusion. Get a free fire permit & camp almost anywhere you want. Use that SUV exploring the many dirt backroads & find that perfect camp spot (for free).

California State Parks

California State Parks – local California parks with a lot to offer the day hikers, picnicking family, tent camper or RV camper. From warm dry deserts soaking in a hot springs to the foggy coastal redwoods, these state run parks encompass a large section of California terrain. These parks are subject to state budget cuts and closures.

BLMBLM: Bureau of Land Management – mostly desert regions on the east side of California. A few coastal redwoods, some off road areas (OHV) in various mountain ranges.  These federal lands are open spaces, generally a free for all on recreation.  Allowable = off roading, target shooting, open camping, campfires, bonfires. Geared toward OHV use, RVs and hunting.

Fire Safe Spot

All California Parks & Forests

hikes

California Lakes List

lake

California Topo Maps

topo maps

rangers

California Terrain & Destinations

  • Coastal California – Southern California beach camping is crowded & sparse, because of developed cities. Central Coast & Northern California offer many more choices in this category.
  • California Mountains – pine forest, mixed oaks & a variety of vegetation. Water sources such as lakes, stream & waterfalls make this choice the perfect camping spots. Granite peaks, high elevations wilderness areas throughout state & surrounded National Parks. Plenty backpacking options & dirt road primitive spots for the ultimate in privacy.
  • Countryside in California – coastal hills or mountain foothills. These rolling hillsides offer small creeks, oak trees & plenty of wide open spaces. Lakes & Reservoirs are located within these regions. Most campgrounds are fairly close driving distance to towns or cities. Wine country or gold country, California has it.
  • California Deserts – perfect for every season except summer, these vast spaces will humble just about anyone. Primitive camping galore & designated areas for real off-roading.
  • City CA / Urban Villages – not the best for really getting away from crowds, but can be an excellent opportunity to visit a city without spending big bucks on lodging. Or could just be a perfect one-nighter for getting familiar with camping. Most campsites are located in the foothill area behind suburbs, in county parks or even coastal.
  • California A to Z: Small Towns – 700 and counting; extensive list of destinations, focusing primarily on the back roads and outdoor recreation hubs
  • California by County – Find every county on Cali, and which towns are located inside of them

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Anza Borrego Wildflowers


Desert Wildflowers / Anza Borrego SP

Anza Borrego Flowers / Borrego Springs CA

Wild Flowers of Box Canyon, Mecca
East San Diego County, Borrego Springs CA

San Diego Backcountry
600,000 acres of SoCal desert

BLOOM: February thru MaySan Diego desert maps
Anza Park elevations range from low to high. Lowest near eastern border of park (next to the Salton Sea) to the upper reaches of the western slopes @ 4000′ of the Laguna mountains. Lower elevations sprout up first; Micro flowers, Easter-egg-color splendor in the dry washes. Higher elevations bloom later (along w/ areas on San Diego County Rd S-2, the Great Overland Stage Route)

Drive from Temecula to Warner Springs, and then proceed east – out to the Salton Sea via Back Road Highway #S22 (Montezuma Grade). A great route to take thru the Borrego State Park – for the full gamut in vegetation & altitude. Grapevine Canyon is an alternate off road route down a scenic canyon. Culp Valley has a small campground, plus lots of boulders and decent views to the Borrego Valley. Off the highway, on dirt, one-lane side roads lead to many primitive spots. Perfect for private picnics, stargazing or overnight camping.

anza wildflowers include – Arizona Lupine, Barrel cacti, Brittlebush, California Primrose, Cheesebush, Creosote, Desert Chicory, Desert Apricot, Desert Hibiscus, Desert Lavender, Desert Pincushion, Fiesta Flower, Fishhook Cactus, Gold-Poppy, Ghost Flowers, Ground Cherry, Fagonia, Prickly Pear, Monkey Flower, Ocotillo, Rigid Fiddleneck, Rock Daisy, Sahara Mustard, Sand Verbena, Short-Wing Deerweed, Spanish Needles, Spectacle Pod, Trailing Windmills, Turpentine Broom, Whispering Bells, Wishbone Bush

Anza Borrego Camping: Palm Canyon and RV Resortscamp

 

BORREGO BOOKS & MAPS

 

 

Wilderness Anza Borrego Map

Wilderness Press Anza Borrego Map

 

Hot Springs of the Southwest

Hot Springs of the Southwest

Anza Borrego Flora

________________________________________________________________________

Annual California Wildflower Reports

 

anza flower links:

Anza-Borrego National History Association
Anza Borrego Desert
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Borrego Campfire Restrictions
Desert USA Reports

blurflwr

nearby towns:

Borrego Valley Flora

San Jacinto Wilderness

Jacinto Maps

Southern California / San Jacinto Wilderness Area / San Jacinto Mountain / Palm Springs Mountain Hike

Known as the well-photographed snowy mountain backdrop behind to desert deluxe Palm Springs, Mount San Jacinto is the second tallest peak in Southern Cal.

Mighty San Gorgonio peak, across to the east – on the other side of the valley, is the very highest mountain in this desert region. Granite Jacinto peak is located in between the mountains of Idyllwild and the low deserts of Palm Springs.

32,248 acres

Mount San Jacinto – 10,834′ elevation

San Bernardino National Forest

JACINTO PARK access –

Palm Springs via Tram

Idyllwild CA

Pine Cove CA

Day hikes, picnic in the forests and super easy access via fantastic Palm Spring Tram ride, up to 8000′ elevation.

The San Jacinto Wilderness is managed by 2 different agencies: The National Forest Service and California Department of Parks & Recreation.

If you are camping overnight in the forest, you must get your wilderness permit from the agency that administers the area where you plan to spend the night. Day-use permits can be obtained on the day of your trip by visiting one of the ranger stations below. Day-use permits issued by either agency are honored by both, except during the busy summer months when permits to enter the Wilderness via Devil’s Slide Trail can be obtained only from the National Forest Service.

Camping permits can be obtained in advance by mail, in person, or online w/ PDF. National Forest Service accepts requests up to 90 days in advance; Mount San Jacinto State Park accepts them up to 56 days in advance. You can also get them on the day of your trip, if any are available at that time.

 

USDA National Forest Service
San Jacinto Ranger District
54270 Pine Crest Ave
Idyllwild, CA 92549
951-659-2117

Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness
25905 Highway 243
Idyllwild, CA 92549
951-659-2607

regional trail maps –

San Jacinto Hiking Maps
http://astore.amazon.com/mount-san-jacinto-20

  • San Jacinto Wilderness USDA
  • San Jacinto Trail Map (Tom Harrison)
  • San Bernardino NF Map USDA
  • Santa Rosa Wilderness USDA

Mount San Jacinto State Park is surrounded by San Jacinto Wilderness

More San Jacinto Wilderness Info & Links –

summitpost.org/jacinto-peak
San Jacinto Peak Wiki
USDA San Jacinto Wilderness
Mount San Jacinto State Park

San Gorgonio Wilderness

sangorgonioview

Old Greyback, San Gorgonio Mountain – as seen from forest road #2N93

Southern California /San Gorgonio Wilderness Area / San Gorgonio Mountain Peak Hikes / Backpack Gorgonio

The tallest mountain peak in Southern California towers over the often smoggy basin of the Inland Empire, Riverside & San Bernardino. Coachella Valley lies to the southeast. Joshua Tree National Park lies due east.

Old Greyback is a fitting nickname for the peak. The massive, bald, decomposed granite gravel paves the whole top layer, above treeline (altitude nearing 12,000 feet above sea level) and this impressive peak can be seen from most of the Los Angeles basin and the Palm Springs desert. The expanding view of the Pacific Ocean can be seen 70 miles to the west, but only if the skies are clear. Windy, winter days are excellent conditions for viewing, but plan your hike accordingly as this peak could be covered in deep snow during winter or springtime.

This is a very popular backpacking weekend trip to escape from the big urban populations. San Diegans and Angelinos can easily access this location in a few hours from home, via Interstate 10 and some mountain driving on a 2 lane highway.

94,702 acres

San Gorgonio Peak – 11,503′ elevation

San Bernardino National Forest

 

Forest & Hiking Maps –

San Gorgonio Topo Maps

http://astore.amazon.com/gorgonio-hikes-20

  • San Gorgonio Wilderness Map (USDA)
  • San Gorgonio Trail Map (Tom Harrison)
  • San Bernardino National Forest (USDA)
  • San Bernardino Topo Atlas (USDA)

Gorgonio trailheads –

  • Hwy 38 @ Angeles Oaks
  • Hwy 38 @ Barton Flats – Jenks Lake
  • Hwy 38 @ Heartbar – Fish Creek & Mission Springs
  • Hwy 38 @ Fossil Falls – Momyer & Big Falls
  • I-10 @ Millard Canyon – East Branch & Middle Branch
  • Interstate 10 @ Cottonwood Canyon – PCT access

nearby campgrounds –

Heartbar Campground (Hwy 38)

Mission Springs Trailhead Camp

Dry Lake Campground

nearby communities & towns –

ANGELES OAKS
BIG BEAR CITY
BIG BEAR LAKE
FOREST FALLS

surrounding wilderness and forest lands –

San Bernardino National Forest
Pipes Canyon Pioneertown Preserve
San Jacinto Wilderness

National Forest & Wilderness Permits –

USDA San Bernardino NF

more San Gorgonio info & links –

summitpost.org/san-gorgonio-wilderness
San Gorgonio Wilderness Wiki
Trails of the San Gorgonio

Gorgonio Trailhead

Equestrian Trails

MIssion Springs camp & corrals at trailhead. Dirt road above Heart Bar.