Camp Fires Correctly

desert bonfires

Deserts & beaches are the only places for bonfires.

kill your television

Camp Fires
The heat source, the light source, the cook source, the sock drier, the night supplier, the outdoor LIVING ROOM. The campfire is the center stage for all entertainment, true tales and ghost stories alike.

Since the beginning of time humans have gathered around the campfire at dark. This nightly ritual is built into us on the deepest level. We miss this today. We miss the real conversations, the community, the bonding, the stories, the soul searching. We miss the connection with nature, the fresh air and the great outdoors. The night sky filled with stars and maybe a meteor shower, a hot drink and the glow of the campfire coals. Enjoying the wilderness requires certain skills. FIRE is only ONE skill – for survival, for cooking, for warmth, for safety.

Total Escape is dedicated to those who yearn to camp, often.

In Certain Circles

photo – Charlie Sweeney 2010

Some folks cannot imagine camping without a campfire, but we better get used to it here on the West Coast. Weather patterns swing from years of super-dry drought to deluge and drenching – as we’ve seen of recent in California. Dry conditions means high wildfire dangers, tight camp stove and strict campfire restrictions.

Each California region, National Forests and State Parks have their own fire restrictions, so call ahead to rangers for current fire conditions on the place you wish to visit. Certain mountain locations will ban fires in the back country, fires on the back roads and sometimes in extreme conditions, no fires allowed even inside a developed campground.

Campfire Basics

Campfire Restrictions

fire

California is well known for its unforgiving drought conditions and its seasonal wildfire danger. Always know the fire conditions in the area you plan to camp. Most Southern California regions have banned ‘open campfires’ in forested areas, due to wildfire threat and population density. Call ahead to get an update on road closures and current campfire restrictions. Find California BLM offices & NFS ranger stations

Campfire Permits

If you plan on camping outside of a developed campground, you will need to get a free “camp fire permit”, which can be obtained at the local rangers office.

Find more on FREE camp fire permits

DSCN3700

California Camp Fires

  • RULE # 1 – Never leave a campfire unattended
  • Build campfires in designated rings. Always try to use an existing ring when possible. If you must build a new rock fire ring, follow the guide on FireSafe
  • You will need water source & bucket, plus a decent shovel for building, maintaining and controlling a campfire. BRING enough water & tools with you to control a fire.
  • A ten foot clearance – all around, down to the bare dirt is the best practice. No brush close to the ring, no bushes, no leaves or pine needles. No dry over-hanging tree branches.
  • You might need to clean trash out of the fire pit, so bring heavy duty trash bags, or a spare old box. Shovel comes in handy here.
  • Kindling is key to getting a good fire going fast, so gather more of the small stuff. Wood gathering away from camp is usually better pickens.
  • Use environmentally friendly fire starters (with damp wood, if you must); not the BBQ lighter fluid or gasoline
  • Building fires up against a big boulder scars them w/ black soot, and although it can reflect heat back to you, it is seldom worth the unsightly damage
  • Bring chainsaws or hand saws for cutting your own campfire wood in the forest
  • Gathering wood for fuel — use only dead and down wood
  • A ranger issued “wood cutting permit” is required if you plan on cutting a full cord
  • Firewood page – buying locally, in California
  • Never burn plastics, batteries or other toxic materials in campfires
  • Tossing beer bottle caps into a campfire only litters site for future campers
  • While glass bottle smelting is a real treat among boys at night, which one is actually gonna get their hands dirty & clean up broken glass out of the campfire the following morning?
  • Do not leave any hot coals during the day (if you are away from camp). Winds could pick up.
  • Always douse campfire with water completely when breaking camp. Stir it, feel for heat, and drown it more if you hear sizzling or see bubbling.
  • Read more wild fire / campfire info on our FireSafe page

Drown Fires

Last Final Step

The Final Step of Breaking Camp

 

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Stormproof LIghters

Stormproof Lighters

San Diego Camping

Anza Backroads

Cleveland National Forest Camping – San Diego Campgrounds – Desert Camping Anza Borrego – SD County Campgrounds – BLM Campgrounds – San Diego Beach Camping – San Diego Mountains

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Bobcat Meadow 3800′ 16 oaks vault no no RVs
Burnt Rancheria 5000′ 100+ pines vault piped Sunrise Hwy
Cibbets Flats 4200′ 23 oaks vault piped Interstate 8
Corral Canyon 3500′ 20 oaks vault piped OHV near I-8
Dripping Springs 1800′ 26 oaks vault piped Hwy 79, E Temecula
El Cariso North 2600′ 24 oaks vault piped small RV
Fry Creek Campground 4900′ 20 oaks vault piped Palomar Mountain
Indian Flats Campground 3600′ 17 oaks vault piped off Hwy 79
Laguna Mountain 5500′ 75 pines vault piped Sunrise Hwy
Palomar SP Campground 7000′ 13 pines vault piped Palomar Mountain

Anza Camping

Anza Borrego Desert Camping & Campgrounds

Desert Mountain Biking Open Camping Stargazing Hiking

San Diego County Campgrounds

Sweetwater Reservoir, Otay Lakes, Agua Caliente, Vallecito
Camping Reservations 877-565-3600 or 858-565-3600

Camping

Bureau of Land Management

San Diego BLM Camping

Lark Canyon, Cottonwood @ McCain Valley near Interstate 8

Coastal Cliffs San Diego

San Diego Beach Camping

Coastal Towns with Camping near San Diego –

Chula Vista
Coronado
San Diego
Mission Beach & Bay
Del Mar
Cardiff
Carlsbad
Oceanside

Indian Flats Campground

Indian Flats Campground is located on a dirt road off Hwy 79, near Warner Springs CA. Boulder ridges & manzanita surround this oak filled secluded canyon. Small seasonal creek & waterfall is a short walk from campsite.

Free Camping

Anza Borrego Desert by far has the best free camping options available near San Diego.

Maps Mountains / Desert Topo / San Diego Area Maps

Campgrounds Beach

California Campgrounds –
Camping at the Beach

Costal Cliffs

Autumn and Spring are often the best months to enjoy the (somewhat) uncrowded coastline of California. Kids are in school, summer vacation rush is over, and there is plenty of sunshine before those winter storms come rolling in.

reservations are highly recommended

Anything & any place along the coast is “much desired”, worthy of charging for. From seaside restaurants to convenient, paid parking lots – face it – California can be expensive.

Beach camping is no different. Coast camping in California is abundant, but state run campgrounds will run you a pretty penny. Camping fees are well above $20 per night. If you want flush toilets in the bathroom and a level, paved spot for a big RV, it will cost even more. Make sure to reserve a campsite as far ahead as possible. Ask about off-season months to visit.

Privately run campgrounds are often more expensive, but they might be a nicer facility and be in a better location. If you want free camping, then head to the northern part of the state – and take a dirt road to reach your seclusion. Both the Big Sur and Lost Coast both have excellent dispersed camping on backroads, at no charge, and a campfire permit is required for such camping.

Campgrounds situated on a sandy beach or right on a cliff edge overlooking the ocean. Private cove camp sites, tent cabin rentals, yurt resorts, RV campgrounds; Several coastal canyons (from sycamores to redwoods) usually have creeks and abundant camping options.

Pismo Clear Winter Day

Campgrounds Beach: a popular search phrase for camping near the coast in California. The best months to camp along the coast depends on what part of California you wish to visit – at what time of the year. With 700 miles of ocean front there is a lot to choose from – RV parks w/ small marina, 4×4 camps, hike-in only sites, and plenty of California State Parks & Beaches.

Much of the coastal camping is NOT “on-the-sand” beach camping. Most of the coastline in California is rugged, some forested and usually full of ‘wildfire prone’ chaparral. Cliffside campgrounds, redwood canyons with creeks, green grassy lawns w/ shade trees and paved camp sites, US 101 busy, freeway campgrounds; all are close enough to the shore to be considered COASTAL camping.

Even in winter, the coast can be quite mild in Southern Cal, so the campgrounds are open all year long. NorCal Coast gets the brunt of WET & COLD winter weather, so those camps are open seasonally, during warmer, drier months (APRIL-OCT).

JUNE GLOOM is a cloud layer that covers the coastline in the early part of summer. Weather is warm to cool with clouds, or the weather can be bright and sunny – if the marine layer ‘burns off’ by mid-day. Consider these local weather patterns, May Gray & June Gloom, when planning a vacation to the beaches of California.

listed from south to north

Southern California Beach Camping

Coronado Island
San Diego Beach Camping
Encinitas
Carlsbad
Orange County Beach Camping
San Clemente
Dana Point
Laguna Beach

Los Angeles Beach Camping

Bolsa Chica State Beach
Doheny State Beach
Malibu Creek State Park
Ventura Coast Camping

Coast Campgrounds

Central Coast Beach Camping

Santa Barbara Beach Camping
Pismo Beach Camping
Morro Bay Camping
Big Sur Campground

Monterey Bay Camping

Monterey Bay Camping
Half Moon Bay
Santa Cruz Camping
Santa Cruz Redwoods

Angel Island

San Francisco Camping

Angel Island State Park
Point Reyes Camping
Marin Redwoods Camping
Sonoma Coast – Camping Jenner

Northern California Coast Camping

Mendocino Coast
Kings Range
Lost Coast: Shelter Cove
NorCal Redwoods Camping
Crescent City Camping

Stairwell to Beach

Mono Lake California

The Great Basin meets California, at the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains

Navy Beach, Mono Lake

Mono Lake


elevation: 6383′
Eastern California
US Hwy 395 @ CA SR 120

East of Yosemite NP
Lee Vining, CA

Mono Lake

Rumor has it this lake basin could be the ancient super volcano of the region. MonoLake is located on the north end of the Long Valley Caldera, a volcanic ridge which stretches down to Bishop and parallels Mammoth Mountain & US 395.

Huge shallow lake with a very turbulent history. Signs and plaques throughout the lake shore give info on ancient history of the lake, the wildlife, and regional detail. Majestic views of the Sierra Mountains, with sparse vegetation, lunar type landscape. Eerie with storm clouds; Beware of bad weather. Kayakers love this lake too!

Sierra Nevada backdrop

Canoeing
Hiking
Hot Springs
Kayaking
Picnic
Primitive Hot Springs
Stargazing
Volcanic Landscape

Mono Lake Camping

Camping is closeby, but not located on the fragile lakeshore.
open camping
Dispersed camping (FREE) is allowed in Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, the region that surrounds the Tufa State Natural Reserve. Campfire permits are required. Contact the park listed below for all the details on the camping policy.

campgrounds
Camps include National Forest Campgrounds in Lee Vining Canyon (8 miles), June Lake Loop (15 mi), Lundy Lake (12 mi). Private RV parks can be found in nearby Lee Vining and further south, at Lake Crowley.

[PDF download]
Camping In The Mono Basin
by LeeVining.com

Inyo National Forest USDA
Camping Mono Lake Ranger District

local links:

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve
California State Park
760-647-6331

Mono County Tourism
MonoCounty.org

760-924-3699

Mono Lake Committee
MonoLake.org

Bookstore @ 3rd, Lee Vining
760-647-6595

Tufa Towers

nearby interests:

Yosemite National Park
Inyo National Forest
Toiyabe National Forest
Benton Hot Springs
Bodie Ghost Town
Convict Lake
Mono Craters – Panum Crater & Crater Mountain
Long Valley Caldera
Lundy Lake
California Aspen Groves
Autumn Colors Camping

Long Valley Craters Mono Lake

Long Valley Caldera Craters near Mono Lake

regional maps:

Tom Harrison Mono Lake Map
Tom Harrison Ansel Adams Wilderness

NatGeo Yosemite Map: Ansel Adams Wilderness
NatGeo Mammoth Lakes & Mono Map

Inyo National Forest USDA Map
Ansel Adams Wilderness USDA Map

nearby towns w/ lodging:

Benton Hot Springs
Bridgeport, CA
Lee Vining, CA
June Lake, CA
Mammoth Lakes, CA


View Larger Map

Sacramento River Camping

The Sacramento River of Northern California

The Main Artery from the North; the Big River of California

Sac River California

Mighty Mount Shasta snowmelt flows south, bound to meet the giant Lake Shasta, which merges with the Pit River and numerous other major waterways, becoming the big Sacramento River. Running right down the center of the North Sacramento Valley to merge into the California Delta. Shipping channel links the State Capital city of Sacramento with the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Agriculture and wildlife depend on this river heavily.

tent camping camp sites, campground camping, RV camps, dump stations, marinas, bait, gasoline, public boat ramps, boating, fishing, kayak rentals

Campgrounds near these freeway close cities: None are located on the Sacramento River.

  • Redding
  • Anderson
  • Redding Winters

    CAMPGROUND PARKS below listed from NORTH to SOUTH

    Wildlife Refuge
    Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge
    Willows, CA
    ~ Camping is not permitted on the Sacramento NWR. Along the Sacramento River, camping is permitted on GRAVEL BARS for up to 7 days during a 30 day period. For waterfowl hunting, overnight stay is permitted in a vehicle or RV in designated areas. Tents are prohibited. No person may build or maintain fires except in portable gas stoves.

    Orchards

    Chico Area

    Lake Red Bluff Recreation Area
    Red Bluff, CA

    Driftwood RV & Fishing Resort
    @ Mill Creek Park
    Los Molinos, CA

    Hidden Harbor Marina & RV Park
    Los Molinos, CA

    River’s Rest Resort
    Los Molinos, CA

    Woodson Bridge RV Park
    Corning, CA

    State Parks
    Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area
    Historic State Park w/ Campground
    South Avenue (A9)
    Corning, CA

    Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park
    Chico, CA

    Colusa Landing & RV
    Butte Slough Road
    Colusa, CA

    State Parks
    Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area
    Colusa SRA Camping

    California Delta Region

    State Parks
    Brannan Island State Park
    Rio Vista, CA

    Sandy Beach Solano County Park
    2333 Beach Drive
    Rio Vista, CA

    Vieira’s Resort
    California Delta
    Isleton, CA

    State Parks
    Old Sacramento State Historic Park
    Downtown
    Sacramento, CA

    Sacramento Hostel, see more budget lodging