Where is your favorite place to camp?

tent camping

This is one of those silly questions that has no real definitive answer from DanaMite. If you have camped California at all, you know it can be awe inspiring around every corner, especially the Sierra Nevada & the Coastline.

Most California transplants get so wrapped up with city life, college & new careers, that they rarely venture past the county park, much less the county line.

When they finally do break away, they are often misled to crowded campgrounds with steep reservation fees and too many RVs, walking distance to a mini mart. Often they assume camping in California is not what they thought it was going to be. Not like the photos they once saw, not the dream-like places of wildness, not the privacy they had envisioned. They may even give up on the whole ‘camping experience’ all together.

It does not have to be like this. Information is power. This web site Total Escape was made for YOU, the avid Escaper, who desires the best camping options available. One who will respect the land & care; Those that will teach their children to clean up litter & respect our precious public lands.

The California deserts are just as magnificent as the alpine meadows; The mountain peaks, the hot springs, coastal cliffs to the forests, and the river canyons!

It’s all good.

There cannot be one favorite camp spot, when you find yourself camping every month. Each site is a new destination, a place to explore, with usually a reason to return. Each season your favorite spot will change & be more desirable some months over others. From aspen trees changing color in the Eastern Sierra to wildflower meadows of the High Sierra, every place has its own unique flavor.

Drive further for less people and more nature!

National Forest Service

California National Forests are a great place to start.

Highland Wildflowers

Collections of California Camping Lists

sierra camps

Specific Places to Camp in California

Sierra Nevada Campground

Best View Camp Sites

view campsite

Great Overlooks for Camping

Best View Camp Site in California 

Overlook Camps, View Spot Camp Sites

This list is comprised of primitive camp sites and developed campgrounds with views overlooking a large area (valley, town, canyon, desert, river, ocean). Many ideal spots may require dirt road driving, and a few might need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach.

Prewitt Ridge, Big Sur Coast

This is by far the best, free coastal camping on the Central Coastline of Big Sur. Dirt roads traverse 10 miles out to vacant ridges overlooking the Pacific, with steep hills down to the highway. Camp above the fog layer and above the crowds. Explore the beaches during the day, and camp above the traffic & crowds at night.

Dry brush is abundant on the mountains of Los Padres National Forest. Camp fire restrictions should be of utmost concern in this area, since wildfires burn here often. Camp fire permits are required for camping on the back roads, and much of the time camp fires are banned in this region. Call ahead to the rangers to find out the current conditions.

Swinger

Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park
Big Sur Coastline

Two prime walk-in camp sites, on a shady point, high above a beach cove w/ scenic waterfall. Called “environmental camps” these highly desirable spots need advanced reservations w/ fees many months in advance. Tables, fire rings and a vault toilet. Bare bones basics, but the ideal location is worth it. A forested cliff on the edge of the ocean, high above a secluded cove. This location a can get windy if a storm moves in (generally October – March).

Los Padres National Forest

Kirk Creek Campground
on Highway 1 @ Nacimiento Rd
Big Sur CA

Willow Creek Road # 23S01
primitive camping on dirt road, above Hwy 1 @ Gorda, CA

sunset watch

Reyes Peak Camping
North of Ojai, CA
Pine Mountain Summit, CA Hwy 33

Off Cerro Noroeste Road, W of Pine Mountain, CA

Above Santa Maria, Highway 166
West of New Cuyama, CA

  • Miranda Pines Campground @ 4100′ elev
    Located well off hwy. on Road #32S13

San Bernardino National Forest
Toro Peak Campground

toro_campsite

Angeles National Forest

Fire Safe Spot

San Bernardino National Forest

I-8 East of San Diego, CA

  • Larkin Campground
    McCain Valley BLM OHV
  • Mar Tar Awa above Viejas Casino
  • Sweetwater Summit Co Park San Diego

I-5 North of San Diego, CA

S-22  East San Diego County

Montezuma Grade, overlooking Borrego Springs & Anza Borrego Desert

  • Culp Valley – boulders, primitive camps on dirt roads; better views off-road. No tables, no signs. Small campground at the highway is easy to find.

providence

I-40 Mojave Desert

view spot mojave

US Hwy 395 & surrounding areas

inside Death Valley National Park

  • Mahogany Flat Campground steep dirt road access. Trailhead for tallest peak in the park, Telescope Peak (11,049′ elev)
  • Tucki Mine, 4×4 route. Unmarked dirt road inside Emigrant Canyon, off Wildrose Road.

inside Inyo National Forest

  • Coyote Flat @ Pinyon Boulders – 4×4 required, one primitive camp w/ great views overlooking the Owens Valley & peaks to the east.
  • Onion Valley Campground – High Sierra @ 9200′ elevation. Trailhead to Kearsarge Pass. W of Independence, CA

4x4 Camps

Western Sierra Nevada Mts
Sierra National Forest

    • White Bark Trailhead @ Kaiser Pass,
      primitive camp site, pictured above. 4WD required @ Dusy Ershim Trail (OHV route). NE of Huntington Lake, CA

cabin rental

NFSsee also – NFS Fire Lookouts & Rental Cabins
many of which have excellent views of the wilderness areas; a hike or climb may be necessary

Colorado River Camping
Multiple riverside RV havens near Parker, AZ

coloradoriverRV

 


Reyes Peak

CA 33 N
Ojai Camping
North of Ojai, CA

Camp out among tall pines, well above the coastal fog.
Los Padres National Forest Road #6N06

Ojai, CA – NORTH on HWY 33
a very scenic drive, in North Los Angeles County

Coastal Foothills

Near the Pine Mountain Summit (elev 5080′) on California Highway 33, the small sign only reads PINE MTN and points east, to a rugged side road. By far one of the worst paved roads around.

This Reyes Pine Mountain, should not to be mistaken for the golf course community of Pine Mountain Club, many miles north of here, around the other side of Mount Abel.

This is Reyes Peak, also known as Pine Mountain Ridge “north of Ojai”, on the sorta paved Pine Mountain Road. (Los Padres National Forest Rd # 6N06)

overozena
The view above is from one huge dirt pull out, on the left – over looking Ozena Valley, on the west end of Lockwood Valley Rd. Motorhomes, trailers, off-roaders and hunters like this as a last minute camp site, very close to the highway.

If your vehicle can endure 9 long miles of poor pavement, pot-holed roads, then maybe you can find seclusion back in the woods around here.

Six or more primitive campsites, spread out along a forested ridge line (around 5000′ elevation). Tables and fire rings only. No fees, no toilets. Bring a shovel and plenty water. No pipes, no running water up here.

The scattered camp sites are located far enough away from each other, that the location provides some privacy and still relatively close to town. Some sites are in forested settings, while others have big boulders, but are exposed to wind and sun. Although these few sky view camps are perfect for the stargazers.

Dark night skies can be okay, if the coastal fog stays low. Neighboring Mount Pinos is all paved – usually best choice for RV campers w/ telescopes, who need large areas of flat level ground.

reyespeakcamp

One particular camp site is located at a very decent view spot. Boulders, pine trees and mountain views to the south. Click the image above to expand.

PRIMITIVE CAMPGROUNDS
Campfire permits are required.

Launch Spot

The end of the road is a top destination LAUNCH spot for hang gliders & para-sailers. Watch them jump on YouTube compliments of DanaMite.

Youtube

 

The hiking Trailhead for Reyes Peak and the Chorro Grande Trail #23W05 are also at the end of this dead end road #6N06. Reyes Peak Trail leads east, out to 7510′ elevation, overlooking the whole lower Los Padres region – Lockwood Valley, Ozena, Piedra Blanca, Sespe Gorge, Potrero Seco.

reyespeaktrail

Get outside this weekend. There are no more excuses!

MAPS: Los Padres National Forest Map

NEAREST TOWNS:

Camping Near Yosemite

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Camp Near Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a top destination, all year long. California masses converge on the sacred valley each summer, so expect more as the buses keep rolling in. Plan a Yosemite trip before Memorial Day weekend – or after Labor Day weekend, for less people.

Camping close to Yosemite National Park without being inside the park boundaries. The scenery and wildness doesn’t stop in the back country. There are numerous National Forests surrounding the popular National Park, so much public land has been set aside for these recreation purposes. Granite-lined mountain meadows, dense forests, raging creeks, wildlife and real seclusion. Plenty of great paved back roads, dirt roads and camping options in the Sierra Nevada.

CAMP OUTSIDE YOSEMITE NP, WHY?

No campground reservations needed, cheap or free, less crowds, less noise. More freedom, more privacy, more nature.

Hundreds of developed, small campgrounds can be found around Yosemite. A few private RV resorts, cabin rentals, lodging on the main highways. Primitive style camping is considered “camping outside of developed campgrounds”. USDA National Forests usually allows open-camping within the forest boundary – with a required camp fire permit. Sometimes wildfire danger is too extreme, so they often ban campfires in dry conditions.

YOSEMITE: SOUTH HWY 41

SIERRA NF @ Fish Camp, CA

East side of Highway 41:

West side of Highway 41:

Lakes West of Yosemite NP:
Stanislaus National Forest

all Lakes near Yosemite

Gold Country @ Mariposa, CA

Gold Country Foothills – listed below are valley reservoirs. Oaks, dry hills, which can can be super hot in summer.

 

camping

YOSEMITE WEST Highway 120

Camping near Highway 120

  • Sweetwater Campground
  • Lost Claim Campground
  • The Pines Campground

North side of Highway:

  • Lumsden Campground
  • Lumsden Bridge Camp
  • Middle Fork Campground
  • Cherry Lake Campground
  • Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (NPS)

camping

highmeadows

See all Lakes near Yosemite Park

lakes near Yosemite hiking

YOSEMITE: EAST Highway 120

Tioga Pass on Hwy 120 (elevation 9410′) is only open during summer months. Generally June through October. Always check road conditions before your trip.

Lakes @ Tioga Pass
High elevation meadows, aspen groves, snowmelt lakes. Just east of Yosemite National Park border. Inyo National Forest

leeviningcamps

Lee Vining Canyon @ US 395
Inyo National Forest

  • Cattleguard Campground
  • Moraine Campground
  • Boulder Campground
  • Aspen Grove Campground
  • Big Bend Campground

 

Mono Maloy

MONO LAKE, CALIFORNIA

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