Central Valley CA

happyvalleycow

Happy Valley Cow

The Great Central Valley of California – the San Joaquin Valley (on the south side) & the Sacramento Valley (on the north) together make up some of the most fertile farmland on the whole West Coast. Agriculture thrives, water flows & smog settles.

This huge valley, bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west & the Sierra Nevada mountain range on the east side, is the one of the biggest farm land regions of the U.S. The food that feeds the world is grown right here in the Center of California. Vegetables, rice, fruits, citrus, garlic, onions, nuts, you name it.

redlettuce

Central Valley residents can easily enjoy fresh produce year round. Centrally located they can access the neighboring Central Coast, Historic Gold Country, and the Sierra Nevada mountains, plus The City (San Francisco) is not too far away either.

Since the capital city of Sacto has a port of entry, the California Delta & surrounding waterways, make for excellent fishing, boating & camping.

Unfortunately this low lying area is one of the worse smog basins on the west coast. The upper & lower Central Valley see the worst of it, as wind pushes the emissions right up against the mountains. Triple digit temperatures are common throughout the summer months. The super heat just magnifies the poor quality of air.

cauliflower

California Country – CA Countryside Communities

California Central Valley Map

Counties, Cities & Towns of the San Joaquin Valley:
(south to north)

Kern County
Tulare County
Kings County
Madera County
Fresno County
Merced County
Stanislaus County
San Joaquin County
Solano County
Sacramento County
Yuba County
Sutter County
Yolo County
Colusa County
Glenn County
Butte County
Tehama County
Shasta County

Reservoirs

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

blue links lead to camp reservation services. camp RV Camping

Central Valley Parks & points of interest:

Henry W Coe State Park
George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area
Carnegia SVRA
Dos Reis County Park, San Joaquin River
San Juan Bautista State Historical Park
Hollister Hills OHV Park
Pinnacles National Monument
Hernandez Reservoir
Los Banos Creek Reservoir
Caswell Memorial State Park
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park
Chowchilla Recreation Area
, Eastman Lake
Codorniz Campground, Eastman Lake
Kern National Wildlife Reserve
Kesterson National Wildlife Reserve
San Luis National Wildlife Reserve
Merced National Wildlife Reserve
Modesto Reservoir Regional Park
Honey Run Covered Bridge
Oroville Wildlife Area
Spenceville Wildlife Management & Recreation Area
Lake Oroville State Recreation Area
Mount Diablo State Park
Auburn State Recreation Area
Sherman Island Waterfowl Management Area
Grizzly Island Waterfowl Management Area
Cache Creek
Sutter National Wildlife Reserve
Gray Lodge Wildlife Area
Colusa Sacramento River State Recreation Area
Colusa National Wildlife Reserve
Delevan National Wildlife Reserve
Sacramento National Wildlife Reserve
Mill Creek Wilderness
Ishi Wilderness
Tehama State Wildlife Area
Red Bluff Recreation Area
Shasta-Trinity NRA
Whiskeytown Reservoir NRA

California Central Valley Lakes & Reservoirs

walk in camps

for more lakes in California, check the LAKES LIST

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

19S01 – Inyo NF

south sierra ridges

Walker Creek Road #19S01
– Inyo National Forest

Southern Slopes, Eastern Sierra Nevada

Just south of Olancha, off US Hwy 395 is a dirt road that takes you 5 miles up to an oak canyon lined with rocks. There are several primitive camp sites along the Walker Creek. A high clearance vehicle may be needed in some sections, but 4×4 is not required. Small RVs might attempt this, but if the first mile frightens you, turn around while you’re ahead.

Dirt Road near 395

This private, shaded, creek area is perfect for those traveling Highway 395, looking for a quick and free camp spot near Olancha, CA

nice shady spots
Shady picnic or camp spots above 4000′ elevation.

some granite
Hiking trails at the end of the road lead deep into the mountains. One on the right takes you to waterfalls. The trail on the left will take you to meet up with the Sage Flat Trail, which leads up to Olancha Pass, Summit Meadows & a small lake, in the South Sierra Wilderness. The Pacific Crest Trail runs the ridges here, just west of Monache Meadows, which is at 8000′ elevation, way above here – up on top. 

First Camp

US 395 highway – the dirt road turn off is very close to a gas station, and it maybe be signed, or not. The gas stop may be in business, or perhaps not. This is rural California, wide open desert and things come and go quickly.

On a good topo map, located Olancha Creek and Summit Creek to the south. Walker Creek is the canyon in between those two, just so know where you are going and can visualize. This one is an easy-to-miss dirt road turn off – especially if you are going over 50 mph.

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

    San Diego Beach Camping

    Seagulls at Cardiff

    San Diego Coastal Campgrounds
    Mission Bay & North County
    SD Beach RV Parks & Camping

    RV camps camp

    San Diego’s mild climate means camping is available all year round. From north county where the coastal cliffs overlook the ocean, to downtown bay side marinas w/ RV camping, to camping right on the sand w/ ocean crashing just feet away. Bike paths are common around downtown San Diego, so you can bring your bike or skates.

    San Diego has 2 BAYS, both located along Interstate 5: The main bay downtown is called San Diego Bay (one of the deepest on the west coast) and the other a few miles north, is named Mission Bay (a man-made coastal waterway w/ green parks and paved bike trails).

    Reservations are required at almost ALL coastal campgrounds, especially around holidays, any 3 day weekends, and all summer long. Tons of tourists flock to Southern California and this is a very popular coastline – with busy little cities and crowded beach towns. Beware: if you are seeking secluded camping – this would not be the place.

    Best Beaches

    listed from south to north

    There are numerous private RV resorts, some quite large, like KOA and GoodSam parks located in and around San Diego county. Most are metro-close and not located on the beach. This list is primarily coastal camping options for the San Diego region.

    camping SoCal

    see also
    San Diego Campground Camping

    see a list of all
    San Diego cities & towns

    baybridge

    San Diego Camping