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What is Camping?

Old Timers Berry Creek

Basically, what is Camping?

4x4 camping RV camping car camping primitive camping backpacking cabin camping

BLM camping State Park camping National Forest campgrounds National Park camping

 

An overnight stay out-of-doors. Sleeping out under the stars.
Air bed, camping cot, tent… or just a tarp on the ground.
Perhaps A Mountain Cabin Rental. Your choice.

stars camptruck campfire

campFrom a luxurious cabin in the mountains, to a small clearing in near a meadow with a stream nearby – with just a backpack, the idea of “camping” is always a bit different for each person. Roughin’ it for free in the wilderness, or on the backroads; Or pay dearly for the price of real amenities, while on vacation.

car camping

Various types of Camping in California:

type of
camping
average
cost per night
brief description – what to expect
modern cabin $150 – $350 just like a hotel room, full kitchen, phone, internet, TV, real furniture
rustic cabin $90 – $190 bare minimum, beds, kitchen sink, electricity. maybe a bathroom
tent cabins / yurts $60- $150 wood floors, canvas walls, sleeping cots. reservations accepted. (very popular) may be open seasonally
camper vans, motorhome,
recreational vehicle
rentals, or own it all creature comforts on wheels, lots of luxury. camp the back roads.
camper shell own it mini motorhome on the back end of a pickup truck. smaller than RV
RV campground $25- $70 50+ sites, lots of facilities & families w/ RVs. reservations accepted
developed campground $25- $50 usually 30 – 100 sites, paved loop, facilities. toilets, piped water. plenty in our camping section (most popular)
small campground $12- $27 less than 25 camp sites, pit/vault toilets. plenty small campgrounds listed in our camping section
primitive car camping free way-out-there camp spots w/ dispersed camp sites, for the rugged self-contained, self-sufficient camper; access usually via dirt back roads.
SUV/ 4×4 camping free remote spots on long, steep, bumpy dirt roads; dispersed camp sites in secluded areas. 4 wheel drive may be needed
walk-in campsites
bike-in campsites
low cost or free camp sites that require you to physically haul your camp gear from a parking area to the camp spot, ranging from 1/8 mi. walk to a 1-3 mile hike
backpacking free w/ wilderness permit ultimate in seclusion, bring it all on your back, on foot into the wilderness & enjoy trail camps

  pinetree    fish

River Beach Campground
Trinity River Camping, Douglas City, CA

yellowpost

SO CAL CAMP FIRES – Yellow Post Campsites are remote camping spots in secluded areas, in a designated fire safe clearing. Camp FiresNo facilities such as toilets or showers. Maybe a picnic table & fire rings, if you’re lucky. Southern California forests have these kinda spots. Required campfire permit & you must double check on local fire restrictions.

Tent Cabin Rentals

Canvas Tent Cabins & Yurts

These structures are half way between ‘roughing it in a tent on the ground’ & having a ‘mountain cabin’. Tent cabins have wooden floors w/ canvas walls and roof; Dismantled annually for winter rain/snow, they are usually only available in mild, coastal climates or during summer months in the mountains.

deluxe-tent-cabinRentals typically include sleeping cots, but you’ll need to bring your own bedding (sleeping bags, sheets, pillows). Some rentals include shaded porches, wooden decks, minimal furniture, kitchenettes and/or wood burning stoves. Electricity may be available, or maybe not. Ask ahead of time, if you really must have that particular luxury when on vacation.

Yurts are a ’round version’ of this canvas cabin – which need to be aired out, often (to prevent mold). Yurt rentals are very popular and in high demand in California.

Find these type of rentals at yoga retreats, hot springs, beach canyons, remote lakes, redwood forests, high sierra camps, fishing camps and at certain RV parks.

National Forest Service Rangers wildlife

Deck w/ View

National Forest Fire Lookouts
& Historic Cabins

hiker

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

Camping California Back Roads


Borrego Campground


Camping Borrego

Anza Borrego Desert State Park & Borrego Springs Campgrounds

Anza Borrego Desert is the largest of the California State Parks. Borrego Palm Canyon Campground is the official name of this popular palm oasis & developed campground located very close to Borrego Springs CA. Hike or bike to town. There is also a private RV Park named Palm Canyon Resort in town, just to confuse you.

Desert wildflowers blooms, popular hiking & biking trails, plus mud caves & slot canyons draw plenty visitors here, mostly in the winter months. Summer high temps exceed 90 degrees for months at a time.
There are hundreds of miles of dirt roads to explore, and one could easily spend every weekend for a full year, checking out all there is to see in this vast desert, where elevations range from near sea level to 5000′ peaks.

Borrego Desert Campgrounds

Anza Borrego State Park Campgrounds calsp
760-767-5311, Anza Borrego Desert SP

BORREGO PALM CANYON CAMPGROUND
main campground near Visitors Center, in town Borrego Springs, CA
120 camp sites for tents & RVs, flush toilets, overnight / day use fees
reservations accepted

TAMARISK GROVE CAMPGROUND
27 camp sites, flush toilets, fee
on S-3 @ Highway 78 jct (closed June – Sept)
reservations accepted (Oct-May)

Vern Whitaker Horse Camp
equestrian campground w/ corrals, 10 camp sites, flush toilets
elev, 960′, located N of Borrego Springs, near scenic and rugged Coyote Canyon.
reservations accepted

Backcountry Campgrounds Anza

Arroyo Salado
16 miles east of Borrego Springs on County Road S-22

Blair Valley Camping Area
open car camping & RV spots, vault toilets
on SAN DIEGO County Rd S-2 near Highway 78 jct

Bow Willow Campground
elev, 950′, hwy access, 16 camp sites, pit toilets, overnight fee
near Sweeney Pass & badlands overlook; located on S-2, 9 miles N of Interstate 8

Canon Sin Nombre
off S-2 near Sweeney Pass; entrance near Badlands Overlook; slot canyon hikes

Coyote Canyon Camping
N of Borrego Springs via Di Giorgio Road
rugged backcountry dirt road, tent camping only
car camping near ocotillo gardens; 4×4 needed @ creek crossing & Sheep Canyon

Culp Valley Campgound
elev, 3400′, hwy access, 8 camp sites, pit toilets, free camp
located on S-22, atop Montezuma Grade

Culp Valley Boulders
elev, 3700′, dirt road access, primitive camp sites, free
located off S-22, 4×4 near Montezuma Grade

Fish Creek Campground
Hwy 78 near Ocotillo Wells & Split Mountain
elev, 280′, dirt road access, 8 camp sites, pit toilets, free camp
from hwy, go 12 milies south on Split Mountain Road

Yaqui Well
5 mi. south of Borrego Springs on County Road S-3 & right on Yaqui Pass Road, go 6 miles to camping area on right side

Yaqui Pass
5 mi. south of Borrego Springs on County Road S-3 & right on Yaqui Pass Road, go 4 miles to camping area on left side

culpvalleyOHV
Culp Valley trails, North Anza Borrego SP, SoCal Deserts

All Desert Campgrounds Nearby

AGUA CALIENTE HOT SPRINGS
(San Diego County Park)
88 camp sites for tents & RVs, flush toilets, overnight / day use fees, 760-765-1188
located on Co. Rd S-2, 22 miles N of Interstate 8 (closed June-Aug)

BOX CANYON RD Mecca, CA – in between Joshua Tree NP and Anza Borrego Desert
BLM camping in Box Canyon & Mecca Hills Wilderness Park

BUTTERFIELD RANCH RV PARK & HORSE CAMPGROUND
(Private Campground Resort)
located on S-2 between Highway 78 & Interstate 8

LEAPIN LIZARD RV RANCH
(Private Campground Resort)
85 acres, 60 camp sites
located on Split Mountain Road, Ocotillo Wells, CA

OCOTILLO WELLS SVRA
(State Vehicular Recreation Area)
elev. 160′, 4×4 and off road camp sites for trailers & RVs
no water, no hook-ups, pit toilets, no fees, 760-767-5391
located on Highway 78 (closed June-Sept)

PALM CANYON RV RESORT
(Private Campground Resort)
located in town, Borrego Springs, CA

SALTON SEA SRA
(State Recreation Area & Campground)
Mecca Beach, Corvina Beach, Salt Creek Campgrounds
located on Highway 111 on east side of inland sea

SLAB CITY @ SALTON SEA
old Camp Dunlap in California desert badlands
free & open RV camping near Salton Sea
located off Highway 111 on east side of inland sea

STAGECOACH RV PARK & HORSE CAMPGROUND
(Private Campground Resort)
located on S-2 near Highway 78 junction

TRUCKHAVEN HILLS
(OHV trails & camp spots)
elev. 300′, 4×4 and off road camp sites for car camping, touy hauler trailers & RVs
no water, no hook-ups, no fees,
located on S-22, East of Borrego Springs, CA

VALLECITO PARK
(San Diego County Park)
44 camp sites for tents & RVs, no hook-ups, toilets, overnight / day use fees, 760-765-1188
located on S-2, 22 miles N of Interstate 8 (closed June-Aug)

Mecca Hills
Mecca Hills BLM

Desert BLM Camping Spots

  • MECCA – BOX CANYON
  • OCOTILLO – FOSSIL SHELL CANYON
  • YUHA DESERT WILDERNESS – South of Interstate 8

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

camp

FREE CAMPING ANZA – Let us also remind you that this is the best place to camp in California for primitive car camping (camping outside of a developed campground). Open all year long – always! Super secluded, darkest skies, free and always located on the back roads. 4×4 is not required in all areas, so there are plenty of options. Blair Valley or Coyote Canyon Gardens are popular camp spots, but there are thousands of hidden canyons and washes in this giant State Park, just awaiting your tent. You’ll need a decent topographic map. For more info on free camping click here.

Anza wildflowers

San Diego County Road S-2 is the
Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849

Anza Borrego Wildflowers

Borrego 4×4 Trails & Camps

Carrizo Gorge Goat Trestle

Split Mountain Anza Borrego

Topo maps, wilderness hiking maps –

COOLNESS
Anza Borrego Desert Slot Canyons

nearby cities & towns:

Sonoma Beach Camping

Sonoma Coast Campgrounds

Gerstle Cove @ Salt Point
Gerstle Cove @ Salt Point SP

tent camp RV camps

Sonoma Coast State Park  State Park

  • Bodega Dunes Campground
  • Wrights Beach Campground

dscn0045

Salt Point State Park Camping State Park

  • Woodside Campground
  • Gerstle Cove Campground

Fort Ross State Historic Park 
(a Russian fur trading fort from 1812)

  • Reef Campground – 21 camp spots
    No RV hookups. No reservations
    [2018 CLOSED for repairs]
    707-847-3437

coast

Sonoma County Parks Campgrounds

Private campgrounds @ Sonoma Coast –

Sonoma coastal towns –

Woodside Campground
Woodside Campground @ Salt Point State Park

BLM Sand Dunes

dumontdunes

Sand dunes are popular spots for tourists, travelers, RVers and off-roaders. Death Valley National Park has many large areas for dunes, Mojave National Preserve has the Kelso Dunes.

Fortunately, those places do not allow driving on the dunes, which is exactly what the off-road boys want to do. Sand flying, motors screaming, music blasting, bon fires blazing and no silence found until the wee hours of early morning.

Autumn, Winter & Spring are the busy months for ‘froaders in the deserts, since summer temps can soar into triple digits heat daily.

Camping out near “the dunes” is usually a big, freaking, free-for-all, outdoors with the latest in motorized toys. Recreation Vehicles encircling bonfires (camp formation for a large group), toy box haulers, trailers, families, and maybe a massive BBQ setup.

OHV (off highway vehicle)
Vehicular Recreation Area

California BLM Desert Sand Dunes

luxurycamper

Below is a list of California Sand Dunes overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

Arroyo Salado / Ocotillo Wells
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 10 mi. west of Highway 86 on Highway 78. Rolling hills and sand washes. Designated “Open Area” consisting of 4,800 acres. Adjacent to Ocotillo Wells Vehicular Recreation Area. Near Split Mountain, Anza Borrego Desert

Dumont Dunes Mojave
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 30 mi. north of Baker on Hwy 127, off Dumont Dunes Rd. Steep and tall sand dunes. Designated “Open Area” of 8,150 acres. South of Death Valley National Park.

Dumont Saabaru AWD
Dumont w/ the Saabaru AWD

Glamis / Gecko Road
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Holiday weekends = NUTS!! Approximately 22,000 acres. Located 25 mi. east of Brawley on HIGHWAY 78. Sand Dunes. Designated “Open Area” Danger: Adjacent to military bombing range.  Contact the El Centro BLM

Imperial Sand Dunes / Buttercup Valley
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Approximately 11,000 acres. Located 10 mi. southeast of Niland on the Niland Glamis Rd. Sand Dunes are designated “Open Area”. Watch for closed area boundary at south end of area. CA Highway 78 near Brawley.  Contact the El Centro BLM

Mojave El Mirage / Shadow Mountains
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 10 mi. west of Adelanto on Crippen/El Mirage Road. Dry lake Bed. Heavy use area. many non-motorized and motorized recreation – including aircrafts. Area consists of 24,000 acres.

Olancha Dunes OHV
Highway US 395 @ jct 190
Thousands of acres w/ open camping, located 5 miles from Hwy 395. In between Eastern Sierra range, Olancha & Death Valley National Park. Contact the Ridgecrest BLM

Plaster City / Yuha Basin
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
South side of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. 15 mi. west of El Centro. Located on county Highway S-80. Consists of 41,000 acres of rolling hills and desert flats. Military bombing range north of area is closed to entry.   Contact the El Centro BLM

Sand Up Close and Personal
Superstition Mountain
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 15 mi. NW of El Centro via Highway S-8, Huff, and Wheeler Roads. Varied terrain consisting of 13,000 acres; dry lakes, badlands, rocky mountains, and sand dunes. Military bombing range north and south of area is closed to entry.   Contact the El Centro BLM

Rasor OHV Recreation Area
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 45 mi. northwest of Barstow, CA on Rasor Road. Sand washes and dunes, mesquite thickets. Designated “Open Area” consisting of 22,500 acres. Contact the Barstow BLM

Rice Valley Dunes
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 5 mi. south of Rice Valley off of Highway 62. Access is Santa Fe Road. Sand dunes. Designated “Open Area” consisting of 3,770 acres. Area of little use. Danger: Contaminated with unexploded ordinance.

Road to Kelso Dunes
Road to Kelso Dunes

BLM open camping hiking camping RVs 4WD

see also California Coastal Dunes at Oceano: Pismo Dunes


Yellow Post Campsites

yellowpost

Yellow Post Camping


Yellow Stake Camp Sites / Back Roads Camping NFS
near Cajon Pass, Big Bear & Idyllwild CA

YELLOW POST CAMPS are dispersed camping sites on the back roads in Southern California, where fire danger is greatest. Forest authorities have designated certain spots as ‘fire safe’ for remote, open camping options around Big Bear Lake, Fawnskin and the Idyllwild mountain area.

If you prefer to stay out of the developed campgrounds, you will be the minority. But you must know how to read a map well to reach these beauties.

Map Big Bear

SoCal camping doesn’t have to mean crowded campgrounds. Seek your seclusion on the dirt back roads, where there are no fees, minimal noises & a private site waiting just for you. These are usually on a first come, first serve basis. A high clearance vehicle (SUV, truck or 4×4) may be needed to reach some of the premium camp spots, but there are also sites accessible by passenger cars. And, of course, a fire permit is required.

HeartBar14

In the San Bernardino National Forest there are several back woods ‘fire safe’ camping spots, that are noted with a single yellow post & some may require reservations in busy summer months. You can find out more on reserving from the Big Bear Discovery Center, 909-382-2790

campfires bannedExtra caution should be used when winds are high, camp fires are often banned due to wildfire danger. Check with local rangers for up to date conditions and always get your campfire permit.

No restrooms, no water, no facilities. Just a dirt road, a fire ring & a single picnic table. Hopefully your table will not be shot up, by the local rednecks who ‘get off’ doing stupid stuff like this. Pick up any litter & leave the place better than your found it.

Yellow Post Camps

These backroad camps are perfect for the 4×4 group, stressed out social club, church group w/ rugged van, or the city SUVer who wants to get away from the crowds. The most sought after camp spots are nearest to the lake or a site accessible by RVs and horse trailers, but there are many more excellent camp sites to be discovered. USDA Forest Service Map is highly advised to reach these remote areas. There are rugged dirt roads that lead to some of these spots. A passenger car is sometimes not suitable for all dirt roads. Wet weather changes everything on dirt roads. Often routes close for winter w/ locked gates.

Big Bear Back Roads Camping

download PDF maps
on Big Bear Yellow Post Sites

Campsite7

Big Lots

Cajon Pass Camping near I-15

Idyllwild Dispersed Camping

thomas camp
Topo maps, Wilderness hiking maps, Equestrian trails, OHV maps –

Turtle Mountain Road

Turtle Mountain Rd

Turtle Mountain Road
BLM Road # NS477

off U.S. Highway 95
in between Needles & Blythe, California

BLM: Bureau of Land Management – Desert Camping

Several miles south of the town of Needles numerous desert washes cross the highway with dirt roads leading off into both directions. Turtle Mountain is just one dirt road to explore in this region, but there are many more unmarked, secluded roads. This region is perfect for “campers in-route” traveling who need a quick overnight camp spot (off the freeway).

Turtle Mountain Road is a one lane dirt road that runs next to a wash, in between Turtle Mountain Wilderness and Stepladder Mountain Wilderness. Leading approx 12 miles from US Highway 95 to the northern edge of the desert wilderness. The Turtle Mountain route continues westward to meet Water Road with Old Woman Mountain Wilderness nearby. Sunflower Springs Road continues north to Essex @ Interstate 40

BLM signage along US Hwy 95 is minimal. Look for vertical brown markers w/ reflectors, numbers or names. Driving slower than typical traffic, coast at 50 mph and keep your eyes peeled to the west side. Turtle Mountain Rd is marked at the pavement, but the marker is very small.

Eastern California Desert Wildflowers

Exploring the eastern side of Southern California, one can find the Colorado River and Arizona border region an excellent destination for winter camping. Springtime offers wildflower blooms, open camping and decent weather with sunny 70 degree days. Wildflowers and BLM beauty awaits those who venture off the paved routes.

Pink Cactus Bloom

Palo Verde trees line the washes and much vegetation can be seen throughout this remote region. Cacti include the cholla, ocotillo, barrel, beavertail, just to name a few. Wildflower blooms here are just as good as Anza Borrego Desert SP.

MARCH & APRIL are both prime months for the desert bloom

BLM Desert Camping

Drive more than a mile from the highway if you plan to camp in peace and quiet, as the overnight truck traffic goes all hours.

RV accessible camp spots are few and far in between. They can be found in large, level pullouts close to the main road, but you will be hearing traffic zoom by. Some dirt roads are in better shape than others; Seasonal storms in the low desert can wash out even paved roads. 4×4 may be needed in some areas.

Open camping in this desert is free and there is plenty of room to spread out. Imagine not seeing anyone pass by your camp or drive down your road for days. Camping in a sandy wash may seem appealing, but you best know the weather forecast and if rain is at all predicted nearby, be prepared to break camp (in the middle of the night) before a flash flood hits.

The Needles BLM Rangers Office is located on US Hwy 95, on the south edge of town and they can provide maps and more information. BLM California Deserts

Needles BLM Office
1303 S. US Hwy 95
Needles, CA 92363
760-326-7000

Lake Havasu BLM Office
2610 Sweetwater Avenue
Lake Havasu City, AZ 86406
928-505-1200