Perfect Tent Spot

Boulder Cove Camping

Choosing your Perfect Tent Spot

Before you can choose the ultimate place for your tent, you must decide where it is you wanna sleep OUTDOORS. What ultimate location? Your destination can play a huge factor in you getting a peaceful nights rest. And do you really need a campground? Or, are you ready to try to rough it, without the amenities? Best camping is off-the-beaten-path, and usually on the back roads. Trailhead camps, 4×4 camps, best view camps, creek camps; Dispersed camping, often called primitive camping. Focusing here on car camping, tent camping and backpacking routes.

Sierra Granite ViewsJust choosing a flat tent spot isn’t good enough anymore. You crave the best camping experience and seek real nature, with minimal crowds. No annoying neighbors, no parking hassles, no traffic or cars passing by. We at Total Escape are here to help you get to your wilderness goals and experience nature like never before. Right here, right now and it doesn’t hafta cost you a dime.

California Camping Destination:

Let’s start with a terrain overview. California has it all ­ – mountains, deserts, coastal, rolling oaks with rivers in the countryside, plus the infamous wine country and developed campgrounds within city limits. Desert camping in summer months should only be attempted by the experienced camper who loves 90+ temperatures. Mountain camping in winter can be freezing, so make sure you have the proper gear. Good maps are a must have and the readily available National Forest maps are your best avenue for getting and staying away from the masses. Visit our Destinations page to decide what kinda place you wanna ‘call home for the weekend’.

topo mapsIf you are the “I don’t care where I sleep kinda guy, as long as I can do/see this many things” all crammed into a 3-day holiday weekend, then you best do your research ahead of time. Get a good map, measure the mileage, plan picnic stops and sightseeing. Plan to set camp in a central location close to the main highway to call home-base, so you can be off exploring as much as possible.

Schedule in some “down time” or a full day for relaxing. Calculate driving distances and pad it w/ an extra hour. Maybe make a campground reservation if you are visiting a National Park or busy State Park. If you plan to wing it without reservation, always have plan B or plan C  options already picked out. With millions of residents and tourists on the west coast, chances are you won’t be the only person wanting to do Big Sur, Yosemite or Point Reyes that particular weekend.

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Helpful Hints
for a Good Nights Sleep @ the Camp Site

  • Bring a decent Sleeping Pad. Air Mattress with the inflator pumps will be the most luxury, without sleeping directly on the hard ground. Therm A Rest sleeping pads are another fine option, for those who like to travel light and still have air underneath them. Extra blankets, always.
  • Flat & Soft ground is the goal in choosing the best tent spot. Park your vehicles over the rocky slanted ground and keep the best flat areas for your camp site.
  • Do not pitch a tent in a meadow, no matter how inviting it looks. Wetlands and meadows are fragile ecosystems, an area that should be protected.
  • Look at the big trees above your sleeping spot and examine them. Do not place your tent near or underneath a dead tree or a dead limb. Trees do break and fall, especially if winds pick up. This could be a life or death choice, so remember to look up.
  • Bring abundant good tent stakes and USE them. Yellow plastic stakes are for soft cedar and sand. Thin aluminum stakes are for backpackers. Large steel nail stakes (some w/ plastic tips) are best stakes for all-around terrain.
  • Bring a mallet to pound stakes or use big rocks to hammer them. Gloves are also a good idea!
  • Never underestimate the use of a big tarp and some rope.
  • Guy lines help hold a tent in place when windy weather turns to big storm. If wind is in the forecast, then do this task before you head out on your day hike away from camp.
  • Make sure selected tent site is flat. Lay on the ground to check it out.
  • Place head of bedding up hill (if any slant can be noticed)
  • Tents should be at least 10 feet away from your campfire. At least 100 feet away from a creek or lakeshore.
  • Beach camping at the ocean edge; Know the high tide mark; place tent accordingly.
  • Slot canyons are awesome, sandy, narrow washes, many with cliffs and caves. In the desert badlands these can become raging rivers w/ flash floods. When rain is heavy in the mountains many miles away, you could get flooded in the low lands. If you hear any thunder – RUN to high ground. Better off picking another camp site, than to die by a wall of water!
  • Shade in the Desert sounds like an oxymoron, unless you find a place with high cliffs, or slot canyons. Tamarisk trees and palm canyon locations are usually an oasis of RV tourists & travelers. Hot Springs are also busy spots. Pinyon pines, juniper and over-sized manzanita can be found in higher elevation deserts above 1000′. The prime desert camping season is generally October thru March, as April can easily soar close to 90 degrees high.
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Campgrounds listed individually on
California town pages A to Z

campfires

morning sunshine

Late Nighters & Sunrise:
Determining East & the North Star

reading the stars

Sequoia NF - The Den

Campground vs. Dispersed Camping:

Follow Dirt Roads
Some people swear by the open spaces and back road camping options, as they have more seclusion, plenty privacy and best off all, no campground fees. You might need a GPS and a high clearance SUV to reach some of these camp spots, but you will be blessed with a unique secret spot to call your own.

Campgrounds come in all styles these days: From small primitive camps on a creek to the luxurious RV resorts with laundry room and showers. And then there is everything in between. This web site Total Escape specializes in FREE camping on the back roads and the smallest of campgrounds.

Reservations are usually accepted at the most popular camp locations, many are wide open on weekdays and the majority of campsites overall are available on a first come, first serve basis.

Go Solo

Traveling Alone
Camping Solo

Sierra Hiking Path

it’s the way to go… slow & solo

enjoying quality time alone is not weird, wrong, or unnatural, no matter how many strange looks you get from friends & envious co-workers

Solo Outdoor Trips

Stop waiting for someone to do things with. Quit thinking that your best friend or partner will one day magically suggest an outdoorsy road trip, or day hike, or mountain bike ride. YOU are the one who craves the wildness of the earth, the unexplored, the secluded. The time is now for you to start living the life you want, outdoors, in California – today!

If you’ve just about had it with the pressures of everyday stresses, the wifi city life and the busy pace of civilized society is starting to get to you. Get a clue fast – before you loose your marbles. It’s time for much needed rest and relaxation. Nature is the best place to relax and reconnect with yourself and mother nature.

A change in scenery. A fresh perspective. A real break from the norm. No shopping, no errands, no phones, no television, no computers, nobody around. No one, except you.

and they might call you anti-social…

Travel Solo

alone, by yourself

away, distant, solely, detached, free, independent, unique, individually

The Call of the Wild


Unplug yourself from the hectic rat race and go exploring. Give yourself time to fully unwind: time to think, time to enjoy the outdoors and really find that special place of peace that comes only from earth. Yes, all by yourself.

VISION QUEST

Call it an annual primal ritual, or a first time experiment, traveling solo can be a blessing in disguise. Learning to be alone outdoors, become more aware of the physical world and enjoying yourself is an important key to a balanced life. Whether you seek a quick refresher course for the weekend or a full blown month long road trip, seeking a new comfortable destination and the art of basic relaxing is the main focus for this trip.

Camping Alone

slow going

When you travel alone, it’s easy to take your own sweet time. Going slow is something we don’t usually do in our busy city lives. Time is so precious, so you may as well stretch that vacation out as long as possible. Savor the moments.

Take as long as you like for – photography, picnicking, hiking, stretching, yoga, cooking and stargazing. Firewood collection becomes the biggest chore of the day, and it could take hours. Walking from camp, every direction will lead to a new adventure. Driving back roads at 20 mph is luxurious. No one to be your back seat driver. Sleep in every day if you want. No pressures, no schedules, no big worries. Sunlight, food, heat, weather, cooking and cleaning. Sit back and learn to really relax. Enjoy a secluded camp site for a full week, and get to know the wildlife on a first name basis.

Boy Camping

Follow the back roads to seclusion, or reserve several days at a unique campground. Imagine night after night of peaceful rest, with the sounds of nature surrounding you & the stars of the heavens dancing across the darkest skies.

Explore new terrain every day & move to a new camp every night. Or make it a “stay put” week-long meditation, in one spot. Whatever fits your needs. Either way, you’ll enjoy the solitude & the healing powers of nature. Answering to no one but yourself, you may feel guilty or kinda selfish the first few days, but this will fade as you learn to embrace the solo journey.

And it doesn’t hafta be all about roughin it either. While backpacking into the almighty wilds of the true wilderness has its good points – along with life threatening dangers possible every day, a simple quick weekend trip to a nearby small inn, fishing lodge,  or a bed & breakfast could work for the pampered types. Choose something different and unique, yet know your own limitations (on comfort & on a physical level). Make sure your destination choice is surrounded by some nature and preferably wilderness. You won’t miss the television one bit!

  • FARM STAYS & GUEST RANCHES
  • BED & BREAKFAST INNS
  • NFS FIRE LOOKOUTS & CABINS
  • TENT CABINS & YURTS
  • CA LAKES & RESERVOIRS
  • WILDERNESS AREAS
  • SMALL TOWNS IN CALIFORNIA
  • Spend One Full Day a Week Outside in Nature

    Good California Maps are a must have! Don’t rely on digital cell service or count on online maps being readily available. The hard-copy versions are always the best back up plan. Old paper maps are the very best, cuz they can often show more hidden waterfalls, trails and old mines than the newer maps.

    National Forest maps are best for getting and staying away from the tourist crowds. Visit Destinations to decide what kinda place you wanna explore this season.

    California has it all – A to Z

    which is why the golden state population always seems to be increasing, right? Helping you get away from your normal routine and the masses is what we do best here at Total Escape. Discover the thousands of pages, photos and links on this site to create your very own unique retreat.

    The mountains, deserts, coastal, rolling oak countryside & even urban escape inside city villages, are perfect starting points for planning your little escape. Desert Retreats California

    Desert camping in autumn, winter and springtime months is perfect timing for any kinda soul searching, catching up on a good book, or just gazing out at the vast vistas. Meteor showers fall within the latter part of the year, so stargazing and camping is excellent with the new moon. Temps start to drop come September, so be warned. Mountain cabins drop to their off season rates after summer, but be prepared for chilly temps and get proper outdoor gear.

    camping destinations
    lakes in calif
    California State Parks
    hiking trails
    BLM camping
    back roads
    usda nfs
    mountains of California
    California National Parks
    stargazer
    desert in cali

    Desert Sunsets in Winter

    SAFETY TIPS: Give your schedule to someone. Any bit of info is helpful. A map or written itinerary given to a neighbor or close friend will help ensure your safety and timely return. Bring your cell phone, plenty maps, bear mace and emergency supplies for additional security.

    Walk-In Camp Sites

    MIneral KIng Walkin Camps

    Walk-In Camps

    Below are all developed campgrounds in California that have walk-in camp spots available. Vehicles are parked and you must carry your gear into the camp site (usually a short distance, but can be up to a half mile).

    California Campgrounds with more than a 1-mile trek are not included in this list below. Areas such as – Catalina Island, Crystal Cove SP, Angel Island SP, Point Reyes National Seashore, indeed have many hike-to camps, but most are measured in miles (one way).

    walk in campsites are perfect for –

    • people who wish not to see cars @ camp
    • people who prefer less noise while camping
    • physically fit folks, who want exercise
    • backpackers, who plan to hit the trails soon
    • avid hikers, who may be out day hiking
    • cyclists, just passing through
    • mountain bike campers
    • one nighters, travelers who only stay one night
    • late comers to the campground
      (hint: these are usually the last campsites to fill up)

    NewMelones WalkIn Camps

    Walk in campsites are often located away from car campers & RVs. Some camp sites may have more privacy, tucked away in trees, while others have shared community area with fire pits and/or barbecues. All camp sites will have picnic tables and a some kinda toilet nearby. Bear boxes may be available for storing food properly. Sharing the storage boxes with neighboring campers is common practice.

    Campgrounds with walk-in sites range in elevation from sea level marshlands to high altitude alpine lakes. Most of these camps listed below are located inside developed campgrounds with overnight fees. Many are small campgrounds, while others are large hubs of activity. The most popular places can be reserved online, with the links provided.

    Many parks can also have day use fees, so know where you park and what time span is allowed. Ask the campground host if needing assistance. Some campgrounds lock their gates at sunset and do not permit entry at night. Others may not allow campers to check in anytime after sundown. Know their rules before you make reservations.

    If you plan on not making camp reservations; make sure to have a plan B or C choice camp – in case your desired campground is already full. Many popular destinations can fill up fast (by noon in the summer).

    CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

    Walk In Camps in California

    hikes campmtb

    Andrew Molera State Park, North Big Sur Coast
    Anthony Chabot Regional Park, East Bay San Francisco
    Austin Creek SRA, Armstrong Redwoods, Guerneville CA

    Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Black Rock Campground, Little Grass Valley Reservoir
    Boise Creek Campground, Six River National Forest
    Bottchers Gap Campground, North Big Sur Mountains
    Butana State Park, Pescadero, Santa Cruz Mountains

    Cherry Hill Campground, Butte Creek, Lassen National Forest
    Chilcoot Campground, Frenchman Lake, Plumas NF
    China Camp State Park, SF @ San Pablo Bay, San Rafael
    Chula Vista Campground @ Mount Pinos, Los Padres NF mtb
    Clear Lake State Park, North Wine Country, Kelseyville CA
    Cold Springs Campground
    ,
    Mineral King @ Sequoia NP
    Cool Springs CampgroundPG&E Camp, Butt Valley Reservoirhike
    Cottonwood Pass / Cottonwood Lakes on Horseshoe Meadow Rd, PCT Eastern Sierra @ Lone Pine

    coolsprings

    Dark Day Campground, New Bullards Bar Reservoir, N Sierra
    Donner Memorial State Park, Interstate 80 @ Truckee CA
    Dry Lagoon Walk-In, Humboldt Lagoons State Park

    El Capitan State Beach, North Santa Barbara Coast

    Gaviota State Park Campground, North Santa Barbara Coast
    Glory Hole Campground @ New Melones Reservoir, Gold Co
    Granite Flat Campground, Truckee River @ Lake Tahoe
    Gualala Point Park, Gualala River, Sonoma County Park

    Half Moon Bay State Beach Campground, Half Moon Bay
    Headquarters Campground, Salton Sea SRA, Mecca CA
    Henry W Coe State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
    (wilderness permits required)

    Intake Campground, Bishop Creek, Eastern Sierra

    Jackson Flat Walk-In Camp PCT @ Angeles NF
    Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground, NorCal
    Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur Coast

    Klamath National Forest –
    small campsite on river

    • East Fork (Salmon River @ Cecilville)
    • Lover’s Camp (Marble Mountain Wilderness)hike
    • Kangaroo Lake (NorCal PCT access)
    • Matthews Creek (South Fork Salmon River)
    • Shadow Creek (East Fork of Salmon River)
    • Sulphur Springs (Marble Mountain Wilderness)
    • Trail Creek (Upper Salmon River)

    Liberty Glen Campground @ Lake Sonoma Recreation Area
    Limekiln State Park Campground, Hwy 1 Big Sur Coastline

    MacKerricher State Park Campground, Mendocino Coast
    Macumber Reservoir,
    PG&E Camp, West of Lassen NPfishing
    Manresa State Beach Campground
    , Monterey Bay
    Marmot Rock Walk-In Camp, Courtright Reservoir
    Mary Smith Campground
    @ Lewiston Lake, Trinity River
    Merced Recreation Area, Merced River, Mariposa CA
    Mesa Campground, Silverwood Lake SRA, Cajon Pass
    Mill Creek Campground @ Bucks Lake, Plumas NF
    Mill Creek Campground, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP
    Montana de Oro State Park, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo mtb
    Mosquito Flat Trailhead Camp, One night limit! Camp is for backpackers heading into back country at the end of Rock Creek Road, Inyo NF hike

    Niagra Creek Campground, OHV 4×4 trails, Stanislaus NF
    North Battle Creek Reservoir
    PG&E Camp, West of Lassen
    North Grove Campground, Calaveras Big Trees State Park

    Oak Bottom Campground

    Oak Bottom Campground @ Whiskeytown Reservoir SRA

    Onion Valley CA

    Onion Valley Campground, Eastern Sierra @ Independence, CAhike

    Pantoll Campground, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Marin
    Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground, Big Sur Coast
    Pigeon Flat Campground, Stanislaus River, Dardanelle CA
    Pomo Canyon Walk-In Camp, Sonoma Coast State Beach
    Portola Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
    hikePrather Meadows Camp, Bunny Flat @ Mount Shasta
    Providence Mountains SRA @ Mitchell Cavern, Mojave

    Redwood National Park, NorCal Coast
    (no reservations, no fees. open all year)

    • Flint Ridge Walk-In
    • Nickel Creek Walk-In
    chulavistacamp

    CHULA VISTA CAMP – Wild Iris Meadow at Mount Pinos

    Refugio State Beach, North Santa Barbara Coast
    Rock Creek Campground
    , Eel River @ Standish-Hickey SRA
    Roxie Peconom Campground, Bizz Johnson Trail, W Susanville mtb
    Russian Gulch State Park Campground, Mendocino Coast

    San Clemente State Beach, Orange County Coast
    Sanborn Campground, Skyline County Park, Saratoga CA
    Sand Flat Campground, Clark Fork, Carson Icerberg Wild
    Silver Creek Campground, Truckee River @ Tahoe
    Southwest Walk-In Camp
    , Lassen Volcanic National Park
    Squaw Leap Campground, San Joaquin River, Auberry CA
    Stillwater Cove Regional Park, N of Fort Ross, Sonoma Coast

    Tahoe National Forest
    Donner Area Camping Lakes

    NFS 530-265-4531

    • Carr Lake Campground
      10 miles north of Highway 20
      6,700′ elev
      5 walk-in campsites
    • Rucker Lake Campground
      6 miles north of Highway 20
      5,462′ elev
      7 walk-in campsites
    • Sterling Lake Campground
      9 miles north of Interstate 80
      7,000′ elev
      6 walk-in campsites

    Toad Lake Walk In Camp, PCT @ Shasta National Forest
    Tuolumne Meadows Camp, Yosemite National Park
    (reservations & wilderness permits required)

    Union Reservoir Walk In Camps, Arnold CA

    Union Valley Reservoir – Eldorado National Forest

    • Azalea Cove Campground
    • Fashoda Campground

    Van Damme Redwoods State Park, Mendocino Coast

    Walker Pass Campground, PCT, East of Lake Isabella CA
    Whitney Portal Trailhead Camp, Mount Whitney, Eastern Sierra
    Woodside Campground, Salt Point State Park, Sonoma Coast

    OnionValleyWalkIns

    Walk in campgrounds are considered ‘tent camping‘, as opposed to ‘car camping‘, which is literally camping next to your vehicle. This type of hike-in camping may also be referred to as ‘trailhead camping‘, as many ideal hikes begin at these prime locations. Boat-in, bike-in or hike-in camp sites are also available at some of these locations.

    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 –

    Dispersed Camping Sequoia

    bone creek

    Sequoia maps

    Open Camping in Sequoia National Forest – Forest Road Camping

    Seeking secluded campsites? This is one of the best areas to camp in pine forest w/ privacy, relatively close to Southern California. Plenty of primitive car camping on the dirt roads throughout this whole Sequoia & Kern River area.

    nfs primitive back roads mountain biking hiking mountains

    No facilities. No picnic tables, no toilet, no fees. Just a rock campfire ring & a clearing. Previously used sites have already been established usually near streams. Try to use these first, if at all possible. It takes a bit of exploring but you will find the perfect spot. Don’t even attempt to try to find these kinds of camp spots at night. They are often buried deep in the forest with no visible markers what-so-ever. But in trade, you will be lulled to sleep by your own private mini waterfall & no RV generators. Many of these back roads are closed & gated during winter months due to snow & rock slides.

    No amenities are available in this neck of the woods, but plenty of seclusion & wilderness. Check official Wilderness rules for proper knowledge of the area restrictions. You must get a free camp fire permit from the ranger station in order to build a fire outside of a developed campground. A large shovel, plus bucket w/ water are a bare minimum for the privilege of camping like this. Certain dry seasons (summers into autumn) have very strict camp fire restrictions. Check with the ranger to see the latest on building campfires on the back roads. camping

    A Sequoia Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are so many dirt roads for dispersed primitive camping on the back roads. Due to weather & erosion, some roads may require 4×4 or high clearance, so come prepared with a plan B.

    Camping Checklist to make sure you’ll have what you need. The drive up from the Los Angeles area averages 3-4 hours and is well worth the trip. Once you’ve found that perfect spot, take detailed note of it, for the next time you visit the area. Then, you will be able to get there easily in the middle of the night, if need be.

    Backroad Camping Sequoia: Follow the forest road numbers with your Sequoia map to discover amazing back road camping options. Your own private stream or meadow. Secluded campsites with your own mini waterfall.

    overview

    see also –
    Sequoia Campground Camping

    monache mdw