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

 


Redinger Lake

redinger lake

Redinger Reservoir

south of Yosemite NP, Bass Lake, CA

dammed lake canyon NFS sierra river sierra mountains

Officially this lake is actually a reservoir, located in the low lands of the Sierra foothills country. Narrow, winding back roads, a way outta the way kinda spot.

a long, narrow lake w/ steep hills, inside a tight canyon

  • canoe
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • jetski
  • kayak
  • waterski

The San Joaquin River flows west, down from the highest granite peaks of the Sierra Nevada and into the Central Valley foothills. If you find your way off the main highway 41, exploring way back behind Bass Lake, CA – then you may consider this scenic loop to Redinger.

off the beaten path

Truthfully, this place is usually an afterthought, sorta near Yosemite National Park. Not exactly a top destination for tourists, but it is very accessible most anytime of the year due to low elevation.

Spring wildflowers can be decent. Summers do get super hot here, so take that into consideration when planning your visit. Due to extreme wildfire danger, no campfires are allowed at any time.

redinger bridge

Lake, Reservoir, or a good wide section of the San Joaquin River w/ hydro-electric dam.

elev. 1000′

open camp no fires boating fish

public boat launch ramp
Camping is restricted to a large open area near the dam. No fee is charged. No campfires are permitted. Services limited, no drinking water or garbage pick-up available. Nearest town 7 miles away.

NORTH FORK, CA

Redinger Lake Road (Rd# 235) can be found south of the town of North Fork, CA. The paved route down is long, steep and winding. At the bridge crossing, the road loops to Joe Basin Road, which connects to the small community of Auberry, CA

Way up river, a dozen plus miles, is the utterly beautiful Mammoth Pool, only accessible half the year.

A few miles down river from Redinger, around the horse shoe bend, another neighboring reservoir called Kerschoff Lake (elev 971′) has a developed campground.

campSmalley Cove Campground NFS

Contact:
Bass Lake Ranger StationNFS
559-877-2218

https://www.fs.usda.gov/


Sierra Canyon Wildflowers

florasierra

West facing canyons of the Sierra Nevada mountain range are prime spots for wild flora, especially in Springtime. Lots of rain means a great show can usually be found. Rivers exit the mountains and carve deep into the landscape. Lush green hills, oaks, boulders. Perfect picnic spots everywhere.

wildflowers:
make a whole day of it

Lower elevations bloom first in the year. Remember if the Central Valley is blooming fruit trees, the mountain foothills are starting up too. Mid-elevations, above 3000′ bloom in summer months, but below that – plenty of river canyons and reservoirs are superb locations to search for wild flowers.

Orchards Blooming San Joaquin Valley

Orchards Blooming, San Joaquin Valley, California

The steep Eastern Sierra canyons near US 395, do have some wildflowers in Spring. Rocky, higher elevations bloom in mid-summer. And what Eastern Sierra lacks in wildflowers, they make up for in Autumn Colors (best in the state)

Kern Spring Wildflowers

Kern River Canyon

Kern Wildflowers

Kern Wildflowers, North of Kernville, CA

Kings River Canyon

Poppies Sierra Nevada

California: Gold Country Foothills

melones flora

Shoreline bloom @ New Melones Reservoir, Angles Camp

Consumes River – East of Coloma, CA

New Melones Reservoir – near Angeles Camp, CA

American River Canyon – Hwy 49, South of Auburn, CA

fencesitters

Northern Cal: Wildflower Areas

Yuba River along Hwy 20, up to Grass Valley, CA

North Table Mountain via Cherokee Road – N of Oroville, CA
the epic volcanic tablelands of Butte County.

Lupine Oroville

Kern River Campgrounds

gold ledge lupine

Kern River Campgrounds – NFS

Sequoia National Forest Campgrounds
Kern River, Southern Sierra Nevada

All the developed campgrounds listed below charge an overnight fee. Some are open year round, while others close for winter. Camping Reservation links provided.

kern campgrounds California NFS Kern RVing

Upper Kern River
North of Kernville, California

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

campground

elev

spots

veg

toilet

notes

Fairview Campground

3500′

55

mixed

vault

Upper Kern; RV 45′

Gold Ledge Campground

3200′

37

mixed

vault

Upper Kern; RV 30′

Headquarters Campground

2800′

44

alder

vault

Kern River; RV 27′

Hospital Flat Campground

3000′

40

alder

vault

Kern River; RV 30′

Limestone Campground

3800′

22

mixed

vault

Upper Kern; RV 30′

headquarters kern

RV campgrounds campgrounds hiking fishing campgrounds mt biking campgrounds

Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella, Kern Canyon California

Lower Kern River
South of Kernville, California

Granite Boulders

campground

elev

spots

veg

toilet

notes

Sandy Flat Campground

2300′

38

mixed

vault

open all year

Hobo Campground

2300′

35

mixed

vault

open seasonally

NFS
Sequoia National Forest
Kernville Ranger Station
760-376-3781

Additional Info on Kern Camping –

Kern Flats Camping: Free Camps
Lake Isabella
Keyesville OHV

Big Meadow Sequoia 

Kennedy Meadows, South Fork of Kern River
Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway
Dome Land Wilderness

Kern River Canyon
Kern River Hot Springs

kernrvcamper

Lake Mohave

viewpoint mohave

Lake Mohave NRA

Lake Mohave National Recreation Area

Mojave Reservoir @ Colorado River: AZ / NV / CA
@ the V: Arizona – Nevada – California

National Park Service

The Colorado River travels through the southwest desert, splitting the Grand Canyon and further south, separating California from Arizona at the southern tip of Nevada. Agriculture lines the big river down to Baja, Sea of Cortez, Mex.

Up near Las Vegas

Above Hoover Dam is Lake Mead, red dirt and silt shorelines. South of the dam is a deep gorge w/ hike-in hot springs and then this beauty, called Lake Mohave with the super clear water, secluded coves and abundant fishing.

Lake Mohave: elevation 647′

Desert peaks in this region are around 2000-3000′ elevation. Mohave Lake is actually a wide section of the Colorado River, spanning the region from massive Black Canyon south to busy Laughlin w/ river casinos. This lake is long and skinny in spots with lots of shoreline cliffs, canyons and coves.

boating, camping, fishing, hiking, hot springs, kayaking, off-road, picnics, viewpoints

camping areas below listed from north to south

Willow Beach RV Park & Campground
Arizona side, off Hwy 93
928-767-4747

car camp mohave

El DORADO CANYON

El Dorado Canyon Road, main paved route can be accessed near California’s state border. North of Searchlight, Nevada – off main highway 95, on side route 165 to Nelson, NV

Secluded dirt roads up and down canyons near El Dorado Canyon Rd. Minimal vegetation, maximum open scenery and dark skies. Kayak rentals @ El Dorado Canyon.

No facilities, no fees. No buildings. No campfire rings, no picnic tables, very few vault toilets. Bring your shovel!

desert badlands erosion

deep washes

15 day camping limit

Find your own route with many to choose from, drive the soft sandy washes (with a few boulders to dodge) and camp for free, right at the waters edge. Adventurers: Only for the self-contained campers. Pack it in, pack it out.

Driving off the roads is strictly prohibited. Primitive camp sites can be found both at numerous coves and also inland inside the canyons. The ridges get windy in the deserts.

Always know the weather forecast, cuz flash floods are possible and these dirt roads will be impassible during big rain. This is the main drainage to the big river!

Dogs Allowed

Most desert washes here are signed routes 4×4, but mini vans, AWD sport-wagons, trucks, SUVs, small RVs can all be found camping near Lake Mohave. That is – if you know how to ‘drive off road’, which is not fast, but not too slow either.

Avoid getting stuck in the deep sand: keep speed up and do not brake hard. Carry tow strap in case you need an emergency pull.

Campfires are allowed, but you need to bring firewood. Dogs are allowed. Party animals tend to trash these desert coves, so be warned that there is a fair amount of litter. Bring a black trash bag and take some out! This trash problem could get the area closed off to vehicles so keep that in mind.

The canyons here have giant power lines that cross @ Aztec Wash; they can easily be avoided.

montana wash

primitive camping 4x4 camping boat camping

4×4 recommended @ MOHAVE:

Eagle Wash Road #46 – popular spot
Montana Wash #45 – camping ok
Placer Wash #47 – no camping

The NPS rangers don’t wanna be pulling your ass out of the sand, which is why they post the 4×4 signs. Don’t expect to find help without walking a few miles first.

mohave2011

RV camp campground marina

COTTONWOOD COVE
developed campground, boat launch, marina, lodging, hiking, picnic areas

Cottonwood Cove Resort
near Searchlight, NV
702-297-1464

primitive camping boat camping RV camp campground marina

LAUGHLIN, NV
Nevada, California and Arizona states join down in this part of the world. Katherine Landing, full service marina, slip rentals, lodging, city services and casinos.

Lake Mohave Resort
928-754-3245

clearest water

Lake Mohave NRA
NPS Headquarters
601 Nevada Way
Boulder City, NV 89005
Visitor Center open daily
702-293-8990

maps of the region:

Lake Mohave Map (South) PDF

Boulder City River Map PDF

Nat Geo Map Mead

RED ROCK LAS VEGAS MAP

Recreation Map of Lake Mead, Lake Mohave & Lake Havasu, w/ Hoover Dam & Parker

Hiking Las Vegas Book

covecamps

This Mojave Desert river-created lake is located on the Colorado River, in between Las Vegas, Nevada and Needles, California

nearby towns: (with elevation)

Bullhead City, AZ (540′)
Laughlin, NV (535′)
Kingman, AZ (3340′)
Nelson, NV (2954′)
Nipton, CA (3042′)
Searchlight, NV (3470′)