There are millions of people in California searching for that perfect weekend in the mountains. That secluded stream side camp with no one else around. Dense forest with mountain peaks, bluebirds, fresh air, total nature everywhere and maybe a view. Free firewood around every corner. No fees, no camp host and no camp fire restrictions.
These awesome secret outdoor places do indeed exists, but they are not located in SoCal within an hours drive from your home. Nor are they located in the nearest State Park Campground. These rare finds are on the back roads of California, usually in the Sierra Nevada mountains or further north - in the vast spans known as Northern Cal.
First off, you will need to drive (more than 3 hours) to reach these awesome wilderness retreats. Pack days ahead of time to make sure you are truly prepared and ready for serious back roads camping. Plan an early day departure from the city, so you can be at camp relaxing by sundown. Your goal that day is to find the best camp site before nightfall.
Secondly, do your research at home and online. Get the maps out & study your destination. Find the creeks, the waterfalls, the epic view points. Choose the smallest campground in the area, so you can hear less neighbors and more nature. California Parks & Forests have both large and small campgrounds. Largest ones will be located on main roads that are paved, often near popular tourists attractions. Small Campgrounds are more likely located on dirt back roads, accessible by passenger car, with some of the smallest having only 5 camp sites. Many are tucked way back there in the woods.
Primitive camping is also called dispersed camping, meaning "roughing it" and camping outside of a developed campground. No bathroom, no table, no fees. They may require a good map and a high clearance vehicle to reach. A shovel, water bucket and free camp fire permit are required by local authorities.
Borrego, Mecca, Joshua Tree, Mojave, Jawbone, Death Valley
Start with browsing 20 California National Forest for finding your prime spot in the mountains. Get a good overview atlas for California, so you know where you've been and where you wanna go next.
Lastly, shop for your perfect FREE campsite visually with DanaMite's decades worth of California photos.
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