Free camp sites may seem hard to come by in Southern California - or anywhere along the ocean on the popular west coast, but these no charge camps are quite common in the rest of the golden state. The very best camps are found inside the Sierra Nevada mountains and most any forests of Northern California.
Free camping usually means remote, secluded and private. Many accessible via dirt road. Creekside, lakeside, 4x4 not required. Minimal tourists, maximum privacy.
USDA rangers like to call it dispersed camping. Some parks refer to it as open camping. RV campers refer to free camp sites as boon-docking.
If you wish to camp overnight outside of a developed campground, then you will avoid fees and steer clear of any crowds. Many Californians crave the seclusion and privacy of the back roads, totally saturated inside real nature with the wildlife and all. Developing your self sufficient camping techniques means you will have more options and skills to choose your perfect camp site.
no signs, no pavement, no toilet, no table, no fee
for free camping you will need:
FREE CAMPING vs. developed campgroundsregular tent campgrounds are managed camping parks with marked camp sites, picnic tables, campfire rings and quiet hours (10pm-7am). Pit vault toilets are common, but flush toilets are rare. Fees for camping overnight vary from $10 to $30 per night.
Certain small campgrounds found in National Forests are so far back in the boonies that the rangers rarely get to them, so these remote campgrounds are often at no charge.
see destination photos of free camps
free camping can be found on back roads
Anza Borrego Desert
Big Bear & Idyllwild
Big Sur Coast
Free RV Camping
Los Padres Camping
San Luis Obispo Camping
Sierra Lakes Camping
4×4 Camping California
SoCal or NorCalSouthern California is less likely to have free camping since most areas located near beaches, mountains, and any lakes are already developed. Although Southern California does have vast deserts for free car camping, just not so popular in the summer months w/ triple digit heat.
Northern California and the Sierra Nevada mountains are both excellent regions to search for free camping spots. Creeks, waterfalls, small lakes, meadows, dense forests and wilderness trailheads.