Why pay for luxury camping parks when you’re in California State? When you could experience it for free!
Being ranked third of the most geographically diverse states that cover 163,696 square miles of the United States’ total land area means California has many bodies of water, forests, RV parks, campsites, and mountains all over the state to explore.
It is allowed by the BLM and USFS for public use for free. With that said, it is possible to enjoy free camping, or with a minimal fee, surrounded by the rich gifts of nature California has, besides developed campgrounds or state RV parks with full-service and amenities.
But of course, there are always pros and cons, so you must deal with precautions, limitations, specific requirements, and restrictions for every campsite you consider camping on.
21 Free Camping Sites in California
We have gathered 21 California Free Camping sites for your easy reference. We can’t simply put into words how wonderful an experience and journey awaits you with immersing in the world in its raw form. We put our utmost efforts into having your free camping in these best of the best-dispersed campsites. Ready?
1.American Girl Mine
Credits to Interstellar Orchard
Starting our list with one of the popular free sites in California, the American Girl Mine.
It is near Shasta Lake, California, where this particular area affiliates with the East Shasta Mining District that is now part of the Shasta National California State Forest.
To get here from Yuma, it is 14 miles travel through the I-8 to Ogilby Road or the S34. 5 miles down, and you’ll reach the American Girl Dirt Road on the right side with nearby railroad tracks. This dirt road will lead you to a fantastic adventure.
Suppose you wanted free dispersed campgrounds that could take you away from all sorts of crowds; this wide-spaced and quiet area, best used for RVing and dry camping!
Having neighboring campsites could be inevitable, but the land is generously dispersed and spacious, allowing you to switch to any available sites anytime.
California and Florida provide great off-road driving due to their warm-weather dispersed campsites that are great for this land activity.
You, the kids, and your four-legged companions are free to enjoy the relaxing open space and the fantastic night skies after spending a fun-filled day in this area located near Shasta Lake, California.
But, you have no one and nothing to rely on this campsite, so shop and stuff up your motorhome with your essentials, especially food, water, and a first aid kit for emergency purposes.
Incredibly, cell signals for all networks are highly reliable within the park’s area, as reported in the reviews, so you’ll have no worries about internet connections. You may contact district rangers for the best pieces of advice and tips and tricks related to the area.
2.Willow Creek Road Dispersed
Credits to Outdoor Project
For a complimentary scenic landscape view of the Pacific Ocean campsite, while trailing the mountains, this route to the camp areas and RV parking sites is a romantic road adventure drive located within Sonoma County, California, located proximal to Adobe Canyon that houses the Sonoma Creek, no more than two miles from Highway One.
Sonoma County, California, is also the home of Redwood Forest, usually compared to the Sequoia National Forest in terms of natural attractions.
This free camping area, located near Adobe Canyon, is where it’s best to camp overnight and savor the sea of clouds covering the waters in the morning for free.
Bike around for a more engaging experience of the campsite. Take photos with the stunning sunrise and sunset as your backdrop! This experience is one of the beautiful things you’ll never get used to doing.
As advised by the previous RVers, and travelers on some reviews, due to the COVID19 situation, you have to contact the district rangers first to confirm that all roads leading to the accessible dispersed campsite areas are open.
Private properties exist in the park’s vicinity, which is not accessible for public use, so study the area to avoid ending your campsite or parking your RV in any of them. You might have to invest in an RV cell signal booster because signals within the free park’s area are weak and inconsistent. But, if you prefer to connect with nature fully, maybe you could leave it unused in the backseat.
3.Furnace Creek Road
Credits to itoda
Located in the Death Valley National Park lies this free RV campground tagged as the Land of the Extremes and the base of the famous Golden Canyon, Mosaic Canyon, and Titus Canyon.
This California National Forest is also known as the hottest, driest, and lowest in the county’s area, located in the Furnace Creek Road in Tecopa, California.
One interesting fact about this free RVing area is the temporary creek or lake that only appears during heavy rainstorms and evaporates; eventually, this landscape was called the Badwater Basin.
The campsite’s name might sound uninviting, but going here allows an abundant wildflower experience after winter rainfall; the wildlife – do not feed them. However, if you are into lakes, creeks, and even water activities, this RV site might not be fun for you.
You could also enjoy a beautiful forest landscape and mountain peaks covered with snow. Great to catch them in photos for trip memorabilia to bring home! During California summer, you might experience the heat of the sun tolerable enough to enjoy camping in this California National Forest. But, if you’re traveling in an RV, you might want to shop for RV air conditioning to beat the heat if it becomes unbearable.
4.Needles Point Dispersed Camping
Credits to The Dyrt
This free dispersed campsite land is near the California Sequoia National Forest, only accessible by vehicles or RVs with high clearance for the backcountry roads. At the end of USFS dirt road 21S05, which is three miles from Highway 190, you’ll see this gem.
And if ever you don’t mind driving an hour or two from Sequoia National Forest, you could head straight to Kings Canyon National Park, which also has plenty of exciting lake trails to explore.
Driving through dispersed campsite roads may cause vehicle damage, and towing fees are unbelievably expensive. So make sure to use only the designated campsite roads for regular vehicles.
Secure permits in advance when parking vehicles, and RVs, for a day or staying overnight on the campsite, as well as for setting campfires. With regards to the latter, a permit is a requirement, too.
To fully enjoy the campfire sessions, you should have your RV refrigerator onboard for your cold beer night bonding because, luckily, alcoholic beverages are a thumbs-up in this one of the great free dispersed campgrounds to visit.
For the extreme wanderers, this free RV campsite, located near Sequoia National California Forest and Kings Canyon National Park, has excellent rock climbing sites because of its surrounding inviting forests and mountains. It is a bit of sad news for your four-legged friend; they don’t allow pets in the park or vehicles.
5.Whisky Falls Campground
Credits to World of Waterfalls
This one belongs to the fantastic free campgrounds, a dispersed tenting haven because of the accessible waterfall in Snowmobile Trails Road, North Fork, California.
Aside from an accessible water source, the Sierra National Forest’s lovely landscape is already a great way to start enjoying the experience at your camp area.
There are even many lake trails to explore, easily located in this area, such as; Shaver Lake Trail, Manzanita Lake Trail, George Lake Trail. However, proactively coordinate with the management for the schedule of the lake trails.
Whisky Camping Park is only open during the warm seasons from June to November, so you’re up for a good sighting of the gorgeous pine trees landscape and appreciate the relaxing sounds of the waterfalls.
Toilets, firepits, and picnic tables under the trees are free to use for all seven campsites. Some sources say they require no reservations, but it is advisable to call the district ranger before your scheduled visit.
No cell signals are reliable within the RV park’s area, so get ready to disconnect from the rest of the world upon arriving on the campsite areas of this astonishing Sierra National Forest.
6.Scott Flat Campground
Credits to California Best Camping
Fishing and hiking are the main activities in Scott Flat Campground located within the Trinity National Forest in Hayfork, California, home to the Amazing Shasta Lake. You’ll see this six miles from Nevada East, off of Highway 20 is the Scotts Flat Road.
There are also widely spaced-out campsites to ensure privacy for every group of parking RVs and campers. Plus, some amenities available in the area are vaulted toilets, firepits, and tables.
Expect unmaintained rough roads RVing or driving to the campsite but let it be part of the fun and drive carefully through them.
For safer travel, be in contact with a district forest ranger. Though it is a no-reservations-required area, as mentioned in the reviews, verify these details with the appropriate sources.
Campsites are suitable for parking RVs up to 20 feet. As mentioned in the reviews, there are no cell signals within the national forest area, which is better for everyone to focus and genuinely have fun during camp recreations.
7.Yaqui Well Camp
Credits to Hikes Peak
For essential RVing experience and quiet camping, consider Yaqui Well Camp in Borrego Springs, California, less than two miles from Highway 78. These peaceful desert campsites surrounded by spring wildflowers are perfect for photos during the daytime and the starry skies during the nighttime.
Not every vacation needs extreme ventures, sometimes undemanding activities fulfill our satisfaction the most. You can also visit the famous lakes, beautifully located near the area, such as; Lake Miramar, Lake Cuyamaca, Lake Hemet, Lake Murray, and many more.
You will have a glimpse of the Anza Borrego State Parks’ panoramic view without having to be in this national forest’s lands when parking in Kwaaymii Point.
Since this is a free dispersed camping area located in a sandy desert, big RVs may not be a good idea. You may want to contact the local park or district ranger for what would be best if you want to try out this equally impressive campsite area. Since this is a desert site, no reservations are needed.
Cell signals are limited and inconsistent within the RV campsite’s area, so you’ll have the chance to involve yourself in refreshing tall trees and wildlife fully. Primitive tenting is 100% successful when disconnected and free from the internet.
8.Mud Lake Trailhead
Credits to Boulder County
Mud Lake Trailhead which lies in Lassen National Forest is an excellent tenting area for day campers and RVers, and this area requires no fee. Aside from being free from charges, this one of California’s best RV sites requires no reservations.
This free campsite caters to ice skating activities and excites everyone during the winter. Pets may enjoy the ice, too, as long as they kept leashed and looked after.
When visiting this national forest, horseback riding is also one to include on your list. Picnic tables surrounded by trees are available around Mud Lake Trailhead, restrooms, a site for large groups of up to 50 people, and 31 parking sites for expected large groups.
Overnight RVing and tenting is currently a no-no due to the 2017 national forest wildfire that may have weakened the trees’ stability.
Strong winds and heavy rain pours are a dangerous threat to the campsite and RV campers, so you should carefully find time to determine the weather conditions before going. It would be a great help to contact a district national forest ranger during your planning.
Despite the land hazards, if the local district ranger has given you clearance, you’ll enjoy this California national forest campsite best in summer for an unplanned no-reservations backpacking trip with your friends.
9.No Mans Trailhead
Credits to Explorumentary
This trail on East of Clear Creek on Highway 96, 16 miles on the outskirts of Happy Camp, California, is the best route to see the unique Siskiyou Mountain Wilderness of the Siskiyou National Forest.
You may start from Youngs Valley go north along the 22 miles stretch of Clear Creek to reach California’s No Mans Trailhead, where you can set up your campsites any time of the year for free!
However, you should contact the local park or district ranger for verification, reservations, and COVID19 protocols.
Secure your campfire permits as required by the California State. This permit requirement includes using a camp stove and BBQ grilling.
Look and pick up after your pets and take along the accumulated garbage as you go. The national forest local rule is to leave the campsites in better condition than when you arrived.
10.Orr Lake Campground
Credits to Dyrt
To get an unparalleled landscape of Mount Shasta of the Klamath National Forest in Macdoel, California, better choose your RV’s parking site or build your campsite at Lake Orr, located between Highway 97 and Tennant Road.
And of course, you can’t miss fishing in the national forest campsite’s heaven-sent lake that is abundant with bass, catfish, and trout.
You can have fresh fish meals you’ll love, so take advantage of it and capture photos for the Gram! The fishing and tents sites require no reservations. But still, It will be best to verify with the local district ranger.
Take note that there’s no accessible water for dishwashing and cooking in this one of the best free dispersed campgrounds, so shop and bring enough to last your whole stay on the campsite.
Also, the maximum length of RVs suitable for parking in the campsites is 30 feet. The campfires and tents should only be in designated areas along the lake, and hike trails are prohibited.
A small boat launch down the road from the parking area is where to enjoy creek or lake boating, swimming on a creek, and lakeside chilling.
This RV campsite makes fun for the outdoor enthusiasts, hiking around gorgeous picturesque forest vegetation and mountains and the inviting national forest to let yourself loosen up a bit.
11.Black Rock Campground
Credits to NPS
This campground, located in Joshua Tree National Forest, California, easily accessible from Highway 62, has six free dispersed campsites for free camping on a first-come, first-served basis.
This state national forest dispersed campsite is open year-round, but for a better experience, you could opt-out on the busiest season of the summer that resembles Florida’s climate. Eight persons are the maximum count per site.
So it’s great for groups of RVers coming together in a single RV since parking sites are limited in the area.
Located Northeast of Ishi Wilderness is this campsite with the nearby abundant Mill Creek, perfect for fishing. You may contact the assigned district contact team for more area details.
Ishi is from the last Yahi Hana Indian who made stone tools out of obsidian and shaped the mountains for a living back in ancient times. With what these people left and beautifully made, make your little history in this campsite to cherish. So take photos, it’s free, and no one’s stopping you! A good quality RV battery is a must-have to back you up as you make more memories and photographs.
12.Mendocino National Forest Dispersed Camping
Credits to FS USDA
Primitive tenting is greatest when done in real deal peaceful locations, just like here in the Mendocino National Forest dispersed accessible camping areas in Willows, California.
Undeveloped roads leading to the campsite prove its virginity. Rich in activities to healthily make you forget about technology. You can also freely swim in the creek in the California Mendocino Lake; keep in mind being in a safe area.
Boating, biking, fishing, mountain climbing, swimming on the creek, and horseback riding are among the treats of this fantastic landscape. So gear up your RV with a bike rack and get those muscles buffed up and ready for bike trail rides.
In return for the forest’s solitude experience, you have to be a responsible person before, during, and after utilizing the campsite’s free perks. Strictly, never alter any of the campsite’s original being, clean up after your pet, and leave the area at its optimum condition for other campers to find.
13.Modoc National Forest Dispersed Camping
Credits to Marion Vermazen
The California Modoc National Forest, as they say, is where you still find the West as it was before. This one of the best-preserved free dispersed campgrounds is in Modoc, Lassen, and Siskiyou Counties, California, with 1,663,536 acres of California land.
Better to take advantage of the short warm season here in Modoc County, California. Experience free camping, fish, a good site for RV parking, tent setting, and swimming in nearby lakes or creeks.
Immerse yourself in nature through biking, hiking with nearby trails, and horseback riding.
Warm your heart out on a campfire, but it requires a permit—secure one for permission to anything fire-related. There is plenty of primitive RV dispersed campsites to set up tents around the state national forest. Even in winter, these free site campgrounds are friendly but prepare well when RVing in this park during a snow season. Load up your RV with a reliable heater for everyone onboard and antifreeze to get your RV up and in good condition.
14.Glass Creek Campground
Credits to Hipcamp
This pine-rich forest, located north of Mammoth Lakes, California, caters to parking up to a 45-foot size of RVs. Sixty-six sites are free to occupy to see the famous Obsidian Domes. They are hardened lava that formed 600 years ago by the Mono-Inyo Craters eruption.
Inyo National Forest houses these Christmas-y free sites, West of Highway 395 between June and Mammoth Lakes, accessible from Glass Creek’s location.
The maximum stay in this RV park would be up to 14 days only— Just like the other primitive parks, there are no hookups to rely on here.
So, bring enough water for drinking and cleaning to last your entire free camping in this area. Plus, an important warning is to keep food safe from bears and don’t feed the wildlife, as warned in some reviews.
California Owens River Headwater is a nearby attraction to enjoy creek activities and riverside picnics. Hiking, biking, mountain biking are the land activities to experience if you are a physically-active camper. Genuine fun and memories are the only things to shop in primitive campsites for free.
15.Inyo National Forest Dispersed Camping
Credits to FS USDA
If you like to warm up in hot baths, better choose the Inyo National Forest free dispersed campsites with their hot springs free for everyone. But finding them might be a part of the tenting thrill. If luck is with you, finders get to keep it to themselves for a while.
As proven by many reviews, this free-access California campsite park must be on top of every camper’s California camping journey. Indeed, it’s an authentic dry, free camping experience. The quiet and peaceful night will astonish your ears, and the bright night sky will astound your eyes.
Campsites have parking areas for a big RV or a 58 feet camper van, and there were no issues encountered, as said in a review.
But, only choose a parking area where you can’t destroy and disturb vegetation, a well-compacted soil is where to set up tents, and at least 100 feet away from a lake or creek.
16.Plumas National Forest Dispersed Camping
Credits to Sierrarec
Plumas National Forest is a campsite haven in the Northern Sierra Nevada, Quincy, California, for RV enthusiasts and outdoor lovers, packed with recreational to-do’s.
Hiking, RVing, biking, boating, paddling, off-roading, and swimming on the creek are prime during the summer because of the abundant lakes surrounding the national park. It has 1,000 miles of rivers and streams.
There are also plenty of exciting trails along the area worth the while, such as Bear Lakes and Round Lake Loop Trail, nearby creeks, and many more.
Snowboarding, skiing, and Bucks Lake are your best friends on your winter stay at this free campsite. It has a lot to get yourself busy, and you won’t miss home right away while staying at this scenic campsite.
At nighttime, gather around the fire ring and bond over campfire stories—a great way to reconnect with one another if you’re coming with your family or friends.
Wildlife is best-taken care of when you leave them alone, don’t feed or agitate them in any way. So, whether parking for a day or staying overnight in the park, be a responsible person, and deal with restrictions and safety guidelines made by campsite’s management.
17.Hermit Valley Campground
Credits to MyOffRoadsRadio
For another serene and secluded campsite, visit the Hermit Valley located within the Stanislaus National Forest in Hathaway Pines, California.
The campsite’s standard route is limited to RVs below 25 feet because of the steep road elevation on Highway 4 to Highway 89, five miles west of Ebbetts Pass. Find and contact the district rangers for a safer route and accessible parking areas; suppose you have a large RV to bring.
If you want to go further than everyone else, have fun exploring the Yosemite National Park down south of the campsite, which is known to have similarities with Kings Canyon National Park.
Fishing, hiking, and biking in the surrounding area for a steady and chill adventure is a typical itinerary in the park.
18.Alabama Hills Recreation Area
Credits to Parked in Paradise
Lone Pine, California, isn’t as lonely as its name because of its natural wonders to entertain your eyes and fill up your memory bank, so make sure to have enough space for photos and capture scenic views of these historical sceneries.
The campsite is famous for movie locations because of its unusual geologic formations. Cool, right? Plus, the parking area on this site is an open-space landscape.
Protect your skin from the heat of the sun since these RV campsites, located in an open space, will burn your skin. Bring enough water to last your entire day’s adventure.
Take precautions and stay alert; some reviews stated that dangerous plants and animals are located along the park trail.
Before setting up your campsite’s area, check your essentials if you have enough because there are no nearby shops to run to when needed.
These campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis. So, there are no reservations for a specific parking site or area.
Suppose you can’t get a campsite. Turtle Creek Campground might have one for you as you wait in line for dispersed free camping. Or better yet, come during the off-peak season for the guaranteed area of your campsites.
19.Abbott Creek Camping Area
Credits to Oregon Best Camping
Off-roading lovers come to this free camping area; three miles from here is the OHV staging area near McGee Overlook, where Highway 180 ends.
Mostly, off-highway vehicle and RV owners stay here for the driving thrill. If you’re one of them, you are in the right area. The campground is along Abbott Creek and accessible to the other creek and rivers.
These campsites have enough parking areas for groups of RVers and guests. They allow campfires and pets as long as you put your attention thoughtfully. Get help from district rangers for a more well-planned and stress-proof stay.
Cell service is inconsistent, so bring your cell signal booster with you, just if you need to access the web. The nearest store is ten miles away from the campsite. It seems miles away, right? With that, load up on your essentials for a more convenient free park camping experience.
20.Alder Creek Dispersed Camping
Credits to The Dyrt
This 13-site campground is a hidden gem located within the Sequoia National California Forest, 11 miles of Eastern Glenville thru Highway 155. An effortless and serene campsite area with the best privacy you could have. Plus, Kings Canyon National Park is only an hour away from this area.
Two vault toilets are a relief sitting located near the campsite. According to reviews, they experienced great camping because they felt they had the land for themselves. What a treat!
Fishing and campfires on the campsite are the essential fun finds of primitive camping, but it never gets old. However, creek fishing might be seasonal since the dry season may be parched sometimes in this campsite, beautifully located near the famous Kings Canyon National Park.
If not, creek fishing, hiking, biking, climbing, and off-roading are other fun options, too! Concerning fire-related activities, secure a permit requirement for every camper in the campsite plans to do a campfire, use a camp stove, and have barbecues.
21.Blair Valley Campground
Credits to Life Among Pines
Bring your free spirit to Blair Valley campsite! These places are highly-rated campgrounds that require no reservations, are rich in unique natural landscapes, and grant access to Box Canyon.
Here, you could feed your eyes with unusual extensive rock formations and weird-looking trees – the famous Joshua Tree in the Joshua Tree National Park.
They’re just rocks and trees, but they’ll feed your amazement. A feed for the gram feed! Take photos and enjoy the unique landscape of this campsite.
Heavy and big rigs have to find a compact road to drive by because the campsite’s location is sandy so that it could be a bit challenging going here in this Box Canyon Park neighboring park.
Finding district rangers may help plan, so remember to make time for a call before heading out to any campsites. The nearest store is in Julian, California, 17 miles travel distance.
Bikers and hikers have plenty of trails to traverse at this campsite. A wise piece of advice is to chug and bring with you a lot of water along with body covers or canopies for a DIY rest stop to survive going around this expansive area of fun. It’s time to get physical!
What does dispersed camping mean?
Dispersed camping, best enjoyed on designated public campsites, is most commonly done in national forests and BLM land properties.
It is a type of RV camping where you are on your own. There would be no electricity and water hookups, nor sewerage on campsites.
For those who wanted to disconnect from everyday life for a while, RV camping on primitive campsites could be one of the perfect land activities to try.
Some campgrounds might be totally out of cell signal coverage, so you have no choice but to connect with nature and the people you are with at the moment. As they say, “Disconnect to Reconnect.”
What are the necessary preparations for free camping?
First, you have to read and study every campsites’ destination – how to get there plus alternate routes, area expectations, and its vicinity.
Private properties are common so give time for research. Also, always read the actual road signs as some may be different on the map on websites.
It is necessary to know about the location’s restrictions and precautions. District rangers are a great help, so contact the designated one of your chosen location.
Next would be the essentials. Dispersed camping entails loading up your RV with food and beverage for consumption in the area. Remember, there are no facilities on most campsites in national parks.
Thoroughly prepare for sufficient power supply, toiletries and waste management materials, self-protection tools, first aid kit, and course camping materials.
Contact the park district rangers of the target RV campground for the best information directly. One great tip we got from a district park ranger’s review is to bring cash in small bills, mainly because of poor internet service on state parks that credit cards are a hassle for everyone involved.
From time to time, any of us may feel the exhaustion of work-life “balance.” But sometimes, everyday living or the one we know as living becomes a robotic routine. That makes us forget our purpose, our drive hits rock bottom, and then we’re lost. We tend to get so busy earning money for the life we wanted, not knowing that a lot of time has gone by trying to make everything perfect for the future. But hey! Every tomorrow is a future, so here it is now. Let ourselves rest and find the time to camp for free in national state parks miles away from the comfort of our houses, smell the flowers (literally), lie down under tall trees, soak our feet on a creek, and live boldly!