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Free Camping in California

Are you interested in finding free camping in California? Luckily, it’s not a hard thing to accomplish. California is a great destination for those who love outdoor activities like hiking and water sports. If you’re looking for ways to find a great deal on campsites and camping, California has lots of options for you to consider!  

free camping in california

Is there anything better than camping for free? While it’s nice to stay at state parks and campsites that offer other amenities like plumbing and bathrooms, sometimes unplugging from the rest of the world and just boondocking out in the middle of nowhere just needs to happen. When you’re wanting to go camping in California in a way that doesn’t bust your budget, check out these free camping options that you can easily do. 

Are you ready to learn about some legit free camping spots in California that are worth taking a peek at? Here are some places to have on your camping radar. 

Free camping in California at the National Forests

Please know that these aren’t all the free camping spots in California but you can easily use this as a list to help get you started. Just by staying at a few of these places for a night or two, you’ll save anywhere from $20-$60 per night.

Modoc National Forest

If you’re wanting to get away from it all, the Modoc National Forest is the place to be. In fact, you might not come across another person at all. There are actually 5 different campsites in this area and 4 of them offer free camping and great views. This area does tend to get busy during the weekends and holiday time so if you have this on your radar, arrive a few days ahead of time to ensure that you’ll get a spot. 

Klamath National Forest

Another great place to do some dispersed camping is in Klamath National Forest. Just make certain that you’re respectful of the land and that you pack up and take with you what you bring in. Leave no trash or signs that you were even there so that the space can be enjoyed by others. 

You can camp for free at the following locations:

  • Goosenest Ranger District
  • Happy Camp/Oak Knoll Ranger District
  • Klamath National Wild & Scenic River

Mendocino National Forest

Notice a trend here? There are several great camping options in this National Forest as well. And if you take a peek around, you’ll probably notice the best areas to set up camp just by being observant of areas that other people have camping in. 

While there won’t be any designated camping spots in the National Forests, make certain to find a spot that is safe and offers a great view to wake up to in the morning. Part of the fun in free camping is that you get a chance to see the best views off the beaten path! 

Is boondocking legal in California?

Boondocking is another term that people use for free camping, and in California, boondocking can happen but you have to find places where it is legal. Boondocking cannot happen on the streets or in parking lots but there are some places that you can boondock without issues. Do your research before attempting and find out about the area. 

Is it legal to camp on the beach in California?

It’s actually not. People may do it and tell you that it’s okay, but it’s not something that you should try to do. If you’re really wanting a beach stay there are campgrounds that are close that you can rent a spot for cheap, but they’re not going to be free.

Where can you legally park overnight?

There are several places that you can legally park overnight throughout all 50 states. Most Walmart parking lots are open to camping (unless there is a sign stating otherwise) and other places like Bass Pro and Cabela’s are typically open to it as well. Truck stops and welcome centers off the highways are also options for overnight camping, too. 

While these locations might not be glorious, they’re options to easily camp and park your rig for the night. Plus, they don’t cost a dime. You can easily camp at any of these locations and save some money as you’re traveling down the road. 

Can you camp on the side of the road in California?

There isn’t going to be a completely general rule as it depends on who owns or administers the particular piece of land on which you are trying to camp. In general this is what you want to do: Drive along a paved road to somewhere where there’s a dirt road. Then drive at least 1/4 mile down the dirt road, and camp at least 1/4 mile away from any campground and 100′ from water. Park your car on the side of the dirt road, not in a meadow, etc.

Now that you know that there are free camping options in California, what are you waiting for? Pack up the car and hit the road! The campsites are waiting and they’re not going to cost you a thing! 

Do you know of any other free camping in California? Share in the comments!

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