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How to find free camping in the california national forests

Written by financemounir

It can be difficult to book a campsite at the last minute. in most cases, You will need to book months in advanceLast minute planners may be left with limited options.

One solution for the adventurer in you: Explore for free Camping dispersal opportunities in one of the California National Forests.

Dispersed camping means camping outside the designated developed campground, with little or no facilities or services available. You can also take advantage of the more advanced campgrounds which are still free.

Fortunately for us, California is home to 20 beautiful national forests—two of which are shared with other states. We have the most national forests of any state in the country, which expands our options for outdoor adventures. And let’s face it, with inflation being a top priority for many people right now, saving on travel costs may seem attractive.

Keep reading for our top recommendations for free camping opportunities in national forests close to home. Remember: Things can change quickly with lockdown — especially during wildfire season, unfortunately. For the latest alerts and updates, be sure to visit The official US National Forest website.

You can also independently start looking for free camping spots on this Interactive map from the United States Forest Service (USFS)Free apps like freecampsitesAnd the Roam freely, and Google Maps are great places to start. And you can find sparse camping available at Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.

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Free campsites in california national forests

Free camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors; But remember that more often than not, there will be no amenities or limited amenities such as drinking water and toilets on the grounds if the camping spot is free. We’ve selected 14 free campgrounds across eight different national forests some Facilities (such as basement toilets and campfire rings).

All of these sites are less than a six hour drive from San Francisco. (Just remember to bring a map with you in case there’s no cell service.)

Stanislaus National Forest

Hermit Valley Camp In Stanislaus National Forest is a free campground near cities like Bear Valley, Lake Alpine, and Markleeville and is only about four hours from San Francisco. There are a number of campfire rings at this site, but no potable water. South Lake Tahoe is about 1.5 hours away and Yosemite is about 2.5 hours away.

Large brown wood sign that reads Stanislas National Forest in yellow lettering, with a silver car behind it and a hill in the background
Entrance to Stanislaus National Forest, which offers sporadic free camping opportunities. (David Prasad via Flickr Creative Commons)

Cherry Lake is another recommended area for sporadic camping Inside Stanislaus National Forest. Dispersed camping is available around the lake at least 100 feet from the high water mark. See the USFS website for more information.

Sierra National Forest

The Sierra National Forest boasts many sporadic camping opportunities to explore. Kerch Flat Camp It is one of the many sites recommended on camping sites such as Aldirt And the campendium.

Although it can get extremely hot in the summer months, this spot would make a great free camping opportunity in the spring and fall. Many visit here to enjoy the beautiful canyon views of the Kings River. The campground is equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets.

inyo national forest

Glass Creek Camp Near Mammoth Lakes in the Inyo National Forests is another great free campsite that accommodates RVs up to 45 feet long. This is a popular spot with campfire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets.

Campers mentioned that there was a good amount of rainbow trout at Glass Creek, which runs through this campground, which is a great place for some fishing. The nearest town is June Lake, which is a great place for hiking, fishing, and camping. You can too Find bookable campgrounds at June Lake.

Mendocino National Forest

Sparse flat campground The Yuki Wilderness in Mendocino National Forest is another sparse camping option. Because it is located in a pine and spruce forest, it is relatively picturesque.

There are a few campfire rings and vault restrooms, but no picnic tables. This spot is not recommended for recreational vehicles and larger vehicles.

Lassen National Forest

Black Rock Campground in Ichy Wilderness It is located in the Lassen National Forest about 4.5 hours from San Francisco. There are six sites available for primitive camping dispersed with campfire rings.

There are no toilets or potable water, so be sure to plan this out if you’re headed here. The closest towns to this campground are Chico, Chester, and Red Bluff.

Klamath National Forest

Orr Lake Campground in the Klamath National Forest A great spot for scattered camping, Lake Orr is a great destination for those who love fishing, nature watching, water activities, and lakeside wildlife viewing along the lake shore. There are eight free campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis with vault toilets, campfire rings, barbecue grills, and picnic tables. The closest towns to this campground are Bray and Macdoel.

Another recommended free campsite in the Klamath National Forest? Beaver Creek Campground. Like many other camps, its busiest season is in the summer. Here, you’ll find vault toilets and a total of eight campgrounds, on the scenic banks of Beaver Creek. The nearest towns are Klamath River and Yereka.

For each of these camps, bring your own water for cooking, washing, and other uses because these sites do not have potable water.

Forest scene with tender trees reaching for the sky, filmed from inside an orange-yellow tent.
Dispersal camping is a great way to survive in the California National Forests, and it’s free. (Anastasia Golovko via Pexels)

Modoc National Forest

In the northeast corner of California, Modoc National Forest is home to more than 300 species of wildlife and a wonderful, peaceful escape from the busy trails and campgrounds of the Sierra Nevada woods.

There are a number of Dispersed and bookable camping opportunities To choose from, but a great option is to explore the sites near Medicine Lake within Doublehead Ranger Zone. Locations like Blanche Lake, Pine Springs, and Chunxin Springs campgrounds are all open this season and offer free, first-come, first-served spots.

The closest town to these three camps is McCloud, which is about 45 miles away. Most of these sites have potable water and basement toilets near the camps.

If you’re OK with the paid options (about $14 a night), Medicine Lake Campground is your best bet. There are a total of 75 campgrounds at Medicine Lake Campground and 15 of them can be reserved at

Sequoia National Forest

If you are looking to head to the Sequoia National Forest, there are many options Scattered camps within the three Ranger regions.

The Kern River Ranger has nine different campsites to choose from. Chicco Flat is a great place for camping If you want to be near Lake Isabella. Corral Creek Dispersed Campground is a less crowded option It is located on the northern fork of the Kern River.

The baths here may be open in the summer months. Springhill Dispersed District It is one of the larger campsites dotted along the Kern River, but it can still be difficult to secure a spot – so arriving early is advised.

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