Boondocking in California is an RVers dream, but can you find free campsites in the state? You can absolutely find free dry camping sites if you know where to look.
Keep reading to learn more about boondocking and where it’s allowed in California. We also give tips to help you stay safe and enjoy your time.
Let’s get started!
What Is Boondocking?
Boondocking refers to camping without any hookups or amenities. It’s often done on public land or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. No electricity, sewer, or water is available. And there are no bathrooms, showers, or other amenities in the vicinity of the campsite.
➔ New to boondocking? Check out our deep dive to learn more: Boondocking: Important Things To Know Before You Go
Does California Allow Boondocking?
Boondocking in California is legal on BLM land. You can camp for up to 14 consecutive nights. However, it’s necessary to read the signs and adhere to any policies. There may be some federal land where boondocking is not allowed.
Can You Boondock Near California’s Big Cities?
When boondocking in California, finding good boondocking spots near big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Just be sure to research and know which streets you can park on or which rest areas allow overnight parking.
There have been a lot of crackdowns on overnight parking in recent years. So always find out if you need a permit and what rules are in place before you park your RV. Also, pay attention to street signs, including which side of the road to park on due to street cleaning.
Pro Tip: You’ll love camping at these 12 Best Camping Spots Near Mammoth Lakes Revealed.
How Long Can You Park an RV on the Street in California?
You can stealth camp or park an RV overnight on some streets in California, but do your research. Make sure you read the city ordinances, so you don’t find yourself with a hefty fine.
For example, in Los Angeles, RVs and campers must park more than 500 feet away from licensed schools, preschools, daycare facilities, and parks between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Can You Live in an RV in California?
Living in an RV in California is legal, but it depends on where you park. For example, boondocking in California full-time can be possible, but you can only stay on BLM land for 14 consecutive days.
Alternatively, you can find RV parks that allow long-term stays and include seasonal or monthly discounts.
Can You Boondock on the Pacific Coast Highway?
While boondocking in California on the Pacific Coast Highway is prohibited, you will find state parks and campgrounds along the way. You’ll want to book a spot in advance if you plan to stay in a campground on the coast, as they’re very popular.
You can park along the coast in open parking areas for the day but be prepared for highway patrol or forest rangers to ask you to move on come night time.
3 Great Spots for Boondocking in California
It may sound difficult to find boondocking in California, but it’s rather easy if you know where to look. We’ve identified three excellent spots to add to your camping list. Let’s check them out.
1. Alabama Hills
Address: Whitney Portal Rd / Movie Rd, Lone Pine, CA 93545
About: Alabama Hills offers incredible views of the Sierra Nevada. There were many movies filmed in the area, which is a draw for tourists.
And there are hiking trails, rock climbing opportunities, and more to keep you active during your stay. Remember to pay attention to the signs posted and note that there are some day-use-only sections.
Why You’ll Like This Boondocking Site: You’ll get amazing views of Mt. Whitney and have many hiking and exploring opportunities.
Morton Road Trip Rating: 10/10 for the epic views! This is one of our absolute favorite boondocking spots.
2. Rocky Point East
Address: Rocky Point Access Rd, Susanville, CA 96130
About: Rocky Point East sits on the beautiful Eagle Lake. You can get a campsite with a water view, but keep in mind that the roads are rough for large RVs when boondocking in California. There are endless opportunities for hiking in the area, and you can fish in the lake.
Why You’ll Like This Boondocking Site: You’ll love this quiet retreat with a lake. And since it’s a relatively flat area, you can hike and bike for miles.
Morton Road Trip Rating: 9/10 for the lake.
3. Chiriaco Summit-Patton Museum Dry Camp Area
Address: Chiriaco Rd, Chiriaco Summit, CA 92201
About: Chiriaco Summit-Patton Museum Dry Camp Area is by the General Patton Memorial Museum and near Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a desert landscape that’s right off the highway.
Why You’ll Like This Boondocking Site: There are OHV trails nearby. And you’ll like that it’s close to Joshua Tree National Park for hiking and rock climbing.
Morton Road Trip Rating: 8/10 for its proximity to Joshua Tree’s east entrance and Palm Springs.
Boondocking in California Tips
When you’re boondocking in California, keep in mind these tips for a safe and enjoyable time.
Know the Rules/Regulations
Read signs when you pull into a boondocking location and abide by the rules posted. It’s also helpful to read reviews online since people usually write about things you may miss.
➔ No matter where you choose to park your RV, keep in mind these 9 Boondocking Rules You Should Never Break.
Practice Leave No Trace
Leave your campsite better than you found it. Remove any trash to keep it from damaging the area. Making sure to leave no trace will ensure people can continue to boondock in the area.
Lock Up Your Valuables
Keep your valuables locked while boondocking in California or anywhere. When you don’t have the protection of a campground host or staff, securing your belongings is always a good practice, especially when you’re away from your campsite.
Observe your surroundings and be aware of anything fishy or out of the ordinary. If you don’t feel safe in the area, listen to your gut and move on to a different location.
Have Backup Plans
You may get to a boondocking site and discover it’s full, or you don’t feel comfortable there. Or you may decide to leave earlier than anticipated. Have backup plans for other campsites nearby or an RV park within a short drive.
Enjoy Boondocking in California
Boondocking in California is an excellent way to see the state. From mountains to lakes and the ocean, there are countless landscapes and attractions to see. Boondocking can be an affordable way to camp around the state. We hope you can enjoy some time in one of the spots listed above!
Thanks to its vast, open landscape, the Lone Star State is another popular choice for boondocking. Discover the 10 Best Places for Boondocking in Texas.
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