California is one of the most beautiful states, but it also is one of the most expensive states to visit. While formulating a plan on how to see the most, think about camping along the way instead of hotels or AirBNBs. There are plenty of campgrounds but there is also plenty of beautiful and free camping areas that you can experience. From the north all the way to the south, you can find some of the best camping spots in the state, if not the US. Here are some of the most beautiful spots we have come across. All free!
Beautiful and Free Camping in California
California offers so many options of places to stay for free, for any reason. A home base while you explore the area, solitude to get away from the hustle and bustle of the day, a convenient place close to amenities or just a quiet nights rest while you continue on the next day. From the one nighters to home base, here are some to add to your list to help you get started.
While you don't need to stop here for any exploration, it is a great stop if you need a quiet nights rest before you continue on your road trip. Plumas National Forest provides multiple locations for a great nights rest. We stayed at Laufman Campground. Each site was a decent size, had spots for tents and there were vault toilets.
Lake Shasta, California
We have driven by this lake dozens of times and usually you can see how low it is. The different colors of the rocks show where the water should be. Now, after the snow fall this past winter season it is back to being where it should be. There are multiple pull offs to explore the lake. Boating, kayaking, SUPing and fishing are popular. You can also just relax with a view.
Tahoe National Forest
Tahoe National Forest goes right up to Tahoe, Olympic Valley and farther north to Downieville. There are a lot of options of free camping farther north but there are a few close to Tahoe. Tahoe isn't known for having free camping, so most spots are made for small rigs. As you get farther north there are more options for medium to large rigs to create your base for exploring.
Just outside of Mammoth Lakes is some beautiful free camping in the trees. Use this as a base to explore everything this area has to offer. It has always been incredibly clean and free of fire pits every time we have been there and this is the reason that it stays open to camping. Mostly good for small to medium rigs, there are some spots for larger rigs. Make sure to scout first.
American Girl Mine, California
The only location in southern California on this list, it is great for small and large rigs. With wide open spaces and views of rolling hills and mountains. It puts you in great proximity to Imperial Sand Dunes (which are amazing!) and Tumco Ghost Town. This is also a great location if you are thinking about Medical Tourism in Mexico, or just going over the border for tacos and tequila. The Los Algodones cross is close by and easy to walk across and get back in the same day.
Make sure to check out some of our other boondocking articles for more amazing locations!
As a reminder, please practice Leave No Trace and follow the rules for campfires, length in stay and camping near rivers, lakes and streams.