Boondocking in Southern California

In previous posts, we’ve discussed dry camping, or boondocking, and the best tried and true methods to making it a success. Now it’s time to put your knowledge to the test by travelling through Southern California. 

If you’ve visited California before, you know how varied the entire state is. Parts of Northern California are so remote that it almost feels like another state entirely. Southern California is especially diverse, being home to Los Angeles, San Diego, many beach towns, Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and more. The list is almost endless. Below, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite boondocking locations in SoCal with no camping fees Remember, not all of these are big-rig friendly, and availability is always first-come, first-served. 

Blair Valley Campground

Coordinates: 33.0377, -116.4096

This dispersed camping area is located in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Here, campers will enjoy gorgeous desert sunrises and plenty of opportunities to explore with the nearby hiking and biking trails. Pets and contained campfires are permitted, and the total length of time you can camp in this park is thirty calendar days per year. A complete list of rules and information can be found on the campground’s website

Owens River Road

Coordinates: 37.737, -118.9677

Located between Mammoth Lakes and June Lake in the Inyo National Forest, the beginning of this road is paved and then veers off onto dirt roads. Reportedly, rigs up to forty feet in length have stayed in this area. There are many pine trees scattered throughout the area that provide excellent opportunities for shade. This camping area is conveniently just over thirty minutes from Yosemite National Park’s east entrance. Per the rules for this National Forest, the maximum stay is twenty-eight days in a six month span. Fires require a permit. More rules and regulations can be found on the region’s website.

Volcanic Tablelands

Coordinates: 37.4288, -118.4251

These historic lands formed by volcanic activity have cooled into an excellent camping and rock climbing location. This area is about fifteen minutes from the town of Bishop, which makes it even more convenient. Many folks who stay here enjoy hiking around and finding Native American petroglyphs. As if the area itself isn’t already scenic enough, you can also enjoy views of the White Mountains and the Sierra Nevada  Range. This area, operated by the BLM, strictly enforces their fourteen total day stay. Be sure to read the rules surrounding this and other topics on the area’s website.

Sagebrush Annie’s Winery

If you find yourself a bit closer to the coast, then you will want to check out Sagebrush Annie’s Winery in Ventucopa. The drive to the winery itself is scenic, and the views on the property are even better. At the winery, Harvest Hosts members can stay with no camping fees in a designated parking area beside the nearby mountains and grasslands. Be sure to check out the tasting room and grab a few bottles of wine to enjoy with the  view. Continue about a quarter of a mile up the road if you want to stop at the restaurant.

American Girl Mine Road

Coordinates: 32.8368, -114.812

Alright, big-rig owners, this one is for you! The beginning of this road is paved, but eventually turns into a packed dirt road. If you choose to stay here, you’ll be about twenty minutes from the town of Yuma, Arizona, which has several stores so you can stock up your supplies. This area is popular with RVers, yet remains very dispersed and secluded. There have been reports of high winds, so be sure to take that into account. This BLM area also has the same strictly enforced fourteen day maximum length of stay. 

Indian Pass Road

Coordinates: 32.9384, -114.8672

This area is near the American Girl Mine Road, but is slightly less traveled and offers gravel campsites. This area is the very definition of dispersed since boondocking campers tend to have at least half a mile of space from their neighbor. 

The Links at Riverlakes Ranch

If you love golfing, then this lovely Harvest Hosts location in Bakersfield is perfect for you. At Riverlakes Ranch, you can find a full restaurant and bar, as well as a beautiful golf course complete with a lovely pond. Tee times are offered all throughout the day, and even non-golfers can stop by to enjoy a meal and the surrounding scenery. Overnight campers have reported the location as quiet and peaceful, perfect for a quick night’s stay.

Dry camping with no camping fees in beautiful scenery is one of the most unique parts of RV life. By foregoing amenities you are often rewarded by unparalleled experiences that regular campgrounds can’t live up to. Remember to always scout ahead for your spot, conserve water and grey/black tank space, and, if you fall in love with boondocking, consider investing in worthy upgrades to prolong your stints. 

Do you have a favorite boondocking location in SoCal? If you haven’t dry camped there yet, which location sounds the most exciting to you? Let us know in the comments below! 

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  1. Zoey
    24th October, 2020

    I just hope from this article these campsites don’t get crowded. Please remember to pack out what was brought in. Leave only footprints.

    1. Sam Leash
      11th November, 2020

      Hi, Zoey! I have personally visited most of the campsites listed here, and they are well-known in the area. The locals and travelers tend to take great care of these areas, as well. Thanks for your concern and insight. 🙂