The golden state is an absolute BOON for the boondocking crowd! This is the complete guide to boondocking in California and a must read when planning your boondocking trip.
Why Go Boondocking?
Boondocking is an exciting way to explore the wild places of the world. While there are many perks to staying at a well-kept campground and RV park, they are also crowded in the best months.
Boondocking will allow you to camp on less popular public lands, essentially off the grid. You learn about what your family needs on your RV when you do not have any hookups to help sustain you.
This type of camping gives you a more comprehensive range of locations for you to camp. The complete guide to boondocking in California focuses on this idea and the many scenic, as well as the recreational benefits.
The Complete Guide to Boondocking in California
Since California is such a giant state, we thought it would be helpful to break up our favorite boondocking sites into those located in the North, South, and Coastal regions of the state. We also included a section on the Sequoia National Forest.
Boondocking In Northern California
No Man’s Trail Head
This trailhead is located 16 miles outside Happy Camp and has long been a tremendous boondocking jaunt. The peaks of the Siskyou are visible from this trailhead, and they are impressive.
It features a 22-mile trail to explore with several creek crossings that can be used for all water activities. These crossings can be a little treacherous in the rainy seasons.
Don’t look for amenities at this trailhead. It is genuinely a boondocking location.
Coordinates: 11.1683181Longitude, 60.8062805 (approx.)
Rocky Point West
The glassy waters of North Eagle Lake are the main features of this boondocking site. It is a BLM or Bureau of Land Management site. In other words, this is a public land site. This also means you will have no fees to worry about when boondocking in this location.
Rocky Point has some serious privacy. Fisherman and other people looking for a remote camp are about the only people you will see when you stay at this location. Walking the shores is a significant exercise daily and a way to connect to the wild. Bring your fishing pole as camping on this pristine lake is a golden opportunity.
Coordinates: 40.68785,-120.747605 (approx.)
Hermit Valley Campground
This first-come-first-serve campground is another site for the complete guide to boondocking in California. It is a minimalist campground, but you will find vault toilets onsite.
If you want to gather around a fire, there are 8 fire rings that allow you to enjoy the pop and crackle of a campfire while still enjoying the boondocking and RV experience.
The north fork of the Mokelumne River is close by and gives you access to fresh water and trout. Treat this water if you are going to drink it.
There is also access to the Emigrant Trail to Blue Lakes trailhead.
Coordinates: 38 32 12N, -119 53 43W (approx.)
Boondocking in Southern California
Boondocking at the Volcanic Tablelands is a profound experience. You are camping in the lowlands and scrub lands while the magnificent Rocky Mountains are in the distance, and nothing between you and these great mountains will block your view of them.
It is not uncommon to see the snow falling on the mountains at the horizon while sitting in 70-80 degrees weather. This is one of those insanely flat areas where you can literally follow the clouds on their trek towards the mountains.
There are smaller bouldering-sized rocks for those who enjoy climbing. These rocks are spread across the campground and opposite the Rocky Mountain view.
The campgrounds are flat and made up mostly of dirt, which is very level which helps. The dirt roads that lead in are a little bumpy, but you do not need a 4-wheel drive to find your perfect spot.
This spot is a must-see and has quickly earned its place on the complete guide to boondocking in California.
Coordinates: 37.4288, -118.4251
Glass Creek Campground
You will find a busy dry camping scene here at Glass Creek in the summer months. If you are looking for solitude, I would not recommend this campsite in the summer. The sites are nice; there are 66 of them, but it can get packed and loud.
The location is beautiful as you will be parked under the tall Ponderosa pines, and the Glass Creek will run through and around the campsite. This creek is home to rainbow trout, so it would be wise to bring your fishing pole for this adventure. You might even want to put rainbow trout on the menu for the evening.
There are plenty of hiking adventures for you, too. You can get lost along the creek and amidst the pines on trails and mountains. There are many incredible views to take in, too.
The campsites require you to register when you arrive.
You will also have to plan to deal with bears as there are bears in the area. This means you must be careful about food and very cautious of mother bears and their cubs.
Coordinates: 37.4288, -118.4251
American Girl Mine BLM
If you are a boondocker who likes the space of having a nice big rig, then this is the location for you. Rigs have been reported as long as 42′ at American Girl Mine BLM. If you are the owner of one of these larger rigs, you understand the struggles and the limitations, and many sites cannot handle these larger rigs.
American Girl Mine BLM is one of the cleanest BLM lands in the area. This is also a location of great solitude. You can sit back and enjoy the desert views without the noise of more populated campsites like Glass Creek.
American Girl Mine is a no-brainer for the complete guide to boondocking in California. Though you will have the solitude of the desert, you are only 3 miles away from access to hookups like water and a dumping station.
It’s easy riding and quiet desert living at this BLM; you will enjoy your time at this location.
Coordinates: 32.8368, -114.812
The Alabama Hills Recreation Area
This boondocking location is a recreation area, meaning there is more to offer than just the wilderness. Though the natural features of this particular recreation area are impressive.
If you set up at the AHRA, you will be nestled between two great mountain ranges. This recreation area is between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Inyo Mountains. If extremes of elevation are your thing, then you will be treated to Mt. Whitney, which you can is the highest peak in the lower 48. On the other hand, you will also be close to the Badwater Basin in Death Valley, which is home to the lowest elevation in our nation.
If you’re looking for more than just these incredible sights or want to see them in motion, you can seek out the rock climbing and hiking opportunities that abound. Riding horseback here and biking through the recreation area are also popular.
This place offers so much and puts you between two great mountain ranges.
Coordinates: 36.53754444, -118.1087469
Boondocking on the California Coast
Willow Creek Road – Big Sur
You will have the tremendous western coastline to one side and the brilliant redwoods at your back. That is the beauty of boondocking on the coast of California. The Willow Creek Road location is an excellent example of this.
Willow Creek Road is located on the east side of the 191 highway. This location runs for miles, and there are many options for where you set up and begin your boondocking adventure.
The Navajo Sandstone makes up the landscape of Willow Creek Road, and this calming contrast of colors between the strong sandstone and the crashing blue and white waves of the pacific is enough to captivate you for hours.
The sandstone’s strength is that you can park more than one large rig in an area, and the landscape will easily support it.
Though this is one location, Willow Creek Road is part of Big Sur, a massive stretch of campgrounds. This location has to be listed on the complete guide to boondocking in California.
Coordinates: 30920 Los Burros Road, Big Sur
Sequoia National Forest
I decided to include this as a section because of how significant this boondocking location is and its unique easterly location.
This national forest is a BOON for the boondocking crowd looking to explore the California coast and this incredible wilderness. We could not call this the complete guide to boondocking in California without including the Sequoia National Forest.
We are talking about a true sanctuary for seeking solitude. You will find no services waiting for you in these secluded locations. You may find a fire ring, but that is about it. Plan accordingly.
Permits might be a big part of your stay at this national forest. Fire, River use, and even camping permits are necessary for using this location. To some, this might seem ridiculous but just understand that these permits are more about safety and upkeep than about inconveniencing you.
Your maximum length of stay is essential here because you can only camp in the Sequoia National Forest for 14 days in a single month. Even if you pack up and move to another location in the park, your 14 days are still counting down.
Final Thoughts on The Complete Guide to Boondocking in California
One of America’s largest states features some of the most diverse and breathtaking boondocking locations on the planet! It would help for you to break this massive state up so that you can take advantage of each region. This is why the ultimate guide to boondocking in California has been broken up by region.
Are you interested in getting deep into seclusion? Head to those northern Cali locations and spend some time in the wilderness. Desolate places like the Volcanic Tablelands are quiet and breathtaking.
If you want more company on your boondocking adventure, head to the more population-dense and significant sites of southern Cali.
Consider the size of your rig and ensure the place you are traveling to fits your camper. We have noted some of the more spacious areas for big rigs above. Use the complete guide to boondocking in California with our post on how to plan a backpacking trip (with gear checklist!) to plan your next boondocking adventure!