California RV & Camping: Time, Dates & Rules (With Examples)

California is a huge state with a rich diversity in both people and sights to see.

From ocean beaches to mountain views, this state has everything for the adventurous camper.

We’ve compiled a list of times, dates, and rules you should be aware of before camping in California:

Peak Camping Times:

Like most areas in the United States, peak camping time is between June and August.

This is the perfect time to go for most families because school is out for the summer, and the weather should be perfect!

If you are interested in camping outside of this peak time in California, such as in April, May, or September and October (Spring and Fall), you may want to camp in an RV or other climate-controlled environment, such as a cabin.

Can you Go RVing in California Outside these Dates?

Most locations in California will allow you to RV camp year-round.

When you will camp mostly depends on the insulation and sturdiness of your RV that it will keep you cool or warm depending on what kind of weather you will face.

Camping between November and March is more of a gamble in northern states like Michigan or Maine because it is usually still pretty cold. However, California is a big state with multiple climates depending on the time of year.

If you decide to camp near Los Angeles in December, you may still see days where it is near 60-70 degrees outside. If you go as north as Redding, you might experience temperatures around 40-50 degrees instead.

Ensure that you know where you are thinking of camping and the potential weather that you will run into when you do so: it will help you prepare.

Where Can you Camp for Free in California?

Calfornia has a lot of land.

Between the coastline, the mountains, the forests, and the canyons, there are so many places to pitch your tent.

But which places are free?

We’ve collected a helpful list for you:

First, What is Dispersed Camping?

Dispersed camping is when you camp on public land rather than pay for a site at a campground.

This is basically incredibly rustic camping which requires that you bring your own water, supplies, food, generators (if necessary) and take all trash with you when you leave.

Dispersed camping is quite common all over the United States. You just need to know where to look.

Joshua Tree National Park:

There are about eight campgrounds that require payment in Joshua Tree National Park.

But there are also plenty of places to camp for free!

While sleeping in your vehicle along the road or roadside pull-offs is not allowed, camping in their Bureau of Land Management land outside of the park is available.

According to Campendium, Joshua Tree North and South are popular free camping spots near both entrances of the park and would therefore count as Bureau of Land Management areas for you to camp.

This is a great, sunny spot with reliable cell service!

Blair Valley:

In Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, one of the more popular spots to camp is Blair Valley.

While Blair Valley might not have many trees and green, it is one of the more beautiful places to catch a glimpse of the desert night sky.

Thousands of stars and plenty of other campers to meet abound at Blair Valley, located about an hour and a half east of San Diego.

Alabama Hills Recreation Area:

Located in Lone Pine, CA and near US 395 is the Alabama Hills Recreation Area.

Camping off the grid here gives you access to views of the Sierras and the Inyo National Forest.

According to positive reviews, there are plenty of sites to stay at, it isn’t too crowded, and you are near Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and the Sequoia National Parks.

This is a favorite among California campers for a good reason.

Can You Camp on Public Hunting Land in California?

California has a few dozen ecological reserves and wildlife areas that allow animal views, hunting, sightseeing, and hiking.

However, only a few of these places allow camping.

It is important to know where you are going before you decide to camp on hunting land. It may either be illegal or incredibly dangerous if you camp somewhere you aren’t supposed to.

Ash Creek Wildlife Area and Butte Valley Wildlife Area (according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife) are areas where you can camp, fish, hike, hunt ducks and pheasant, and view wildlife.

Each location asks that all visitors be responsible for knowing and understanding all rules and regulations before visiting.

All visitors 16 years or older must have a CDFW Lands Pass or a valid California hunting or fishing license.

Camping Rules & Regulations in California:

– Alcohol:

Alcohol is only allowed in overnight camp sights.

This means that you can’t drink alcohol in public day areas such as beaches, parks, or other recreational areas.

Obviously, only those who are at the legal drinking age may drink alcohol at the campground you are staying in.

– Firewood:

Fires and the use of firewood should always be done in the fire ring or concrete grill.

Often, campgrounds will provide you with firewood, sell it to you, or you can bring your own. Check with your campground first.

Make sure that you are not cutting down trees or disrupting wildlife for your firewood.

Also, DO NOT burn anything dangerous, such as poison ivy, poison oak, or other woods that might cause harm.

– Pets:

Pets are not always allowed at the campground you are staying at.

You will either need to check with your campground first or make sure that when reserving a site that it states it is “pet friendly.”

If you do bring a pet, dogs and pets should be on leashes (6 feet or less) and either kenneled or in the tent or motor home at night or when not leashed.

Animals should not be kept in cars or areas of direct sunlight in California due to the heat. Keep them cool!

Always clean up after your pets as well.

– Firearms:

Bringing weapons to a campground is prohibited unless you are within a designated hunting park or wildlife area.

Users of firearms should be licensed, and only specific firearms can be used in certain areas.

For example, not all wildlife hunting grounds will allow shotguns.

– No Souvenirs:

Whenever you stay in a national park, don’t take or collect anything that you find on the trail.

Fossils, wildflowers, or other natural objects should be left alone at all times.

Do not disrupt our beautiful parks!


Best Free Campsites in California

Alabama Hills Recreation Area Dispersed Camping

Dispersed Camping in the United States’ National Forests

Places To Visit | California Department of Fish & Wildlife

Park Laws, Regulations, and Public Safety

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