It’s hard to think of a more satisfying way to spend a beautiful weekend than camping on one of Northern California’s spectacular array of public lands—except, perhaps, camping there for free. Land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management is typically home to lots of free “dispersed” camping, meaning folks can drive up to an established primitive site—which don’t typically have the usual campground services like water, garbage pickup, or restrooms—and pitch a tent without the hassle of fees or permits. For frontcountry camping in Northern California, assume that you’ll need a current California Campfire Permit in order to build a campfire, use a camp stove, or barbecue.
Situated at an elevation of 5,100 feet, northeastern California’s Eagle Lake is home to several campgrounds, plus undeveloped camping on both its east and west shores. About 30 miles north of Susanville, this is a great spot for wildlife watchers—Eagle Lake is home to one of the last nesting osprey in the western U.S., along with the Eagle Lake trout, which is native only to this area. There’s no fee for dispersed camping on BLM land, although the agency does accept donations for regular maintenance of the area.
1. LAKE TAHOE
In Northern California, there are several must-see locations that are ready and waiting for your camping tent. Lake Tahoe is loaded with camping sites for camping tent and trailer spots.
The Tahoe National Forest and the Lake Tahoe Basin have more than 20 campgrounds, plenty of hiking trails, and phenomenal fishing.
Tahoe is part of the Sierra Nevada range, so it is easy to find a place to hang your camping hammock.
As the largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe not only offers memorable scenery but plenty of activities, too.
2. REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS
lso in Northern California is the Redwood National and State Parks.
These parks are the home of the centuries-old trees. Part of the part is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While you won’t be able to hang your camping hammock on the giant redwood trees, you will be able to find several camping sites that are perfect for sinking your boots into the rich ground that has nurtured these trees.
You can camp near the redwood forest or near the coast of the glorious Pacific Ocean.
3. BIG SUR
Big Sur is another place not to miss while you look for locations to pitch your camping trip.
Big Sur is home to the Hearst Castle as well as the relaxed areas of Monterey and Carmel.
The bluffs that overlook the Pacific are rugged and most of the land still has not been taken over by homes and condos.
You will be able to stretch out your hiking boots on the plethora of remarkable trails and find perfect trees to support your camping hammock.
Camping near the ocean on a bluff or in the Big Sur Valley is another spot not to skip on your California camping tent adventure.
4. SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST
Moving downstate, the Sequoia National Forest has over one million acres of area in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
This means that you can use your favorite hiking boots to traverse the over 800 miles of trails.
There are plenty of campgrounds within the Sequoia National Forest and the nearby Kings Canyon National Park where you can pitch your camping tent and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the great old outdoors.