We were pleasantly surprised to find more than enough FREE camping SoCal and we didn’t have to camp in a Wal-Mart parking lot! Below are some of our favorite sites from our time in Southern California.
GPS: 32.977978, -116.524818
We end up in trailhead parking lots a lot of the time because they are well-traveled, have access to trails, and normally have toilets. This spot was simple, had a great view of Anza Borrego in the distance, and was right on the Pacific Crest Trail.
There are quite a few level spots here and a vault toilet is available. Take a walk on the nearby Sunset Trail for beautiful views at the foot of the Sierras.
San Diego River Preserve
San Diego, CA
GPS: 32.76000856, -117.2250726
This site is a pull-out along the San Diego River in the heart of SD. There is bound to be a fair bit of traffic noise and potential conversations with homeless people living nearby, but you can’t beat the location for a quick night’s sleep and 5-minute drives to Sea World, Ocean Beach, and much more.
This can be an intimidating place to park, but we left our rig here for 4-5 hours at night and rode our bikes to Ocean Beach to have dinner and drinks and enjoy the ocean. There are plenty of runners and cyclists that use this abandoned road day and night, so we never felt unsafe here.
Law Street Beach
San Diego, CA
GPS: 32.8025916, -117.2595628
This section of curbside next to Pacific Beach is one of the best FREE camping spots we have ever had. The view of the Ocean is magnificent and the amount of active people around was very refreshing. There is not a lot of solitude here, but there is plenty of ocean to share.
This site had bathrooms and showers nearby and one only had to make sure not to park here during street sweeping, one day per week.
GPS: 33.5792566, -116.6241575
There are loads of pull outs and campsites along this OHV trail/road near Anza, CA. The road can be a bit rough and steep, so we stopped short of the top and had a great view of the valley below.
Vehicle with low-clearance should really try somewhere else, this road is rutted and rocky in places and could be hard to navigate in a rig larger than 24 feet.
North Joshua Tree BLM
Joshua Tree, CA
GPS: 34.172932, -116.224663
If you are looking for a peaceful escape from the modern world, this is not it. This is a dry creek bed that is used heavily for off-roading, dirt biking, and any other loud vehicle driving that you can think of. The lake bed is beautiful and very flat, but don’t plan on going to sleep until dark.
This is a perfect overnight spot before entering Joshua Tree National Park. The West Entrance is just minutes away and has a bathroom and brochure station for the park.
Sawtooth Canyon (New Jack City)
GPS: 34.670395, -116.98423
We recently (March 2020) added this campsite as we traveled to LA for work and this made a perfect stopover from Northern Arizona.
This campground is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is very busy in the climbing season (October-March). There is a ton of climbing available in this area and something can be found for climbers of all skill levels. This site has toilets but they were full when we visited, there was also zero occupancy when we arrived on a Wednesday night in March-arrive early. All in all, it wasn’t a bad place to stopover on the way to LA. Be sure and hike to the top of the ridge and check out the views looking toward Big Bear.
We had some of our most unique campsites of our whole summer in So Cal and we think you will enjoy them too! Did we miss any spots along our route? E-mail us and let us know!