Camping California, The Cheap Way!

Destinations, Travel, USA / Saturday, October 10th, 2015

California has to be one of the most popular places to road trip and with good reason, with the Big Sur, Yosemite, Death Valley and Sequoia just to name a few, it is the perfect little round up of ocean, forest, mountains and great roads.

The only problem is, if you are like me, doing it in a campervan and on a budget, then things can become a bit tight.

Fear not, there is plenty of amazing places to camp and park your camper for cheap or even for FREE overnight.

Tried and tested.

National Forests

Make the most of these little beauties, you can pull up and sleep in most places in a national forest. Obviously steer clear of pulling up somewhere that’s on a bend as you might get bumped in the night and just double check for signs that may say ‘No Parking’ but pretty much the Forest is your oyster, enjoy!

Big Sur has an abundance of places to pull up your campervan or RV, especially in the Los Padres National Forest. One of my favourites is on a small road that leaves highway 1 right by the Mill Creek campground. There is a pull in that can fit about 4 campers maybe more. The view is out of this world.

Free Campgrounds

This is my favourite, because these are actual campgrounds, with fire pits, picnic benches and sometimes a toilet (by this I mean a pit in the floor) and they are free!

You can check out a great website which gives you a great list of free campgrounds. Just be sure to check reviews.

Here are some of my favourite ones;-

Walkers Pass

A great campground located near Onyx, California. It has great views, restrooms, fire pits and picnic benches. First come first serve basis.

Springhill Campground

There are at least 6 free campgrounds along the Mountain 99 road, north of Kernville. Most of them well positioned near or right next to the Kern river. A perfect little place to unwind and relax.

Some offer little shade, like Chico Flat campground for example but Springhill has some shade and is right by the river.

Jerseydale Campground

This one was probably my favourite and is perfect if you are heading towards Yosemite. It is located in the Mariposa county. There is plenty of shade, fire pits, picnic benches and is just 3 miles from a great winery.


(Not my photo, my camera and phone had run out of battery at this point, so this one is courtesy of Moonheart on

State Parks

Easiest way to camp around the USA, although not the cheapest. I have stayed at a few and some range between $25 to $45.

My two favourites have to be;-

Idyllwild State Park – $25

Thornhill Broome – $35

At weekends the state parks become crazy, especially the coastal ones. We tried 4 state parks and 3 campgrounds one weekend and they were all full! Make sure you reserve if you can or you may find yourself stuck for a place to stay.


(Sunset view from our spot near Three rivers, CA)


Not the prettiest places to stay but when your stuck or just need a few hours rest then it is ideal. Toilets, Wifi and food on your doorstep is great and most Walmarts will be happy for you to stay the night in their car parks. Usually it is only the 24hr ones that allow it and make sure you ask a manager or supervisor to check it is ok.






2 Replies to “Camping California, The Cheap Way!”

  1. Hi Lucie
    I like very much your pictures posted on Instagram!
    Also the way you discover countries is interesting as your described it!
    Good luck for future trips…if coming back to France you can contact me in Britanny.
    Kind regards

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