The 10 Best Places to Camp for Free in Northern California

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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. Check out our list of 10 awesome (and free!) spots to remember why you fell in love with camping in the first place.

Rocky Point West

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.

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