An overnight stay out-of-doors. Sleeping out under the stars.
Air bed, camping cot, tent… or just a tarp on the ground.
Perhaps a luxury Cabin Rental in the mountains or on the coast. Your choice.
From a luxurious cabin in the mountains, to a small clearing in near a meadow with a stream nearby – with just a backpack, the idea of “camping” is always a bit different for each person. Roughin’ it for free – in the wilderness, or on the back roads; Or pay dearly for the price of real amenities, while on vacation.
camp sites that require you to physically haul your camp gear from a parking area to the camp spot, ranging from 1/8 mi. walk to a 1-3 mile hike
free w/ wilderness permit
ultimate in seclusion, bring it all on your back, on foot into the wilderness & enjoy trail camps
SO CAL CAMP FIRES – Yellow Post Campsites are remote camping spots in secluded areas, in a designated fire safe clearing. No facilities such as toilets or showers. Maybe a picnic table & fire rings, if you’re lucky. Southern California forests have these kinda spots. Required campfire permit & you must double check on local fire restrictions.
These structures are half way between ‘roughing it in a tent on the ground’ & having a ‘mountain cabin’. Tent cabins have wooden floors w/ canvas walls and roof; Dismantled annually for winter rain/snow, they are usually only available in mild, coastal climates or during summer months in the mountains.
Rentals typically include sleeping cots, but you’ll need to bring your own bedding (sleeping bags, sheets, pillows). Some rentals include shaded porches, wooden decks, minimal furniture, kitchenettes and/or wood burning stoves. Electricity may be available, or maybe not. Ask ahead of time, if you really must have that particular luxury when on vacation.
Yurts are a ’round version’ of this canvas cabin – which need to be aired out, often (to prevent mold). Yurt rentals are very popular and in high demand in California.
Find these type of rentals at yoga retreats, hot springs, beach canyons, remote lakes, redwood forests, high sierra camps, fishing camps and at certain RV parks.
Below are developed campgrounds in California that have walk-in camp spots available. Vehicles are parked and you must carry your gear into the camp site (usually a short distance, but can be up to a half mile).
California Campgrounds with more than a 1-mile trek are not included in this list below. Areas such as – Catalina Island, Crystal Cove SP, Angel Island SP, Point Reyes National Seashore, indeed have many hike-to camps, but most are measured in miles (one way).
walk in campsites are perfect for –
people who wish not to see cars @ camp
people who prefer less noise while camping
physically fit folks, who want exercise
backpackers, who plan to hit the trails soon
avid hikers, who may be out day hiking
cyclists, just passing through
mountain bike campers
one nighters, travelers who only stay one night
late comers to the campground
(hint: these are usually the last campsites to fill up)
Walk in campsites are often located away from car campers & RVs. Some camp sites may have more privacy, tucked away in trees, while others have shared community area with fire pits and/or barbecues. All camp sites will have picnic tables and a some kinda toilet nearby. Bear boxes may be available for storing food properly. Sharing these food storage boxes with neighboring campers is common practice.
Campgrounds with walk-in sites range in elevation from sea level marshlands to high altitude alpine lakes. Most of these camps listed below are located inside developed campgrounds with overnight fees. Many are small campgrounds, while others are large hubs of activity. Some may be smaller campgrounds, with just a few camp sites. The most popular places can be reserved, with the links provided.
Many parks can also have day use fees, so know where you park and what time span is allowed. Ask the campground host if needing assistance. Some campgrounds lock their gates at sunset and do not permit entry at night. Others may not allow campers to check in anytime after sundown. Know their rules before you make reservations.
If you plan on not making camp reservations; make sure to have a plan B or C choice camp – in case your desired campground is already full. Many popular destinations can fill up fast (by noon in the summer).
Walk in campgrounds are considered ‘tent camping‘, as opposed to ‘car camping‘, which is literally camping next to your vehicle. This type of hike-in camping may also be referred to as ‘trailhead camping‘, as many ideal hikes begin at these prime locations. Boat-in, bike-in or hike-in camp sites are also available at some of these locations.
Sugarloaf Ridge, Greenhorn Mts
Alta Sierra, Kern River Canyon
SOUTH SIERRA: This route is located in between the Western Divide Highway and the cedar community of Alta Sierra, CA
Sugarloaf Ridge: Forest Rd# 23S16 – Thompson Camp Spring, The Den @ Sequoia National Forest
Driving north on Sierra Hwy N of Kernville, California; Passing Fairview & the Johnsondale bridge; After the R Ranch @ Johnsondale, take the left fork on the main highway; After you climb in elevation, look for brown signs on right side of road & turn left on Forest Service Rd# 23S16. Primitive camp sites are located throughout this area along Packsaddle Creek. Do not turn left up Sugarloaf Rd. There are no good camp sites up that way (unless you wanna make one).
RV campers are very common at Thompson Camp Spring, as this road is paved up to this point. The paved road is windy & narrows after this point. It is not advised for trailers or long motorhomes past Thompson.
For the more adventurous, Bear Meadow & Packsaddle Mdw are located up the dirt road a bit on #23S64.
Paved Sequoia route# 23S16 continues to climb, which leads to the Speas Meadow, the Greenhorn Mountains & you best have a real good map if you are heading up this way. 20 miles of awesome open meadows, small streams, dense forest, wildflowers, some primitive camp sites & great viewpoints overlooking the Kern Canyon. All passenger car accessible! Elevations between 6000-7000′. Sugarloaf Peak has cross country skiing.
Side route #23S05 will take you to White River Campground w/ 12 spots. The paved road winds west down the mountain to Posey & eventually Glennville on Hwy 155.
Instead, to easily reach Hwy 155 – you’ll need to get on dirt for a few miles. While on 23S16, look for the Panorama Campground (@ 7400′ elevation w/ 10 sites). Take dirt road #24S15 to get back to civilization @ Alta Sierra, California.
Large, flat campground at the lake, with shady forest and common parking lot. Bathroom with running water and flush toilets are part of the amenities, along with wheel barrows for transporting your gear to distant camp sites.
Walk-in Camp sites: A few camps are located close to the parking lot, but half the sites require a short walk to reach. Firewood is sold by camp host, or bring the saw to gather free wood on the nearby back roads. There is literally TONS of free firewood on the dirt roads.
Walk-in only season is from Labor Day to December 31st
This is a tent-only designated campground with flush toilets, next to a lake. What luxury! Camping vehicles of any type (vans, motorhomes, truck campers) are not allowed in the campground. No generators at all, makes for peaceful camping. Wheelbarrows are provided to assist moving camping gear to and from campsite.
Aspen Grove Campground
• Elevation: 5,100′
• Number of Sites: 28
• Camping Reservations: Yes
• Sites Available: First come, First serve
• Vehicle Accessibility: no RVs
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Water: Piped water
• Toilet: Flush
• Season: Closed winter & spring
• Fee: Yes
• Operated By: National Forest Service
• Closest Town: Susanville, CA
What they fail to mention on the .gov
National Forest web site:
The largest aspen grove at this lake & camp is buried under pavement. Yep, that’s right.
The trees are bursting through the pavement hungry for growth. On the west side of camp, where the old boat launch used to be – before they realized it was the ideal spot for birds / wildlife and moved the boat ramp a mile or so away.
your tax dollars hard at work?
Now the ‘authorities’ should (manage themselves) to tear up all the old, unused paved parking lots, so the poor struggling aspen trees can make a come back. Autumn colors could be better at this location, and this aspen grove could be bigger and healthier, if the USDA would do their job and quit destroying nature.
Did I mention that this is one of the few aspen groves on any lake shore in Northern Cal?
National Forest signs blame the disappearing aspen grove on the lack of sunlight and bigger pine tree shade, and is in the process of removing some. What about ripping up the old, unused parking lot next door – the one with weeds growing in the crack and the real phone booth – so that the aspen grove can flourish. Better forest management is needed at this prime Autumn location.
Indian Flats Campground is located on a dirt road off Hwy 79, near Warner Springs CA. Boulder ridges & manzanita surround this oak filled secluded canyon. Small seasonal creek & waterfall is a short walk from campsite.
Los Coyotes Campground is a tribal camp, located on Hot Spring Mountain in North San Diego County. High desert chaparral, oak groves and boulders.
Maps Mountains / Desert Topo / San Diego Area Maps
The heat source, the light source, the cook source, the sock drier, the night supplier, the outdoor LIVING ROOM. The campfire is the center stage for all entertainment, dining, drinking, music, true tales and ghost stories alike.
Since the beginning of time humans have gathered around the campfire at dark. This nightly ritual is built into us on the deepest level. We miss this today. We miss the real conversations, the community, the bonding, the stories, the soul searching. We miss the connection with nature, the fresh air and the great outdoors. The night sky filled with stars and maybe a meteor shower, a hot drink and the glow of the campfire coals. Enjoying the wilderness requires certain skills. FIRE is only ONE skill – for survival, for cooking, for warmth, for safety.
Total Escape is dedicated to those who yearn to camp, often.
Some folks cannot imagine camping without a campfire, but we better get used to it here on the West Coast. Weather patterns swing from years of super-dry drought to deluge and drenching – as we’ve seen of recent in California. Dry conditions means high wildfire dangers, tight camp stove and strict campfire restrictions.
Each California region, National Forests and State Parks have their own fire restrictions, so call ahead to rangers for current fire conditions on the place you wish to visit. Certain mountain locations will ban fires in the back country, fires on the back roads and sometimes in extreme conditions, no fires allowed even inside a developed campground.
California is well known for its unforgiving drought conditions and its seasonal wildfire danger. Always know the fire conditions in the area you plan to camp. Most Southern California regions have banned ‘open campfires’ in forested areas, due to wildfire threat and population density. Call ahead to get an update on road closures and current campfire restrictions. Find California BLM offices & NFS ranger stations
If you plan on camping outside of a developed campground, you will need to get a free “camp fire permit”, which can be obtained at the local rangers office.
Developed Campgrounds offer sturdy, permanent, metal campfire pits. Many have adjustable grills built in.Primitive Camping is allowed in National Forests throughout California. Campfire permits are required. This style of camping is more peaceful and secluded, without neighbors, without fees and without amenities (no table, no fire ring, no toilet)
Frazier Park and neighboring towns, like freeway-close Lebec and Gorman, is where the Los Angeles hills meet the Kern County mountains. Mojave Desert meets to Coastal Range. EXIT I-5 @ Tejon Pass (elev 4144′)
Wildflower hills, seasonal creeks, forested peaks, high desert canyons. Bike trails, hike trails, off road routes. High elevation backpacking, hang gliding, mountain biking and camping in every direction.
High desert washes, oak creeks, pinyon pine forests, mountain meadows and numerous peaks – Frazier Peak, Reyes Peak, Alamo Mountain, Mount Pinos, Mount Abel (Cerro Noroeste) and north facing San Emigdio ridge.
Many dirt roads are gated seasonally for wet weather or snow. Call rangers to find out which routes are open before you plan your weekend. Or have a plan B and C camp site ready if route is closed. Flashfloods, thunderstorms, and erosion means you may all-of-a-sudden need to use your 4WD. This is the mountains after all. UNpredictable weather is common.
• Elevation: 7600′
• Number of Sites: 28
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Campsites Reservation: Yes
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – September
• Trailheads: McGee Creek, John Muir Wilderness
Mc GEE CREEK CAMP is located –
8 miles north of Mammoth Lakes exit
4 miles from Lake Crowley
2 miles from McGee Creek Canyon trailhead
Aspen trees line McGee Creek that flows down from the Eastern Sierra peaks. Autumn is short and sweet, when the fall colors come and go – usually within a week or two. First snow fall of the season is generally in October and the camp closes for the winter season.
Located about a mile away from Highway US 395 in the wide open high desert. Sage meadows w/ minimal trees at camp. USFS has built shade structures for each camp site, so your time here is not spent in direct sunlight. Summer can get hot and it can also be quite windy at this location.
at Indian Valley, Northern Sierra Nevada mountains
also known as – Taylorsville County Campground Taylorsville Community Campground Taylorsville Park Campground
Beautiful North Sierra Nevada. The rural country life is out here… in the mountains of NorthernCal. Cattle ranches, a few sheep, grazing deer, big old barns, bike races and much residential. Taylorsville is a very small town, on the edge of the Indian Valley. Right across the valley from Greenville and Round Valley Reservoir.
elevation: 3200′ camp sites: 32 piped water near camp: yes toilets: flush showers: yes fee: yes season: May-October
The wooded campground is located at the intersection of North Valley Road, Genesee Rd and Arlington Rd – a few miles off the main highway 89.
Looking for a quiet place to tent camp in between Quincy & Greenville? then this is it. The best developed campground option in the whole region. Closed for winter months – cuz it does snow pretty good up here.
This shaded tent campground loop is on a hillside; across the street from the small rodeo grounds, the community park w/ picnic areas, tennis courts and a small RV park. Campground host located behind the bathrooms.
Nearest local laundromat in nearby Greenville, behind the main grocery market.
bathing… would be nice
Flush toilets and showers, affordable overnight prices, plus ideal walking-hiking-biking location make this a special campground worth mentioning!
Below is a list of all the developed campgrounds & RV Parks surrounding the Bucks Lake region of Plumas National Forest in the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains. The infamous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs through Bucks Lake Wilderness, so there are also trailhead camps and backcountry camp sites that are not in this list. This high elevation region closes the campgrounds for winter: NOV- APRIL
All Tahoe Campgrounds will charge a fee for day use or overnight stays; Many require advanced reservations. Nightly rates vary per park, but tend to be expensive in this region. Most campgrounds are closed during the winter due to the big snow. Check with the ranger districts listed here.
San Diego Coastal Campgrounds
Mission Bay & North County
SD Beach RV Parks & Camping
San Diego’s mild climate means camping is available all year round. Winter storms can get windy and rainy, but most campgrounds are still open. From north county where the coastal cliffs overlook the ocean, to downtown bay side marinas w/ RV camping, to camping right on the sand w/ ocean crashing just feet away. Bike paths are common around downtown San Diego, so you can bring your bike or skates.
San Diego has 2 BAYS, both located along Interstate 5: The main bay downtown is called San Diego Bay (one of the deepest on the west coast) and the other a few miles north, is named Mission Bay (a man-made coastal waterway w/ green parks and paved bike trails).
Reservations are required at almost ALL coastal campgrounds, especially around holidays, any 3 day weekends, and all summer long. Tons of tourists flock to Southern California and this is a very popular coastline – with busy little cities and crowded beach towns. Beware: if you are seeking secluded camping – this would not be the place.
San Onofre State Beach Camp Pendleton or Camp Nuclear; I-5 freeway close
in between Oceanside & San Clemente, CA
There are numerous private RV resorts, some quite large, like KOA and GoodSam parks located in and around San Diego county. Most are metro-close and not located on the beach. This list is primarily coastal camping options for the San Diego region.
There are a few special places in California where redwood trees grow right down to the shore, but it is rare. Searching for place to pitch a tent (under the redwoods at the coast) is possible, but a bit harder to find than you might imagine. State Parks usually offer the standard paved camp site. Maybe need to drive dirt roads to find redwood seclusion.
If you are seeking free or dirt cheap, primitive camping on the coast, then LOST COAST CAMPING on the Mendocino border is one option. Or head east, inland to the abundant National Forest. Dirt roads of the Six Rivers National Forest offer old logging roads, creeks, and secluded places to pitch a tent. Campfire permits are needed for dispersed camping, or ‘boondocking’ as some call it.
Dirt back roads can get muddy during the wet season, so know your vehicles capability and if you are unsure, check with the local rangers over the phone (preferably a ‘field ranger’) before venturing out. Remember that rain and mud are the norm, most of the year.
Fog is typical of the region. Enjoy the sunshine – when you can!
Before you can choose the ultimate place for your tent, you must decide where it is you wanna sleep OUTDOORS. What ultimate location? Your destination can play a huge factor in you getting a peaceful nights rest. And do you really need a campground? Or, are you ready to try to rough it, without the amenities? Best camping is off-the-beaten-path, and usually on the back roads. Trailhead camps, 4×4 camps, best view camps, creek camps; Dispersed camping, often called primitive camping. Focusing here on car camping, tent camping and backpacking routes.
Just choosing a flat tent spot isn’t good enough anymore. You crave the best camping experience and seek real nature, with minimal crowds. No annoying neighbors, no parking hassles, no traffic or cars passing by. We at Total Escape are here to help you get to your wilderness goals and experience nature like never before. Right here, right now and it doesn’t hafta cost you a dime.
California Camping Destination:
Let’s start with a terrain overview. California has it all – mountains, deserts, coastal, rolling oaks with rivers in the countryside, plus the infamous wine country and developed campgrounds within city limits. Desert camping in summer months should only be attempted by the experienced camper who loves 90+ temperatures. Mountain camping in winter can be freezing, so make sure you have the proper gear. Good maps are a must have and the readily available National Forest maps are your best avenue for getting and staying away from the masses. Visit our Destinations page to decide what kinda place you wanna ‘call home for the weekend’.
If you are the “I don’t care where I sleep kinda guy, as long as I can do/see this many things” all crammed into a 3-day holiday weekend, then you best do your research ahead of time. Get a good map, measure the mileage, plan picnic stops and sightseeing. Plan to set camp in a central location close to the main highway to call home-base, so you can be off exploring as much as possible.
Schedule in some “down time” or a full day for relaxing. Calculate driving distances and pad it w/ an extra hour. Maybe make a campground reservation if you are visiting a National Park or busy State Park. If you plan to wing it without reservation, always have plan B or plan C options already picked out. With millions of residents and tourists on the west coast, chances are you won’t be the only person wanting to do Big Sur, Yosemite or Point Reyes that particular weekend.
for a Good Nights Sleep @ the Camp Site
Bring a decent Sleeping Pad. Air Mattress with the inflator pumps will be the most luxury, without sleeping directly on the hard ground. Therm A Rest sleeping pads are another fine option, for those who like to travel light and still have air underneath them. Extra blankets, always.
Flat & Soft ground is the goal in choosing the best tent spot. Park your vehicles over the rocky slanted ground and keep the best flat areas for your camp site.
Do not pitch a tent in a meadow, no matter how inviting it looks. Wetlands and meadows are fragile ecosystems, an area that should be protected.
Look at the big trees above your sleeping spot and examine them. Do not place your tent near or underneath a dead tree or a dead limb. Trees do break and fall, especially if winds pick up. This could be a life or death choice, so remember to look up.
Bring abundant good tent stakes and USE them. Yellow plastic stakes are for soft cedar and sand. Thin aluminum stakes are for backpackers. Large steel nail stakes (some w/ plastic tips) are best stakes for all-around terrain.
Bring a mallet to pound stakes or use big rocks to hammer them. Gloves are also a good idea!
Never underestimate the use of a big tarp and some rope.
Guy lines help hold a tent in place when windy weather turns to big storm. If wind is in the forecast, then do this task before you head out on your day hike away from camp.
Make sure selected tent site is flat. Lay on the ground to check it out.
Place head of bedding up hill (if any slant can be noticed)
Tents should be at least 10 feet away from your campfire. At least 100 feet away from a creek or lakeshore.
Beach camping at the ocean edge; Know the high tide mark; place tent accordingly.
Slot canyons are awesome, sandy, narrow washes, many with cliffs and caves. In the desert badlands these can become raging rivers w/ flash floods. When rain is heavy in the mountains many miles away, you could get flooded in the low lands. If you hear any thunder – RUN to high ground. Better off picking another camp site, than to die by a wall of water!
Shade in the Desert sounds like an oxymoron, unless you find a place with high cliffs, or slot canyons. Tamarisk trees and palm canyon locations are usually an oasis of RV tourists & travelers. Hot Springs are also busy spots. Pinyon pines, juniper and over-sized manzanita can be found in higher elevation deserts above 1000′. The prime desert camping season is generally October thru March, as April can easily soar close to 90 degrees high.
Some people swear by the open spaces and back road camping options, as they have more seclusion, plenty privacy and best off all, no campground fees. You might need a GPS and a high clearance SUV to reach some of these camp spots, but you will be blessed with a unique secret spot to call your own.
Campgrounds come in all styles these days: From small primitive camps on a creek to the luxurious RV resorts with laundry room and showers. And then there is everything in between. This web site Total Escape specializes in FREE camping on the back roads and the smallest of campgrounds.
Reservations are usually accepted at the most popular camp locations, many are wide open on weekdays and the majority of campsites overall are available on a first come, first serve basis.
Desert ghost towns to Sierra meadows & waterfalls, Inyo National Forest offers plenty of diversity for scenery. To list all the hikes in the Eastern Sierra would be obsurd, cuz there are so many trails. This side of the Sierra Nevada is all about hiking, fishing & camping.
No matter where you hike you will probably get a great view over the Owens Valley, Long Valley Caldera or Mono Lake. So that means most of those trails are hiking up a canyon, or a ridge line. Thousands of trails over this region require a good map to make the best decision for your hiking interest.
US HWY 395: The Eastern Sierra is one of the premier hiking destinations of California. Featuring the granite crags of the HIgh Sierra peaks. Mount Whitney, the tallest peak is closest to Lone Pine. Southern Californians love Eastern Sierra destinations, cuz they can avoid Los Angeles Basin and stay outta traffic.
Lone Pine Lake – Whitney Portal is a great, but crowded place for hiking. DO NOT ATTEMPT to hike to Mount Whitney in one day! Leave it to the seasoned pros. The first good stop up the Whitney Trail is gorgeous Lone Pine Lake, a great moderate day hike from there.
Alabama Hills – just below Mt. Whitney and has a totally different landscape than the backdrop granite Sierras behind. Try some boulder hopping & explore the dirt roads. Bring your mountain bike too.
Cottonwood Lakes (Pacific Crest Trail) – day hikes to alpine lakes. US 395 @ Lone Pine, W on Whitney Portal Rd. Left on Horseshoe Meadow Rd & continue up 19 mi. to the Horseshoe Meadow campground. Mostly a trail head camp, way, way up there. Open May – November
Kearsarge Pass – from 9000′ Onion Valley you can access the incredible High Sierra & numerous alpine lakes. The elevation gain makes this a full days hike; rated strenuous. Or continue on w/ backpack into Kings Canyon National Park.
This is one of those silly questions that has no real definitive answer from DanaMite. If you have camped California at all, you know it can be awe inspiring around every corner, especially the Sierra Nevada & the Coastline.
Most California transplants get so wrapped up with city life, college & new careers, that they rarely venture past the county park, much less the county line.
When they finally do break away, they are often misled to crowded campgrounds with steep reservation fees and too many RVs, walking distance to a mini mart. Often they assume camping in California is not what they thought it was going to be. Not like the photos they once saw, not the dream-like places of wildness, not the privacy they had envisioned. They may even give up on the whole ‘camping experience’ all together.
It does not have to be like this. Information is power. This web site Total Escape was made for YOU, the avid Escaper, who desires the best camping options available. One who will respect the land & care; Those that will teach their children to clean up litter & respect our precious public lands.
The California deserts are just as magnificent as the alpine meadows; The mountain peaks, the hot springs, coastal cliffs to the forests, and the river canyons!
It’s all good.
There cannot be one favorite camp spot, when you find yourself camping every month. Each site is a new destination, a place to explore, with usually a reason to return. Each season your favorite spot will change & be more desirable some months over others. From aspen trees changing color in the Eastern Sierra to wildflower meadows of the High Sierra, every place has its own unique flavor.
By far one of the best viewing areas for native California desert flora in the whole state. Autumn rain amounts determine the next year’s Spring bloom. If it rained real good all over SoCal before New Years Eve, chances are better for a favorable showing of color.
Low elevations, washes, badlands, dry lake beds bloom first in February, followed by March for mid altitude canyons and mountains. Highest desert peaks may not bloom until May.
April is usually the best month for the wildflowers; it is also the prime time for Spring Break camping. Open car camping for free – all over this huge California State Park. The tourists typically head over to the town of Borrego Springs, to Borrego Palm Canyon and the visitors center; but the REAL wildflowers are along remote stretches of highway, and on the DIRT BACK ROADS. Many roads are passenger car accessible, for at least the first mile, so don’t think you must have a 4×4 vehicle for just simple exploring.
Primitive Camping Inyo National Forest – Eastern Sierra Car Camping
The mighty US Highway 395 runs from the Mojave Desert north through the eastern side of California, where the state line of Nevada meets. Mount Whitney and the tallest peaks run on the western range @ 14,000’+ the highest in elevation.
The Inyo Mountain range sits @ 11,000′ to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. Major elevations but little vegetation, when compared to it’s neighboring Sierra range. The Inyos lay in the rain shadow of the taller western mountains – but still get snow. Plenty of primitive SUV camping on the dirt roads throughout this desert area north of Death Valley.
A more forested part of the Inyo National Forest is the Eastern Sierra region. Encompassing Mount Whitney & Mammoth Mountain area, plus the entire Hwy 395 corridor. This side of the Inyo National Forest is quite different that the desert range of Inyo.
Eastern Sierra back roads lead all over the place & may require 4WD. A high clearance 2WD can still get you to some awesome viewpoints & scenery. No picnic tables or toilets are available out in the boonies, but plenty of seclusion & vast open space wilderness. INYO Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are many dirt roads for dispersed primitive camping w/ no fees. See the Camping Checklist to make sure you’ll have what you need.
Open (free) Camping along Hwy 395
Monache Meadows – This high elevation (8000′) south Sierra Meadow is accessible by 4WD truck or SUV. Near Kennedy Meadows CA
Walker Creek Rd – quick camp in the lowlands; an easy in route camping near oaks & creek. Southside of Olancha CA, look for turn off & follow dirt road up into the tight canyon. No RVs whatsoever.
Fish Slough Road – open desert camping w/ popular bouldering & rock climbing areas; near Indian Petroglyphs. N of Bishop, CA
Lower Rock Creek Road– signed turn off US Hwy 395. Only a couple good camp spots tucked away in the trees. Small creek, very overgrown, traffic noise minimal. Nearby Round Valley @ Sherwin Pass had a big wildfire in wintertime (dry) FEB 2015!
Road# 4S02 – Owens Gorge Road – N of Bishop behind Lake Crowley. Free RV camping w/ boulders & pines
Road# 2S05 – Deadman Creek – Camp in pine forest on creek; no facilities. N of Mammoth
Road# 2S07 – Owens River Road – Camp in pine forest, near hot springs; no facilities. N of Mammoth
Parker Lake Road – Camp along aspen creeks or in pine forest, near lakes; no facilities. E of Grant Lake on June Lake Loop (Hwy 158)
Coyote Flat 4×4 Bishop – just west of Bishop CA is a 4 wheel drive paradise, Coyote Creek – This steep dirt road is quite a climb. A true off-roaders dream of open space, great views, large meadows, & alpine lakes. Great primitive camping along creeks, in pine or aspen forest or near small secluded lakes. Real remote Sierra high country, usually only reached by backpackers, is accessible to those who dare to venture off the beaten path of Highway 395.
At the golf course keep your eyes peeled — from the highway take Schober Ln. / Underwood Ln. due west through a residential neighborhood to the backside of the town. Find the electrical power station to the left at the base of the hills. Veer onto the slightly paved /dirt road to the right of the station & continue straight up the sandy wash. 4×4 is recommended, since the lowest gears are needed for the careful climb. The road will begin to get steep & gain in elevation fast. The area up here changes with the mileage: passing pinyon pines on cliffs, topping off to high meadows & aspen lined creeks, finally reaching large towering pines & small alpine lakes with snow melt still visible. Basically TREE LINE. This region is most likely open only half the year, due to its high elevation of 8000’+ and winter snow.