Looking for a place to camp in southern California this winter that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Here are a few completely free camping spots that will keep you warm as well as keeping your wallet in your pocket.
Located along historic route 66, in the Mojave Desert, stands an extinct volcano, the Amboy Crater. The crater was once a popular tourist attraction along route 66, but with the decline of route 66 brought on by the Interstate system, the area has seen much less use. From interstate 40, head towards Amboy. Its roughly halfway between Barstow and Needles.
The land around Amboy crater is owned by the Bureau of Land Management. You may camp in the area for up to 14 days free of charge. Don’t expect much in the way of facilities, though. There is a large gravel parking lot and some picnic tables with shade. There are also a couple of vault toilets.
But, you came to hike inside an actual volcano, right? Go for it!
Box Canyon West
Located south of Joshua Tree National Park, near the small town of Mecca, is a beautiful canyon. Box Canyon has some gorgeous geology. The canyon walls are primarily sandstone and have been carved by wind and water into amazing shapes. On a full moon, you can let your imagination run wild and pick out many shapes within the canyon walls.
To get there, take Box Canyon road either South from I-10 or North from CA 111. There are plenty of places to pull off the road and camp inside the canyon, but access to the side canyons is blocked to vehicle access. Depending on the time of year, you may also see some gorgeous desert plants in bloom.
Traffic on Box Canyon road is light. Some areas have litter and very soft sand, so try to stay on a packed trail unless you’re prepared for beach driving and recovery. You could easily spend several days just hiking in the canyon! As with many BLM lands, you may camp for free up to 14 days.
Jawbone Canyon is an off roader’s paradise. With over 300 square miles to explore, you won’t get bored. Set in the Mojave desert, two hours east of Bakersfield, Jawbone canyon is pristine high desert with just enough access trails to get out and see it.
To get there, take CA-14 northeast from CA-58. Take a left on Jawbone Canyon road. From that point, you are on BLM land and can camp anywhere you like, but for more privacy, you might want to head in a bit deeper and find a side road.
If you’re looking for peace and quiet, Jawbone Canyon may not be the best choice on the weekends, but during the week, most of the ATV’s pack up and go home, leaving the area quite peaceful. As with other BLM land, you may camp for free up to 14 days.
Learn more about free camping locations in California.
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