Free RV Campsites in Southern California

Free RV Campsites in Southern California
California has a reputation for lofty real estate prices, but it is possible to find free RV campsites. The Bureau of Land Management and the State of California both have areas where RV campers are allowed to stay for free. Free campsites don't generally offer electricity, running water or other luxuries, so they may not be suitable for extended stays, it's wise to know how to find free RV campsites in Southern California, whether planning a vacation or just passing through.

Slab City

Slab City is perhaps the most famous free campsite in the US. Located in Niland, Slab City's level concrete slabs were originally built as a Marine Camp and abandoned following World War 2. The area is now under the control of the Bureau of Land Management. Since it's too hot to warrant many summertime visitors, Slab City has very few year-round residents. The nearest water and dump station is 3 miles away. The only electricity at Slab City is generated by the residents using makeshift or experimental means or solar panels. In the winter, adventurous visitors migrate to the area and set up camp for free. Technically, Slab City doesn't even exist. It's not on official maps and emergency services are not available. Residents are a mixed lot of vagabonds from all over the US and even internationally. Many come just to experience the temporary alternative lifestyle, as seen in the documentary "Into the Wild." One remarkable feature of Slab City is the art and sculpture made from junk. Because garbage-hauling is difficult, residents create shelters and statues out of engine parts, hubcaps, empty bottles and other odds and ends.

Slab City
Niland, CA 92257

Powerline Road in Death Valley

Near the Mojave Wildlife Preserve, in Death Valley, California, the Bureau of Land Management allows RV visitors to camp (without hookups) underneath the powerlines, on Powerline Road. Stop at the BLM office, underneath Death Valley's landmark "giant thermometer" to get directions to Powerline Road, off of Highway 127. As of January 2010, the BLM map is $4 and shows free camping areas, as well as no-camping zones, protected areas, landmarks and major roads. The surrounding desert area is home to talc mines and turquoise mines, and there are plenty of abandoned gold, silver and iron ore mines to explore at your own risk. Wild burros frequent the area, feral descendants of the domesticated donkeys that were an important part of the area's mining history. California mountain lions, rattlesnakes, coyotes and desert tortoises are some of the animals you may spot in this area. Free camping is allowed up to 14 days per year.

Bureau of Land Management
Bishop, California Regional Office

Ocotillo Wells SVRA

The Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area is located adjacent to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This desert area has plenty of sand dunes that make it a haven for people who enjoy off-road vehicles, dune buggies and for motorcycle riders. There is no water at the site, with the exception of the pay showers, so bring plenty of quarters. Toilets, picnic tables and fire rings are available. Evening winds can kick up a lot of dust. This area is located twenty miles west of Highway 86, on Highway 78 in Western Imperial County, east of San Diego. The terrain ranges from below sea level to an elevation of 400 feet. Guests who wish to visit the Anzo-Borrego State Park can use this area for overflow or to save money.

Ocotillo Wells SVRA
5172 Highway 78
Borrego Springs, CA 92004

Article Written By Lisa Russell

Lisa Russell has been a freelance writer since 1998. She's been published in "Rethinking Everything Magazine," "Playdate" and "Home Educator's Family Times." She has a professional background in education, cosmetology and the restaurant industry. Russell studied early childhood education at Antelope Valley College, and is pursuing a degree in law.

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