Saturday, December 2, 2023


Mike asks about boondocking on Southern CA coast


Here’s a question from a reader of about boondocking. 

Hello Bob,
I’ve been reading the RV Travel Newsletter for a couple of years now. We are planning a trip to California in October then to Yuma, Rocky Point, back to Arizona and Utah, then home to Denver, about 5 months total. As I’m planning I’m having a hard time finding spots to boondock. Our first stop is Monterey Fairgrounds with hookups, then south to San Diego. I found 3 Harvest Host sites but not much else. I’m also finding the RV parks to be very expensive. Any ideas would be helpful. Thanks. —Mike from Denver

Hi Mike,

Kirk Creek Forest Service campground on Big Sur coast

You won’t find many boondocking opportunities between Monterey and San Diego, and Route 1 below Big Sur is currently closed and not due to reopen until the new bridge is completed — which is scheduled by September but I wouldn’t count on it.

There is no dispersed camping (boondocking) allowed in the Los Padres National Forest that I know of. If the road is open by then, there are two Forest Service no-hook-up campgrounds: Kirk Creek, that sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean, and Plaskett Creek a few miles farther south on the inland side of the road, that cost less than private campgrounds. From there down to San Diego, not much, unless you just want to sleep overnight and use a Walmart or truck stop.

But when you get over to Arizona there are lots of places where you can boondock in the desert on BLM land. Visit the BLM website or one of the regional offices (you can get these from the website) and ask about “dispersed camping” locations. These will not likely be shown on any official maps but the local offices can provide maps and the new Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) if they are available for the locations you are visiting. Also check out the Forest Camping website that shows the locations, information and camping opportunities on all National Forests.
Have a great trip!

Read more about boondocking at my BoondockBob’s Blog.
Check out my Kindle e-books about boondocking at Amazon.

Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) .





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squeakytiki (@guest_11571)
6 years ago

You’re going to be waiting a lot longer than September to take Hwy 1 through Big Sur thanks to that enormous landslide in June.

Edward Price (@guest_11273)
6 years ago

You have selected the one area of the country (outside of San Francisco and Manhattan) that is least friendly to boondocking. You can get on the beach with your rig in Pismo Beach, but from there south to the Mexican border, it’s nothing but paid camping (and even those are rare and expensive). Beware of any night street parking, it’s usually illegal, even for residents of those towns. There are some times you will see semis queued up along some industrial road, but these are often in very frightening areas. Also, most every coastal Wal-Mart is NOP. If your definition of coastal includes up to 90 minutes inland, you will find some BLM land. You could also try the rest stops along I-5 (I like the gas station at Frasier Mountain Road exit in Lebec), and many city & county parks will let you stop for any length during the day. In San Diego, there are some nice regional parks that offer nice RV sites, but none are low-cost. Use your senior pass and get into the Point Loma monument area for daytime rest. Indeed, whenever I head across the LA basin, I delay myself and then enter the basin after 10 PM; this gives you a generally hassle-free trip across the basin. Almost crazy to be driving the LA freeways on cruise control and no traffic jams! In short, boondockers shouldn’t head to coastal SoCal at all; to me, it’s not worth the hassle of feeling like a cash cow or a hunted rabbit everywhere I stop. I live here, and I go anywhere else for my fun.

Craig (@guest_11246)
6 years ago

Sadly, there’s no place to boondock in coastal San Diego. Most municipalities prohibit even camping on your RV in front of your own house. You will get ticketed along the coast if you’re parked in one of the parking lots between 2am-4am. Other than a select few state parks which are booked months in advance, San Diego is not budget coastal camping friendly at all. I have lived here my entire life.

Seann (@guest_11168)
6 years ago

Interstate 8 exit 131 go N over the freeway turn E on the service road cross the canal and on your left is the Holtville HotSprings LTVA. Just before you exit California there is a Casino on the South side of the freeway and lots of Boondocking in the area.

Don France (@guest_11187)
6 years ago
Reply to  Seann

Neither of Seann’s recommended sites are near the coast or San Diego! Better bet is to get into the Discover Owners group MegaPOI file that works with Microsoft Streets and Trips; if you are an SKP member, consider the Day’s End directory for “cheap” and safe overnight places along your travel route. The MegaPOI file has a huge collection of various options that might work… we’ve stayed on the coast in places like Manhattan Beach and San Clemente using the state or county “en route” option for single overnight boondock site.

Edward Price (@guest_11274)
6 years ago
Reply to  Don France

What do you mean by “the state or county “en route” option for single overnight boondock site.”

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