Camping in California: Do you need a Permit?

Everybody loves camping; if camping were just about packing food, tent, and other needed amenities, life would be a lot easier. However, while camping can be an exciting thing for most of us when we were kids, there are several things that you have to keep in mind before you pack things up as well.

Generally, you do not require a permit for camping in a developed campground or a recreational area. However, if you are camping in the wild, where the site hasn’t been designed as a campsite, you have to get a California campfire permit to use a stove, lantern, or campfire in the state of  California.

If this is the first time you will be camping in California, in this article, I will walk you through everything you need to know about permits, passes, places to camp, and things to take with you when you are going camping. Let’s get started, shall we,

Permits needed for camping in the state of California:

Rules are there to make sure that people don’t abuse that mother nature is offering to us. Even though these rules might seem too much for some of us, they are necessary to understand and to use the natural resources we have with moral responsibility. there are two critical permits that you should have before thinking about camping; they are 

  • wilderness permit
  • fire permit

wilderness permits:

this permit allows you to go on a trail and camp in the off-grid areas. You cannot go to an off-grid site for camping without getting this permit. This permit is in place to make sure that people don’t abuse the wilderness.

You don’t require a permit if you are going for backpacking, hiking, skiing, mountaineering, and horse camping. A wilderness permit is needed only if you are going to set a tent and camp. You should follow the leave no trace rule when camping in the wilderness. The reservation fees and rates are as follows.

  • $15 / person if entering Mt. Whitney Zone (includes Mt. Whitney, North Fork of Lone Pine Creek, and Trail Crest Exit).
  • $5 / person for all other areas.

No charge for additional nights, Example: 4 people hiking 5 days on a trip that does not go to Mt Whitney, 4 x $5 = $20; +$6 = $26.00 total fee.

You can read more about this on the US forest service website.

Fire permit:

campfire permits are in place to control wildfires due to human mistakes while camping in the wilderness. When you are in federal land or privately owned land, you need a fire permit for campfires, open fires, as well as stoves and lanterns, and this also includes bbq.

You can get fire permits from CAL FIRE, US Forest Service, or BLM station or office. You can get your permit online through this link as well.

friends sitting in campfire

Camping Reservations:

You cannot simply pull up to a campsite and expect to camp. If you do that, you will find that every spot is wholly occupied, and people are already there. Demand is why every campsite and recreational sites offer camping reservations on their websites.

Some people even reserve a year before as they plan to camp. However, keep in mind that campsite reservations have to be made in advance. If reservations are one thing, there is also a camping fee that you have to pay based on the number of persons who will accompany you while camping. 

Keeping these things in mind will save you a lot of hassle.

Things to take with you to a camping site:

[amalinkspro type=”showcase” asin=”” apilink=”″ new-window=”true” addtocart=”false” nofollow=”true” sc-id=”5″ img-sizes=”0:0″ imgs=”!important%3B%20margin%3A0px%20!important%3B%22%20%2F%3E” link-imgs=”false” btn-color=”#ff9900″ btn-text=”Buy on Amazon” alignment=”alignnone” hide-prime=”0″ hide-image=”0″ hide-price=”0″ hide-button=”0″ width=”400″]Coleman Sundome Tent for Camping [/amalinkspro]
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These are some camping essentials that you must have when you are planning for a trip.

best camping spots in California:

Overall, California is an excellent state to camp. Camping is a great way to connect with family and friends. It opens up opportunities to talk and have fun and share the love. Here are my best picks for camping spots in all of California. 

  • Point Reyes National Seashore and Camping Grounds
  • Big Sur
  • Joshua Tree
  • San Onofre Campsite
  • Death Valley
  • Salton Sea
  • Malibu
  • Santa Monica State Beach
  • Coronado Beach
  • Moonstone Beach
  • Sand Dollar Beach
  • Venice Beach
camp permit

Things you should not do while camping:

  • Please don’t start a fire unnecessarily unless it’s a campfire. When you are starting a campfire, take all precautions before starting your campfire.
  • Don’t forget to bring your bug spray for camping. Wilderness has many bugs crawling around; the best way to get rid of them or away from them would be through a bug spray.
  • Don’t order your delivery into a camping site in the woods. Ordering food is entirely idiotic.
  • Don’t forget to take your matches while camping; imagine having everything start a campfire except the matches.
  • During day time, the sun might be out but have a jacket with you as the temperature might go down during the night.
  • Don’t forget to check the weather before going camping. You don’t want to be stuck in a snowstorm without proper gear to protect yourself.
  • If you are near a volcano or a place with many mountains, always check the seismic activity chart.
  • Don’t forget to take toilet paper with you when you are going camping. Sometimes amid things, you might forget this.
  • Always bring your sleeping bag as well as your sleepings pads; forgetting these would be your worst nightmare while camping in the woods.
  • Once the sun sets, don’t wander in the dark. Getting lost at night is the worst thing that can happen on your camping trip. Just avoid wandering at night.
  • Once done eating, don’t leave your food out in the wide open. Leftover foods will attract wild animals to your tent.
  • Stock yourself with more than enough water so that you can always be safe.

Things you can do while camping:

  • Stand-up paddleboarding is something you can do while you are camping near an ocean or a lake. Paddleboards are boards that float on water that uses a paddle to propel them.
  • Going for a bike ride would be the next thing you can do while camping. A bike ride can energize and lighten your mood.
  • Playing sports like a frisbee is a great way to spend your time camping if you have enough people in your camp. You can also include football and volleyball in this list.
  • Hiking is the most underrated thing to do while you are camping somewhere. Hiking can intrigue your body to experience new environments to regain the sense of being one with nature.
  • Fly fishing is another relaxing activity that will be interesting and take your boredom away while camping.
  • Yard games are helpful when you are camping in a place where there are water bodies to go for paddleboarding or fishing.
  • Singing songs with a musical instrument is the next item on the list. If you are good at playing a musical instrument, you might get a lot of inspiration while you are out there.
  • Some people despise card games, and some people love them. Suppose you are one of those people who love card games. Then, This camping could be your time to enjoy it with friends and family.
  • The most underrated relaxing activity that you can do on a camping trip is reading a book. If you are on a more extended trip, don’t forget to unplug your smartphones and plug yourself into a book.
  • Cooking a new simple recipe will brighten everybody in the camp. Food is the best way to a women’s heart if you are on a date.
  • Learn an outdoor skill like fire building, which can be very useful in the long run. Fire building can be fun and teach you a lot about patience. If you are an impulsive person, this is something you should try.
  • Bird watching is something you can do in places where birds migrate and are staying for a while.
  • Checking out local cuisine and visiting a favorite local restaurant might be a great way to spend your time while camping.


One of the essential skills needed for camping is learning things rather than complaining about something. If you are a problem solver, you will feel right at home when you go camping. Having an open mind is very important while camping in the wilderness. Besides the permits and passes you have to reach a camping site, the most important thing you have to take along with you is your common sense.

Even people who are graduates fail to think about things and end up ruining their fantastic camping trip. Always be prepared for anything.

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