Five Can’t Miss Motorcycle Camping Destinations In California

Travel -


Motorcycle Camping California

Itching to spend a night outdoors? Here’s five can’t miss motorcycle camping destinations in California. All you’ll need is a bike and a spirit of adventure.

Prewitt Ridge Big Sur
Sunset at Prewitt Ridge

Big Sur: Prewitt Ridge
This is probably my favorite easy-to-reach campsite in the entire state. The campsite is located five miles down an easy dirt road; enough to keep the tourist hoards at bay, but you could literally get any bike — even a Panigale — down it. Last time I was there, we took the girlfriend’s Jetta.

To find it, ascend Naciemento-Fergusson road (itself one of the most scenic riding roads in the country) from either PCH or inland from Fort Hunter Liggett. At the road’s summit, turn south down the dirt road and continue for approximately 4.5 miles. At that mileage you’ll encounter the first fork of any kind, take the uphill right (it’s signposted too) and go a half mile further and you’ll suddenly be greeted by an expansive view of the Pacific from 1,000 feet above the clouds. There’s fire rings, but gathering wood is illegal and there’s no water available in any form, so you’ll need to pack both in and your trash out. Worth it though, the sunsets are incredible (that’s me and Wiley making some noise) and it’s way off the beaten path.

Bike Needed: Any.

Don’t Miss: Call the Esalen Institute the morning before you want to attend the public bathing hours (1-3am nightly, $25). Phones open at 8am and spots are gone by 8:15. The Institute is a 45-minute ride from the campsite, and totally worth it.

Best Time To Go: All year round.

Saline Valley Hot Springs
A campsite at the middle springs

Death Valley: Saline Valley Hot Springs
Want to reconnect with your inner flower child or just soak in the nicest hot springs around after a long day in the dirt? This place is an absolutely incredibly experience. Located 50 miles or so from the nearest paved roads, you have two choices to get in — the north and south passes into Saline Valley. Saline Valley Road is officially closed in order to absolve the Parks Department of any liability caused by travelling this treacherous route, but the North Pass was just graded. The South remains grueling and is a true test of the full abilities of any ADV bike. Remember that you’re a long way from help should anything go wrong.

Bike Needed: A Dual-Sport or serious ADV bike on dirt tires.

Don’t Miss: The Springs! The road to them is unmarked and splits off Saline Valley Road to the east just north of the sand dunes. If you see a bat on a pole a mile or so after turning, you’re headed in the right direction. Good luck and bring water.

Best Time To Go: Winter.

Motorcycle Camping Joshua Tree
Camping with buddies in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree: Hidden Valley
Want to do some climbing or just have a transcendent experience in the desert? Joshua Tree’s the place to go. Hidden Valley is named after the fold at its entrance that obscures its existence and is where rustlers used to hide stolen cattle. The campsite there is one of the more remote and picturesque in the park and is closest to the best climbing. But really, you can’t go wrong anywhere in the park. Watch out for rattlesnakes!

Bike Needed: Any

Don’t Miss: Ride the entire way through the park from I-10 to 29 Palms and take it all in. The diverse scenery is stunning, but don’t touch the Chollo Cacti!

Best Time To Go: Winter

Laguna Seca Camping
Not quite the view from where you’ll be camping, but only about 500 yards away.

Monterey: Laguna Seca
Have you ever wanted to wake up to the sound of race bikes doing hot laps? Want to drink beers and roast weenies while watching a race? The campsites at Laguna Seca have a great view and staying at them gets rid of the need to make the hellish commute into and out of the track over race weekend. Bring earplugs, you won’t sleep without them.

Bike Needed: Any

Don’t Miss: You can’t see most of the race from the Corkscrew, but it’s worth walking over there during a practice or qualifying session. I was there when Marquez passed Rossi through the dirt last year.

Best Time To Go: Ever-greedy Dorna pulled the GP this year, but SBK is visiting July 11-13, 2014.

Nelder Grove Campground
Stumps make great photo ops.

Western Sierras: Nelder Grove Campground
Want to see some really big trees? This campsite is located down a remote forest service road and is littered with stumps from 19th century logging. You sleep around those stumps and can walk into the Sequoia grove from the campsite. There’s water and clean toilets, too.

Bike Needed: Any

Don’t Miss: Take the Shadow of the Giants Trail from the campsite. The short walk takes you around some of the largest trees in the world.

Best Time To Go: Summer

Live somewhere outside California? Want to inform RideApart readers about the best moto-camping destinations in your area? Prepared to take the time to write an article like this one?
email us
and we’ll make that happen.

  • Moosehog

    Are those “hipsters” in the lead photo?

    • Wes Siler

      Only if four dudes that like riding bikes in the desert are considered hipsters.

      • Moosehog

        I enjoyed the content enough to look past the neon green shoes and ranger hat that guy is wearing :)

        • Wes Siler

          Maybe he’s a space ranger. Did you consider that?

        • HoldenL

          Those would be great camp shoes when you’re trying to find them in a dark tent.

          • gleite311

            Or if they’re passed out head-first into some shrubbery.

      • zedro

        So it’s Desert Hipsters™ then, trading in their Yamaha Bolts for cool small DS bikes…..:thumbs:

    • IRS4

      Dirtbiking hipsters tend to be a little more gen-u-wine than the urban variety.

      • Ayabe

        Like with the flannel and beard, it might be slightly cooler out there at nighttime. He also might choose to chop some wood for the most authentic lumberjack experience.

  • Guest

    First photo looks like the poster for the sequel to Brokeback Mountain. haha…sorry.

    • Joe

      Magically un-deleted!

      • Wes Siler

        Comments are occasionally held by the system in an moderation queue, that’s just Disqus doing its thing. We try to get to them quickly.

  • Joe

    Semi- related question: Any advice on renting (on-road) bikes? Heading to Vegas with a friend and we’re looking into renting bikes for a few days. Two east coast guys who want to experience riding in the desert. Would love to avoid being stuck on something with a stereo and tassels…

    • Wes Siler Tell them I sent you.

      • Joe

        You made my day! Thank you sir.

  • Versys Jake

    Glamis, California

    • ThruTheDunes

      Ultimate dunes!

  • Jonathan Booker

    I would love a guide to the best campgrounds in the N Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina mountain area.

    • Kevan Ray

      ditto this! Not nearly as many good well-known places on the east coast.

  • Kr Tong

    Awesome. More o’ these if you please.

  • Send Margaritas

    Nice mutt.

  • JT

    I miss California so much! Anybody know where to go around the north-eastern Illinois area?

  • Scott Otte

    Awesome, I haven’t been to some of these time to pack up the motorcycle!
    I love camping on Fox Hill at Laguna Seca.
    I think you might have missed one of my favorites. I’m strangely ok with it not becoming any more crowded.

  • Kevan Ray

    Look at all of those CRF250L bikes. Fantastic.

  • ThruTheDunes

    Three state park campgrounds we liked:
    McCarthur-Burney, in Burney. Nice access to Lassen (lava tubes were interesting), and nice ride to Lake Almanor region;

    Humboldt Redwoods, Avenue of the Giants. Nice passage thru some bigtrees, and access Ferndale Victorian village, Euruka, and the cutover to Red Bluff thru Shasta forest. Also went tubing on the Eel River.

    Bothe (sp?), just south of Calistoga. Calistoga has mud baths, California’s Old Faithful, and went up in a glider from the little airport there. Also went down thru Napa Valley and did some winery tours.

    Just thought I’d throw out a few more to broaden geographic coverage. I know state parks aren’t exactly cheap, but the Mrs. enjoyed them (especially the bathrooms and showers), and you know how important that is…

    • IRS4

      I like Big Basin – off the beaten path on a wonderfully windy lane-and-a-half-road through the trees. Stream, small waterfall, cabins available, decent facilities

      • ThruTheDunes

        Totally agree – love the road down from the back side, descending into the forest primeval (plus, from the road along the ridge up back, you can see both the Pacific and the Bay, a pretty unique view). I didn’t include this one because the article already had something in this area, but this as a great addition.

  • Beale

    Here’s a few more:

    Hole-in-the-Wall and Mid Hills campgrounds, Mojave Preserve. Higher altitude means cooler temps. Graded dirt road access.
    Rainbow Basin Natural Area, North of Barstow. Right next to Inscription Canyon. Graded dirt road access. Can be sandy in the summer.
    Lone Pine Campground. Babbling brooks run through the campground in a spectacular location at the base of the Sierras.

  • Mark D

    Man, those CRF250s look like fun. For riding on dirt, favoring safety and ease of use over speed, is there any better bike?

  • Heeno

    And the luggage used to protect that fedora… Touratech, Givi, Douche Bags?

  • HunteR

    How doable is getting to Prewitt Ridge on a street bike with street tires (SV650)?