Three years ago today we officially began living on board our new home on wheels: Fendy, a 2003 Fleetwood Bounder. We had just sold our house in the awesome Friendly neighborhood of Eugene, Oregon. We said farewell to our neighbors, had a going away party with friends, and wrapped up all those pesky loose ends.
There was no way we could have known just how amazing these next three years would be. The freedom of carving our own path, finding so many hidden gems, and the number of unique and completely unexpected experiences have blown us away. Of course there are downsides to this lifestyle, but if you’ve got a glass-half-full mentality, the obstacles become adventures, the small living space is cozy, and the breakdowns become entertainment for our YouTube channel.
I will say this way of life is not for everyone, but it definitely is for us!
While we stay at a mix of free and paid campgrounds, handsdown we always prefer the free and we’ve enjoyed quite a few in ‘year 3’ of our travels. In reflecting on our past year, here’s a list of some of our favorite FREE campsites that we stayed at. They’ve been chosen for their beauty, accessibility, and proximity to incredible outdoor recreation. We’ve made videos of our stays in all these wonderful places, so be sure to check out our YouTube channel for all the details.
Without further ado and in no particular order:
CARRIZO BADLANDS OVERLOOK
Ocotillo, California GPS: 32.828764, -116.168537
This scenic overlook is located within the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. There are about 3 sites of varying size here and all with incredible views of the badlands below. There is hiking, off-roading, and slot canyons in the area and visiting during the late winter/early spring means decent weather and the chance for blooming Ocotillo and other wildflowers. We had no issues working on AT&T here.
THE ALABAMA HILLS
Lone Pine, California GPS: 36.599071, -118.114534
The Alabama Hills are an unexpected cluster of large round boulders seated at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the charming little town of Lone Pine. Over 300 movies have been filmed in the Hills, mostly westerns but several modern films as well. This is BLM land and free camping is allowed for 14 days max. Cell service can be hard to come by but the views are impossible to beat. We had luck with AT&T at the coordinates listed above, there is no Verizon service.
SILURIAN DRY LAKE BED
Baker, California GPS: 35.52663,-116.17854
I don’t know if the wind is always crazy here but we saw regular gusts easily up to 50mph. We needed to keep our slides in and park in a way that protected our door, but otherwise we thought there was something so fun about this spot. The dogs were able to run with wild abandon on the lake bed and we enjoyed bicycling on it. It’s such a huge area that you can give plenty of space to your neighbors. Definitely a fun stop on our way to Death Valley National Park. AT&T was workable here.
INDIAN BREAD ROCKS
Bowie, Arizona GPS: 32.238665, -109.499795
I don’t know if this place is always so incredible or if we just had so many amazing situations collide. We had two nights of wild lightning storms that made for fun videography, and all of that rain meant the local springs and waterfalls were rushing with water. We enjoyed hiking up and around the waterfalls, playing on the jumbo rocks, and not only did we see wild horses, we saw the elusive Coatimundis! We were fine working on our AT&T here.
Cibola, Arizona GPS: 33.377080, -114.705650
This spot is right along the Colorado River and if the weather had been warmer it would have been great fun to float to or from our campsite. The real draw here though is the nearby Cibola Wildlife Refuge. I’m not sure if it’s always so full with a huge variety of birds, but when we were here in late December, our jaws were on the ground with what we saw. The sky was almost blacked out by the number of birds – all different sizes and varities! No problems with AT&T here.
Tonopah, Arizona GPS: 33.464043, -113.036588
There are a couple of entries to this area and we ended up at the not-so-accessible one. We followed the GPS above but couldn’t go too far in because the road quickly degraded. We saw many more RVs just a little further down the highway and heard that entering over there was a much better option. There’s hiking, great views, and workable interent on both AT&T and Verizon – but the flies are always kinda terrible here, so be aware.
CLEARWATER FOREBAY NUMBER 2
Umpqua National Forest, Oregon GPS: 43.262104, -122.404493
While the road to get here is very steep and we only had cell service on Verizon, the sheer number of nearby waterfalls makes this an absolutely amazing homebase in the Umpqua National Forest. It’s also incredibly close to the ever popular Umpqua Hot Springs – which we didn’t end up visiting because the area was so busy and we prefer a more quiet hot springs experience. Our favorite waterfall, which ended up being right off the road, was Clearwater Falls. Simply gorgeous!
FREE – WITH YOUR NATIONAL PARKS PASS
Lake Mead, Nevada GPS: 36.377932, -114.397824
It’s a bit slow-going on rocky gravel roads to get close to the cliff edge but worth the effort to have that awesome waterfront view. Sunsets can be amazing and the reflections on the lake are beautiful. There are places to get down to the water so you could launch a kayak nearby, and definitely be sure to check out Valley of Fire State Park – a true gem teeming with beauty and great hikes.
AUXILIARY DAM CAMPGROUND
Lake Isabella, California GPS: 35.643029, -118.462129
This is another lakefront campsite but this time you are at the water level. Be sure to visit in the spring when the surrounding hills and mountains are covered in green and wildflowers – but be aware that the lake rises inland a couple feet per week! This is a place known for windsurfing so you can guess it’s pretty dang windy most of the time. There are great nearby hotsprings, ATV tracks, kayaking, and hiking along the Kern River.
We hope you enjoyed our list – let us know some of your most favorite places to camp in the comments section below!