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    I am a backpacker who likes hiking, bushwhacking, and dispersed camping. I am from San Diego and like to find places up to 3 hours’ drive.
    It is very confusing and time-consuming to check every single trail and area to see if they required a permit for parking, dispersed camping, or even hiking. Most of the time I am not able to schedule my hikes in advance. In other states, I go bushwhacking, and whenever I feel like it just camp somewhere and the next day continues my hiking without any permit. That’s the way they are.
    It is very hard and almost impossible for me to schedule weeks ahead and decide which area or trails I wanna hike and where and for how many nights I wanna camp.
    From my understanding, in most places in California, we can’t dispersed camping, and those places that let you do that require a permit with snail mail and we need to let them know where to start and finish and how many days we want to hike.

    My question is, is there any way or any area that I can be free to go for bushwhacking and camping without a permit or getting some kind of yearly permit or something?
    I appreciate yout time and help.

    Jeff Hester

    There are actually a lot of places that allow “wild” or dispersed camping. Since you’re in San Diego, definitely check out Anza-Borrego. You can drive and/or hike back into areas and setup camp — no permits required.

    From their website: “The entire backcountry area of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is defined as a camping facility. Occupancy by the same persons, equipment, or vehicles of any camping facility within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is limited to a total of thirty (30) days in any calendar year.”

    Many National Forest areas also allow overnight backpacking without permit restrictions or quotas, but the Cleveland National Forest does require a wilderness permit for overnight backpacking.

    Permits can see like an obstacle, but as they note “Wilderness Permits also provide a record of visitors to the area, which enables the Forest Service to monitor whether all visitors return. This record has proven valuable in search-and-rescue operations for lost or injured hikers.”

    If you have flexibility, you can also pickup permits for area that don’t have a quota at the ranger station. I’ve done this for backpacking out of Idyllwild.

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