5 great no-reservation campgrounds near Kings Canyon, Anza-Borrego, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, and Santa Barbara|Scott Adler, Ann Marie Brown, Alicia Carr, Peter Fish, Ted Katauskas, Rachel Levin, Jayme Otto, Ted Stedman, and Lisa Trottier
Sunset Campground sits off Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, which curves into the heart of the park.
Sunset Campground: At a pleasantly cool elevation and less than a mile from the Grant Grove of giant sequoias, this camp is an ideal base for
exploring both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Forget something? The Grant Grove Village market and restaurant are
a half-mile away. $18; 559/565-3341.
Plan B: Try next-door Azalea Campground. $18;nps.gov/sekior 559/565-3341.
East of Santa Barbara
Chula Vista Campground inLos Padres National Forest: Way up near the summit of Mt. Pinos, this 12-site walk-in camp is an escape from the summer heat. Campsites are shaded by
Jeffrey pines, and a dark sky is perfect for stargazing (amateur astronomers set up telescopes in the parking lot). Bring
water—plus your hiking boots and mountain bike. Free; 661/245-3731.
Convict Lake Campground: Most people come to Convict Lake to catch trout, but there’s plenty more to do. Hiking trails lead into the John Muir Wilderness,
horses are available for hire, and the neighboring resort has a first-rate French restaurant. Then again, you could just kick
back in a lawn chair and stare at the glacial cirque of Convict Lake, backed by the jagged, sky-high Mt. Morrison. Only 25
of 88 sites are reservable; the rest are for the last-minute crowd. $20;www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyoor 760/924-5500.
Plan B: Another last-minute lake-view spot is Lake Mary Campground, just outside the town of Mammoth Lakes. $21;www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyoor 760/924-5500.
Blair Valley Campground Borrego Springs: This primitive camp has open sites with bare-bones amenities (a couple of vault toilets). Bring plenty of water and a tarp
for shade. Within easy hiking distance are Native American pictographs, a 1930s homesteading site, and the box canyon where
the first road from the east into Southern California was cut by hand. On new-moon weekends, amateur astronomers gather on
the north side of Blair Valley’s dry lake. Free;parks.ca.govor 760/767-4205.
Plan B: Neighboring Little Blair Valley Campground attracts tent campers, not RVs. Free;parks.ca.govor 760/767-4205.
Grandview Campground: See the world’s oldest living trees at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, 5 miles from camp. Serious hikers will want to
bag the summit of White Mountain Peak, third highest in California. Campsites are tucked among a grove of junipers and piñon
pines. Make sure to bring everything you need; if you forget the ice, it’s a winding 17-mile drive back to U.S. 395. $5 donation suggested;www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyoor 760/873-2500.
Plan B: Sage Flat Campground, on the other side of U.S. 395 in Big Pine Creek’s glacial canyon. $21;www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyoor 760/873-2500.