Best Free Camping in Kernville, CA
The Kernville, California area is a great place for camping and summertime activities. We found a free camping spot to enjoy a waterfront view on the south shore of Isabella Lake, with plenty of open space for several large RVs.
This site offers excellent lakeside boondocking and has high ratings from the RV and camping community.
Let’s dive in!
Here’s the Free Camping in Kernville Details:
Location: Auxiliary Dam Campground, Lake Isabella, California
Recreation Area: Sequoia National Forest
GPS: 35.6422, -118.4639
While technically a paid campground, Auxiliary Dam is a national recreation site, so camping here is FREE with a National Park Pass, also known as an Interagency Annual Pass. The pass is $80 annually and gives you entry to any national park and discounts at many recreation sites.
Even though this site isn’t on our Best Free Camping in California list, it’s an honorable mention!
Other Fees: A Southern Sierra $10 day-pass is required if you don’t have a National Park Pass. Otherwise, it’s $50 for the Southern Sierra Annual Pass.
For camping enthusiasts, we recommend the National Park Pass over the Southern Sierra Annual Pass. In fact, we even include the National Park Pass in our ‘best of’ list for camping gifts.
Campground Amenities and Features
Site Specs: Length of stay is limited to 14 days in 28 days. Reservations are not required since there are no designated sites and no hookups. The pull-off from HWY 178 is paved, but access roads to the shore are all dirt and sand. There’s plenty of room for any size RV or group of tents, even right on the water!
Amenities: Flush toilets, porta-potties, and trash receptacles are available.
They do have a dump station for a fee, but the camp host said water is non-potable. You can save 50% on dump fees with your annual pass. Sorry campfire lovers, there are no campfires allowed here. Propane stoves are OK with a permit.
Date / Temp: We camped here for three nights in late July. With highs in the upper 90s and lows in the 60s, it’s very hot and dry, but makes for perfect swimming weather. The best seasons to visit are late spring, summer, or early fall.
Tide Considerations: The lake’s water level varies based on season, typically lower in the winter and higher in early summer. The actual water level dropped about a foot in 4 days. When we arrived, we backed right up to the waterline. When we left, there was a gap of 10 feet between our RV and the water!
Wifi / Cell: This free camping spot in Kernville actually has great cell connectivity! Tmobile, Verizon, and AT&T are all available with fast upload/download speeds, no cell booster required.
Noise: This site gets crowded on weekends, especially in the summer. Road noise from HWY 178 is audible, but traffic is generally light.
Dog / Kid Friendly: Great for dogs and kids, but keep an eye out for algae blooms in warmer months. It can make dogs and small kids sick. Avoid swimming if your area of the beach looks green and murky.
What to Expect in Downtown Kernville, California
Grocery / Errands: The town of Kernville, CA, is a 20-minute drive. Lake Isabella is a closer stop for groceries or supplies.
Local Recommendations / Entertainment: Kern River Brewing offers award-winning hand-crafted beer and a fun atmosphere, with live music on Friday nights.
Cracked Egg Cafe is a classic small-town breakfast nook with an excellent Chili Verde Skillet. Mountain biking and hiking trails are everywhere, but water activities like swimming, wakeboarding, tubing, and boating are ideal in the summer heat.
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