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What you want to do seems to be referred to by the Forest Service as "dispersed camping," and you can find a lot of information by googling on that phrase. Different jurisdictions seem to have different rules, but this blog post has a nice attempt to summarize how the rules usually work in national forests and on BLM land. Basically what they seem to want ...


The Henry W Coe State Park is within reasonable driving range, and offers many hiking trails with good vistas and surprisingly few people. I go into more detail here.


Different parts of California have different wildlife, so you should probably narrow the region. Anyway, I'll talk about the areas I'm familiar with. In the Santa Cruz mountains, there are a lot of pumas (mountain lions.) Encounters are very rare. The advice is that if you do encounter one, make yourself appear large and noisy by waving your hands and your ...

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