Sand dunes dominate the landscape in the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area.
Off-Highway Vehicle Algodones Dunes Sunflower Hiker
BLM>California>El Centro>Recreation>Camping
Print Page
El Centro Field Office

S U M M E R 2015

Seasonal Fire Restrictions Affect Target Shooting

Find out if your favorite target shooting location has fire restrictions! (Scroll to maps located under related links.)


GENERAL INFORMATION: Camping opportunities can be found throughout public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Primitive campsites are located in a wide variety of environments. These sites are widely dispersed, undeveloped, and are generally not signed as campsites. They are usually clear of vegetation and have a hard compacted surface. These primitive sites offer one of the best ways to experience the deserts of California.

DISPERSED SITES: The general policy of the BLM is to allow dispersed camping on all the lands it administers with the following conditions and exceptions:

  1. Camping is permitted for up to 14 days within a 28 day period at any location. After this time period, you must relocate to another location at least 25 miles away.
  2. Camping is prohibited within 300 feet of any developed water source, including water guzzlers or watering troughs. This is to keep water accessible to wildlife and livestock.
  3. A permit may be required for campfires. Contact the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or El Centro Field Office prior to your camping trip if you plan to have a campfire. Restrictions on fires vary depending on fire danger, county ordinances, and other variables.
  4. Camping is prohibited outside the six designated campgrounds within the Yuha Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
  5. Dispersed vehicle camping is allowed in limited use areas.  However, visitors must camp within a specified distance from the nearest route (trail, road, etc.)  These distances vary depending on the area.  Please visit  or contact the El Centro Field Office for more information.
  6. Within the McCain Valley Resource Conservation Area, camping is restricted to campsites at Lark Canyon and Cottonwood Campgrounds . The restriction does not apply to backpacking in the area.
  7. Camping is prohibited within one mile of Hot Springs and Pilot Knob Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) .
  8. Tent camping is permitted within all wilderness units in the El Centro Field Office.

CAMPSITE USE: Many dispersed campsites are showing signs of impact from heavy use. You can lessen your impact on the desert by following Leave No Trace - minimum impact principles:

- Plan Ahead and Prepare: Get to know the area, rules, regulations, and any other special concerns before you leave.

-Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces: Use existing routes and trails. Camp at previously used sites. When there is no danger of rain or flash flooding, camp in washes. Signs of camping will eventually be washed away.

-Pack It In, Pack It Out: Pack out your trash and any that was left behind.

-Properly Dispose of What You Can't Pack Out: Deposit human waste in cat-holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Disguise the cat-hole when finished. Toilet paper should not be left behind. Pack it out in two sealable bags.

-Leave What You Find: Protect cultural resources. Leave all artifacts as you find them. Leave natural objects and avoid damaging vegetation.

-Minimize Use and Impact of Fire: Use a light weight gas stove for cooking. Fires should be kept small, using existing fire rings. Wood in arid environments is scarce, so bring your own firewood or do without.

-Protect and Conserve Water Resources: Camp at least 300 feet away from water sources. Avoid polluting water sources.

El Centro Field Office Campgrounds
Imperial and Eastern San Diego Counties (view map)


Name of Campground




Open Dates


Hot Spring Long Term Visitor Area$40/2 weeks; $180/season Self-contained camping units only.* Vault toilets are located across the street from Hot Spring North. Onsite dumpster.
Dump station and water facilities located in Holtville. 
I-8 (West from Yuma, AZ/East from El Centro, CA) to 115 North/Van Der Linden (Exit 131). East on Evan Hewes for 3.8 miles.  Mid-Sep through Mid-April 


Pilot Knob Long Term Visitor Area$40/2 weeks; $180/season Self-contained camping units only.* Onsite dumpster. Nearest facilities are located in Yuma, AZ, seven miles east of Pilot Knob. 

I-8 (West from Yuma, AZ/East from El Centro, CA) to Sidewinder Rd. (Exit 164). South on Sidewider Rd. 

Mid-Sep through Mid-April  


Tamarisk Long Term Visitor Area$40/2 weeks; $180/seasonSelf-contained camping units only.*  Onsite dumpster. Nearest facilities are located in Yuma, AZ or Holtville, CA. I-8 (West from Yuma, AZ/East from El Centro, CA) to Hwy. 98 (Exit 143.)  Continue west on Hwy 98 for approximately 2.7 miles. Turn south onto a dirt road. Tamarisk LTVA will be on the west side of the road. Mid-Sep through Mid-April 
Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational AreaNorth Dunes Campgrounds 

Off-site purchase:

Onsite purchase:

Oct 1 - Apr 15

Gravel or paved surfaces for campers. 
Vault toilets, dumpsters. 
From Yuma, take I-8 west toward El Centro, CA (12 mi), Right on Ogilby Rd/CR-S34 (24 mi), turn Left onto CA-78 (9 mi).  Arrive at all year 
Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational AreaSouth Dunes Campgrounds

Off-site purchase:

Onsite purchase:

Oct 1 - Apr 15

Gravel or paved surfaces for campers. 
Vault toilets, dumpsters. 
From Phoenix, take I-10 west toward Los Angeles, CA (31 mi), merge onto AZ-85 South toward I-8/Yuma, AZ.  From Yuma, take I-8 west toward San Diego, CA. Buttercup: Take Gray's Well Rd. Exit South, Dunebuggy Flats: Take Gordon's Well Exit all year 
McCain Valley Cottonwood $6/night  25 developed campsites, water, fire rings, tables, trash cans and vault toilets. Horses are allowed only in the east loop. From Interstate 8, take the Boulevard exit. Proceed south to the first stop sign. Turn left/east on Old Highway 80.After approximately 2 miles, turn left on McCain Valley Road. open all year 
McCain Valley Lark Canyon$6/night 15 developed campsites. Fire rings, tables, water (not tested safe for drinking), trash cans, and 8 vault toilets are found in the campground. Group camping sites are available.

From Interstate 8, take the Boulevard exit. Proceed south to the stop sign at Old Highway 80.Turn east (left) on Old Highway 80.At approximately two miles, turn north (left) on McCain Valley Road. Continue on McCain Valley Road for approximately four miles.

open all year

*LTVA:  Camping is in self-contained units only.  Self-contained camping units must have a permanent, affixed waste water holding tank of 10-gallon minimum capacity. BLM does not consider port-a-potty systems, systems that utilize portable holding tanks, or permanent holding tanks of less than 10-gallon capacity, to be self-contained.


Bureau of Land Management
El Centro Field Office
1661 S. 4th Street
El Centro CA 92243
Phone: (760) 337-4400
Fax: (760) 337-4490
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., M-F
Contact us by Email