California Recreation Activities

Public lands in the Golden State offer a sense of adventure for the outdoor enthusiast, offering rivers, trails, campgrounds, off-road open areas, and more.  The experiences are as varied as the landscapes. 

Spectacular scenery can be found among scenic vistas, such as the foggy bluffs of the King Range National Conservation Area, in the ancient redwood forest of the Headwaters Forest Reserve, in the geological formations of the Alabama Hills, the valley of golden flowers in the Carrizo Plain National Monument, and the wind sculpted sand dunes in the California Desert Conservation Area.  You will also find wilderness areas, national scenic and historic trails, national wild and scenic rivers, wildlife viewing areas and even a lighthouse or two to explore and learn about California's history.

Your adventure starts here! Visit BLM California!



Whether you want a slow scenic ride or extreme adventure, the Bureau of Land Management offers one-of-a-kind experiences with stunning views.

Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail

Fort Ord National Monument

Paradise Royale



Dispersed camping is limited to 14 days per year within the Bishop Field Office boundaries.

All campfires and gas stove fires on public lands in California require a California Camp Fire permit which is free and available online at

Developed Campgrounds and Picnic Areas

Some simple tips on ways to minimize your impact when enjoying your public lands.

BLM California manages many developed campgrounds and picnic areas in the state. Each campground offers a different mix of facilities, landscapes, and outdoor activities. Most campgrounds have use fees ranging from $4.00 to $10.00 per unit per night. Camping is allowed on Public Lands in California for no more than a period of 14 days within any period of 28 consecutive days, unless otherwise identified.

Dispersed Recreation Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed on Public Lands in California for no more than a period of 14 days within any period of 28 consecutive days. The 28-day period begins when a camper initially occupies a specific location on public lands. The 14 day limit may be reached either through a number of separate visits or through 14 days of continuous overnight occupation during the 28 day period. After the 14th day of occupation, the camper must move outside of a 25 mile radius of the previous location until the 29th day since the initial occupation. The purpose of this special rule is to prevent damage to sensitive resources caused by continual use of any particular areas. In addition, campers must not leave any personal property unattended for more than 10 days. Camping on public lands away from developed recreation facilities is referred to as "dispersed camping". Most of the remainder of public lands in California are open to dispersed camping, as long as such use does not conflict with other authorized uses or occurs in areas posted "closed to camping," or in some way adversely affects wildlife species or natural resources. Dispersed camping at Clear Creek Recreational Area and the King Range Wilderness require permits which are available at

Dispersed camp sites are located along most secondary roads and may not be marked. They can be recognized by the telltale flat disturbed area that has been used as a camp site before. Not all flat spots are sites. Please use existing sites. To further protect your public lands, campers must not dispose of any refuse, hazardous materials, sewage, or in any manner pollute the surrounding area.

To further protect your public lands, campers must not dispose of any refuse, hazardous materials, sewage, or gray water, in any manner that would pollute the surrounding area. PACK IT OUT.

Please enjoy camping on public lands, and please take care of these lands like they were your own----because they are!


Unless specifically prohibited, public lands managed by BLM are open to hunting under California Department of Fish and Wildlife Hunting Regulations.  A California hunting license is required to hunt within the State of California

Check on specific hunting season dates and permit requirements with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  They publish hunting regulations that list all the season dates.

It is extremely important to hunt only on lands where it is legally allowed. Private land is open to hunting only if you have the permission of the land owner. If you do not have permission to hunt, you are trespassing and can be prosecuted. Crossing private lands to access public lands is not permitted, unless you first obtain permission from the private landowner.  

It is your responsibility to know of any hunting restrictions and where they apply. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates hunting and fishing on all public lands. 

California Fish and Game Code Section 3004: It is unlawful for a person, other than the owner, person in possession of the premises, or a person having the express permission of the owner or person in possession of the premises, while within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling house, residence, or other building, or within 150 yards of a barn or other outbuilding used in connection with an occupied dwelling house, residence, or other building, to either hunt or discharge a firearm or other deadly weapon while hunting. The 150-yard area is a “safety zone.”

It is unlawful for a person to intentionally discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across a public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner.

If you are hunting with the aid of a commercial outfitter or guide, you should ensure that they are permitted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. You should also ensure that they are permitted by the BLM to conduct business on public lands.

Safe and prudent actions should be followed at all times.  The BLM is a multi-use agency.  Other visitors may be using the same areas for recreational uses such as camping, hiking, biking, and rock-hounding.

If you have questions on areas that may be appropriate for hunting, you are encouraged to contact the BLM Field Office having jurisdiction over the area.


Do you want to hunt on public lands but don't know where they are located?  Purchase BLM Surface Management Maps that show land ownership and include public and private land, roads, and more.  Maps are $4.00 each and can be purchased at any of our offices.     

Don't know which map you need?   Look at this Index

Maps do not display specific shooting sites. Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to know the laws and regulations - all federal, state, and county regulations apply to public lands.  

Off Highway Vehicles

Numerous and diverse opportunities for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation exist on BLM-managed public lands in California. Miles of trails and open areas await all types of OHV enthusiasts. Please obey all signs regarding the management of public lands and routes. Know where you are driving, respect private property, stay well away from livestock, and wildlife and their water sources. The BLM regulates the use of roads, trails, and land under its jurisdiction in order to meet specific land management objectives, to protect resources, and to provide public safety.

Please visit the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation site for rules and regulations regarding OHV use in the State of California. To register your off-highway vehicle, please visit the California Department of Motor Vehicles OHV site.

Chappie/Shasta Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area

Cow Mountain Recreation Management Area

Dry Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area

Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Area

El Mirage Recreation Management Area

Fort Sage Off-Highway Vehicle Area

Imperial Sand Dunes

Jawbone/Butterbredt Recreation Management Area

Jawbone Canyon Off-Highway Vehicle Area

Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area

Rasor Off-Highway Vehicle Area

Rice Canyon Off-Highway Vehicle Area

Spangler/Red Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle Area

Stoddard Valley OHV Area


Please help preserve our heritage. Treat cultural sites with respect. Do not touch petroglyphs or remove artifacts. Report crimes to resources including vandalism, dumping and suspicious activity at 1-800-637-9152. 
Enjoy hiking on public lands, and please take care of these lands as if they were your own—because they are! 

Learn more about responsible use of public lands on these sites: 


Rockhounding is the collection of reasonable amounts of mineral specimens, rocks, semi-precious gems, petrified wood, and invertebrate fossils. Invertebrate fossils are the remains of animals that didn't have bones such as shellfish, corals, trilobites, and crinoids. The material collected must not be sold or bartered. California has many localities and varieties of collecting material. Not all varieties are found on public lands. 

It is a good idea to check land ownership when planning a rockhounding trip. A good place to begin is your local BLM office. If you can point to a location on a topographical map (available at BLM) we can determine if the site is on public lands. 

In most instances, public lands are open to rockhounding. However, most National Monuments have additional laws and regulations. Please contact your local BLM office or the State Office if you plan to visit a National Monument.

If you are unsure if rock hounding is allowed in your area, BLM staff can help you make this determination. 

For more information, contact your local BLM office or the State Office at: 

2800 Cottage Way Suite W1623 
Sacramento, CA 95825 
Phone: 916-978-4400 
Fax: 916-978-4416 

Collection Limits - Free Rock, Mineral, and Semi-Precious Gemstones 

Rocks, minerals, and semiprecious gemstones may be collected on public lands managed by the BLM without charge or permit as long as: 

  1. The specimens are for personal use and are not collected for commercial purposes or bartered to commercial dealers. 

  1. You may collect reasonable amounts of specimens. In California, the BLM sets the "reasonable" limits for personal use as up to 25 pounds per day, plus one piece, with a total limit of 250 pounds per year. These limits are for mineral specimens, common invertebrate fossils, semiprecious gemstones, other rock, and petrified wood. (43 CFR 3622)

  1. A group of people does not pool their yearly allotment to collect a piece larger than 250 pounds of either rockhounding specimens or petrified wood. 

  1. Collection does not occur in developed recreation sites or areas, unless designated as a rockhounding area by BLM. 

  1. Collection is not prohibited or restricted and posted. 

  1. Collection, excavation or removal are not aided with motorized or mechanical devices, including heavy equipment or explosives. Metal detectors are acceptable, with the exception of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. 

  1. No undue or unnecessary degradation of the public lands occurs during the removal of rock, minerals, or gemstones. 

  1. For pieces of petrified wood heavier than 250 pounds or situation not covered here, please contact your local BLM office. (43 CFR 3622)

  1. If you wish to obtain more than 250 pounds of rock in a year, please visit the local BLM office to arrange to purchase it. 

Mineral Collecting on Public Lands 

Rocks are usually combinations of two or more minerals. The portions of different minerals making up rocks may vary, and the combinations of minerals may change within rocks of the same name. Granite, composed of quartz and potassium feldspar - usually with small amounts of mica or hornblende, may contain as many as a dozen other minerals. In addition, the portions of each of the minerals may shift from one deposit to another. This gives rise to the variety of local names. 

Because rocks are made up of varying mixtures of minerals, and because there are about two thousand different minerals, the number of possible combinations is limitless. It is therefore very difficult to classify rocks except in broad, general groups. The most general classification of rocks is by method of formation: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. 

Mineral specimens are normally examples of a specific mineral or assemblage of minerals collected by people. Mineral specimens can also include rock types. Examples of mineral specimens found in California include: quartz, azurite, malachite, selenite, and calcite.  

Semi-precious gemstones are used in jewelry-making and decorative arts. They are usually rocks that can be faceted or polished and are able to hold a shine. To collect semi-precious gemstones for commercial purposes, or in amounts greater than those indicated on this page, you should locate a mining claim. Contact your local BLM office to obtain information on locating a mining claim. 

Examples of semi-precious gemstones found in California are agates, fire agates, jasper, onyx, and Apache tears.  

Collecting of mineral and fossil resources is prohibited in certain areas being managed under special designation to protect their scientific and natural values, such as research natural areas, national conservation areas, and national monuments. 

Collecting Artifacts & Fossils  

Indian and Other Historical Artifacts: You may not collect any artifacts, ancient or historical, on public lands. This includes arrow heads or flakes, pottery or potsherds, mats, rock art, old bottles or pieces of equipment and buildings. These items are part of our national heritage and scientists are still learning much from them. Human burial remains on both public and private land are protected by federal and state law from being collected. 

Vertebrate Fossils: These include dinosaurs, mammals, sharks and fish, or any animal with skeletal structure. You cannot collect these fossils. 

Invertebrate Fossils:  These include ammonites, trilobites, and common plant fossils such as leaf impressions and cones and may be collected in reasonable amounts. 

Petrified wood can also be collected for personal use — up to 25 pounds each day, plus one piece, but no more than 250 pounds in any calendar year (43 CFR 3622). These materials must be for your personal collection and cannot be sold or traded. 


Cultural Resource Use Permits are granted to professional archaeologists only (they must meet the Secretary of the Interior standards as a professional archaeologist).  A letter from a BLM approved repository is required saying fossils or artifacts collected will be accepted. These items must be placed in the repository and cannot be kept by the collector.


Target Shooting

Public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are available for a variety of undeveloped recreational activities, including target shooting except where prohibited by federal, state, and local laws. 

In California, there are no designated target shooting sites managed by the BLM, but recreational shooting opportunities are available on undeveloped lands, and at several public shooting ranges. Shooting is strictly prohibited in developed recreation sites and other areas where posted. Target shooting is generally allowed on BLM-administered public lands, as long as it is done in a safe manner, without damaging natural resources or improvements on public lands. 

The BLM allows the use of firearms on public lands as provided for in California state law.  Shooters are responsible for knowing applicable laws and using firearms and other recreational shooting weapons in a safe manner.

Please follow this guidance during your recreational shooting experience:

  • Cross-country travel is not permitted outside of OHV Open Area boundaries, so please stay on designated routes.
  • Never shoot from or over any road or highway.
  • Always use a safe backdrop.
  • Glass and exploding targets are prohibited. 
  • Do not use plastic pellets, tracer rounds, exploding rounds, or steel-core rounds.
  • Do not attach targets to plants or place targets against rocks, plants, or solid objects.  It is illegal to deface or destroy trees, signs, outbuildings, or other objects on federal lands.
  • Carry in your targets and carry out all litter, brass and shell casings.  All targets, shell casings, debris and trash must be removed.

During Fire Season, some areas may be closed to target shooting.

Access to public lands must be on public roads. Crossing private lands to access public land is not permitted, unless you obtain and carry written, date-specific permission from the private landowner. The BLM sells Surface Management Status maps (in the desert regions these maps are also called Desert Access Guides)  that can be helpful in locating public lands.  An interactive online map is also helpful in locating public lands.  Not all public land parcels have public access.  Adjacent private property owners are within their legal rights to prevent people from crossing their land to get to the public land.

The BLM Surface Management Status maps and DAG maps do not show specific areas for hunting or target shooting.  Use your BLM maps to locate and evaluate potential BLM areas for their suitability as shooting locations, keeping in mind safety requirements for being far enough away from campgrounds, developed recreation sites, built structures such as homes, barns, out buildings, or any other inhabited areas. State and local laws apply.  

Once you have selected a possible location, and prior to your trip, check with the BLM office having jurisdiction over that area for current conditions, regulations, fire hazard closures and other information

Vehicles are restricted to designated routes of travel as posted on BLM maps.  Vehicles are prohibited in all wilderness areas.  You may have to hike from your vehicle to a suitable and safe shooting location; be prepared to hike safely with your firearms and equipment.