Dispersed Camping along Ebbetts Pass

Stanislaus and Toiyabe National Forests

What is Dispersed Camping?

Camping in the Stanislaus National Forest or the Toiyabe National Forest is not limited to developed campgrounds. Most of the National Forest is open to those who prefer the quiet and solitude of a completely undeveloped setting outside established campgrounds. This type of camping is called "dispersed camping," and visitors are asked to choose a fire safe camping spot and leave a minimal impact on the site. There is no fee for dispersed camping.

If you are more interested in camping at an established campground, visit our Campgrounds section of Ebbetts Pass Adventures for a complete list of National Forest Campgrounds along Highway 4.

Guidelines for Dispersed Camping

Campfire Permits

A current California Campfire Permit is required to use a camp stove, barbecue or have a campfire outside of developed areas. Permits are now available online at California Campfire Permits. Permits can also be picked up at any Forest Service Ranger Station such as in Hathaway Pines, Carson City, or Bridgeport. Local restrictions regarding campfires or use of stoves may be in effect, so check with your local ranger station.

Fire Safety

Always locate your campfire, barbeque, or campstove away from brush, trees, or overhanging limbs. Be sure to clear away flammable vegetation from your campfire for a radius of at least five feet down to bare mineral soil; never start or maintain a campfire on a windy day; and use plenty of water and stir to completely drown your fire before leaving. Never leave a campfire unattended, even for one moment - extinguish it completely before leaving camp. Submerge your used barbeque briquettes in a pail of water and then dispose of them in the center of your campfire ring.

Camp Maintenance

  • Pack out your garbage, never burn or bury it in the forest.
  • Manage human waste. Bury it at least 200 feet from any river or lake.
  • You may collect "dead and down" firewood.
  • Do not damage vegetation or dig trenches or build structures for your camp.
  • Limit 14 days per visit per site, 30 days total per year.
  • Leave your campsite the same or better than you found it.


Where Can you Do Dispersed Camping?

Dispersed Camping is allowed on most National Forest land. There are developed areas where dispersed camping is not allowed, such as around Lake Alpine, Highland Lakes, Sourgrass, and Spicer Meadow Reservoir. In those area signs indicate that camping is only allowed in developed campgrounds. Popular dispersed camping sites on Ebbetts Pass are around Utica and Union reservoirs, at Centerville (the junction of Wolf Creek Road and Highway 4) and along Silver Creek and the East Carson River. Several other places along the pass have become popular camping places where people pull over their RVs or campers, especially high on the east slope of the pass.