The area around Pinnacle Rock in Mendocino National Forest is not a designated campground by the National Forest Service, but it is a great location for free, dispersed camping in the forest. Pinnacle Rock is one of the highest points in Mendocino National Forest and through the 1940s was home to a Forest Service Fire Lookout. The lookout has since be removed with only some traces of the stairs that let to the lookout remaining. Pinnacle Rock area is also a hotbed for rumors of Bigfoot or Sasquatch sightings.

The spots for camping around Pinnacle Rock are a mix of shade and on the edge of steep valley wall that is dotted with a mix of ponderosa, oak, and cedar trees. Dispersed camping in Mendocino National Forest, and like you will find around Pinnacle Rock, is very much an off-the-grid experience, with no amenities available you will need to bring everything, including water. Getting to the Pinnacle Rock area is via washboard, dirt road, that is maintained well enough that most vehicles could make it, and four-wheel drive is usually not required when the road is not muddy or snow covered.

Pinnacle Rock Dispersed Camping – Bottom Line

Dispersed camping is available within most of Mendocino National Forest, but the Pinnacle Rock area has spectacular views and scenery. There are no designated campsites in the area, but it is pretty obvious where people camp, bases on the makeshift fire rings, and a small amount of litter. Be prepared to rough it if you do dispersed camping in Mendocino National Forest, as there are no bathrooms or running water, and the nearest stores for supplies are several miles away, down the mountain. Also, depending on when you go, be prepared to not see another person for days. When we camped here we did not see another person the entire two days we were there. This can be good and bad, depending on how prepared you are, however you may be able to get a weak cell phone signal if needed at this spot, as we were able to get some Verizon service here.

Be sure to get your California Campfire Permit prior to going to Mendocino National Forest. The permit is free and is just used to track fires in the forest and ensure that you know how to responsibly manage your campfire. The permit is required for all campfires, stoves, and grills. According to the Mendocino NF website, you can pick up a permit a ranger station or fax in a permit request and they will fax it back to you. However, Sequoia National Forest has permits available online for printing, after you take a dead simple 4-question fire safety quiz. The permits are not National Forest specific.

Our favorite spot to camp here is directly adjacent to where Deer Valley Road and Service Road 16N01 meet. When you get to the “T” intersection, go straight a couple hundred yards or so and you will run right into it a great campsite, that is big enough for a large group and in our opinion has the best view of all of the campsites in the area.

The bottom line on the dispersed around Pinnacle Rock is go, if you are looking for an off-the-grid camping experience that gets you away from other people and is relaxing.

Pinnacle Rock – Mendocino National Forest Dispersed Camping Features

Campground Type: Dispersed
Number of Campsites: Not designated
Cost: Free
Use Level: Medium
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Fire Rings: No
Drinking Water: No
Toilets: No
Showers: No
Trash/Dumpsters: No
Hiking Access: Yes
Beach/Lake Access: None
RV/Trailer Length: N/A
RV/Trailer Amenities: None
Cell Phone Service: Very weak Verizon signal was found in spots
Wifi: None
Operating Season: Campground open year round

Getting There

Geo Coordinates: 39.150944, -122.771639
Nearest City/Town: Lucerne, California
Elevation: 4500 Feet
Location: Lake County, California
Paved Road Access: None
Proximity to Stores: 8 miles to Lucerne. California
Directions: From Lucerne, CA take California Highway 20 north and turn right on Bartlett Springs Road. Travel for about 5 miles, The road will become unpaved after about a quarter mile. Bear right to turn on to Deer Valley Road, travel for about 2 miles. You will come to a “T” intersection when you meet up with Service Road 16N01. Pinnacle Rock is to the right about a quarter mile up the road.When muddy, snowy, or rainy, four-wheel drive is often required on these roads.


Phone: Facebook:
Web: Mendocino National Forest Twitter:
Reservations: Not Accepted

When To Go

Late Fall and Late Spring – The Pinnacle Rock area can be busy during peak summer camping season, however it is deserted in October, early November, and early May. Barring any late or early snowfall the tempuratures can be in the 60’s and 70’s during the day and high 30’s to low 40’s at night during these times.

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What To Do

Relax – This is a great campground to sit and relax at and stare out into the valley below.

Pinnacle Rock – Climb to the peak of Pinnacle Rock, where you will be able to see the southern tip of Mendocino National Forest, and potentially the Sutter Buttes to the east on a clear day.

Fun Facts

Lookout Station – A fire station lookout was situated on top of Pinnacle Rock through the 1940’s. The rock steps circling to the top of pinnacle rock and an anchor within the rocks peak are the only trace left that the lookout was there.

Bigfoot Sightings – There have been several rumored Bigfoot sightings in the Pinnacle Rock area. The below video from YouTube details some of the rumored sightings for your entertainment.

Pinnacle Rock Dispersed Camping Photos


Image Credits: Justin Wilson

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Justin is an IT Professional, focused on cloud, mobile, and infrastructure management and security with his consulting business, as well as chief bottle washer for this website. In addition to, Justin also runs and writes for the technology infrastructure-focused blog, and the mobile device-focused blog


  1. I tried to reach Pinnacle Rock via two different routes and found no trespassing and private property signs blocking many camping turnouts along the way. There were also rusted barbed wire fences blocking access. From Bartlett Springs Rd, a little past the 202 Junction, someone had posted no trespassing signs on the road.

    A little research shows that these were probably the boundaries of trespass grows, illegal pot farms that are extremely detrimental to the environment and dangerous for campers. Apparently the Forest Service knows about the grows but does not have the resources to stop all of them.

    Please update this posting to reflect current conditions, so that unsuspecting campers don’t tread on land “owned” (ie stolen) by drug kingpins

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