Primitive Camp San Diego

Fire Light Cove

Open car camping is allowed in several places inside Cleveland National Forest, although NO campfires are permitted in the backcountry (trailside or dirt roads) – due to the high fire danger. Your best for FREE, open, dispersed camping (with a campfire) is Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Lower elevations w/ summertime temperature can get very hot, so plan for higher elevation camps. The more you explore, the more you can find.

The Tom Harrison San Diego Backcountry Map can get you out there on the back roads.

Laguna Mountain (off Sunrise Hwy. S-1)
[south Cleveland National Forest]
East of San Diego; 40 miles E on Interstate 8

  • Pine Creek Road – with plenty of mountain biking trails
  • Noble Canyon – popular mountain biking trail
  • Kitchen Creek Road (warning, heavy use w/ US Border Patrol)

Palomar Mountain (off Hwy. 76)
[north Cleveland National Forest]
N of San Diego; 40 miles N on Interstate 15

Anza Borrego Desert Camping
East of San Diego CA

  • Dispersed camping nearly anywhere in Anza desert (w/ a metal fire bucket)

[higher elevations (1000-2000′) near Cleveland National Forest]

  • Oriflamme Canyon (off Road S-2)
  • Culp Valley (off Road S-22)
  • Blair Valley (off Road S-2)

[lower elevations (100′) near Hwy 78]

Cupl Valley Camp

A winter day out exploring Culp Valley back roads.

mortero trails

Maps Mountains / San Diego Maps

Chumash Wilderness

Chumash Wilderness
Los Padres National Forest

38,150 acres
Mount Pinos – 8831′ elevation
Cerro Noroeste – 8286′ elevation
Los Padres National Forest

Terrain consists of high mountain peaks, badlands of Quatal Canyon Wash & Lockwood Valley; Steep slopes of forests, rock outcroppings, sparse forest areas, on border of Kern County & Ventura County. This area is sacred to the native California Chumash tribe.

Quatal Canyon Rd #9N09

DSCN0042Mount Pinos, Mount Abel, Cerro Noroeste, Westside Park, Hudson Ranch Road, Mil Potrero Highway, Lockwood Valley Road, East Dry Canyon, Apache Canyon, Cuyama River

campgrounds nearby –

The Peak to Peak Hike is a 7 mile, high elevation, ridge line day hike that traversed 2 of the tallest peaks in Kern County – Mt Pinos (elevation 8831′) and Mt Abel (8286′). Day hikes, equestrian trails, backpacking, mountain biking areas nearby. Steep, granite, chaparral, lightly forested w/ ponderosa and Jeffrey pines. From this ridge trail you have a 360 degree view over the entire region. The cabin community of Pine Mountain Club is to the north side (and IF the skies are really clear, you can see the Sierra Nevada mountain range too); Lockwood Valley & Ozena Valley are located to the south; Cuyama Valley to the west and the Tejon Pass w/ Frazier Park to the east.

Off road use 4×4, dirt bikes, ATVs, and quads are common in Quatal Canyon, Apache Canyon, East Dry Canyon leading up to the wilderness edge. Rangers will ticket if they find you on the Chumash side of Quatal wash. The secluded yet inviting, wide, white sandy washes are just too tempting for some bad boys.

Chumash trailheads are located

  • about a mile before Camp-O-Alto Campground (Mount Abel)
  • along lower end of Quatal Canyon Wash (OHV areas parallel)

nearby towns –

 

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View Chumash Wilderness Area in a larger map

Garcia Wilderness

Garcia Wilderness, Los Padres NF

14,100 acres
Garcia Peak – 3146′ elevation
Los Padres National Forest
Huasna River
Pozo Creek

himtncampgroundcampgrounds nearby –

American Canyon Campground
Hi Mountain Campground
La Panza Campground
Lake Lopez Campground
Navajo Campground

trailheads for Garcia Wilderness

  • Hi Mtn
  • Santa Lucia
  • Garcia OHV

POZO ROAD is also known as

  • Pozo La Panza Rd
  • Hi Mountain Rd
  • Pozo Arroyo Grande Rd

San Luis Obispo’s Los Padres Pozo Rd is a 4×4 route that accesses the Garcia Wilderness; the dirt route connects Lake Lopez to Pozo Saloon, out near Santa Margarita. Los Padres National Forest 

Located inland from the Pismo Coast in south San Luis Obispo county.
Garcia Peak OHV Route, off Pozo Road behind Lake Lopez, Arroyo Grande, CA

  • backpackingLupine on Pozo Rd
  • camping
  • hiking
  • mountain biking
  • off roading
  • waterfalls
  • wildflowers

Steep lush coastal mountains, rugged, remote landscapes close to Central Coast San Luis Obispo.

Garcia Ridge Road #30S18

Garcia Ridge Trail #15E11

Hi Mountain Road #30S11

 

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also nearby – Machesna Mountains Wilderness and Santa Lucia Wilderness

Klamath Lakes

high water shastina

Northern California is the top third of the golden state, the area north of the San Francisco Bay Area and north of the Napa wine country. North of the Sierra Nevada mountains, North of Lake Tahoe. The waters we focus on here are in and around Klamath National Forest

Lakes, rivers, creeks, waterfalls, waterfowl, fishing and fresh water are all plentiful in the Klamath region. Mount Shasta and the Klamath mountain range make up a portion of the Cascade range, that continue north to the Pacific Northwest. Klamath Falls and Klamath River originate up in Oregon, but the list below features the California regional lakes.

Lakes near Klamath California

Copco Lake
Iron Gate Reservoir
Indian Tom Lake
Sheepy Lake
Lower Klamath Lake Refuge
Tule Lake
Clear Lake Reservoir
Red Rock LakeklamathNF_final
Juanita Lake Campground
Juanita Lake Group Campground

Bass Lake (Montague, CA)
Trout Lake (Montague, CA)
Steamboat Lake (Montague, CA)
Cedar Lake (Montague, CA)
Lake Shastina
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Kangaroo Lake Campground
Siskiyou Lake
Castle Lake
Medicine Lake Glass Flow Geologic Area
Meiss Lake
Orr Lake Campground

Klamath National Forest Map

Klamath National Wild & Scenic River Access & Camp Sites

The dam projects of the Klamath River have always been a controversial subject for many local activists. The Klamath River Keeper web site currently warns us –

4×4 Camping California

tecuya ridge

  • Baja Calif
  • Coastal Ranges
  • High Sierra Routes
  • Gold Country
  • Lake Camping
  • Northern Cal
  • Sierra Nevada
  • SoCal Deserts
  • SoCal Mountains

small campgrounds and secluded camps, accessible by dirt bikes or 4-wheel drive vehicles

4×4 camping in California

Okay, you got your 4 wheel drive vehicle dirty, it is now several years old & maybe you even have a scratch or two. Now is the time to finally start using that beast for real off road adventures. The real edge-of-wilderness trips you dream about when your sitting in your cubical wondering what life is really about. Fishing, camping, off roading and enjoying nature, of course!

4×4 camping in California is plentiful. California has trails for OHV use – which means ‘off highway vehicle’, that can accommodate your machine. These remote camps are always primitive camp sites, with picnic tables, fire rings & maybe a pit toilet (if you are lucky). You can find total seclusion on these back roads & trails, well away from the developed campgrounds & RV parks.

Anza Borrego Desert 4×4 Trails – pretty much everywhere in Borrego desert is off road heaven. Minimal pavement and maximum desert means dirt road galore, white sandy washes, slot canyons, badlands, wind caves, wildflowers, petroglyphs, boulder outcroppings, old railroad trestles and so much more. The San Diego desert elevations range from near sea level to 4000′ on the eastern slopes of Laguna Mountain.

  • Canon Sin Nombre, off the Great Stagecoach Route (S2)
  • Coyote Canyon leads to desert gardens and Sheep Canyon
  • Mortero Wash to Piedras Blancas & Carizo Gorge Trestle
  • Ocotillo Wells SVRA , off road park on Hwy 78
  • Pinyon Mountain and The Squeeze
  • Split Mountain, south of Ocotillo Wells
  • Truckhaven Hills, on S22

San Bernardino National Forest – has a few trail camps for 4×4 enthusiasts. John Bull Trail (near Holcomb Valley) has one real awesome spot with great views over the desert night lights. Holcomb Creek Trail also has a few spots near the creek. Overall this area is somewhat crowded for wheelin’ (especially on the weekends), as the population is so dense nearby.

Los Padres National Forest – the most 4×4 camping readily accessible to Southern California. Tis is the best kept secret for Angelinos wanting an escape. The southern portion of the forests has Tecuya Ridge #9N22, with several camps only minutes from I-5. Out west, Cerro Noroeste Road has the Blue Ridge & Quatal Canyon #9N09. Hwy 166 leads to Miranda Pines towering above the fields of Santa Maria & so much more. 2 OHV parks in the area: Hungry Valley & Ballinger both serve the OHV crowds. The northern section of Los Padres (near Big Sur) has plenty of dirt roads & primitive camps, but none are truly 4×4 routes, as most can be accessed easily with a passenger car.

Sequoia National Forest – Southern Sierra Nevada area has 4×4 camping right along the Kern River, near Keyesville, at the junction where Hwy 178 meets Hwy 155. Also, further up the Kern, Forest Rd#22S82 leads to primitive Camp 4, where there are several spots near granite pools, that can only be accessed by 4 wheel drive.

Sierra National Forest – central Sierra forest has plenty of 4×4 routes that lead to granite rock gardens & mighty fine, secluded, forested camp sites. Gorgeous Red Lake & Coyote Lake are popular spots that require some technical skills & much patience to access. Both are frequented by fishermen & horses. Bald Mountain trailhead has awesome creekside camps on Rock Creek. Up near Wishon Reservoir is the dead end trail of Spanish Lake. Onion Springs Meadow is awesome back behind Edison Lake. Near the granite wonderland Courtright Reservoir is the infamous Dusy Trail signed #28E34 (aka #7S32, the Dusy Ershim), second only to the Rubicon Trail for high Sierra granite.

Jeepers on granite @ Bald Mtn, above Shaver Lake, CA

Stanislaus National Forest – camping in the Crandall & Niagara Creek OHV section of the forest, right off Hwy 108. Elevations range from 5000′-7000′. Higher up on the other side, Levitt Lake (access road near Levitt Falls) on the east end of the mountain range, east of the Sonora Pass sign.

El Dorado National Forest – has the area called Rock Creek for off roading in the Gold Country. Plus the ever popular Rubicon Trail starts hear (near Georgetown) & leads 20 miles across the High Sierra Nevada granite slabs to Lake Tahoe.

Lakes Basin Recreation Area – Northern Gold County, just above the Yuba River. Gold Lake has many campable lakes. The area sees a lot of snowmobile traffic during winter snows, but warmer months are the time for fishing and camping. Most of the big lakes have small developed campgrounds, some are minimal, or primitive style camp sites on dirt roads without facilities. Maybe a picnic table at most.

Smith Lake is a place that fishermen and 4×4 love. It is small, secluded and kinda hard to find. You’ll need a good topo map of the region. Situated on the border of Tahoe and Plumas National Forest off the Gold Lake Hwy (aka Road #24). The PCT cuts thru this Lakes Basin area w/ Sierra Buttes  There are dirt roads and off road trails leading deep into the backcountry from the Packer Lake and Gold Lake areas.

Plumas National Forest – out near Quincy, somewhere off the long and winding La Port Road, a few decent 4WD trails thru forest. Access ridge lines or the big river. Great fishing, amazing scenery & very secluded.

(north of La Porte Road)
– Feather River access
@ Cleghorn Bar Campground, 4 campsites (Road #23N24)
@ Stag Point Campground, 5 campsites (Road #22N80Y)
@ Hartman Bar NRT to Dan Beebe Camp (Road 94 to #22N42Y)

(south of La Porte Road)
– Poker Flat Camp near Sawmill Ridge & Table Rock (Road 800)

Mendocino National Forest Red Lake California

This coastal range is dirt road heaven, graded dirt roads, ridge routes, hiking trails, equestrian trails, big lakes, small lakes, creeks, meadows, forests, wilderness and 4×4 routes. Snow can be the most fun and challenging for the 4WD crews. Mud, snow, some road closures seasonally. South of Snow Mountain Wilderness, plenty off road trails leading to peaks and ridge lines. Numerous small campgrounds to choose from, trailheads everywhere, acres and acres of wild mountainous areas, and a lake resort nearby. Lake Pillsbury is kinda the center of all the 4×4 action in Mendo.

 

see also – OHV areas & SVRA parks

 

Sierra Nevada off road

And yes, no question about it – you WILL NEED printed hard copy map to get to these great spots.

[This list will continue to grow as we unravel all the decades worth of notes & photos. Stay tuned.]

Split Mountain Anza Borrego Desert

Split Mountain Road

Fish Creek Wash
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Ocotillo Wells, CA

Fish Creek Wash @ Split Mountain

Explore Anza Borrego State Park desert deeper for the secluded hidden treasures. Find yourself traveling the east San Diego county desert, on Highway 78 eastbound on the way to the Salton Sea. Passing the turn offs for Borrego Springs, slow down and look for the intersection of off-roaders & ATVs @ Ocotillo Wells, California. Ocotillo Wells State Vehicluar Recreation Area is on the north (left) side of the highway and Split Mountain is on the right.

From highway turn south (right) on to Split Mountain Road, which leads to numerous back road destinations. Ranch homes and private property line the first mile of the road, neighborhood general store and a tiny saloon, RV park and an ATV rental shop.

Old Kane Springs Road is a main dirt road that parallels the highway from the narrows at San Felipe Wash to the Salton Sea. Old Kane Springs Rd intersect the Split Mountain route about 1 mile south of highway.


View Larger Map

Split Mountain ranger station is before the Elephant Trees nature trail. Near the railroad track, the paved road turns into Fish Creek Wash near Fish Creek Campground. If you have a low rider passenger car, you might wanna park it here and walk in to the canyon. Within the first few miles there is a lot to explore – fossils in walls, huge cliffs, wind caves, narrow canyons.

The actual “split in the mountain” section is located just beyond the campground on a sandy desert road.

Anza Borrego’s Split Mountain

Fish Creek Wash continues south, deep into the Carrizo badlands where 4×4 is definitely needed. The trail system eventually loops back over to paved S2 @ Canebrake, via Pinyon Mountain w/ the Squeeze, or Canon Sin Nombre. Unlimited primitive camp sites, found inside every other nook and cranny. Numerous hidden slot canyons, sandstone cliffs and wide sandy washes becomes a literal maze of off-road trails so you better carry a good back roads topographic map.