Vallecito – Anza Borrego

Vallecito Park, San Diego Desert

Anza Borrego Desert

Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849

East San Diego County Road S2 winds thru the lower passes & washes of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. On the edge of the State Park boundary Vallecito is a small campground & park, but it was a stage coach route in the 1800’s.

California Historic Marker #304

VallecitoVALLECITO STAGE STOP – A 1934 reconstruction of Vallecito Stage Station (originally built in 1852) on the eastern slopes of the mountains in the high desert. A super important stop on the first official transcontinental route, serving ‘The Jackass Mail‘, the Butterfield Overland Stage Line, and the southern emigrant caravans.

backpacking, birdwatching, camping, cycling, hiking, mountain biking, off roading, stargazing, wildflowers

Vallecito Campground
elev. 1555′
camp sites: 44
overnight fee
first come, first serve
reservations accepted
Campfire pits, picnic tables, bathrooms, & historic buildings; 22 sites are tents only. RV 40′ limit; Additional 8 equestrian campsites w/ corrals. No RV hookups, no dump station. No piped water. No gasoline, no store, no amenities. No firewood, no collecting of firewood. No shade trees, just tall desert brush. Arrive adequately prepared for real desert roughin it.

Vallecito Stage Station County Park
760-765-1188
37349 Great Southern Overland Stage Route
County Road S2 @ mile marker 34.7
About 3.5 mi NW of Agua Caliente Hot Springs

Closed during the hottest months of summer. Open seasonally: Labor Day weekend through the fall, winter and spring, up until the last week in May. 

see also – Oriflamme Canyon / Mason Valley Truck Trail

muck to stagecoachA neighboring and more rural stage coach stop is further down a long wash, to the south east. Getting there usually requires 4×4, since you must ford a muddy desert wash w/ creek & deep holes. There are no signs out in this sandy desert wash, so you best have a good map and a compass. The Old Carrizo Stage Station site is accessible by 4 different dirt roads (desert washes) off the paved highway. None of these are well signed at the highway: Vallecito Creek, Willow Creek near Mountain Palm Springs, Carrizo Creek near Bow Willow, and Canyon sin Nombre.

Agua Caliente, Bow Willow Campground, Canebrake, Sweeney Pass,  the badlands overlook, mud caves and slot canyons are all located south of Vallecito. California SR 78 and Blair Valley are north of Vallecito.

Vallecito Creek

San Diego Desert MapVallecito is located at the apex of the gap in the Carrizo Badlands created by Carrizo Creek and its wash in its lower reach, to which Vallecito Creek is a tributary. Once a seasonal village of the native Kumeyaay people, on a trail across the desert from the Colorado River, this oasis, became a crucial stopping place for Spanish and then Mexican travelers to recover from the desert crossing between Sonora and New Mexico to California. The non native settlement of the site began in 1850, as a camp with a one room sod warehouse as the U.S. Army Depot Vallecito for the supply of Fort Yuma. It was later increased in size and became a store, a stage station, and a ranch house. read more on wiki

dark skies anza

Another Vallecito, California?
Yep! Small community of about 400 folks in the Sierra foothills. Gold Country region, up off the Historic 49 and it used to be called Murphy’s Old Diggings.

Castle Crags Wilderness

NorCal Hiking
Castle Crags State Park
CastleCrags Wilderness

12,232 acres
Northern California Mountains
South of Dunsmuir, CA
Interstate 5
exit #724 – Castella

backpacking, camping, creek fishing, hiking, mountaineering, lakes, rock climbing, snowshoeing, swimming, waterfalls

About an hour north of Redding, you can see those impressive peaks off to the left above the lush forest. Way up off the west side of I-5, lies a hiking paradise of scenic lakes, waterfalls and wildflowers. Opposite the freeway from Mount Shasta; Just south of Lake Siskiyou.castle crags

Castle Crags Wilderness neighbors the Castle Crags State Park, which is surrounded by Shasta-Trinity National Forest. This area is named for 6,000′ tall glacier-polished peaks and pointed crags. Due to their relatively low elevation, year-round recreation, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing are popular spring through fall. Snowshoeing near Castle Lake is excellent.

Castle Crags State Park
530-235-2684

Castle Crags State Park Campground
76 developed campsites
6 environmental campsites

Max Camper Length: 27′
Max Trailer Length: 21′

28 miles of hiking trails (2.7 mi access trail to Castle Crags Wilderness)
The Pacific Crest Trail also passes through the park.
Dogs not allowed on park trails.

Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Mount Shasta Ranger District
204 West Alma
Mt. Shasta, CA 96067
530-926-4511

Climbing at the Crags:
the Cosmic Wall & beyond

regional history: The northwest area contains the largest glacial cirque, Castle Lake, which is near where the Modoc War’s 1855 Battle of Castle Crags took place. Now a historical landmark, the battle was fought on a ridge saddle between the lake and what is known as Battle Rock. The Wintu tribe inhabited the area, they called the crags the Abode of the Devil and the Spanish explorers called it Castle del Diablo (Castle of the Devil.) read more on wiki

nearby towns –

 


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Hoover Wilderness

Dunderberg Meadow

 Dunderberg Peak capped with snow about half the year @ 12,374′ elevation. Dunderberg Meadow is a side route off Green Creek Rd. Upper Summer Meadow Rd is another side route off Green Creek Rd.

Eastern Sierra Hoover Wilderness

East Yosemite National Park

48,601 acres
10 miles South of Bridgeport, CA
Toiyabe National Forest Autumn Eastern Sierrasand Inyo National Forest

Hoover Wilderness spans  the mountain ranges from Sonora Pass to Tioga Pass, with high elevation peaks ranging from 10,000 to over 12,000′ elevation. Emigrant Wilderness lies to the west of Hoover, with Yosemite National Park & Inyo National Forest to the south.

  • Twenty Lakes Basin
  • Virginia Pass
  • Virginia Lakes Basin
  • Lundy Pass
  • Bond Pass
  • Hoover Lakes
  • Return Creek
  • Little Walker River
  • West Walker River
  • Matterhorn Peak – 12,264′ elev

towns nearby –

Aspen groves in the Eastern Sierra are some of the best autumn colors in the whole state. Fall car camping includes nighttime temps in the teens w/ fishing and hunting nearby.

PCT trails, Eastern SierraPacific Crest Trail passes partially through Hoover Wilderness inside  Yosemite National Park.

Hoover trails are not all dirt road access, but most are. There are 2 major trail heads along Highway 120 inside Yosemite NP, which lead north to Hoover.

Hoover trailheads –

California SR Highway 120 (Yosemite NP):

off US Highway 395:Hoover Trail Map

Twin Lakes area:

  • Robinson Creek
  • Horse Creek
  • Cattle Creek
  • Tamarack Lake
  • Buckeye

Little Walker River area:

  • Bort Canyon
  • Emma Lake
  • Molybdenite Creek

California SR Highway 108 (Sonora Pass):

hoover wilderness map

Green Creek Road is a signed dirt road on US Highway 395, near Virginia Creek Settlement and across from the Bodie ghost town turn off. Green Creek Campground  (a developed NFS campground) also has trailhead parking for Hoover hiking trails. Primitive free camp site can be found all along this major graded dirt road.

Many developed campgrounds in the surrounding areas – Saddlebag, Lundy, Virginia, Green Creek, Twin Lakes, Buckeye, Obsidian. Off Sonora Pass, Levitt Lake usually gets the most snow depth around and is only acessible in summer months. Super remote primitive camping for those with a high clearance vehicle.

FRee Camping Green Creek

 

San Rafael Wilderness

Sierra Madre Mountains
Cachuma Lake to Cuyama Valley

Sierra Madre Mountains

197,380 acres
Central Coast Foothills
Los Padres National Forest

North of Santa Barbara, CA
East of Santa Maria, CA
South of New Cuyama, CA
West of Ventucopa, CA

San Rafael Wilderness is otherwise known as the Santa Barbara backcountry. The Sierra Madre mountains and San Rafael mountains make up the this chunk of wilderness, a vast open space near the coast – which extends from Lake Cachuma to the Cuyama River Valley. This is the southern ridge line along Highway 166, with few pine trees, mostly oaks, leading west to Santa Maria River.

Figueroa Mountain and Lake Cachuma are to the south near Santa Barbara. Vineyards and wineries skirt the western hills of Santa Maria, cattle grazing, oil fields and agriculture line the northern borders near Cuyama Valley. Dick Smith Wilderness is just to the east a little bit, spanning over toward Hwy 33.

OHV: better known as off-roading and dirt biking is common in the foothills behind Santa Barbara, as well as on the west side of the San Rafael Wilderness, near Miranda Pine and Tepusquet Road. Numerous small campgrounds on dirt roads are positioned around the perimeter, but no OHV trails lead into the wilderness areas.

McPherson Peak – 5749′ elevation
Peak Mountain – 5843′DSCN5759
Timber Peak – 4764′
Miranda Pine Mountain – 4120′
Wheat Peak – 2436′

trailheads –

  • via Figueroa Road #8N09

    • Cachuma Saddle
    • Davy Brown
  • McPherson Peak, on Sierra Madre Ridge
  • Painted Rock, on Sierra Madre Ridge
  • Santa Barbara Canyon, off Hwy 166

developed campgrounds surrounding the wilderness

  • Davy Brown Campground
  • Nira Campground
  • Cachuma Campground
  • Figueroa Campground
  • Manzana Schoolhouse
  • Colson Canyon (OHV) #11N04
  • Brookshire Springs
  • Miranda Pine #11N03
  • Horseshoe Springs
  • Lazy Campground
  • Wagon Flat Campground
  • Barrel Springs #10N06
  • Alesandro Campground

back road access –

  • Figueroa Mountain Road #8N09
  • Tepusquet Road, off Hwy 166
  • Miranda Pine Road #11N03
  • Sierra Madre Ridge Road #32S13
  • Cottonwood Canyon Rd @ Hwy 166
  • Santa Barbara Canyon Rd, off Hwy 166

Native American petroglyphs can be found in this remote region of Central California, but may require topographic detective skills and a full day of action.

rock art

Access to ”Painted Rock” on Sierra Madre ridge is hike in only. The dirt road that access these trailheads are rough road and not maintained. High clearance may be needed. This day trip is an all-day adventure and you might want to consider bringing the mountain bike. Just stay on the road, as rangers will ticket for riding in the designated Wilderness Areas.PigPen Trailhead

from the west – Cottonwood Canyon, past Bates Canyon Campground up to ridge, east on dirt road #32S13 several miles to the dirt parking area at the pig pen w/ locked gated and signed trailhead.

from the east – dirt road hike is about 10 miles (one way) and it starts at the Santa Barbara Canyon trailhead.

 

If Los Padres Westyou plan to visit the rock art from the west side – take the dirt road road up past Bates Canyon Campground. The turn off on Hwy 166 is called Cottonwood Canyon. Pay attention to private property signs, cuz the locals are serious about their lands.

 

nearby towns –

Silver Peak Wilderness

Hiking the Southern Big Sur Coastline

faded public lands
Sun-bleached, wooden Los Padres sign – near Salmon Creek trailhead.

Silver Peak Wilderness, Big Sur Coast

Central California Coast

31,555 acres

8 miles South of Gorda, CA
along Pacific Coast Hwy 1
near Big Sur, CA
Los Padres National ForestBig Sur Wilderness Map

Backpacking and hiking trails on the Pacific Coast, steep terrain next to ocean. Coastal redwood canyons, oaks hills, great views. The neighboring Ventana Wilderness is located just north of Silver Peak hiking trails.

Southern Redwood Botanical Area

Silver Peak –3,590′ elevation
Alder Peak –3,744′

trailheads

  • Salmon Creek Trail #5E09
  • Hwy 1 @ connection Trail #5E10
  • Alder Creek Trail #5E09

mm

mile markers along Pacific Coast Highway 1
(Monterey County)

  • Cruickshank Trailhead – 6.5 mm
  • Soda Springs Trailhead – 3.8 mm
  • Buckeye Trailhead – 2.4 mm
  • Salmon Creek Trailhead – 2.2 mm

developed campgrounds nearby –

nearby towns –

Ocean View Hikes Big Sur


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Oak Foothills

Dick Smith Wilderness

Santa Barbara Mountains
Ojai Backpacking, Ventura, CA

old cabin cuyama
Old Cabin at Cuyama Peak Fire Lookout, Dick Smith Wilderness Area in the background

64,800 acres

30 miles N of Ojai, CA
Los Padres National Forest

Dick Smith Wildernessreyes lift off

  • backpacking
  • camping
  • hang gliding
  • hiking
  • horseback riding
  • parasailing
  • OHV trails nearby

Los Padres National Forest – Located in between the Santa Barbara coastline and the Cuyama Valley, this coastal wilderness area is situated miles north of Ojai, off Highway 33.

The Dick Smith Wilderness is where the San Rafael Mountains and the Sierra Madre Mountains merge on the east side, next to Pine Mountain Summit (elevation 5080′ @ highway). This PINE MTN should not to be confused w/ the Pine Mountain Club, on the north side of Cerro Noroeste.

Big Pine Mountain – 6828′ elevation
Cuyama Peak – 5875′
Lizard Head – 5350′
Madulce Peak – 6536′
Samon Peak – 6527′

Closer to Ojai, Matilija Wilderness is on the southern boundary of DickSmith and the San Rafael Wilderness sits to the west side. Native American petroglyphs can be found in this region.  Access to “Painted Rock” on the Sierra Madre ridge, via Road #32S13 (which has a locked gate on both ends), is a long one so you might want to bring the mountain bike. The dirt road hike is about 10 miles (one way) and it starts at the Santa Barbara Canyon trailhead. If you plan to visit the rock art from the west side – take the dirt road road up past Bates Canyon Campground. The turn off on Hwy 166 is called Cottonwood Canyon.

Dick Smith Trails
hiking trailheads –

  • Chorro Grande (Hwy 33)
  • Potrero Seco (Hwy 33)
  • Santa Barbara Canyon (Hwy 166)

 area campgrounds –

  • Nettle Springs
  • Ozena (closed)
  • Pine Mountain (dispersed)
  • Rancho Nuevo
  • Reyes Creek
  • Reyes Peak
  • Tinta

 nearby towns –

more Ojai camping

ojai backpacking

Dick SMith Wilderness

Ozena Valley Badlands

Cerro Noroeste Road

Fresh Blacktop 2011

Scenic Drive California: Cerro Noroeste

Tejon Pass, Frazier Mountain, Tecuya, San Emigdio, Mount Pinos, Apache Saddle, Mount Abel, Quatal Canyon, BitterCreek, Klipstein Canyon

Los Padres NF – Cerro Noroeste Road #9N05

One of the best driving roads in Central California!

Motorcycles love this route.

Los Padres National Forest stretches from Ojai to Monterey, mostly along the California Central Coast. If you are traveling on Interstate 5 (atop the Grapevine, Tejon Pass) and you wanted to head westbound,  then you really want to take this scenic route.

Exit Frazier Park Rd @ Lebec, on the top of the Grapevine (Interstate 5 N of jct Hwy 138). Proceed westbound thru the Frazier Park stop sign (5 mi), up the hill past the turn off for Lockwood Valley Road. Frazier Mountain Park Road now becomes Cuddy Valley Rd, continue up to pine trees. Turn right on Mil Potrero Highway & drive thru Pine Mountain Club (4-8 mi). Continuing past the golf course, heading up to Apache Saddle.

Approximately 6000′ at a forested intersection is the ‘saddle’ with ranger station. The paved road is now considered Cerro Noroeste Road.

A left turn will bring you up to Cerro Noroeste 8286′ elevation. (10 mi/closed in winter) This mountain peak is also known as Mount Abel.

At the saddle, continuing straight (veering right) through the P&J forest (pinyon and juniper) to the gorgeous rolling hills, fog & cloudscape countryside of ..

HUDSON RANCH ROAD

WTF? Recently county authorities have renamed Cerro Noroeste Rd to Hudson Ranch Rd, which has many locals infuriated and of course, keeping visitors confused. There is a popular Hudson Ranch up near Napa Wine Country, but this is not named after that location. Rumor has it that one local family complained to Kern County about the difficulty of spelling ‘Cerro Noroeste’ for outsiders. Go figure! Want a local roadway name changed? Easier process than imagined – just file a suggestion w/ Kern County.

HUDSON RANCH ROAD

Bitter Creek Wildlife Area & Highway 166 (23 mi) are all out this way. Sports cars & motorcyclists love this route, so do hikers & hunters. Every weekend you can find hundreds of bikes cruising this scenic byway.

Best Sunset Drives
Numerous forest roads can be found out this way. Quatal Canyon #9N09 is a great side route to explore if you like long dirt roads, red dirt, lupine & pinyon pines. Chumash Wilderness backcountry access is way back in this super scenic canyon. Toad Spring Campground is a small site located near the top of the canyon, only half mile off the pavement.

Forest Road #9N27 leads up to Caballo Campground & even further out to the steep ridge line, Marion Campground & Blue Ridge 4×4 trail. Across from the Apache Saddle Ranger Station, San Emigdio dirt road #9N34 climbs to 7400′ elevation and has a great viewpoint. Unsigned San Emigdio 4×4 trail starts at the viewpoint and heads east.

Way out west on Cerro Noroeste Road is Valle Vista Campground, with new a outhouse. This small campground is perched on the edges of red cliffs overlooking the great Central Valley of California.

Klipstein Canyon, a side route/short cut to Taft, offers decent wildflower displays in springtime. San Andreas faultline uplift is also evident on this detour. Road Closed barriers seem insignificant, as many drivers just skoot around them.

CerroNoroeste

nearby towns:

Pine Mountain Club, CA
Frazier Park, CA
Ventucopa, CA
Taft, CA
New Cuyama, CA