Awesome granite domes of the western Sierra, plus a scenic recreational lake that is only accessible half the year. Home to “Hells Half Acre” – Mammoth Pool Lake is one of the lesser known reservoirs in the western Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s kinda hard to get to although it is located on the border of Yosemite National Park. Area is totally surrounded by granite creeks, hiking trails, dirt roads and wilderness. This Mammoth Pool is an hours drive, way back behind Bass Lake (off Highway 41), and NOT located near Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra.
Camping just outside of Yosemite. Although the National Park boundary and trailheads are near by, accessing Yosemite Valley for day trips from this location will be quite tiresome and difficult, with long winding roads and over 2 hours drive one way. Better to camp near Bass Lake if you wanna be convenient to Yosemite NP.
(loop road, backcountry route closed in winter months)
Near the town of Oakhurst and Bass Lake California, get off the main highway and head over to the small town of North Fork. Take South Fork Road 225 (Italian Bar Rd) to Minarets Road (#81) also called Mammoth Road. Side trip paved Auberry Road (#222) which skirts oak hills down to Redinger Lake Road. Hook up w/ Minarets Road (#81) that parallels the San Joaquin River on the forested ridge above, traveling 20 miles to Numerous developed campgrounds and primitive camping sites off this route. Mammoth Pool is a signed right turn down Mammoth Pool Road, a steep road w/ a couple of campground near the lake shore and the only public boat launch is narrow, one at a time and it is not paved.
The lake is closed to the public during May and the first half of June to allow migrating deer to swim across the reservoir. The reservoir is inaccessible following the first snowstorm, as the access road is not snowplowed.
Grizzly Road, a paved route that leads deeper into the woods and connects over to BEASORE. Back on the main route (Road #81) on the far north end of the loop, a narrow, paved side route connects Clover Meadow Ranger Station and the impressive Granite Creek Campground. Plenty water and hiking trailheads that lead into Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite.
Back on the main route (Road #81) – the pavement becomes dirt in some sections and the route loops down to Beasore Road (#7), which traverses past meadows and dense forest, and heads back towards Bass Lake.
backpacking, boating, camping
fishing, water ski, kayaking
Mono Hot Pools @ San Joaquin River
Sierra National Forest
Best of both worlds, way back in the boonies – two primitive tubs soaking perched on a soggy hill next to a river, developed campground below, and a small resort w/ cabins, camping, restaurant and private soaking areas on the other side of the river.
15 mi. NE of Huntington Lake off Kaiser Pass Rd. Huntington Lake & Hwy. 168
Two squared cement tubs overlooking the river, deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The coolest thing about this primitive hot springs is that it is a great destination for a one day snowmobile adventure. Rentals are in the nearby community of Lakeshore & the plowed paths are fairly easy to follow. If you plan on visiting the springs, you must not play around in the meadow much, there is plenty great Sierra scenery to be had. The snomo trip is a good 5 hours round trip with a lunch break & dip at mineral spring tubs.
cross country skiing
Winter: road is closed half the year due to heavy snow. Summer: snow is gone and the road is open.
KAISER PASS ROAD No RVs are allowed on this long, steep, narrow paved route .
Take Hwy.168, turn right on Kaiser Pass Rd, just past the ski resort. Pass the large meadow & follow signs to Mono Springs & Lake Edison. Make sure not to miss the left turn or you may end up at Florence Lake. Park near the green bridge over the San Joaquin River & walk over to the tubs on the hillsides.
GIANT SEQUOIA: in between Sequoia & Kings Canyon, inside Sequoia NF
This chunk of National Forest land is perfectly located in between 2 very popular National Parks – Kings Canyon and Sequoia. This primary paved road leads to some great camping, a perfect option for NOT camping inside the crowed National Parks.
Turn east off of Sequoia ‘Generals Highway’ 198, on to the well signed Big Meadow Rd. There is primitive camping all over this area & a few developed campgrounds along this route. Motorhomes be warned: the road narrows to one lane with no “turn outs” or U turn spots for the last 10 miles (on a steep cliff w/ large overhanging rocks)
In the first few miles, the dispersed camp sites on the right side have great views & some situated on fairly flat granite slabs, perfect for astronomer campers or adventurous RVs. To the left side of the road is more primitive style campsites in wooded areas. The whole area is also a very popular cross country ski & snowmobiling spot for winter recreation. Hunters also like these camps during hunting season (in September).
There is a developed Horse Camp on the left side of the road for equestrian campers. This camp is located across from the biggest meadow and may be the first place you notice on this drive.
Buck Rock Campground (7600′ elevation, 5 spots) & Big Meadows Campground (7600′ elevation, 25 spots) are both family style camps, perfect for those who want picnic tables, plus bathroom nearby. Sorry no flush toilets out here, only pit toilets.
Buck Rock Fire Lookout Tower @ 8500′ elevation – is located to the north on Forest Rd # 14S02. It’s a great spot for some impressive views – if you aren’t afraid of heights. To reach the tower you must climb several flights of steel steps. This place is worth a stop if planning a sightseeing day.
Big Meadows Guard Station @ 7500′ elevation (also known as Big Meadows Cabin), is located next to the BIG MEADOW and is available for rent on a weekend basis from the NFS. Hiking Jennie Lakes Wilderness and fly fishing Big Meadows Creek are favorite activities to be enjoyed.
Big Meadows Road is long & narrow – 12+ miles. RVs are not recommended beyond the Big Meadow Campground, as the road is one lane in some spots & it skirts a cliff edge. The views are incredible the farther you go & many creeks feed the region.
The narrow, long paved road eventually forks off into several smaller dirt roads back near Horse Corral Meadow. Way back here, the dirt roads lead out to trail heads for backpacking, horse packing or day hiking in Jennie Lakes & Monarch Wilderness. Backcountry access to either Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park! Have a good map if you plan to venture out this far. Pay attention & don’t get lost.
GPS would be helpful in this area. Some of the smaller of the dirt roads are not even on the NFS maps. Make sure to GPS way-point your favorite camp site, so you can find in next time…. in the dark.
Wanna vacation near a lake this season? So does everyone else in California.
“Mountains” & “lakes” are the top camping destinations sought by most web surfers. Be prepared to search for your ultimate lake side camp. Summertime is prime time at all water sources, so make your reservations, or better yet – find a secluded lake all to yourself. (4×4 may be required).
Lakes area recreation & camping sites in California
Unbeknownst to most California tourists, the “Shasta” region encompasses most of the northern part of the state. From the majestic Trinity Alps to raging Burney Falls; the huge, snow capped peak of Mount Shasta can be seen by half of NorCal. From the high alpine country on the north side, to the Sacramento Valley on the south side. Shasta dominates this region all around Redding and I-5.
Northern California has numerous camping lakes, most of which are very RV friendly. Boating, fishing, hiking, kayaking & even houseboat rentals are available at Lake Shasta.
The BIg Lake you see from Interstate 5 is named Shasta Lake, the main drain from the northern reaches of Oregon. The big reservoir in the middle of the North State. Whiskey Town Lake is west of Redding, with Trinity Lake tucked way back up in the hills – N of Weaverville. You could spend a lifetime exploring all the lakes in the Shasta area. On foot, by bike, with a fishing pole and a pack llama. Maybe just in an old funky motorhome.
Some of these camps above may have been damaged in recent wildfires, so it’s best to inquire before you make the drive. Call rangers to verify or have a backup alternative (plan B). See more campsites @ Santa Barbara Beach Camping
Los Padres Forest Headquarters Goleta CA
The Mt Pinos Recreation Area is located on the border of Southern and Central California, inside Los Padres National Forest. After passing Frazier Park, the winding, paved, mountain road starts atop Cuddy Valley and is approximately 12 miles from Interstate 5 @ Tejon Pass. The 8831′ peak is the tallest in Kern County and is a popular spot for both summer and winter recreation: cross country skiing, snow shoeing, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking. The snow gates often close during heavy snow.
Mount Pinos Road starts atop Cuddy Valley Rd, at the “Y” – where it intersects with Mil Potrero Highway, which heads out to Pine Mountain Club, California. One mile up the Mount Pinos route, you will find McGill trailhead on the right side (it is popular w/ mountain bikers) and then the first snow gate at Burbank Rd. Another 4 miles up hill, you come to the only set of dirt roads accessible on this range. A left turn will take you winding thru pine forest to the valley below. 4×4 is not required, but a National Forest map is very handy. Unfortunately all the private properties at the bottom have locked gates & no thru access to Cuddy Valley is allowed, but it is an awesome drive to just go exploring in the woods.
Back on the main route, shortly after the dirt roads is McGill Campground on the right side & another snow gate. In another mile and a half you will reach Mt Pinos Campground on the left side; the entrance is easy to miss. From here you are less than 2 miles from the end of the main road.
Mountain Bike, Hike, Backpack, Camp, XC Ski, Snow Sled
Darkest Skies for Stargazing in Southern California
The huge paved parking lot is the dead end (2 miles from the peak of Pinos) – very popular with astronomers, mountain bikers, plus the families and snow sledders in winter (if the gates are open). A National Ski Patrol’s Nordic Base, the only building you will see up this way. At 8300′ elevation, the large parking area is perfect overnight spot for amateur astronomers, so be considerate when visiting night. New moon (no moon) weekends APR-OCT are optimal viewing months. In busy summer months you can often find motorhome campers all set up with expensive equipment tracking the heavens all night long. Please be respectful of their hobby & eyes; Turn off headlights when you approach the parking area at night.
ROAD CONDITIONS to Mount Pinos, call the rangers 661-245-3731
Pinos – Peak to Peak Hike
The trailhead for Pinos Summit starts at this parking lot. It is a 2 mile moderate, but steep hike on an old fire road. The neighboring peak to the west is called Mount Abel @ 8286′ elevation (aka Cerro Noroeste). The infamous peak to peak hike along the ridge line from Mt Pinos to Mt Abel is 6.5 miles one way – and very popular in summer months. This hike requires 4-6 hours & a car shuttle should be arranged in advance. The Chumash Wilderness sits between Mount Pinos and the tiny community of Pine Mountain, which can be seen below on many places along the hike.
There are 3 developed campgrounds in the Mount Pinos Recreation Area: