Winter Wheelin

winterwheelin

Winter wet weather doesn’t need to put a damper on your outdoor exploring, if you can get your hands on a 4×4 vehicle. Almost any SUV or truck with 4 wheel drive is capable of driving through some snow or mud. Just how deep is the mud (underneath the snow) is usually the big question. Many National Forests and State Parks close certain dirt roads due to over-use, or to control soil erosion and prevent the deep muddy ruts which are costly to re-grade come springtime. Call ahead to the rangers to find which back road routes are indeed open, or bring your printed topo map and wing it.

California Road Trips

The California destinations listed below are popular winter spots for off roading enthusiasts. Some places may be busier than others. The dirt roads surrounding these spots are real treasures, so try to plan an all-day loop trip if possible. Camping w/ a campfire permit is an option on many back roads. Plenty lodging in nearby small towns if winter camping is not your thing.

ghost towns

Bodie State Park
Randsburg Mining District
Calico Ghost Town
Ballarat in Panamint Valley
Skidoo @ Death Valley NP
Barker Ranch, Goler Wash @ Death Valley NP
Panamint City @ Surprise Canyon
Cerro Gordo – 4×4 Inyo
Oatman, Arizona

California Road Trips

hot springs:

primitive tubs
hot springs resorts
hot spring campgrounds

fishing spots

Green Creek Road
Walker River
North June Lake Loop
Trinity River

California Road Trips

California Mountains, Viewpoints & Fire Lookout Towers

Bald Mountain, Shaver Lake
Cuyama Lookout, Santa Barbara Canyon, Ventucopa, CA
Coyote Flat, Bishop, CA
Los Padres National Forest
Mount Pacifico, Angeles Forest Highway
Upper Lytlle Creek, Wrightwood, CA

see – NFS Cabins Rentals & California Fire Lookouts

California Road Trips

Indian Casinos

Tribal lands are mostly located in rural regions which always have plenty of dirt roads to explore. Get a good back roads map for the public lands nearby, parks, BLM, National Forest. If the overnight camping is dropping into the twenties or teens, then know the forecast. A good rule of thumb for California hotel stays: If the low temps overnight are below the cost of a hotel room at the nearby casino, the comfy lodge might be well worth considering.

Avi Casino
@ California – Arizona border.
The Laughlin casino in the middle of nowhere, right on the Colorado River. Jet ski rentals, swimming pools and spas, restaurants, RV park. The historic Mojave Trail, aka Mojave Road, starts next to the property.

Gold Country Casino
@ Lake Oroville, California
Sierra Nevada mountains Northern California. Conveniently located near Feather River (all 4 forks) and Plumas National Forest, with Berry Creek and Bucks Lake Wilderness to explore. Snow often closes the highest elevations.

Viejas Casino
@ Pine Valley, East County San Diego
Great bouldered mountains with back road exploring, hiking, mountain biking trails, all easy access from Southern California. Get a Cleveland National Forest map and expect some road closures near Laguna Mountain Sunrise Highway, especially when it snows.

Diamond Mountain Casino
Susanville, Northern California
Located in between US Highway 395 and Mount Lassen, the scenic Susan River region has lots to offer for the outdoor enthusiasts. Plenty of roads to explore, some big lakes too. Many Forest roads could be closed due to snow, so be warned and call ahead to the ranger.

Native Californians

Indian Rock Art
Petroglyphs are found in numerous locations throughout the deserts of the SouthWestern US. Inscription Canyon Mojave. See more on Native American rock art or explore photos.

California Road Trips

California Beaches
Oceano Dunes, Pismo Beach
Lost Coast, Northern Cal Redwoods
Black Sands Beach, Shelter Cove (open to foot traffic only)

California Deserts

Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Box Canyon @ Mecca Hills
Mojave National Preserve
Canebrake Road, Kern Mojave
Black Canyon, Barstow, CA
Panamint Valley, near DVNP
Death Valley National Park
Bodie State Historic Park

California Off Road Parks

These are parks that specifically offer trails and obstacles for off-roaders. Entrance fees and camping fees are usually charged at the entry gate.

Off Highway Vehicle Areas (OHV)
State Vehicle Recreation Areas (SVRA)

Other Off Roading Options

The whole Carson City area in Nevada has some excellent dirt roads to explore. Old mines, caves, many miles of pinyon forests. Lake Tahoe is nearby with luxury resorts, casinos and snow skiing.

If you just can’t stand the cold and snow, then warmer climates lie to the south. Baja California is a tourist/traveler and off-roader haven in the wintertime.

Holiday Wheeling
Jawbone Canyon for Thanksgiving weekend will get dirt bikes by the thousands and big families. Christmas is busy around the Palm Spring desert destinations – like Joshua Tree. Easter weekend is popular w/ wildflowers and campers in Anza Borrego Desert.

RV camping
Occasionally, wide graded dirt roads lead to secondary routes, so overnighting it with a motorhome on the back roads is very possible (if deep mud is not present). RV camping is quite the tradition for Southern Californians. Desert off roaders in tow, all over the Mojave. Steer clear of busy family groups. Pick a lesser known area to camp and explore. Get your real topo maps out and choose easy access from pavement, but wide graded dirt roads are best. Plenty roads like this in the Eastern Sierra, on the east side of US Hwy 395. RV campers that follow Total Escape might very well be interested in testing the limits of their recreational vehicle, slowly.

AWD Sportwagons
Before AWD got marketed as 4WD, Total Escape was way out there exploring in a 2 wheel drive and posting it online for you. All wheel drive station wagons should stick to the paved and plowed roads. If you plan to do a lotta dirt road driving in the old Subaru, keep the rock crawling to a minimum. If not, you may want to invest in a skid plate for the oil pan. Nothing beats first hand experience and learning ahead of time how your car will behave before you loose control on icy dark steep roads. Go practice with the emergency break and get the vehicle in a wide open snow plowed area if possible, just avoid the temptations to get wild. Don’t get the doughnut urge and plant yourself in a tree. Remember, it’s not like the commercial showed us, those are closed roads they are filming on.

Snow Chains
If you plan to be off roading in snow or mud at all you might want to consider some important safety items: tire chains for snow, a tow strap and tire plugs for flats. If you own a high clearance 2WD SUV, you could benefit from running chains on all four tires when snow is present. How deep the snow gets and how steep the hills are, determines how far you can go without a real 4 wheel drive. Some choose to rent a 4WD for the weekend road trip.

Snow Plow - the first pass
Snow Plow First Pass

Carry these items when traveling in winter conditions:
tools, jumper cables, tow strap, emergency gear, first aid kit, real boots, extra clothes, blankets, flashlights, food, drinking water, cell phone, maps


California Reference
California Road Conditions
California Weather
Sierra Highway Conditions

and just imagine when you can’t get past the deepest snow, it is time to try California Snowmobiling

Lake Tahoe Campground

Indian Valley Campground
Indian Valley Campground, Tahoe National Forest

Lake Tahoe Campgrounds

Cabins

Tahoe Forest Campgrounds

sierra buttes California

Lake Tahoe California

Listed below are developed camp grounds and RV camps around Lake Tahoe, run by various agencies. Most require reservations and are only open half the year (or less).

Lake Tahoe campgrounds: blue links lead to camp info.

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Bayview Campground 6000′ 10 pines vault Emerald Bay
Camp Richardson Tahoe 6500′ 330 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe
Campground by the Lake 6000′ 157 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe
D.L. Bliss State Park 6000′ 168 pines flush piped Westshore, Lake Tahoe
Eagle Point Tahoe 6100′ 100 pines flush piped California State Park
Emerald Bay State Park 6000′ 16 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe CA
Fallen Leaf Lake Campground 6737′ 205 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe CA
General Creek Campground 6000′ 175 pines flush piped Westshore, Lake Tahoe
Kaspian Campground 5800′ 20 pines flush piped Westshore, Homewood CA
Lake Forest Campground 6300′ 21 pines flush piped Northshore, Tahoe Vista CA
Meeks Bay Campground 6000′ 17 pines flush piped Westshore, Tahoma CA
Mount Rose Campground 8500′ 24 pines flush piped in Nevada @ Tahoe
Nevada Beach Campground 6200′ 54 pines flush piped Nevada Lake Tahoe
Pope Beach Campground 6000′ 49 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe CA
Sandy Beach Campground 6300′ 44 pines flush piped Northshore, Tahoe Vista
Sugar Pine Point SP 6200′ 30 pines flush piped Westshore, Tahoma CA
Tahoe Pines Campground 6000′ 49 pines flush piped Meyers California
Tahoe Valley RV Campground 6000′ 413 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe CA
Tahoe Campground SRA 6200′ 16 pines flush piped West shore, Tahoe City
William Kent Park 6300′ 95 pines flush piped Westshore, Tahoe City
Zephyr Cove Campground 6200′ 170 pines flush piped boat rentals Tahoe NV

rangerAll Tahoe Campgrounds will charge a fee for day use or overnight stays; Many require advanced reservations. Nightly rates vary per park, but tend to be expensive in this region. Most campgrounds are closed during the winter due to the big snow. Check with the ranger districts listed here.

primitive camp spots
Sawmill Lake 4×4 Camp

camp RV camps NFS hikes fishing mountain biking camps river fishing

NFSlogo

Tahoe National Forest encompasses a large region of the Sierra Nevada mountains surrounding the north portion of Lake Tahoe. areas included – Donner Pass, American River, Yuba River, Northern Gold Country; Lakes Basin Recreation Area; Small lakes and reservoirs with excellent fishing, all surrounded by lush forests.

15milesto20

Campgrounds with mid (5000′) to high-elevation (8000′) locations close annually for winter snow. Many are open for a few short summer months.

Listed below are Tahoe Campgrounds located away from the Lake Tahoe Basin; Inside Tahoe National Forest  Smaller camps are on a first come, first serve basis. blue links lead to camp info.

campground elev. spots veg toilet water notes
Ahart Campground 5300′ 12 pines vault American River
Alpine Meadows 5900′ 25 pines vault Martis Creek
Bear Valley Campground 6600 10 pines vault piped OHV trails, Sierraville
Berger Campground 5900 7 pines vault lake Packer Lake, Lakes Basin
Big Reservoir Campground 4000 18 pines vault piped non motor lake, Foresthill
Boca Campground 5605′ 26 pines vault boat launch
Boca Rest Campground 5605′ 25 pines vault piped on Boca Reservoir
Boca Spring Campground 5800′ 17 pines vault piped horses
Bowman Lake 5585 7 pines vault lake Donner area
Boyington Mill Campground 5680′ 12 pines vault Boca Reservoir
Cal-Ida Campground 2000′ 21 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Canyon Creek Campground 6000′ 20 pines vault creek Donner area
Carlton Flat Campground 2200′ 21 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Carr Lake Campground 5900′ 5 pines vault lake Carr Feeley Lake
Chapman Creek Campground 6000′ 29 pines vault piped Yuba River
Chute Hill Campground 3400′ 30 pines flush piped Malakoff Diggins SP
Cold Creek Campground 5800′ 13 pines vault piped Sierraville
Cottonwood Campground 5600′ 24 pines vault piped Sierraville
Dark Day Campground 2200′ 16 oaks vault piped Bullards Bar Reservoir
Diablo Campground 5800′ 20 pines vault  Yuba River
Donner State Park Campground 5850′ 154 pines flush Donner Lake
East Meadow Campground 6100′ 46 pines flush piped Jackson Meadows Reservoir
Fiddle Creek Campground 2200′ 15 oaks vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Findley Campground 6100′ 14 pines flush piped Jackson Mdws Res
Fir Top Campground 6100′ 12 pines vault flush Jackson Mdws Res
French Meadows Campground 5300′ 75 pines vault flush French Meadows Reservoir
Garden Point Campground 2000′ 19 variety vault fishing boats
Giant Gap Campground 3700′ 30 pines vault fishing boats
Goose Meadow Campground 5800′ 24 pines vault piped fish Donner
Grouse Ridge Campground 7400′ 9 pines vault Hwy 20
Hampshire Rocks Campground 5800′ 31 pines vault piped fishing camp
Independence Lake 6900′ 20 pines vault piped fishing
Indian Springs Campground 5600′ 35 pines vault piped fishing, Yuba River OHV
Indian Valley Campground 2200′ 17 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Jackson Creek Campground 5600′ 14 pines vault creek
Jackson Point Campground 6100′ 8 vault boat access Jackson Mdws Res
Lakeside Campground 5700′ 41 vault boat ramp Prosser Reservoir
Lake Spaulding Campground 5000′ 24 vault boat ramp PG&E Campground
Laiser Meadow Horse Camping 6200′ 11 vault piped High Sierra PCT access
Lewis Campground 5300′ 40 pines flush piped French Meadows Reservoir
Lindsey Lake Campground 5900′ 7 vault lake
Lodgepole Camping 5800′ 18 vault Lake Valley Reservoir
Loganville Campground 6000′ 29 vault piped Yuba River, Sierra City
Logger Campground 6000′ 252 pines flush piped Stampede Reservoir
Long Ravine Campground 2300′ 28 pines flush piped Rollins Reservoir
Lower Little Truckee 6000′ 15 vault piped Truckee River fishing
Madrone Cove Campground 2000′ 11 none Bullards Bar Reservoir
Meadow Lake Campground 7200′ 15 vault Sierra fishing camp
Meadow Lake Shoreline 7200′ 10 vault High Sierra Nevada
Mumford Bar Campground 5300′ 5 vault Foresthill Road
North Fork Campground 4400′ 17 vault piped American River
Onion Valley Campground 2300′ 5 oaks vault Sierra fishing camp
Orchard Springs Campground 2300′ 15 oaks flush piped Rollins Reservoir, Colfax
Pack Saddle Campground 6000′ 15 pines vault pump Packer Lake
Lakes Basin
Parker Flat OHV Camping 3900′ 7 pines vault off roading trails
Pass Creek Campground 6100′ 30 pines flush piped Jackson Mdws Res
Peninsula Campground 2300′ 58 pines flush piped Rollins Reservoir
Pine Aire Campground 2700′ 75 pines flush piped South Yuba River Camp
Poppy Campground 5300′ 12 pines vault French Meadows Reservoir
Prosser Campground 5800′ 29 pines vault Prosser Res.
Ramshorn Campground 2600′ 16 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
River Rest Campground 2700′ 105 pines flush piped South Yuba River Camp
Robinson Flat Campground 6800′ 5 pines vault well
Rocky Rest Campground 2300′ pines vault Yuba River, Downieville
Rucker Campground 5800′ 10 pines vault Rucker Lake fishing
Sagenhen Campground 6480′ 10 pines vault
Salmon Creek Campground 5800′ 32 pines vault fishing
Lakes Basin
Sardine Campground 5800′ 29 pines vault Sardine Lake Lakes Basin
Schoolhouse Campground 2200′ 56 oaks flush piped Bullards Bar Reservoir
Scott’s Flat Campground 3200′ 86 oaks flush piped Scotts Flat Reservoir
Shirttail Creek Campground 3700′ 30 pines vault Sugar Pine Reservoir
Sierra Campground 5600′ 16 pines vault Yuba River, Sierra City
Silver Creek Campground 5800′ 27 pines vault Truckee River fishing
Snag Lake Campground 6000′ 12 pines vault Gold Lake Lakes Basin
South Yuba Campground 2700′ 16 pines vault South Yuba River Camp
Sterling Lake Campground 6500′ 6 pines vault lake
Talbot Campground 5600′ 5 pines vault American River
Union Flat Campground 3400′ 11 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Upper Little Truckee Camp 6100′ 26 pines vault Truckee River fishing
Webber Lake Campground 6800′ 60 pines vault lake Sierra fishing
White Cloud Campground 4200′ 46 pines flush piped biking, Nevada City
White Rock Lake Camp 7800′ 8 pines none High Sierra Nevada
Wild Plum Campground 4400′ 47 pines vault piped waterfalls, Sierra City
Woodcamp Campground 6100′ 20 pines flush piped
Woodchuck Campground 6300′ 8 pines vault creek
Yuba Pass Campground 6700′ 12 pines vault piped Yuba Pass, Hwy 49
Loganville Campground
Loganville Campground on Hwy 49
Union Flat Campground
North Yuba River @ Union Flat Campground

Tahoe National Forest

Tahoe Topo Maps


Catalina Island New Year’s Eve Celebration

47 years and counting, Catalina’s Annual New Year’s Eve Gala, held annually in the famous oceanfront Casino Ballroom. The Gala includes a buffet dinner, dancing, champagne split, one bottle of wine in a specially engraved bottle and party favors. A photographer will be onsite. Entertainment is a dinner trio and an orchestra. Coat & Tie are required; Black Tie is optional. Reservations are required.

Catalina Island, CA
Annual event: December

catalinachamber.com
(310) 510-1520