Mount Lassen is part of the Cascade Mountain Range, located north of the Sierra Nevada. The Lassen forest encompasses a large area of wilderness land, snowmelt creeks and an abundant dirt road system. Most of which is covered in deep snow about half the year, so plan accordingly.
Plenty of great dispersed camping along the old logging roads in this Lassen Forest area, surrounding the Volcanic National Park; in Northern California. Many dirt roads are graded annually to allow for passenger car access. You can make it way back there in a car – just watch for the mud and some boulders!
Camp fire permits required (see below). Pease try to choose a camp that has been used before and pack out your garbage.
HINT: a USDA Lassen National Forest Map is very helpful when camping these remote, Lassen back roads. Stay away from the crowds, avoid camp fees & really enjoy your vacation.
Camp right on a rushing river, alone. With no one in sight or sound. Have that secluded camping experience you’ve always dreamed about. Fishing, relaxing, maybe some hiking too. Or better, your mountain bike. Plenty forest roads to explore.
Numerous waterfalls to discover, water flowing everywhere. Mount Lassen @ 10,457′ elevation, is often snow-capped year round. This Northern California region is covered with pine forests and volcanic history.
If you wanna find the nearest biker bar, head over to the rustic and forested Bambi Inn @ Butte Meadows. The place is popular all the time, especially on weekends. Scenic day drive from Chico, located near a nice river and bridge, plus they have cabin rentals too. Sometimes they have big events and it can get pretty crowded and loud w/ drinking and outdoor music.
BSA Camp Lassen is a boy scout camp located E of Chico, off Highway 32 near Butte Meadows, CA
Dispersed Camp sites in Lassen in Lake Almanor Area
Alder Creek Campground
Benner Creek Campground
Black Rock Campground
year round, fish
Echo Lake Campground
May-Nov, no tables
Soldier Creek Campground
May-Nov, fall hunters
South Antelope Campground
Willow Lake Campground
May-Nov, no tables
Northside of Mount Lassen
Excellent back roads camping w/ dense forest and free firewood all over the place (bring hand saw). Dispersed, primitive, free camping, near creek, and highway close. Many forest dirt roads turn offs, all along Highway 44 (California SR 44) near junction w/ Hwy 89 @ Lassen National Park.
Big creeks, dense forests, graded dirt roads, dark night skies. PCT access, trailheads, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, all along Upper Hat Creek.
Campfire permits (shovel, bucket & water) are required when camping outside of a developed campground. Always check on current fire restrictions. Washed out bridges and landslides are common, which means road closed signs can be found on these remote backroads.
Just found another MILL CREEK in Northern California; a waterfall on the west side of the South Warner Wilderness. Located at the headwaters to the Pit River; about 6 miles east of Likely, CA
A small developed campground on a wooded slope; with new bathrooms, shady camp sites, a paved loop, and a short hike to the falls.Hiking trailhead leads into the wilderness area for fishing, hiking, lakes and backcountry access.
Open less than half the year, due to winter snow. Campground access off US Hwy 395, via Jess Valley Road #64
Mill Creek Falls Campground NFS
• Elevation: 5,680′
• Number of Sites: 20
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Piped Water: Yes
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: South Warner Wilderness, Clear Lake
Make plans for your nights spent camping out, under the stars, watching the celestial events and meteor showers. Comfortable: Hat, blanket, radio. Hot cocoa and sugary treats will help keep you awake and alert.
The California Deserts are sometimes the best place to watch the nights sky, unless the winds are kicking up. Deserts are warmer than other locations and if you position yourself well you can be far from any city lights.
The California Foothills, both coastal foothills or mountain foothills – are the second best choice, if you can drive up canyons and get well away from the sprawling suburbs. Choice spots would be ridges above 2000′ elevation, with minimal trees. Oak foothills are choice spots. Higher than 4000′ and you will be chillin overnight.
The California Mountains are the prime choice for summertime recreation of all kinds. Primitive camping on the back roads will save you fees at a developed campground. The higher in altitude, the less atmosphere above you – the better night sky viewing is above. Choose a meadow or mountain ridge w/ minimal trees. Burn areas provide wide open spots, so you can seek old wildfire ridges. Nights can get pretty chilly most all year long, so go well prepared. Jackets, gloves, hats and all. Keep all campfires to a bare minimum after 9pm, so you can focus on the stars in the sky.
your pupils will welcome the dark skies
The California Coast is often covered with a thick layer of clouds and moisture, so star gazing along the ocean front is not always great. Central Coast and NorCal beaches have less less population, so these would be the ideal locations. Choose an inland valley w/ rolling oak hills and dirt roads, over the busy beaches. There might be clear days and nights, especially if forecast call for heat – check the local weather forecast for accurate up to date conditions.
Large urban areas, the cities and towns of California are the worst place you can sky watch, due to light pollution, traffic and smog. Drive to the outskirts of town – pick a dark location, a park, open space or forest lands nearby. Arrive before dark to get the best spots, well off the main road. Choose viewing spots without street lights and without passing traffic. Find a nice level spot to set chairs up and bring lots of snacks.
EB from Fresno, Hwy 168 up to Shaver, w/ another 30+ miles on paved backroads
(Dinkey Creek Rd & then McKinley Grove Rd)
Way, way back, beyond Dinkey
You gotta really wanna BE at places like this. Magical High Sierra mountains – California’s finest. Sheer beauty surrounds this lake w/ granite domes, granite cliffs, granite trails, forests, peaks and plenty hiking, fishing, water and boating. It does take planning (way ahead) to make it out here, cuz the area is only accessible during summer months. Typical of high altitude lakes, snow buries them annually and the roads get closed off to the public (usually NOV-MAY is winter). Some backcountry routes become snowmobiling trails during winter, and the Sierra National Forest has plenty of great snomo action (if snow is deep).
Wishon Lake, California
High Sierra Granite Reservoir with pines trees and rocky, granite shoreline. Not nearly as amazing as its cousin w/ the domes to the north, Courtright, Wishon has less granite & less wind, but more accessible backroads to explore, plus more car camping options. Both lakes are part of the Helms Creek hydro-electric project (dams) that make up the PG&E water infrastructure out in these parts – The Kings River Drainage System.
Backpacker trailheads, Woodchuck, Rancheria & Crown Valley all lead to dead end dirt roads – with nothing but solitude for miles & miles. Some might be passenger car accessible. Winter weather changes dirt road conditions (often).
The Kings River Geological Area is nearby, as well as both the John Muir Wilderness & Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.
Large Reservoir with 8,000-10,000′ high sierra mountain peaks surrounding. Pine forests, views, fishing, camping, hiking in every direction, secluded dirt roads. Perfect high elevation trailheads, next to John Muir Wilderness. Great for backpackers!
All boating, but no waterski or jet ski.
One public boat ramp. Fishing boat rentals available.
Wishon is a summer vacation paradise for trout fishing, hiking, backpacking and back road exploring.
CLOSED FOR WINTER: NOV-APRIL = Snow closes the road for winter. For all you hardcore campers and hikers, you must call ahead to see if roads are open. It is rural forest, well traveled, but snow storms will shut everything down out here (for many months). Although, in some mild winters you can drive as far as Dinkey Creek on pavement. Gates are locked beyond that.
Dinkey Creek Campground
Gigantea Campground McKinley Sequoia Grove
Sawmill Campground (dirt road)
Free, primitive or open camping abundant on the dirt backroads in Sierra National Forest. 4 wheel drive is not required for most routes, but a high clearance rig would help. Some gravel roads are graded annually and suitable for passenger cars – during summer months and only for about the first mile or two, off of the main road (pavement). Mud and snow are common on backroads!
The granite spires of the Sierra Buttes (8591′) tower above both Upper & Lower Sardine, making for a glorious backdrop to these two lakes. This is a popular fishing lake with no swimming allowed. The water is so clear that at noon you can see to the bottom!
There are numerous, super-scenic, small lakes in this region and one trip here is not nearly enough. Total Escape rates this collection of small lakes up there w/ the ‘best hiking lakes’ in California. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through this awesome lakes area, which is located north of Truckee, east of Downieville.
high elevation means snow
Plumas Co Road #24 is the Gold Lake Road, also referred to as the Gold Lake Highway – which skirts the lakes, the buttes and connects Historic Gold Country Hwy 49 to Graeagle Golfing @ Hwy 89. SNOW CLOSES THIS ROAD, but the area remains open for winter recreation.
SARDINE LAKE ROAD, a paved turn off the main road. NFS Campground is located one mile from the shore at Lower Sardine. Sardine Lake Resort rents cabins and the restaurant serves dinners w/ lake view!
Sardine Lake Campground
• Elevation: 5800′
• Number of Sites: 29
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′
• Campsites Reservation: Yes
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Facilities: piped water, vault toilet
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: Sierra Buttes & PCT
Sardine Peak Lookout
SARDINE PEAK FIRE TOWER LOOKOUT (NFS)
Built in 1935, a three story enclosed tower with external stairs. 2019 – No longer available as an overnight rental. (elevation 8138′)
Upper Sardine Lake: Takes only a short hike to get to. This is a pure glacial bowl; the rock plunges straight into the water, no beach at all. Great fishing; ice-cold swimming.
An overnight stay out-of-doors. Sleeping out under the stars.
Air bed, camping cot, tent… or just a tarp on the ground.
Perhaps A Mountain Cabin Rental. Your choice.
From a luxurious cabin in the mountains, to a small clearing in near a meadow with a stream nearby – with just a backpack, the idea of “camping” is always a bit different for each person. Roughin’ it for free in the wilderness, or on the backroads; Or pay dearly for the price of real amenities, while on vacation.
camp sites that require you to physically haul your camp gear from a parking area to the camp spot, ranging from 1/8 mi. walk to a 1-3 mile hike
free w/ wilderness permit
ultimate in seclusion, bring it all on your back, on foot into the wilderness & enjoy trail camps
SO CAL CAMP FIRES – Yellow Post Campsites are remote camping spots in secluded areas, in a designated fire safe clearing. No facilities such as toilets or showers. Maybe a picnic table & fire rings, if you’re lucky. Southern California forests have these kinda spots. Required campfire permit & you must double check on local fire restrictions.
These structures are half way between ‘roughing it in a tent on the ground’ & having a ‘mountain cabin’. Tent cabins have wooden floors w/ canvas walls and roof; Dismantled annually for winter rain/snow, they are usually only available in mild, coastal climates or during summer months in the mountains.
Rentals typically include sleeping cots, but you’ll need to bring your own bedding (sleeping bags, sheets, pillows). Some rentals include shaded porches, wooden decks, minimal furniture, kitchenettes and/or wood burning stoves. Electricity may be available, or maybe not. Ask ahead of time, if you really must have that particular luxury when on vacation.
Yurts are a ’round version’ of this canvas cabin – which need to be aired out, often (to prevent mold). Yurt rentals are very popular and in high demand in California.
Find these type of rentals at yoga retreats, hot springs, beach canyons, remote lakes, redwood forests, high sierra camps, fishing camps and at certain RV parks.
Small mountain resort in the forest near Mill Creek, with cabin rentals, RV camping and campgrounds nearby. A general store is open in summer months, and snow can be found in winter. Highway 172 makes a nice paved loop around this forested area and joins back to Hwy 36. Route may be closed due to snow in winter & spring. Free camping can be found along this creek, although a campfire permit is always required for camping outside of developed campgrounds.
Mill Creek Indians: Described as a group of ‘renegade and outlaws’, from multiple tribes in NorCal. Mill Creek Indians took shelter in secluded Mill Creek gorge, located below the Mill Creek Rim, a volcanic ridge which extends from Mount Lassen to the Sacramento River Valley. See more on Ishi Wilderness.
Fouts Springsis a popular off-road camping area on the far east side of Mendocino National Forest. Many miles off I-5, near Stonyford, CA. Numerous NFS campgrounds exist is this rugged canyon. One of them is called Mill Creek Campground and it has few pine tree and lots of chaparral, plus a decent little creek flowing nearby. OHV – off highway vehicle use is heavy in this region, so know when to go. At certain times of the year this remote canyon can be quiet and peaceful. Call the local rangers to find out.
5171 Stonyford-Elk Creek Road
Stonyford, CA 95979
NOTE: RANCH FIRE (Mendocino Complex Fire of 2018) this whole Mendocino Forest (east side) was badly burned by the largest wildfire in California history. All of the Snow Mountain Wilderness was affected, including all the National Forest land surrounding it. Fouts Springs Campgrounds may have been spared, but the hills, trails and roads now lead to blackened forest. Many routes could be closed; check with ranger station in advance of travel.
Mill Creek Waterfall is located on the western slopes of the Warner Range, near the South Warner Wilderness. On the headwaters to the Pit River; About 6 miles east of US Highway 395, near the town of Likely, south of Alturas, California
TheBucks Lake Wilderness region also has a developed NFS Mill Creek Campground. The camp location is well off the Bucks Lake Road, tucked deep in a tight canyon; northern most point and near a dam for the large Bucks Lake.
elevation = 5200′
10 camp sites
closed in winter
14 night camp limit
RV = 21′ max
camp fire rings
Bucklin Road (aka Bucklin Dam Rd and Road 33) #24N24 a paved road on the west end of Bucks Lake, connects to Road #24N88X which leads back to this smaller campground; camp sites are paved. Steep driveway down.
This Mill Creek intersects Bucks Lake at the campground, then connects to the PCT hiking trail, although the narrow dirt road #24N88X veers away from creek a few miles up.
This Mill Creek is located on the south shore of the lower Kings River, above Pine Flat Reservoir. This is the boundary where Sequoia NF meets the big river, and on the other side of the water is the Sierra NF.
Mill Flat Campground (also known as Mill Creek Camp) is a shady, oak flat campground on a dirt road, located at a dead end canyon site, right on the rocky rivers edge.
As usual – the further you drive, the more seclusion you will find. This observation holds true for this Mill Creek location. During peak summer months, there may be families enjoying this spot, but most of the year it is virtually empty and rarely used.
2018 & 2019 Hit especially hard by wildfires recently. Certain campgrounds and roads are closed to the public, due to the significant fire damage.
Mendocino National Forest has an abundance of small campgrounds and 4×4 camps, many of which, due to snow & elevation, can only be accessed in summer months. Many developed campgrounds are located on dirt roads, so know the road conditions before you get out there.
NOTE: all camps 2000′ elevation or lower are OPEN ALL YEAR LONG Red text for OHV = off road use, dirt bikes, quads, 4x4s, trailers.
Kern River is a top recreation destination for the lower half of the state, since it is the only big Sierra river within easy reach of Southern California.
Lower mountain elevations 2000-4000′ means camping all year is possible on the Kern. With only a few inches of rainfall, plus an average high temperature of 60 degrees in December & January, Kernville has become a year-round recreation destination for the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Kern Canyon and most surrounding mountains are managed by USDA: Sequoia National Forest, which extends south to the Tehachapi range!
Sierra Nevada ROAD CLOSURES during winter restricts that Kern Canyon is only accessible via the Hwy 178 route. Both the Western Divide Highway (to the north) and Sherman’s Pass Road (to the east) close for many months, due to snow. (typically, NOV-APRIL closure)
Popular Kern Recreation – backpacking, camping, fishing, hiking, river rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, off-roading & floating (inner tubing).
Kern River can be divided into 5 different & distinct regions:
Kern River High Country
headwaters of the Kern River.
High Sierra, Golden Trout Wilderness, Kern Hot Springs, Mount Whitney snowmelt, Kern Gorge. foot access only, wilderness backcountry. fishing, day hikes, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, horse packs.
backpackers & fishing trailheads
Big parking lot at the bridge. trails travel rivers edge into a tight canyon, impressive rock gorge continues up to the tallest mountain peaks in the High Sierra.
RINCON CAMP – The Rincon Fault (an earthquake faut line) runs in a north-south direction, on the east side of Kern River. Popular and rugged RINCON, a dirt bike and mountain bike trail runs this ridge as well. An overgrown hunters camp (which has been almost destroyed) is located up hill from Brush Creek falls; but accessible via unmaintained dirt road – unsigned pull out, just off Shermans’ Pass Road. High clearance vehicle is needed to reach this spot.
This part of the river sees much of the action, with kayakers, river rafters, fishermen, RVs, motorcycles, mountain bikers, backpackers and campers, seeking easy river access, hiking trailheads or just a good picnic spot.
Numerous small lodges between Kernville & Johnsondale
Brush Creek: awesome waterfalls & pools on Brush Creek, only accessible by hiking trail.
Rincon Trail runs above the river on the east side, via the Rincon earthquake fault. This is right where Brush Creek comes down the steep mountain. RINCON is favorite mountain biking trail, that is also open to dirt bikes (OHV) & equestrian, so share the trail and play nice. Rincon Camp is rugged, may be overgrown and unmaintained. Long dirt road might require high clearance vehicle or possible 4×4, if weather is wet.
Huge recreational reservoir in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Dry and high desert terrain. Canyons have more vegetation. East part of lake is a wildlife refuge w/ abundant cottonwood trees, which turn golden yellow in Autumn.
The earthen dam is on the south westside. California State Route 178 (Hwy 178), which connects Mojave desert w/ Bako. This major east-west Sierra route is a four-laner (freeway) cutting thru the valley. EXIT# intersects w/ CA 155 to reach Alta Sierra, Wofford Heights, Kernville and all place north of there.
Minimal to modest campsites in the lower canyon. Most seclusion for overnight spots, can be found along the empty stretches of the Old Kern Canyon Road. Many curvy mountain miles, one lane, paved, several flat spots for easy road-side camping. Caution for cattle in roadway. Speed limit is generally under 40 mph for this historic route which parallels the 178, in between Lake Isabella and Bako.
Sequoia National Forest Campgrounds
Kern River, Southern Sierra Nevada
All the developed campgrounds listed below charge an overnight fee. Some are open year round, while others close for winter. Few are walking distance to the market, some may have piped running water, and garbage collection. Most have paved loop driveways and can accommodate large RVs. All campgrounds have bathroom facilities.
No day use parking lot inside the campgrounds. Park outside the camping grounds for recreation: fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rafting or wildflowers.
This entire canyon is dedicated to outdoor recreation w/ very few residential streets. Southern Sierra Nevada mountains – the whole Kern River area draws a lot of traffic from its proximity to Southern California.
Although the grizzly bear image graces the state flag, grizzlies were killed off during the gold rush days. Black bears are found in California mountains and foothills, down to lowest elevations in NorCal. California black bears come in more than one color – light brown, cinnamon, dark brown, and of course, black. For the most part, bears usually stay away from people.
Some areas are more prone to bear problems due in large part to the overpopulation of tourists and abundance of food provided by them. Certain California National Parks are particularly notorious for their brazen bear populations. Concentrated bear problems are sometimes posted so be very aware and read signs. If you see steel bear boxes, leave no food or drink in your vehicle. Use the boxes to keep bears from breaking into your car!
Follow some simple rules:
Keep a very clean campsite
Clean up all dirty dishes & beverage containers (especially before bedtime)
Keep clothing & sleeping bags free from food odors or heavy scents
Never leave any type of food garbage ‘bagged up’, sitting outside of a cabin rental, motorhome, trailer, or mountain home
Store garbage properly inside a locked, sturdy container inside garage or a shed
Stay away from bear cubs, there is sure to be a protective (aggressive) mother in close proximity
Try not to hike alone. Make noise & sing on trails to scare away any unwanted animals.
Bear storage canisters are available at sporting good stores & at stores in most National Parks.
Proper Food Storage Outdoors:
Store food in closed up automobile, not visible. Store food correctly: in trunk of your car, or hidden from sight; in campground food lockers when available.
Lock all food, beverages and coolers in the provided metal bear boxes or bear lockers where available.
Toothpaste, deodorant & anything that has a scent should be thought of as food and stored accordingly.
Bears are so strong they can rip your car door open (in places like Yosemite, where bears are problem and you can get cited for not storing food items properly)
Bears are so strong they can break open a garage door to get to the smelly trash inside, so make sure you utilize the curbside pickup service available in some mountain communities or take a trip to the dump once per week.
DO NOT LEAVE FOOD OUT, UNATTENDED, outdoors…
during a picnic lunch, a quick snack, maybe a barbeque, or dinner around the campfire.
Birds, dogs, squirrels and wild animals can move in quickly.
Backpackers should hang food in nylon bag & drape over weak branch in high in tree: hang your food using the counterbalance method. Ranger who issues your wilderness permit can explain the hanging procedure;
2 stuff sacks (with drawstrings) for your food items, and 60 feet of medium weight cord. 2 carabiners make hanging much easier.
When primitive car camping on a dirt road, which does not have campgrounds, nor bear lockers, it is possible to store food in the vehicle. BEST location is on the front floorboards with towel over it. With the car alarm set at bedtime, any ruckus should trigger a decent alarm. Any large animal trying to break in will get blasted with alarm siren & most likely will run away. The noise will wake you up as well, to deal with the intruder, if need be.
If a bear does get into your camp area:
At night, bring bear repellent can into tent, storing it close to the door. Bring a weapon for added protection.
Make as much noise as possible: yell, bang pots/pans, whistle, air horn and get your bear mace or pepper spray ready in hand
Raise your hands up to appear larger; lift clothing, increase appearance of size and yell aggressively toward bear.
Get your entire camp group together, join hands and spread out; Everyone at the camp should be outside the tents in order to be as effective as possible
Throw rocks & small objects; pots, pans, chairs
If possible, try to get to your car for protection
Sound the alarm on a vehicle &/or honk the horn
If you encounter a bear on a hiking trail:
Make as much noise as possible while walking solo. Hum, sing, talk to the birds. Sing or talk to yourself – out loud. Bear bells can be worn on hiking boots. Do not hike w/ headphones on listening to music/radio.
Carry bear spray (mace or pepper) in a belt holster, or easy to reach pack.
If a bear approaches: stand still, slowly retreat, say a few calming words in a friendly voice and calmly retreat, keep eyes on the bear
Plumas National Foresthas excellent outdoor recreation and developed campgrounds, as well as secluded, primitive back roads camping sites. If you prefer a camp with table, toilet and a campfire ring, then expect to pay a fee. There are several small, remote campgrounds listed below, but most are located on paved roads. Venture down dirt roads to find a premium camp sites for free. Scroll the map links below to explore the back roads of Plumas, and discover hidden fishing holes.
Plumas Camping; Sierra Nevada Campgrounds; Feather River Fishing Lakes