Autumn Camping California

Autumn Lakeside

RV camping Tent Camp Fishing Hiking

Amazing autumn colors can be found through OCTOBER and NOVEMBER in California, but you’ll need to leave the city in order to find the very best colors and scenic beauty. Fall season happens quickly (within weeks) in the high country and slower (months) in the lowlands. Plenty canyons and parks in the urban centers have hiking trails thru some nice trees, but nothing compares to the backroads, creeks and rivers of the big mountains.

Elevations, the higher the better, is where you’ll find the real displays of color. Aspen groves can be found along mountain slopes, creek canyons from 5000′-10,000′ in elevation. Cottonwood trees are found in the drier regions, in ranching areas and in desert canyons – up to about 6000′ elevation. Aspen trees start to turn yellow as soon as the chill of nights drop; if the temperature shift is subtle, the aspen leaves become more orange as the days go into the fall season. If an early snow or freeze happens, just one night, the glorious foliage becomes dead brown crispies dangling in the wind.

campfire
CAMP FIRE RESTRICTIONS are still be in place from the dry summer, and now comes the autumn winds. Any decent amount of rain can change the fire burn status, so make sure to check with the rangers for up-to-date fire info.

Best Autumn Campgrounds in California  

Many of these campgrounds are located in or near aspen groves & are simply spectacular during the fall months. Some may be located near alder groves. Maple trees located along rivers turn golden between September and October. 

Higher elevation (7000′-9000′) colors will change faster and earlier in the year (as soon as September), whereas the lower countryside may wait until late October. 

Pack warmly, cuz the cooler temps at night (20-30 degrees) is what makes these awesome, little autumn leaves change colors. The change can happen very fast (in days). When the early season snows move in – usually a minimal dusting by October, fall colors can fade fast.

Southern California

Tent Camp

has minimal fall colors.

Big Bear Lake, CA
Lake Arrowhead, CA

Ojai Camping – Wheeler Gorge
Sespe Hot Springs (hike-in access only)

Camping

Southern and Central Sierra

have a few aspen groves and several cottonwood canyons.

Aspen Hollow Campground NFSNFSlogo
Giant Sequoia @ Hume Lake, CA
near Kings Canyon NP

Big Meadows Campground NFS
Stanislaus National Forest
Arnold, CA

Dinkey Creek Campground NFS
Sierra National Forest
Shaver Lake, CA

Kern River Canyon

Ponderosa, CA
Quaking Aspen Campground Tent Camp
Quaking Aspen CabinTent Camp
Giant Sequoia National Monumentcamp

Wishon Reservoir
Lily Pad Campground
Sierra National Forest

Yosemite National Park
Tuolumne Meadows, Hwy 120
Yosemite Valley Campgrounds

Kirkwood, CA
Blue Lakes Road
Carson Pass CA Highway 88

Camping

Northern Sierra

The North Sierra Nevada Mountains covers the region with Lake Tahoe and Donner Pass, and north Gold Country. River canyons with fall colors include American River, Yuba River, and the Feather River.

Aspen Group Campground
@ Jackson Meadows Reservoir
near Truckee, CA

Berry Creek, CA
Milsap Bar, Middle Fork of the Feather River

Bucks Lake, CA
Haskins Valley & Grizzly Creek Campground
Oro-Quincy Highway – Plumas NF

Downieville, CA
Yuba River Campgroundsshowers

Grover Hot Springs State Park  

Hope Valley, CA
Hope Valley Campground Tent Camp

Lake Tahoe

Camping

Autumn Bliss Hike

Eastern Sierra

The Eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada is the ‘place to be’ for Autumn Colors in California. The dramatic desert meets the tallest granite peaks. Every canyon is a different scene, many lakes lined with aspen groves, some have a creek with aspens.

Aspendell, CA
North Lake Campground
Lake Sabrina Road
Bishop Pass (high country hikes)

sabrina creeking

Bishop, CA
Bishop Creek, Hwy 168
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest – both Silver Canyon and
Cottonwood Creek have aspen trees. (both are 4×4 roads)

Bridgeport, CA
Green Creek Road w/ signage for
Dunderburg Meadow
Twin Lakes
Hoover Wilderness (high country hikes)

Independence, CA
Onion Valley CampgroundTent Camp
Kearsarge Pass (high country hikes)

June Lake, CalifoniaTent Camp
June Lake Loop #1S63 / CA Highway 158

Lee Vining, CA
Lee Vining Canyon / Hwy 120
One of the biggest aspen grove canyons in the state of California.
NFS campgrounds
NFS Campgrounds in Lee Vining Canyon: Big Bend, Aspen Grove, Boulder, Moraine, and Cattleguard Campground.
NFS Camps @ Yosemite’s EAST GATE (9000′ elev): Ellery Lake, Junction, Saddlebag Lake, and Sawmill Campground.

Lundy Lake
Virginia Lakes
Trumbull CampgroundTent Camp

Lone Pine, CA
Alabama Hills has a few cottonwoods.
Whitney Portal has some alder trees and a few aspens.hiker

Mammoth Lakes, CA
Red’s Meadow Campground
Devils Postpile NM
Laurel Lakes Road (rough dirt road)
Convict Lake

Tom’s Place, CA
McGee Creek Campground Tent Camp

Rockcreek Road
Impressive Rock Creek Road #4S12 in Rock Creek Canyon, one of the very best “Scenic Autumn Drives” in the whole Eastern Sierra. Numerous NFS Campgrounds on this road; many of which close for the season, just about the time then fall colors peak.

Rock Creek Lake Campground @ 9600′ elev Tent Camp

Iris Meadow Campground @ 8600′ elev

iris meadow
Iris Meadow on Rock Creek Rd

Camping

Northern California

The “North State” primarily has the big river canyons, most of which have fall colors. Eel River, Klamath, Yuba River, Feather Rivers.

Blue Lake Campground
South Warner Mountains
Modoc National Forest

South Warner Mountains
Road 64 Modoc NF

Eagle Lake
Aspen Campground (walk-in camp sites)
Susanville, CA

Large Eagle Lake, N of Susanville, CA

Sundial Bridge,
River RV Parks
Redding, CA

Weaverville, CA

Mount Shasta, CA
(downtown of Mt. Shasta)

McBride Springs Campground
(slopes of Mount Shasta)

Lake Siskiyou
Beach Camp Resort & RV Park

4239 W. A. Barr Rd
Mount Shasta CA
530 926-2610

McCloud, CA
McCloud Falls,  South of Mount Shasta

Algoma Campground
McCloud Creek, South of Mount Shasta

MacArthur-Burney Falls State Park
Dusty Campground

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen National Forest
Lassen Camping
Lassen Lakes

Susanville, CA
Bizz Johnson Trail
Roxie Peconom Campground

Siskiyou Autumn Colors
(still to come, maybe late 2020)

eagle aspens
Paved over aspen groves @ South Eagle Lake, CA

 

Blue Lakes California

Blue Lakes
Hwy 88 @ Carson Pass
South of Tahoe

Blue Lake California
ADA Camping (Americans with Disabilities) Handicap accessible camp sites at Blue Lakes, near Hope Valley, CA

Blue Lake Campgrounds

highest lake campgrounds in the vicinity

Eldorado National Forest in Amador Ranger District; a forest south of Lake Tahoe in the central portion of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This set of scenic, alpine lakes sits in between both Eldorado, Toiyabe National Forests and the Mokelumne Wilderness. But please take note that the Blue Lake facilities are owned and operated by utility company PG&E

No Reservations.
most camp sites are available first-come, first-serve

RV limitations: 30 feet

69 miles east of Jackson, CA on Highway 88 and then another 12 miles south on Blue Lakes Road. This area is close to Hope Valley, south of Lake Tahoe, CA

Blue Lakes consist of several developed campgrounds. Blue Lakes Rd# 13 is a well signed, paved road off Hwy 88, just east of Carson Pass (8560′ elev). The route is closed during winter snow, while it serves as a winter recreation area. The main paved road becomes dirt near the campgrounds. A dirt road continues past the lakes and south to Deer Creek and meets w/ Hwy 4 near Ebbett’s Pass.blue lakes eldorado

RV campers, fishing folks, hikers, kayakers and disabled travelers like this lake camp area due to the easy access, paved parking and campground amenities. Handicapped camp sites are also prime lake front locations.

Group Campgrounds are reservable. Picnic Areas, Group Sites and campfire rings. Piped water, bear boxes and vault toilets. No RV hookups, no dump station, no showers. Unimproved boat ramps are available at Upper and Lower Blue Lakes.

Lower Blue Lake Campground
elev. 8055′
camp sites: 16

Blue Lake Dam
camp sites: 25

Middle Creek Campground
camp sites: 5

Upper Blue Lake Campground
elev. 8136′
camp sites: 32

Overflow Camp
camp sites: 34

hikesBackpackers and day hikers: Sierra trailheads out here lead south into the Mokelumne Wilderness Area. The infamous Pacific Crest Trail also passes thru this high elevation region: PCT access @ Carson Pass, Upper Lake & Tamarack Lake

recreation –PCT

  • backpacking
  • boating (non-motorized)
  • camping
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • horseback
  • kayaking

local topographic maps:

nearby townsLower Blue Lake

 

Tahoe Back Roads

driftwood

another blue lake?

Yep, there is more than one Blue Lake in California.

Blue Lake Modoc
Blue Lake Modoc NF

Modoc Blue Lake

BLUE LAKE CAMPGROUND
NorCal region of the South Warner Wilderness in Modoc National Forest. That’s way out near Alturas, CA. Northeast California, real seclusion. Paved Road #64 is Jess Valley, which leads up to forested Blue Lake Campground, elevation 6051′

Wild Blue Lake
Wildlife viewing @ Blue Lake Modoc

Donner Blue Lake

DONNER PASS – Sierra Nevada
Interstate 80

BLUE LAKE CAMPGROUND
i80 Donner Pass, near Truckee, CA; a PGE Campground w/ 4×4 access and hike-in only. First come, first serve. No tables or restrooms, elevation 5900′

 

Blue Lake Modoc

Modoc Blue Lake
Blue Lake in Modoc National Forest
Hiking Lake
Hiking Lake w/ Loop Trail in far Northern California

Blue Lake
Modoc National Forest

When you really wanna get away from it all, take a week off and head up to Modoc – the top northeast corner of California, where the volcanic mountains line the Great Basin.  The population is minimal, cattle are abundant and the campers few. Even in mid summer, this ideal lake campground rarely fills up.

camp

Jess Valley Road leads east off US 395 @ Likely, CA – 16 miles back to this hidden gem.

Headwaters to the Pit River.

NFS Campground is shady, well managed, and spread out on the eastern slope w/ numerous paved loops. Tent campers, cross country cyclists, truck campers w/ canoes, SUV families, motorhomes with kayaks and kids.

modoc map
Modoc Map

Blue Lake Campground NFS
• Elevation: 6,050′
• Number of Sites: 48
• Vehicle Accessibility: 32′ RV
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Campsite Reservation: No
• Water: Piped
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May –October
• Trailhead: Lake Loop
• Boat Ramp: Yes

Group Camp Facilities (by reservation only)
Modoc NF Warner Ranger District
@ 530-279-6116

Lava Blue Lake
Lava Rock @ Blue Lake Loop, in Modoc County, CA

Blue Lake National Recreation Trail

hikerRight next to camp: A pretty much perfect LAKE LOOP (1.5 mi) hiking trail is worth a serious stroll; footbridge, wildflowers, fishing spots, minimal hills, lava rocks, and awesome scenery. Plenty of wildlife can be seen, including butterflies and bald eagles. Trail is shaded by tall white fir and ponderosa pine trees. Trailhead is located at the Day Use parking lot, w/ paved boat ramp, dock, and picnic area.

stars canoe  fish

  • back roads
  • boating
  • camping
  • canoeing
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • kayaking
  • mountain biking
  • picnicking
  • swimming
  • stargazing
  • wildflowers
  • wildlife

Wild Blue Lake

NOTE: not every CAMPSITE has a LAKE VIEW

Certain campsites are adjacent to the lake; some are set facing a meadow (Autumn w/ aspen groves), or the alpine forest w/ deer grazing. Perhaps an inner circle (interior) campsite, for those who like to be close to bathrooms and piped water. Large families will love the abundance of camp settings and accommodations.

Paved Loop
Plenty of Vault Toilets
Piped Water
Recycles & Trash Service

Large Campsites
Large Campsites can accommodate Motorhomes
  • no paved camp stall
  • no hook-ups
  • no dump station
  • no cell phone signalcamptruck

popular lake camp for motorhomes

When driving a large RV back in here, be courteous of other campers. Nothing sucks more than driving a long distance to the boonies, to arrive at camp just before dark and annoying everyone else already there.

Those needing to drive the campground loops (more than twice) looking for the biggest, levelest, best camp site – and burning $10 in gasoline doing so, should consider walking in.RV

Park that beast (near boat ramp area, before the camp entrance). Get out and walk the hills and loops, BREATHE & relax – prior to a choosing camp site.

Unhitch any tow vehicles; use that to scout out your perfect spot, if you cannot hike it. Trailers and large motorhomes will find this place ideal, but getting the right camp, can make all the difference.

Trail around Campground

Paved Trail around CampgroundThe wildfire: BLUE FIRE burned this region in 2001, but it is lush and green again (2019). Northern California gets some real weather. Rain and snow, more than half the year. The campground closes annually due to snow.

Kayaking is best done in the morning, cuz wind picks up in the afternoon. Canoes can launch at boat ramp, or at shoreline from trails near campsite.

Hiking trails can be found all around lake and campground. Wilderness access can be found at South Warner trailheads within a short drive from the lake.

Cyclists also love this camp, as it is located near a major highway and is a perfect place to really relax, soak in the scenery and get some quiet-nights sleep.

Modoc National ForestNFSlogo
225 West 8th Street
Alturas, CA 96101
530-233-5811

 

south warner sign

South Warner Wilderness is close by, driving distance; accessible by graded dirt roads. Signage is decent.

Modoc Forest Road #64 is a through-route, across the lower South Warners – 40
miles connecting to east side of the mountain, at Eagleville, CA.

Dirt Roads are suitable for trucks w/ trailers. SUVs and rugged passenger cars are okay. Motorhomes are not advised on this route.  Washboard conditions are typical. Winter closure on this route is common.

south warner mountains map

MODOC RD 64

Several miles away from Blue Lake, 2 rustic trailhead campgrounds are located back this way – East Creek Campground & Patterson Campground. Less than 10 camp sites each, equipped  w/ horse stalls, vault toilets and maybe piped water. Trailhead parking for backpackers. No RVs!

Autumn colors w/ aspen groves. Open, large meadows and mature forests w/ wildfire scars. Cattle can be found grazing all around, many cattle crossing.

Minimal primitive camping options, along road sides. Campfire permits required. No camping within one mile of a developed campground.

Cow Country
Modoc is Cow Country
Road64
Day Trippin – Out exploring Modoc Road 64 (and cutting firewood)

nearby towns –

see also –
Mill Creek Falls Campground

South Warner Wilderness

Warner Mountains
Modoc Country
Northeast California

Road 64

Wide open spaces, mountains, rivers and ranch lands. The very last of the unexplored high country of California. Rural and rustic regions are full of forested mountain ranges with sage brush meadows lying below. Valleys are high elevation deserts with a base terrain sitting above 4000′; Peaks @ 8000′ above sea level.

South Warner Wilderness

70,000 acres
80 miles N of Susanville, CA
Modoc National Forest
NFS

South Warner Wilderness is in the southern portion of the Warner Mountains, a north south positioned range, located in the top corner of the golden state. Surprise Valley lies to the east, bordering the Nevada state line and Alturas w/ US Hwy 395 on the west side.

California SR 299
Hwy 299, the only paved thoroughfare cuts right through the middle of the Warner Mountains. Paved Parker Creek Road #56 climbs up Parker Creek from Alturas, accessing camping, hiking, dirt back roads and wilderness trailheads. Warner Mountains State Game Refuge is north of the wilderness area.

One dirt route skirts the wilderness boundary – West Warner Road #5, which leads from Parker Creek due south to Jess Valley Rd #64. Blue Lake Road, Patterson Mill and Road #39N15 are nearest to East Creek. Winter driving tips from NFS.

butterfly

  • backpacking
  • camping
  • creeks
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • horseback riding
  • hot springs
  • lakes
  • waterfalls
  • wildflowers
  • wildlife

South Warner Lakes & Reservoirs lake

  • Clear Lake
  • Patterson Lake
  • Porter Reservoir (elev 6682′)
  • West Valley Reservoir (elev 4761′)
  • Blue Lake
  • Sworinger Reservoir (elev 5868′)

South Warner Trailheads hikes

  • Summit North Trailhead (Road #31)
  • Pine Creek Trailhead (Road #5)
  • Mill Creek Trailhead (Road #40N24)
  • Clear Lake Trailhead (Road #5)
  • Summit South Trailhead (Road #64)

mill creek falls modoc

South Warner Campgrounds camp

All these campgrounds listed can be accessed by a vehicle, most by narrow back roads (some dirt). If you prefer to drive on paved roads only, then you’ll need to choose Blue Lake or Mill Creek Falls. Deep snow closes forest roads and campgrounds are generally only open a few months per year, from May to October.

South Warner Mountain Peaks

  • Squaw Peak (elev 8646′)
  • Warren Peak (elev 9710′)
  • Dusenbury Peak (elev 9710′)
  • Eagle Peak (elev 9892′)
  • Cole Peak (elev 8970′)
  • Emerson Peak (elev 8989′)
  • Hat Mountain (elev 8737′)
  • Red Rock Mountain (elev 8518′)

south warner mountains map

Wilderness permits can be obtained at local ranger station: NFS
Modoc National Forest
225 West 8th Street
Alturas, CA 96101
530-233-5811

Blue Lake Modoc
Blue Lake Modoc

nearby towns –

Clear Lake California

lucerneviews

LAKE CO.

CLEAR LAKE, California  – aka Clearlake
North of San Francisco. Large freshwater lake, in the hills above Napa/Sonoma wine country. Vineyards, residential, small towns and parks surround the large lake. Boating, fishing, and retirement living.

towns & communities around this lake:fish

  • Clearlake
  • Clearlake Oaks
  • Glenhaven
  • Pepperwood Grove
  • Lucerne
  • Nice
  • Upper Lake

boatramp

  • Lakeport
  • Fineley
  • Kelseyville
  • Soda Bay
  • Buckingham Park
  • Riveria Estates
  • Clear Lake Riveria
  • Lower Lake

parks around lake:purple

Anderson Marsh SHP

Clear Lake State Park

Lucerne Alpine Park

Keeling Park, in Nice

NFSlogo

Mendocino National Forest is just up the hill, yet much of it burnt in the wildfire 2018. #RanchFire

local hot springs:

Harbin Hot Springs is south of Clear Lake,  below Boggs Mountain

Wilbur Hot Springs is 27 miles to the east of Clear Lake, off Hwy 20

 

driftwood

mill creek falls
Mill Creek Falls in Modoc

MODOC CO.

fishClear Lake – South Warner Wilderness

Mill Creek Falls Campground:

south warner signUpstream from Mill Creek waterfall sits a small Clear Lake, at the south end of the Warner Mountains. Lake is hiking distance from camp @ 5680′ elevation. Good fishing destination, but only accessible by trail, foot or horseback.

hiker

refuge

Clear Lake NWR

Far Northern California
Clear Lake Reservoir is a National Wildlife Refuge

20,000 acres of open water surrounded by over 26,000 acres of upland bunchgrass, low sagebrush, and juniper habitat. Nearest town is TuleLake, CA near the Oregon border.

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