Category Archives: Camping

California Camping Advice

California Parks List

California Parks and Recreation

State Parks, State Forests, State Recreation Area, National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests – What is the Difference?

public lands

Forest, Park, Reserve, Monument, Recreation Area, BLM, Nature Preserve… arghh!

Don’t let all the park and forest names confuse you. It is all California and it is your public land! No bikes on trails, No gathering wood, No dogs here, No camping there; Now what?

Below is our overview graph for all California parks and forests – the basic concepts & the rules broken down for anyone to understand. Permits may be needed in certain areas. Only the government officials understand the true nature of all the ridiculous red tape.

CA Wilderness Areas California Wilderness Back country lands very protected from roads and human impact. Off limits to vehicles & mountain bikes. Only accessible by backpacking, hiking or horseback. Endangered species; Hard to reach terrains in the High Sierra. Overnight visits may require a wilderness permit.
CA National Parks California
National Parks – NPS: National Park Service
Federal lands are national parks, preserves & monuments; highly regarded as some of the most scenic in world & protected.  Very popular places and crowds often in summer. Limited use areas for camping & recreation. No mountain biking on trails. No dogs on trails. Try off-season. Drive thru entrance fees.
NM: California
National Monument
Located within the National Park System & more specific to a region. Historic buildings, geological features and deserts ruins qualify. Some National Monuments become National Parks. Many locations have entrance fees.
NRA: National Recreation Area Located within the National Park System & somewhat specific to a waterways, coastlines, lakes and reservoirs. Some locations have entrance fees.
NSA:
National Scenic Area National Seashore
Located within the National Park System & is basically scenic area worth preserving. Usually no entrance fees.
California National Parks
California USFS:
CA National Forests
USDA Forest Service
Areas of forest lands throughout state; some surround the National Parks. 18 national forests make up 20 million acres of federal land. Multiple use areas: snow skiing, mining, grazing, off-roading. OHV & SVRA Tons of small campgrounds, recreation & primitive spots for real seclusion. Best bet for finding a spot away from the crowds. Get a free fire permit & camp on back roads. No entrance fees, some parking or day use fees; SoCal requires an Adventure Pass.
California State Parks
California SP:
California State Parks
California Department of Parks & Recreation manages more than 260 parks. These smaller parks are located near cities with historical parks, as well as remote wild state land & coastal beaches. Entrance fees, day use, picnic and some have campgrounds. State Parks charge fees for day use, parking and overnight camping.
California SF: California State Forest California Demonstration Forests, areas to be protected. Redwoods & Sequoia Groves; fragile eco-systems. Handle with care. May charge entrance fee or day use fee.
California SRA:
State Recreation Areas
California Department of Parks and Recreation. Lakes, Reservoirs, Rivers. Many have boat rentals and active marina. Recreation lakes charge entrance, day use, parking or boat launch fees.
California OHV & SVRA: Off Hwy Vehicle Area and State Vehicle Recreation Areas Off Roading folks and dirt bikes can have their fun wheelin. Lands set aside for OHV use; dune buggies, quads & 4×4 enthusiasts. Most in desert regions; forest lands. Developed campgrounds large enough to accommodate RVs and trailers. Fees may apply in these off-road areas for day use or camping.
California County Parks Desert hot springs, oak foothills and campgrounds, local hills w/ hikes, parks close to urban regions. Back roads & rural land protected from freeways & development. May require parking or entrance fees. Find these listed on the California A-Z town pages
City Parks in California Urban Parks & Recreation, inside the city limits. Usually no entrance fees. Find these on California A-Z town pages
blm camps
BLM: public lands Bureau of Land Management All public lands that do not fall into the above categories. Little to no fees for day use, recreation or overnight camping. Plenty of desert & off roading areas. Some forest lands, certain lakes. Small campgrounds or open camping allowed. Fees may apply in developed campgrounds. Camp overnight almost anywhere out here for free, with a ranger issued camp fire permit.

califrepublic

 

Sequoia – which one?
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia National Monument

Imagine that the Southern Sierra mountains is home to 3 different public parks named Sequoia. Yep, it’s true. Sequoia National Park, Sequoia National Forest, and Giant Sequoia National Monument. Other parks that have Sequoia groves are – Mountain Home State Forest, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, as well as Yosemite National Park.

As far as the Coastal Redwoods, most are included under State Parks. Find these parks on the Central Coast Big Sur and Santa Cruz mountains, plus Marin County, and all along the north coast US Hwy 101 from Mendocino to the Oregon border. Numerous redwoods parks are located along rivers.

we break it all down here on
Big, Tall, Old Trees

The super scenic Big Sur coastline is home to Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park and to the similarly named Pfieffer Big Sur State Park. Leave it to park personnel, state officials or the non-locals to create such a confusing naming system within our most-visited state.

hiker

Park Maps & Topos  topo maps

National Forest Atlas
National Forest Maps
National Park Maps
State Park Maps
BLM Maps

Lava Blue Lake
Lava Rock @ Blue Lake in Modoc County
holcombcamp
Holcomb Valley Camp, Big Bear Lake, CA
Wilderness with Horses Sierra Ski Maps Camping California Wilderness Rangers Snow Ski Topo Maps Mountain Biking Maps
Wilderness Hikes Wilderness Hiking Maps Wilderness Topo Maps Sierra Fishing Maps Sierra Topo Maps California Hiking Maps
holeinthegroundsign
Lassen Camping near a creek in Northern California

California Outdoor Recreation:
All parks, forests, preserves, monuments, public lands, lakes, rivers, wilderness, historical sites and museums can be found listed separately on our super duper local A-Z town pages

fout springs
Fout Springs, near Stonyford, Northern California

dirtbikes

Canyon Creek Campground

Tucked way back in the granite high elevations, near Donner Pass is a wilderness water flow called Canyon Creek. Connecting small lakes and big reservoir, this creek is part of the Nevada District water supply. The Sierra Nevada region is Tahoe National Forest and the terrain is abundant rock.

Campground is perched on the edge of rock overlooking the impressive whitewater; sounds of crashing water at certain campsites is deafening. Half of the campsites are located in a forest loop and the rest are out in the open, with much granite and fewer trees, perfect for star watchers.

Canyon Creek California

 

creekcanyon

Lake Faucherie is a mile up the creek and Sawmill Lake is a mile down stream, so it’s a great fishing location, as well as hiking, kayaking and canoeing destination. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is also routed close by. A hiking trailhead at the north end of Sawmill Lake leads to a loop hike of small lakes.

Tahoe Rd 843

roughest roads in the region

 

Campground loop is paved, but the 12+ mile access road is NOT.
Twenty plus miles of paved & gravel backroads in boulder-hopping bliss, leads to granite lined lakes and forested campsites. Two different driving routes into this canyon:

  • One is the longer way Road 18 – paved access off of Gold Country Highway 20, which becomes an 8 mile long, rocky, rough, one-lane road around Bowman Lake.
  • The other is slightly shorter, county road #843 that comes in the back way from Jackson Meadow Reservoir (off Hwy 89, N of Truckee).

Both of these primitive roads join at Jackson Creek Campground, a favorite among off-roaders.

Canyon Creek Campground is another few miles up Road ##843-037, a rugged canyon route towards Lake Faucherie, where the road comes to a dead end.

Don’t let the old maps fool you: these National Forest Roads are labeled as gravel roads, but boulders and rock slides are quite common. 4×4 would be nice, but high clearance is recommended.

Minimal signs designate trails, roads and lake access; What signs that do exist are old, faded and broken. No warning signage reading ‘high clearance’ or ‘4WD recommended’ – so obviously Tahoe NF won’t be installing new signs anytime soon.fish

  • backpacking

  • camping

  • canoeing

  • fishing

  • hiking

  • kayaking

  • stargazing

Grassy Picnic Faucherie Lake

Faucherie, Sawmill and Bowman Lakes are all along this waterway called Canyon Creek.

National Forest Campground
Latitude: 39.436863
Longitude: -120.579564

Canyon Creek Campground

• Elevation: 6600′
• Number of Sites: 20
• Toilet: Vault
• Vehicle Access: High Clearance Vehicle, no trailers
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: No
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: Faucherie & Sawmill Lakes
• Managing agency: Nevada Irrigation District
530-265-5302

Small Site

Canyon Creek Campground is an excellent campground for staying away from the crowds, which seem to focus more around Bowman Lake & Jackson Meadows Reservoir.

check

All campsites at this campground have steel bear boxes – for proper food storage in black bear country.

granite camp

Prefer camping outside of developed campgrounds? then the primitive camp sites that line Canyon Creek will be a welcomed surprise. Most are clearly marked with small signs and some may require 4×4 to access. When fire restrictions are tight, campfires are only allowed in the developed campgrounds.

granite loop
Two paved loops at this small campground.

pinetree

Remington Hot Springs

lower kern river
hike-in hot springs

Remington Kern River

Remington Kern River

This place was the alternate choice to Miracle Hot Springs, but since that one is now closed – this is the main attraction out here, along the lower stretch of the Kern River.

USFS Forest Hobo Campground is about a mile away and it may be closed due to landslide repairs. There is also plenty primitive style camping options if you so choose.

Remington is by far, one of the nicest primitive hot tubs in the whole region and easy to access. If you can find it, the rewards are great!! Can be crowded on weekends. If the dirt parking lot is totally full, come back later or wait it out. You can find travelers, mountain bikers, dirt bikers, hikers, backpackers, campers, off-roaders, RVers, burners, desert rats, military boys, local kids, LA couples,  techno DJs from Russia – a wide variety of people soaking at this not-so-secret spot.

These unique hand-crafted stone tubs are located on the Lower Kern, overlooking the big river and the fish. 3 volunteer built cement & river rock hot spring pools sit adjacent to the Kern River. There is also another small cooler tub on the trail perched above the thick brush.

This prime recreation spot is located a few miles west of Hobo Campground (old Miracle Hot Springs) is sometimes busy: dirt parking lot, minimal sign & the tubs are not viewable from the road. From parking area you must hike down a steep grassy trail for about a mile.

Bring towels, beverages & everything you will need from the vehicle, as turning around to go back & get everything half way down will prove to be a challenging trail up. Boulders & oaks on steep hillsides. A few campsites down along main trail. Wildflowers here are wonderful in Spring (April-May). Please pick up litter & keep this place beautiful.

West of Kernville & Lake Isabella, CA
along Kern River in the Lower Kern Canyon Gorge, Southern Sierra Nevada mountainsSequoia Kern Hot Springs

Remington primitive hot springs are located inside the lower Kern Canyon, southwestern part of Sequoia National Forest. Take Highway 178 east to the 4 lane portion, look for Borel Road right turn which climbs a steep hill up to Old Kern Canyon Road. At this stop sign you will see a sign for Remington Trail (3.5 miles) pointing to the right.

NFS

Remington Trailhead (signed) & dirt parking lot across from trail, is located on Old Kern Canyon Rd, which runs parallel to the 4-laner  Hwy. 178 on the opposite side of the Kern River. The well known Kern Canyon Road is also labeled as “Cort 214” on GoogleMaps.

Remington Ridge Trail #32E51 – Mountain bike, hike and horseback trail

Breckenridge Road #28S06, access via Havilah, CA. Breckenridge has pine forest at higher elevation, and is the tallest mountain to the south of Kern River.

lower Kern hikes

clothing optional is the norm

Ardell’s Tip: Remington is one of the few spots in California that you can fish a major river from inside a hot tub.

Best Naked Fishing
click on the photo for more

lodging in nearby townsRiver Path

camp

Minimal camping spots with very little privacy at the main dirt parking lot at Remington Hot Springs. The best tent camping is located down on the trails, so you may choose to hike-in to the secluded oaks to the sandy beach camps below. No facilities at Remington, no tables, no toilets, no electricity, so come very prepared to “rough it”.

Primitive Camping in California

USFS Sandy Flat Campground and Hobo Campground are a few miles away (to the east), on the same Kern Cyn Road; Breckenridge Campground is on a tall pine forested ridge just to the south, but requires a long drive around the mountain, or a super rugged 4WD vehicle for a steep dirt road.

Folks seeking more seclusion can choose to primitive camp along the narrow paved road leading to the west. Motorhome campers like the option of road side boondocking with great views; several level pullouts can accommodate most any camper. 4×4 camping is closer to Lake Isabella @ Keyesville or BLM River Camping. Primitive camp spots on numerous dirt roads are located in this Lower Kern River area, but you will need to check with Sequoia National Forest ranger for gate closures, fire permit & fire current restrictions.


View Remington Hot Springs in a larger map

Dirt Cheap Camping

Rustic Camping California

Budget Outdoor Adventures

Campfire Nights

Camping is so inexpensive for the sheer entertainment factor. Reconnecting with nature can be so rewarding and good for your health. Sleeping outside doesn’t need to cost anything really. Stargazing, campfires, and listening to the wildlife are all still free.

Outdoor Gear – these purchases will be the most expensive part of your trip, but you’ll be able to use this same gear for decades of travel exploring the outdoors.

Coyote Canyon

A whole weekend for under $100, seriously?

camping expense chart below for approximate cost per person for 2-day weekend

gasoline $50 depending on destination & your gas mileage
firewood $10 cheaper when bought in larger quantities
(bring hand saw for free wood in forest)
campgrounds $20 find cheap BLM campground, or hit up the primitive camp areas
to avoid all campground cost
food $20 can’t count this expense
(you would eat groceries at home anyway)

Free Firewood

Camping Free

Year Round Camping

Year Round Adventures

CampingCalifornia is an outdoor recreation paradise, with near perfect weather, diverse terrain and breathtaking scenery around every corner. Many folks gravitate to the west coast specifically to be outdoors more.

Soaking in the sunshine, every day, every week. Reconnecting with nature and choosing to live a more healthy lifestyle, eat well and learning to relax often. Camping can be a real vacation – without the high cost of travel.

Summer isn’t the only time to go camping in California

Avoid crowds
Try getting out there before Memorial Day or after Labor Day!

Desert camping is popular during winter months, while mountain destinations are preferred in summer. Find a secluded small campground or even try roughing it w/ primitive car camping. Motorhome campers who like to boondock, will enjoy the extensive back roads section of Total Escape. If you own a 4WD vehicle, you can reach the most secluded 4×4 camps, lookout towers and some historic cabins.

season description recommended
Summer hot in deserts & country foothills,
smoggy in cities; coastlines can be foggy
mountains & coast
Autumn great camping all around,
early winter storms in mountains
coast, deserts, country
Winter snow in mountains & very cold,
windy on coast as seasonal storms move in
deserts (possibly)
Spring snow melt in mountains may be late,
storms can last into late springtime
deserts & country

Picnic Tables

annual timelines to consider

  • summer – busiest time for traffic and travel; many travelers, families, tourists; National Parks and coastal towns are  crowded; hottest in desert areas, cities and in the mountain oak foothills
  • autumn – meteor showers, fall colors, fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking; fire restrictions higher, firewood collecting, less families out and about, cuz kids are back in school
  • winter – prime time for desert camping, off roading, ghost towns, museums and meteor showers; coldest months w/ winter storms; snow is possible down to 1000′ elevation
  • spring – wildflowers, birdwatching, rainy season, lakes, rivers, creeks flowing well; rafting & kayaking; snow storms tapering off w/ snowmobiling in mountains; snow camping

SEASONAL RATINGS on LOCAL TRAVEL DESTINATIONS

perfect okay iffy no way
Coastal Desert Country Mountain City
winter winter winter winter winter
spring spring spring spring spring
summer summer summer summer summer
autumn autumn autumn autumn autumn

watermelon snacks

Your Public Lands

west coast public land

Access to wild land, open spaces, parks, forests, lakes, mountain peaks, public land – USDA National Forests, National Parks, State Parks, BLM. There is more public land available in the west half of the U.S., than anywhere else in the nation. This is one of the top reasons people relocate to the West Coast.

California’s Public Lands for Recreation

Federal lands, government managed parks, USDA National Forests, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuge, BLM, State Parks, State Forests, County Parks, Regional Open Spaces

Sierra Rivers

State Park / National Park / National Forest / BLM / SHP / SVRA / OHV
what’s the difference?
a simple explanation of your public lands & what you can expect to do on them

National Forest Campground
NPS

California National Parks – most National Parks are so crowded you can’t even enjoy the experience in the summer time. Try the off-season times for your best stay. Neighboring National Forests are a much better bet for abundant space, privacy & less taxing on the wallet for fees. These popular (NPS) parks are subject to federal budget cuts and closures.

NF boundary

NFS

California National Forests – protected wilderness areas throughout state are surrounded by National Forests (NFS), and most National Parks (NPS) are surrounded by National Forests. Tons of small campgrounds & primitive spots for real seclusion. Get a free fire permit & camp almost anywhere you want. Use that SUV exploring the many dirt backroads & find that perfect camp spot (for free).

California State Parks

California State Parks – local California parks with a lot to offer the day hikers, picnicking family, tent camper or RV camper. From warm dry deserts soaking in a hot springs to the foggy coastal redwoods, these state run parks encompass a large section of California terrain. These parks are subject to state budget cuts and closures.

BLMBLM: Bureau of Land Management – mostly desert regions on the east side of California. A few coastal redwoods, some river canyons in the Sierra Nevada, many off road areas (OHV) in various mountain ranges. These federal lands are open spaces, generally a free for all on recreation.  Allowable = off roading, target shooting, open camping, campfires, bonfires. Geared toward OHV use, RVs and hunting.

Fire Safe Spot

All California Parks & Forests

hikes

California Lakes List

lake

California Topo Maps

topo maps

rangers

California Terrain & Destinations

  • Coastal California – Southern California beach camping is crowded & sparse, because of developed cities. Central Coast & Northern California offer many more choices in this category.
  • California Mountains – pine forest, mixed oaks & a variety of vegetation. Water sources such as lakes, stream & waterfalls make this choice the perfect camping spots. Granite peaks, high elevations wilderness areas throughout state & surrounded National Parks. Plenty backpacking options & dirt road primitive spots for the ultimate in privacy.
  • Countryside in California – coastal hills or mountain foothills. These rolling hillsides offer small creeks, oak trees & plenty of wide open spaces. Lakes & Reservoirs are located within these regions. Most campgrounds are fairly close driving distance to towns or cities. Wine country or gold country, California has it.
  • California Deserts – perfect for every season except summer, these vast spaces will humble just about anyone. Primitive camping galore & designated areas for real off-roading.
  • City CA / Urban Villages – not the best for really getting away from crowds, but can be an excellent opportunity to visit a city without spending big bucks on lodging. Or could just be a perfect one-nighter for getting familiar with camping. Most campsites are located in the foothill area behind suburbs, in county parks or even coastal.
  • California A to Z: Small Towns – 700 and counting; extensive list of destinations, focusing primarily on the back roads and outdoor recreation hubs
  • California by County – Find every county on Cali, and which towns are located inside of them

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Creekside Camping

California Creek Camping

California Camping CreeksClear cool stream waters flow from snow melt at 10,000′ elevation, down to these pristine camps at under 4000′ on both sides of the Sierra. The further you drive up the mountain, the better it gets. Where the Eastern Sierra side tends to be more dramatic desert like with sage brush, the western range is much more lush with ferns & dense trees.

Everyone dreams of it. The perfect camp, along the creek. Maybe a waterfall or two, a shady hammock spot & plenty of trees, a flat tent spot, maybe a view. A big, sturdy, rock fire ring (without a bunch of broken glass in it).

This dreamy camp isn’t only in your imagination, nor is it at the local county campground a few miles from home. This kinda beauty & rare finds are out there, deep in the back woods, the mountains. You gotta know where to look & what to bring in order to have a good, easy, relaxing time.

These secluded sites really are around in your favorite forest, way back there. Best of all, they are free.

forest mapsHaving the opportunity to camp in your very own private, secluded spot, along dirt roads, outside of the annoying rules and fees of a developed campground is a privilege. Use these lands wisely and be a responsible camper. Camp eco-wise! Respecting the land, knowing some basics and following fire safety precautions is all mandatory. A topographic hiking map or a National Forest map is optional, but highly recommended.

Creekside Camping CaliforniaCreek water can make an easy refrigerator if the cooler is full. Chill that bottle of wine, keep the watermelon cool .. just don’t forget about it. (cuz that kinda litter maybe a welcomed good surprise for the next camper.) Secure your wet creek valuables. Even a heavy watermelon can float! Put some rocks around items or tye them in a mesh bag, with rope, something to keep them from getting away in the swift water.

There is nothing that beats a good detailed forest map of where you are going. If you are the type of person who can never make a straight B-line for home on Sunday afternoon, and find yourself wandering just for the sake of wandering – then it’s best to have a larger state wide map like this beauty from Benchmark Maps.

California Creekside Camp Sites

Small Campgrounds on a Creek

Primitive Style – Dispersed Camping secluded camp sites

If you are the kinda sport who can really rough it, you may learn to love it. After your first real back woods camping experience, the privacy, serenity and beauty of the land will inspire and relax you so much, that the drawback on the lack of toilet won’t bother you.

Make a new hobby of learning how to stay away from the crowds. The less cars you see at camp, the better. Learn to be immersed within nature and enjoy your space outside. Unwind, next to the creek in the shade, with a chair and read for hours, or bring the sketchbook, or just daydream as butterflies go floating by.

  • Remember to be camp clean, California is black bear country.
  • You’ll need a free camp fire permit; pick up at the local rangers station.
  • Classic camp potty info.  Proper disposal of human waste is important.
  • Use biodegradable soaps when outside.

Streamside Camping Basics

what you need:

capable vehicle – SUV or Truck, high clearance is best. 4×4 is NOT required. AWD wagons should be more cautious when venturing out on the back roads. 2WD is fine for most graded dirt roads, but way out exploring dirt roads, deep mud and snow is quite possible.

destination – Pick a locale. A general area you wanna check out. Not a quickie overnight deal, but an enjoyable lazy multi-day camping trip.

exploration – Narrow down a canyon or river that you have always wanted to explore. The Sierra Nevada & NorCal is the place to concentrate your efforts, as SoCal is near desert climate w/ way too much development.

more maps please – National Forest map or similar backroads Map/Atlas. Large topo maps may be too detailed, but will do okay for finding dirt roads (& backpacker trailheads also).

The more homework you do before hand, the better chances of finding that secret camp spot, especially on holiday weekends. Go ahead & call the forest rangers. Have your decent topo maps handy, along with pen and paper. That’s what they are there for. Have a list of questions on specific areas you want more info on. If you do the prep work well in advance, it makes a more enjoyable camp trip. Cuz you’ll be less worried about finding the ultimate places (before dark, or before the other guy does). With your new profound Wilderness Vision, you will have not only a plan B ready, but a plan C as well.

what to look for:

getting permits – If you really wanna camp like this, all secluded on the dirt back roads without the hordes of other campers nearby…. you’ll need a capable vehicle, a camp fire permit & the understanding of the concept “totally self sufficient campers”. This means bringing your own water, a bucket, a shovel, maybe some firewood, plus packing out all your own garbage, plus any litter left over by the last campers. It’s the least you can do, not having to make reservations. Visit the FireSafe page

it’s on your map – After you have a general area narrowed down, some place you always wanted to go, then it’s time to get your maps out & start reading them. Or at least staring at them – maybe over a meal, whenever you have free time to study it. Look for dirt roads, the further off the paved roads is not necessarily the better. Some of the best camp sites are within a few short miles from the pavement, so get them maps out & start visualizing.

gas up – Make sure you fuel your vehicle before you head into remote areas (like the ones we are mentioning). Maybe even an extra can of gasoline too, just in case.

the blue lines – You’ll know a decent road when you see it. When you start planning at home, you need to concentrate of what dirt roads are along what water sources. And will these streams be flowing at this time of year? Many are seasonal creeks & can dry up in summer. The most likely place to find great water flow is to look for the streams flowing directly into a major river or Lake/ Reservoir.

Are you willing to clean up your camp, before & after, leaving it pristine?
Yes indeed, it is free to camp outside of developed campgrounds.

Finding a Creek & Reading a Map

Camp Clueless

Camping Tips

California Camping Tips

New to California? Never camped before? Haven’t been out in years? No idea of where to start? Total Escape is here to help with all your camping questions, local destinations and share tips; Introducing you to the big adventure in inexpensive vacationing, primarily outdoors. Find rural, remote locations, ranches, small towns, rivers, lakes, creeks, well away from the crowds. Get outta town more often for less money.

WhiteFir Camp

Camp at Echo Lake

click here for all kindsa cool
california camping destinations

National Parks National Forests State Parks California BLM OHV routes California Wilderness
Beach Camping
California Forests
Wineries
Desert Parks
California Back Roads California Lakes

boon-docking basicscheck

  • be a self sufficient camper
  • get a campfire permit
  • have a shovel, bucket and water
  • bring topographic maps
  • get off the paved roads
  • arrive before dark, or bring GPS
  • expect to find best camp spots already taken, have a plan B & C
  • prepare for bears @ camp, if camping in the forest
  • minimal, if any, cell phone signal

free RV camping

RV

free Campgrounds Sierra

camp

Creekside Camp
California Creekside Camps
roundtentcamp
Mammoth Fishing & Camping
bigdoortent
Flat, level, private, free. >>>> Find the perfect tent spot!

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

 

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 –

Silver Lake @ Carson

silkysilver

Silver Lake @ Carson Pass

(Alpine Co)

7250′ elev.
on Highway 88 near Carson Pass, California
El Dorado National Forest
near Kirkwood Ski Resort & the Bear River

Large, granite, alpine lake in the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains. Abundant trout fishing, swimming, camping, boating, hiking, floating, kayaking, picnic sites, and high altitude backpacking trailheads. Shoreline fishing is just as good as by boat. Fishing boats can be rented at Kit Carson Lodge.

granitesilver

The high altitude location makes this a winter wonderland half the year w/ snow ski resorts nearby! It is an awesome summertime family vacation destination as well. Fishing is excellent through Autumn months. Campgrounds close up shop in October, generally when the snow starts. High Sierra – Deep snow pack means they will not reopen until May (at the earliest).

Carson is major Sierra Pass highway, but it closes for big snows, so always check CalTrans before you make the drive up the mountain. Carson Pass is California State Route 88, which connects the Gold Country (on the western slopes) to the South Lake Tahoe region (on the eastern border), near Nevada.

Check Current Highway Conditions for HWY 88
roads.dot.ca.gov
Cal Trans 800-427-7623

Silver Lake Day Use Areas

fishing lakes picnic grounds fishing lakes boat ramp

These areas listed below are operated by El Dorado Irrigation District and they do charge a day-use fee for many of the amenities provided. Boat Launch fee? Yep. Parking fee? Maybe. Picnic stop! How much? Eat fast!

  • Ferguson Point is located on the north shore of Silver Lake: 10 picnic tables & vault toilets.
  • Sandy Cove is on NW shore of Silver Lake: Wheel-chair access to lake edge, 5 picnic tables, piped water & vault toilets.
  • Oyster Creek Rest Area, up along Highway 88, 1 mile NE of Silver Lake: 10 picnic tables & vault toilets.

kaysresortsign

Historic Memories: Camp Minkalo, Camp Silverado & Kays Silver Lake Resort are all closed now.

Many small businesses come and go in the rural mountains of California. Throughout the decades, some do survive, but many change hands, change names, or have a difficult time ‘making it all work’ in the off-season. Always call ahead (real phone w/ real person) before you make a big drive to a remote location.

National Forest Campgrounds in this lake vicinity:

East Silver Lake Campground – 62 sites
West Silver Lake Campground – 42 sites
Kirkwood Lake Campground – 12 sites

campground RV campground

Silver Lake Campground NFS

• Elevation: 7200′
• Number of Sites: 62
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 30′
• Campsite Reservations: Yes
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Toilet: Vault
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: Hidden Lake, Sandy Cove

NFS
El Dorado National Forest
Amador Ranger District
26820 Silver Drive
Pioneer, CA 95666
209-295-4251

silver from highway

Older lodges, resorts, camps and cabins at Silver Lake were mainly built in the 1920s, while the oldest resort dates back to the mid 1800s. Wow, how cool is that! Much history in this mountain region w/ Kit Carson Emigrant Trail, all stories totally worth exploring.

Kit Carson Lodge
Rustic Silver Lake Cabins & Restaurant
kitcarsonlodge.com
209-258-8500

Historic Plasse’s Resort
One of the Oldest Camps in the USA
plassesresort.com
209-258-8814

Gold Miners

See all Silver Lakes in California

What is Camping?

Old Timers Berry Creek

Basically, what is Camping?

4x4 camping RV camping car camping primitive camping backpacking cabin camping

BLM camping State Park camping National Forest campgrounds National Park camping

 

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.

stars camptruck campfire

campFrom 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.

car camping

Various types of Camping in California:

type of
camping
average
cost per night
brief description – what to expect
modern cabin $150 – $350 just like a hotel room, full kitchen, phone, internet, TV, real furniture
rustic cabin $90 – $190 bare minimum, beds, kitchen sink, electricity. maybe a bathroom
tent cabins / yurts $60- $150 wood floors, canvas walls, sleeping cots. reservations accepted. (very popular) may be open seasonally
camper vans, motorhome,
recreational vehicle
rentals, or own it all creature comforts on wheels, lots of luxury. camp the back roads.
camper shell own it mini motorhome on the back end of a pickup truck. smaller than RV
RV campground $25- $70 50+ sites, lots of facilities & families w/ RVs. reservations accepted
developed campground $25- $50 usually 30 – 100 sites, paved loop, facilities. toilets, piped water. plenty in our camping section (most popular)
small campground $12- $27 less than 25 camp sites, pit/vault toilets. plenty small campgrounds listed in our camping section
primitive car camping free way-out-there camp spots w/ dispersed camp sites, for the rugged self-contained, self-sufficient camper; access usually via dirt back roads.
SUV/ 4×4 camping free remote spots on long, steep, bumpy dirt roads; dispersed camp sites in secluded areas. 4 wheel drive may be needed
walk-in campsites
bike-in campsites
low cost or free 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
backpacking free w/ wilderness permit ultimate in seclusion, bring it all on your back, on foot into the wilderness & enjoy trail camps

  pinetree    fish

River Beach Campground
Trinity River Camping, Douglas City, CA

yellowpost

SO CAL CAMP FIRES – Yellow Post Campsites are remote camping spots in secluded areas, in a designated fire safe clearing. Camp FiresNo 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.

Tent Cabin Rentals

Canvas Tent Cabins & Yurts

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.

deluxe-tent-cabinRentals 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.

National Forest Service Rangers wildlife

Deck w/ View

National Forest Fire Lookouts
& Historic Cabins

hiker

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

Camping California Back Roads


Kern River Campgrounds

limestonerun

Kern River Campgrounds – NFS

canoeSequoia 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.

kern campgrounds California NFS Kern RVing

Upper Kern River
North of Kernville, California

campground

elev

spots

veg

toilet

notes

Fairview Campground

3500′

55

mixed

vault

Upper Kern; RV 45′

Gold Ledge Campground

3200′

37

mixed

vault

Upper Kern; RV 30′

Headquarters Campground

2800′

44

alder

vault

Kern River; RV 27′

Hospital Flat Campground

3000′

40

alder

vault

Kern River; RV 30′

Limestone Campground

3800′

22

mixed

vault

Upper Kern; RV 30′

gold ledge lupine
Gold Ledge – blooming Lupine in Springtime

fishNo 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.

headquarters kern

eriklovinglife
Outdoors, enjoying lIfe

 

South Creek Falls
South Creek Falls

RV campgrounds campgrounds hiking fishing campgrounds mt biking campgrounds

Lake Isabella
Lake Isabella, Kern Canyon California

Lower Kern River
South of Kernville, California

Granite Boulders

campground

elev

spots

veg

toilet

notes

Sandy Flat Campground

2300′

38

mixed

vault

open all year

Hobo Campground

2300′

35

mixed

vault

2019 closed due to landslide

NFS
Sequoia National Forest
Kernville Ranger Station
760-376-3781

Additional Info on Kern Camping –

Kern Flats Camping: Free Camps
Lake Isabella
Keyesville OHV

North Meadow

Big Meadow Sequoia 

dirtbikescamp hiker

Kennedy Meadows, South Fork of Kern River
Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway
Dome Land Wilderness

Kern River Canyon
Kern River Hot Springs

Road’s End Resort
(destroyed by wildfire 2002)

Forks of the Kern
Lloyds Meadow Road #22S82

kernrvcamper

Bear in California

black bear

California Black Bears

califrepublicAlthough 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 Bear Habitatprovided 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!

California Black Bears

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:

Bear Boxes @ Campground

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.

carcampers

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.

hiker

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.

Bear Canisters

Bear Canisters

for your food when exploring the wilderness

hikers tent campers mountains rivers picnic lakes

Bear Repellent / Bear Mace
Bear Pepper Spray

 

camp  4x4 campfire fish

Additional Storage Tip

As for storing food inside cars:

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

encountering a bear  – see more on this topic 

bearcreek

camptruck pinetree  ranger

Bear Meadow
Camp Site at Bear Meadow, Sequoia NF

dirtbikes

Bear Box in Mineral King

driftwood

Camp Help

California Camping Lakes

campTotal Escape loves camping so much that this web site literally has hundreds of pages on the topic, but we won’t overwhelm you with the list on this page. Below is a good cross section of what camping pages we have & what to expect.

camp hike

Camp Clueless an overview & great for beginners
Camp subset of the California camping world
Camping a growing photo journal of lakes & info
Campers Check List PDF print it & tape it to your gear
Where to Go! small towns, parks, forests, lakes, rivers
California Lakes List a growing journal of lakes, photos & info
Camp Clean be bear aware, keep a clean site
Eco Friendly escape to no rules (except a few)
Outdoor Gear best outdoor gear we recommend
Maps & GPS get lost & love it, but make sure you have backup
Camp Comforts luxury inspired, comfy camping review
Camp Potty backcountry camping rules & etiquette
Camp Fires backcountry campfires & permits
Fire Safety campfire rules, wildfires, restrictions
Firewood extensive list of all wood dealers
Poison Oak be careful, California is full of it
California Back Roads dirt roads, off the beaten universe
SUV 4×4 Camping get that dang sport utility dirty
Lassen Camping for Free, Mill Creek @ 172
Lassen Camping for Free on Mill Creek
site14
Heart Bar Campground, SoCal

RV

campfire

NFS

NPS

Your public lands: What’s the Difference?
California State Park , State Recreation Area, National Park, National Forest, BLM

California Firewood Dealers
California Firewood Dealers

 

taylorsvillecamp

Camping in California is a blast! Enjoy nature, sleep under the stars, exercise & save money while vacationing. We show you road trips geared around nature, all local, all outdoors, all California. Exploring dirt roads for secluded spots and small campgrounds, learning new survival skills in the back country and enjoy the wilderness without the tourist crowds. The average weekend trip can run you as little as $100.00. This includes fuel, groceries, firewood and maybe camp or park fees. Once purchased your basic camping gear – tent, sleeping bag and stove can last you decades if properly cared for.

Whiskeytown Lake

Or search by TAG, now on Total Escape!

Campfires in California

Campfires on the Back Roads
Campfires on the Back Roads: permit, shovel & water bucket required

campfireWhen & Where – Campfires in California

California has many different National Forest districts and each region has their own fire restrictions. State Parks & BLM also manages recreation areas & camping in the Golden State. Each agency & region has different rules, so blanket answers cannot apply to general questions on campfires.

CAMPFIRE PERMITS
Campfire permits are required for fires outside of designated recreation sites. During fire restrictions, campfires could be banned. Campfire Permit are available from Forest Service, CalFire or BLM offices or online, http://www.preventwildfireca.org/

ranger

Manter Fire, Dome Land Wilderness
Manter Fire [2000], Dome Land Wilderness, Southern Sierra Nevada

the new abnormal

California suffers more from wildfires now than ever before. Native tribes let lightning strike wild fires burn and they did not suppress wildfire. Residential development creeping ever higher and denser into the foothills, an abundance of roadways, with the overgrown forest make fire danger ever more real.

Closed off wilderness areas, impassable dirt roads, landslides, fallen trees everywhere. Utility services (power lines), plus high winds and overgrown forest also play a huge part in the current wildfire catastrophes. Drought conditions or record winter rains, the huge population on the west coast -along with many other factors – means more fire danger. Educate yourself and others on fire safety, forests and weather patterns. Heed the wind, while in the wild. Wind spreads fire easily!tent camping

Current Fire Restrictions:

By mid summer we have usually have several wild land fires burning, which means campfire restrictions are usually in place before JULY 4th weekend. When this happens – No open campfires are allowed in the backcountry or on the back roads.

Often in the driest of years, no campfires are allowed (even inside the campgrounds).

camp

If you love to primitive camp outside of developed campgrounds, you need to plan more road trips for spring time & autumn. Or head further north, well above Redding – where the forest are moist and snow graces Mount Shasta year round. Or perhaps, go desert camping during winter months. Checking the National Forest web sites can be confusing and their online information could be outdated.

Each forest and area is individually managed. No concise, easy-to-read list or online map exist on which forests are allowing backcountry campfires – and which ones are not. Conditions seem to change so often and they aren’t great about updating those .gov web sites.  Best to call a local ranger station and ask about any current fire restrictions. You know, actually “talk on a phone” to a USFS, BLM or CalFire official.  If you can speak to a field ranger, they can tell you more on dispersed camping. Or you can navigate the USDA web site to find current ALERTS & RESTRICTIONS. Cryptic lingo may be encountered, and many clicks maybe needed; possibly forcing you to down a PDF of current fire rules.NFSlogo

Here is a page with all the California National Forests listed w/ phone numbers
http://www.totalescape.com/active/campstuff/NF/NFS.html

Narrow down a specific region by checking out where fires are active today and selecting a region well away from big fires.
http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

see more on this topic –

Fire Safety
Camping Without a Campfire
Firewood Dealers

rock fire ring

Camp Fires Correctly

walkincampsite
Eagle Lake Tent Campground

 

NO Campfires?
No Campfires in California?

hiker

Fire Light Cove
Cove Camping in Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Tent Cabins in California

tent cabin rentals
Merced Lake is one remote destination along the High Sierra Camp Loop, Yosemite Wilderness.

Tent Cabins & Yurt Rentals
around California

Tent cabins are made up of wooden floors, canvas walls & a canvas roof – a combination between a tent & a rustic cabin. Most have sleeping cots for beds; some have heaters, wood burning stoves or electrical outlets. A shared community bathroom is close by. Yurts are round versions of this same concept, with a wooden floor, real beds and usually some nicer decor. Often these places request that you bring your own bed linens and towels, but each resort is different so check the web links for detailed info.

Hike-in locations in the wilderness, rural river resorts or an easy drive to campground right off the freeway. These popular lodging accommodation are often marketed as GLAMPING, as in Glamour Camping – for the (luxury loving) princess who likes to try out nature – in a very controlled setting. Just watch out for mountain lions and bears.

Below are unique places in California that offer tent cabins, tree houses and yurt rentals.

Big Basin Redwoods Tent Cabins
Boulder Creek, CAhiker
408-338-8860
Santa Cruz mountains

Cachuma Lake County Park
Yurt Rentals & Campground
Lake Cachuma, CA
805-568-2460
Santa Barbara Mountains

Carmel River Yurt
Songbird Refuge overlooking Rivercanoe
Carmel, CA
California Central Coast

Costanoa Coastal Lodge
Pescadero, CA
650-879-1100
Santa Cruz Coastline

coloma river resort

Coloma Resort
Hwy 49 @ American River
800-238-2298
California Historic Gold Country

Creekside Yurt Retreat
near Mt Shasta
Single Vacation Rental
Weed, CA
NorCal Mount Shasta

El Capitan Canyon
N of Santa Barbaraumbrella
Hwy 1 @ El Capitan
866-352-2729
805-685-3887
North Santa Barbara Coast

Fallen Leaf Campground
6 Yurt Rentals @ Campground
Lake Tahoe Basin, CA
Sierra Nevada Mountains

Hat Creek Resort
Yurts near Fishing Creekfish
12533 Highway 44
Old Station, CA
530-335-7121
Lassen National Forest

High Sierra RV Park
Yurts near Yosemite NP
Oakhurst, CA
559-683-7662
Western Sierra Nevada

Hotel Nipton
Tent Cabins & Teepeesdirtbikes
Nipton Road @ NV stateline
760-856-2335
Mojave Desert National Preserve

Keough Hot Springs Resort
Hwy 395, Bishop, CA
Eastern Sierra High Desert

Lupin Lodge
Clothing Optional Resortshowers
20600 Aldercroft Heights Rd.
Los Gatos CA
408-353-9200
Santa Cruz Mountains

Middle Fork Ranch
NorCal Smith River
15 acre retreat, Hwy 199
Crescent City, CA
707-457-3477
Northern California Coastal Mountains

Mother Lode River Center
6280 Hwy 49, Lotus, CAcanoe
530-626-4187
California Gold Rush Country

Oz Farm Retreat
41601 Mountain View Rd
Point Arena, CA
Mendocino Coast

Premier RV Resorts
Cabin & Yurt rentals (in town)
Redding, CA
888-710-8450
Northern California

Rancho Cicada Retreat
Plymouth, CAranger
209-245-4841
877-553-9481
California Gold Rush Country

River Park Resort
River Rafting Trips w/
Yurts next to American River
Coloma, CA
California Gold Rush Country

Santa Margarita Lake KOA
Santa Margarita, CA
805-438-5618
800-562-5619
San Luis Obispo Backcountry

Shasta Lake Yurts
Lakeshore East Campgroundmountains
Lake Shasta, CA
530-275-8113
Northern California

Strawhouse Resort
31301 State Hwy 299
Big Flat, CA
530-623-1990
NorCal Trinity River

Treebones Resort
Ocean view yurts
Big Sur Highway 1 @ Gorda, CA
805-927-2390butterfly
877-424-4787
Big Sur Coastline

Vermillion Valley Resort
via Kaiser Pass Road
Edison Lake, Lakeshore, CA
559-259-4000
High Sierra, John Muir Wilderness

Virginia Creek Settlement
70847 Highway 395camptruck
Bridgeport, CA
760-932-7780
Eastern Sierra Nevada

Yosemite Lakes Resort
Cabins & Yurt Rentals
South Fork of the Tuolumne River
31191 Hardin Flat Rd
Groveland, CA
209-962-0121
800-533-1001
Western Sierra Nevadapinetree

Yosemite Pines RV Park
20450 Old Highway 120
Groveland, CA
209-962-7690
Western Sierra Nevada

tuolumne cabins

HSC: HIGH SIERRA CAMP

Yosemite National Park Tent Cabins:hiker
(advanced reservations required)

DustMites and AllergiesALLERGY NOTE: Most tent cabins are constructed out of heavy canvas material (fabric), which can mold when exposed to moisture (rain, fog, snow). Often they get dismantled, cleaned and stored properly over each winter season, sometimes not; All depends on weather, terrain difficulty and individual resort practices. If you suffer w/ allergies, moldy tent walls and dust mites can trigger asthma or other allergic reactions. If in doubt speak to the innkeeper or caretaker ahead of time.

Central Coast California
San Simeon SP. Central Coast of California

Rent a Treehouse

Post Ranch Inn
Tree-House Rentals in California
Big Sur, CA
Big Sur Coastline

Driving on the Beach

beach sunset

Driving on the Beach in California

Gone are the days of ‘beach blanket bingo’ where film crews glamorized California – the beautiful people, the nice vehicles, the sport of surfing and the glorious beaches. There are very few places left on the California coast that you can actually drive a vehicle on the sand, right next to the ocean. The military bases, oil corporations and the utility companies have the front row seats to the Pacific genocide, and the rest of the population is restricted with extreme limited access.

Baja California has minimal regulations on coastal access with a car. No pavement, no signs, no cell phone signal, and no help for miles – something to consider if you get stuck south of the border in Mexico. Baja has numerous places to explore below Ensenada, but asking locals is always a favored approach. Pay attention to private property signs and always close the cattle gate (if you found it closed).

silverstrand

Southern California, no beaches allow vehicle traffic. San Diego offers a sliver of sand @ Silver Strand SB, which is a developed campground for motorhomes and car campers, located right on the beach south of Coronado, CA. Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, San Diego allows driving on sand and a favorite among active dogs, but not camping is allowed. In Los Angeles you can park a motorhome at a sandy, paved campground for a hefty overnight fee. Dockweiler Beach, right near the Chevron plant and LA sewage treatment facility. Sounds delightful, not.

Ventura & Santa Barbara Coastal Regions have many awesome State Beaches, but none allow vehicles on the sand.

AWD on the sand

Central Coast California:

  • Oceano SVRA – off road sand dunes and open camping on the beach. Day use or overnight camp fee required; near Pismo Beach, CA
  • Red, White and Blue Beach – nude beach w/ campground (now closed); north of Santa Cruz, CA

Northern California:
Lost Coast

  • Usal Beach Campground – redwood creeks and forests meets coast and cliffs. Camp fee for overnight use. Long dirt road access. No RVs!
  • Black Sands Beach (OHV 4×4 trail, now closed to all vehicles) near Shelter Cove, CA

chico couple

after-the-fun maintenance tip:

Salt water and sand is very corrosive to metal – which will rust your truck or car badly. Now that you’ve had fun on the beach, we remind you to clean the underneath of your vehicle ASAP. Spraying powerful hose in your wheel wells and all underneath the vehicle. You might need to lay on the ground and get wet to do this job properly. Some car wash places might be able to do this service for you, but it will cost ya.

Oak Bottom Campground

Oakbottom Campground

Whiskeytown Recreation Area:
Oak Bottom Campground

due to recent 2018 wildfire, some trails may be closed

The large, level, paved campground is right on the north shore of Whiskeytown Lake, on Hwy 299 – E of Redding CA

101 walk-in campsites
22 RV sites
elevation 1200′

  • boating
  • camping
  • hiking trails
  • kayaking
  • marina
  • mountain biking trails

Campground Reservation on NRA

Camp Sites near Water

Group Camping can be reserved at
Whiskey Creek Group Picnic Area
3 group camping sites with excellent views of the lake and mountains, on the northeastern shore of Whiskeytown Lake.

nearby towns:

Views Westward

Lake Sunset Whiskeytown

Shasta Lakes Camping

camping whiskeytown

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 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.

canoeWhiskey 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 an old funky motorhome.

camptruck

Lake Road Trinity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

boatramp

towns nearby with camping –

Weaverville, CA
Trinity Center, CA
Douglas City, CA
Lewiston, CA
French Gulch, CA
Shasta, CA
Redding, CA
Shasta Lake, CA
O’Brien, CA
Lakehead, CA
Dunsmuir, CA
McCloud, CA
Mount Shasta, CA
Burney, CA
Weed, CA