Category Archives: Camping

California Camping Advice

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

24N10 – Plumas NF

Lake Davis Loop Drive

Lake Davis Loop: Plumas Forest Road #24N10

Plumas National Forest

also known as the Beckwourth Taylorsville Road

5,800′ elevation
Portola, CA

Lake Davis

Lake Davis Loop is a 20 mile circle around the lake. Drive or mountain bike route. Scenic drive on dirt roads, or an easy bike ride. Average ride time 2 hours for biking.

A flat, easy loop around Lake Davis is best in summer months, as snow usually closes this area in winter. The whole route is a mix of paved, dirt and gravel road. There are picnic areas along the way, lake views, bird and wildlife viewing, wildflowers.

NFSlogo

 

Numerous primitive camp sites and secondary dirt roads fork in various directions, off of this main loop.  Volcanic ridges line the west side of the lake, dense forest and seclusion can be found all around. Bald eagles fly overhead and wild life is abundant.

  • boat
  • camp
  • fish
  • hike
  • mountain bike
  • stargaze
  • wildlife

CROCKER GUARD STATION

campCrocker Station is for rent and reservations are required. This wooden 2-story home was built in 1912 for Forest Service personnel, and later staffed as a fire station until the 1980s.

Situated at 5700′ elevation, its alpine beauty and cooler temps make it a much sought after, especially in summertime. Located a few miles from the lake and 10 miles northeast of Portola, California. There is a small campground next door called Crocker Campground. A dirt road access to Crocker Meadow is quickest from lake, but the paved route around is longer.

Camp 5 sign

DIRECTIONS:
From California SR 70 (Highway 70) in Portola take West Street approximately 7 miles to the Lake Davis Dam. Park at the information kiosk and get acquainted with maps and the area info.

Drive or bike the lake loop. Travel 1.7 miles west to Forest Service Road 24N10, travel on that for 8.1 miles until you reach the junction with County Road 112. Then turn east and continue around the lake, past the Grizzly Campground a half mile, turn South on Country Road 126 and continue back to the dam.


View Larger Map

Plumas National Forest
Plumas Map USDA

 

DSCN0077


Camp Fires Correctly

desert bonfires
Deserts & beaches are the only places for bonfires.

kill your television

Camp Fires
The heat source, the light source, the cook source, the sock drier, the night supplier, the outdoor LIVING ROOM. The campfire is the center stage for all entertainment, dining, drinking, music, true tales and ghost stories alike.

Since the beginning of time humans have gathered around the campfire at dark. This nightly ritual is built into us on the deepest level. We miss this today. We miss the real conversations, the community, the bonding, the stories, the soul searching. We miss the connection with nature, the fresh air and the great outdoors. The night sky filled with stars and maybe a meteor shower, a hot drink and the glow of the campfire coals. Enjoying the wilderness requires certain skills. FIRE is only ONE skill – for survival, for cooking, for warmth, for safety.

Total Escape is dedicated to those who yearn to camp, often.

In Certain Circles
photo – Charlie Sweeney 2010

Some folks cannot imagine camping without a campfire, but we better get used to it here on the West Coast. Weather patterns swing from years of super-dry drought to deluge and drenching – as we’ve seen of recent in California. Dry conditions means high wildfire dangers, tight camp stove and strict campfire restrictions.

Each California region, National Forests and State Parks have their own fire restrictions, so call ahead to rangers for current fire conditions on the place you wish to visit. Certain mountain locations will ban fires in the back country, fires on the back roads and sometimes in extreme conditions, no fires allowed even inside a developed campground.

Campfire Basics
Sagebrush could be cleared back another few feet, at least.

Campfire Restrictions

fire

California is well known for its unforgiving drought conditions and its seasonal wildfire danger. Always know the fire conditions in the area you plan to camp. Most Southern California regions have banned ‘open campfires’ in forested areas, due to wildfire threat and population density. Call ahead to get an update on road closures and current campfire restrictions. Find California BLM offices & NFS ranger stations

Campfire Permits

If you plan on camping outside of a developed campground, you will need to get a free “camp fire permit”, which can be obtained at the local rangers office.

Find more on FREE camp fire permits

DSCN3700

California Camp Fires

  • RULE # 1 – Never leave a campfire unattended
  • Build campfires in designated rings. Always try to use an existing ring when possible. If you must build a new rock fire ring, follow the guide on FireSafe
  • You will need water source & bucket, plus a decent shovel for building, maintaining and controlling a campfire. BRING enough water & tools with you to control a fire.
  • A ten foot clearance – all around, down to the bare dirt is the best practice. No brush close to the ring, no bushes, no leaves or pine needles. No dry over-hanging tree branches.
  • You might need to clean trash out of the fire pit, so bring heavy duty trash bags, or a spare old box. Shovel comes in handy here.
  • Kindling is key to getting a good fire going fast, so gather more of the small stuff. Wood gathering away from camp is usually better pickens.
  • Use environmentally friendly fire starters (with damp wood, if you must); not the BBQ lighter fluid or gasoline
  • Building fires up against a big boulder scars them w/ black soot, and although it can reflect heat back to you, it is seldom worth the unsightly damage
  • Bring chainsaws or hand saws for cutting your own campfire wood in the forest
  • Gathering wood for fuel — use only dead and down wood
  • A ranger issued “wood cutting permit” is required if you plan on cutting a full cord
  • Firewood page – buying locally, in California
  • Never burn plastics, batteries or other toxic materials in campfires
  • Tossing beer bottle caps into a campfire only litters site for future campers
  • While glass bottle smelting is a real treat among boys at night, which one is actually gonna get their hands dirty & clean up broken glass out of the campfire the following morning?
  • Do not leave any hot coals during the day (if you are away from camp). Winds could pick up.
  • Always douse campfire with water completely when breaking camp. Stir it, feel for heat, and drown it more if you hear sizzling or see bubbling.
  • Read more wild fire / campfire info on our FireSafe page

Drown Fires

Last Final Step
The Final Step of Breaking Camp

 

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers
Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Stormproof LIghters
Stormproof Lighters

Camping Near Yosemite

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Camp Near Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a top destination, all year long. California masses converge on the sacred valley each summer, so expect more as the buses keep rolling in. Plan a Yosemite trip before Memorial Day weekend – or after Labor Day weekend, for less people.

Camping close to Yosemite National Park without being inside the park boundaries. The scenery and wildness doesn’t stop in the back country. There are numerous National Forests surrounding the popular National Park, so much public land has been set aside for these recreation purposes. Granite-lined mountain meadows, dense forests, raging creeks, wildlife and real seclusion. Plenty of great paved back roads, dirt roads and camping options in the Sierra Nevada.

CAMP OUTSIDE YOSEMITE NP, WHY?

No campground reservations needed, cheap or free, less crowds, less noise. More freedom, more privacy, more nature.

pinetree

Hundreds of developed, small campgrounds can be found around Yosemite. A few private RV resorts, cabin rentals, lodging on the main highways. Primitive style camping is considered “camping outside of developed campgrounds”. USDA National Forests usually allows open-camping within the forest boundary – with a required camp fire permit. Sometimes wildfire danger is too extreme, so they often ban campfires in dry conditions.

YOSEMITE: SOUTH HWY 41

SIERRA NF @ Fish Camp, CA

East side of Highway 41:camptruck

  • Sierra Forest Road #6S07
  • Big Sandy Campground
  • Fresno Dome Campground
  • Kelty Meadow on Road #10 (Sky Ranch)
  • Nelder Grove #6S90 (Sequoia grove)
  • Greys Mountain #6S40
  • Soquel Campground @ Willow Creek
  • Texas Flats Campground (McGilvery Creek)

West side of Highway 41:camp

  • Summerdale Campground on Hwy
  • Summit Camp on Summit Road

Lakes West of Yosemite NP:
Stanislaus National Forest

all Lakes near Yosemite

niruatjackass
Jackass Meadow
Granite Creek
Granite Creek Campground NFS

Gold Country @ Mariposa, CA

Gold Country Foothills – listed below are valley reservoirs. Oaks, dry hills, which can can be super hot in summer. Boating and water recreation can be found at most  of these reservoirs

  • Jerseydale Campground on Triangle Rd
  • Wildcat Camp @ Eastman Lake
  • Cordorniz Recreation Area @ Eastman Lake
  • Hidden View Campground @ Hensley Lake
  • Bagby Recreation Area, Lake McClure
    Merced River @ jct Hwy 49 Gold Rush CA

 

camping

YOSEMITE WEST Highway 120

Camping near Highway 120

  • Sweetwater Campground
  • Lost Claim Campground
  • The Pines Campground

North side of Highway:

  • Lumsden Campground
  • Lumsden Bridge Camp
  • Middle Fork Campground
  • Cherry Lake Campground
  • Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (NPS)

camping

highmeadows

See all Lakes near Yosemite Park

lakes near Yosemite hiking

YOSEMITE: EAST Highway 120

Tioga Pass on Hwy 120 (elevation 9410′) is only open during summer months. Generally June through October. Always check road conditions before your trip.

Lakes @ Tioga Pass
High elevation meadows, aspen groves, snowmelt lakes. Just east of Yosemite National Park border. Inyo National Forest

leeviningcamps

Lee Vining Canyon @ US 395
Inyo National Forest

  • Cattleguard Campground
  • Moraine Campground
  • Boulder Campground
  • Aspen Grove Campground
  • Big Bend Campground

 

Mono Maloy

MONO LAKE, CALIFORNIA

Kings River Camping

Camping areas along Kings River, Sierra Nevada California

dirtroadskings

Kings is the longest river in the Sierra Nevada and very rugged and remote in most of the length. The Upper Kings is situated in the highest of elevation, granite alpine back country, with abundant small lakes and numerous Wilderness areas.

The tallest peak, Mount Whitney, drains this way – down waterfalls and whitewater, westward to California into the San Joaquin Valley. Agriculture and orchards of citrus. The mid section of this mighty Kings River runs close to Hwy 180 inside the Kings Canyon National Park.

The Lower Kings is popular among campers, fishermen, kayakers and rafters, accessible most of the year. Upper Kings River is located inside the National Park boundaries.

NPS Campgrounds near Upper Kings River

Inside Kings Canyon National Park:
Cedar Grove Village @ end of Highway 180

elevation 4600′

may be closed during winter months.
reservations recommended.
NPS

Sheep Creek Campground (111 sites)
Sentinel Campground (82 sites)
Canyon View Campground (37 sites)
Moraine Campground (120 sites)

Roaring River Falls, Sentinel Dome (9115′ elev)

hikes
Roads End Trailhead
backpack camping, from paved parking area.
NPS – wilderness permits required for overnight stays.

Kings Highcountry Topo Map

bridge kings

Camping near Lower Kings River

Open all year round. Outside the National Park boundary, westward in lower elevations, many more camping options are available.

NFS

NOTE: Sierra National Forest is located  on the north side, along the river shore in between Pine Flat Lake & Kings Cyn National Park. But Sequoia National Forest is located on the south side!

Lower Kings is best accessed via the paved roads, up behind Pine Flat Lake, California

river
Trimmer Springs Road #11S12: a paved access route, wraps around the northern shore of Pine Flat Reservoir. Very winding and long, with 25 mph curves; this main route continues east into the massive Kings River Canyon.

Google Maps may have this road crossing the river, toward the end. Proper signage is questionable in the area, since local rednecks love to shoot up signs. Trimmer route quickly peters out to narrow dirt roads, anywhere past the Mill Flat Campground area.

Lower Kings is NOT easily reached via the National Parks, nor Kings Canyon Highway 180. Dirt road travel is required on Road #12S01, which can be steep and rocky at best. The drive-able climb up to the highway may require 4 wheel drive in some sections, depending on weather and land slides.

Winter brings some snow and abundant rains (NOV – APRIL).

LANDSLIDES and ROCK SLIDES are common with ROAD CLOSURES usually posted on the Sierra National Forest, NFS web site.

big river kings

 

poppy

Wildflowers are abundant in this region for springtime. (MARCH-MAY)

camp

(north shore)
Lower Kings River
elevation 1100′

Sierra National Forest fish

Kirch Flat Campground NFS (17 sites)

tables & toilets

both above are free camp spots: boondocking, dispersed camps, primitive car camping, tent camping, RV camping, river fishing, kayaking, rafting

Sierra Road #12S01 – primitive camping, few pit toilets; fishing access, some trailhead camps and RV spots along river. The northern most arm of this road is also referred to as Road# 12S001 Garnet Dike, on the NFS web site.

newbridge
Along paved routes, near bridges, some dispersed camping is also allowed. Campfire permits are required.

Sierra Road #9 is Big Creek Canyon a side route, graded dirt road worth exploring for primitive camping options. The farther you drive up, the more vegetation you will find. Campfire permits are required.

BlackRock Reservoir Road #11S12, another side route (paved) climbs steeply in elevation, along a cliff edge. This spot offers a small NFS campground near a lake, and is located along the North Fork of the river.

kingsflow2010
click to enlarge

(south shore)
Lower Kings River

elevation 1000′

Sierra National Forest

NFS

Pine Flat Reservoir

elevation 952′

rafterskings


Walk-In Camp Sites

MIneral KIng Walkin Camps

Walk-In Camps

Below are developed campgrounds in California that have walk-in camp spots available. Vehicles are parked and you must carry your gear into the camp site (usually a short distance, but can be up to a half mile).

California Campgrounds with more than a 1-mile trek are not included in this list below. Areas such as – Catalina Island, Crystal Cove SP, Angel Island SP, Point Reyes National Seashore, indeed have many hike-to camps, but most are measured in miles (one way).

walk in campsites are perfect for –

  • people who wish not to see cars @ camp
  • people who prefer less noise while camping
  • physically fit folks, who want exercise
  • backpackers, who plan to hit the trails soon
  • avid hikers, who may be out day hiking
  • cyclists, just passing through
  • mountain bike campers
  • one nighters, travelers who only stay one night
  • late comers to the campground

    (hint: these are usually the last campsites to fill up)

NewMelones WalkIn Camps

Walk in campsites are often located away from car campers & RVs. Some camp sites may have more privacy, tucked away in trees, while others have shared community area with fire pits and/or barbecues. All camp sites will have picnic tables and a some kinda toilet nearby. Bear boxes may be available for storing food properly. Sharing these food storage boxes with neighboring campers is common practice.

Campgrounds with walk-in sites range in elevation from sea level marshlands to high altitude alpine lakes. Most of these camps listed below are located inside developed campgrounds with overnight fees. Many are small campgrounds, while others are large hubs of activity. Some may be smaller campgrounds, with just a few camp sites. The most popular places can be reserved, with the links provided.

Many parks can also have day use fees, so know where you park and what time span is allowed. Ask the campground host if needing assistance. Some campgrounds lock their gates at sunset and do not permit entry at night. Others may not allow campers to check in anytime after sundown. Know their rules before you make reservations.

If you plan on not making camp reservations; make sure to have a plan B or C choice camp – in case your desired campground is already full. Many popular destinations can fill up fast (by noon in the summer).

spacious camps
Spacious Camp @ Aspen Grove Campground, Eagle Lake, CA

Walk In Camps in California

hikes campmtb

Andrew Molera State Park, North Big Sur Coast
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, East Bay San Francisco
Aspen Grove Campground, Eagle Lake, CA
Austin Creek SRA, Armstrong Redwoods, Guerneville CA

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
Black Rock Campground, Little Grass Valley Reservoir
Blue Lake Campground, PG&E 4×4 @ i80 Donner Pass, Truckee, CA
Boise Creek Campground, Six River National Forest
Bottchers Gap Campground, North Big Sur Mountains
Butano State Park, Pescadero, Santa Cruz Mountains

Carr Campground, i80 Donner Pass, Truckee, CA
Cherry Hill Campground, Butte Creek, Lassen National Forest
Chilcoot Campground, Frenchman Lake, Plumas NF
China Camp State Park, SF @ San Pablo Bay, San Rafael
Chula Vista Campground @ Mount Pinos, Los Padres NF mtb
Clear Lake State Park, North Wine Country, Kelseyville CA
Cold Springs Campground
,
Mineral King @ Sequoia NP
Cool Springs CampgroundPG&E Camp, Butt Valley Reservoirhike
Cottonwood Pass / Cottonwood Lakes
on Horseshoe Meadow Rd, PCT Eastern Sierra @ Lone Pine

coolsprings

Dark Day Campground, New Bullards Bar Reservoir, N Sierra
Donner Memorial State Park, Interstate 80 @ Truckee CA

Dry Lagoon Walk-In, Humboldt Lagoons State Park

El Capitan State Beach, North Santa Barbara Coast

Gaviota State Park Campground, North Santa Barbara Coast
Glory Hole Campground @ New Melones Reservoir, Gold Co
Granite Flat Campground, Truckee River @ Lake Tahoe
Gualala Point Park, Gualala River, Sonoma County Park

Half Moon Bay State Beach Campground, Half Moon Bay

Headquarters Campground, Salton Sea SRA @ Mecca CA
Henry W Coe State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
(wilderness permits required)

Intake Campground, Bishop Creek, Eastern Sierra

Jackson Flat Walk-In Camp PCT @ Angeles NF
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground, NorCal
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur Coast

Kidd Lake Group Campground, PG&E @ i80 Donner Pass, Truckee, CA
Kayak, canoe, hike-in camp sites

Kirby Cove @ Golden Gate National Recreation Area
5 tent camp sites on a bluff over the mouth of San Francisco Bay; reservations required

Klamath National Forest –
small campsites on a river

Lassen National Park – Southwest Campground 6700′ elev.
Liberty Glen Campground @ Lake Sonoma Recreation Area
Limekiln State Park Campground, Hwy 1 Big Sur Coastline

MacKerricher State Park Campground, Mendocino Coast
Macumber Reservoir,
PG&E Camp, West of Lassen NPfishing
Manresa State Beach Campground
, Monterey Bay
Marmot Rock Walk-In Camp, Courtright Reservoir
Mary Smith Campground
@ Lewiston Lake, Trinity River

McCabe Flat Campground @
Merced Recreation Area, Merced River, Mariposa CA

Mesa Campground, Silverwood Lake SRA, Cajon Pass (I-15)
Mill Creek Campground @ Bucks Lake, Plumas NF
Mill Creek Campground, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP
Montana de Oro State Park, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo mtb
Mosquito Flat Trailhead Camp, One night limit! Camp is for backpackers heading into back country at the end of Rock Creek Road, Inyo NF hike

Niagra Creek Campground, OHV 4×4 trails, Stanislaus NF
North Battle Creek Reservoir
PG&E Camp, West of Lassen
North Grove Campground, Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Oak Bottom Campground

Oak Bottom Campground @ Whiskeytown Reservoir NRA (wildfire 2018)

Onion Valley CA

Onion Valley Campground, Eastern Sierra @ Independence, CAhike

Pantoll Campground, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Marin
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground, Big Sur Coast
Pigeon Flat Campground, Stanislaus River, Dardanelle CA
Pomo Canyon Walk-In Camp, Sonoma Coast State Beach
Portola Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
hikePrather Meadows Camp, Bunny Flat @ Mount Shasta
Providence Mountains SRA @ Mitchell Cavern, Mojave

Redwood National Park, NorCal Coast
(no reservations, no fees. open all year)

  • Flint Ridge Walk-In
  • Nickel Creek Walk-In
chulavistacamp
CHULA VISTA CAMPGROUND – Wild Iris Meadow at Mount Pinos

Refugio State Beach, North Santa Barbara Coast
Rock Creek Campground
, Eel River @ Standish-Hickey SRA
Roxie Peconom Campground, Bizz Johnson Trail, W Susanville mtb
Rucker Lake Campground, PG&E @ i80 Donner Pass, Truckee, CA
Russian Gulch State Park Campground, Mendocino Coast

San Clemente State Beach, Orange County Coast
Sanborn Campground, Skyline County Park, Saratoga CA
Sand Flat Campground, Clark Fork, Carson Icerberg Wilderness
Silver Creek Campground, Truckee River @ Tahoe
Southwest Walk-In Camp
, 6700′ elev @ Lassen Volcanic National Park
Squaw Leap Campground, San Joaquin River, Auberry CA
Stillwater Cove Regional Park, N of Fort Ross, Sonoma Coast

Tahoe National Forest
Donner Area Camping Lakes

NFS 530-265-4531

  • Carr Lake Campground
    10 miles north of Highway 20
    6,700′ elev
    5 walk-in campsites
  • Rucker Lake Campground
    6 miles north of Highway 20
    5,462′ elev
    7 walk-in campsites
  • Sterling Lake Campground
    9 miles north of Interstate 80
    7,000′ elev
    6 walk-in campsites

Toad Lake Walk In Camp, PCT @ Shasta National Forest
Tuolumne Meadows Camp, Yosemite National Park
(reservations & wilderness permits required)

Union Reservoir Walk In Camps, Arnold CA

Union Valley Reservoir – Eldorado National Forest

  • Azalea Cove Campground
  • Fashoda Campground

Van Damme Redwoods State Park, Mendocino Coast

Walker Pass Campground, PCT, East of Lake Isabella CA
Whitney Portal Trailhead Camp, Mount Whitney, Eastern Sierra

Willow Placer Campground BLM, Merced River Recreation Area
Woodside Campground, Salt Point State Park, Sonoma Coast

OnionValleyWalkIns

Walk in campgrounds are considered ‘tent camping‘, as opposed to ‘car camping‘, which is literally camping next to your vehicle. This type of hike-in camping may also be referred to as ‘trailhead camping‘, as many ideal hikes begin at these prime locations. Boat-in, bike-in or hike-in camp sites are also available at some of these locations.

Sunrise at Camp

Zion Sunrise Mesa

What kind of camper are you?

Determining the ideal tent location will vary on whether you are an ‘early riser’ or late night person, otherwise known as the “up-til-wee-hours ’round the campfire” kinda camper.

Night Owl
OK, all you wine-o’s and silly drunks, try to be a considerate camper and place your tent near the campfire if you plan to be up late. You and your partying cohorts will not disturb those who had planned to get ‘a good nights sleep’ and can stumble to your tent close by with ease. Make sure that you have a large bush, boulder or tree on the east side of your tent, as this is where the dreaded sunlight comes in.

Early Riser
If you are the kinda person who welcomes the sunrise, sitting on a boulder with a healthy cup of fresh brewed coffee, then you probably don’t wanna hear folks up late around the campfire discussing philosophy, right next to your pillow. Ear plugs can be good to pack if you plan to camp with more than a few folks. Setting up your tent well away (like 100 feet) from all communal areas will help you get a decent nights sleep, allowing others to do their normal thing without even bugging you.

Light Sleeper
If you wake at the slightest footsteps (or car alarm) you might wanna find a distant camp for your bedding spot. Camp outside of a developed campground for the most secluded and quiet of nature experiences. If you cannot stand anyone snoring, then kindly ask your neighbors ahead of time and position your tent accordingly.

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Sunrise: Determining East & the North Star

determining your direction
If you fear the morning sunlight like a true vampire, make sure that your tent is not in the direct line of fire at 6 am, just in case you planned to sleep in until 9 am.

If you arrive at camp after dark & need to decipher where the sun comes up, just locate the North Star silly. Hmmm, sounds easy? Now where is that sucker. See the diagram below for gathering the astronomy part of the lesson.

Now, for all of you who didn’t get a decent high school education: Locating east can be easy if you always remember this small exercise. Standing up, point your face to the north, extend your right arm out sideways & this will be east . The same goes for left/west. South is right behind ya. The sun sit low in the winter months & follows more along the south horizon.

The familiar stars called the big dipper is a nice way to find the north star. Draw a line from the edge of cup — spilling out straight over to the brightest star.

north star polaris

 

Alder Camp


Fouts Springs

fout springs

Fouts Springs California

2018 (Mendo Complex Wildfire) Ranch Fire has reached this area and it is closed indefinitely.

roadtofouts
Paved Road M10, Mendo National Forest

This area may or may not be burning as I type, but I just wanted to show you how beautiful it was back in the spring 2018. Click on images to see larger format.

Fouts Springs is multi-use recreation area on the east side of Mendocino National Forest. Located near the Snow Mountain Wilderness trailhead, this region is popular with the off-road boys.

fouts water

fouts camp

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Davis Flat Campground 1700′ 28 mixed vault no OHV trails
Fouts Campground 1700′ 11 mixed vault piped OHV trails
Little Stony Campground 1500′ 8 pines vault no OHV trails
Mill Creek Campground 1700′ 5 mixed yes no OHV trails
South Fork Campground 1700′ 4 mixed vault creek Stony Creek, OHV

Spring Fouts Mendo

Fouts campgrounds are located on the EAST SIDE of Mendo NF on paved road M10. Situated below 2000′ elevation and open year round!

Road M10 Mendo
Road M10 Mendocino

TRAVELERS NOTE: Tent campers, RV and truck campers can easily access this area, all paved roads. Exit Williams or Willows on I-5 and head west. A decent backcountry map or Mendocino National Forest Map is advised; Numerous canyons, forested creeks and campgrounds. Always check with Mendocino National Forest for road closures and conditions.

dirt bike crossing

OFF-ROADERS NOTE: Use caution on paved access road M10, especially when driving with trailers or large RVs. Narrow road, long and winding with blind curves and no guard rails!! Always check with Mendocino National Forest for road closures and conditions.

Mendocino Ranger Stations can be found on link below

NFSMendocino National Forest

foutspicnic