Category Archives: Hiking

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 –

Mill Creek Falls Modoc

mill creek falls

Mill Creek Falls
Modoc National Forest

Just found another MILL CREEK in Northern California; a waterfall on the west side of the South Warner Wilderness. Located at the headwaters to the Pit River; about 6 miles east of Likely, CA

A small developed campground on a wooded slope; with new bathrooms, shady camp sites, a paved loop, and a short hike to the falls.Hiking trailhead leads into the wilderness area for fishing, hiking, lakes and backcountry access.

Open less than half the year, due to winter snow. Campground access off US Hwy 395, via Jess Valley Road #64

Mill Creek Falls Campground NFS

• Elevation: 5,680′
• Number of Sites: 20
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Piped Water: Yes
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: South Warner Wilderness, Clear Lake

millcreek modoc

NFSlogo

Modoc National Forest
Warner Mountain Ranger District
530-279-6116

mill creek falls modoc

paved camp loop

Modoc Blue Lake Campground is also located off  Jess Valley Road.

south warner sign

Parking area for day use hikers and overnight backpackers. Hiking trail to waterfall is a short, half mile hike.

Clear Lake is further upstream, above the falls. If you want to find swimming holes, below the falls – then head down river from camp.

elevation 5680

see more MILL CREEKS in California


Canon Sin Nombre Slot Canyons

Happy Jan

Canon Sin Nombre – Anza Borrego
Mud Caves and Slot Canyon Hikes

Anza Borrego Desert State ParkDesert Slot Canyons – South Anza Borrego State Park region, just off County Road S-2 east of the ‘badlands overlook’ view point is a whole network of narrow walkways & skinny canyon trails to explore. Some are so tight you have to turn side ways to fit through. There are more than one of these sandstone topless caverns. Finding a new one each time you visit is a fun challenge. Just north in the Diablo canyon there are dry mud tunnels & trails as well. Explore & be careful not to get lost. And don’t camp at the canyon openings during the threat of heavy rains…duh.

Drive down steep, sandy road into Canon Sin Nombre entrance (the dirt road just to the north of Badlands Overlook). A high clearance vehicle is recommended and 4WD may be required in soft sand. 2WD SUVs/trucks should keep their speed up through the soft sandy areas & try not to turn or stop suddenly. Go slow in narrow sections of the canyon & slow over the rocks to save your oil pan.Anza Borrego photos

Clock your mileage 1 mile exactly from the paved road (s2) & park out in desert wash, pull over between the smoke trees. Hike over to the left side & look for an opening in the canyon walls to a deep secluded trench. A campsite may exists here.

hikerHike up the first canyon which does require some rock scrambling. The gorge lets you out at the very top with an impressive view over the Sweeney Pass area. The canyon walls are so tight in some spots you may have to turn sideways to fit through. Upper body strength is needed to climb high ledges & boulder scramble through this natural maze.

Once on top, wander on the ridge & check out the views; keeping to the right & then follow the next wash down to start the much longer & easier exit. Hike down in the main slot canyon which leads out to a big camp site & clearing. Exit slot area and turn right, walking back to the vehicle in the big wash.Slot Canyon

This particular hike is a blast on a full moon night, but not for a first timers try.

campBest time to visit: October – April

HIGH CLEARANCE VEHICLE access to reach trailhead. Moderate hike, boulder scrambling w/ dangerous mud walls. Flash floods here are possible during rains.

Plenty of 4×4 roads, SUV trails, & box canyons in the desert region.

Open primitive camping (free) all over
Anza Borrego State Park

The 2 nearest developed campgrounds:
Bow Willow Campground
Vallecito County Park

The Wall Walker

Smile Cheps

Cold Springs Campground

Cold Springs

Mineral King Campground, Sequoia NP

NPSSequoia National Park: Cold Springs Campground in Mineral King Area

A large developed camp ground with bear lockers, a raging creek, some walk in sites, & access to the Sierra Nevada high country trails.  This is the last real campground in the main valley, everything beyond this spot is pure alpine highcountry.

9000′-13,000′ peaks – in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Car camp, tent camping or bring a backpack and climb to pristine lakes and into the real Wilderness.

Cold Springs Campground, California

on the East Fork of the Kaweah River, closest campground to the hiker trailheads @ Mineral King Valley. Mineral King Road open May-October (depending on snow)

Atop the mighty canyon sits mountain passes, peaks and lakes above 10,000′ elevation. A rocky alpine valley of wonder and water, granite, dark skies and a good night sleep. Black bears and hikers are everywhere, anytime.

This sweet spot river campground has more than 25 camp sites, but there is not a lot to choose from way back here on the dead end back road known as Mineral King in California.  Just up the road a piece from Silver City. Nearest real town is Three Rivers near Sequoia NP south gate, California State Route 198.

Western Sierra /

Sequoia South Camping –

37 camp sites in Mineral King @ 7500′ elevation
vault toilets, river and piped water, bear boxes
first come, first served camping

Max Camper Length: 0
(RV, motorhomes, camper trailers are not allowed)

Rangers Office: 559-565-3768

Cold Springs Campground has several campsites right on a river with other sites set up a steep forested hills. There are good number of walk-in camp sites at the end of this campground, ideal for backpackers arriving late at night. The actual walk is more like a hike, so be prepared to carry your stuff a mile down a steep forested trail. You will be rewarded with a great camp spot, near the river, away from the parking lot and noise of the car campers above. Tar Gap hiking trail leads out of Coldsprings campground and straight into the back country.

Coldsprings Camp & Atwell Mill are the only options for local tent camping.
Strapping on a backpack and heading for the high country is what most visitors do, as this is an ideal high country trailhead accessible from the western reaches of the Sierra Nevada range.

Mineral King trailheads lead out to – 
alpine fishing lakes
mountain peaks
Great Western Divide
Kings Kern Divide
Kern Canyon Wilderness
South Sierra Wilderness
Golden Trout Wilderness
Sequoia National Park
Kings Canyon NP
Sequoia National Forest
Mountain Home State Forest
Giant Sequoia National Monument
John Muir Wilderness
ROAD CONDITIONS:

East of Three Rivers, CA on Highway 198 – Mineral King Road peels off to the right, south east to a vast 30 mile long canyon. This mostly paved route closes for winter months when snow is present and rock slides are common. There is a few miles of unpaved, graded 2 lane road, but the majority is paved. Late spring (May) is typically the opening season for this road. RVs, buses, and trailers are not allowed on this narrow, winding road!

MineralKing

BIG TREES NOTE: Although this gorgeous, secluded canyon is located within Sequoia National Park, there are no Sequoia redwood trees in this particular canyon. And you might need to drive an hour up the other mountain to reach them. Just a consideration. If you have your heart set on the seeing the big trees, go do that on another trip. Mineral King is a journey and after your drive that road you will understand a few times.

HIKER PARKING: The NPS rangers station is walking distance from Cold Springs Campground. A beautiful meadow walk to the east of the campground. Bears are known to frequent the area, so locking all food in the provided metal bear lockers is a must.

Badgers are a problem too. Them critters eat radiator hoses – no joke! A good roll of chicken wire could be needed if you plan to leave your car unattended for any length of time.

View Mineral King Camping in a larger map

Smith Lake California

Smith Lakes in California

Numerous places called SMITH LAKE exist in the Sierra Nevada.

wildflora

Lakes Basin Recreation Area has two different spots named SMITH LAKE. This region is in the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains, near Downieville, at the north end of the California Gold Country @ Highway 49.

smithlake

Smith Lake hiking trail can be accessed from the Gray Eagle Lodge area along Gold Lake Highway; or this hiking lake can also be accessed from a park on the north side. Plumas Eureka State Park, via the Jameson Creek trail.

mikeatsmiths

Lakes Basin also has a small set of two lakes called “Smith Lakes” – located on Smith Creek. Way back behind the larger, most famous Gold Lake.

4×4 Road #11E71 will lead you to this remote destination, with the proper vehicle, of course. Creek crossings and large rocks; A quality topographic map and a 4 wheel drive rig is needed for this adventure.

nicemeadows
Lakes Basin Recreation Area
Lakes Basin California
North Sierra mountains, Sierra granite meets Cascade volcanic rock. Bordering of State Park & 2 National Forests

nearby towns:

driftwood

Snake Lake, California
Snake Lake, California

Snake Lake Campground, located west of Quincy, CA – has a small neighboring lake named Smith Lake. Chances are Smith is covered with lily pads, just like Snake Lake. Smaller Smith is accessible via dirt road only. Many people hike, horseback, mountain bike or dirt-bike back on these narrow dirt roads, so use caution when traveling. Butterfly Valley Botanical Garden is located way back here, if you can find it. A real forest service map is advised.

  • black bears
  • butterflies
  • frogs
  • snakes

driftwood

Smith River National Recreation Area is a remote watershed located in Northern California, on the Oregon border.

another Smith Lake in California? We’re still looking.


Camping Vegas

Camping & Hiking Vegas

Valley of Fire Park
Valley of Fire Park

Vegas National Park
Desert Park Areas

The lands surrounding Las Vegas are NOT managed by the NPS, National Park Service – but Lake Mead is considered a National Recreation Area. Hoover Dam is located at the south end of Lake Mead, then the Colorado river connects further down stream to Lake Mohave.

Tourist are no longer burdened by the constant flow of traffic over the dam, because a beautiful, new bypass bridge has been recently built above the dam.

Boating, kayaking, fishing, hiking, off-roading and camping are popular attractions at both the reservoir lakes. Mohave Lake is lesser known and therefore, less crowded. 4×4 may be need to reach certain coves at Mohave.

Vegas Hot Springs
(hike-in or kayak access only)

Most of the public lands in this Vegas desert are managed by BLM or the USDA National Forests. The Great Basin National Park is located in central Nevada, nearly 300 miles NW of the city of Las Vegas.

Lake Mohave
Lake Mohave on border of California, NV & AZ

Red Rock Vegas

redrockmap1997

Some folks know these rock walls as Red Rock Canyon, or Red Rock Park near Vegas – but the official name now ‘Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area’ and the lands are managed by the BLM.

redrock vegas

The closest red rock park to Las Vegas, this one is located at the far west end of Charleston Blvd. – an easy exit to find off the freeway Interstate 15. Day hikes, rock climbing, mountain biking, picnics and a large BLM campground. This desert range can get very windy and the only campground around is poorly located along the busy highway, on a ridge. Bring good tent stakes and be prepared for serious wind. Better camping options can be found over at the higher elevation Mount Charleston, see below.

Vegas Valley of Fire

This beautiful desert park is 60 miles N of Vegas and well worth the day trip to explore native petroglyphs, hike among red rocks, sandy washes and just relax to take in breathtaking vistas. See more about the Valley of Fire State Park

Mount Charleston Camping

Several developed campgrounds are available in a pine forest setting. Some may charge a nightly fee, or a day use fee. Mary Jane Falls is well worth the hike. Two lodges grace this mountains, The Mount Charleston Resort is the big log and stone cabin along a straight away on Kyle Canyon Road #157. The Mount Charleston Lodge is above at 7717′ elevation and has a popular restaurant and nice modern mountain cabin rentals.


View Larger Map

Mount Charleston Campgrounds
USDA NFS

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Spring Mountains National Recreation Area

Dolomite Campground
8,500′ elev
open May-Oct

Fletcher View Campground
7,000′ elev
open all year

Hill Top Campground
8,400′ elev
open May-Oct

Mahogany Grove Campground
8,000′ elev
open May-Oct

McWilliams Campground
8,500′ elev
open May-Oct

Old Mill Campground
8,300′ elev
open May-Oct

Red Rock in Las Vegas


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


21S05 – Sequoia NF

the needlesThe Needles:
Forest Road# 21S05

Giant Sequoia NM

hikerFrom the small cabin community of Ponderosa, CA, continue N on the Western Divide Highway. Dirt road# 21S05 will be a right turn, a graded route that leads to a dirt parking lot for hikers.

The trailhead for the granite Needles is a favorite among rock climbers in the Southern Sierra Nevada. The easy 4.5 mile hiking trail is numbered 32E22 & leads out to a historic fire lookout tower, overseeing the Kern Canyon (& Road 22S82) below.

Needles Fire Lookout
(destroyed in structure fire 2011)

DEC-MAY: Winter road closure is common, due to snow and muddy road conditions.

Sequoia National ForestNFSlogo

bone creek
Secluded Camp w/ Waterfall on Bone Creek

camptruck

Trail of a Hundreds Giants

Balch Park, Sequoia Grove

Dome Land Wilderness

Golden Trout Wilderness

Sequoia Camping on back roads

Sequoia Campgrounds & Camping

Kern River Camping

sierra roads

nearby towns:


Lakes Basin Recreation Area

Lakes Basin Area, California

Golden gems of California, a collection of alpine lakes on the north end of Historic Gold Country, North Yuba River, Northern Sierra Nevada

lake dunk
EAST of Downieville, CA

California’s Gold Lake and surrounding lakes; the granite spires of the Sierra Buttes and the creeks, waterfalls, headwaters of the Yuba River — total wild beauty. Steep, granite, river canyon from Downieville drive east on Highway 49 from Sierra City to Bassetts, a gasoline and market stop; they have a small hotel there too.

Historic Lodges

Take the left turn, north on to the Gold Lake Highway. The alpine and extremely scenic Lakes Basin Area consist of all small lakes in between Hwy 49 to Hwy 89, along GOLD LAKE HWY [Road S620] some maps read Road #24 or call this Gold Lake “Road” instead of highway. Snow closes in this route during winter months.

The impressive Lakes Basin Gold Lake Region is in the north part of Tahoe National Forest, on the border of Plumas National Forest. Plumas Eureka State Park is also nearby.

Hiking, Camping, Backpacking, Picnicking, Wildflowers, Stargazing, Fishing, Kayaking, XC Skiing, Snowmobiling

Lakes Basin Map

Lakes Basin Campground

California best lake destinations

lakes basin views

Lakes Basin Recreation Area

Sierra Buttes Map


McKinley Sequoia Grove

McKinley Grove

McKinley Grove Big Trees

Sierra National Forest

Mc Kinley Grove is a small grouping of Sequoia trees in the Central Sierra Nevada; Located off Hwy 168 & way down Dinkey Creek Road (Sierra Rd #40). deep inside Sierra National Forest, past the Dinkey Creek Campground turn off. It’s a good stretch break and picnic stop on your way to Wishon & Courtright Reservoirs.

Located 17 miles; East of Shaver Lake CA

McKInley Sequoia

camp

Sierra National Forest Map USDA

closest campgrounds –

hikes

 

nearby destinations –

NFS

local rangers:

Sierra National Forest
High Sierra Ranger District
29688 Auberry Rd
Prather, CA 93651
559-855-5355

Sequoia campsite


Mount Pinos Recreation

Mount Pinos Camping

Mt Pinos Campgrounds – Los Padres Camping

A little bit of high altitude, alpine forests in Southern Cal. Mount Pinos campgrounds are the ones on the way up to Mt Pinos 8831′ on the paved route to the top parking lot, Mount Pinos Road. Only 2 campgrounds take reservations & can be busy in summer months. Chula Vista Camp (at the top parking lot, short walk on trail) has an amazing wildflower meadow w/ group camp area. Drum circles are common on summer weekends.

  • backpacking
  • camping
  • hiking
  • mountain biking
  • sledding & snow play
  • stargazing

Drum Circle Camp

Mount Pinos parking lot is well known among RVers, astronomers & cross country skiers. If the 2 snow gates are open, you’ll find RVs camping out here until winter officially starts. The peak to peak trail from Mt Pinos to Mt Abel 8243′ starts at this parking area & trail head. Cool ski hut that no Forest Personnel every seems to be operating. Portable toilets available.

Pinos Star Party
Pinos Star Party

In the mid-winter, snow is almost guaranteed up here. Families & sledders flock to this region for snow play causing major traffic jams & parking problems. On the busiest of weekends w/ a recent snow storm, you may find several miles of vehicles, backed up from Pinos to the freeway (causing 10 miles of traffic jam in the mountains). It is not uncommon to see CHP managing traffic flow on the weekend. Snow play areas are located at the top on Pinos, if the gates are open.

If not the “Y” – where Cuddy Valley meets Mil Potrero Hwy. is the main snow-play destination. This is a very busy intersection at all times of the year, as it is the main route entering Pine Mountain Club, located 5 miles to the west. Be considerate! Do not litter and please park OFF THE PAVEMENT; keep kiddies, sleds & BBQs out of the road ways.

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Chula Vista Campground 8300′ 12 pines vault no walk-in camps & RV lot
McGill Campground 7500′ 50 pines vault seasonal closed in winter
Mount Pinos Campground 7800′ 19 pine vault seasonal closed in winter
Trails on Pinos
Trails on Pinos

The pinyon pine forests surrounding Mount Pinos Recreation Area is Los Padres National Forest, where there is every kinda camping imaginable. Outdoor resorts such as Pine Mountain Club & Mil Potrero Campground all the way over to rugged backpacking, or back road motorcycle 4×4 camps – with maybe one camp fire ring (still intact). Windwolves Preserve, Quatal Canyon, Cerro Noroeste, Lockwood & Cuyama Valley.

Group Camping Sites in Los Padres Forest

Winter Snows
Winter Snows – Gates Close

map of the regions –

Sierras from Pinos
Sierra Nevada Mountains, as seen from Pinos Road

nearby towns –

DSCN0036


Frazier Park Camping

Mount Pinos Camping & Frazier Park Campgrounds

Hiking Pinos Signs
Frazier Park and neighboring towns, like freeway-close Lebec and Gorman, is where the Los Angeles hills meet the Kern County mountains. Mojave Desert meets to Coastal Range. EXIT I-5 @ Tejon Pass (elev 4144′)

Wildflower hills, seasonal creeks, forested peaks, high desert canyons. Bike trails, hike trails, off road routes. High elevation backpacking, hang gliding, mountain biking and camping in every direction.

MTB SOCAL
Mountain Bikers love the trails at Mount Pinos.

High desert washes, oak creeks, pinyon pine forests, mountain meadows and numerous peaks – Frazier Peak, Reyes Peak, Alamo Mountain, Mount Pinos, Mount Abel (Cerro Noroeste) and north facing San Emigdio ridge.

Mt. Pinos District:

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Aliso Park, Cuyama 3200′ 11 oak pit no Aliso Cyn Rd. (#10N04)
Ballinger OHV Camp 3000′ 20 pinyon vault no Rd# 9N10, Cuyama Valley
Camp-O Alto 8286′ 12 jefferey pit no ridge, Cerro Noroeste
Caballo Campground 5850′ 5 oaks pit no Rd# 9N27, Cerro Noroeste
Cherry Creek 4×4 5200′ 2 oak no spring 4WD trail, Cuddy Valley
Chuchapate Campground 6000′ 30 pines vault piped Rd# 8N04, closed winter
Chula Vista Walk-In Camp 8300′ 12 pines vault no walk-in camps & RV lot
Cottonwood Campground 4600′ 2 ctnwd no creek 4WD only trail, fish
Dome Springs Camp 4800′ 4 oak pit no Rd# 8N40, Lockwood
Dutchman Camp 6800′ 8 pines no no Rd# 7N01, 4WD trails
Half Moon Campground 4700′ 10 pines pit no Rd #7N03, May-Oct
Kings Campground 4250′ 7 pinyon vault no OHV & Piru Creek
Marian Campground 6600′ 5 pine pit no closed in winter
McGill Campground 7500′ 50+ pine vault seasonal mountain biking
Mount Pinos Campground 7800′ 19 pine vault seasonal closed winter
Nettle Springs Camp 4400′ 9 pinyon vault no Rd# 8N06, Apache Cyn
Ozena Campground 3660′ 12 cottnwd vault no Lockwood Rd
Pine Springs Camp 5800′ 12 pinyon pit no Road #7N03
Pleito Campsite 5000′ 2 mixed no no dirt rd access, dispersed
Rancho Nuevo 3550′ 2 mixed no no river crossing
Reyes Creek 4000′ 30 oaks vault yes creek camping
Reyes Peak Pine Mt 5200′ 6 pines none no ridge camping
Salt Creek 4×4 3000′ 2 mixed no no 4WD only
Sunset Campground 4300′ 2 cottonwd no no Lockwood / Piru Creek
Thorn Meadows 5000′ 5 pine pit no Rd# 7N03C, horse corral
Tinta Campground 3600′ 3 pinyon pit no river crossing
Toad Springs Camp 5700′ 5 pinyon pit no Rd# 9N09, Quatal Cyn
Twin Pines Camp 6600′ 5 pine vault no Dry weather only
Valle Vista Camp 4800′ 7 mixed pit no condors, new toilet

See Mount Pinos Recreation Campgrounds only

Group Camping Sites in Los Padres Forest

Map of Los Padres NF –nettle spring camp

Los Padres mountain towns –

DSCN0043

Toad Springs Campground atop Quatal Canyon. Small camps located in Los Padres NF have no fees, and often no toilets – so bring the shovel.

Many dirt roads are gated seasonally for wet weather or snow. Call rangers to find out which routes are open before you plan your weekend. Or have a plan B and C camp site ready if route is closed. Flashfloods, thunderstorms, and erosion means you may all-of-a-sudden need to use your 4WD. This is the mountains after all. UNpredictable weather is common.

frazier park camping

Primitive Camping in Quatal Wash, next to the OHV Route and the Chumash Wilderness

PeaktoPeak
Peak-to-Peak Hike: the toughest climb you’ll do, this decade.


Wilderness Lakes

Lake Genevieve
Lake Genevieve, hike-in only access. Way up behind Convict Lake @ Mammoth Lakes, CA

calif lakes / secluded lakes / loop hike around lake / best lake in california / lake elevation / geology lakes / alpine lakes

hike-in lakes

Wilderness lakes are as pure as it gets. No cattle, no roads nearby. Snow melt, cool days, good fishing, great mountain scenery, granite, fresh air & clean water. You have to really wanna reach them. You must physically WORK to get to these remote alpine wonderlands – hike, bike, or horseback.

Heart Lake
Heart Lake, near Onion Valley & Kearsarge Pass

Some lakes are accessible via a day hike, with miles of forest trails or granite switchbacks in between. Waterfalls, wildflowers and wildlife will keep you entertained, as you enjoy your trek. No rush, no pressure; Go slow and take it all in. Remember, it’s not a race!

Most people prefer to backpack in to these locations and stay a while. Why not? These puppies are ACCESSIBLE only a few months outta the whole year. May as well enjoy them while you can. The rest of the time they are frozen solid or buried with serious snow. Wilderness areas do not allow dogs nor mountain bikes on trails, so plan accordingly.

camp, fish, hike, horseback, swim

California is lucky to have hundreds of lakes within protected wilderness areas. Almost all are gorgeous and have very limited access. While we haven’t yet been able to hike every Wilderness in Cali, we will leave you with the visuals and links, plus a way to buy the specific topo maps.

California Wilderness Lakes

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Bucks Lake Wilderness

Carson Iceberg Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness

Granite Chief Wilderness

Emigrant Wilderness

Hoover Wilderness

John Muir Wilderness

Lassen National Park

Mokelumne Wilderness

Monarch Wilderness (Kings Cyn)

Jennie Lakes Wilderness

Thousand Lakes Wilderness

Trinity Alps Wilderness

Yosemite National Park

wild California

 

HIGH ALTITUDE LAKES:
4000′ elevation to 14,000′ elevation

snowflake

SEASONAL deep SNOW makes many of these beautiful lakes inaccessible for more than half the year. Call ahead to local rangers to make sure your desired destination is indeed open for traffic. Certain locations may require snow shoes, snowmobile or a 4WD to access.

Forget the hike!

If you are seeking a remote mountain lake that you can drive to, you will need to search for one that has the fewest people. A high clearance vehicle will help you exit the tourist traps, via plenty of the back roads. Some dirt roads are acessible with just a passenger car or AWD wagon. Talk to the ‘field ranger’ for up-todate road conditions and closures.campfires Make sure to get a campfire permit, before you camp outside of developed campgrounds. Always steer clear of crowded, holiday weekends.

Juniper Lake Table
Juniper Lake – Lassen NPS

California LAKE LIST

The lake list above samples most of the lakes in California. For secluded locations and rare finds (accessible by vehicle), see the list below and follow links for more info.

fernlake
Fern Lake – hike in access, June Lake Loop Hwy 158

More California regions with pristine lakes, but not dubbed Wilderness:

turtleandfriend
Turtle and Friend, Junction City, CA
Sunrise Lakes
Sunrise Lakes, Yosemite Loop Hike


Carrizo Gorge Goat Trestle

Carizzo Gorge

Carrizo Gorge Goat Trestle – via Mortero Wash. Near the south end of Anza Borrego State Park is the infamous ‘goat trestle’, one of the largest wooden rail road trestles in the US.

This hike can be reached by driving N on County Road S2 (from I-8) into Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Near park boundary keep your eyes peeled for Mortero Canyon Rd (signed) on the left side. This is a sandy dirt road, accessible by passenger car, that leads out to the train tracks & then past to the Mortero Big Boulder campsites. Park at rail road tracks near water tank & start hike from here.

NOTE: Do not be alarmed if you happen to see NUDE hikers coming from the opposite end of this railway, where a nudist resort is located along Interstate 8, called De Anza Springs.

hike bike primitive camp sites

Carrizo Gorge Trestle
Railroad Tunnels, near Anza Borrego Desert

rail road history

San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad ­ SD&A/SD&AE

Ground was broken on September 7, 1907 by San Diego’s Mayor, John Forward and the construction of the 140 mile route was completed on November 15, 1919. The first through train was the called the “Golden Spike Limited”, named after the $286 golden spike, which John D Speckels drove into the ground near tunnel #8.

  • The Goat Canyon Trestle was built in 1932 to re-route tracks due to a landslide.
  • Passenger Cars Ran until 1951.
  • The route through Carriso Gorge was closed temporarily by Tropical Storm Kathleen in September of 1976.
  • And was reopened 1981, and then closed again by recurring storms.
  • Kyle Railways ran freight cars until mid 1984.

The Carriso Gorge section has fallen into disrepair with two trestles being burned and the collapse of two tunnels as the result of fires. The trestles have been rebuilt and one of the tunnels has been repaired but as of 2002 this scenic section of track is used mostly by hikers and mountain bikers. The sounds of the trains exist only in our imagination.

Goat Trestle Anza Borrego Desert

Other Facts: Derailed cars are from 1984 and were filled with bags of cement. Laborers were brought in to unload the cement but the cars were left. The Goat Canyon Trestle is 185″ tall and 600″ long. During its use it was the tallest wooden structure in daily use. This trestle was designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1986. Carrizo means “reed grass” in Spanish. Total cost of construction was $18 million.

In 1979 the SD & AE west of Plaster City was sold to the Metropolitan Transit Development Board for $18.1 million. SD&A was said to stand for “Slow, Dirty and Aggravating” because of the high temperatures, smoke and open windowed trains cars.

South end of Anza Borrego State Park
Dispersed camping
Dispersed camping (for free) in the Boulders

California Topo Maps

topo linesCalifornia Terrain

Topographical maps feature the terrain of a wilderness or hiking area, through colored shading & thin contour lines to represent elevations. Park boundaries, trail routes, trail heads & campgrounds are noted, as well as major landmarks like lakes, rivers, creeks, meadows, peaks, canyons, hot springs, waterfalls & all roads (dirt or paved).

Backpackers & hikers must rely on such maps for planning & trekking their journey. Hard copy, printed, waterproof maps are top choice, but topo maps now come in digital format for download as well. DanaMite has recently started including these digital map links within the Total Escape Map Shop – totalescape.net/shop/

Here in California we are lucky to have so much public land available to us for enjoyment. Numerous map vendors make maps for nearly all of the regions across California.

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QUADS: 7.5 minute topographic quadrangle maps, available from the USGS, can be found online w/ Avenza Maps (often for free) and also, direct from the government site https://www.usgs.gov/products/maps/topo-maps

A while back, the NFS offered handy books of these sought-after topo maps. They were compiled into booklet form called an ATLAS, with sturdy covers & a spiral bound. Overall size is close to 9″x12″ & they are much easier to handle than the individual paper maps. Look for Forest Topo Atlases

List of topo maps available for California:

wilderness maps CA kings canyon
conradkid
Hiking the High Sierra @ 12,000 feet above sea level

Cottonwood Campground

High Sierra access:

Cottonwood Lakes / Horse Camps

Cottonwood Pass – 11,200′

Cottonwood Lakes Campground, Golden Trout Campground & Horseshoe Meadows Campground… all next to Mount Whitney. This is a prime side option for Whitney & Southern High Sierra packing. Perfect for equestrian travelers, backpackers & day hikers.

Sitting at Tuttle Creek Campground at dusk, just outside of Lone Pine , in the Eastern Sierra – you may have wondered what the hell those lights were. Way off in the distance – to the south. Way up high.

There must be another road that also heads up into the Sierra’s. Yep! Go find this special valley. It is well worth the drive, even for just a day trip. A long and winding drive up from Hwy. 395, in Lone Pine CA – take Whitney Portal Rd up to Tuttle Creek Campground, see the road called Horseshoe Meadows Road on the left. Take it, all the way up, you will be glad you did. Allow hours for the drive, views, hike, & the picnic. It’s bear country so be concerned about your food. Use bear lockers, even for day trips.

mdws1

Cottonwood Campground is located in the Inyo National Forest , this area is just south of Mt. Whitney, is by far much quieter than the masses at the Portal. Although camping is limited to a ‘one nights stay’, the terrain is spectacular with ample parking for backpackers, sightseers & horse trailers alike. The paved switchback road is steep & long, to say the least. RV are not recommended on this Eastern Sierra Horse Shoe Meadows Road.

This area is definitely geared towards Sierra backpackers & equestrian trips. The parking lots are pretty roomy, plus there is a one night stay limit on the campgrounds: Golden Trout, Cottonwood Lakes, Horseshoe Meadow. New Army Pass & the Golden Trout Wilderness are both accessed from these high Sierra trail heads. Meadows up here are large & lined with pines. They can range from lush wildflowers to golden dry. Granite, horses & high elevations!

newarmypass
Trailheads to the High Country Sierra

walk-in camp sites:

These campgrounds up here are large and spacious with walk in access only. A common parking area is shared, along with the community fire rings & steel bear boxes. Wide open areas with tons of room for star gazing. The camp areas are not considered secluded. Very open skies & perfect for stargazing.

These camp sites are designed for overnighters preparing for their backpacking ventures into the nearby Sierra wilderness. This high altitude mountainous area closes for winter snows (anytime between October-May) & the campgrounds/trail heads will not be accessible. If road is open in early Spring, I imagine the cross country skiing & snow shoeing would be incredible in those huge meadows. Sierra wildflowers are abundant on certain years.

From Hwy 395 & Lone Pine CA, take Whitney Portal Rd. up to Horseshoe Meadow Rd & turn left. Follow this long & steep road due south hugging the mountain’s edge. This steep winding entrance will take you to some spectacular views over the dry desert Owens Lake & Lone Pine. Then turns sharply west headed straight into the pine filled Southern Sierras. This region is so high in elevation that you can actually see ‘tree line’. At 10,000′ alpine glory, this is prime backpackers country. Exposed granite mountain peaks loom above the tall ponderosa pines.

INYO National Forest: Cottonwood Lakes Campground

campground elevation spots vegetation toilet water fee
Cottonwood Campground 10,000′ 100+ ponderosa vault none yes
parking
Common Parking Lot

LONE PINE CA; Lone Pine Camping
Inyo National Forest
Mt. Whitney Ranger District
760-876-6200

Camping Cottonwood
Camping Cottonwood @ JTNP

ADDITIONAL COTTON:
There’s more than one Cottonwood Campground in California.

JTNP – A more popular spot is the Cottonwood Campground, on the south end of Joshua Tree National Park, near the Interstate 10 park entrance. Click here for camp information.

ABPF – Cottonwood Canyon –  4×4 accessible route which leads to aspen grove and old cabin, on the eastern side of the White Mountains and near the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. Cottonwood Basin is a result of Cottonwood Creek, which flows east toward the state of Nevada.

 

Big Basin Redwoods Campground

Big Basin State Park

Big Basin Redwoods Camping – Big Basin State Park

By far, one of the best Redwood State Parks near the San Francisco Bay Area. Very popular on weekends and all summer long. Reservations are recommended. Open all year!

State Park
These are the majestic Santa Cruz redwood forests, located behind Boulder Creek, California. Off of Hwy 9, this redwood park has awesome hiking, easy access & overnight accommodations to suit your style. Stay in a tent cabin, a developed campground or use the walk-in camp sites for a real natural setting.

Real Forest Camping
Real Forest Camping

  • camp
  • backpacking
  • hike
  • picnic
  • redwood groves
  • creeks
  • waterfalls
  • campsites
    hike in campground
    primitive camp

    Big Basin Redwood Campgrounds

    184 camp spots include:

    • 74  tent campsites
    • 38 walk-in sites
    • 41 tent cabins
    • 31 RV campsites (27′ max)

    Additionally there are 40 hike-in camp sites & 4 group camps, by reservation.

    RV camp
    tent cabins
    RESERVE a CAMP SITE or TENT CABIN in the REDWOODS

    If you prefer not to camp out among the ferns & the forest, then the tent cabin may be the way to go, or there are several dozen inns nearby. Select the towns below for lodging options.

    Big Basin Redwoods State Park Campground

    nearby communities:

    Redwoods Camping

    Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway

    chimney peak Wilderness

    East of Lake Isabella and west of Walker Pass, there is a small community called Canebrake along Highway 178 Canebrake Road, a graded dirt road climbs up into pinyon pine forests. Lamont Peak (aka Lamont Pinnacles) is a decent hike & rock climbers dig it too.

    Lamont Peak

    Chimney Creek Campground is along the main road and has RV access (28′ max), for the motorhomes who do not mind a little dirt road driving. Easy trail access to numerous area hikes. The PCT is routed close by.

    Long Valley Campground is tucked way back in the boonies with trailhead leading into the granite Dome Lands; Fishing and river access to the South Fork of the Kern.

    Long Valley Loop
    Long Valley Loop Road (2001)

    Long Valley Loop Road circles the Chimney Peak Wilderness, which skirts the Domeland Wilderness. THE LOOP is washed out and ROAD is NOW CLOSED in one portion. See BLM web site for up to date info.

    [ see the photos from 2001 ]

    nearby towns –

    ALTA SIERRA
    LAKE ISABELLA
    KENNEDY MEADOWS
    KERNVILLE
    WOFFORD HEIGHTS

    maps of the region –

    SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST MAP
    DOMELAND WILDERNESS MAP
    HIKING MAP PCT #3 (PACIFIC CREST TRAIL)

    Hiking California Coast

    California Coast Trails

    Big Sur Coast Coastal hikes are the mildest trails California has to offer, ranging from scenic strolls along the base of beach cliffs to steep redwood forested canyons. From Torrey Pines in San Diego to the multiple redwood parks along the North Coast, there is no shortage of hiking near the coastline. Southern California has more beaches than parks, with tide pool areas being a favorite destination for many. Central Coast has lush, fern canyons with year-round flowing creeks and numerous bluffs and rugged beaches. Bay Area has hiking trails nearly everywhere – along the bay, in the woods or on the coast. NorCal has all the wilderness, parks and remote beaches one could ever hope for. What are you waiting for? Get out there.

    Pacific Valley Hiking

    San Francisco Bay Area Hiking

    Limekiln Hikes

    hiking trail maps

    NorthMarin
    Channel Island National Park Map
    Los Angeles Hiking Maps
    Los Padres NF South (Ojai, Santa Barbara, Frazier)
    Los Padres NF North (San Luis Obispo, Big Sur)
    Marin Hiking Maps
    Mendocino National Forest Map
    Six Rivers National Forest Map
    Redwoods Map
    Ventana Wilderness Map w/ Silver Peak

    Sand Dollar Beach

    Hiking Park

    California Guide to City Hikes, Urban Hiking Trails & Local Community Parks

    California has thousands of parks, forests, preserves and open spaces for public use. Outdoor recreation, museums, gardens, pools, biking, equestrian and hiking trails. There are State Parks, National Forest & National Parks gracing nearly every corner of the golden state. Each California county has numerous county parks and within downtown regions, city parks can be perfect, scenic, picnic spots, or the parks could include hiking trails – like San Diego’s Balboa Park that is 5 square miles big.

    creek park

    Community Resources for California: Parks & Recreation

    Local museums, city parks, county parks, found under individual town listings on California A-Z