California Fire Lookouts for Rent
US Forest Service Cabins
Rent a secluded cabin with an amazing view, a historic tower for wildfire spotting, or a USFS guard station – hidden deep inside USDA California National Forests. Several of these NFS lookouts have been closed recently, so the ones listed below have links to status and reservation information.
Dirt road access is common to reach these remote locations. Some require stair climbing, or steep access hikes. Winter months are usually snowy, inaccessible and sometimes dangerous for these high country locations. Access roads suffer from closures due to rock slides or landslides. Check with the locals ranger station for current conditions.
A few of these rentals are open all year long – in the southern part of the golden state.
Historic Town Site: Kongsberg, Eastern Sierra, California
Silver Mountain City
Located on the lightly forested slopes of the Carson River. About 7 miles east of Ebbett’s Pass, Highway 4 (CA SR 4)
Silver Boom Town in 1866
Founded as Kongsberg in the late 1850’s by Scandinavian mining prospectors, the town name was later changed to Silver Mountain City. This wild, remote locale was the county seat for Alpine County from 1864 to 1875. The mining camp town was abandoned by 1886.
This canyon stretch of SR 4 highway has limited primitive camping options along the water. Flat dirt clearings and maybe a rock fire ring. No facilities, no bathrooms.
Silver Creek runs parallel to the highway and meets East fork of Carson River. Google Maps has this named Alpine State Hwy (which is closed in winter)
Drive less than 55 mph to take in all the scenery, slower if you want to find a decent place to stop. Look for easy pull-offs on dirt, a few trails, parking spots, picnic trees, some favorite fishing spots. Campfire permits are needed for dispersed camping.
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
NFS Campgrounds nearby :
Silver Creek Campground @ 6800′ elev.
NFS developed camp w/ fee (open June-Sept)
Centerville Flat Campground @ 5900′ elev.
undeveloped sites. Silver Creek meets East fork of Carson River
Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849 San Diego County Rd S2 San Diego County Highway S2
The awesome southern California desert, a stretch of road that traverses north-south direction on the west side Anza Borrego Desert; from Interstate 8 up to to Lake Henshaw @ San Felipe Road. Driving north you gain elevation from sandy badlands into the mountains, but trees are few and far off. Exit I-8 at 400′ elevation above sea level and gradually climb to 3000′ – over near Lake Henshaw & Palomar Mountain.
San Diego Road S-2 is about 50 miles long, through very scenic desert with interesting vegetation and paved the whole way. Perfect for RV travelers, as it has many camping options – from freebie, primitive camp spots to private campground resorts. Palm canyon hide-aways, secret shady spots, endless hiking canyons, and a campground with hot springs.
S2 Road intersects California SR 78 at Scissors Crossing and continues north through the barren San Felipe Hills. The Southern California portion of the Pacific Crest Trail parallels the ridge line on the east side, with the town of Borrego Springs lying behind that ridge at 590′ elevation. The historic mountain town of Julian sits in the hills above Banner Grade (Hwy 78).
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.
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.
CROCKER GUARD STATION
Crocker 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Overland pioneers and miners flooded the Sierra Nevada mountains after 1848, when gold was discovered, transforming the natural landscape and native life of California – in horrendous ways. Industrius, eager and using the abundance of natural resources available to build homes, divert creeks, and construct a new way of life. Mining for precious metals was not a hobby, it was a ‘way of life’ for many who sought westward locales. Most traversed a continent on foot with covered wagons to get out here.
Many early bridges made of wood have disappeared in California. Historic places, such as these few wooden bridges of the West, need to be protected and preserved. So no carving your initials; spray paint (tagging), littering – nor bullet holes.
Felton Covered Bridge
Santa Cruz Mountains & Redwoods
Railway Train Rides Felton, CA
The main artery from the North; the Big River of California
Mighty Mount Shasta snowmelt flows south, bound to meet the giant Lake Shasta, which merges with the Pit River and numerous other major waterways, becoming the big Sacramento River. Running right down the center of the North Sacramento Valley to merge into the California Delta. Shipping channel links the State Capital city of Sacramento with the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Agriculture and wildlife depend on this river heavily.
Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge
~ Camping is not permitted on the Sacramento NWR. Along the Sacramento River, camping is permitted on GRAVEL BARS for up to 7 days during a 30 day period. For waterfowl hunting, overnight stay is permitted in a vehicle or RV in designated areas. Tents are prohibited. No person may build or maintain fires except in portable gas stoves.
Why are California Granges now called Guild Halls?
Simply, it’s FOOD politics.
Corporate food power versus local food production: organic, GMOs, bees, pesticide drift and a host of other issues. In 2011, all hell broke loose with the historic Grange Halls – newly elected officials, and the national goals versus the local community interests.
The following year California was voting to label GMO foods, a proposition which educated millions of eaters and chemical corporations spent gazillions opposing the bill, but it was only narrowly defeated. The National Grange was standing on the opposite side from the California State Grange on this important food issue. This may be when the chasm began to widen.
Hippies, yuppies, left coast thinkers. Fruits, flakes and nuts! Tree huggers, eco-terrorist. Damn liberals. Food and California.
Remember that half of California voters knew about genetically engineered ingredients 5 years ago. Many of them made diet decisions based on new information readily available. Maybe they sometimes exercise outdoors, and dig this web site. Others choose to ignore the food topic. Denial.
Although the labeling law did not pass, many companies begin putting NON-GMO labels on the front of the food packages anyway. Health food manufacturers, now major brands, especially food produced inside California.
The local food movements in cities and in rural communities started growing, prior to the year 2000; Grange membership began increasing (for the first time since the 1950s) as young farmers and organic farmers took a new interests in “creating community” and finding a cleaner, greener way to the future of food.
Now we have farmers markets and CSA’s (community supported agriculture programs) all over the nation, on a weekly basis. Awareness has only been accelerating on the food topic – with organic food sales rising steadily over the past decade.
The California State Grange backed 2012’s Proposition 37, which mandated labeling of genetically modified foods….
The National Grange suspended the California State Grange’s charter in September 2012, and revoked it in May 2013
We are anti-pesticide, anti-fracking but we are for food sovereignty. The National Grange is dynamically opposed to all of those. They are pro-GMO, pro-pesticides, pro-big farming as opposed to small and local farms. Politically there is a dynamic difference.
Rumor has it this lake basin could be the ancient super volcano of the region. MonoLake is located on the north end of the Long Valley Caldera, a volcanic ridge which stretches down to Bishop and parallels Mammoth Mountain & US 395.
Huge shallow lake with a very turbulent history. Signs and plaques throughout the lake shore give info on ancient history of the lake, the wildlife, and regional detail. Majestic views of the Sierra Mountains, with sparse vegetation, lunar type landscape. Eerie with storm clouds; Beware of bad weather. Kayakers love this lake too!
Camping is closeby, but not located on the fragile lakeshore.
Dispersed camping (FREE) is allowed in Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, the region that surrounds the Tufa State Natural Reserve. Campfire permits are required. Contact the park listed below for all the details on the camping policy.
Lost Coast California Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
King Range National Conservation Area
Redwood groves and wilderness meet the Pacific Ocean at the infamous Lost Coast of California. Northern California is NorCal – steep trails, creeks, waterfalls, ocean views, and coastal cliffs. Mendocino and Humboldt County has numerous redwood parks and picnic grounds located near Pacific Coast Hwy 1 & US Hwy 101. This particular wilderness area is located in between Westport and Shelter Cove, just west of Leggett, CA. Situated on the west side of US Hwy 101 and only accessible via a long dirt road. The Sinkyone wild lands are managed under the California State Park system.
Sinkyone Wilderness Ranger Station 707-986-7711
Sinkyone Wilderness access –
North end – Needle Rock: 36 miles southwest of Garberville & Redway, California. Briceland Road west from Redway, this road becomes Mendocino County Road 435. The last 3.5 miles are unpaved, steep, & narrow. South end – Usal Beach: Approximately one hour north of Ft Bragg on PCH or 15 miles west of Leggett on PCH from Highway 101. Look for mile marker 90.88 on PCH. Turn north on small dirt road; 6 miles to Usal on unpaved, steep, narrow road.
ROADS MAY BE IMPASSABLE IN WET WEATHER. RV’S & TRAILERS NOT RECOMMENDED.
Usal Campground – USA Lumber Company staged a logging operation here in the early 1900’s. Now this remote spot is a popular back road campground accessibly only by a long dirt road drive. 4×4 and car camping only; No trailers or RV campers!
Access to wild land, open spaces, parks, forests, lakes, mountain peaks, public land – USDA National Forests, National Parks, State Parks, BLM. There is more public land available in the west half of the U.S., than anywhere else in the nation. This is one of the top reasons people relocate to the West Coast.
California’s Public Lands for Recreation
Federal lands, government managed parks, USDA National Forests, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuge, BLM, State Parks, State Forests, County Parks, Regional Open Spaces
California National Parks– most National Parks are so crowded you can’t even enjoy the experience in the summer time. Try the off-season times for your best stay. Neighboring National Forests are a much better bet for abundant space, privacy & less taxing on the wallet for fees. These popular (NPS) parks are subject to federal budget cuts and closures.
California National Forests– protected wilderness areas throughout state are surrounded by National Forests (NFS), and most National Parks (NPS) are surrounded by National Forests. Tons of small campgrounds & primitive spots for real seclusion. Get a free fire permit & camp almost anywhere you want. Use that SUV exploring the many dirt backroads & find that perfect camp spot (for free).
California State Parks – local California parks with a lot to offer the day hikers, picnicking family, tent camper or RV camper. From warm dry deserts soaking in a hot springs to the foggy coastal redwoods, these state run parks encompass a large section of California terrain. These parks are subject to state budget cuts and closures.
BLM: Bureau of Land Management – mostly desert regions on the east side of California. A few coastal redwoods, some river canyons in the Sierra Nevada, many off road areas (OHV) in various mountain ranges. These federal lands are open spaces, generally a free for all on recreation. Allowable = off roading, target shooting, open camping, campfires, bonfires. Geared toward OHV use, RVs and hunting.
Coastal California – Southern California beach camping is crowded & sparse, because of developed cities. Central Coast & Northern California offer many more choices in this category.
California Mountains – pine forest, mixed oaks & a variety of vegetation. Water sources such as lakes, stream & waterfalls make this choice the perfect camping spots. Granite peaks, high elevations wilderness areas throughout state & surrounded National Parks. Plenty backpacking options & dirt road primitive spots for the ultimate in privacy.
Countryside in California – coastal hills or mountain foothills. These rolling hillsides offer small creeks, oak trees & plenty of wide open spaces. Lakes & Reservoirs are located within these regions. Most campgrounds are fairly close driving distance to towns or cities. Wine country or gold country, California has it.
California Deserts – perfect for every season except summer, these vast spaces will humble just about anyone. Primitive camping galore & designated areas for real off-roading.
City CA / Urban Villages – not the best for really getting away from crowds, but can be an excellent opportunity to visit a city without spending big bucks on lodging. Or could just be a perfect one-nighter for getting familiar with camping. Most campsites are located in the foothill area behind suburbs, in county parks or even coastal.
The acoustics are really cool inside these historic stone structures. Spending some time at this place humming, drumming & singing. Stand right in the center floor space for the best sound.
The western ranges of Death Valley National Park offer some interesting sites & hikes. This canyon called Wildrose is higher in elevation, a lot cooler than the valley floor, plus it does get pretty dang windy.
These bee-hive shaped kilns were used in the 1800’s for making charcoal, that was used in nearby mining operations. Standing 30′ high & 30′ around, these kilns were only used for a very short time (in the mining heyday) & are some of the best preserved charcoal kilns in the country.
The Wildrose Charcoal kilns are located on the western side of Death Valley National Park. Access the Wildrose Canyon Road from Panamint Valley or from Death Valley Highway 190, take the Emigrant Canyon to Wildrose Canyon Rd up to the historic kilns. Last 3 mi of this road is unpaved and not recommended for RVs or trailers.
Nearby Panamint Valley is for serious off-roaders: Stone Canyon, Barker Ranch, Goler Wash.
Death Valley Campgrounds – Wildrose, Thorndike, Mahogany Flat.
A popular day hike nearby is Telescope Peak, from Mahogany Flat campground, a 14 miles RT hike that leads to the mountain towering over Death Valley at over 11,000′.
FACTOID: Telescope Peak is the only place that you can see both the lowest point & the highest point in the continental USA.
Yuba county, city and river are located in the upper Sierra Nevada, north Gold Country. Only a few small towns around here, but lotsa National Forest land and gorgeous granite rock. Yuba City is well known for its orchards, agriculture and diverse population. Yuba River is a recreation hot spot most of the year – spanning from the foothill canyons up to higher elevation alpine lakes. Camping, kayaking, fishing, camping, hiking, swimming holes & waterfalls.
Most of the population wants to dunk themselves in a cool mountain stream when the temperatures get beyond 100 degrees, which is the summer months near the Sacramento area. This gold country region of the Sierras, is only about an hours drive up the hill; obviously, the further you drive the better it gets. Tons of one lane and dirt roads to explore. Fishing and camping almost everywhere.
California’s Yuba River headwaters go all the way up to the Donner Pass in the Truckee region, along Interstate 80. Rainbow Lodge is an impressive, historic, river rock inn located right on the river. Royal Gorge is the area near the ‘Big Bend’ of the old road – Historic Highway 40.
National Forest Campgrounds are also located nearby. Many scenic, small lakes exist up in these higher altitudes. Lake Faucherie, Sawmill Lake and Bowman Lake are all part of this Yuba watershed, along with about a dozen other lakes.
Desert camping south of Reno? Well there ain’t much to choose from out here. Walker Lake near Hamilton, NV looked dismal, so keep driving northbound and hope for the best.
Maybe one of the canyons near the reservation has a level pull out along the highway. Just far enough off the main road to hear the midnight traffic, just barely.
Fort Churchill, Nevada
Fort Churchill was one of the original US Army forts built to help with the flood of overland pioneers making their way to California. Adobe structures in ruin, plus the sagebrush wetlands and cottonwoods along the river make for ideal scenery. A Pony Express route too!
Shall we call it the first of the California Welcome Centers?
Or an invasion of the “wildness” of the Sierra Nevada, and the West Coast.
From the year 1800 on – trappers, hunters, miners, ranchers, prospectors, surveyors, homesteaders – and basically everyone was headed westward, across the continent. The secrets of the golden state were unfolding worldwide. After gold & silver were discovered in the hills, the real rush to Alta California began.
Ideal “in route camping” if traveling near Reno, south of Interstate 80. You gotta be off on the side route through Yerrington, Nevada to reach this convenient road side campground. Big trucks stick to the main highway, but this rural 2-laner cuts thru residential, reservations, and ranch lands. Rural backroads are abundant and most are private property.
Driving on rural Nevada Highway 95A you can find the park headquarters and fort on the west side of the road. The camping is on the opposite (east) side of the highway, down an embankment, near the Carson River. A very small brown sign with the word CAMPING (reflects at night) and you may see it – if you aren’t driving 70 mph.
DESERT CAR CAMPING – VEGAS TO RENO
Perfect refuge for weary travelers, along the long, lonely, desert highways of Nevada. RV campers will like the wide dirt road w/ some level spots, accommodating the largest of motorhomes w/ dump station nearby. Trucks w/ trailers are often seen sleeping along the roadside at this location. Equestrian river access w/ horse trailers too.
Cottonwoods in some of the lower spots, but mostly sage brush, rabbits and open skies. This is the Carson River Basin, so dirt roads w/ mud and potholes are common. No street light near here. In the dark, the primitive roads are manageable, but the signs are minimal.
SNOW is minimal in WINTER months (DEC-MARCH)
Desperate tent campers (willing to drive dirt for a bit) can find the “scout camp”. Most nights are filled with the cries of the coyotes in the distance. Park rangers patrol in the morning to collect camp fees. Or you can find the park headquarters, across the highway.
NO CAMP RESERVATIONS
Primitive campground has 20 sites suitable for travel trailers, motor homes or tents. Campsites include a table and fire ring, w/ camping limit of 14 days. Group camping is also available.
A small but impressive State Historic Park located in downtown Weaverville, a small Northern California town located near the Trinity Alps Wilderness and the Trinity River.
This darling park is only open Thursday through Sundays (mid day) and tours can be arranged. A one room museum tells the story of the Chinese miners who came to the Trinity River region in search of gold. The neighboring temple is a historic masterpiece and has been preserved for all to enjoy. The wooden building has withstood deep snow falls and logging trucks rumbling by on the highway a block away. Neighboring museums, outdoor displays and lush creek side parks make for ideal picnic spots.
From 5-9pm the whole community is invited to share in the holiday fun. Crafters and artists will have their wares on sale for that special one-of-a-kind Christmas gift. Great food and entertainment, pictures with Santa. Shops and restaurants open. Holiday Open House in all the old town village shops!
Annual event; December – multiple days
(2 different Saturday nights)
Balboa Park Christmas Lights
December Nights in Balboa Park, San Diego
Balboa Park December Nights Southern California’s premier holiday festival.
37 years running; Friday and Saturday night in early December
The event brings families and friends together to spread holiday joy, learn more about the cultural value of Balboa Park and kick-off the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Participating Balboa Park museums open their doors free of charge from 5-9 pm both evenings and more than 350,000 visitors are expected to experience the joy of San Diego’s largest free community festival. Those who attend will participate in a truly multicultural experience, enjoying food, music and entertainment from around the world.
Revelers can watch top-notch musical and dance performances, enjoy delicious and diverse food choices and help spread a heavy dose of holiday cheer. Some of the more well-known traditions include food from around the globe at the International Christmas Festival at the House of Pacific Relations Cottages; the annual Santa Lucia Procession at the Plaza de California; unique gift shopping at the museum stores and with the artisans of Spanish Village; and musical and dance presentations from the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Del Cerro Baptist’s Christmas Story Tree, and more.
Recapture the spirit of Christmas past amid the charming surroundings of historic downtown Grass Valley California during the annual Cornish Christmas Celebration.
Began in 1967 as a way to preserve Grass Valley’s Cornish heritage and holiday traditions, Cornish Christmas remains one of our most popular events. Mill and West Main Streets are closed to motorized traffic and filled with the sights and sounds of an old fashioned Christmas; carolers, jugglers, musicians, the Grass Valley Cornish Carol Choir, Tommyknocker Cloggers and of course, Santa Claus. Handmade arts and craft from artists throughout California are displayed on our historic downtown Grass Valley streets. Delicious food and drink can be purchased from a number of Grass Valley restaurants and specialty food vendors. Retail stores are open for your holiday purchases as well.
2014: due to drought conditions, traditional Gold Rush Days activities cancelled for 2014
The Old Sacramento historic district covers the streets with dirt, hides all things modern and transforms into a legitimate Old West town every Labor Day weekend. Costumed actors, gunfights, musicians, buffalo soldiers and Pony Express riders highlight this popular festival.
Nevada City’s Constitution Day Parade has been a local tradition since 1967 and is reported to be the oldest and largest Constitution observance in western America. A parade, Revolutionary War Living History Activities in Pioneer Park, the Gold Country Duck Race on Deer Creek and a free outdoor big band concert in the downtown historic district of Nevada City, Gold Country California. This place is known for its classic small town spirit and unique events, with a population of 3000, Nevada City swells to 10,000 or more on Constitution Day.