Camping for Thanksgiving

Turkey Casserole

Turkey Leftovers?

California Camping on Thanksgiving

If you’ve had it with the traditions, the big meal prep, or just sick of the family. Maybe you are a solo traveler, or a new transplant to California and need to explore more. Take a holiday away – for once this time.

Camping for turkey day? What a concept.

VWBus Death Valley
California is the perfect place for camping, all year long!


Stick to the lower elevations, look for canyons, and seek seclusion


California mountains often have snow during November. Avoid camping in snow @ 4000-5000′ elevation and above; Freezing temps above 3000-4000′ elevation.

Deserts, coastal regions and foothills are top choices for late Autumn car camping. Always check the weather ahead of departure, and have a plan B as an alternative. NorCal will be much wetter than the rest of the state.

MEALS: Prepare dinner meals ahead of trip departure. Bake turkey days before your trip and create meals based around that. Make mash potatoes at home and don’t forget to bring the butter. Pack pre-baked turkey for sandwiches, plus other quick snacks & meals for on-the-go travel.

seafood

Non Traditional: Seafood Feast

Desert Camping is premium at this time of year. Luckily the eastern half of Southern Cal is desert. The lower the elevation, the better the temps will be overnight. Be prepared for wind when the ‘storm fronts’ approach, the winds do get a cranking! Dirt roads can become flowing washes during a good rainstorm, so know the weather forecast.

Coastal campgrounds may need advanced reservations. Be prepared for wet weather, especially up north. The redwoods groves are gorgeous anytime of year.

Gold County Reservoirs are prime areas for relaxing in nature, while everyone else is out shopping. Oak hills, rivers and canyons. RV campers love these large lakes; boating, fishing, mountain biking trails, kayak rentals, hiking near historic Gold Rush towns.

River Canyons of California are always beautiful destinations in the autumn months. Many campgrounds can be found at lower elevation, river access areas. California’s abundant Hot Springs are also top picks for holiday weekends.

Joshua Tree Campout

Joshua Tree National Park may be busy during this weekend. Instead try nearby Mecca: Box Canyon and Mecca Hills Wilderness, BLM desert lands near Interstate 10.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is always a nice, easy and relatively close get-away for any holiday. Open camping on the backroads (for free) makes it one of the most attractive camping options in all of SoCal. Many dirt roads are accessible for passenger cars, if extreme caution is used. Don’t plan on driving more than a few miles on dirt.

Masses of off roaders love to camp out, especially on Thanksgiving weekend. Wheel all day, eat, drink, bon fires every night and rumor has it ‘they roast their big bird outdoors – deep in a dirt pit’. Really? El Centro, Glamis, Imperial Dunes, Ocotillo Wells, Truckhaven Hills, Johnson Valley. All popular off roading areas in Southern California, so consider yourself warned.

Imperial Dunes

Mojave Desert, near US Hwy 395
Jawbone Canyon expect to see RVs, toy-boxes and families outside enjoying the weekend. OHV style. Often the group tries to create a round corral with their huge convoy of vehicles, to keep thru traffic to a minimum around “their camp”. Just stay well away from those gear-heads. In general, it is a very busy area around Mojave up to Hwy 178 during the holidays. Try high desert Horse Canyon instead.

Tent Camping

ghost towns
meteor showers
hot springs

Death Valley National Park is one of the best destinations for Thanksgiving, cuz Panamint Springs serves their free turkey dinner.

Did someone say FREE?

Leon at Mahogany

Grover Hot Springs

Grover Drive

Grover Hot Springs Park

California State Park
Sierra Hot Spring Camping Resort
open all year

California State Park RV Winter Camping State Park Winter Camping Hot Springs XC Ski Winter Camping Tahoe Ski Camping Tahoe Snow Camping

Meadow Entrance

South of Lake Tahoe, hidden in a forest meadow near the small town of Markleeville, sits this super scenic, year-round camping resort in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Popular place for senior travelers, RV campers, families, snow skiers, and tourists.

No lodging available, no cabins. Only Campground Camping – Reservations are recommended. This is a popular destination for the Eastern Sierra Tahoe region. May thru September are peak season. During mid-winter a portion of the campsites are closed and the remainder may be on a first come, first serve basis. State Park is located 4 miles west of Markleeville, at the end of Hot Springs Road.

camping
fishing
hiking
hot springs
cross country skiing
stargazing

RV Camping

grover springs in the sierra

Camping and Day Use
530-694-2248

Pool Information
530-694-2249

California State Park
California State Park

Piped water, flush toilets, showers, this is luxury camping by State Park standards. Hiking, fishing, stargazing. Quite an ideal spot, especially if you visit during a slow time. Surrounded by mountains that top 10,000′ elevation, expect to see some snow in the winter months.

SwimSuits Required

The hot pool resort is open to the public for day soaking w/ a fee. Wheelchair accessible areas. The pool hours tend to fluctuate with the seasons, so be prepared for anything. Even a snow storm!

Grover Hot Spring Campground

• Elevation: 5800′
• Number of Sites: 75
• Vehicle Access: RV 27′ max
• Campsites Reservation: Yes
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Length of Stay: 10 Days
• Season: Open all year
• Trailheads: Carson River

GROVER HOT SPRINGS SP Winter Camping Hot Springs

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

pool hours

hot pools

meadow views

Green Bridge at San Joaquin Headwaters

Mono Hot Springs

High Sierra Nevada
Mono Hot Springs

Sierra Snowmobile Destination

Mono Hot Pools @ San Joaquin River
Sierra National Forest

Best of both worlds, way back in the boonies – two primitive tubs soaking perched on a soggy hill next to a river, developed campground below, and a small resort w/ cabins, camping, restaurant and private soaking areas on the other side of the river.

Sierra hot springs15 mi. NE of Huntington Lake off Kaiser Pass Rd. Huntington Lake & Hwy. 168

Two squared cement tubs overlooking the river, deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The coolest thing about this primitive hot springs is that it is a great destination for a one day snowmobile adventure. Rentals are in the nearby community of Lakeshore & the plowed paths are fairly easy to follow. If you plan on visiting the springs, you must not play around in the meadow much, there is plenty great Sierra scenery to be had. The snomo trip is a good 5 hours round trip with a lunch break & dip at mineral spring tubs.

  • backpacking
  • boating
  • camping
  • cross country skiing
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • horseback
  • kayaking
  • mountain biking
  • mountaineering
  • snow mobiling
  • stargazing
  • swimming
Sierra Snow-Mobiling

Sierra Snow-Mobilin’

snomo sierra hot springs

Kasier Pass WildernessWinter: road is closed half the year due to heavy snow. Summer: snow is gone and the road is open.

KAISER PASS ROAD
No RVs are allowed on this long, steep, narrow paved route .

Take Hwy.168, turn right on Kaiser Pass Rd, just past the ski resort. Pass the large meadow & follow signs to Mono Springs & Lake Edison. Make sure not to miss the left turn or you may end up at Florence Lake. Park near the green bridge over the San Joaquin River & walk over to the tubs on the hillsides.

camp

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

NFS Campground –
Mono Hot Springs

and neighboring

Mono Hot Springs Cafe w/ Cabin Resort

Mono Springs Sign

closest forest, lakes, & destinations:NFS

topo maps for this region:

Parking Spot

Saline Valley Hot Springs

Saline Valley Hot Springs
Saline Valley Warm Springs

NORTH Death Valley National Park, in a super remote desert valley located in the vast mountains in between Big Pine CA Route 168 & Death Valley (west) Highway 190.

Inyo National Forest: Inyo mountains are a towering range of high elevation desert peaks running in between Owens Valley and Saline Valley.

desert wilderness access: 4 dirt road routes lead into Saline Valley – 2 backcountry 4×4 trails from the upper reaches of the park and 2 main dirt roads. All routes require a high elevation pass, so snow is likely in winter months (Nov-May).

Wilderness routes road conditions can change often, seasonally with winter snows, mud and summer thunderstorms. The most popular access are the main routes (both long dirt roads, subject to snow and closure at any time) – the North Pass (Big Pine) and the South Pass (Panamint). Detailed directions on those further below. Both backcountry roads Steele Pass and Lippincott Road, originate from the northern, desolate areas of the National Park and both require 4 wheel drive, with a recommended locking differential.

No developed campground facilities. Clothing optional my ass — nudity is the norm here.

Since the challenging drive in to this remote desert valley is so grueling and time consuming, plan to spend a minimum of 4 nights. Anything less is way too rushed to totally enjoy the experience.  Best way to enjoy this place is a full week off of work, and as much firewood, food and ice as you can haul. Some folks spend weeks camping here. The NPS limits your camping stay to 30 days! If you plan on driving out to Lone Pine for camping supplies and returning the same day, you best leave at dawn – cuz the entire round trip ‘beer run’ will take 6 hours or more.

High clearance vehicle a must & 4 wheel drive is highly recommended in all this region. All wheel drive wagons and passenger cars have been known to bottom out, break down and pop tires out here in the harsh conditions, so a first challenge may be to obtain a dependable and capable off-road vehicle.

Topographic GPS & decent back road maps are highly advised. One way drive is easily 4 hours, from any paved highway. Pack like you’re gonna live out here, if need be. Warning: this is a very long off-road journey for any average camping trip. This isn’t a weekend kinda place. First timers beware – it’s a full day journey to travel here!

Air Strip? The fly in option is a dirt landing strip called ‘Chicken Strip’, but National Park Service has yet to closed it.

NORTH PASS to Saline Valley Road:

from Big Pine, take Hwy 168 N from Hwy 395, turn right onto Death Valley Road (some maps may have this one listed as Waucoba Springs Road or just Waucoba Road). Proceed on the main route to the hard to read entrance sign marking the Saline Valley Road, past a few old structures and down to the main valley. Winter snow can be deep, so carry chains. 4×4 is best to access this remote valley, AWD high clearance might make it and normal passenger cars, 2WD SUVs should be warned about weather and access to the real world. Many times all mountain passes are snowed in – people do get trapped at Saline and cannot get out for weeks. So take that into account when requesting days off of work for this epic journey.

SOUTH PASS to Saline Valley Road:

from Olancha, take Highway 190 E, turn N off Hwy. 190 to Saline Valley Rd. Rugged 50+ mi. of hard core dirt roads. 4×4 and high clearance a must. Winter months expect snow, springtime rock slides and summers torrential downpours cause overflowing creeks w/ impassable washouts. Grapevine Canyon can be a challenging drive, but with patience and skill you can be down on the main valley floor in about an hour and a half (if you’re lucky). Did I mention the dozen or more miles of heavy washboard road conditions, at the base of the alluvial fan of mountain rock? Newbies and first timers should attempt the North Pass.

———————-

Near the marsh, when you finally reach the sand dunes area, you know the turn off is close-by, so slow down and stop to read the landscape. Know that the hot springs are located above the sand dunes to the east slope of the red volcanic mountains. When you see the metal bat sign and the mass of palm trees in the lower grove, you know you’ve arrived.

You’ve only truly arrived, when your whole body is immersed in hot water looking up at the stars and you learn to relax again. Breathe the deepest you have all year.

CAUTION: Stopping for those vehicles distressed on the side of the road is also a common practice. Many people break down on this route, Jeeps slide off cliffs. Harsh landscapes, plus weather are unforgiving and people die, so realize that this camping trip is no walk in the park.

Saline Valley Road Conditions & discussions can be found on
Saline Valley Talk, the Saline Valley Message Board
forum.salinepreservation.org

Saline Preservation Association
salinepreservation.org

Trip Review from Student Reader
studentreader.com/saline-valley

natural hot springs

nearby desert destinations –


View Death Valley National Park in a larger map

Mammoth Hot Springs

Hot Springs Dirt Road

Hot Springs near Mammoth

Eastern Sierra Destination: June Lake and Mammoth Lakes, CA

The Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains run the length of US Highway 395, through most of the eastern side of California. Mammoth mountain is a volcano, so naturally hot springs come with the package. These hot tub destinations listed here are mostly part of the Long Valley Caldera, an ancient volcanic table land. North of Bishop and near the snow ski destination towns of June Lake and Mammoth, California in Mono County, California.

(This region is not to be confused with Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, nor the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.)

Backroads Camping is allowed throughout Inyo National Forest, but there is private ranch lands mixed in w/ public lands. Respect property boundaries, and speed limits around gates and intersections.

Camp sites are not located next to the soaking tubs. A few may be within walking distance. Parking is often limited at these remote, public use hot pools. Total Escape TIP: Behind Lake Crowley: abundant, free camping – wide graded dirt roads (RV and passenger car suitable). Inyo National Forest Map is recommended.

Eastside of Highway 395

Casa Diablo Hot Springs near the Mammoth exit, is a location noted on most maps, but this seems to be the geothermal power plant for the region. If you are looking for hot springs tubs to soak in, you’ll need to get off the main drag for those beauties, way off the highway. On to dirt roads perhaps.

Hot Creek

Inyo Forest Road #3S45, Hot Creek Hatchery Road

(near Mammoth Airport)
Minimal dirt road driving. A very popular spot where hot springs are located within the big creek, so you can feel cold and hot water flowing by you. Scalding can occur near vents underwater, so use caution when wading. Large parking lot overlooks the soaking area and creek canyon. Swimsuits required.

Little Hot Creek Hot Springs
Latitude: 37.8902
Longitude: 118.8425
also known as – “Lil Hot Creek”

sierraminipano

Benton Crossing Rd

Inyo Forest Road #2S84, Benton Crossing Road

This rural intersection at US Hwy 395 is known for the little green church on the corner. Turn east off the highway on to this road> Pull over, get out and stretch. Look at your maps, get the GPS out and then start your exploring. FIrst timers might be able to find a soaking tub within half an hour, if you don’t get lost.

Inyo Forest Road #2S07, Whitmore Hot Springs Rd

Whitmore Tubs Road
a major graded dirt road that leads north off of the paved road, becomes Owens River Road and connects back to US395 several miles to the north.

Several primitive hot tubs can be found on dirt roads in this region, which lead off the main paved road. At night these remote pools can be hard to find with no signage, no street lights and pitch black darkness. Plus the mud blogs and grassy fields all around make the landscape difficult to navigate. If you plan a nighttime arrival, then plan to drive in slowly around the pools, have your GPS handy and look for steam in the air. Cut your headlights if you see other cars or people, and proceed slowly and be friendly.

Hill Top Hot Springs
Latitude: 37.6642
Longitude: 118.7883
Elevation: 6873′
also known as – “Hilltop or Pulky’s Pool”

Crab Cooker Hot Springs
Latitude: 37.6633
Longitude: 118.7995
Elevation: 6857′
also known as – “Fleur de Lys”

Shepard Hot Springs
Latitude: 37.6668
Longitude: 118.8025
Elevation: 6940′
also known as – “Shepard Springs”

The Tub Hot Springs
Latitude: 37.6518
Longitude: 118.8115
Elevation: 6990′

Whitmore Hot Springs
904 Benton Crossing Road
Mono County Park w/ large public swimming pool & day use fee
Phone: 760-935-4222
Latitude: 37.8902
Longitude: 118.8425
also known as – “Whitmore Tubs, Whitmore Springs”

Wild Willie’s Hot Spring
Latitude: 37.6591
Longitude: 118.8425
also known as – “Wild Willy’s, Crowly, Crowley Springs”

Minarets at Mammoth

Minarets at Mammoth

The Backside

Inyo Forest Road #3S11, Minaret Summit Rd

This wilderness region is located the on the west side of Mammoth Mountain, accessible by the paved Minaret Summit Road, which closes due to deep snow and is generally only open during summer months.

Red’s Meadow Hot Springs

developed campground w/ wooden sheds for baths: showers & tubs.
near Devil’s Postpile National Monument
Latitude: 37.618
Longitude: 119.074
Elevation: 7000′
also known as – “Red’s Meadow Hot Showers”

Iva Bell Hot Springs
remote, wilderness; hike-in hot springs.
south of Mammoth & Rainbow Falls, via trail #2622
Latitude: 37.532
Longitude: 119.025
Elevation: 7400′
also known as – “Fish Creek Hot Springs”

see more primitive hot springs in California

see hot spring camps in California

see resort hot springs in California