Category Archives: Creeks

Sierra Buttes California

sierra buttes

The Sierra Buttes

elevation: 8591′

Northern Gold Country California at the headwaters to the Yuba River

Lakes Basin Recreation Area, Tahoe National Forest
near Plumas Eureka State Park

Gold Lake, Sardine Lake, Upper Sardine, Smith Lake, Packer Lake, Grass Lake, Sand Pond, Goose Lake, Snag Lake, Long Lake, Jamison Lake, Round Lake, Deer Lake, Tamarack Lakes, Young America Lake, Frazier Falls

California is the land of granite peaks. Rocky, exposed mountains that stick up out of the landscape for all to see. SoCal has a few of them, but most granite peaks are found in the Sierra Nevada – the youngest mountain range on the continent. The Eastern Sierra ridge lines are the well photographed and Tahoe has plenty of big granite surrounding it. The farther you go north, the less granite you will see. – not because it isn’t there, mostly cuz it is just buried with tall dense forest.

The Sierra Buttes are the impressive granite peaks located in between the Yuba River and Sardine Lake. SE of Mount Lassen and NW of Lake Tahoe, at the tippy top of the historic gold country. Gold Lake Road #24 connects Gold Country Highway 49 to North of Tahoe Highway 89. Road #24 is often closed for winter snow, so most visitors enjoy this region in the summer months.

Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout Hike

The infamous PCT or Pacific Crest Trail passes the peak and goes north through this basin of alpine lakes, so backpackers are often seen. Tent camping is very popular, as well as RV camping w/ numerous developed campgrounds and open camping as well.  Some of the hard to reach primitive camp sites (next to lakes) can be accessed via 4×4 vehicle. Downieville is well known for the mountain biking trails, so this whole region is covered with amazing trails. Snowmobilers and cross country skiers love the area during a good winter snow and they can access this area from the north off Hwy 89.


View Larger Map

Sardine Lake

hiking, biking, backpacking, camping, fishing, kayaking, cross country, & snowmobiling

Sierra Buttes Map Tahoe National Forest

Trinity Alps Wilderness

NorCal Mountains – Trinity Alps Wilderness

Sapphire Lake -- Suicide Ridge -- Trinity Alps

525,627 acres

North of Weaverville & Lewiston, about 10 miles
West of Trinity Lake & Redding, CA
Headwaters of the Trinity River & the Salmon River

Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Thompson Peak – 9002′ elevation
Trinity Mountain – 6094′
Granite Peak – 8091′

Trinity is NorCal’s jewel of alpine lakes and granite peaks – many above 8000′ elevation, about 40 miles inland from the ocean. Trinity is located in between the infamous redwood coast and the I-5 corridor. Rivers, creeks, lakes, and trails into the high elevations regions, bqckpackers and equestrian campers alike.

trinityalps_lgHiking trailheads are accessed from all sides -On the east side you have Trinity Lake & Trinity River w/ Highway 3 running lengthwise in a north-south direction. Hwy 299 runs east-west along the south side of the wilderness. Klamath River Hwy 96 lies on the west side of the wilderness. Salmon River, Scott Mountains and Cecilville are north of the alps.

Both the small Russian Wilderness & the larger Marble Mountain Wilderness are located to the north of Trinity Alps, along with rural towns near the Scott Mountains and the Salmon River. Castle Crags Wilderness is to the eastern side, near Interstate 5.

towns nearby –

camp

Campgrounds near Trinity Alps Wilderness

hike

Trinity Alps Trailheads

lake

Waterfalls & Lakes near Trinity

NFS


View Larger Map

The mountainous area is quite unique, as exposed granite mountain peaks and alpine lakes are pretty rare in the coastal Cascade ranges. The only other spot in California that has an 8000′ peak nearing the coast is just north of Los Angeles – Los Padres’s Mount Abel & Mount Pinos peaks, both over 8000′ in elevation.

TRINITY ALPS TOPO MAP

camp

The USDA map for Trinity Alps Wilderness was outta print for nearly 2 years and it has recently been updated and reprinted. New edition released in 2013 and now available at the Total Escape map store. Printed on waterproof map paper and updated in 2012.

Youtube

 

Vallecito – Anza Borrego

Vallecito Park, San Diego Desert

Anza Borrego Desert

Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849

East San Diego County Road S2 winds thru the lower passes & washes of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. On the edge of the State Park boundary Vallecito is a small campground & park, but it was a stage coach route in the 1800’s.

California Historic Marker #304

VallecitoVALLECITO STAGE STOP – A 1934 reconstruction of Vallecito Stage Station (originally built in 1852) on the eastern slopes of the mountains in the high desert. A super important stop on the first official transcontinental route, serving ‘The Jackass Mail‘, the Butterfield Overland Stage Line, and the southern emigrant caravans.

backpacking, birdwatching, camping, cycling, hiking, mountain biking, off roading, stargazing, wildflowers

Vallecito Campground
elev. 1555′
camp sites: 44
overnight fee
first come, first serve
reservations accepted
Campfire pits, picnic tables, bathrooms, & historic buildings; 22 sites are tents only. RV 40′ limit; Additional 8 equestrian campsites w/ corrals. No RV hookups, no dump station. No piped water. No gasoline, no store, no amenities. No firewood, no collecting of firewood. No shade trees, just tall desert brush. Arrive adequately prepared for real desert roughin it.

Vallecito Stage Station County Park
760-765-1188
37349 Great Southern Overland Stage Route
County Road S2 @ mile marker 34.7
About 3.5 mi NW of Agua Caliente Hot Springs

Closed during the hottest months of summer. Open seasonally: Labor Day weekend through the fall, winter and spring, up until the last week in May. 

see also – Oriflamme Canyon / Mason Valley Truck Trail

muck to stagecoachA neighboring and more rural stage coach stop is further down a long wash, to the south east. Getting there usually requires 4×4, since you must ford a muddy desert wash w/ creek & deep holes. There are no signs out in this sandy desert wash, so you best have a good map and a compass. The Old Carrizo Stage Station site is accessible by 4 different dirt roads (desert washes) off the paved highway. None of these are well signed at the highway: Vallecito Creek, Willow Creek near Mountain Palm Springs, Carrizo Creek near Bow Willow, and Canyon sin Nombre.

Agua Caliente, Bow Willow Campground, Canebrake, Sweeney Pass,  the badlands overlook, mud caves and slot canyons are all located south of Vallecito. California SR 78 and Blair Valley are north of Vallecito.

Vallecito Creek

San Diego Desert MapVallecito is located at the apex of the gap in the Carrizo Badlands created by Carrizo Creek and its wash in its lower reach, to which Vallecito Creek is a tributary. Once a seasonal village of the native Kumeyaay people, on a trail across the desert from the Colorado River, this oasis, became a crucial stopping place for Spanish and then Mexican travelers to recover from the desert crossing between Sonora and New Mexico to California. The non native settlement of the site began in 1850, as a camp with a one room sod warehouse as the U.S. Army Depot Vallecito for the supply of Fort Yuma. It was later increased in size and became a store, a stage station, and a ranch house. read more on wiki

dark skies anza

Another Vallecito, California?
Yep! Small community of about 400 folks in the Sierra foothills. Gold Country region, up off the Historic 49 and it used to be called Murphy’s Old Diggings.

Find a Creek

Finding a Creek in California

Creek Bound Campers

California Stream Fishing
California Creek Camping

Since SoCal is more of a desert terrain, big water in California can be found elsewhere throughout the state. Natural waterways flow primarily from NorCal and from the backbone of the west coast, the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Determining the region to explore is a first step, then narrowing it down to several possible camp spots after you’ve found a good printed map (a hard copy, non digital, non electricity, the old fashioned kind).

California Rivers are popular destinations for the outdoor vacationer. The most desirable streams or creeks in California flow into a reservoir, not out of. The wilder scenery above the lake, deeper up the canyons are the secluded places we seek. Some accessed only by dirt back roads. 4×4 camps are commonly positioned near creeks.  Wilderness trail heads can lead to even more privacy if you are willing to huff it.

SELECTING A MAP

Full color, waterproof maps show every creek, stream, river, paved road, dirt road

Topographic maps show more detail on terrain, elevation, trails, roads; Less colorful.

READING THE MAP

look for the tiny blue lines, the bolder the better

– is your choice a main blue line?
– does this one creek feed into another larger stream?
– is it a creek that will be flowing strong?
– how far from a paved road is it?

How to find a streamside camp

Forest Service Back Roads are usually one lane dirt roads and have strange long numbers attached to them. Maybe signed, but don’t count on it. In the illustration: Look Road #22S59 is right along a creek, and maybe 22S08 has some water sources, but has a developed campground w/ possible fee. 22S59 is very likely to have some dispersed sites along it. You always have options open when you have a good map; make your back up choices when planning your destination. Have a few plan B roads chosen, just in case your first choice is too steep of a slope, or packed with RV families, or totally muddy and impassable with your vehicle.

 

Creekside Camping in California

MIneral KIng Walkin Camps

4WD needed?

Spring snow melt is when the dirt roads are still closed (gated) and often quiet muddy. Some primitive camp sites may be best access with a 4-wheel drive, but each river or creek side camp spot is unique at different times of the year, due to the snow depth and land erosion process. For easy-going exploring purposes, small all-wheel-drive vehicles work well too, but clearance can be a limiting factor. You wouldn’t believe what passenger cars we see on the back roads of Baja. Almost anything goes anywhere, slowly, as long as it runs and rolls.

last tip – mosquito, where?

Screen room tents may appear unsightly, but those hungry, annoying mosquitoes don’t really care what flavor you are. Them lil suckers are abundant in areas with water, standing or still water, meadows, creek beds, especially active in the warmer summer months. Beat ’em before they hatch – camp in the springtime. By autumn their numbers seem to dwindle with the night time chilly temps, but make sure to come prepared for those colder nights.

Ishi Wilderness

Bridge and Chute from top of Black Rock

NorCal Ishi Wilderness

41,840 acres
20 miles N of Chico, CA
Lassen National Forest

  • Barkley Mountain (elev. 4488′)
  • Black Rock Campground
  • Deer Creek
  • Flat Iron Mountain (elev. 4400′)
  • Iron Mountain (elev. 3274′)
  • Indian Ridge Campground
  • Mill Creek
  • Peligreen Place
  • Pine Creek
  • Pinnacle Peak (elev. 3293′)
  • South Antelope Campground
  • Twentymile Hollow

Up in the mountains behind Chico sits a rugged landscape of deep canyons lined with bizarre rock formations and roaring mountain creeks. Wilderness encompasses lower elevations – ranging from 1500′ – 3500′  – making this outdoor destination a winter haven, when the rest of the backcountry is covered in several feet of snow. One of the most historic wilderness areas in the state, as the aboriginal existence of the Native Americans came to an end in this area.

COHASSET ROAD climbs up the volcanic fin of Cohasset Ridge into the pine forests high above the valley floor. The paved road becomes dirt and the road name changes to Ponderosa Way (Lassen Road# 28N29). The Ishi Wilderness can also be accessed from the north side via Highway 32, near the Tehama State Game Refuge.


View Larger Map

  • backpacking trails
  • hiking trails
  • fishing creeks
  • horseback trails
  • wildlife viewing

 

Ishi Wilderness mapIshi Wilderness Map

Ishi Wilderness


Partington Cove Hike in Big Sur

Big Sur – Partington Cove

DSCN3026
Go west to & visit the oceans edge or head east to explore a deep redwood canyon.big

Approx. 5 miles South of Big Sur State Park and just north of Julia Pfeiffer Burn State Park, this unmarked dirt turnout area on Highway 1 is a rare find. Rocky shorelines at the historic point, plus the scenic tree lined waterfall & cross the highway & head east for a shady Redwood canyon forest with plenty of backpacking options into the Big Sur back country of Los Padres National Forest. From bright sunny ocean view hillsides to dark shady forests.

This portion of the highway cuts into a deep bend along the coast & has no markings to the paradise that lies within. A steep dirt fire road (down to the cove) with metal gate is your only clue. Dirt parking area on both sides of the road indicate that people have parked here before.

This un-signed secluded hide-away has a variety of landscape & sites to see. You could easily kill 6-8 hours just in this canyon alone!! Definitely not a hurry through kind of place. Take your time, enjoy the view, tide pools, bring your swim suits & refresh in the creek. Carry a picnic eastbound into a shady creek-bed canyon & watch the sun dance through the towering pines above.

Driving northbound on Highway 1, look for large hair-pin turn out in canyon area – approx. 3-5 mi. North of Julia Pfeiffer State Park in wide dirt areas along roadside. Located in between Julia State Park & Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Hike down the dusty wide gated fire road in dry brush chaparral. The view of Redwood trees, the royal blue ocean in front of you, the sounds of a water falling creek. The trail forks off in 3 directions:

Right / Rock Beach – this a boulder lined cove where the clear fresh water stream meets the ocean. Small pools & waterfalls can be found just upstream .

Bridge Crossing / Point – through a wooden tunnel to a cliff area with tide pools & wooden structure (an old boat launch?)

Left / Up Stream – a forested canyon w/ a variety of trees; dead ends a few hundred yards up into the canyon

DSCN3021Another option to this canyon is the East side:

Hike up inland (away from ocean) into a densely forested creek area. Redwoods, waterfalls & boulders. Deer sightings are quite common in this area. Shady & dark this trail climbs gradually in elevation. One fork of the trail leads to an old Redwood Grove. A portion of the trail is closed 2.5 mi. up due to a landslide. But overall the is a perfect option for backpackers wanting a short hike.

  • Los Padres Maps (USDA)
  • Big Sur Map (NatGeo)
  • Ventana Wilderness Map w/ Silver Peak
  • Split Mountain Anza Borrego

    Anza Borrego Desert State Park

    Fish Creek Campground

    E of Borrego Springs CA.

    Well off Highway 78, past the busy OHV area, quads at Ocotillo Wells, past all the rural homes & the redneck bar, past the Elephant Trees hike – where the road goes from pavement to graded dirt to a wild desert wash, in a few short miles. If you don’t know where you are, then you’re almost there.

    This is a large wild desert wash with huge unstable walls, several areas for wind caves and a few historic markers. Lots of 4×4 trails beyonf Split Mountain, to the south. No real water in sight, except maybe the puddle you are standing in as it starts to poor. The soft sand can give way to a few heavy rain drops. May not be a great area to be during a serious storm or flash flood possibility, unless you want to get buried alive. Check the weather forecast in advance.

    A ratty, small developed campground of Fish Creek is on the left side, upon the ledge. Fish Creek Campground is picnic tables & a pit toilet – at most. Ya may as well camp out in the open, off road, like the pioneers did. You can do that out here in Anza Borrego. (Just keep it clean & carry a metal fire container.)

    split mountain

    Split Mountain, Anza Borrego Desert State Park

    This portion of the “mountain” is less than a mile from Fish Creek Campground. Fossils can be found in these walls. Shade is good in summer months, when day temps reach 100+. The rest of the year is ideal weather. This mountain split from water, erosion, mega force. High walls, wind caves, desert washes, great primitive camping & 4×4 routes.

    This desert scenic drive will require you to get that SUV dusty. 4 wheel drive not required. No RVs past the campground. All low lying passenger cars are warned, there are uneven areas, soft sand & boulders.

    Duh, do not attempt this one when desert flash floods are possible.

    ANZA BORREGO STATE PARK

    ANZA BORREGO MAP

    SAN DIEGO BACKCOUNTRY MAP

    nearby towns –

  • BORREGO SPRINGS CA
  • OCOTILLO WELLS CA
  • SALTON SEA CA

    splitmountain

    Great desert back road exploring out here. A zillions washes & canyons.

  • Tuttle Creek Campground

    Tuttle Way

    There she sits, above Lone Pine California, right next to the High Sierra. Above the Alabama Hills….. at the base of Whitney, on an alluvial fan overlooking the Owens Valley & US Hwy 395.

    Tuttle Creek Campground is perfect stop for RVers traveling the Eastern Sierra, beginner mountain bikers needing to explore & test their skills, or the avid backpackers waiting to acclimate & get a good nights rest in reasonable temperatures, before attempting the tallest Mount Whitney.

    Tuttle Creek is a BLM Campground w/ picnic tables, fire rings or BBQs. Awesome creek camping at the base of Mount Whitney. Hear the water rushing over the boulders; soothing for bedtime or stargazing. The fishing is decent. Wildflowers like indian paintbrush & lupine can be found here in spring and summer, in the high desert sage lands of the Eastern Sierra.

    • Elevation: 5120′
    • Number of Sites: 85
    • Vehicle Accessibility: RVs okay
    • Camp Fee: No
    • Campsites Reservation: No
    • Length of Stay: 14 Days
    • Season: March – October
    • Trailheads: John Muir Wilderness

    From Lone Pine CA, head West 3 miles on Whitney Portal Rd, turn LEFT on Horseshoe Meadow Road, within 2 miles, turn right on a dirt road that leads to the campground.

    Tuttle Creek flows past campground; No drinking water.
    Pit toilets; Some shade.

    BLM Lone Pine
    760-872-4881

    LONE PINE CA

    HINT: On the dirt back roads, on the slopes of the Eastern Sierra, between Lone Pine & Bishop, you can find & fishing holes & primitive camps (free camping) on any numerous of creeks; some you can park so close that you don’t have to leave your vehicle to fish. You may need a high clearance vehicle to reach some.

    Fish Slough

    On the north end of Bishop CA, running parallel to & on the west side of Hwy 6, is a long dirt road called Fish Slough Rd. Indian petroglyphs can be found out here & also on the ridges along Chalk Bluff Rd (to the south). The entire region is called a volcanic tableland & hot springs are very common in this region. The Owens River Gorge & Lake Crowley are to the west. High clearance vehicles are recommended for traveling these back roads, but 4×4 is rarely needed.

    Read & see more on Fish Slough Petroglyphs

    BISHOP CA

    LAKE CROWLEY

    BENTON HOT SPRINGS

    Visit Hwy 395 Hot Springs

    Indian Art Eastern Sierra

    Fish Slough

    Dave Explains