Tag Archives: 4×4

California Reference

shasta back roads

California Information Centers w/ Helpful Links, Tips, Weather & Road Advice


SIERRA HWYS / Sierra Passes:
Annual Highway Closures in the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains

snow

California Road Conditions

 caltrans
Cal-Trans Road Conditions
800-427-7623
Web cams on California freeways

Nevada Road Conditions
702-793-1313

California Travel Timelines

California Back Roads Info

California Information Centers

California Office Of Tourism
1121 L St., Suite 103, Sacramento, CA 95814

California Welcome Centers
various locations, usually near freeway & factory outlet malls

California Bureau of Land Management
BLM

California Department of Fish and Game
916-445-0411

California National Forests NFS
USFS

CaliforniaNational Parks NPS
NPS

California State Parks calsp
SP, SHP, SRA

Eastern Sierra Interagency Center 
US Highway 395 @ Death Valley turn off
760-876-6200
2 miles south of Lone Pine CA
@ junction of Hwy 395 & SR 136

Kelso Depot Visitors Center
Mojave National Preserve
760 252-6108
Kelbaker Road, Kelso, CA

Old Station Visitor Information Center
13435 Brian’s Way
Highway 44/89, Old Station, CA 96071
530-335-7517
Hat Creek, East Lassen NF

California State Transportation

CA Trains – Amtrak, MetroLink, Coaster, BART, Skunk

California Statewide Bus Lines – Amtrak bus, Greyhound & FlixBus

train

California off road links

California 4×4 Groups
Cal 4-Wheel

Total Escape Back Roads

dirtbikes

California Travel Tours

California by Bicycle
California 4×4 Tours
California by Helicopter
California by Horseback
California by Llama
Lake Tahoe Tours
Palm Springs Tram
Vegas Outdoor Tours

hiker

California Maps: Parks, Wilderness, OHV trails

longwayup

gorgeview
Road #11S12, gorge view
Road64
Exploring Modoc Road 64

califrepublic

observatorio
San Pedro Martir, Baja Pine Forest Camping
signage
Kelbaker Road, Mojave Desert National Preserve
newarmypass
Trailheads to the High Country Sierra

Wishon Reservoir

Lake Wishon – Sierra NF

Western Sierra Nevada Lake
Central Sierra California

lake wishon

East of Fresno, CA
East of Shaver Lake

EB from Fresno, Hwy 168 up to Shaver, w/ another 30+ miles on paved backroads
(Dinkey Creek Rd & then McKinley Grove Rd)
Way, way back, beyond Dinkey

You gotta really wanna BE at places like this. Magical High Sierra mountains – California’s finest. Sheer beauty surrounds this lake w/ granite domes, granite cliffs, granite trails, forests, peaks and plenty hiking, fishing, water and boating. It does take planning (way ahead) to make it out here, cuz the area is only accessible during summer months. Typical of high altitude lakes, snow buries them annually and the roads get closed off to the public (usually NOV-MAY is winter). Some backcountry routes become snowmobiling trails during winter, and the Sierra National Forest has plenty of great snomo action (if snow is deep).

Wishon Lake, California
elevation: 6600′

High Sierra Granite Reservoir with pines trees and rocky, granite shoreline. Not nearly as amazing as its cousin w/ the domes to the north, Courtright, Wishon has less granite & less wind, but more accessible backroads to explore, plus more car camping options. Both lakes are part of the Helms Creek hydro-electric project (dams) that make up the PG&E water infrastructure out in these parts – The Kings River Drainage System.

Backpacker trailheads, Woodchuck, Rancheria & Crown Valley all lead to dead end dirt roads – with nothing but solitude for miles & miles. Some might be passenger car accessible. Winter weather changes dirt road conditions (often).

The Kings River Geological Area is nearby, as well as both the John Muir Wilderness & Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.

Wishon Sierra Nevada

Large Reservoir with 8,000-10,000′ high sierra mountain peaks surrounding. Pine forests, views, fishing, camping, hiking in every direction, secluded dirt roads. Perfect high elevation trailheads, next to John Muir Wilderness. Great for backpackers!

All boating, but no waterski or jet ski.
One public boat ramp. Fishing boat rentals available.

WARNING: Water level changes daily.

 

lake area recreation:

Backpacking
Boating
Campground Camping
Dinkey Lakes Wilderness
Fishing
Hiking
Horse Pack Trips
John Muir Wilderness
Mountain Biking
Primitive Camping
Sierra National Forest
Snowmobiling the Sierras
Spanish Lake 4×4 Route

bridgewishon

Wishon is a summer vacation paradise for trout fishing, hiking, backpacking and back road exploring.

CLOSED FOR WINTER: NOV-APRIL = Snow closes the road for winter. For all you hardcore campers and hikers, you must call ahead to see if roads are open. It is rural forest, well traveled, but snow storms will shut everything down out here (for many months). Although, in some mild winters you can drive as far as Dinkey Creek on pavement. Gates are locked beyond that.

Central Sierra Wishon Lake Camping

LilyPad Campground @ Wishon Lake

Upper Kings Group Campground (by reservation only)

helpful numbers:

High Sierra Rangers Office: 559-855-5355
Pineridge and Kings River Ranger Districts
29688 Auberry Road, Prather, CA 93651

Dinkey Creek Ranger Station
(June thru September)
559-841-3404

Wishon Village RV
66500 McKinley Grove Road, Shaver Lake, CA 93664
559-865-5361

Engineering

Other places nearby


Black Rock Lake
Sierra Forest Road #11S12
Courtright Lake
Dusy Ershim 4×4 Trail

Dinkey Creek Campground
Dorabelle Campground
Gigantea Campground
McKinley Sequoia Grove
Sawmill Campground (dirt road)

Free, primitive or open camping abundant on the dirt backroads in Sierra National Forest. 4 wheel drive is not required for most routes, but a high clearance rig would help. Some gravel roads are graded annually and suitable for passenger cars – during summer months and only for about the first mile or two, off of the main road (pavement). Mud and snow are common on backroads!

Aspens @ Wishon, Western Sierra
nearby towns:
Fresno, CA
Huntington Lake
Lakeshore
Pine Flat
Prather
Shaver Lake

 

Sierra National Forest Map
Sierra National Forest Map
Dinkey Lakes Map
Dinkey Lakes Map
John Muir Wilderness Trail Maps Sierra Nevada Topo Map

Wilderness Wishon California

wish on

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH:
Wishon in Giant Sequoia & Wishon @ Bass Lake

There is another popular camp spot called Wishon Camp – on the Western Divide Highway, much further south in the Sequoia National Forest.

Wishon Campground on the Tule River in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Just up from Springville, CA

And also, the Bass Lake Wishon; there is another WISHON Campground at popular Bass Lake, South of Yosemite NP.

What is Camping?

Old Timers Berry Creek

Basically, what is Camping?

4x4 camping RV camping car camping primitive camping backpacking cabin camping

BLM camping State Park camping National Forest campgrounds National Park camping

 

An overnight stay out-of-doors. Sleeping out under the stars.
Air bed, camping cot, tent… or just a tarp on the ground.
Perhaps A Mountain Cabin Rental. Your choice.

stars camptruck campfire

campFrom a luxurious cabin in the mountains, to a small clearing in near a meadow with a stream nearby – with just a backpack, the idea of “camping” is always a bit different for each person. Roughin’ it for free in the wilderness, or on the backroads; Or pay dearly for the price of real amenities, while on vacation.

car camping

Various types of Camping in California:

type of
camping
average
cost per night
brief description – what to expect
modern cabin $150 – $350 just like a hotel room, full kitchen, phone, internet, TV, real furniture
rustic cabin $90 – $190 bare minimum, beds, kitchen sink, electricity. maybe a bathroom
tent cabins / yurts $60- $150 wood floors, canvas walls, sleeping cots. reservations accepted. (very popular) may be open seasonally
camper vans, motorhome,
recreational vehicle
rentals, or own it all creature comforts on wheels, lots of luxury. camp the back roads.
camper shell own it mini motorhome on the back end of a pickup truck. smaller than RV
RV campground $25- $70 50+ sites, lots of facilities & families w/ RVs. reservations accepted
developed campground $25- $50 usually 30 – 100 sites, paved loop, facilities. toilets, piped water. plenty in our camping section (most popular)
small campground $12- $27 less than 25 camp sites, pit/vault toilets. plenty small campgrounds listed in our camping section
primitive car camping free way-out-there camp spots w/ dispersed camp sites, for the rugged self-contained, self-sufficient camper; access usually via dirt back roads.
SUV/ 4×4 camping free remote spots on long, steep, bumpy dirt roads; dispersed camp sites in secluded areas. 4 wheel drive may be needed
walk-in campsites
bike-in campsites
low cost or free camp sites that require you to physically haul your camp gear from a parking area to the camp spot, ranging from 1/8 mi. walk to a 1-3 mile hike
backpacking free w/ wilderness permit ultimate in seclusion, bring it all on your back, on foot into the wilderness & enjoy trail camps

  pinetree    fish

River Beach Campground
Trinity River Camping, Douglas City, CA

yellowpost

SO CAL CAMP FIRES – Yellow Post Campsites are remote camping spots in secluded areas, in a designated fire safe clearing. Camp FiresNo facilities such as toilets or showers. Maybe a picnic table & fire rings, if you’re lucky. Southern California forests have these kinda spots. Required campfire permit & you must double check on local fire restrictions.

Tent Cabin Rentals

Canvas Tent Cabins & Yurts

These structures are half way between ‘roughing it in a tent on the ground’ & having a ‘mountain cabin’. Tent cabins have wooden floors w/ canvas walls and roof; Dismantled annually for winter rain/snow, they are usually only available in mild, coastal climates or during summer months in the mountains.

deluxe-tent-cabinRentals typically include sleeping cots, but you’ll need to bring your own bedding (sleeping bags, sheets, pillows). Some rentals include shaded porches, wooden decks, minimal furniture, kitchenettes and/or wood burning stoves. Electricity may be available, or maybe not. Ask ahead of time, if you really must have that particular luxury when on vacation.

Yurts are a ’round version’ of this canvas cabin – which need to be aired out, often (to prevent mold). Yurt rentals are very popular and in high demand in California.

Find these type of rentals at yoga retreats, hot springs, beach canyons, remote lakes, redwood forests, high sierra camps, fishing camps and at certain RV parks.

National Forest Service Rangers wildlife

Deck w/ View

National Forest Fire Lookouts
& Historic Cabins

hiker

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

Camping California Back Roads


Kern River Camping

relaxing at kern

Kern River California

Kern River is a top recreation destination for the lower half of the state, since it is the only big Sierra river within easy reach of Southern California.

Lower mountain elevations 2000-4000′ means camping all year is possible on the Kern. With only a few inches of rainfall, plus an average high temperature of 60 degrees in December & January, Kernville has become a year-round recreation destination for the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Kern Canyon and most surrounding mountains are managed by USDA: Sequoia National Forest, which extends south to the Tehachapi range!

Sierra Nevada ROAD CLOSURES during winter restricts that Kern Canyon is only accessible via the Hwy 178 route. Both the Western Divide Highway (to the north) and Sherman’s Pass Road (to the east) close for many months, due to snow. (typically, NOV-APRIL closure)

Snowy Springs

 

Popular Kern Recreation – backpacking, camping, fishing, hiking, river rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, off-roading & floating (inner tubing).

Kern Tube Ready

Kern River can be divided into 5 different & distinct regions:

kern gorge
Granite gorge, Kern River, South of Whitney

Kern River High Country

headwaters of the Kern River.
High Sierra, Golden Trout Wilderness, Kern Hot Springs, Mount Whitney snowmelt, Kern Gorge. foot access only, wilderness backcountry. fishing, day hikes, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, horse packs.

fencedmeadow

Upper Kern Plateau

Southern Fork of the Kern River
Golden Trout Wilderness
Monache Meadows (Inyo NF)
Troy Meadows
Kennedy Meadows
Horse Meadow Campground
Big Meadow
Long Valley Campground
Chimney Creek Campground
Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway

johnsondale bridge @ KERN

Forks of the Kern

(areas north of Johnsondale)

Johnsondale Bridge
backpackers & fishing trailheads
Big parking lot at the bridge. trails travel rivers edge into a tight canyon, impressive rock gorge continues up to the tallest mountain peaks in the High Sierra.

rincon
Shermans Pass Road turn-off
paved route that connects Kern River to Mojave desert.

RINCON CAMP – The Rincon Fault (an earthquake faut line) runs in a north-south direction, on the east side of Kern River. Popular and rugged RINCON, a dirt bike and mountain bike trail runs this ridge as well. An overgrown hunters camp (which has been almost destroyed) is located up hill from Brush Creek falls; but accessible via unmaintained dirt road – unsigned pull out, just off Shermans’ Pass Road. High clearance vehicle is needed to reach this spot.

Johnsondale Cabins: R Ranch

johnsondale
Johnsondale under Fire 2002

Sequoia #22S82 – Forks of the Kern Road

Boy Scout Camp Whitsett
Lloyds Meadow
Kern River Gorge
Lower Peppermint Campground
Primitive camps – Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3, Camp 4, Camp 5
Jerky Meadows Trailhead to Golden Trout Wilderness

kern flat camping

Upper Kern River

Kern River north of Kernville, CANFS

This part of the river sees much of the action, with kayakers, river rafters, fishermen, RVs, motorcycles, mountain bikers, backpackers and campers, seeking easy river access, hiking trailheads or just a good picnic spot.

Numerous small lodges between Kernville & Johnsondale

Brush Creek: awesome waterfalls & pools on Brush Creek, only accessible by hiking trail.

Rincon Trail runs above the river on the east side, via the Rincon earthquake fault. This is right where Brush Creek comes down the steep mountain. RINCON is favorite mountain biking trail, that is also open to dirt bikes (OHV) & equestrian, so share the trail and play nice. Rincon Camp is rugged, may be overgrown and unmaintained. Long dirt road might require high clearance vehicle or possible 4×4, if weather is wet.

kern fishing

Lake Isabella

Huge recreational reservoir in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Dry and high desert terrain. Canyons have more vegetation. East part of lake is a wildlife refuge w/ abundant cottonwood trees, which turn golden yellow in Autumn.

The earthen dam is on the south westside. California State Route 178 (Hwy 178), which connects Mojave desert w/ Bako. This major east-west Sierra route is a four-laner (freeway) cutting thru the valley. EXIT#  intersects w/ CA 155 to reach Alta Sierra, Wofford Heights, Kernville and all place north of there.

Breckenridge is a Mountain to the south of Isabella and Lower Kern. Tall pines with an empty campground awaits!

Isabella Lake

Lower Kern River

(river access / camping, southwest of Lake Isabella)

Historic Kern – Keyesville OHV
Off-Road Camping

hobo camping
Hobo Camp has a fishing trail along the river.

Old Kern Canyon Road

Minimal to modest campsites in the lower canyon. Most seclusion for overnight spots, can be found along the empty stretches of the Old Kern Canyon Road. Many curvy mountain miles, one lane, paved, several flat spots for easy road-side camping. Caution for cattle in roadway. Speed limit is generally under 40 mph for this historic route which parallels the 178, in between Lake Isabella and Bako.

Kern River Hot Tub
Local Hot Springs

Plumas Camping

Lil' Northfork Campsite
Primitive (dispersed) camping near Lil’ Northfork

Plumas National Forest Camping – Primitive Camp Sites

Spanish Creek, Quincy, CA
Spanish Creek, Quincy, CA

Plumas Forest Camping

NFSlogoNorth Sierra Nevada, Northern California

Listed below are primitive campgrounds w/ minimal facilities or open camping areas in Plumas National Forest. Plumas has excellent fishing as the big rivers & numerous creeks run thru this northern Sierra Nevada landscape. Open camping is allowed on almost any dirt road w/ a current campfire permit

see also – Plumas Campgrounds

driftwood

Brady’s Camp
[on Pine Creek near Argentine Rock]
near Quincy, CA – east on Squirrel Creek Rd. & go 8 mi. to the campground. Elevation 7200′ / Open May – October

pct

Bucks Lake has numerous NFS Campgrounds and PCT access; Overall elevation 5000′ w/ abundant boating, fishing and hiking. Snow in winter closes roads. Cabins, marina, lodge, restaurants. Bucks Lake Wilderness, Gold Lake, Silver Lake

Deanes Valley Campground camp
[along Rock Creek] Hwy.70 Quincy, go 3.5 mi. west on Buck Lake Rd. Head south & 7 mi. to the campground. Elevation 4400′ / Open April – October

 

35 mph

Ishi Wilderness hiker

Backpacking trails w/ dirt road access. Above Chico, beyond Cohassett; on the border of Tehema Co. and Butte Co. (Lassen NF & Plumas NF)

Inskip, CA – Way up beyond the Ridge, well past Magalia and Stirling City – find dense forests, dirt roads and camping. Philbrook Reservoir w/ West Branch Campground NFS. Elevation 5546′

24N10 – Plumas NF

Lakes Basin Recreation Area

lakesbasinhikers
lakes basin day hikers

Snag Lake California

4x4 dirtbikes fish

Ohio Valley – Seneca Road
[off Hwy 89 to southside] Primitive forest camping near Lake Almanor. ATV trails, hunting. Creeks and river camping closer to Seneca. High clearance or 4WD may be needed on these dirt back roads – depending on snow and mud. There is plenty dirt roads back here to explore.

Snake Lakecanoe
[good fishing area] Hwy.70 Quincy, go 5 mi. west on Buck Lake Rd. Head north & 5 mi. to the campground at the lake. Elevation 4200′ / Open April – October

Snake Lake, California
Snake Lake, California

Taylorsville Campground

Indian Valley - Plumas California

pinetree

 

digger pines
Bald Rock Road in Berry Creek, CA

see also – Feather River California

foreman creek
Foreman Creek @ Lake Oroville, (maxed out) FEB 2017

nearby towns –

Belden Town
Berry Creek, CA
Bucks Lakes, CA
Butte Meadows
Chico, CA
Greenville, CA
Oroville, CA
Paradise, CA
Portola, CA
Quincy, CA
Twain, CA


California Fire Lookout

Dome Land from Bald Mtn, KERN
Bald Mountain (elev 9382′) Lookout in Sequoia National Forest

NFS Fire Lookout Towers

JULY 2019 – Many thanks goes to Pike County Lookout for initially spotting the #RockFire – in the Plumas National Forest, near Berry Creek, CA

Lookouts in the California National Forests

Ready to see far and wide – with wild terrain? Views for 100 miles out and the best scenery California has to offer. Be prepared to off road or hike to reach one of these destinations.

Below is a list of historic look out towers & cabins used for spotting wildfires. Some are located on steep granite peaks, ridge lines or dirt roads. 4WD may be recommended to reach some of these. Road conditions can change w/ harsh mountain weather, so be prepared to rough it. Thunderstorms are common on these mountain ridges.

Several of these places are cabins, some are stone houses, but most fire lookouts are basic metal towers – with high climbing staircases, so you must be in decent physical strength to haul your ass up this high.

rangers cabin mountains hikers vacation

Cabins are also called guard stations, huts, bunkhouses. Most are located on mountain tops, but a few exist in desert regions. Some are refurbished & available for overnight rentals. Bare bones furnishings, so forget the frills. People come up here for the thrills. To be outside w/ epic views, way away from the urban grind & to feel on top-of-the-world.

Coon Creek Cabin

 

NFSlogoSee the full list of overnight accommodations on mountain peaks & ridges, some near meadowsNational Forest Cabin Rentals

El Dorado National Forest USFS

Robbs Peak Lookout
Robb’s Hut / Robbs Cabin
6686′ elev near Placerville, Gold Country California

Cuyama Peak
Cuyama Lookout is a rough road up. Off Hwy 33, Los Padres NF

Los Padres National Forest

4x4Cuyama Peak Lookout Tower (pictured above) off Hwy 166 & via Santa Barbara Cyn, 4×4 recommended. Sorta near jct w/ Hwy 33

Big Bear Lake 2002
Big Bear Lake, Southern California

San Bernardino National Forest USFS

Butler Peak Fire Lookout
elev. 8537′ (no overnight stays)
located in between Green Valley Lake and Fawnskin

Morton Peak Fire Lookout
(no longer available for overnight stays 2019)

Strawberry Peak Fire Lookout
(no overnight stays)
above Rimforest, off Bear Springs Road, N of Hwy 18

Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout
elev. 8846′ (no overnight stays)
highest lookout in the San Bernardino NF

hiker

Sequoia National Forest USFS

Bald Mountain Lookout (no overnight stays)
off of Sherman’s Pass Road #22S05, 4×4 may be needed.
Bald Mountain 9382′ elevation; in between the Kern Plateau & Kern Riverranger

Big Meadows Cabin
Big Meadows Guard Station
off Big Meadows Rd #14S11
7600′ elevation; located in between Sequoia NP & Kings Canyon NP

Mountain Home Guard Station
Mountain Home State Forest, Sequoia Groves
6000′ elev. near Springville, CA

Needles Fire Lookout
(destroyed in structure fire 2011)

Poso Guard Station Cabin Rental
open all year round 4500′ elev. near Kernville, CA

pinetree

Sierra National Forest USFS

Camp Four and a half Cabin
Camp 4 ½ Cabin Rental
Lower Kings River, open all year round
1100′ elev. near Pine Flat Reservoir

 

Six Rivers National Forest USFS

Bear Basin Butte Cabin & Fire Lookout
elevation 5300′ in Six Rivers NF / Smith River NRA
(road damage & access issues 2017)

4x4

Tahoe National Forest USFS

Calpine Lookout Cabin Rental
near Sierraville, CA

Pike County Lookout (no overnight stays)
near Challenge, CA & New Bullards Bar Reservoir

Sardine Peak Fire Lookout
overlooking the Sierra Buttes and serene Lakes Basin, Yuba Rivers, North Gold Country CA

lakes basin views

BEWARE:
California is the land of wildfires!

campfireAlways check for local fire conditions at nearest ranger station, obtain a free campfire permit when camping outside of developed campgrounds, and always practice fire safety when visiting our public lands. You can be held liable for wildfires. Outta control campfire, cigarettes, idling vehicles on tall, dry grass. Be very cautious with fires on the often dry, west coast.

see also –  National Forest Cabin Rentals

Snow Mountain Wilderness

Snow Mtn Wilderness

Mendocino Forest, Lake Pillsbury

North of Wine Country, east of US Hwy 101

2018 (Mendo Complex Wildfire) Ranch Fire
burnt most of this area

Located in the coastal mountain range north of Clear Lake and west of Stonyford, California; in between I-5 and US 101
On the southern half of the Mendocino National Forest.

snow mountains

60,076 acres
East Snow Mountain Peak – 7056′ elevation
West Snow Mountain Peak – 7038′ elevation
Lake Pillsbury – 1818′ elevation
Mendocino National Forest
Eel River
Elk Creek
Cold Creek
Anderson Creek
Corbin Creek
Sheet Iron State Game Refuge

  • backpacking
  • camping
  • hang gliding
  • horseback trails
  • off roading
  • paragliding
  • snowboarding
  • snow shoeing

Snow Mountains MapWilderness permits and campfire permits are required. Check local rangers for up to date weather conditions, road closures, parking and trail conditions.

Dirt Roads M10 and M3 are the major routes around this mountain area. Route M10 is also known as 43A on some older maps. Several 4×4 trails skirt the wilderness boundary near the tallest peaks, so you may see some OHV use in this region when hiking.

ranger stations
NFS

EAST SIDE

National Forest Office
Grindstone Ranger District
Willows, CA
530-934-3316

Stonyford Work Center
530-963-3128

WEST SIDE

Upper Lake Ranger
707-275-2361

Covelo Ranger District
707-983-6118

NFS campgrounds nearby
camping

EAST SIDE

    • North Fork Campground (Road# 18N03)
    • South Fork Campground (Road M10)
    • Fouts Campground (M10)

4x4 trails

  • Grey Pine Campground (M10)
  • Mill Creek Campground (M10)
  • Dixie Glade Campground (M10)

WEST SIDE

  • Lower Nye Campground (Road M3)
  • West Crockett Campground (M3)
  • Upper Nye Camp (M3)
  • Windy Point Campground (M3)

hiking trailheads
hiking

  • Bloody Rock (Road M6)
  • Crooked Tree (Road M3)
  • North Ridge (M3)
  • Windy Point (M3)
  • Upper Nye (M3)
  • Bear Wallow (Road# 18N06)
  • Trout Creek (@ Fouts Springs)
  • Dixie Glade (Road M10)
  • Summit Spring (M10)

2017: a large landslide has closed the dirt road route in between Lake Pillsbury & Alder Springs, CA. Road M6 closed indefinitely.

off road routes nearby


View Larger Map

 

Youtube

Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849

Canon Sin Nombre
Sunset view of Canon Sin Nombre

San Diego County Road S-2

Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849Canon Sin Nombre
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.

Carrizo Gorge TrestleS2 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).

California Historical Landmarks, along S2

# 304 VALLECITO STAGE DEPOT
# 472 BOX CANYON (Anza Borrego Desert)
# 639 PALM SPRINGS (Anza Borrego Desert)
# 647 BUTTERFIELD OVERLAND MAIL ROUTE
# 793 SAN FELIPE VALLEY AND STAGE STATION

points of interest along this route:

California Interstate 8
Ocotillo, CA
Yuha Desert
Fossil Shell Canyon (BLM)
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Mortero Canyon
Dos Cabezas
Carrizo Gorge Wilderness
Carrizo Palms
Carrizo Gorge Railroad Trestle
Carrizo Badlands & Overlook
Canon Sin Nombre
Coyote Mountains Wilderness
THSDmapHollywood & Vine
Fish Creek Wash
Old Carrizo Stage Station
Sweeney Pass
Bow Willow Campground
Canebrake
Agua Caliente Hot Springs
Vallecito County Park
Oriflamme Canyon
Box Canyon Stagecoach Route
Blair Valley
Ghost Mountain
Vallecito Mountains
Pinyon Mountains
Earthquake Valley
Shelter Valley
Scissors Crossing (@ Hwy 78)
Volcan Mountains Wilderness Preserve
San Felipe Creek
PCT – Pacific Crest Trail

 


View Larger Map

Antique signs still on trail (2001)

Smile Cheps

Oriflamme Canyon Anza

Laguna Hanson Baja

hammock

Laguna Hanson

aka Laguna Juarez, Baja California Mexico

pinetree

(Laguna is Lagoon or Lake in Spanish)

elevation: 5,500′

Located inside the Sierra Juarez Mountains
Parque Nacional Constitucion de 1857, or
Constitucion de 1857 National Park, Baja California, Mexico

Pine forests in Baja California: Dirt roads access Laguna Hanson, so come prepared to drive many miles with dust & potholes — more than 20+ miles from the paved highway just to reach this prime high elevation destination. Since most of Baja is desert, dirt and coastline, this location is a rare treat for those wishing to travel (off the beaten path). The tallest mountain peak in Baja is nearby with the University Observatory.

observatorio
San Pedro Martir

campBaja Camping in the Mountains

Water levels drop well below normal & what we end up with is a shallow lake with huge boulders emerged. Kinda surreal looking. Tall pines & dense forest surrrounding lake. Wide open & flat areas perfect for biking, stargazing and group camping.

grazerland

4x4This Baja National Park campground is more like dispersed, or open camping around lake shore. Very popular place in the summer months & if you want seclusion camp away from the lake, deep in the forest. The best quiet spots are located in the north east vicinity.

No motorhomes allowed: the road is steep, long, all dirt and narrow in certain spots.

baja maps
Baja Maps from NatGeo
  • bouldering (rock climbing)
  • camping
  • dirt bike trails
  • hiking trails
  • horseback trails
  • hunting
  • kayaking
  • mountain biking
  • off-roading
  • sightseeing


No services at lake. Minimal camping facilities. Self sufficient campers a must. 

checkBRING EVERYTHING = ice chest w/ block ice, drinking water, flat tire repair kits, tow strap; extra blankets, medication, first aid kit. There is no store within 30+ miles of here, and the dirt road is very long (both ways) – so it is best to be prepared with all food and beverages.

LOCALS NOTE: An occasional rancher may approach your camp with his farm truck, selling fresh made cheese, beef jerky or other farm produce.

campfireNo pavement, no picnic tables.
Minimal pit toilets, few rangers patrolling and rock fire rings.

CAMPERS TIP: The toilets can be nasty!! Bring a shovel and wipes; walk into the forest for your bathroom break.

See our CAMP POTTY page for pooping in the wild

greatbkrds

 

dirtbikesOHV trails are nearby. OFF ROADING, dirt biking and 4×4 routes are essentially any dirt road that is within this forest; Drive slower, keep your ears peeled and watch out when they pass you, cuz they are most nimble and quicker.

No motorcycles signs are posted, but that doesn’t stop them riding all hours of the night. The mountains near Tecate and Mike’s Sky Ranch both cater to dirt bikers and tours, and are located nearby (sorta).

Park rangers & rules here are a lot more lax that in the “States”.

MAP NOTE: Google Maps has this place listed as Laguna Juarez

openspots4


Driving on the Beach

beach sunset

Driving on the Beach in California

Gone are the days of ‘beach blanket bingo’ where film crews glamorized California – the beautiful people, the nice vehicles, the sport of surfing and the glorious beaches. There are very few places left on the California coast that you can actually drive a vehicle on the sand, right next to the ocean. The military bases, oil corporations and the utility companies have the front row seats to the Pacific genocide, and the rest of the population is restricted with extreme limited access.

Baja California has minimal regulations on coastal access with a car. No pavement, no signs, no cell phone signal, and no help for miles – something to consider if you get stuck south of the border in Mexico. Baja has numerous places to explore below Ensenada, but asking locals is always a favored approach. Pay attention to private property signs and always close the cattle gate (if you found it closed).

silverstrand

Southern California, no beaches allow vehicle traffic. San Diego offers a sliver of sand @ Silver Strand SB, which is a developed campground for motorhomes and car campers, located right on the beach south of Coronado, CA. Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, San Diego allows driving on sand and a favorite among active dogs, but not camping is allowed. In Los Angeles you can park a motorhome at a sandy, paved campground for a hefty overnight fee. Dockweiler Beach, right near the Chevron plant and LA sewage treatment facility. Sounds delightful, not.

Ventura & Santa Barbara Coastal Regions have many awesome State Beaches, but none allow vehicles on the sand.

AWD on the sand

Central Coast California:

  • Oceano SVRA – off road sand dunes and open camping on the beach. Day use or overnight camp fee required; near Pismo Beach, CA
  • Red, White and Blue Beach – nude beach w/ campground (now closed); north of Santa Cruz, CA

Northern California:
Lost Coast

  • Usal Beach Campground – redwood creeks and forests meets coast and cliffs. Camp fee for overnight use. Long dirt road access. No RVs!
  • Black Sands Beach (OHV 4×4 trail, now closed to all vehicles) near Shelter Cove, CA

chico couple

after-the-fun maintenance tip:

Salt water and sand is very corrosive to metal – which will rust your truck or car badly. Now that you’ve had fun on the beach, we remind you to clean the underneath of your vehicle ASAP. Spraying powerful hose in your wheel wells and all underneath the vehicle. You might need to lay on the ground and get wet to do this job properly. Some car wash places might be able to do this service for you, but it will cost ya.

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.


Rock Creek Campground

rockintable
Rock Creek Lake 9600′ elev, Eastern Sierra

Numerous places named Rock Creek exist inside California. This particular Rock Creek page is specific to Camping and Campgrounds!

This compilation of “Rock Creeks” is to help with the confusing lists of similarly named camps and locations (which are many, inside California).

Lakes, rivers, canyons, campgrounds, 4×4 routes and wilderness trailheads. 

Eastern Sierra Campgrounds

List begins with the most well known –

Rock Creek Lake @ Inyo National Forest

Autumn Rock Creek
Rock Creek is a top destination for Autumn Colors in OCTOBER

NFS Campgrounds on Rock Creek Road listed below:

NFSlogo12 NFS Campgrounds are located around Eastern Sierra Rock Creek Canyon. Elevations range from 7000′ at the highway, to over 10,000′ at a trailhead parking lot at the road’s end. Most of these developed campgrounds listed are only open a few months outta the year, due to winter snow closures (NOV-APRIL). On occasion, snow can still be on the roads until MAY.

Tuff Campground ( @ frwy US 395)camp

French Campground (7500′ elev w/ 86 sites)
Holiday Campground (7500′ elev w/ 35 sites)

Aspen Group Campground (8100′ elev)

iris meadow
Iris Meadow Campground NFS

Iris Meadow Campground (8600′ elev w/ 14 sites) NFS
Big Meadow Campground (8600′ elev w/ 11 sites)
Palisade Group Campground (8600′ elev w/ 5 sites)
East Fork Campground (9000′ elev w/ 133 sites)
Pine Grove Campground (9300′ elev w/ 11 sites)

rockcreeklake

Rock Creek Lake Campground (9600′ elev w/ 66 sites) NFS

Rock Creek Lake Group Campground (by reservation) NFS

Mosquito Flat Walk-In Campground (trailhead camp) hikerSome maps may have this one listed as Little Lakes Campground, but that is just the official trailhead name.

Backpackers and horseback riders frequent this Eastern Sierra canyon a lot of the year. Many high country trails lead out to Sierra peaks, alpine lakes and sheer wilderness. Download PDF Map of this canyons hiking trails.

eastern sierra snowline
eastern sierra

More Rock Creek Camps

Rock Creek CampgroundMammoth Pool Reservoir, south of Yosemite National Park, behind Bass Lake, CA inside the Sierra National Forest (18 camp sites)

Rock Creek Campground – US Hwy 101 NorCal Redwood forests, north of Leggett, CA. Camp located on the Eel River, in the Standish Hickey State Recreation Area. (36 camp sites)

Rock Creek Loop Road – Dinkeycamptruck
Sierra Forest Road #9S09, off of paved Dinkey Creek Road. Excellent primitive camping along creek; 4×4 trailheads, as well as hiking & horseback trails. Small RVs okay. Dispersed camp sites, no facilities. Fire permits are required. Near Shaver Lake, CA inside the Sierra National Forest

Similarly named –

ROCK LAKE is located inside Lakes Basin Recreation Area, northern Gold Country @ Yuba River headwaters. Hike-in access only.4x4

And if you want some Central Coast wheelin – 4×4 camping and trails, see the ROCK FRONT RANCH on California Hwy 166, on the way to New Cuyama, CA

lower rock creek road
Lower Rock Creek Road, off US hwy 395

We will continue to add any more Rock Creeks to this page (as we find and photograph them). Stay tuned for more of the very best camping in California.


Best View Camp Sites

view campsite

Great Overlooks for Camping

Best View Camp Site in California 

Overlook Camps, View Spot Camp Sites

This camp list is comprised of primitive camp sites and developed campgrounds with good views overlooking a large area (valley, town, canyon, desert, river, ocean). Many ideal spots may require dirt road driving, and a few might need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach.

Prewitt Ridge, Big Sur Coast

We were suggesting this very spot way back in 1999, well before anyone else was ‘blogging’ about it. This area is by far the best, free coastal camping on the Central Coastline of Big Sur. Dirt roads traverse 10 miles out to vacant ridges overlooking the Pacific, with steep hills down to the highway. Camp above the fog layer and above the crowds. Explore the beaches during the day, and camp above the traffic & crowds at night.

Dry brush is abundant on the mountains of Los Padres National Forest. Camp fire restrictions should be of utmost concern in this area, since wildfires burn here often. Camp fire permits are required for camping on the back roads, and much of the time camp fires are banned in this region. Call ahead to the rangers to find out the current conditions.

Swinger

Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park
Big Sur Coastline

Two prime walk-in camp sites, on a shady point, high above a beach cove w/ scenic waterfall.

Called “environmental camps” these highly desirable spots need advanced reservations w/ fees many months in advance. Tables, fire rings and a vault toilet. Bare bones basics, but the ideal location is worth it. A forested cliff on the edge of the ocean, high above a secluded cove. This location a can get windy if a storm moves in (generally October – March).

Los Padres National Forest

Kirk Creek Campground
on Highway 1 @ Nacimiento Road
Big Sur CA

Willow Creek Road # 23S01
primitive camping on dirt road, above Hwy 1 @ Gorda, CA

sunset watch

Reyes Peak Camping
North of Ojai, CA
Pine Mountain Summit, CA Hwy 33

Off Cerro Noroeste Road, W of Pine Mountain, CA

Above Santa Maria, Highway 166
West of New Cuyama, CA

  • Miranda Pines Campground @ 4100′ elev
    Located well off hwy. on Road #32S13

Mendocino National Forest

There are several primitive campsites off of M10 with views of chaparral and canyons. Just above Stonyford, CA, on the way up to Fouts Springs. Unfortunately Mendocino National Forest is may be closed for 2019 due Ranch Fire (wildfire 2018) w/ Snow Mountain Wilderness completely 100% burnt.

Planning more scouting of this region summer 2019. Stay tuned.

Angeles National Forest

  • Mount Pacifico Campground
    Angeles Forest Highway
  • Lightning Point Group Campground
    near Jackson Lake @ Hwy 2
Fire Safe Spot
Random ridge spot in Big Sur
john bull camp spot
john bull 4×4 camp

San Bernardino National Forest

Toro Peak Campground Rd# 7S02

toro_campsite

  • San Berdu has more than a few trail camps for 4×4 enthusiasts. Weekends can be busy all year long. Snow usually closes some routes. Pine forest in southern California means very tight campfire restrictions. All yellow post camp sites include table and a fire ring. Campfire permits are required.
  • East ridge line, rocky, dusty, 4WD-only route, the John Bull Trail (near Holcomb Valley) has ONE real awesome view camp spot with great spans over the Mojave desert w/ smog and city lights @ night.
  • Mesa Campground @ Silverwood Lake SRA

I-8 East of San Diego, CA

  • Larkin Campground
    McCain Valley BLM OHV
  • Mar Tar Awa above Viejas Casino
  • Sweetwater Summit Co Park San Diego

I-5 North of San Diego, CA

  • San Elijo Campground, San Elijo State Beach
    Coastal cliffs, overlooking beach and ocean
    Solana Beach, CA

S-22  East San Diego County

Montezuma Grade, overlooking Borrego Springs & Anza Borrego Desert

  • Culp Valleyboulders, primitive camps on dirt roads; better views off-road. Vault toilet. Few tables, no signs. Small campground at the highway is easy to find. Boulders and bouldering. Mountain biking and hiking. Wildflowers in spring.

providence

Interstate 15 & I-40 Mojave Desert

view spot mojave

US Hwy 395 Eastern Sierra

inside Death Valley National Park

  • Mahogany Flat Campground steep dirt road access. Trailhead for tallest peak in the park, Telescope Peak (11,049′ elev)
  • Tucki Mine, 4×4 route. Unmarked dirt road inside Emigrant Canyon, off Wildrose Road.

inside Inyo National Forest

ohridgeview
oh ridge view
    • Coyote Flat @ Pinyon Boulders – 4×4 required, one primitive camp w/ great views overlooking the Owens Valley & peaks to the east. Coyote Flat has views toward the Sierra
    • Oh! Ridge Campground Off the main highway 158, June Lake Loop
      (148 sites @ 7600′ elev.) near June Lake, CA
    • Onion Valley Campground – High Sierra @ 9200′ elevation. Trailhead to Kearsarge Pass. W of Independence, CA

4x4 Camps

Western Sierra Nevada Mountains
Sierra National Forest

cabin rental

NFSsee also – NFS Fire Lookouts & Rental Cabins
many of which have excellent views of the wilderness areas; a hike or climb may be necessary

Colorado River Camping

Multiple riverside RV havens, county parks, and campgrounds near Parker, AZ

Riverside RV parks in Blythe, CA

Riverside RV parks in Lake Havasu, CA

coloradoriverRV
colorado river camping

 


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


1N02 – San Berdu NF

Heart Bar Camps

Heart Bar Camp: Forest Road #1N02 – San Bernardino National Forest

Heartbar Campground, Heart Bar Horse Camps, RV Dispersed Sites, Coon Creek Cabin. SE of Big Bear Lake; Hiking & Equestrian Trails

horse camp hikes primitive camp sites

Hwy 38 , the long way into Big Bear Lake, up thru Angelus Oaks CA. Heartbar Campground is a developed recreation area, right up front. 94 camp sites, plus the recreation all around. Big equestrian area.

HART BAR: Heart Bar is large pine valley w/ alpine meadows, great camping, San Gorgonio looms overhead with ridges of 10,000′ elevation.

Heart bar campsites

yellow post camps

free, dispersed, primitive camping
in Southern Cal

HEART BAR DISPERSED AREA

Forest Service Rd #1N02 – the dirt road is graded & maintained, about half the year. Primitive camp sites require permits; see local rangers. Many forest roads can close due to heavy snow, big rain or rock slides. Best traveled in the warmer months. Winter can be questionable with open gates and road access.

bigsign

site14

Large open sites, with tables & moderately level dirt access. Seen RV campers way back here. RV’s beyond 30′ are not recommended. At end of this 5 mile dirt route is a hiking trail to Big Morongo Canyon & a really neat historic place called the Coon Creek Cabin.

Coon Creek Cabin

Totally worth a visit, if you plan on driving to the end of the road – just for the heck of it. Cabin area can be reserved for small group camping in summer months.

COON CREEK CABIN reservations
909-794-4861

San Bernardino forest maps:

nearby mountain communities:

nearby cities:

  • Mentone, CA
  • Redlands, CA

site12


Borrego Campground


Camping Borrego

Anza Borrego Desert State Park & Borrego Springs Campgrounds

Anza Borrego Desert is the largest of the California State Parks. Borrego Palm Canyon Campground is the official name of this popular palm oasis & developed campground located very close to Borrego Springs CA. Hike or bike to town. There is also a private RV Park named Palm Canyon Resort in town, just to confuse you.

Desert wildflowers blooms, popular hiking & biking trails, plus mud caves & slot canyons draw plenty visitors here, mostly in the winter months. Summer high temps exceed 90 degrees for months at a time.
There are hundreds of miles of dirt roads to explore, and one could easily spend every weekend for a full year, checking out all there is to see in this vast desert, where elevations range from near sea level to 5000′ peaks.

Borrego Desert Campgrounds

Anza Borrego State Park Campgrounds calsp
760-767-5311, Anza Borrego Desert SP

BORREGO PALM CANYON CAMPGROUND
main campground near Visitors Center, in town Borrego Springs, CA
120 camp sites for tents & RVs, flush toilets, overnight / day use fees
reservations accepted

TAMARISK GROVE CAMPGROUND
27 camp sites, flush toilets, fee
on S-3 @ Highway 78 jct (closed June – Sept)
reservations accepted (Oct-May)

Vern Whitaker Horse Camp
equestrian campground w/ corrals, 10 camp sites, flush toilets
elev, 960′, located N of Borrego Springs, near scenic and rugged Coyote Canyon.
reservations accepted

Backcountry Campgrounds Anza

Arroyo Salado
16 miles east of Borrego Springs on County Road S-22

Blair Valley Camping Area
open car camping & RV spots, vault toilets
on SAN DIEGO County Rd S-2 near Highway 78 jct

Bow Willow Campground
elev, 950′, hwy access, 16 camp sites, pit toilets, overnight fee
near Sweeney Pass & badlands overlook; located on S-2, 9 miles N of Interstate 8

Canon Sin Nombre
off S-2 near Sweeney Pass; entrance near Badlands Overlook; slot canyon hikes

Coyote Canyon Camping
N of Borrego Springs via Di Giorgio Road
rugged backcountry dirt road, tent camping only
car camping near ocotillo gardens; 4×4 needed @ creek crossing & Sheep Canyon

Culp Valley Campgound
elev, 3400′, hwy access, 8 camp sites, pit toilets, free camp
located on S-22, atop Montezuma Grade

Culp Valley Boulders
elev, 3700′, dirt road access, primitive camp sites, free
located off S-22, 4×4 near Montezuma Grade

Fish Creek Campground
Hwy 78 near Ocotillo Wells & Split Mountain
elev, 280′, dirt road access, 8 camp sites, pit toilets, free camp
from hwy, go 12 milies south on Split Mountain Road

Yaqui Well
5 mi. south of Borrego Springs on County Road S-3 & right on Yaqui Pass Road, go 6 miles to camping area on right side

Yaqui Pass
5 mi. south of Borrego Springs on County Road S-3 & right on Yaqui Pass Road, go 4 miles to camping area on left side

culpvalleyOHV
Culp Valley trails, North Anza Borrego SP, SoCal Deserts

All Desert Campgrounds Nearby

AGUA CALIENTE HOT SPRINGS
(San Diego County Park)
88 camp sites for tents & RVs, flush toilets, overnight / day use fees, 760-765-1188
located on Co. Rd S-2, 22 miles N of Interstate 8 (closed June-Aug)

BOX CANYON RD Mecca, CA – in between Joshua Tree NP and Anza Borrego Desert
BLM camping in Box Canyon & Mecca Hills Wilderness Park

BUTTERFIELD RANCH RV PARK & HORSE CAMPGROUND
(Private Campground Resort)
located on S-2 between Highway 78 & Interstate 8

LEAPIN LIZARD RV RANCH
(Private Campground Resort)
85 acres, 60 camp sites
located on Split Mountain Road, Ocotillo Wells, CA

OCOTILLO WELLS SVRA
(State Vehicular Recreation Area)
elev. 160′, 4×4 and off road camp sites for trailers & RVs
no water, no hook-ups, pit toilets, no fees, 760-767-5391
located on Highway 78 (closed June-Sept)

PALM CANYON RV RESORT
(Private Campground Resort)
located in town, Borrego Springs, CA

SALTON SEA SRA
(State Recreation Area & Campground)
Mecca Beach, Corvina Beach, Salt Creek Campgrounds
located on Highway 111 on east side of inland sea

SLAB CITY @ SALTON SEA
old Camp Dunlap in California desert badlands
free & open RV camping near Salton Sea
located off Highway 111 on east side of inland sea

STAGECOACH RV PARK & HORSE CAMPGROUND
(Private Campground Resort)
located on S-2 near Highway 78 junction

TRUCKHAVEN HILLS
(OHV trails & camp spots)
elev. 300′, 4×4 and off road camp sites for car camping, touy hauler trailers & RVs
no water, no hook-ups, no fees,
located on S-22, East of Borrego Springs, CA

VALLECITO PARK
(San Diego County Park)
44 camp sites for tents & RVs, no hook-ups, toilets, overnight / day use fees, 760-765-1188
located on S-2, 22 miles N of Interstate 8 (closed June-Aug)

Mecca Hills
Mecca Hills BLM

Desert BLM Camping Spots

  • MECCA – BOX CANYON
  • OCOTILLO – FOSSIL SHELL CANYON
  • YUHA DESERT WILDERNESS – South of Interstate 8

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

camp

FREE CAMPING ANZA – Let us also remind you that this is the best place to camp in California for primitive car camping (camping outside of a developed campground). Open all year long – always! Super secluded, darkest skies, free and always located on the back roads. 4×4 is not required in all areas, so there are plenty of options. Blair Valley or Coyote Canyon Gardens are popular camp spots, but there are thousands of hidden canyons and washes in this giant State Park, just awaiting your tent. You’ll need a decent topographic map. For more info on free camping click here.

Anza wildflowers

San Diego County Road S-2 is the
Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849

Anza Borrego Wildflowers

Borrego 4×4 Trails & Camps

Carrizo Gorge Goat Trestle

Split Mountain Anza Borrego

Topo maps, wilderness hiking maps –

COOLNESS
Anza Borrego Desert Slot Canyons

nearby cities & towns:

Crab Flats Campground

Crabflats

San Berdu National Forest: Crab Flats Campground National Forest Service

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MTS:
Big Bear Area Camping; Crabflats is on dirt road – Road# 3N16
elevation
North of Green Valley Lake, off Hwy 18. Between Big Bear Lake & Lake Arrowhead, California.

OHV trails abundant in this region, so expect some 4x4s, dirt bikes and engine noise. Looking for peaceful camp, try Heart Bar Camp.

Crab Flats Campground

• Elevation: 6,200′
• Number of Sites: 28
• Camping Reservations: Yes
• Sites Available: 3 first come
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 15′ max
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Water: No Piped; seasonal creek iffy
• Toilet: Vault
• Season: Open APR-NOV
• Fee: YesNFSlogo
• Operated By: National Forest Service
• Closest Town: Lake Arrowhead, CA

San Bernardino National Forest
Big Bear Discovery Center
Big Bear Lake, CA
909-382-2790

Topo maps, wilderness hiking maps, Equestrian trails, OHV maps –

nearby mountain communities:

Green Valley Lake

4×4 Off Roading

 

Off Roading Moab Utah

Originally uploaded by danamight

 

4×4 offroad

When people hear the phrase “off road” a hundred things can come to mind. Granola types envision rednecks, guns & beer cans tearing up the wilderness; while teen boys may like dirt bikes or motocross races; your co-worker digs the rock crawling rigs (on TV); your lesbian pals like to do desert & ghost town exploring in their Jeep & a million families like to camp out with RV & toys in tow. The quads, the sand rails, the rock crawling machines, the custom built buggies. Trophy trucks, rally racing Subies, 4WD camper vans, dirt bikes, the standard stock SUV, some w/ 4-wheel drive and who can forget the ever-freaking-popular jeaps. Sunday drivers sightseeing or hard core dare devil racers can be found in the realm of off-road: Off pavement.

They are ALL off roaders! And they are all unique, custom & no two created equal. There is certainty of it & the passionate fans will tell you. The off roading interest has gained popularity as more & more recreation vehicles become available to the main stream market. And TV shows promote these awesome rigs, the sport of dirt racing, rock crawling & the fantastic terrain. (And if you still watch television, that will soon change!)

Baby boomers seek retirement vacations: compact 4WD camper vans, or smaller RVs capable of trailering an off-road machine; Fathers look for ways to entertain family out of doors, or escape on solo trips (for sanity sake). The off-road sport and interest has literally exploded over the past 20 years w/ media, hobby, competitions & after market products – along with the rising gas & tire prices.

4x4 Ford Camper at a Big Bear Campout
4×4 Ford Camper at a Big Bear Campout

California dirt road heaven

Wheeling

California Back Roads
WHERE TO START?

Plan better trips, learn to really read a topographic map, depart for your trip over-prepared and find new, amazing destinations all over California. Use Total Escape often and get a bumper sticker for your rig!

Many folks drive dirt roads just to get to a trailhead and go hiking, mountain biking or rock climbing. Many backpackers trailheads are indeed located miles off pavement on forest dirt roads.

Some outdoor enthusiasts crave seclusion: peace and quite, away from city life, city folks, all noise… well away from the crowds. Preferring to camp outside of developed campgrounds, which means free camping (mostly on dirt roads). Campfire permits are always required. Many excellent, hidden camp sites can be found on rugged, unpaved back roads – some requiring 4 wheel drive, others not.

Gear Heads: those who value ‘vehicle time’ over ‘real nature’ will literally SIT inside their rigs (almost all day) – enjoying scenery from a safe distance. Picnic spot, viewpoint, yes, but rarely ever seeking out a hike, or a waterfall. Should a break-down occur, these dedicated guys will have their heads under the hoods or crawling underneath, for hours if needbe. Always be prepared with food in the cooler.

Tent Campers
And believe it or not, some off-roaders will not even tent camp! They do not sleep on the ground. They prefer a local lodge in the nearest small town or they could own a luxury RV (towing a trailer w/ the overbuilt Jeep). Talk about gas guzlers.

Now, where are those green buggies?

Forest Roads
Backcountry routes may be signed – high clearance needed, or not. Black diamond, double diamond trail. Yikes 4×4 required, what! Did we miss a sign or take a wrong turn?

SIGNS are not always reliable on the back roads.
Small Signs: get shot at, run over, blown over and washed away with erosion
… so best have a hard copy map (at all times).

California dirt road heaven

In Trinity, locals have been known to remove forest road signs to confuse tourists and prevent traffic in certain directions. I can’t imagine why. Cough, cough, Hyampom!

PVT – private property

This brings us to private ROADS & LAND. Just because a dirt road is located in a forest or rural region doesn’t mean it is open to the public. Generally private lands are well marked w/ ‘No Trespassing’ notices, some fenced and gated. In Baja and in ranching areas in general, public access may be allowed to pass through. Inquire at a local ranger stations for the area you wish to explore.

Do Not Litter

Litter removal 101 should be the norm; Don’t Trash California! Teach your children well. Respect the land and always Tread Lightly! Find more about ECO – CAMPING

TreadLightly

Quatal Canyon Red Dirt Road

smoketreewashes

jeepinpanamint

Dumont Dunes OHV Desert Death Valley
Dumont Dunes OHV / Desert Death Valley Xmas Trip

Winter Wheelin

winterwheelin

Winter wet weather doesn’t need to put a damper on your outdoor exploring, if you can get your hands on a 4×4 vehicle. Almost any SUV or truck with 4 wheel drive is capable of driving through some snow or mud. Just how deep is the mud (underneath the snow) is usually the big question. Many National Forests and State Parks close certain dirt roads due to over-use, or to control soil erosion and prevent the deep muddy ruts which are costly to re-grade come springtime. Call ahead to the rangers to find which back road routes are indeed open, or bring your printed topo map and wing it.

California Road Trips

The California destinations listed below are popular winter spots for off roading enthusiasts. Some places may be busier than others. The dirt roads surrounding these spots are real treasures, so try to plan an all-day loop trip if possible. Camping w/ a campfire permit is an option on many back roads. Plenty lodging in nearby small towns if winter camping is not your thing.

ghost towns

Bodie State Park
Randsburg Mining District
Calico Ghost Town
Ballarat in Panamint Valley
Skidoo @ Death Valley NP
Barker Ranch, Goler Wash @ Death Valley NP
Panamint City @ Surprise Canyon
Cerro Gordo – 4×4 Inyo
Oatman, Arizona

California Road Trips

hot springs:

primitive tubs
hot springs resorts
hot spring campgrounds

fishing spots

Green Creek Road
Walker River
North June Lake Loop
Trinity River

California Road Trips

California Mountains, Viewpoints & Fire Lookout Towers

Bald Mountain, Shaver Lake
Cuyama Lookout, Santa Barbara Canyon, Ventucopa, CA
Coyote Flat, Bishop, CA
Los Padres National Forest
Mount Pacifico, Angeles Forest Highway
Upper Lytlle Creek, Wrightwood, CA

see – NFS Cabins Rentals & California Fire Lookouts

California Road Trips

Indian Casinos

Tribal lands are mostly located in rural regions which always have plenty of dirt roads to explore. Get a good back roads map for the public lands nearby, parks, BLM, National Forest. If the overnight camping is dropping into the twenties or teens, then know the forecast. A good rule of thumb for California hotel stays: If the low temps overnight are below the cost of a hotel room at the nearby casino, the comfy lodge might be well worth considering.

Avi Casino
@ California – Arizona border.
The Laughlin casino in the middle of nowhere, right on the Colorado River. Jet ski rentals, swimming pools and spas, restaurants, RV park. The historic Mojave Trail, aka Mojave Road, starts next to the property.

Gold Country Casino
@ Lake Oroville, California
Sierra Nevada mountains Northern California. Conveniently located near Feather River (all 4 forks) and Plumas National Forest, with Berry Creek and Bucks Lake Wilderness to explore. Snow often closes the highest elevations.

Viejas Casino
@ Pine Valley, East County San Diego
Great bouldered mountains with back road exploring, hiking, mountain biking trails, all easy access from Southern California. Get a Cleveland National Forest map and expect some road closures near Laguna Mountain Sunrise Highway, especially when it snows.

Diamond Mountain Casino
Susanville, Northern California
Located in between US Highway 395 and Mount Lassen, the scenic Susan River region has lots to offer for the outdoor enthusiasts. Plenty of roads to explore, some big lakes too. Many Forest roads could be closed due to snow, so be warned and call ahead to the ranger.

Native Californians

Indian Rock Art
Petroglyphs are found in numerous locations throughout the deserts of the SouthWestern US. Inscription Canyon Mojave. See more on Native American rock art or explore photos.

California Road Trips

California Beaches
Oceano Dunes, Pismo Beach
Lost Coast, Northern Cal Redwoods
Black Sands Beach, Shelter Cove (open to foot traffic only)

California Deserts

Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Box Canyon @ Mecca Hills
Mojave National Preserve
Canebrake Road, Kern Mojave
Black Canyon, Barstow, CA
Panamint Valley, near DVNP
Death Valley National Park
Bodie State Historic Park

California Off Road Parks

These are parks that specifically offer trails and obstacles for off-roaders. Entrance fees and camping fees are usually charged at the entry gate.

Off Highway Vehicle Areas (OHV)
State Vehicle Recreation Areas (SVRA)

Other Off Roading Options

The whole Carson City area in Nevada has some excellent dirt roads to explore. Old mines, caves, many miles of pinyon forests. Lake Tahoe is nearby with luxury resorts, casinos and snow skiing.

If you just can’t stand the cold and snow, then warmer climates lie to the south. Baja California is a tourist/traveler and off-roader haven in the wintertime.

Holiday Wheeling
Jawbone Canyon for Thanksgiving weekend will get dirt bikes by the thousands and big families. Christmas is busy around the Palm Spring desert destinations – like Joshua Tree. Easter weekend is popular w/ wildflowers and campers in Anza Borrego Desert.

RV camping
Occasionally, wide graded dirt roads lead to secondary routes, so overnighting it with a motorhome on the back roads is very possible (if deep mud is not present). RV camping is quite the tradition for Southern Californians. Desert off roaders in tow, all over the Mojave. Steer clear of busy family groups. Pick a lesser known area to camp and explore. Get your real topo maps out and choose easy access from pavement, but wide graded dirt roads are best. Plenty roads like this in the Eastern Sierra, on the east side of US Hwy 395. RV campers that follow Total Escape might very well be interested in testing the limits of their recreational vehicle, slowly.

AWD Sportwagons
Before AWD got marketed as 4WD, Total Escape was way out there exploring in a 2 wheel drive and posting it online for you. All wheel drive station wagons should stick to the paved and plowed roads. If you plan to do a lotta dirt road driving in the old Subaru, keep the rock crawling to a minimum. If not, you may want to invest in a skid plate for the oil pan. Nothing beats first hand experience and learning ahead of time how your car will behave before you loose control on icy dark steep roads. Go practice with the emergency break and get the vehicle in a wide open snow plowed area if possible, just avoid the temptations to get wild. Don’t get the doughnut urge and plant yourself in a tree. Remember, it’s not like the commercial showed us, those are closed roads they are filming on.

Snow Chains
If you plan to be off roading in snow or mud at all you might want to consider some important safety items: tire chains for snow, a tow strap and tire plugs for flats. If you own a high clearance 2WD SUV, you could benefit from running chains on all four tires when snow is present. How deep the snow gets and how steep the hills are, determines how far you can go without a real 4 wheel drive. Some choose to rent a 4WD for the weekend road trip.

Snow Plow - the first pass
Snow Plow First Pass

Carry these items when traveling in winter conditions:
tools, jumper cables, tow strap, emergency gear, first aid kit, real boots, extra clothes, blankets, flashlights, food, drinking water, cell phone, maps


California Reference
California Road Conditions
California Weather
Sierra Highway Conditions

and just imagine when you can’t get past the deepest snow, it is time to try California Snowmobiling

San Diego Camping

Anza Backroads

Cleveland National Forest Camping – San Diego Campgrounds – Desert Camping Anza Borrego – SD County Campgrounds – BLM Campgrounds – San Diego Beach Camping – San Diego Mountains

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Bobcat Meadow 3800′ 16 oaks vault no no RVs
Burnt Rancheria 5000′ 100+ pines vault piped Sunrise Hwy
Cibbets Flats 4200′ 23 oaks vault piped Interstate 8
Corral Canyon 3500′ 20 oaks vault piped OHV near I-8
Dripping Springs 1800′ 26 oaks vault piped Hwy 79, E Temecula
El Cariso North 2600′ 24 oaks vault piped small RV
Fry Creek Campground 4900′ 20 oaks vault piped Palomar Mountain
Indian Flats Campground 3600′ 17 oaks vault piped off Hwy 79
Laguna Mountain 5500′ 75 pines vault piped Sunrise Hwy
Palomar SP Campground 7000′ 13 pines vault piped Palomar Mountain

Anza Camping

Anza Borrego Desert Camping & Campgrounds

Desert Mountain Biking Open Camping Stargazing Hiking

San Diego County Campgrounds

Sweetwater Reservoir, Otay Lakes, Agua Caliente, Vallecito
Camping Reservations 877-565-3600 or 858-565-3600

Camping

Bureau of Land Management

San Diego BLM Camping

Lark Canyon, Cottonwood @ McCain Valley near Interstate 8
El Centro Desert OHV, Hot Springs, Colorado River

Coastal Cliffs San Diego

San Diego Beach Camping

Coastal Towns with Camping near San Diego –

Chula Vista
Coronado
San Diego
Mission Beach & Bay
Del Mar
Cardiff
Carlsbad
Oceanside

Indian Flats Campground

Indian Flats Campground is located on a dirt road off Hwy 79, near Warner Springs CA. Boulder ridges & manzanita surround this oak filled secluded canyon. Small seasonal creek & waterfall is a short walk from campsite.

Free Camping
Anza Borrego Desert by far has the best free camping options available near San Diego.

Maps Mountains / Desert Topo / San Diego Area Maps