Where is your favorite place to camp?

tent camping

This is one of those silly questions that has no real definitive answer from DanaMite. If you have camped California at all, you know it can be awe inspiring around every corner, especially the Sierra Nevada & the Coastline.

Most California transplants get so wrapped up with city life, college & new careers, that they rarely venture past the county park, much less the county line.

When they finally do break away, they are often misled to crowded campgrounds with steep reservation fees and too many RVs, walking distance to a mini mart. Often they assume camping in California is not what they thought it was going to be. Not like the photos they once saw, not the dream-like places of wildness, not the privacy they had envisioned. They may even give up on the whole ‘camping experience’ all together.

It does not have to be like this. Information is power. This web site Total Escape was made for YOU, the avid Escaper, who desires the best camping options available. One who will respect the land & care; Those that will teach their children to clean up litter & respect our precious public lands.

The California deserts are just as magnificent as the alpine meadows; The mountain peaks, the hot springs, coastal cliffs to the forests, and the river canyons!

It’s all good.

There cannot be one favorite camp spot, when you find yourself camping every month. Each site is a new destination, a place to explore, with usually a reason to return. Each season your favorite spot will change & be more desirable some months over others. From aspen trees changing color in the Eastern Sierra to wildflower meadows of the High Sierra, every place has its own unique flavor.

Drive further for less people and more nature!

National Forest Service

California National Forests are a great place to start.

Highland Wildflowers

Collections of California Camping Lists

sierra camps

Specific Places to Camp in California

Sierra Nevada Campground

California Covered Bridge

Covered Bridges of California

Oregon City Bridge

Oregon City Bridge, off Cherokee Road, North Oroville, CA

Overland pioneers and miners flooded the Sierra Nevada after 1848, when gold was discovered, transforming the landscape and native life of California – in horrendous ways. Many early bridges made of wood have disappeared. Historic places, such as these few wooden bridges of the West, need to be protected and preserved.

Felton Covered Bridge
Santa Cruz Mountains & Redwoods
Railway Train Rides
Felton, CA

Bridgeport Covered Bridge
(built in 1862)
South Fork of the Yuba River
Northern Gold Country Hwy 49
Nevada City & Downieville, CA

Honey Run Bridge
on Butte Creek @ Skyway
Historic Landmark from 1894
in between
Chico & Paradise, CA

Knights Ferry Bridge SHPState Park
State Historic Park
on Sacramento River
North of Sacramento, CA

oregoncitymarker

Oregon City Bridge
Oregon Gulch, Lake Oroville
via Table Mountain @ Cherokee Rd
North of Oroville CA

Oregon Covered Bridge
Middle Fork of the Yuba River
Northern Gold Country Hwy 49
in between
Nevada City & Downieville, CA

Woodson Bridge SRAState Park
State Recreation Area

Woodson Bridge Campground Campgrounds
on Sacramento River, in betweenRV camping
Chico & Corning, CA

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

Honey Run Bridge
HoneyRun Bridge of Butte County, California

Volcanic Buttes of Chico

Volcanic Buttes of Chico California

Gold Lake California

lilgoldlake

Hike-in only Gold Lake, Bucks Lake Wilderness.

California has more than one Gold Lake!

goldsign

Gold Lake, CA

(Sierra Co)
6409′ elev.

The biggest Gold Lake, California is the well-known one, along the Gold Lake Highway in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Plumas meets Tahoe National Forest. North of Gold Country Hwy 49, Downieville & the Yuba River. Right where the Sierra Nevada granite meets the volcanic lava rock of NorCal.

Packer Lake

Lakes Wilderness Map

Impressive jagged spires known as The Sierra Buttes (8591′) tower above the stunning lake scenery. This big Gold Lake is surrounded by a dozen smaller alpine lakes which make up the popular region called Lakes Basin. Easy access paved highway, which closes in winter for deep snow and winter recreation. The Gold Lake Highway is also referred to as Plumas County Road #S620

sierra buttes

the sierra buttes

Sardine Peak Fire Lookout lodgeranger rentals
NFS fire tower – overnight rental overlooking the Sierra Buttes and the serene Lakes Basin, Yuba River, Northern Gold Country CaliforniaUSFS

LAKES BASIN RECREATION AREA:
Cabins, camping, lake fishing, backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, off-roading, snow-mobiling.

lakesbasinhikers

California Lakes

mini gold lake

 

Mini Gold Lake

(Plumas Co)
6000′ elev.

Another smaller Gold Lake exist on the granite slopes in Bucks Lake Wilderness – E of Oroville & W of Quincy, CA.

gold lake trailheadThis hidden gem is a hike-in only lake – and well worth the effort. A somewhat short hike, great ridge line views to the east, although the last half mile of this route is a doozie (moderately strenuous).

The main trailhead departs from Silver Lake and climbs a ridge line that heads over to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). An off-shoot trail goes another mile to the miniature Gold Lake, a granite bowl of sheer beauty. A great day hike for those wishing to see the backcountry. Pack your picnic lunch, camera, and make a whole darn day of it!

Swimming & skinning dipping seem quite natural at this alpine lake, since it is a pretty remote location (without a lot of visitors) and there is absolutely no swimming allowed at neighboring Silver Lake.

bucks trailhead

The steep, overgrown, rocky shoreline leads one to bush whack through old trails, only to be met by a rock slide. Many dead ends and obstacles to climb around, or over. Some way… maybe, or maybe not!

Boulder and rock scrambling is the key phrase to remember, once you reach this lake. Knees may be sore from climbing, up and over the boulder ledge surrounding the lake bowl.

goldshore

Bucks Lake Wilderness Map

A few primitive camp sites are scattered about on the edge of the lake for those backpacking in, but be warned – they can be very difficult to reach. Much more suitable campsites can be found scattered throughout the area.

Warning: there are no flat, lush meadows to lounge in up at the lake, so pick yourself a side route (on the walk in) to find real seclusion and privacy.

view to Quincy

This mile-long-ridge hiking trail to mini Gold Lake has some amazing views down to the east side – Jacks Meadow right below; then Meadow Valley & Quincy off in the distant hills. Plumas County from above.

jacks meadow

jacks meadow, way below

Sierra Nevada Lakes

High Sierra, California

hike-in only lakes

hike

Golden Bear Lake
(Tulare Co)
12,000′ elev

High Sierra – Kings Canyon National Park
Center Basin / Center Peak 12,760′
PCT – Pacific Crest Trail
North of Mount Whitney
Eastern Sierra, Independence, CA

hike

Golden Trout Lake
(Inyo Co)
11,500′ elev

Trail #3306 from Onion Valley Campground
North of Mount Whitney
Eastern Sierra, Independence, CA

goldentroutlakecanyon

onion valley trail views

Reyes Peak

CA 33 N
Ojai Camping
North of Ojai, CA

Camp out among tall pines, well above the coastal fog.
Los Padres National Forest Road #6N06

Ojai, CA – NORTH on HWY 33
a very scenic drive, in North Los Angeles County

Coastal Foothills

Near the Pine Mountain Summit (elev 5080′) on California Highway 33, the small sign only reads PINE MTN and points east, to a rugged side road. By far one of the worst paved roads around.

This Reyes Pine Mountain, should not to be mistaken for the golf course community of Pine Mountain Club, many miles north of here, around the other side of Mount Abel.

This is Reyes Peak, also known as Pine Mountain Ridge “north of Ojai”, on the sorta paved Pine Mountain Road. (Los Padres National Forest Rd # 6N06)

overozena
The view above is from one huge dirt pull out, on the left – over looking Ozena Valley, on the west end of Lockwood Valley Rd. Motorhomes, trailers, off-roaders and hunters like this as a last minute camp site, very close to the highway.

If your vehicle can endure 9 long miles of poor pavement, pot-holed roads, then maybe you can find seclusion back in the woods around here.

Six or more primitive campsites, spread out along a forested ridge line (around 5000′ elevation). Tables and fire rings only. No fees, no toilets. Bring a shovel and plenty water. No pipes, no running water up here.

The scattered camp sites are located far enough away from each other, that the location provides some privacy and still relatively close to town. Some sites are in forested settings, while others have big boulders, but are exposed to wind and sun. Although these few sky view camps are perfect for the stargazers.

Dark night skies can be okay, if the coastal fog stays low. Neighboring Mount Pinos is all paved – usually best choice for RV campers w/ telescopes, who need large areas of flat level ground.

reyespeakcamp

One particular camp site is located at a very decent view spot. Boulders, pine trees and mountain views to the south. Click the image above to expand.

PRIMITIVE CAMPGROUNDS
Campfire permits are required.

Launch Spot

The end of the road is a top destination LAUNCH spot for hang gliders & para-sailers. Watch them jump on YouTube compliments of DanaMite.

Youtube

 

The hiking Trailhead for Reyes Peak and the Chorro Grande Trail #23W05 are also at the end of this dead end road #6N06. Reyes Peak Trail leads east, out to 7510′ elevation, overlooking the whole lower Los Padres region – Lockwood Valley, Ozena, Piedra Blanca, Sespe Gorge, Potrero Seco.

reyespeaktrail

Get outside this weekend. There are no more excuses!

MAPS: Los Padres National Forest Map

NEAREST TOWNS:

Mojave Road Map

Mojave Road Trail

The Mojave Road

Mojave Desert Back Roads

The historic Mojave Road spans the high desert region of east California – crossing the Colorado River westward to roughly Los Angeles. Now a network of dirt and paved routes follow the original overland trade route. Click the plaque photo below to read more.

The Mojave Road

The rugged, dirt road cuts right through the middle of the Mojave National Preserve. Mid Hills, Kelso Depot, Cima.

mojave topo maps

Joshua Trees, mountains, boulders, sand dunes, railroad history. The high desert is abundant with wildlife, plant life, lava tubes, caverns, camping, and dirt roads. Plus wild windy weather.

Mojave Loop

MOJAVE PARK
Located on the way to Vegas, NV – or the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Mojave NP is in the triangle space in between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40, on the eastern side of southern California. Freeway close, free camping in the Mojave does indeed exist, if you know where to look.

Mojave Map by Trails Illustrated NatGeo 

NatGeo Map Mojave California

National Geographic acquired Trails Illustrated Maps more than a dozen years ago. Ever since these plastic topo maps have gone 2 sided, full-color w/ more details featured than ever before. Updated regularly. Waterproof plastic, perfect for outdoor desert travels.

Mitchell Cavern, called Providence Mountains SRA, has camping, but it is situated up on an exposed bluff overlooking the freeway. Location gets windy as hell. Better campground is at Hole in the Wall, or even better, Mid Hills Camp.

Mojave Peaks

Primitive, free camping can be found off of Kelbaker Road, but be warned: dirt roads can get deeply rutted and impassible during extreme wet weather. 4WD may be required sometimes.

  • CAMPGROUND CAMPING
  • FREE CAMPING
  • GROUP CAMPING
  • HIKING TRAILS
  • HISTORIC MONUMENTS
  • HORSE CAMPING
  • HORSEBACK TRAILS
  • JOSHUA TREES
  • LAVA TUBES
  • MINING HISTORY
  • MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS
  • OFF ROAD CAMPING
  • RAILROAD HISTORY
  • RANCHES
  • RV CAMPING
  • SAND DUNES
  • VOLCANIC TERRAIN

Mojave Desert Map by Tom Harrison

Mojave Road Map

One of the first readily available topographic style maps of the Mojave desert. Waterproof plastic, Tom Harrison brand maps are perfect for any type of backcountry travel, on foot, on horse, or off-road.

Campsites

AAA & NPS: one-page freebie; excellent overview map created by the Automobile Association of Southern California w/ the National Park Service. Handed out at Visitors Center and ranger stations (1990s)

BLM Maps of Mojave: OHV (off highway vehicle) maps can be found at the local Bureau of Land Management ranger stations:

Benchmark California Atlas

California Atlas

Best map for statewide coverage!

This premium full state atlas has the whole, massive Mojave desert covered, which extends north into Death Valley National Park and south to Joshua Tree National Park.

Mojave Desert Books