California Camping River

map river | hiking river | map gorge

California River Maps

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

There are many gorgeous rivers in California that are perfect for camping and fishing, but none are located in Southern California. None! Yep, you read that right. If you think about it, the golden state is about half desert! The majority of our natural water in our state is coming from the north – so take this as a warning: you might need to drive a few hours to find your ideal river camp.

The easy-to-access waterways are found mostly along highways in the Sierra Nevada – or way up in NorCal. Deep granite gorges carved out by glaciers, surrounded by forested peaks is only half the appeal. High elevation lakes, waterfalls, big trees, abundant wildlife, and the alpine villages are all part of the Sierra Nevada experience.  Raft, kayak, fly fish, hike, bike or just camp out next to a big, rushing, flowing river. Our selection of California maps will get you narrowed down to a specific region, so you can find that perfect river campground, or explore and discover the back roads – for the most seclusion.

NorCal Rivers:

EEL RIVER
KLAMATH RIVER – Klamath NF Map
MAD RIVER – NFS Campground
MATTOLE RIVER
McCLOUD RIVER
NAVARRO RIVER
NEW RIVER
NOYO RIVER
PIT RIVER
RUSSIAN RIVER
SACRAMENTO RIVER CAMPING
SALMON RIVER
6 RIVERS NATIONAL FOREST
SMITH RIVER
TRINITY RIVER
VAN DUZEN RIVER

Sierra Rivers:

AMERICAN RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
CONSUMNES RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map
FEATHER RIVER Recreation Map
FEATHER RIVER – Plumas NF Map
KERN RIVER – Sequoia NF Map
KAWEAH RIVER – Sequoia
KINGS RIVER
KINGS RIVER – Sequoia Kings Canyon Map
KINGS Cyn NP
MERCED RIVER – Sierra
MERCED RIVER – Yosemite Map
MOKELUMNE RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
OWENS RIVER – Inyo NF Map
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER – Sierra NF
SOUTH YUBA RIVER Recreation Map
STANISLAUS RIVER – Sonora Pass
STANISLAUS RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map
TULE RIVER – Sequoia
YUBA RIVER – Tahoe NF Map

LOCAL TIPS for RIVER DESTINATIONS

calmrivers

KERN RIVER: The Kern River is one of the most popular of all the Sierra rivers due to its proximity to SoCal. Hurried, stressed-out, Angelinos (LA) can be at this destination in under 3 hours which makes it a very busy place most warm months. So, let it be told, that summer is not the best time to enjoy the Kern. If you do plan a summer outting, make sure you head for the Upper Kern (10+ mi N of Kernville & Lake Isabella) or the North Fork of the Kern (out in Monache Meadows) where 4×4 is often needed.

The Lower Kern River has only 2 developed campgrounds: Hobo (closed for winter) and Sandy Flat (open all year). Numerous primitive camp spots are available along Old Kern Canyon Rd, which parallels the Hwy 178 on the south side. None of which are located at the rivers edges. Fire danger is great in this area, so pay extra close attention to signs and fire restrictions.

Beer at River

YOSEMITE RIVER: Take note, this is the most popular park in the whole state. The majority of campers want to stay right on the river when they visit Yosemite National Park, but that is just plain old impossible, since reservations go fast and there is only so much room for everyone in this enclosed, narrow, precious valley. This particular park has some major floods (1997 & 2005) that wipe out bridges, the road ways, all the old wooden cabins (at Yosemite Lodge) are gone and only half of the campgrounds are still available. Yosemite has had 11 winter floods since 1916 that have caused substantial damage to property. Reservations are taken for camping and cabins – far in advance; like one year. No joke!

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

3 Yosemite Campgrounds are located next to the Merced River (inside spectacular Yosemite Valley)

hikehike

Way up in the Yosemite high country which is only open a few months outta the year, the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows Campground is located next to lush meadows and the scenic Tuolumne River. All Yosemite campsites must be reserved well in advance, so click the links above – if you are serious about a Yosemite camping trip.

Mokelumne

STANISLAUS RIVER: The Sonora Pass, the fishing is very decent way back in this granite gorge. The highway 108 is only open a few months outta the year, due to snow & rock slides – so time is of the essence. Summer time that is. Several campgrounds are located right on the river, or on the major feeder streams. Or you can opt for secluded primitive camping on the back roads. Find Sonora camping in Stanislaus National Forest.

YUBA RIVER: The biggest play time river in the northern Gold Country, this runs along Hwy 49 near Downieville and also has a major South Fork for the best swimming holes and primitive camping in this region. Tubing, rafting, kayaking, fishing, camping, gold panning, you name it, Yuba has it. Look for more on the South Yuba Recreation map, or Plumas National Forest map.

FEATHER RIVER: The top fishing river in the Lassen – Lake Oville area. Chester and Lake Almanor in the upper reaches. High Bridge Campground is nice paved-camp-site camping; a forested spot where you can fish 2 rivers on the same day. A Plumas NF or Lassen NF map would be quite helpful for this region. Lower down the mountain, lower Feather Rivers which include all 4 forks which feed Lake Oroville – West Fork, North Fork, Middle Fork Feather, and the South Fork. Lots of waterways to explore in between Chico and Quincy.

KINGS RIVER: This one particular river is the longest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, pulling snow melt from the upper reaches of the High Country and Mount Whitney. The river area just to the West of the National Park, over to Pine Flat Reservoir, is all prime for outdoor recreation. Several river rafting companies work this stretch of river.

CAMP FOUR & A HALF CABIN RENTAL
NFS KINGS RIVER
NFSrangers

hikehike

Kings River Rafters

Northern California Redwoods

Northern California Coast Hotels & Camps

redwoods parksThe north coast of California is dubbed the Redwood Empire, and driving north on US Hwy 101 passing the well-known wine country and communities near Clear Lake, means you’ve entered the official redwood region of Cali.

With over 150 mile stretch between Ukiah & Crescent City, on the Oregon border, coastal redwoods thrive in this wet climate. All along US Highway 101 you can find every assortment of lodging, from standard hotels walking distance to village shops, to small secluded cottages tucked behind a winery. Sonoma & Mendocino vineyards merge on ridge lines, at the edge of oak countryside, with redwood forests & recreational rivers to the north.

BALD HILLS ROAD: Old logging roads lead way up in elevation, behind Redwood National Park, where you can find free camping spots and firewood piles all over the clearings. A real 4×4 vehicle will be needed in wet or snowy weather conditions. AWD wagons should be cautious of deep mud and know the weather conditions ahead of time. The main gravel/dirt route traverses the Bald Hills range at 3000′ elevation and ‘epic view’ campsites are abundant. Pine Creek Road drops east into Klamath River Canyon down to Klamath Hwy 96.

Bald Hills Rd

USAL BEACH: In the olden days, USA Lumber Company had a prime place on the Lost Coast. Now it is a wonderful destination w/ remote beach campground hidden in the trees, next to the redwoods and creek, and the cliffs – and a big sandy beach w/ giant driftwood!

Towns w/ Redwood Lodging in NorCal – 

Redwood Parks in NorCal –

(from south to north, with closest town)

REDWOOD MAP

 

Redwood Map Topo

Topographic hiking and camping maps of the NorCal Redwood region –

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