Camping for Thanksgiving

Turkey Casserole

Turkey Leftovers?

California Camping on Thanksgiving

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

Camping for turkey day? What a concept.

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


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


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

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

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

seafood

Non Traditional: Seafood Feast

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

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

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

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

Joshua Tree Campout

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

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

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

Imperial Dunes

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

Tent Camping

ghost towns
meteor showers
hot springs

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

Did someone say FREE?

Leon at Mahogany

Horse Canyon

Horse Canyon Mojave

Horse Canyon California

Southern Sierra / Mojave Road SC 65

Mojave Desert meets the Sierra Nevada Mountains
North Highway 14

North of Mojave, CA
North of Red Rock State Park
North of Jawbone Canyon

South of south of US Hwy 395, south of jct Hwy 178

backroads BLM camping desert roads hiking PCT mountain bike jeep roads primitive camp

elevation: 3000′-7000′

Horse Canyon is a dirt road up a high desert canyon, with joshua trees and wash outs. 7000′ elevation pinyon pine ridges above w/ PCT.

Most would say the see a whole-lotta-nothingness out here in these deserts…. when they zoom by at 70 mph on the blacktop highway.

at Total Escape, we beg to differ.

Solo Driver SUV

Intersection on Hwy 14 @ SC 65, dirt route will travel west into the mountains. Initial desert road follows Little Dixie Wash, but veers north up to Horse Canyon and the higher forested ridges.

Horse Cyn is a scenic, desert, dirt road that becomes a rugged 4×4 trail the higher it climbs in the canyon. The route traverses a ridge line and dead ends at the old cabin; No through route, no loop. The PCT continues on to the Walker Pass @ the 178.

The lower Horse Canyon is area quite accessible by standard truck or SUV. High clearance is recommended out on these kinda roads. Vegetation is quite sparse at first, but improves with the miles traveled. Wildflowers can be awesome, usually April-June. Picnic spots everywhere; primitive camping sites can be found out here, off the main dirt road. Please reuse existing camp sites when possible.

wheelin pals

Passenger cars may attempt this, but should watch for unexpected deep dips and rocks, washed out in the road. (No tow service in the middle of nowhere). Road conditions do change with the seasons out in the boonies. Cell phone reception could be spotty back in the deepest of canyons.

PCT
PCT trail access: Pacific Crest Trail follows this ridge road for miles. They call this range the SCODIE Mountains; Old cabin at the end of the road.

cabin mcivers

Sage Canyon and Cow Heaven Canyon are both to the north, along with Freeman Canyon (CA SR 178). Bird Spring and Dove Spring Canyons are both to the south, along with the most popular regions of Red Rock State Park and the Jawbone OHV area.

nearby towns:

INYOKERN, CA
LAKE ISABELLA, CA
MOJAVE, CA
RANDSBURG, CA
RIDGECREST, CA

joshuacanyons

California Off Road Areas

4x4 Sierra

The list below is of awesome California locations that do have off-road trails surrounding them. Some destinations listed are heavy use off-road – with OHV parks or camping nearby, while others are simply scenic dirt backroads or forest roads for easy driving. Topographic maps can be found for most areas, and should have all roads displayed, dirt and paved routes, as well as campgrounds, hiking trails and trailheads.

SoCal 4x4 Big Bear

This California “off road towns” list was originally part of the California Off Road Maps page, but it surely deserves it’s own unique post, since it is an ever expanding list. Ongoing.

Searching for Off Road Parks inside California?

Try these links –
State Vehicular Recreation Areas
California OHV Parks

OHV Yields To All

Borrego Valley

California Off Road Maps

Jeeping

Dirt roads, backroads, desert trails, OHV routes, single tracks, dunes, fire roads, gravel roads, 4×4 roads

When you wanna explore a new area, California has plenty of public land to offer. Off Road Maps can get you away from the crowds & the main staging areas. Maps can show you prime areas to ride & camp that you may not have ever imagined. Whether you seek secluded stream side camp sites, with some fishing or a dusty, long, desert trail that spans the entire Mojave desert, you can find these secret spots with good old fashioned topographic maps.

4x4 routes

4×4 Panamint Valley has numerous canyons & ridges to conquer w/ open desert (free) camping located below

Off-roading maps that Total Escape used to carry (altho some are no longer available):


Jeep Roads Atlas
Benchmark California Atlas


The most trusted full-state book-atlas that Total Escape recommends. When you must have a (hard copy) map for local road trips – Benchmark Atlas is the best one by far.

delorme
DeLorme California Gazetteer

National Forest Service State Parks California BLM backroads camping jeeping

  • SAN BERNARDINO OHV MAP (outta print)
  • HUNGRY VALLEY OHV MAP (outta print)
  • ANGELES FOREST OHV MAP (outta print)
  • ROCK CREEK OHV TRAILS (outta print)
  • MOUNT PINOS OHV TRAILS (outta print)

NorCal Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails (book)

SoCal Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails (book)

OHV maps California


California Off Road Areas


Awesome California locations w/ off-road trails nearby. DanaMite has compiled a list of first-hand knowledge information, links, photos, campsites, maps, all revolving around rural California. Check out the ever growing list and get ready to explore the back roads, like never before.


PDF Off Road Maps


OHV use, 4×4 camps, dirt trails, forest routes; Download maps for various off-roading areas in California.

Quatal Canyon

What the heck is it ???

4WD = 4 wheel drive
4×4 = (same as above)

2WD = 2 wheel drive
4×2 = (same as above)

AWD = All wheel drive
SUV = Sport Utility Vehicle

MTB = Mountain Bike
MX = Motocross (dirt bike motorcycle)
SNOMO = Snow Mobile (sled machine)

The past two decades have emerged with vehicle redesigns from well known brands, creating a number of new “utility vehicles” for the sport of off-roading (otherwise known as, burning gasoline while recreating in the outdoors). Here is a breakdown on the acronyms, but they all basically refer to much of the same “off road type vehicles”.

ATV = All Terrain Vehicle (quad)
MOHUV = Multipurpose Off-Highway Utility Vehicle
ROPS = Roll Over Protection System
ROV = Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle
RUV = Recreational Utility Vehicle
SxS = Side by Side Vehicle
SSV = (same as above)
UTV = Utility Task Vehicle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-terrain_vehicle
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Side_by_Side_(UTV)

Common abbreviations for off-road on public lands:

OHV – Off Highway Vehicle
SVRA – State Vehicular Recreation Areas
BLM – Bureau of Land Management
NFS – National Forest (USDA)
MVUM – motor vehicle use map
PVT – private land / keep out

Big Bear Backroads

Ojai Map Elkins Flat

Around 2012 the National Forest Service printed up a bunch of nice off-road maps for various popular regions of California. Oddly, they told me not to sell them and I never heard anything about them again after that. Not even sure if these above are available to the public, but if you dig around you might find ’em.

off road maps

If interested, you could call the ranger station and ask about any local off-road maps. Mostly they have freebie one page print-outs, black & white to keep the crowds where they want them. Other times they might have real printed maps for sale at the station, the maps that can get you deeper into the terrain, with wild edges of reality nearby.

Long Valley Campground

Secluded Camp Sites

Long Valley Campground BLM

Southern Sierra Nevada
secluded camp, fishing & hiking trails
(free campground, open all year long)

South Fork of Kern River & DomeLand Wilderness

20+ miles from the nearest paved road; a remote camp on Long Valley Loop Road, off Canebrake Road. Both are dirt roads: high clearance vehicle recommended!

High Desert meets the Sierra Mountains

Back in the dry pinyon hills east of Kernville, beyond Sherman’s Pass; high above the Mojave desert and north of Canebrake & Highway 178. Long dirt roads, remote campground w/ fishing & hiking trails. Wilderness access.

hiking fishing trails horse trails back roads back roads sierra mountains

Chimney Peak Back Country Byway
Canebrake, California

These dirt back roads listed above skirt the edge of Dome Land Wilderness & Sequoia National Forest winding through BLM Land bordering the Mojave. The byway networks recreation areas between Kennedy Meadows and Canebrake, east of Lake Isabella. Eastern Kern County, California.


backpacking
camping
fishing
hiking
horseback trails
mountain biking
rock climbing
stargazing
wildflowers

Trailheads Domeland

People come way out here for the seclusion – the peace & the quiet. Mid-week you can have the whole place to yourself. Abundant hiking trails & fishing access. Into the Dome Land Wilderness you will find incredible scenery and diverse terrain – giant granite domes, waterfall canyons, and the South Fork of the Kern River (3 mi hike to river). PCTThe infamous Pacific Crest Trail passes close to Long Valley Campground, but Chimney Creek Campground is much closer to the PCT.

BLM Camping

Long Valley Campground

• Elevation: 5200′
• Number of Sites: 13
• Vehicle Accessibility: High Clearance Vehicle
• Facilities: picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilet
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: None
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: Open all year
• Operated by: BLM
• Trailheads: S. Fork Kern River & Domeland Wilderness

Bureau of Land Management
BLM Bakersfield Field Office
661-391-6000
BLM page w/ map & info

Recent Domeland Wild Fires:
Manter Fire (2000)
McNally Fire (2002)

Long Valley Loop

Long Valley Loop Road (2001)

2016 NOTE: The part of the LOOP of Long Valley Loop Road that connects this campground to Kennedy Meadows (to the north) is CLOSED due to a huge washout. The Long Valley campground is accessible from the south side, from Hwy 178 @ Canebrake – and requires many miles of dirt road driving. High clearance vehicles are recommended; 4×4 needed in wet weather or snow.

towns nearby:

CANEBRAKE
KENNEDY MEADOWS
KERNVILLE
LAKE ISABELLA
MOJAVE

High Desert Sagebrush

High Desert Sagebrush & Dirt Roads

Wildfire Burn

Manter Wildfire Burn Area (2001)