Dirt Street

7S02 up hill

An avenue made of dirt, earthen highways, dirt trails, forest roads, fire roads, jeep road, graded roads. Dirt driving trails that lead into the middle of nowhere. No stop signs, no billboards, no stores, no one else around… for miles. Enjoy less crowds and more open space.

dirt streetsIf you are fed up with city life, sitting in traffic & need to vacate your mind among the barren hills of California (if only for a weekend), then Total Escape is your place. You seek solitude, peace, maybe a mini tailgate party & BBQ on a dry lake bed, with the heavenly stars above. Imagine the warm camp fire light reflecting off the high canyon walls, your music echoing, moonlight hikes for a few miles.

California has some awesome spots to drive on dirt, get way back in nature. Right up to the edge of the Wilderness boundary. That’s what this one silly “dirt street” page is all about… helping you get out there, the easiest & best way possible. We even got you the right maps!

Back Roads in California

The End of Dirt Roads

California OHV Maps

Most of this is just dirt road driving, graded, some hills, easy stuff. But on occasion you might come across a 4×4 required sign – or perhaps a triple black diamond trail. Having several good maps on hand will help you enjoy these roads, instead of stressing & wondering if there is a lock gate at the other end – 18 miles in.

Some dirt streets lead to campgrounds, some to waterfalls, some to viewpoints, some have loop options & others are just dead end; sometimes at old mines. Get ready to explore with your truck or SUV. 2WD or low clearance vehicles (such as passenger cars) should be ready to turn back if the road get too nasty. Any decent precipitation can make any unpaved road much worse & may require 4 wheel drive, so have a plan B mud terrainor C as a backup idea.

Best off road areas & parks in California:

Death Valley Roads

Tooling around Goler Wash & Barker Ranch on the very edge of Death Valley

Mountain Biking Sequoia

Bald Mountain Lookout

Mountain Biking Kern & Biking Camps in Sequoia

Mountain biking has become a popular sport especially in California. We’ve got so much great terrain, so close to home (the urban sprawl), that this outdoor hobby is bound to get you back in shape, fast. Start slow to avoid burnout and injury. The weather is awesome, just go. Plan a camping weekend & bring your bike!

Remington

KERN RIVER AREA

  • Kennedy Meadows & South to Chimney Peak Road & Long Valley. Lots & lots of open trails on bordering BLM Lands
  • Cannell Meadow – very popular route
  • Remington Trail – lower Kern River
  • Keysville California has trails and dirt roads near the Kern River & is host to the annual bike race called the Keysville Classic
  • Sugarloaf Ridge – Alta Sierra
  • Monache Meadows is a great area to explore on a mountain bike
  • Troy Meadow Campground is an excellent spot for some long day loops
  • Big Meadow Sequoia – camp & day loops
  • Rincon Trail runs parallel to the Kern River & can be accessed via Sherman’s Pass Road
  • Parks & Forests in Sequoia / Sierra Nevada –

    Big Meadow Kern

    SEQUOIA PARK BIKING

    Obvious (but humorous) information on bike riding or mountain biking in Sequoia NP. Upon doing research for this page, noticed a heck of a lotta folks typing in the phrase

    Sequoia National Park Bike

    I laugh…. but plenty people are searching for bike trails near Sequoia trees, inside the most protected of lands, the National Parks.

    Firstly, most National Parks in California do not allow bikes on hiking trails. The Sierra Nevada has NO National Parks that allow mountain biking on their trails. (official words are: Biking is allowed on the main roads in the parks but is prohibited on park trails.)

    Yuk. Who wants to ride on asphalt in the wild?

    Yosemite & Lake Almanor both have nice paved bike paths. But you may want dirt trails for biking. Be it mellow mountain biking on forest roads, or the hard core Downie-droppers.

    California Wilderness Areas are the same rules, but even tighter. So that brings us to Sequoia National Forest. Yes, indeed California National Forests allow mountain bikes on most trails, in most cases. The popular trails might even get small brown signs showing bikes that are allowed.

    Second, there are no bike rentals inside Sequoia National Park (or Kings), so you must bring yours in, or better yet ride in. I dare you. Although you cannot take said bike on a dirt trail, so you’ll need to stick to pavement only. The main highway (Hwy 198) has got to be one of the curviest, narrow, fern lined ridge routes of the region. You would be a fool to ride this area, as a senior citizen w/ a 40 foot motorhome or a speeding SUV may take you out on a curve. Seriously! You better be in great shape if you plan to descend into Kings Cyn. That route is just as dangerous if not more so. These 2 National Parks – Sequoia & kings, both get a lotta traffic. Year round.

    Thirdly – here is the biggest tip of the whole topic. In between Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks is a slice of Sequoia National Forest land. (Meaning you can ride bikes or mountain bikes here) Most call it Big Meadows Road # 14S11 & there is plenty camping all down this road – 12 miles with spur roads in every direction. A nice chunk of forest with rocks, meadows, camps & dirt roads. Granite & great scenery. What more could you ask for? More forest roads than single track trails tho and please watch for equestrian traffic. The dead end of this road leads out to 2 Wilderness areas, so be prepared to navigate with a good map in hand. No bikes are allowed in the Wilderness, remember?

    Maps for biking in the Sequoia –

    For Sequoia/Redwood Parks with less people and more open biking trails, try these –

    Wanna see some great riders & bikes in action? California Mountain Bike Races

    Bear Meadow

    Camp Site at Bear Mdw

    Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway

    chimney peak Wilderness

    East of Lake Isabella and west of Walker Pass, there is a small community called Canebrake along Highway 178 Canebrake Road, a graded dirt road climbs up into pinyon pine forests. Lamont Peak (aka Lamont Pinnacles) is a decent hike & rock climbers dig it too.

    Lamont Peak

    Chimney Creek Campground is along the main road and has RV access (28′ max), for the motorhomes who do not mind a little dirt road driving. Easy trail access to numerous area hikes. The PCT is routed close by.

    Long Valley Campground is tucked way back in the boonies with trailhead leading into the granite Dome Lands; Fishing and river access to the South Fork of the Kern.

    Long Valley Loop

    Long Valley Loop Road (2001)

    Long Valley Loop Road circles the Chimney Peak Wilderness, which skirts the Domeland Wilderness. THE LOOP is washed out and ROAD is NOW CLOSED in one portion. See BLM web site for up to date info.

    [ see the photos from 2001 ]

    nearby towns –

    ALTA SIERRA
    LAKE ISABELLA
    KENNEDY MEADOWS
    KERNVILLE
    WOFFORD HEIGHTS

    maps of the region –

    SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST MAP
    DOMELAND WILDERNESS MAP
    HIKING MAP PCT #3 (PACIFIC CREST TRAIL)

    Camp Fires Correctly

    desert bonfires

    Deserts & beaches are the only places for bonfires.

    kill your television

    Camp Fires
    The heat source, the light source, the cook source, the sock drier, the night supplier, the outdoor LIVING ROOM. The campfire is the center stage for all entertainment, true tales and ghost stories alike.

    Since the beginning of time humans have gathered around the campfire at dark. This nightly ritual is built into us on the deepest level. We miss this today. We miss the real conversations, the community, the bonding, the stories, the soul searching. We miss the connection with nature, the fresh air and the great outdoors. The night sky filled with stars and maybe a meteor shower, a hot drink and the glow of the campfire coals. Enjoying the wilderness requires certain skills. FIRE is only ONE skill – for survival, for cooking, for warmth, for safety.

    Total Escape is dedicated to those who yearn to camp, often.

    In Certain Circles

    photo – Charlie Sweeney 2010

    Some folks cannot imagine camping without a campfire, but we better get used to it here on the West Coast. Weather patterns swing from years of super-dry drought to deluge and drenching – as we’ve seen of recent in California. Dry conditions means high wildfire dangers, tight camp stove and strict campfire restrictions.

    Each California region, National Forests and State Parks have their own fire restrictions, so call ahead to rangers for current fire conditions on the place you wish to visit. Certain mountain locations will ban fires in the back country, fires on the back roads and sometimes in extreme conditions, no fires allowed even inside a developed campground.

    Campfire Basics

    Campfire Restrictions

    fire

    California is well known for its unforgiving drought conditions and its seasonal wildfire danger. Always know the fire conditions in the area you plan to camp. Most Southern California regions have banned ‘open campfires’ in forested areas, due to wildfire threat and population density. Call ahead to get an update on road closures and current campfire restrictions. Find California BLM offices & NFS ranger stations

    Campfire Permits

    If you plan on camping outside of a developed campground, you will need to get a free “camp fire permit”, which can be obtained at the local rangers office.

    Find more on FREE camp fire permits

    DSCN3700

    California Camp Fires

    • RULE # 1 – Never leave a campfire unattended
    • Build campfires in designated rings. Always try to use an existing ring when possible. If you must build a new rock fire ring, follow the guide on FireSafe
    • You will need water source & bucket, plus a decent shovel for building, maintaining and controlling a campfire. BRING enough water & tools with you to control a fire.
    • A ten foot clearance – all around, down to the bare dirt is the best practice. No brush close to the ring, no bushes, no leaves or pine needles. No dry over-hanging tree branches.
    • You might need to clean trash out of the fire pit, so bring heavy duty trash bags, or a spare old box. Shovel comes in handy here.
    • Kindling is key to getting a good fire going fast, so gather more of the small stuff. Wood gathering away from camp is usually better pickens.
    • Use environmentally friendly fire starters (with damp wood, if you must); not the BBQ lighter fluid or gasoline
    • Building fires up against a big boulder scars them w/ black soot, and although it can reflect heat back to you, it is seldom worth the unsightly damage
    • Bring chainsaws or hand saws for cutting your own campfire wood in the forest
    • Gathering wood for fuel — use only dead and down wood
    • A ranger issued “wood cutting permit” is required if you plan on cutting a full cord
    • Firewood page – buying locally, in California
    • Never burn plastics, batteries or other toxic materials in campfires
    • Tossing beer bottle caps into a campfire only litters site for future campers
    • While glass bottle smelting is a real treat among boys at night, which one is actually gonna get their hands dirty & clean up broken glass out of the campfire the following morning?
    • Do not leave any hot coals during the day (if you are away from camp). Winds could pick up.
    • Always douse campfire with water completely when breaking camp. Stir it, feel for heat, and drown it more if you hear sizzling or see bubbling.
    • Read more wild fire / campfire info on our FireSafe page

    Drown Fires

    Last Final Step

    The Final Step of Breaking Camp

     

    Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

    Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

    Stormproof LIghters

    Stormproof Lighters

    Bureau of Land Management

    free desert washes

    California BLM

    desert figure blythe

    Giant figures INTAGLIOS, on desert floor, near Blythe, CA

    Camping while traveling. The east-west corridors across the California deserts are well traveled routes. If you plan to camp, get to know areas managed by the California Bureau of Land Management.

    All BLM Offices in California BLM CA

    • 4×4
    • Back Roads
    • Car Camping
    • Canyons
    • Deserts
    • Dirt Bike Trails
    • Dunes
    • Hiking
    • Historic Sites
    • Hot Springs
    • Intagios
    • Mountain Bike
    • Off Road
    • Palm Canyons
    • Petroglyhs
    • River Camps
    • RV Camping
    • Slot Canyons
    • Tent Camping
    • Wildflowers

    ocotilloBLM

    BLM lands in California are often known as the ‘free camping’ option. freeway close campingNo charge camp sites, convenient, in-route locations, many areas along major highways or interstates. Campfire permits are always required for any open fires, BBQs and campfires.

    BLM Field Offices in California located in neighboring towns can provide maps, information and campfire permits. 

    giantcholla

    DESERT WILDFLOWERS can be found annually, February – April in most of these areas. Springtime blooms draw the crowds, but few visitors actually camp out overnight.

    When searching out premium camp sites – drive slower than 50 mph & look for the brown recreation signs. Since people like to drive fast in the desert, make sure to put your hazard lights or blinkers on, so traffic knows you are slow poking. Typically dirt roads are only marked with small, thin reflectors, maybe numbers or letters, if you’re lucky.

    Traffic noise will be minimal if you camp away from the main drag at least ONE mile or more. Motorhomes may not have the luxury to travel that distance; they often prefer to stay in large, level, flat pull outs, right near the pavement.

    If daring to venture more than 2 miles from the pavement, be prepared for rough conditions. 4WD drive may be needed in certain spots, or in the wettest of weather. Wind is always a factor in desert regions, so keep that in mind. Deep sandy washes, tow strap anyone? No facilities, no services, no toilet. Spotty cell phone coverage. Basically – the boonies!

    BOONDOCKING
    is the latest phrase for “open, free camping”

    Palo Verde Washes

     

    SEEKING QUIET CANYONS? stay away from the off-roaders. They usually congregate in dunes and specified OHV areas. Trails and dirt roads are for multi-purpose use, so a variety of recreation can be had. Many people use these public lands, so leave them clean and better than you found it. Boulder coves, palm gardens, primitive hot springs. There are plenty of hidden camp spots within the vast desert region of SoCal.

    Several BLM lands are near Wilderness Areas. Camping is allowed close by, mountain biking & hiking are usually abundant. Off roading prohibited within Wilderness boundaries.

    hikes tent camping 4x4

    URLs within the official BLM site keep changing, which is why we are rebuilding our BLM pages. So you can find what you need, easily.

    ca.blm.gov
    blm.gov/ca

    www.blm.gov/ca
    https://www.blm.gov/california

    road BLM