More Time, Offline

boulder fire ring

There once was a time when we connected more with nature. Before we closed ourselves off, behind the doors and windows, behind the computer screens, before the internet became part of daily life.

Overweight and obesity is now epidemic in America; Fast food feasting and soda pop, and yet still frustrated with life; Addicted to television, sugar, coffee and what else. Wi-fi streaming, video games, always indoors, online, enjoying air conditioned cubes. Inactive physically, emotionally vacant, bored with life, but always on social media.

Stop and think. Look what has happened to us.
Is this the life you envisioned?

blue light special

Campfire Community

Cooking over a camp fire and real conversation are just a few examples of what we have lost in our modern world of technology. Fresh air, wild flowers, alpine lakes, star filled skies and total silence – all still exist in certain areas, but you must know where to look. Birds and bees, wildlife is disappearing at extinction levels. Pollution, powerful corporations and politics.

Stop and look. See what has happened to earth.
Is this the world you envisioned?

Highland Wildflowers


Gone! Away, split, out of town. Off work, out of school, on vacation. Outdoors, always. Far, far away.
Unplugged, out of range, vacant lands, big trees, open skies, clear views. California is the land of dreams. Opportunity, fantasy, education, agriculture, terrific terrain and epic scenery. Campfires, waterfalls and mountain meadows are waiting for you.

Wilderness boundary, abundant dirt roads and freedom; cell phone calls dropped. Beyond the city limits. Well past the county line. Roads lead out of the matrix, if you desire to follow them. Concentrate on new reality and disconnect long enough to commune with nature for once. Find the time to really relax and re-evaluate life. Hike, bike, walk, camp, birdwatch. Be outdoors, often!

Cheap Road Trip

Total Escape is your California planner. Find free campsites, canyons, rivers, creeks and new places to explore.

Find something to do this weekend –
All post alphabetical.

avoid crowds

out of the box

play hooky

recreate

nicemeadows

Mill Creek California

free river camp sites

Mill Creek w/ Lassen Peaks (July 2011)

Numerous Mill Creeks exist in the golden state of California. Here we will try to list the most well known ones, some with campgrounds and others without.

LASSEN NF

The well-known Mill Creek, is the one south of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

MILL CREEK, CA

Small mountain resort in the forest near Mill Creek, with cabin rentals and campgrounds nearby.

Mill Creek Indians: Described as a group of ‘renegade and outlaws’, from multiple tribes in NorCal. Mill Creek Indians took shelter in the secluded the secluded Mill Creek gorge, located below the Mill Creek Rim, a volcanic ridge which extends from Mount Lassen to the Sacramento River Valley

KLAMATH NF

Mill Creek inside the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

  • Mill Creek Ponds Trailhead – Mill Creek Ponds Trail
  • Etna Mill Creek Trailhead – Etna Mill Creek Trail
    (Pacific Crest Trail access)

PCT

PLUMAS NF

Mill Creek @ Bucks

Mill Creek @ Bucks

The Bucks Lake Wilderness region also has a developed NFS Mill Creek Campground. The camp location is well off the Bucks Lake Road, tucked deep in a tight canyon; northern most point and near a dam for the large Bucks Lake.

elevation = 5200′

  • 10 camp sites
  • fee
  • closed in winter
  • 14 night camp limit
  • RV = 21′ max
  • pit toilets
  • picnic tables
  • camp fire rings

Bucklin Road (aka Bucklin Dam Rd and Road 33) #24N24 a paved road on the west end of Bucks Lake, connects to Road #24N88X which leads back to this smaller campground; camp sites are paved. Steep driveway down.

This Mill Creek intersects Bucks Lake at the campground, then connects to the PCT hiking trail, although the narrow dirt road #24N88X veers away from creek a few miles up.

SIERRA NF

SEQUOIA NF

This Mill Creek is located on the south shore of the lower Kings River, above Pine Flat Reservoir. This is the boundary where Sequoia NF meets the big river, and on the other side of the water is the Sierra NF.

Mill Flat Campground (also known as Mill Creek Camp) is a small campground on a dirt road, located right at the rocky rivers edge.

kings river view

As usual – the further you drive, the more seclusion you will find. This observation holds true for this Mill Creek location. During peak summer months, there may be families enjoying this spot, but most of the year it is virtually empty and rarely used.

Oak foothills, canyons, granite rocks, wildflowers. Fishing, camping, hiking, rafting, kayaking.

No cell phone coverage back in this deep canyon.

NFS Mill Flat Campground @ Lower Kings River

elevation = 1167′

  • 5 camp sites
  • free, no charge
  • open year round
  • 14 night camp limit
  • RV = 25′ max
  • pit toilets
  • picnic tables
  • camp fire rings

kings tables

campground mill creek

Mill Flat Kings River

Mill Flat Kings River

Sierra NF – Road #9

sierra10S69

Sierra National Forest
Big Creek Road #9

aka. Rd #10S69

Connects Pine Flat Reservoir @ Lower Kings River, to upper elevation Sierra forests near Dinkey Creek Road. McKinley Grove of Sequoia

Sierra Road number 9 is a north turn off of Trimmer Springs Road. Marked as National Forest Rd #10S69, as well as just plain NINE. Big Crk. canyon is after the Maxson Road junction, and before the Balch Camp / Blackrock Reservoir turn off on #11S12. The area is known for abundant wildflowers in the early season.

dirt road climbs 25+ miles thru Sierra NF

sierra9

  • back road exploring
  • camping
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • hunting
  • kayaking
  • picnic areas
  • swimming
  • wildflowers
Tall White Lupine

Tall White Lupine

Big Creek Rd 9

A popular dirt road drive for the western Sierra – Pine Flat Lake region. A forested, south facing canyon in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Big Creek, wide, graded, dirt road w/ primitive camp sites. 4×4 could be needed in wetter months.

The higher you go on this route, the more pine trees you will experience. Winter weather can close this route. A campfire permit is required to camp along this road.

The lower part of the canyon has rock features, small waterfalls, swimming holes, picnic spots and sometimes cattle grazing. Several prime unmarked, primitive camp sites along this road – but few and far between. High clearance or 4WD may be needed, depending on road conditions.

sierra hiker

Soaproot Saddle Road is a not-so-obvious left fork (dirt, without signs) that leads steeply up away from main road. Climbs a steep hillside, way up above and along Rush Creek; continues for many miles. Less people back this way, if you are seeking seclusion. Few primitive camp sites on right side of road, near where the creek breaks away from road. Good for stargazing way back here. 4×4 may be needed. Road may or may not connect through to desired destination.

The mid-route climbs into pine forest and the dirt road switchbacks, steeply, with a few more camp sites available; usually found on short side roads off the main road.

sierra creek camps

At Sierra #9, a major junction w/ dirt road #10S69, called Dinkey Trimmer Road. This leads way off through the rugged terrain, many miles, over to the pavement at Dinkey Creek Jct – Campground, Trailhead and Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.

Big Creek will turn left (north), and follows the large Big Creek Canyon. Several steep miles climb up into the dense pine forest, following the creek the whole way. Several prime creekside camp sites fill up fast in this stretch. Great views, steep dirt roads. GPS waypoint these camp driveways – so you can find it next time, (first, before everyone) on Friday, Thursday before midnight.

Peterson Mill Road is Rd #10S02, found on the left (west) side of Sierra #9. That westbound route becomes pavement half way back to Highway 168. This way is the quickest way from Fresno, out to the developed NFS Bretz Campground.

Sierra #9 Big Creek Road arrives in the densest of forests. Many camp sites and side routes to explore. Dark, upper elevations, snow lingers long in the shade. 4WD may be needed in wet areas. Mud is quite common MOST of the year in this spot, so know your vehicles capabilities before you get yourself stuck (or stranded). It’s a very long walk to any kinda civilization!

Hunters like to use these upper camps during hunting season. A camp fire permit is required, so bring your shovel and bucket; self-sufficient campers enjoy the back roads most often.

wild sierra flora

Bretz Campground NFS is up here on the main road, number nine. Clock it w/ dash trip meter; 15 miles from the road start @ Pine Flat Lake. Popular with OHV and 4×4 groups. Max RV or trailer length = 24′
Open all year long; No fee.

Sierra Forest Road #9 the far north end, enters Blue Canyon @ #10S18, but the Rd #9 route continues NE as Providence Creek Road. Eventually intersecting @ Dinkey Creek Rd w/ Rock Creek & Dinkey Dome closeby. Great granite 4×4 Trail @ Bald Mountain (elev. 7832′) overlooking Shaver Lake.

Jeepers on granite @ Bald Mtn, above Shaver Lake, CA

Kings River Camping

2 tone lupine

SIERRA MAP
sierra National Forest map

places nearby –
shaver lake map

Balch Camp (utility & NFS)
Black Rock Reservoir
Courtright Reservoir
Dinkey Creek
Huntington Lake
Lakeshore, CA
Pine Flat Lake
Shaver Lake, CA
Trimmer Springs
Wishon Reservoir

Lake Kaweah

wildflowers

Sequoia Foothills Reservoir, CA SR 198
Kaweah Lake

Southern Sierra lake located on Kaweah River, near the mouth of Mineral King Canyon. In between the western Sierra foothills and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley. West of Sequoia NP, east of Visalia, California.

Crystal Cave
Mineral King
Sequoia National Park
Three Rivers
Visalia

The small town of Three Rivers is just up the road from this small reservoir & their slogan is the ‘southern gateway’ to the Sequoia National Park.

There are several recreational reservoirs that are situated at the base of the Sierras, along the western slopes. The Kaweah River transports snowmelt deep from the Sierra Nevada mountains, down to the San Joaquin Valley (Central Valley), for human consumption, households, and agriculture.

Lake Kaweah California

elevation: 1945′
surface area: 1200′
vegetation: minimal trees, scrub oak, wildflower foothills

fishing –

  • bass
  • bluegill
  • catfish
  • crappie
  • trout
  • recreation –

  • backpack
  • bike
  • boat
  • camp
  • canoe
  • hike
  • houseboat
  • kayak
  • sail
  • swim
  • waterski
  • CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

    Horse Creek Recreation Area
    Horse Creek Campground
    76 camp sites

    Kaweah Rentals

    Kaweah Marina has patio boats, fishing boats, and paddle boards available for rent. Reservations are needed in summer for weekends and holidays. 559-597-2526

    Kaweah Houseboats

    Privately owned house-boats can be seen on this lake, although none are available at the marina for rent. Some can usually be found for sale on visalia.craigslist.org

    Weather: Lake Kaweah Dam

    US Army Corps of Engineers
    PO Box 44270
    34443 Sierra Drive
    Lemon Cove, CA 93244
    559-597-2301

    Gateway

    Sequoia Highway 198 has many side routes worth exploring: Mineral King Road will get you to amazing scenery, but there ARE NOT ANY Sequoia groves up that way; Crystal Cave, open for tours is located near the south entrance of the National Park; and a lesser known campground in this area is called South Fork, off on a residential side route canyon – South Fork Drive (Road #348); Located on the quiet South Fork of the Kaweah River.

    Sequoia Maps:

  • Mineral King Map
  • Golden Trout South Sierra Map
  • Golden Trout Trail Map
  • Kings Canyon High Country
  • Sequoia Kings Canyon NatGeo
  • Sequoia Kings Canyon NP Map
  • Sequoia National Forest Map
  • Sequoia Atlas

    1933 River Kaweah
    Three Rivers is small community located along the Kaweah River.

    North Fork Drive: North Fork of the Kaweah River is a seldom traveled dirt back road that leads from the east side of the lake @ Hwy 198, northbound (along the North Fork of Kaweah River), straight into the backdoor of Sequoia National Park’s ridge line highway @ Dorst Campground. The original town of Kaweah (elev 960′) is along this route. Many small dirt roads to explore up this way and a good topo map is advised.

    CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

    Eshom Campground (on western border of NP), a small slice of Giant Sequoia National Monument land, Redwood Creek and a trailhead called Redwood Saddle are all back up in here. Have a few good maps to cross-reference while traveling back roads and trails. This major dirt route is often closed and gated by the rangers during wet, winter months.

    Kaweah River Sequoia

    nearby destinations:
    Lemon Cove, CA
    Mineral King, CA
    Sequoia National Park
    Three Rivers, CA

    lake_kaweah

  • Perfect Tent Spot

    Boulder Cove Camping

    Choosing your Perfect Tent Spot

    Before you can choose the ultimate place for your tent, you must decide where it is you wanna sleep OUTDOORS. What ultimate location? Your destination can play a huge factor in you getting a peaceful nights rest. And do you really need a campground? Or, are you ready to try to rough it, without the amenities? Best camping is off-the-beaten-path, and usually on the back roads. Trailhead camps, 4×4 camps, best view camps, creek camps; Dispersed camping, often called primitive camping. Focusing here on car camping, tent camping and backpacking routes.

    Sierra Granite ViewsJust choosing a flat tent spot isn’t good enough anymore. You crave the best camping experience and seek real nature, with minimal crowds. No annoying neighbors, no parking hassles, no traffic or cars passing by. We at Total Escape are here to help you get to your wilderness goals and experience nature like never before. Right here, right now and it doesn’t hafta cost you a dime.

    California Camping Destination:

    Let’s start with a terrain overview. California has it all ­ – mountains, deserts, coastal, rolling oaks with rivers in the countryside, plus the infamous wine country and developed campgrounds within city limits. Desert camping in summer months should only be attempted by the experienced camper who loves 90+ temperatures. Mountain camping in winter can be freezing, so make sure you have the proper gear. Good maps are a must have and the readily available National Forest maps are your best avenue for getting and staying away from the masses. Visit our Destinations page to decide what kinda place you wanna ‘call home for the weekend’.

    topo mapsIf you are the “I don’t care where I sleep kinda guy, as long as I can do/see this many things” all crammed into a 3-day holiday weekend, then you best do your research ahead of time. Get a good map, measure the mileage, plan picnic stops and sightseeing. Plan to set camp in a central location close to the main highway to call home-base, so you can be off exploring as much as possible.

    Schedule in some “down time” or a full day for relaxing. Calculate driving distances and pad it w/ an extra hour. Maybe make a campground reservation if you are visiting a National Park or busy State Park. If you plan to wing it without reservation, always have plan B or plan C  options already picked out. With millions of residents and tourists on the west coast, chances are you won’t be the only person wanting to do Big Sur, Yosemite or Point Reyes that particular weekend.

    camp

    Helpful Hints
    for a Good Nights Sleep @ the Camp Site

    • Bring a decent Sleeping Pad. Air Mattress with the inflator pumps will be the most luxury, without sleeping directly on the hard ground. Therm A Rest sleeping pads are another fine option, for those who like to travel light and still have air underneath them. Extra blankets, always.
    • Flat & Soft ground is the goal in choosing the best tent spot. Park your vehicles over the rocky slanted ground and keep the best flat areas for your camp site.
    • Do not pitch a tent in a meadow, no matter how inviting it looks. Wetlands and meadows are fragile ecosystems, an area that should be protected.
    • Look at the big trees above your sleeping spot and examine them. Do not place your tent near or underneath a dead tree or a dead limb. Trees do break and fall, especially if winds pick up. This could be a life or death choice, so remember to look up.
    • Bring abundant good tent stakes and USE them. Yellow plastic stakes are for soft cedar and sand. Thin aluminum stakes are for backpackers. Large steel nail stakes (some w/ plastic tips) are best stakes for all-around terrain.
    • Bring a mallet to pound stakes or use big rocks to hammer them. Gloves are also a good idea!
    • Never underestimate the use of a big tarp and some rope.
    • Guy lines help hold a tent in place when windy weather turns to big storm. If wind is in the forecast, then do this task before you head out on your day hike away from camp.
    • Make sure selected tent site is flat. Lay on the ground to check it out.
    • Place head of bedding up hill (if any slant can be noticed)
    • Tents should be at least 10 feet away from your campfire. At least 100 feet away from a creek or lakeshore.
    • Beach camping at the ocean edge; Know the high tide mark; place tent accordingly.
    • Slot canyons are awesome, sandy, narrow washes, many with cliffs and caves. In the desert badlands these can become raging rivers w/ flash floods. When rain is heavy in the mountains many miles away, you could get flooded in the low lands. If you hear any thunder – RUN to high ground. Better off picking another camp site, than to die by a wall of water!
    • Shade in the Desert sounds like an oxymoron, unless you find a place with high cliffs, or slot canyons. Tamarisk trees and palm canyon locations are usually an oasis of RV tourists & travelers. Hot Springs are also busy spots. Pinyon pines, juniper and over-sized manzanita can be found in higher elevation deserts above 1000′. The prime desert camping season is generally October thru March, as April can easily soar close to 90 degrees high.
    camp

    Campgrounds listed individually on
    California town pages A to Z

    campfires

    morning sunshine

    Late Nighters & Sunrise:
    Determining East & the North Star

    reading the stars

    Sequoia NF - The Den

    Campground vs. Dispersed Camping:

    Follow Dirt Roads
    Some people swear by the open spaces and back road camping options, as they have more seclusion, plenty privacy and best off all, no campground fees. You might need a GPS and a high clearance SUV to reach some of these camp spots, but you will be blessed with a unique secret spot to call your own.

    Campgrounds come in all styles these days: From small primitive camps on a creek to the luxurious RV resorts with laundry room and showers. And then there is everything in between. This web site Total Escape specializes in FREE camping on the back roads and the smallest of campgrounds.

    Reservations are usually accepted at the most popular camp locations, many are wide open on weekdays and the majority of campsites overall are available on a first come, first serve basis.