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

Camping Near Yosemite

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Camp Near Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a top destination, all year long. California masses converge on the sacred valley each summer, so expect more as the buses keep rolling in. Plan a Yosemite trip before Memorial Day weekend – or after Labor Day weekend, for less people.

Camping close to Yosemite National Park without being inside the park boundaries. The scenery and wildness doesn’t stop in the back country. There are numerous National Forests surrounding the popular National Park, so much public land has been set aside for these recreation purposes. Granite-lined mountain meadows, dense forests, raging creeks, wildlife and real seclusion. Plenty of great paved back roads, dirt roads and camping options in the Sierra Nevada.

CAMP OUTSIDE YOSEMITE NP, WHY?

No campground reservations needed, cheap or free, less crowds, less noise. More freedom, more privacy, more nature.

Hundreds of developed, small campgrounds can be found around Yosemite. A few private RV resorts, cabin rentals, lodging on the main highways. Primitive style camping is considered “camping outside of developed campgrounds”. USDA National Forests usually allows open-camping within the forest boundary – with a required camp fire permit. Sometimes wildfire danger is too extreme, so they often ban campfires in dry conditions.

YOSEMITE: SOUTH HWY 41

SIERRA NF @ Fish Camp, CA

East side of Highway 41:

West side of Highway 41:

Lakes West of Yosemite NP:
Stanislaus National Forest

all Lakes near Yosemite

Gold Country @ Mariposa, CA

Gold Country Foothills – listed below are valley reservoirs. Oaks, dry hills, which can can be super hot in summer.

 

camping

YOSEMITE WEST Highway 120

Camping near Highway 120

  • Sweetwater Campground
  • Lost Claim Campground
  • The Pines Campground

North side of Highway:

  • Lumsden Campground
  • Lumsden Bridge Camp
  • Middle Fork Campground
  • Cherry Lake Campground
  • Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (NPS)

camping

highmeadows

See all Lakes near Yosemite Park

lakes near Yosemite hiking

YOSEMITE: EAST Highway 120

Tioga Pass on Hwy 120 (elevation 9410′) is only open during summer months. Generally June through October. Always check road conditions before your trip.

Lakes @ Tioga Pass
High elevation meadows, aspen groves, snowmelt lakes. Just east of Yosemite National Park border. Inyo National Forest

leeviningcamps

Lee Vining Canyon @ US 395
Inyo National Forest

  • Cattleguard Campground
  • Moraine Campground
  • Boulder Campground
  • Aspen Grove Campground
  • Big Bend Campground

 

Mono Maloy

MONO LAKE, CALIFORNIA

Eastern Sierra Camping

tallpeaktower

Inyo Forest Campgrounds – Eastern Sierra Campgrounds

areas include: Lone Pine, Mount Whitney, Independence, Onion Valley, Ancient Bristlecone Pines, Big Pine, Bishop [Hwy 168], High Sierra, Owens River, Lake Crowley, Rock Creek, Mammoth Lakes [Hwy 203], June Lake Loop [Hwy 158], Lee Vining & East Yosemite National Park [Hwy 120]. Camping on Eastern Sierra Highway 395

Eastern Sierra recreation – backpacking, horse packing, day hiking, creek fishing, mountain biking, mountaineering, rock climbing

Listed below are all the Inyo National Forest campgrounds, County Parks, BLM public lands for outdoor recreation. Most campgrounds are closed for winter months. Blue links lead to camp reservations. Boldface links to more detailed information & photos on campground.

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Agnew Meadows 8400′ 21 pines chem piped Mammoth; Jun-Sept
Big Bend Campground 7800′ 17 pines vault piped Lee Vining, April-Oct
Big Meadow 8600′ 11 pines flush piped Rock Creek; May-Oct
Big Pine Creek 9000′ 30 pines vault piped W of Big Pine; May-Oct
Big Trees Campground 7500′ 9 pines flush piped W of Bishop ; April-Sept
Bishop Park Group Camp 8400′ 20 pines flush piped No RVs;
Bishop Creek
Crowley Lake Camp 6800′ 47 sage vault piped BLM Camp; Apr-Oct
East Fork Campground 9000′ 133 aspens flush piped fishing camp Rock Creek
Ellery Lake Campground 9500′ 12 pines flush piped E Yosemite; June-Oct
Forks Campground 7800′ 8 pines flush piped W of Bishop,; April-Oct
Four Jefferey 8100′ 106 pines vault piped W of Bishop; April-Oct
Goodale Creek 4000′ 43 cttnwd vault no BLM Camp; April-Nov
Grandview Campground 8600′ 26 pinyon vault no Ancient Bristlecone Pines
Grays Meadows 6000′ 52 pines flush piped W of Independence
Gull Lake Campground 7600′ 11 aspens flush piped June Loop; April-Nov
Hartley Springs 8400′ 20 pines vault no Glass Creek, June-Oct
Horseshoe Meadow 10,000′ 10 pines vault piped 1 day limit; horses; More
Horton Creek 4975′ 49 pines vault piped BLM Bishop; May-Oct
Intake Campground 7500′ 8 pines flush piped W of Bishop; April-Oct
Iris Meadow Campgr 8300′ 14 pines flush piped W of Bishop; May-Oct
June Lake Campground 7600′ 22 pines flush piped fishing/hiking
Junction Campground 9600′ 13 pines vault lake E Yosemite; June-Oct
Lake George Campground 9000 16 pines flush piped fish, June-Sept
Lone Pine Campground 5500′ 43 pinyon vault piped W of Hwy 395
McGee Creek 7600′ 26 aspen flush piped Tom’s Place, Hwy 395
New Shady Rest 7800′ 94 pines flush piped Mammoth, in town
North Lake Campground 9500′ 11 pines vault piped W of Bishop; June-Oct
Oh Ridge Campground 6000′ 148 pines flush piped June Lake
Old Shady Rest Camp 7800′ 51 pines flush piped Hwy 203, Mammoth
Onion Valley Campground 9000′ 15 aspen vault piped High Sierra access
Palisade Campground 8600′ 5 aspen flush piped Rock Creek; May-Oct
Pine City Campground 8900′ 10 pines flush piped Lake Mary, June-Sept
Pine Grove Campgr 9300′ 11 pines flush piped May-Oct
Pumice Flat Group Camp 7700′ 17 flush piped June-Sept
Reversed Creek Campground 7600′ 17 aspen flush piped June Loop; May-Oct
Rock Creek Lake 7600′ 25 aspen flush piped Tom’s Place; May-Oct
Sabrina Campground 9000′ 18 pines vault piped W of Bishop; May-Oct
Saddlebag Lake 10,000′ 20 pines vault piped highest camp; June-Oct
Sherwin Creek Camp 7600′ 87 pines flush piped Mammoth Lakes
Taboose Creek 3900′ 55 shade vault stream Big Pine;
open all yr
Tinemaha Creek 4400′ 55 shade vault stream Independence, Inyo Co Park
Tioga Lake Campgr 9700′ 13 pines vault piped fish Yosemite, June-Oct
Tuff Campground 7000′ 34 pines flush piped Rock Creek; RV 22′
Tuttle Creek 5120′ 83 sage vault seasonal Lone Pine; open all yr
Upper Pine Grove 9400′ 8 pines piped May-Oct
Upper Sage Flat 7600′ 21 pines vault piped W Big Pine; April-Oct
Whitney Portal Camp 9000′ 44 pines flush piped Trailhead; May-Oct
Whitney Trailhead 9000′ 10 pines vault piped Trailhead; May-Oct

sunsetgrandview

see Group Campgrounds in Inyo National Forest, Eastern Sierra

8

Eastern Sierra Vacation, see also –

Topo maps, wilderness hiking maps, fishing maps
Equestrian trails, 4×4 routes, OHV maps –

Twin LakesEastern Sierra communities include:

Dogs in Lake

Kern River Camping

relaxing at kern

Kern River California

Kern River is a top recreation destination for the lower half of the state, since it is the only big Sierra river within easy reach of Southern California.

Lower mountain elevations 2000-4000′ means camping all year is possible on the Kern. With only a few inches of rainfall, plus an average high temperature of 60 degrees in December & January, Kernville has become a year-round recreation destination for the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Kern Canyon and most surrounding mountains are managed by USDA: Sequoia National Forest, which extends south to the Tehachapi range!

Sierra Nevada ROAD CLOSURES during winter restricts that Kern Canyon is only accessible via the Hwy 178 route. Both the Western Divide Highway (to the north) and Sherman’s Pass Road (to the east) close for many months, due to snow. (typically, NOV-APRIL closure)

Snowy Springs

 

Popular Kern Recreation – backpacking, camping, fishing, hiking, river rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, off-roading & floating (inner tubing).

Kern Tube Ready

Kern River can be divided into 5 different & distinct regions:

kern gorge

Granite gorge, Kern River, South of Whitney

Kern River High Country

headwaters of the Kern River.
High Sierra, Golden Trout Wilderness, Kern Hot Springs, Mount Whitney snowmelt, Kern Gorge. foot access only, wilderness backcountry. fishing, day hikes, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, horse packs.

fencedmeadow

Upper Kern Plateau

Southern Fork of the Kern River
Golden Trout Wilderness
Monache Meadows
Troy Meadows
Kennedy Meadows
Horse Meadow Campground
Big Meadow
Long Valley Campground
Chimney Creek Campground
Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway

johnsondale bridge @ KERN

Forks of the Kern

(areas north of Johnsondale)

Johnsondale Bridge
backpackers & fishing trailheads
parking lot at the bridge. trails travel rivers edge into a tight canyon, impressive rock gorge continues up to the tallest mountain peaks in the High Sierra.
Shermans Pass Road turn-off
paved route that connects Kern River to Mojave desert.

Johnsondale Cabins: R Ranch

Sequoia #22S82 – Forks of the Kern Road

Boy Scout Camp Whitsett
Lloyds Meadow
Kern River Gorge
Lower Peppermint Campground
Primitive camps – Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3, Camp 4, Camp 5
Jerky Meadows Trailhead to Golden Trout Wilderness

kern flat camping

Upper Kern River

Kern River north of Kernville, CANFS

This part of the river sees much of the action, with kayakers, river rafters, fishermen, RVs, motorcycles, mountain bikers, backpackers and campers, seeking easy river access, hiking trailheads or just a good picnic spot.

Numerous small lodges between Kernville & Johnsondale

Brush Creek: awesome waterfalls & pools on Brush Creek, only accessible by hiking trail.

Rincon Trail runs above the river on the east side, via the Rincon earthquake fault. This is right where Brush Creek comes down the steep mountain. RINCON is favorite mountain biking trail, that is also open to dirt bikes (OHV) & equestrian, so share the trail and play nice. Rincon Camp is rugged, may be overgrown and unmaintained. Long dirt road might require high clearance vehicle or possible 4×4, if weather is wet.

kern fishing

Lake Isabella

Huge recreational reservoir in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. California State Route 178 (Hwy 178), which connects Mojave desert w/ Bako.

Isabella Lake

Lower Kern River

(river access / camping, southwest of Lake Isabella)

Historic Kern – Keyesville OHV
Off-Road Camping

Kern Canyon Road

Minimal to modest campsites in the lower canyon. Most seclusion for overnight spots, can be found along thhobo campinge empty stretches of Old Kern Canyon Road. Many curvy mountain miles, one lane, paved, several flat spots for easy road-side camping. Caution for cattle in roadway. Speed limit is generally under 40 mph for this historic route which parallels the 178.

Kern River Hot Tub

Kern River Campgrounds

gold ledge lupine

Kern River Campgrounds – NFS

Sequoia National Forest Campgrounds
Kern River, Southern Sierra Nevada

All the developed campgrounds listed below charge an overnight fee. Some are open year round, while others close for winter. Camping Reservation links provided.

kern campgrounds California NFS Kern RVing

Upper Kern River
North of Kernville, California

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

campground

elev

spots

veg

toilet

notes

Fairview Campground

3500′

55

mixed

vault

Upper Kern; RV 45′

Gold Ledge Campground

3200′

37

mixed

vault

Upper Kern; RV 30′

Headquarters Campground

2800′

44

alder

vault

Kern River; RV 27′

Hospital Flat Campground

3000′

40

alder

vault

Kern River; RV 30′

Limestone Campground

3800′

22

mixed

vault

Upper Kern; RV 30′

headquarters kern

RV campgrounds campgrounds hiking fishing campgrounds mt biking campgrounds

Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella, Kern Canyon California

Lower Kern River
South of Kernville, California

Granite Boulders

campground

elev

spots

veg

toilet

notes

Sandy Flat Campground

2300′

38

mixed

vault

open all year

Hobo Campground

2300′

35

mixed

vault

open seasonally

NFS
Sequoia National Forest
Kernville Ranger Station
760-376-3781

Additional Info on Kern Camping –

Kern Flats Camping: Free Camps
Lake Isabella
Keyesville OHV

Big Meadow Sequoia 

Kennedy Meadows, South Fork of Kern River
Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway
Dome Land Wilderness

Kern River Canyon
Kern River Hot Springs

kernrvcamper