Tag Archives: Campsites

Bear in California

black bear

California Black Bears

califrepublicAlthough the grizzly bear image graces the state flag, grizzlies were killed off during the gold rush days. Black bears are found in California mountains and foothills, down to lowest elevations in NorCal. California black bears come in more than one color –  light brown, cinnamon, dark brown, and of course, black. For the most part, bears usually stay away from people.

Some areas are more prone to bear problems due in large part to the overpopulation of tourists and abundance of food Bear Habitatprovided by them. Certain California National Parks are particularly notorious for their brazen bear populations. Concentrated bear problems are sometimes posted so be very aware and read signs. If you see steel bear boxes, leave no food or drink in your vehicle. Use the boxes to keep bears from breaking into your car!

California Black Bears

Follow some simple rules:

  • Keep a very clean campsite
  • Clean up all dirty dishes & beverage containers (especially before bedtime)
  • Keep clothing & sleeping bags free from food odors or heavy scents
  • Never leave any type of food garbage ‘bagged up’, sitting outside of a cabin rental, motorhome, trailer, or mountain home
  • Store garbage properly inside a locked, sturdy container inside garage or a shed
  • Stay away from bear cubs, there is sure to be a protective (aggressive) mother in close proximity
  • Try not to hike alone. Make noise & sing on trails to scare away any unwanted animals.
  • Bear storage canisters are available at sporting good stores & at stores in most National Parks.

Proper Food Storage Outdoors:

Bear Boxes @ Campground

Store food in closed up automobile, not visible. Store food correctly: in trunk of your car, or hidden from sight; in campground food lockers when available.

Lock all food, beverages and coolers in the provided metal bear boxes or bear lockers where available.

Toothpaste, deodorant & anything that has a scent should be thought of as food and stored accordingly.

Bears are so strong they can rip your car door open (in places like Yosemite, where bears are problem and you can get cited for not storing food items properly)

Bears are so strong they can break open a garage door to get to the smelly trash inside, so make sure you utilize the curbside pickup service available in some mountain communities or take a trip to the dump once per week.

carcampers

DO NOT LEAVE FOOD OUT, UNATTENDED, outdoors…
during a picnic lunch, a quick snack, maybe a barbeque, or dinner around the campfire.

Birds, dogs, squirrels and wild animals can move in quickly.

hiker

Backpackers should hang food in nylon bag & drape over weak branch in high in tree: hang your food using the counterbalance method. Ranger who issues your wilderness permit can explain the hanging procedure;

2 stuff sacks (with drawstrings) for your food items, and 60 feet of medium weight cord. 2 carabiners make hanging much easier.

Bear Canisters

Bear Canisters

for your food when exploring the wilderness

hikers tent campers mountains rivers picnic lakes

Bear Repellent / Bear Mace
Bear Pepper Spray

 

camp  4x4 campfire fish

Additional Storage Tip

As for storing food inside cars:

When primitive car camping on a dirt road, which does not have campgrounds, nor bear lockers, it is possible to store food in the vehicle. BEST location is on the front floorboards with towel over it. With the car alarm set at bedtime, any ruckus should trigger a decent alarm. Any large animal trying to break in will get blasted with alarm siren & most likely will run away. The noise will wake you up as well, to deal with the intruder, if need be.

If a bear does get into your camp area:

  • At night, bring bear repellent can into tent, storing it close to the door. Bring a weapon for added protection.
  • Make as much noise as possible: yell, bang pots/pans, whistle, air horn and get your bear mace or pepper spray ready in hand
  • Raise your hands up to appear larger; lift clothing, increase appearance of size and yell aggressively toward bear.
  • Get your entire camp group together, join hands and spread out; Everyone at the camp should be outside the tents in order to be as effective as possible
  • Throw rocks & small objects; pots, pans, chairs
  • If possible, try to get to your car for protection
  • Sound the alarm on a vehicle &/or honk the horn

If you encounter a bear on a hiking trail:

  • Make as much noise as possible while walking solo. Hum, sing, talk to the birds. Sing or talk to yourself – out loud. Bear bells can be worn on hiking boots. Do not hike w/ headphones on listening to music/radio.
  • Carry bear spray (mace or pepper) in a belt holster, or easy to reach pack.
  • If a bear approaches: stand still, slowly retreat, say a few calming words in a friendly voice and calmly retreat, keep eyes on the bear

encountering a bear  – see more on this topic 

bearcreek

camptruck pinetree  ranger

Bear Meadow
Camp Site at Bear Meadow, Sequoia NF

dirtbikes

Bear Box in Mineral King

driftwood

Camp Help

California Camping Lakes

campTotal Escape loves camping so much that this web site literally has hundreds of pages on the topic, but we won’t overwhelm you with the list on this page. Below is a good cross section of what camping pages we have & what to expect.

camp hike

Camp Clueless an overview & great for beginners
Camp subset of the California camping world
Camping a growing photo journal of lakes & info
Campers Check List PDF print it & tape it to your gear
Where to Go! small towns, parks, forests, lakes, rivers
California Lakes List a growing journal of lakes, photos & info
Camp Clean be bear aware, keep a clean site
Eco Friendly escape to no rules (except a few)
Outdoor Gear best outdoor gear we recommend
Maps & GPS get lost & love it, but make sure you have backup
Camp Comforts luxury inspired, comfy camping review
Camp Potty backcountry camping rules & etiquette
Camp Fires backcountry campfires & permits
Fire Safety campfire rules, wildfires, restrictions
Firewood extensive list of all wood dealers
Poison Oak be careful, California is full of it
California Back Roads dirt roads, off the beaten universe
SUV 4×4 Camping get that dang sport utility dirty
Lassen Camping for Free, Mill Creek @ 172
Lassen Camping for Free on Mill Creek
site14
Heart Bar Campground, SoCal

RV

campfire

NFS

NPS

Your public lands: What’s the Difference?
California State Park , State Recreation Area, National Park, National Forest, BLM

California Firewood Dealers
California Firewood Dealers

 

taylorsvillecamp

Camping in California is a blast! Enjoy nature, sleep under the stars, exercise & save money while vacationing. We show you road trips geared around nature, all local, all outdoors, all California. Exploring dirt roads for secluded spots and small campgrounds, learning new survival skills in the back country and enjoy the wilderness without the tourist crowds. The average weekend trip can run you as little as $100.00. This includes fuel, groceries, firewood and maybe camp or park fees. Once purchased your basic camping gear – tent, sleeping bag and stove can last you decades if properly cared for.

Whiskeytown Lake

Or search by TAG, now on Total Escape!

Campfires in California

Campfires on the Back Roads
Campfires on the Back Roads: permit, shovel & water bucket required

campfireWhen & Where – Campfires in California

California has many different National Forest districts and each region has their own fire restrictions. State Parks & BLM also manages recreation areas & camping in the Golden State. Each agency & region has different rules, so blanket answers cannot apply to general questions on campfires.

CAMPFIRE PERMITS
Campfire permits are required for fires outside of designated recreation sites. During fire restrictions, campfires could be banned. Campfire Permit are available from Forest Service, CalFire or BLM offices or online, http://www.preventwildfireca.org/

ranger

Manter Fire, Dome Land Wilderness
Manter Fire [2000], Dome Land Wilderness, Southern Sierra Nevada

the new abnormal

California suffers more from wildfires now than ever before. Native tribes let lightning strike wild fires burn and they did not suppress wildfire. Residential development creeping ever higher and denser into the foothills, an abundance of roadways, with the overgrown forest make fire danger ever more real.

Closed off wilderness areas, impassable dirt roads, landslides, fallen trees everywhere. Utility services (power lines), plus high winds and overgrown forest also play a huge part in the current wildfire catastrophes. Drought conditions or record winter rains, the huge population on the west coast -along with many other factors – means more fire danger. Educate yourself and others on fire safety, forests and weather patterns. Heed the wind, while in the wild. Wind spreads fire easily!tent camping

Current Fire Restrictions:

By mid summer we have usually have several wild land fires burning, which means campfire restrictions are usually in place before JULY 4th weekend. When this happens – No open campfires are allowed in the backcountry or on the back roads.

Often in the driest of years, no campfires are allowed (even inside the campgrounds).

camp

If you love to primitive camp outside of developed campgrounds, you need to plan more road trips for spring time & autumn. Or head further north, well above Redding – where the forest are moist and snow graces Mount Shasta year round. Or perhaps, go desert camping during winter months. Checking the National Forest web sites can be confusing and their online information could be outdated.

Each forest and area is individually managed. No concise, easy-to-read list or online map exist on which forests are allowing backcountry campfires – and which ones are not. Conditions seem to change so often and they aren’t great about updating those .gov web sites.  Best to call a local ranger station and ask about any current fire restrictions. You know, actually “talk on a phone” to a USFS, BLM or CalFire official.  If you can speak to a field ranger, they can tell you more on dispersed camping. Or you can navigate the USDA web site to find current ALERTS & RESTRICTIONS. Cryptic lingo may be encountered, and many clicks maybe needed; possibly forcing you to down a PDF of current fire rules.NFSlogo

Here is a page with all the California National Forests listed w/ phone numbers
http://www.totalescape.com/active/campstuff/NF/NFS.html

Narrow down a specific region by checking out where fires are active today and selecting a region well away from big fires.
http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

see more on this topic –

Fire Safety
Camping Without a Campfire
Firewood Dealers

rock fire ring

Camp Fires Correctly

walkincampsite
Eagle Lake Tent Campground

 

NO Campfires?
No Campfires in California?

hiker

Fire Light Cove
Cove Camping in Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Los Angeles Group Camping

Los Angeles Group Camping

Angeles Crest Campgrounds

Angeles

 

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Bandido Campground 5,700′ 120 pines vault piped Group Camp
Coulter Campground 5,200′ 50 pines vault piped Group Camp
Jackson Flat 3,400′ 180 pines flush piped Jackson Lake
Los Alamos Campground 2,600′ 75 sage flush piped Pyramid Lake
Meadow Group Camp 5,200′ 100 pines flush piped Lower Chilao
Lightning Point 6,200′ 200 pines vault none Group Camp
ODCmapout
Outdoor Clubs, found in L.A.

jacksonsign

nearby towns –

Pyramid Lake
Family Fun @ Pyramid Lake, along Interstate 5

Angeles Maps – hiking, OHV & mountain biking –


San Diego Camping

Anza Backroads

Cleveland National Forest Camping – San Diego Campgrounds – Desert Camping Anza Borrego – SD County Campgrounds – BLM Campgrounds – San Diego Beach Camping – San Diego Mountains

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Bobcat Meadow 3800′ 16 oaks vault no no RVs
Burnt Rancheria 5000′ 100+ pines vault piped Sunrise Hwy
Cibbets Flats 4200′ 23 oaks vault piped Interstate 8
Corral Canyon 3500′ 20 oaks vault piped OHV near I-8
Dripping Springs 1800′ 26 oaks vault piped Hwy 79, E Temecula
El Cariso North 2600′ 24 oaks vault piped small RV
Fry Creek Campground 4900′ 20 oaks vault piped Palomar Mountain
Indian Flats Campground 3600′ 17 oaks vault piped off Hwy 79
Laguna Mountain 5500′ 75 pines vault piped Sunrise Hwy
Palomar SP Campground 7000′ 13 pines vault piped Palomar Mountain

Anza Camping

Anza Borrego Desert Camping & Campgrounds

Desert Mountain Biking Open Camping Stargazing Hiking

San Diego County Campgrounds

Sweetwater Reservoir, Otay Lakes, Agua Caliente, Vallecito
Camping Reservations 877-565-3600 or 858-565-3600

Camping

Bureau of Land Management

San Diego BLM Camping

Lark Canyon, Cottonwood @ McCain Valley near Interstate 8
El Centro Desert OHV, Hot Springs, Colorado River

Coastal Cliffs San Diego

San Diego Beach Camping

Coastal Towns with Camping near San Diego –

Chula Vista
Coronado
San Diego
Mission Beach & Bay
Del Mar
Cardiff
Carlsbad
Oceanside

Indian Flats Campground

Indian Flats Campground is located on a dirt road off Hwy 79, near Warner Springs CA. Boulder ridges & manzanita surround this oak filled secluded canyon. Small seasonal creek & waterfall is a short walk from campsite.

Free Camping
Anza Borrego Desert by far has the best free camping options available near San Diego.

Maps Mountains / Desert Topo / San Diego Area Maps

Sacramento River Camping

The Sacramento River of Northern California

The main artery from the North; the Big River of California

Sac River California

Mighty Mount Shasta snowmelt flows south, bound to meet the giant Lake Shasta, which merges with the Pit River and numerous other major waterways, becoming the big Sacramento River. Running right down the center of the North Sacramento Valley to merge into the California Delta. Shipping channel links the State Capital city of Sacramento with the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Agriculture and wildlife depend on this river heavily.

tent camping camp sites, campground camping, RV camps, dump stations, marinas, bait, gasoline, public boat ramps, boating, fishing, kayak rentals

Redding Winters

CAMPGROUND PARKS below listed from NORTH to SOUTH

JGW RV Park
Riverland Drive
South Redding, CA

Sacramento River RV Park
Riverland Drive
South Redding, CA

Wildlife Refuge
Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge
Willows, CA
~ Camping is not permitted on the Sacramento NWR. Along the Sacramento River, camping is permitted on GRAVEL BARS for up to 7 days during a 30 day period. For waterfowl hunting, overnight stay is permitted in a vehicle or RV in designated areas. Tents are prohibited. No person may build or maintain fires except in portable gas stoves.

Orchards

Chico Area

Lake Red Bluff Recreation Area
Red Bluff, CA

Driftwood RV & Fishing Resort
@ Mill Creek Park
Los Molinos, CA

Hidden Harbor Marina & RV Park
Los Molinos, CA

River’s Rest Resort
Los Molinos, CA

Woodson Bridge RV Park
Corning, CA

State Parks
Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area
Historic State Park w/ Campground
South Avenue (A9)
Corning, CA

Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park
Chico, CA

Colusa Landing & RV
Butte Slough Road
Colusa, CA

State Parks
Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area
Colusa SRA Camping

Camping Colusa
Tent Camping Colusa SRA

California Delta Region

State Parks
Brannan Island State Park
Rio Vista, CA

Sandy Beach Solano County Park
2333 Beach Drive
Rio Vista, CA

Vieira’s Resort
California Delta
Isleton, CA

State Parks
Old Sacramento State Historic Park
Downtown
Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Hostel, see more budget lodging

1N17 – Inyo NF

1N17

Road #1N17 – Inyo National Forest

Highway 158 @ Grant Lake, North June Lake Loop

Forest Road 1N17 is a major graded dirt road that connects June Lake Loop to the Lee Vining junction, the back way. West side of US 395; south of Hwy 120.

At north end of Grant Lake, slow down and look for the signed intersection. Sage brush hills and big drainage, with towering granite peaks above.

This well-traveled, wide dirt road leads along the base of the mountain range on BLM land, skirting the National Forest. Several side routes head up into numerous canyons, which are part of Inyo NF. Suitable for SUV, passenger cars, camper van and small RVs. Easy access off US Highway 395 and June Lake Loop #1S63

side routes off #1N17 –

Parker Lakes Road #1S25A
Sawmill Canyon #1S24
Bloody Canyon #1S23
Walker Lake Trailhead
Bohler Canyon #1S19
Gibbs Trailhead #1S106

walkertrail

Several hike-in only lakes, creek camping, some seclusion. Great picnic areas, trail head access, short or long hikes. National Forest lands. Backpacking, day hiking and primitive camps, some deep in the aspens. Autumn here can be gorgeous, and these are all prime summer time camp sites, for free. Make sure to get your campfire permit ahead of time, at ranger station in Mammoth. Wilderness permits may also be required for overnight camping in this canyon, so check with the NFS rangers on that issue.

towns nearby:
June Lake, CA
Lee Vining, CA
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Mono Lake, CA

Ansel Adams Wilderness
Inyo National Forest

Certain areas back here can be muddy in springtime, other major routes can even be over whelmed with water when creeks swell. Summer thunderstorms are common. One lane bridges should always be driven with caution, especially on dirt roads. Always be extra slow when driving thru water at creek crossings.

area maps:
Inyo National Forest USDA
Ansel Adams Wilderness Maps
Mammoth Lakes Map by NatGeo

summerstorm

7S02 – San Berdu NF

Fire Safe Trees

Toro Peak
Forest Road# 7S02

Santa Rosa Truck Trail
San Bernardino National Forest

South of Palm Desert, CA
Southeast of Idyllwild, CA
SE of Lake Hemet
Graded dirt road – southbound, off Palms to Pines Hwy 74

7S02 up hill

Road conditions on dirt roads change with the weather and the seasons. This route can be rocky and uneven in spots. One lane road, on a big hill w/ minimal pullouts. Snow is possible, during winter & springtime. This route often closed during winter months – or for rock slides. Trailers and RVs are not recommended on this dirt road, although small motorhome campers can try.

ROUTE CURRENTLY CLOSED? find out on USDA web site link

Elevation approx 6000′ @ HWY
w / route continuing up to Toro Peak @ 8740′NFS

NFS local camp sites: 

  • Santa Rosa Campground
  • Santa Rosa Springs Campground
  • Toro Campground

Bare bones, primitive camp sites. Tables, fire rings. Must have a campfire permit for this region. Vault toilets? None.

toro_campsite

Did I mention the wind yet? Tall trees do block a majority of the wind, but some areas get whipping – so choose your tent site wisely. And stake it down well, before that quick day hike. Since this is a mountain ridge line, expect thunderstorms, wind and possibly light snow.

The big, famous Palm Canyon in Palm Springs starts below. The impressive desert canyon trails lead up to highway 74. Continue on foot uphill, southbound, cross the pavement, and end up in this Toro Peak region. Small campgrounds, few people, great views over the desert. Pick a smog free weekend (with wind) for best Coachella Valley views.

San Berdu Idyllwild SoCal
San Berdu Idyllwild SoCal

Santa Rosa Wilderness

San Bernardino National Forest Map

Yellow Post Campsites

yellowpost

Yellow Post Camping


Yellow Stake Camp Sites / Back Roads Camping NFS
near Cajon Pass, Big Bear & Idyllwild CA

YELLOW POST CAMPS are dispersed camping sites on the back roads in Southern California, where fire danger is greatest. Forest authorities have designated certain spots as ‘fire safe’ for remote, open camping options around Big Bear Lake, Fawnskin and the Idyllwild mountain area.

If you prefer to stay out of the developed campgrounds, you will be the minority. But you must know how to read a map well to reach these beauties.

Map Big Bear

SoCal camping doesn’t have to mean crowded campgrounds. Seek your seclusion on the dirt back roads, where there are no fees, minimal noises & a private site waiting just for you. These are usually on a first come, first serve basis. A high clearance vehicle (SUV, truck or 4×4) may be needed to reach some of the premium camp spots, but there are also sites accessible by passenger cars. And, of course, a fire permit is required.

HeartBar14

In the San Bernardino National Forest there are several back woods ‘fire safe’ camping spots, that are noted with a single yellow post & some may require reservations in busy summer months. You can find out more on reserving from the Big Bear Discovery Center, 909-382-2790

campfires bannedExtra caution should be used when winds are high, camp fires are often banned due to wildfire danger. Check with local rangers for up to date conditions and always get your campfire permit.

No restrooms, no water, no facilities. Just a dirt road, a fire ring & a single picnic table. Hopefully your table will not be shot up, by the local rednecks who ‘get off’ doing stupid stuff like this. Pick up any litter & leave the place better than your found it.

Yellow Post Camps

These backroad camps are perfect for the 4×4 group, stressed out social club, church group w/ rugged van, or the city SUVer who wants to get away from the crowds. The most sought after camp spots are nearest to the lake or a site accessible by RVs and horse trailers, but there are many more excellent camp sites to be discovered. USDA Forest Service Map is highly advised to reach these remote areas. There are rugged dirt roads that lead to some of these spots. A passenger car is sometimes not suitable for all dirt roads. Wet weather changes everything on dirt roads. Often routes close for winter w/ locked gates.

Big Bear Back Roads Camping

download PDF maps
on Big Bear Yellow Post Sites

Campsite7

Big Lots

Cajon Pass Camping near I-15

Idyllwild Dispersed Camping

thomas camp
Topo maps, Wilderness hiking maps, Equestrian trails, OHV maps –

19S01 – Inyo NF

south sierra ridges

Walker Creek Road #19S01
– Inyo National Forest

Southern Slopes, Eastern Sierra Nevada

Just south of Olancha, off US Hwy 395 is a dirt road that takes you 5 miles up to an oak canyon lined with rocks. There are several primitive camp sites along the Walker Creek. A high clearance vehicle may be needed in some sections, but 4×4 is not required. Small RVs might attempt this, but if the first mile frightens you, turn around while you’re ahead.

Dirt Road near 395

This private, shaded, creek area is perfect for those traveling Highway 395, looking for a quick and free camp spot near Olancha, CA

nice shady spots
Shady picnic or camp spots above 4000′ elevation.

some granite
Hiking trails at the end of the road lead deep into the mountains. One on the right takes you to waterfalls. The trail on the left will take you to meet up with the Sage Flat Trail, which leads up to Olancha Pass, Summit Meadows & a small lake, in the South Sierra Wilderness. The Pacific Crest Trail runs the ridges here, just west of Monache Meadows, which is at 8000′ elevation, way above here – up on top. 

First Camp

US 395 highway – the dirt road turn off is very close to a gas station, and it maybe be signed, or not. The gas stop may be in business, or perhaps not. This is rural California, wide open desert and things come and go quickly.

On a good topo map, located Olancha Creek and Summit Creek to the south. Walker Creek is the canyon in between those two, just so know where you are going and can visualize. This one is an easy-to-miss dirt road turn off – especially if you are going over 50 mph.

Snake Lake California

Snake Lake Campground

Snake Lake Campground, Plumas NF

Don’t let the name frighten you, Snake Lake is a very scenic fishing lake – but you will NOT want to swim in it. Lily pads cover the water surface most of the year so it is considered “frog heaven” during the warmer months. NFS has been upgrading these camping facilities recently. Snake Lake Campground has new picnic tables, camp fire rings, bear boxes, vault toilet and expanded equestrian camps and corrals. No piped water, so bring your own. A bucket & shovel are always required for proper campfire maintenance.

morninglakeview

One of the best free campgrounds in the region, Plumas National Forest and close to Quincy, CA. Paved road access means an easy 3 miles off the main road (Bucks Lake Road, aka Oroville-Quincy Highway, Oro Quincy Hwy). 7 miles west of the town of Quincy, the green, metal, one-lane bridge is easy to spot, but the small sign for “Snake Lake 3” is easy to miss, if driving 50 mph or faster. Turn off is located in between Quincy and Meadow Valley.

New Signs

Horse Camping

Equestrian camp sites, horse corrals, OHV trails, group picnic areas. Hiking, fishing, mountain biking, off roading, horseback trails, kayaking or canoe.

Snake Lake Campground
• Elevation: 4200′
• Number of Sites: 17
• Vehicle Accessibility: small RV
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: No
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – October
• Trailheads: OHV, Horse & Winter Rec

This lake camp serves as a central hub for travelers, motorcyclists, campers, hikers, fishermen, off roaders and equestrians alike. Mountain biking & OHV trails go off in numerous directions and horseback trails are readily accessible. Winter Recreation Area means snowmobile trails too.

Another smaller lake, Smith Lake, is a short drive or short hike (on dirt road) further into the woods, with the Butterfly Valley Botanical Area neighboring it.

Another SNAKE LAKE exist inside Plumas National Forest. The smaller Snake lake can be accessed by off-road trail Road#12E66, off the Gold Lake Highway; 4×4 is required to reach this one. West of Gold Lake in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. The PCT is routed nearby one mile away.

middayblue

4×4 Camping California

tecuya ridge

  • Baja Calif
  • Coastal Ranges
  • High Sierra Routes
  • Gold Country
  • Lake Camping
  • Northern Cal
  • Sierra Nevada
  • SoCal Deserts
  • SoCal Mountains

small campgrounds and secluded camps, accessible by dirt bikes or 4-wheel drive vehicles

4×4 camping in California

Okay, you got your 4 wheel drive vehicle dirty, it is now several years old & maybe you even have a scratch or two. Now is the time to finally start using that beast for real off road adventures. The real edge-of-wilderness trips you dream about when your sitting in your cubical wondering what life is really about. Fishing, camping, off roading and enjoying nature, of course!

4×4 camping in California is plentiful. California has trails for OHV use – which means ‘off highway vehicle’, that can accommodate your machine. These remote camps are always primitive camp sites, with picnic tables, fire rings & maybe a pit toilet (if you are lucky). You can find total seclusion on these back roads & trails, well away from the developed campgrounds & RV parks.

Anza Borrego Desert 4×4 Trails – pretty much everywhere in Borrego desert is off road heaven. Minimal pavement and maximum desert means dirt road galore, white sandy washes, slot canyons, badlands, wind caves, wildflowers, petroglyphs, boulder outcroppings, old railroad trestles and so much more. The San Diego desert elevations range from near sea level to 4000′ on the eastern slopes of Laguna Mountain.

  • Canon Sin Nombre, off the Great Stagecoach Route (S2)
  • Coyote Canyon leads to desert gardens and Sheep Canyon
  • Mortero Wash to Piedras Blancas & Carizo Gorge Trestle
  • Ocotillo Wells SVRA , off road park on Hwy 78
  • Pinyon Mountain and The Squeeze
  • Split Mountain, south of Ocotillo Wells
  • Truckhaven Hills, on S22

San Bernardino National Forest – has a few trail camps for 4×4 enthusiasts. John Bull Trail (near Holcomb Valley) has one real awesome spot with great views over the desert night lights. Holcomb Creek Trail also has a few spots near the creek. Overall this area is somewhat crowded for wheelin’ (especially on the weekends), as the population is so dense nearby.

Los Padres National Forest – the most 4×4 camping readily accessible to Southern California. Tis is the best kept secret for Angelinos wanting an escape. The southern portion of the forests has Tecuya Ridge #9N22, with several camps only minutes from I-5. Out west, Cerro Noroeste Road has the Blue Ridge & Quatal Canyon #9N09. Hwy 166 leads to Miranda Pines towering above the fields of Santa Maria & so much more. 2 OHV parks in the area: Hungry Valley & Ballinger both serve the OHV crowds. The northern section of Los Padres (near Big Sur) has plenty of dirt roads & primitive camps, but none are truly 4×4 routes, as most can be accessed easily with a passenger car.

Sequoia National Forest – Southern Sierra Nevada area has 4×4 camping right along the Kern River, near Keyesville, at the junction where Hwy 178 meets Hwy 155. Also, further up the Kern, Forest Rd#22S82 leads to primitive Camp 4, where there are several spots near granite pools, that can only be accessed by 4 wheel drive.

Sierra National Forest – central Sierra forest has plenty of 4×4 routes that lead to granite rock gardens & mighty fine, secluded, forested camp sites. Gorgeous Red Lake & Coyote Lake are popular spots that require some technical skills & much patience to access. Both are frequented by fishermen & horses. Bald Mountain trailhead has awesome creekside camps on Rock Creek. Up near Wishon Reservoir is the dead end trail of Spanish Lake. Onion Springs Meadow is awesome back behind Edison Lake. Near the granite wonderland Courtright Reservoir is the infamous Dusy Trail signed #28E34 (aka #7S32, the Dusy Ershim), second only to the Rubicon Trail for high Sierra granite.

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

Stanislaus National Forest – camping in the Crandall & Niagara Creek OHV section of the forest, right off Hwy 108. Elevations range from 5000′-7000′. Higher up on the other side, Levitt Lake (access road near Levitt Falls) on the east end of the mountain range, east of the Sonora Pass sign.

El Dorado National Forest – has the area called Rock Creek for off roading in the Gold Country. Plus the ever popular Rubicon Trail starts hear (near Georgetown) & leads 20 miles across the High Sierra Nevada granite slabs to Lake Tahoe.

Lakes Basin Recreation Area – Northern Gold County, just above the Yuba River. Gold Lake has many campable lakes. The area sees a lot of snowmobile traffic during winter snows, but warmer months are the time for fishing and camping. Most of the big lakes have small developed campgrounds, some are minimal, or primitive style camp sites on dirt roads without facilities. Maybe a picnic table at most.

Smith Lake is a place that fishermen and 4×4 love. It is small, secluded and kinda hard to find. You’ll need a good topo map of the region. Situated on the border of Tahoe and Plumas National Forest off the Gold Lake Hwy (aka Road #24). The PCT cuts thru this Lakes Basin area w/ Sierra Buttes  There are dirt roads and off road trails leading deep into the backcountry from the Packer Lake and Gold Lake areas.

Plumas National Forest – out near Quincy, somewhere off the long and winding La Port Road, a few decent 4WD trails thru forest. Access ridge lines or the big river. Great fishing, amazing scenery & very secluded.

(north of La Porte Road)
– Feather River access
@ Cleghorn Bar Campground, 4 campsites (Road #23N24)
@ Stag Point Campground, 5 campsites (Road #22N80Y)
@ Hartman Bar NRT to Dan Beebe Camp (Road 94 to #22N42Y)

(south of La Porte Road)
– Poker Flat Camp near Sawmill Ridge & Table Rock (Road 800)

Mendocino National Forest Red Lake California

This coastal range is dirt road heaven, graded dirt roads, ridge routes, hiking trails, equestrian trails, big lakes, small lakes, creeks, meadows, forests, wilderness and 4×4 routes. Snow can be the most fun and challenging for the 4WD crews. Mud, snow, some road closures seasonally. South of Snow Mountain Wilderness, plenty off road trails leading to peaks and ridge lines. Numerous small campgrounds to choose from, trailheads everywhere, acres and acres of wild mountainous areas, and a lake resort nearby. Lake Pillsbury is kinda the center of all the 4×4 action in Mendo.

 

see also – OHV areas & SVRA parks

 

Sierra Nevada off road

And yes, no question about it – you WILL NEED printed hard copy map to get to these great spots.

[This list will continue to grow as we unravel all the decades worth of notes & photos. Stay tuned.]