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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 Checking the National Forest web sites can be confusing and their online information could be outdated.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

Sierra Road Conditions

Sierra Nevada Road Conditions – Highway California

Snowy RoadsWinter Snow/ Winter Roads Sierra Nevada:

On rare occasions the Golden State freeway – Interstate 5 can be closed due to snow; N of Valencia on the Grapevine (near Lebec) or more likely up in NorCal (near Shasta).

Interstate 80 (aka Donner Pass) is often closed during big storms. Luckily there are hotels in Auburn or Truckee.

Highway conditions on mountain passes higher than 4000′ elevation can be unpredictable in winter months (Oct-May). It may be fine & just sprinkling @ 2000′, but a few miles up can be a white out. Ask anyone who’s ever driven the infamous Donner Pass in winter time. (more on Donner Party)

Annual Sierra Highway Closures

Ski mountains

shaver lakeWhere does it Snow in California ?
Okay, okay ….so it’s nothing like those dreaded East Coast winters, but hey, some parts of California do get some serious snow. (see elevations) And the newbies who don’t prepare for it will be sorry. On the winter vacation travels, be prepared for almost anything, especially in the Sierra’s & Northern California.
Snowy towns in California

See California Weather & Road Conditions

California Winter: When does winter actually ‘set in’ for California?

Eastern Sierra CA: OCT- MAY
Western Sierra CA: NOV- APR
High Sierra CA: SEPT- MAY
North Coast CA: OCT- MAY
Northeast CA: OCT- APR

The following mountain roads are partially closed or totally closed during winter months. Please check road conditions before you leave for your trip. Chains may be required in most mountain areas of California.

CALTRANS web site

Highway CA County Region Connecting Towns
Hwy 155 Kern Southern Sierra Alta SierraWofford Heights
Hwy 190 Tulare Western Divide Hwy Camp NelsonPonderosa CA
M 375 Tulare Sequoia NP Hammond – Mineral King
Hwy 180 Tulare Kings Canyon NP Hume Lake – Cedar Grove
Whitney Portal Rd Inyo Eastern Sierra Lone Pine – Mount Whitney
Onion Valley Road Inyo Eastern Sierra Independence – Onion Valley
Glacier Lodge Rd Inyo Eastern Sierra Big Pine – Glacier Lodge
Lake Rd Hwy 168 Inyo Bishop Area Hwy 168 – South Lake
Hwy 120 Mariposa Yosemite NP Yosemite Lee Vining CA
Hwy 120 Mono Mono Lake Lee ViningBenton Hot Springs
Hwy 108 Mono Eastern Sierra DardenelleSonora Jct. Hwy.395
Hwy 89 Alpine Eastern Sierra MarkleevilleLake Topaz
Hwy 4 Alpine South Lake Tahoe Lake Alpine – Hwy 89
Hwy 44 Shasta Lassen Volcanic NP Manzanita Lake – Mineral CA