El Dorado Camping

Primitive Camping in El Dorado County

Camping Rivers

More & more people are venturing off the beaten touristy path of Gold Country. Getting outta the developed campgrounds to discover the joys of dispersed back woods camping is a new adventure, not to be taken lightly.

With truck or SUV ownership come some great rewards! Order a good map & go find some dirt roads. Waterfalls, dense forests, secluded creekside camp sites & more await you. Obtaining a camp fire permit is mandatory for this style of camping.

Campfires are often banned in California, due to extreme wildfire danger. Since the gold mining foothills are usually oak and dry grass, with large steep river canyons, extra caution should be given. Always know the fire conditions before you build a campfire. Caldor Camping

Discover the hidden back roads: like Caldor Road off of Grizzly Flat Rd. – up above Placerville CA

Hey, now this is what we’re talking about. Plenty great dispersed camping down by the Cosumnes River & Consumnes Mine Rd. There are hundreds of miles of small roads to discover back behind this historic mining area. Rivers, waterfalls & decent fishing too. Make sure you clean up some litter. This is the only price you pay for the beauty, serenity, peace & quiet & no neighbor campers next to you.

Out exploring these parts, you may run into a dead end road that peters out at some Private Property, which is usually signed & fenced. Make nice with the old crazy miner dude & turn your ass around politely, everything will be okay as soon as you are not within gun shot of him. Yes, there still are plenty of small time mining experts tucked away back here in the hills.

river camping
Premium and secluded river side camp sites in El Dorado National Forest

Plenty creeks and rivers run throughout this central Sierra region, so you can fish all day – until your hearts desire. River rafting and river kayaking opportunities are also great reasons to get wet.

Several mountain reservoirs around offer camping and boating too. Eldorado lakes are listed below.

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

  • Caples Lake @ Carson Pass
  • Ice House Reservoir
  • Jenkinson Lake – US Hwy 50
  • Kirkwood Lake
  • Lower Bear River Res. – South Shore Campground
  • Salt Springs Reservoir
  • Silver Lake @ Carson Pass
  • Union Valley Reservoir
  • nearby towns –

    El Dorado Forest Maps –

    Rock Creek Campground

    rockintable

    Rock Creek Lake 9600′ elev, Eastern Sierra

    Numerous places named Rock Creek exist inside California. This particular Rock Creek page is specific to Camping and Campgrounds!

    This compilation of “Rock Creeks” is to help with the confusing lists of similarly named camps and locations (which are many, inside California)

    List begins with the most well known –

    Eastern Sierra Campgrounds

    NFS Campgrounds on Rock Creek Road
    Rock Creek Lake @ Inyo National Forest

    12 NFS Campgrounds are located around Eastern Sierra Rock Creek Canyon. Elevations range from 7000′ at the highway, to over 10,000′ at a trailhead parking lot at the road’s end.

    CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

    Tuff Campground ( US Highway 395)

    French Campground (7500′ elev w/ 86 sites)
    Holiday Campground (7500′ elev w/ 35 sites)

    Aspen Group Campground (8100′)

    iris meadow

    Iris Meadow Campground NFS

    Iris Meadow Campground (8600′ elev w/ 14 sites)
    Big Meadow Campground (8600′ elev w/ 11 sites)
    Palisade Campground (8600′ elev w/ 5 sites)

    East Fork Campground (9000′ elev w/ 133 sites)

    Pine Grove Campground (9300′ elev w/ 11 sites)

    rockcreeklake

    Rock Creek Lake Campground (9600′ elev w/ 66 sites)

    Rock Creek Lake Group Campground (by reservation)

    Mosquito Flat Walk-In Campground (trailhead camp) Some maps may have this one listed as Little Lakes Campground, but that is just the trailhead name.

    eastern sierra snowline

    eastern sierra

    More Rock Creek Camps

    Rock Creek CampgroundMammoth Pool Reservoir, south of Yosemite National Park, behind Bass Lake, CA inside the Sierra National Forest (18 camp sites)

    Rock Creek Campground – US Hwy 101 NorCal Redwood forests, north of Leggett, CA. Camp located on the Eel River, in the Standish Hickey State Recreation Area. (36 camp sites)

    Rock Creek Loop Road – Dinkey
    Sierra Forest Road #9S09, off of paved Dinkey Creek Road. Excellent primitive camping along creek; 4×4 trailheads, as well as hiking & horseback trails. Small RVs okay. Dispersed camp sites, no facilities. Fire permits are required. Near Shaver Lake, CA inside the Sierra National Forest

    Rock Front OHV

    Similarly named –

    ROCK LAKE is located inside Lakes Basin Recreation Area, northern Gold Country @ Yuba River headwaters. Hike-in access only.

    And if you want some Central Coast wheelin – 4×4 camping and trails, see the ROCK FRONT RANCH on California Hwy 166, on the way to New Cuyama, CA

    lower rock creek road

    Lower Rock Creek Road, off US hwy 395

    We will continue to add more Rock Creeks to this page as we find and photograph them. Stay tuned for more of the best camping in California.

    Kelbaker Road

    Kelbaker Road, Mojave NP

    Kelbaker Road is one of the well-traveled back roads in the Mojave Desert connecting two major Eastern California routes of Interstate system. The I-40 to the south and the I-15 to the north, spanning 50 miles from one to the other.

    Kelbaker Rd continues south to T up w/ historic Route 66 near Amboy, CA. Gasoline is very iffy in Amboy, so remember gas up in Barstow.

    This region is super scenic portion of Kelbaker Road, which cuts thru the western edge of Mojave National Preserve. The Kelbaker pavement reaches to an elevation of 4024′ at Granite Pass, about 6 miles north of the exit @ interstate 40. Boulder outcroppings, bare mountain peaks, secluded cove camp sites w/ dirt roads, and old mines all over. Joshua tree forest and pinyon pine forest encircle the Mid Hills region.

    Some roads are suitable for passenger cars, but many are not. Dirt slides, erosion gullies, wash outs and rocks are common on these roads, so drive slow and pay attention.

    There are private property ranches, active railroad tracks & BLM lands along the Kelbaker route. Some of the boundaries of NPS have been extended, so best to bring a map.

    MOJAVE DESERT topo maps

    Free camping is abundant in this desert region, but it’s all primitive w/ no facilities and all are on dirt roads when your turn off Kelbaker. Some of the best camping areas are around 4000 feet (above sea level), so serious wind and even snow is quite possible in the winter months. Go prepared w/ plenty firewood.

    Historic Mojave Trail (aka Mojave Road) is out this way. Dirt bikes, off roaders love this trail that connects the Colorado River @ Avi Casino to Afton Canyon near Barstow.

    WILDFLOWERS – joshua tree, yucca, barrel cactus
    Higher elevation deserts bloom in late Spring, generally March thru May. Perfect rainfall timing in the autumn, can determine wild blooms and flora months later. Providence Mountains SRA can be a good location for wildflower viewing.

    Kelso, CA

    Kelso Depot:  historic spot, centered around the old train depot, which has been restored and has become the new visitors center and museum. Totally worth a 2 hour stop and HIKING/WALKING stretch break. The road heads north from Kelso and the name changes to: Kelbaker-Cima Road

    Cima, CA

    mojave dirt roadsCima Store, 20 miles to the north is one of the few businesses in this region. Post Office next door, maybe. Cima Road connects to I-15 in approximately 15 miles north. Kelbaker Road splits again and it heads up to I-15 @ Baker, CA

    See more in this Mojave area —

    Kelbaker Rd

    Kelbaker Road and Railroad Tracks

    Hole in the Rock

    Hole in the Rock, Mojave NP

    Mojave Scenery

    Mojave Mid Hills boulder peaks

    7N01 – Stanislaus NF

    Spicer Meadow Reservoir & more lakes: Paved Forest Rd #7N01

    Spicer, Utica & Union Reservoirs, Central Sierra, Stanislaus National Forest

    summit lake

    Stanislaus National Forest
    North Fork of the Stanislaus River
    Highland Creek
    Carson Iceberg Wilderness Area
    Spicer Meadow Reservoir (6418′ elev)
    Union Reservoir (6850′ elev)
    Utica Reservoir

    Spicer Meadow Reservoir can also be found on various publications, listed as Spicer Meadows, Spicer Mdws, Spicer Lake and Spicer Reservoir.

    tent camping

    Ebbett’s Pass is California State Route (SR 4) Highway 4, which cuts thru the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains (east-west). Wilderness peaks and rivers surround this whole region. Deep snow pack is common, so much of this region is off-limits half the year (or more). Always check with local rangers by phone before venturing out, as winter conditions can keep these roads closed late into the year.

    Topo Maps of this Region:

    Stanislaus National Forest Map USDA
    Carson Iceberg Wilderness Map USDA
    Carson, Emigrant, Mokelumne Map NatGeo
    Sierra Nevada Topo Map

    Wilderness Maps

    N of Arnold, California; Continue up SR 4. Passing Calaveras Big Trees State Park & Camp Connell; After Big Meadow Campground, take the paved right turn for Spicer Meadow; This is forest road 7N01. Meandering thru a forest and descending in elevation, road will dead end at Spicer Reservoir.

    7N01, the main paved mountain road, is located on the south side of the highway. The highway turn off reads ‘Spicer Reservoir’. Suitable for travel w/ RVs and trucks with boat trailers. Quite curvy, scenic and about 7 miles long. There are developed campgrounds in the vicinity.

    The dirt side roads off the pavement can be narrow, muddy, rocky and overgrown, so be cautious when exploring. Choosing a dispersed camp site should be done during daylight hours, and will require a campfire permit ahead of time. Use an existing camp site whenever possible, instead of creating new ones.

    freespice

    Several man-made reservoirs attract outdoor seekers, mountain bikers, campers, canoes and fishermen. Kayakers tend to love Union and Utica, but power boats and sail boats prefer Spicer Lake.

    Volcanic features mix with Sierra granite in this part of the forest, and geologic formations make for interesting hikes. Mountain biking is common around these lakes, as well as day hiking and backpacking.

    Spicer Lake

    NFS Campgrounds in the region: NFS

  • Stanislaus River Campground
  • Spicer Campground
  • Spicer Group Camp
  • Campgrounds only open June-September. Some campsites at the campground are wheelchair accessible. Boat ramp located near campgrounds.

    outdoor recreation:
    backpacking
    boating
    bouldering
    camping
    canoeing
    fishing
    floating
    granite
    hiking
    kayaking
    mountain biking
    lakes
    sailing
    swimming
    trails
    wildflowers

    Left fork turn off, Dirt Road #7N05 leads out to Utica & Union Reservoirs. No motorized boats allowed on those two lakes. No developed campgrounds back that way either. No RV spots; only primitive style camping.

    Another dirt road treks steeply up the hill from Union Reservoir to Lake Alpine (at the highway). That primitive truck trails is actually a (somewhat designated, but not well-signed) 4×4 route and suitable for high clearance vehicles only.

    car camping lakes

    Spur Road #7N29Y is a small dirt road which leads a couple miles into the forest, over to trailheads and primitive camping options. Ideal for accessing all the lakes (on foot) from this prime location. A fire permit is required. No water, no bathrooms, no facilities.

  • Elephant Rock Lake
  • Summit Lake (7068′ elev)
  • elephant rock

    Closest small towns are:

    ARNOLD
    BEAR VALLEY
    LAKE ALPINE, CA

    lake camps

    7N01 – Los Padres NF
    There is another Forest Road in California named 7N01, but that one is a 4×4 OHV access route @ Dutchman Campground, located in south part of Los Padres National Forest. We have mention of it on the page for Frazier Park Camping.

    Balch Park

    Balch Park / Sequoia Park

    Balch Park Campground

    BALCH PARK campground is on a first come basis; no campground reservations needed.

    Balch Park open May to October
    Park info # 559 539-3896

    Hedrick Pond lined w/ Sequoia trees

    Balch County Park is right in the middle of Mountain Home State Forest, which is within the bigger Sequoia National Forest (aka Giant Sequoia National Monument). But don’t let all the bureaucracy mislead you, this is an ideal park and location, well worth your trip. The campground is the most developed one within the area – with paved roads, RV spaces, flush toilets and a fee to go along with all that. Even gotta fishing pond.

    • Bears are a big deal in these neck of the woods. Please store all your food properly to avoid a un-welcomed visitor
    • A Sequoia Grove is nearby with plenty of creeks & meadows.
    • Trailers not recommended due to the long curvy road leading up the mountain.

    Balch Park & Campground NOT TO BE CONFUSED with utility company residences of BALCH CAMP between Pine Flat & Blackrock Reservoirs


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    Helpful Maps:

    Nearby cities & towns:

    campground elev. spots veg toilet water fee
    Balch Park
    559-539-3896
    6500′ 71 pines flush piped yes no reservations
    first come basis

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