Kings River Camping

Camping areas along Kings River, Sierra Nevada California

dirtroadskings

Kings is the longest river in the Sierra Nevada and very rugged and remote in most of the length. The Upper Kings is situated in the highest of elevation, granite alpine back country, with abundant small lakes and numerous Wilderness areas.

Tallest peak, Mount Whitney, drains this way – down waterfalls and whitewater, westward to California into the San Joaquin Valley. Agriculture and orchards of citrus. The mid section of this mighty Kings River runs close to Hwy 180 inside the Kings Canyon National Park.

The Lower Kings is popular among campers, fishermen, kayakers and rafters, accessible most of the year. Upper Kings River is located inside the National Park boundaries.

NPS Campgrounds near Upper Kings River

Inside Kings Canyon National Park:
Cedar Grove Village @ end of Highway 180

elevation 4600′

may be closed during winter months.
reservations recommended.
NPS

Sheep Creek Campground (111 sites)
Sentinel Campground (82 sites)
Canyon View Campground (37 sites)
Moraine Campground (120 sites)

Roaring River Falls, Sentinel Dome (9115′ elev)

hikes
Roads End Trailhead
backpack camping, from paved parking area.
NPS – wilderness permits required for overnight stays.

Kings Highcountry Topo Map

bridge kings

Camping near Lower Kings River

Open all year round. Outside the National Park boundary, westward in lower elevations, many more camping options are available.

NFS

NOTE: Sierra National Forest is located  on the north side, along the river shore in between Pine Flat Lake & Kings Cyn National Park. But Sequoia National Forest is located on the south side!

Lower Kings is best accessed via the paved roads, up behind Pine Flat Lake, California

river
Trimmer Springs Road #11S12: a paved access route, wraps around the northern shore of Pine Flat Reservoir. Very winding and long, with 25 mph curves; this main route continues east into the massive Kings River Canyon.

Google Maps may have this road crossing the river, toward the end. Proper signage is questionable in the area, since local rednecks love to shoot up signs. Trimmer route quickly peters out to narrow dirt roads, anywhere past the Mill Flat Campground area.

Lower Kings is NOT easily reached via the National Park – Kings Canyon Highway 180. Dirt road travel is required on Road #12S01, which can be steep and rocky at best. The drivable climb up to the highway may require 4 wheel drive in some sections, depending on weather.

Winter brings some snow and abundant rains (NOV – APRIL).

LANDSLIDES and ROCK SLIDES are common with ROAD CLOSURES usually posted on the Sierra National Forest, NFS web site.

poppy

Wildflowers are abundant in this region for springtime. (MARCH-MAY)

camp

(north shore)
Lower Kings River

elevation 1100′

Sierra National Forest
fish

Kirch Flat Campground NFS (17 sites)

tables & toilets

both above are free camp spots: boondocking, primitive car camping, tent camping, RV camping, fishing, kayaking, rafting

Sierra Road #12S01 – primitive camping, few pit toilets; fishing access, some trailhead camps and RV spots along river. The northern most arm of this road is also referred to as Road# 12S001 Garnet Dike, on the NFS web site.

newbridge
Along paved routes, near bridges, some dispersed camping is also allowed. Campfire permits are required.

Sierra Road #9 is Big Creek Canyon
a side route, graded dirt road worth exploring for primitive camping options. The farther you drive up, the more vegetation you will find. Campfire permits are required.

BlackRock Reservoir Road #11S12, another side route (paved) climbs steeply in elevation, along a cliff edge. This spot offers a small NFS campground near a lake, and is located along the North Fork of the river.

kingsflow2010

click to enlarge

NFS

(south shore)
Lower Kings River

elevation 1000′

Sequoia National Forest

Pine Flat Reservoir

elevation 952′

Lake View


CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

rafterskings

12S01 – Sierra NF

12S01kingsriver

Kings River, Sierra National Forest
Road #12S01 – Lower Kings

Located in between Kings Canyon National Park and Pine Flat Reservoir. Graded dirt road w/ trailhead parking & camping; Primitive car camping, vault toilets, some areas accessible by small RV. Campfire permits are required.

Long, (sometimes rough) dirt road, that parallels the north side of the Kings River. Dirt road used by families, fishermen, kayakers, campers, mountain bikers, rafters and rafting shuttle buses, seasonally. May be gated and closed off to the public in wetter months of the year.

Bear Wallow Trailhead
Kings River Trailhead

kingscampsites

click to enlarge

Forest Route 12S01 crosses the river and leads to the south side of the river, near Green Cabin Flat. Mill Flat Campground is back this way.

Road 12S01 gains in elevation, turns to high-clearance, continuing up McKenzie Ridge thru a small slice Sequoia National Forest to the highway Kings Canyon National Park. 4×4 may be needed in wet/snowy weather.

flats of kings

California Countryside Hikes

California Wine Country Hikes, Gold Country Hiking, Sierra Foothills, River Trails

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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

Anza Borrego 4×4 Trails

anzawashes

Being the largest State Park inside California, Anza Borrego has certain advantages. Lots of land to explore, abundant dirt roads, free camping and a very diverse terrain. Located in SoCal, this desert has lots to offer the outdoor enthusiasts, all year round.

Anza Borrego Desert

with hundreds of miles of dirt roads to explore

SUV / 2WD / AWD / 4WD / 4×4 / OHV

The Anza Borrego desert, in east San Diego County, is quite large and very easily accessible from Southern California. The park spans mid-elevation, mountain foothills (3000′ elevation) down to dry lake beds near sea level. Large, vast and varied terrain – and full of vegetation in certain spots. Borrego Desert Wildflower blooms attract thousands of visitors between March-May each Spring.

Borrego Valley

Wildflower Camping

 

While the majority of the dirt roads inside the ANZA DESERT are passable with a regular passenger car (on most days), some specific areas and routes are indeed considered “too hairy” and may require a 4 wheel drive. Rains change landscape fast in this region, so know before you go.

FLASH FOOD WARNING: Wet weather (anywhere nearby) can make a mild, soft, sandy wash into a wild, flowing river. On occasion desert washes are ‘washed out’ during big rain, often becoming mini rivers that can swallow your vehicle; Road and weather conditions can change suddenly in the California deserts. Wind can also play a huge factor in a selecting a decent camp site. Know the weather report in advance and always be on the watch for big clouds on mountains to the west.

Deep sand washes, steep sandy hillsides, boulder passes, rock yards to boulder hopping, soggy bottoms to straddling ruts, the deserts of SoCal are indeed fun and challenging. Enjoy your public lands responsibly and pick up some litter, stay on the trail and do not target shoot inside park boundaries.

To find these off-roading areas: OHV routes, camp areas and gear heads galore. Or try avoid them. Keep reading.

the well known spots

 OHV routes

Anza Borrego Desert State Park itself is NOT AN OFF ROAD PARK. If you want the free-for-all, open, OFF-ROAD areas, with sand dunes and terrain to explore, then the list above should help. Some places can be secluded and private for camping, and only one Jeep may pass by (for the whole weekend).

On the other end of the spectrum, most OHV camping areas are closer to paved routes and busy w/ motorized activity. On weekends, traffic, events and crowds are the norm.  ATV, dirt bikes, buggies, quads, jeeps, families, RVs. Often, a big noisy scene.

Seeking to travel to distant places to avoid crowds? then this site can help point to the best destinations. Follow links, browse images, get a decent topo map – and discover private desert camping for free.

Canyon Sin Nombre

Bad land canyons, easy SUV exploring – off of San Diego Co Road S-2

other awesome anza trails & canyons

most w/ 2WD access; high clearance vehicle is preferred (and as usual, 4WD may be needed in storm conditions). Not all 4×4 routes will be signed. Signs get washed away in desert areas, so don’t count on them. Have a good hard-copy, topo map handy – just in case.

culpvalleyOHV

Out exploring the Culp Valley Area, one fine Sunday afternoon.

Anza Borrego Desert Maps

Tom Harrison Anza MAPSDBKCO Recreation Map

The Tom Harrison Map of Anza Borrego Desert is actually called the San Diego Backcountry Recreation Map and is by far the best seller of the region.

hike anza

Wilderness Anza Borrego Map

Wilderness Press makes an excellent topographic map for the Borrego Desert, with all the details on terrain and info for camping, hiking & off roading.

MORE AREA MAPS

The infamous west coast backpacking route, the Pacific Crest Hiking Trail runs above the desert (a few thousand feet), on the ridges of Mount Laguna.

Cleveland National Forest borders the west side of Anza Borrego Desert, on the rugged steep slopes of the big mountains (7000′ elev). More Maps links are provided:

Diablo Drop

The Diablo Drop

Muck to Stagecoach
Wetlands in the desert? Not that rare, water does flow downhill. Some established well-traveled roads may have added gravel to the soggy marsh areas, but many water crossings are bare, and vulnerable to erosion. Try to avoid driving in and around water. DRIVE SLOW through water where route crossing is obvious. Wildlife need these water sources to survive, so don’t muck it up.

Palm canyons and large boulders are numerous in this desert, water sources scarce. Camping near palms can be limited to walking distance. Several palm oasis camps along San Diego County Road S-2, some RV accessible. Even the county-run Hot Springs Park has some palms. Of course, Palm Canyon is the State Park Campground. Visitors Center headquarters in downtown Borrego Springs has the most popular hikes, hotels, restaurants, with abundant campground camping. Very walk-able town. Super hot during summer, triple digits!

back roads: weekends

Weekends are always busier than week days, in general, all over Cali. Keep that in mind when seeking seclusion. Camping in Anza Borrego desert is always best at least 2 miles off the pavement, well away from the traffic on the highway and for those masses seeking the easy camping.

Campfires require a metal bucket in Anza!

Campfires always require a metal bucket in Anza!

camping back roads

OPEN-CAMPING: camping outside of developed campgrounds, also referred to as ‘primitive camping’ is quite common in Anza Borrego desert. Many Borrego Camping Areas are accessible with regular cars, close to main roads and usually have no bath rooms, or facilities. The further you drive from the pavement, the more likely you are to encounter obstacles like boulders, deep ruts, soft sand and uneven terrain.

Campgrounds Find Campgrounds & freebie spots in Borrego, CA

 

A top the Slot

nearby towns:

other off-road areas in the vicinity

wilderness areas in the vicinity

  • Anza Borrego Desert State Wilderness
  • Jacumba Mountains Wilderness

Mecca Box Canyon