Tag Archives: hike

Autumn Camping California

Autumn Lakeside

RV camping Tent Camp Fishing Hiking

Amazing autumn colors can be found through OCTOBER and NOVEMBER in California, but you’ll need to leave the city in order to find the very best colors and scenic beauty. Fall season happens quickly (within weeks) in the high country and slower (months) in the lowlands. Plenty canyons and parks in the urban centers have hiking trails thru some nice trees, but nothing compares to the backroads, creeks and rivers of the big mountains.

Elevations, the higher the better, is where you’ll find the real displays of color. Aspen groves can be found along mountain slopes, creek canyons from 5000′-10,000′ in elevation. Cottonwood trees are found in the drier regions, in ranching areas and in desert canyons – up to about 6000′ elevation. Aspen trees start to turn yellow as soon as the chill of nights drop; if the temperature shift is subtle, the aspen leaves become more orange as the days go into the fall season. If an early snow or freeze happens, just one night, the glorious foliage becomes dead brown crispies dangling in the wind.

campfire
CAMP FIRE RESTRICTIONS are still be in place from the dry summer, and now comes the autumn winds. Any decent amount of rain can change the fire burn status, so make sure to check with the rangers for up-to-date fire info.

Best Autumn Campgrounds in California  

Many of these campgrounds are located in or near aspen groves & are simply spectacular during the fall months. Some may be located near alder groves. Maple trees located along rivers turn golden between September and October. 

Higher elevation (7000′-9000′) colors will change faster and earlier in the year (as soon as September), whereas the lower countryside may wait until late October. 

Pack warmly, cuz the cooler temps at night (20-30 degrees) is what makes these awesome, little autumn leaves change colors. The change can happen very fast (in days). When the early season snows move in – usually a minimal dusting by October, fall colors can fade fast.

Southern California

Tent Camp

has minimal fall colors.

Big Bear Lake, CA
Lake Arrowhead, CA

Ojai Camping – Wheeler Gorge
Sespe Hot Springs (hike-in access only)

Camping

Southern and Central Sierra

have a few aspen groves and several cottonwood canyons.

Aspen Hollow Campground NFSNFSlogo
Giant Sequoia @ Hume Lake, CA
near Kings Canyon NP

Big Meadows Campground NFS
Stanislaus National Forest
Arnold, CA

Dinkey Creek Campground NFS
Sierra National Forest
Shaver Lake, CA

Kern River Canyon

Ponderosa, CA
Quaking Aspen Campground Tent Camp
Quaking Aspen CabinTent Camp
Giant Sequoia National Monumentcamp

Wishon Reservoir
Lily Pad Campground
Sierra National Forest

Yosemite National Park
Tuolumne Meadows, Hwy 120
Yosemite Valley Campgrounds

Kirkwood, CA
Blue Lakes Road
Carson Pass CA Highway 88

Camping

Northern Sierra

The North Sierra Nevada Mountains covers the region with Lake Tahoe and Donner Pass, and north Gold Country. River canyons with fall colors include American River, Yuba River, and the Feather River.

Aspen Group Campground
@ Jackson Meadows Reservoir
near Truckee, CA

Berry Creek, CA
Milsap Bar, Middle Fork of the Feather River

Bucks Lake, CA
Haskins Valley & Grizzly Creek Campground
Oro-Quincy Highway – Plumas NF

Downieville, CA
Yuba River Campgroundsshowers

Grover Hot Springs State Park  

Hope Valley, CA
Hope Valley Campground Tent Camp

Lake Tahoe

Camping

Autumn Bliss Hike

Eastern Sierra

The Eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada is the ‘place to be’ for Autumn Colors in California. The dramatic desert meets the tallest granite peaks. Every canyon is a different scene, many lakes lined with aspen groves, some have a creek with aspens.

Aspendell, CA
North Lake Campground
Lake Sabrina Road
Bishop Pass (high country hikes)

sabrina creeking

Bishop, CA
Bishop Creek, Hwy 168
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest – both Silver Canyon and
Cottonwood Creek have aspen trees. (both are 4×4 roads)

Bridgeport, CA
Green Creek Road w/ signage for
Dunderburg Meadow
Twin Lakes
Hoover Wilderness (high country hikes)

Independence, CA
Onion Valley CampgroundTent Camp
Kearsarge Pass (high country hikes)

June Lake, CalifoniaTent Camp
June Lake Loop #1S63 / CA Highway 158

Lee Vining, CA
Lee Vining Canyon / Hwy 120
One of the biggest aspen grove canyons in the state of California.
NFS campgrounds
NFS Campgrounds in Lee Vining Canyon: Big Bend, Aspen Grove, Boulder, Moraine, and Cattleguard Campground.
NFS Camps @ Yosemite’s EAST GATE (9000′ elev): Ellery Lake, Junction, Saddlebag Lake, and Sawmill Campground.

Lundy Lake
Virginia Lakes
Trumbull CampgroundTent Camp

Lone Pine, CA
Alabama Hills has a few cottonwoods.
Whitney Portal has some alder trees and a few aspens.hiker

Mammoth Lakes, CA
Red’s Meadow Campground
Devils Postpile NM
Laurel Lakes Road (rough dirt road)
Convict Lake

Tom’s Place, CA
McGee Creek Campground Tent Camp

Rockcreek Road
Impressive Rock Creek Road #4S12 in Rock Creek Canyon, one of the very best “Scenic Autumn Drives” in the whole Eastern Sierra. Numerous NFS Campgrounds on this road; many of which close for the season, just about the time then fall colors peak.

Rock Creek Lake Campground @ 9600′ elev Tent Camp

Iris Meadow Campground @ 8600′ elev

iris meadow
Iris Meadow on Rock Creek Rd

Camping

Northern California

The “North State” primarily has the big river canyons, most of which have fall colors. Eel River, Klamath, Yuba River, Feather Rivers.

Blue Lake Campground
South Warner Mountains
Modoc National Forest

South Warner Mountains
Road 64 Modoc NF

Eagle Lake
Aspen Campground (walk-in camp sites)
Susanville, CA

Large Eagle Lake, N of Susanville, CA

Sundial Bridge,
River RV Parks
Redding, CA

Weaverville, CA

Mount Shasta, CA
(downtown of Mt. Shasta)

McBride Springs Campground
(slopes of Mount Shasta)

Lake Siskiyou
Beach Camp Resort & RV Park

4239 W. A. Barr Rd
Mount Shasta CA
530 926-2610

McCloud, CA
McCloud Falls,  South of Mount Shasta

Algoma Campground
McCloud Creek, South of Mount Shasta

MacArthur-Burney Falls State Park
Dusty Campground

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen National Forest
Lassen Camping
Lassen Lakes

Susanville, CA
Bizz Johnson Trail
Roxie Peconom Campground

Siskiyou Autumn Colors
(still to come, maybe late 2020)

eagle aspens
Paved over aspen groves @ South Eagle Lake, CA

 

Blue Lake Modoc

Modoc Blue Lake
Blue Lake in Modoc National Forest
Hiking Lake
Hiking Lake w/ Loop Trail in far Northern California

Blue Lake
Modoc National Forest

When you really wanna get away from it all, take a week off and head up to Modoc – the top northeast corner of California, where the volcanic mountains line the Great Basin.  The population is minimal, cattle are abundant and the campers few. Even in mid summer, this ideal lake campground rarely fills up.

camp

Jess Valley Road leads east off US 395 @ Likely, CA – 16 miles back to this hidden gem.

Headwaters to the Pit River.

NFS Campground is shady, well managed, and spread out on the eastern slope w/ numerous paved loops. Tent campers, cross country cyclists, truck campers w/ canoes, SUV families, motorhomes with kayaks and kids.

modoc map
Modoc Map

Blue Lake Campground NFS
• Elevation: 6,050′
• Number of Sites: 48
• Vehicle Accessibility: 32′ RV
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Campsite Reservation: No
• Water: Piped
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May –October
• Trailhead: Lake Loop
• Boat Ramp: Yes

Group Camp Facilities (by reservation only)
Modoc NF Warner Ranger District
@ 530-279-6116

Lava Blue Lake
Lava Rock @ Blue Lake Loop, in Modoc County, CA

Blue Lake National Recreation Trail

hikerRight next to camp: A pretty much perfect LAKE LOOP (1.5 mi) hiking trail is worth a serious stroll; footbridge, wildflowers, fishing spots, minimal hills, lava rocks, and awesome scenery. Plenty of wildlife can be seen, including butterflies and bald eagles. Trail is shaded by tall white fir and ponderosa pine trees. Trailhead is located at the Day Use parking lot, w/ paved boat ramp, dock, and picnic area.

stars canoe  fish

  • back roads
  • boating
  • camping
  • canoeing
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • kayaking
  • mountain biking
  • picnicking
  • swimming
  • stargazing
  • wildflowers
  • wildlife

Wild Blue Lake

NOTE: not every CAMPSITE has a LAKE VIEW

Certain campsites are adjacent to the lake; some are set facing a meadow (Autumn w/ aspen groves), or the alpine forest w/ deer grazing. Perhaps an inner circle (interior) campsite, for those who like to be close to bathrooms and piped water. Large families will love the abundance of camp settings and accommodations.

Paved Loop
Plenty of Vault Toilets
Piped Water
Recycles & Trash Service

Large Campsites
Large Campsites can accommodate Motorhomes
  • no paved camp stall
  • no hook-ups
  • no dump station
  • no cell phone signalcamptruck

popular lake camp for motorhomes

When driving a large RV back in here, be courteous of other campers. Nothing sucks more than driving a long distance to the boonies, to arrive at camp just before dark and annoying everyone else already there.

Those needing to drive the campground loops (more than twice) looking for the biggest, levelest, best camp site – and burning $10 in gasoline doing so, should consider walking in.RV

Park that beast (near boat ramp area, before the camp entrance). Get out and walk the hills and loops, BREATHE & relax – prior to a choosing camp site.

Unhitch any tow vehicles; use that to scout out your perfect spot, if you cannot hike it. Trailers and large motorhomes will find this place ideal, but getting the right camp, can make all the difference.

Trail around Campground

Paved Trail around CampgroundThe wildfire: BLUE FIRE burned this region in 2001, but it is lush and green again (2019). Northern California gets some real weather. Rain and snow, more than half the year. The campground closes annually due to snow.

Kayaking is best done in the morning, cuz wind picks up in the afternoon. Canoes can launch at boat ramp, or at shoreline from trails near campsite.

Hiking trails can be found all around lake and campground. Wilderness access can be found at South Warner trailheads within a short drive from the lake.

Cyclists also love this camp, as it is located near a major highway and is a perfect place to really relax, soak in the scenery and get some quiet-nights sleep.

Modoc National ForestNFSlogo
225 West 8th Street
Alturas, CA 96101
530-233-5811

 

south warner sign

South Warner Wilderness is close by, driving distance; accessible by graded dirt roads. Signage is decent.

Modoc Forest Road #64 is a through-route, across the lower South Warners – 40
miles connecting to east side of the mountain, at Eagleville, CA.

Dirt Roads are suitable for trucks w/ trailers. SUVs and rugged passenger cars are okay. Motorhomes are not advised on this route.  Washboard conditions are typical. Winter closure on this route is common.

south warner mountains map

MODOC RD 64

Several miles away from Blue Lake, 2 rustic trailhead campgrounds are located back this way – East Creek Campground & Patterson Campground. Less than 10 camp sites each, equipped  w/ horse stalls, vault toilets and maybe piped water. Trailhead parking for backpackers. No RVs!

Autumn colors w/ aspen groves. Open, large meadows and mature forests w/ wildfire scars. Cattle can be found grazing all around, many cattle crossing.

Minimal primitive camping options, along road sides. Campfire permits required. No camping within one mile of a developed campground.

Cow Country
Modoc is Cow Country
Road64
Day Trippin – Out exploring Modoc Road 64 (and cutting firewood)

nearby towns –

see also –
Mill Creek Falls Campground

Mill Creek Falls Modoc

mill creek falls

Mill Creek Falls
Modoc National Forest

Just found another MILL CREEK in Northern California; a waterfall on the west side of the South Warner Wilderness. Located at the headwaters to the Pit River; about 6 miles east of Likely, CA

A small developed campground on a wooded slope; with new bathrooms, shady camp sites, a paved loop, and a short hike to the falls.Hiking trailhead leads into the wilderness area for fishing, hiking, lakes and backcountry access.

Open less than half the year, due to winter snow. Campground access off US Hwy 395, via Jess Valley Road #64

Mill Creek Falls Campground NFS

• Elevation: 5,680′
• Number of Sites: 20
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Piped Water: Yes
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: South Warner Wilderness, Clear Lake

millcreek modoc

NFSlogo

Modoc National Forest
Warner Mountain Ranger District
530-279-6116

mill creek falls modoc

paved camp loop

Modoc Blue Lake Campground is also located off  Jess Valley Road.

south warner sign

Parking area for day use hikers and overnight backpackers. Hiking trail to waterfall is a short, half mile hike.

Clear Lake is further upstream, above the falls. If you want to find swimming holes, below the falls – then head down river from camp.

elevation 5680

see more MILL CREEKS in California


Wishon Reservoir

Lake Wishon – Sierra NF

Western Sierra Nevada Lake
Central Sierra California

lake wishon

East of Fresno, CA
East of Shaver Lake

EB from Fresno, Hwy 168 up to Shaver, w/ another 30+ miles on paved backroads
(Dinkey Creek Rd & then McKinley Grove Rd)
Way, way back, beyond Dinkey

You gotta really wanna BE at places like this. Magical High Sierra mountains – California’s finest. Sheer beauty surrounds this lake w/ granite domes, granite cliffs, granite trails, forests, peaks and plenty hiking, fishing, water and boating. It does take planning (way ahead) to make it out here, cuz the area is only accessible during summer months. Typical of high altitude lakes, snow buries them annually and the roads get closed off to the public (usually NOV-MAY is winter). Some backcountry routes become snowmobiling trails during winter, and the Sierra National Forest has plenty of great snomo action (if snow is deep).

Wishon Lake, California
elevation: 6600′

High Sierra Granite Reservoir with pines trees and rocky, granite shoreline. Not nearly as amazing as its cousin w/ the domes to the north, Courtright, Wishon has less granite & less wind, but more accessible backroads to explore, plus more car camping options. Both lakes are part of the Helms Creek hydro-electric project (dams) that make up the PG&E water infrastructure out in these parts – The Kings River Drainage System.

Backpacker trailheads, Woodchuck, Rancheria & Crown Valley all lead to dead end dirt roads – with nothing but solitude for miles & miles. Some might be passenger car accessible. Winter weather changes dirt road conditions (often).

The Kings River Geological Area is nearby, as well as both the John Muir Wilderness & Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.

Wishon Sierra Nevada

Large Reservoir with 8,000-10,000′ high sierra mountain peaks surrounding. Pine forests, views, fishing, camping, hiking in every direction, secluded dirt roads. Perfect high elevation trailheads, next to John Muir Wilderness. Great for backpackers!

All boating, but no waterski or jet ski.
One public boat ramp. Fishing boat rentals available.

WARNING: Water level changes daily.

 

lake area recreation:

Backpacking
Boating
Campground Camping
Dinkey Lakes Wilderness
Fishing
Hiking
Horse Pack Trips
John Muir Wilderness
Mountain Biking
Primitive Camping
Sierra National Forest
Snowmobiling the Sierras
Spanish Lake 4×4 Route

bridgewishon

Wishon is a summer vacation paradise for trout fishing, hiking, backpacking and back road exploring.

CLOSED FOR WINTER: NOV-APRIL = Snow closes the road for winter. For all you hardcore campers and hikers, you must call ahead to see if roads are open. It is rural forest, well traveled, but snow storms will shut everything down out here (for many months). Although, in some mild winters you can drive as far as Dinkey Creek on pavement. Gates are locked beyond that.

Central Sierra Wishon Lake Camping

LilyPad Campground @ Wishon Lake

Upper Kings Group Campground (by reservation only)

helpful numbers:

High Sierra Rangers Office: 559-855-5355
Pineridge and Kings River Ranger Districts
29688 Auberry Road, Prather, CA 93651

Dinkey Creek Ranger Station
(June thru September)
559-841-3404

Wishon Village RV
66500 McKinley Grove Road, Shaver Lake, CA 93664
559-865-5361

Engineering

Other places nearby


Black Rock Lake
Sierra Forest Road #11S12
Courtright Lake
Dusy Ershim 4×4 Trail

Dinkey Creek Campground
Dorabelle Campground
Gigantea Campground
McKinley Sequoia Grove
Sawmill Campground (dirt road)

Free, primitive or open camping abundant on the dirt backroads in Sierra National Forest. 4 wheel drive is not required for most routes, but a high clearance rig would help. Some gravel roads are graded annually and suitable for passenger cars – during summer months and only for about the first mile or two, off of the main road (pavement). Mud and snow are common on backroads!

Aspens @ Wishon, Western Sierra
nearby towns:
Fresno, CA
Huntington Lake
Lakeshore
Pine Flat
Prather
Shaver Lake

 

Sierra National Forest Map
Sierra National Forest Map
Dinkey Lakes Map
Dinkey Lakes Map
John Muir Wilderness Trail Maps Sierra Nevada Topo Map

Wilderness Wishon California

wish on

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH:
Wishon in Giant Sequoia & Wishon @ Bass Lake

There is another popular camp spot called Wishon Camp – on the Western Divide Highway, much further south in the Sequoia National Forest.

Wishon Campground on the Tule River in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Just up from Springville, CA

And also, the Bass Lake Wishon; there is another WISHON Campground at popular Bass Lake, South of Yosemite NP.

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 (Inyo NF)
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
Big 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.

rincon
Shermans Pass Road turn-off
paved route that connects Kern River to Mojave desert.

RINCON CAMP – The Rincon Fault (an earthquake faut line) runs in a north-south direction, on the east side of Kern River. Popular and rugged RINCON, a dirt bike and mountain bike trail runs this ridge as well. An overgrown hunters camp (which has been almost destroyed) is located up hill from Brush Creek falls; but accessible via unmaintained dirt road – unsigned pull out, just off Shermans’ Pass Road. High clearance vehicle is needed to reach this spot.

Johnsondale Cabins: R Ranch

johnsondale
Johnsondale under Fire 2002

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. Dry and high desert terrain. Canyons have more vegetation. East part of lake is a wildlife refuge w/ abundant cottonwood trees, which turn golden yellow in Autumn.

The earthen dam is on the south westside. California State Route 178 (Hwy 178), which connects Mojave desert w/ Bako. This major east-west Sierra route is a four-laner (freeway) cutting thru the valley. EXIT#  intersects w/ CA 155 to reach Alta Sierra, Wofford Heights, Kernville and all place north of there.

Breckenridge is a Mountain to the south of Isabella and Lower Kern. Tall pines with an empty campground awaits!

Isabella Lake

Lower Kern River

(river access / camping, southwest of Lake Isabella)

Historic Kern – Keyesville OHV
Off-Road Camping

hobo camping
Hobo Camp has a fishing trail along the river.

Old Kern Canyon Road

Minimal to modest campsites in the lower canyon. Most seclusion for overnight spots, can be found along the empty stretches of the 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, in between Lake Isabella and Bako.

Kern River Hot Tub
Local Hot Springs

Plumas Camping

Lil' Northfork Campsite
Primitive (dispersed) camping near Lil’ Northfork

Plumas National Forest Camping – Primitive Camp Sites

Spanish Creek, Quincy, CA
Spanish Creek, Quincy, CA

Plumas Forest Camping

NFSlogoNorth Sierra Nevada, Northern California

Listed below are primitive campgrounds w/ minimal facilities or open camping areas in Plumas National Forest. Plumas has excellent fishing as the big rivers & numerous creeks run thru this northern Sierra Nevada landscape. Open camping is allowed on almost any dirt road w/ a current campfire permit

see also – Plumas Campgrounds

driftwood

Brady’s Camp
[on Pine Creek near Argentine Rock]
near Quincy, CA – east on Squirrel Creek Rd. & go 8 mi. to the campground. Elevation 7200′ / Open May – October

pct

Bucks Lake has numerous NFS Campgrounds and PCT access; Overall elevation 5000′ w/ abundant boating, fishing and hiking. Snow in winter closes roads. Cabins, marina, lodge, restaurants. Bucks Lake Wilderness, Gold Lake, Silver Lake

Deanes Valley Campground camp
[along Rock Creek] Hwy.70 Quincy, go 3.5 mi. west on Buck Lake Rd. Head south & 7 mi. to the campground. Elevation 4400′ / Open April – October

 

35 mph

Ishi Wilderness hiker

Backpacking trails w/ dirt road access. Above Chico, beyond Cohassett; on the border of Tehema Co. and Butte Co. (Lassen NF & Plumas NF)

Inskip, CA – Way up beyond the Ridge, well past Magalia and Stirling City – find dense forests, dirt roads and camping. Philbrook Reservoir w/ West Branch Campground NFS. Elevation 5546′

24N10 – Plumas NF

Lakes Basin Recreation Area

lakesbasinhikers
lakes basin day hikers

Snag Lake California

4x4 dirtbikes fish

Ohio Valley – Seneca Road
[off Hwy 89 to southside] Primitive forest camping near Lake Almanor. ATV trails, hunting. Creeks and river camping closer to Seneca. High clearance or 4WD may be needed on these dirt back roads – depending on snow and mud. There is plenty dirt roads back here to explore.

Snake Lakecanoe
[good fishing area] Hwy.70 Quincy, go 5 mi. west on Buck Lake Rd. Head north & 5 mi. to the campground at the lake. Elevation 4200′ / Open April – October

Snake Lake, California
Snake Lake, California

Taylorsville Campground

Indian Valley - Plumas California

pinetree

 

digger pines
Bald Rock Road in Berry Creek, CA

see also – Feather River California

foreman creek
Foreman Creek @ Lake Oroville, (maxed out) FEB 2017

nearby towns –

Belden Town
Berry Creek, CA
Bucks Lakes, CA
Butte Meadows
Chico, CA
Greenville, CA
Oroville, CA
Paradise, CA
Portola, CA
Quincy, CA
Twain, CA


Canon Sin Nombre Slot Canyons

Happy Jan

Canon Sin Nombre – Anza Borrego
Mud Caves and Slot Canyon Hikes

Anza Borrego Desert State ParkDesert Slot Canyons – South Anza Borrego State Park region, just off County Road S-2 east of the ‘badlands overlook’ view point is a whole network of narrow walkways & skinny canyon trails to explore. Some are so tight you have to turn side ways to fit through. There are more than one of these sandstone topless caverns. Finding a new one each time you visit is a fun challenge. Just north in the Diablo canyon there are dry mud tunnels & trails as well. Explore & be careful not to get lost. And don’t camp at the canyon openings during the threat of heavy rains…duh.

Drive down steep, sandy road into Canon Sin Nombre entrance (the dirt road just to the north of Badlands Overlook). A high clearance vehicle is recommended and 4WD may be required in soft sand. 2WD SUVs/trucks should keep their speed up through the soft sandy areas & try not to turn or stop suddenly. Go slow in narrow sections of the canyon & slow over the rocks to save your oil pan.Anza Borrego photos

Clock your mileage 1 mile exactly from the paved road (s2) & park out in desert wash, pull over between the smoke trees. Hike over to the left side & look for an opening in the canyon walls to a deep secluded trench. A campsite may exists here.

hikerHike up the first canyon which does require some rock scrambling. The gorge lets you out at the very top with an impressive view over the Sweeney Pass area. The canyon walls are so tight in some spots you may have to turn sideways to fit through. Upper body strength is needed to climb high ledges & boulder scramble through this natural maze.

Once on top, wander on the ridge & check out the views; keeping to the right & then follow the next wash down to start the much longer & easier exit. Hike down in the main slot canyon which leads out to a big camp site & clearing. Exit slot area and turn right, walking back to the vehicle in the big wash.Slot Canyon

This particular hike is a blast on a full moon night, but not for a first timers try.

campBest time to visit: October – April

HIGH CLEARANCE VEHICLE access to reach trailhead. Moderate hike, boulder scrambling w/ dangerous mud walls. Flash floods here are possible during rains.

Plenty of 4×4 roads, SUV trails, & box canyons in the desert region.

Open primitive camping (free) all over
Anza Borrego State Park

The 2 nearest developed campgrounds:
Bow Willow Campground
Vallecito County Park

The Wall Walker

Smile Cheps

Sequoia Lakes

XTERRA KEN

Sequoia National Park Lakes

Southern Sierra Nevada Lakes

A decent list of California Lakes, Reservoirs and Ponds, in the Sequoia region of the Southern Sierra mountains ….spanning from the Kern River to the Kings River. Some are well known recreation lakes with boating available, while others are secluded lakes or small ponds. Enjoy nature – it’s free!boatramp

camp canoe

onatrunk

Hiking Lakes around Sequoia NP

hikerAll the hikes listed here are to super remote alpine lakes w/ granite mountain peaks all around. The Sierra gems are located in the steep, granite, high altitudes, that require hours of strenuous hiking and backcountry skills. These are not paved granny trails by any means. They are the total opposite.

Long, steep trails, with the freshest thin air. Know your physical conditioning (or lack thereof) before taking on a 10 mile day hike. It will wipe you out!!! Backpackers should obtain a wilderness permit before venturing overnight into the back country.

Mineral King Canyon, backpacking or day hikes to high country alpine lakes
Base camp: Cold Springs Campground fish

  • Franklin Lakes
  • Amphitheater Lake
  • Columbine Lake
  • Big Five Lakes

Lodgepole Lakes in Sequoia National Park.
Beyond the waterfalls, in the high country backpacking or day hikes –

  • Moose Lake
  • Big Bird Lake
  • Pear Lake
  • Heather Lake
  • Aster Lake
  • Emerald Lake

Kings Canyon Lakes, Kings Cyn NP at the very end of Hwy 180.
Backpack or day hike trails, from moderate elevation canyon to alpine high country w/ rivers, waterfalls and lakes –

gilbert lake
Gilbert Lake near Keasarge Pass – High Sierra Hiking

NFSlogo

Parks & Forests in Sequoia / Sierra Nevada –

back road maps & hiking trail maps of this Sequoia area –4x4

Lake Isabella, Kern River Canyon
Lake Isabella, Kern River Canyon

see also –campfire

McKinley Grove, near Dinkey Creek & Wishon Reservoir

All Sequoia Groves in California

Sequoia Camping on the Back Roads


Free Campgrounds Sierra

Granite Creek

Free Campgrounds in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

no charge camp, no fee camping, free campgrounds

No fee camping: Bare bones. California Sierra Campgrounds without the fee.

NFSlogoDeveloped BLM or NFS campgrounds, where you can still have a campfire. Vault toilets, panic tables and fire rings. Use bear boxes when provided for proper food storage.

secluded campgrounds

Below is a good long list of some favorite free developed campgrounds in the Sierras. Many will require dirt road driving, as most are located well of the highway. Perhaps the 12 mile rough road will thin out the crowds. Free overnight stay!

campfirePack in your drinking water and pack out your trash. Campfire permits are not required at developed campgrounds; but a bringing a water bucket and shovel is necessary for tending your campfire. Piped water is not always available, or perhaps, not in working order at these primitive style camps. Be prepared to rough it a little.

Sierra National Forest – Central Sierra

Mammoth Pool Areacamptruck

Granite Creek Camp
Granite Creek Campground

Redinger Lake lakeboatramp
open all year long; no campfires

Redinger Campground

Courtright Reservoirlake
no-fee OHV

Voyager Rock 4×4 Camping

4x4

Huntington Lakelake
no-fee OHV

West Kaiser Camp 4×4

Kaiser Pass Roadlake
no-fee camping

Dinkey Creek Roadlake

Sawmill Flat Campground

Kings River Campgroundfish
free river camping

mosquito_lake
Mosquito Lakes @ Ebbetts Pass Hwy 4

Stanislaus National Forest – Central Sierra

Highway 4 – Ebbetts Passhiker

mosquitoTH

Highway 108 – Sonora Pass

Hwy 120 – West of Yosemite NPcamp
Tuolumne Wild & Scenic River

Eldorado National Forest – Central Sierra

mokelumne camp
Mokelumne Campground

Tahoe National Forest – Northern Sierra

creekcanyon
Canyon Creek, Tahoe NF

Highway 89 – Truckeehiker

Interstate 80 – Donner Pass

French Meadows Reservoircanoe

campsite snag lake
Snag Lake (free) Camping on Gold Lake Highway
secludedcamp
Deane’s Valley Camp, West of Quincy, CA

Plumas National Forest –  Northern Sierra

Brady’s Campcamptruck
Deanes Valley Campground
Grizzly Creek Campground
Rock Creek Campground
Rogers Cow Camp

Silver Lake Campground @ Bucks Lake
Snake Lake Campground

Snake Lake
Snake Lake Campground near Quincy, California

Sequoia National Forest – Southern Sierra

Breckenridge Campground
Forest Rd# 28S06
South of Kern Rivertree_stainglass

Giant Sequoia Area

Kings River Area

Mill Flat Kings River
Mill Flat @ Kings River

see alsoWalk-In Campsites


Moses Gulch Campground

road5 moses
Narrow Dirt Roads lead way back to Moses Gulch.

Moses Gulch Campground
Middle North Fork of Tule River

Northside of Western Divide Highway 190, near Springville, CA

Mountain Home State Forest
559-539-2321 summer
559-539-2855 winter

Located right on the middle north fork of the Tule River

Small developed campground on the back roads of Mountain Home State Forest. Campground closes seasonally, for winter snow.

Usually open: MAY-OCT

tuleday
Swimming Holes on Tule River

MOSES GULCH CAMPGROUND camping

Elevation: 5,500′
Number of Sites: 10 walk-in camp sites
Reservations: No
Sites Available: First come, First serve
Vehicle Accessibility: No RVs
Length of Stay: 14 Days
Water: River nearby
Toilet: Vault
Bear Boxes: Yes
Trailheads: Tule River; Moses Mountain; Golden Trout
Season: Closed for winter months
Fee: Yes
Operated By: National Forest Service
Closest Town: Springville, California

tent camping on river

Motorhome RV campers beware; no hook-ups, no paved roads. This is a primitive style camp, way back on a dirt road – not suitable for large vehicles.

NOTE $ This used to be FREE CAMPING, but they recently started charging an overnight fee for this campground.

spot6 moses

  • hikerbike
  • camp
  • fish
  • hike
  • picnic
  • stargaze

Golden Trout Wilderness is closeby. Plenty of hiking opportunities, great scenery and several Sequoia groves to visit. Mountain biking is allowed on the dirt roads. Single track trails may be overgrown or even off-limits, due to the fragile eco-system around Sequoia trees.

tule middle northfork
Tule River,  north fork of the middle Tule

SEQUOIA_mapBoth Moses Gulch and Hidden Falls are accessible via a long, narrow, paved mountain road; then a dirt road, leading 3 miles back to the remote reaches of the Wilderness edge.

western south sierra

North of Springville on Highway 190, turn left (north) on to J37, some call it Balch Park Road (Google Maps has it as Wagner Drive) and follow it up 3.5 miles to Bear Creek Road (#220). Drive 17.5 miles on curvy Bear Creek Road, turn right and follow signs to campground.

Groves
Hike Sequoia Groves


Borrego Campground


Camping Borrego

Anza Borrego Desert State Park & Borrego Springs Campgrounds

Anza Borrego Desert is the largest of the California State Parks. Borrego Palm Canyon Campground is the official name of this popular palm oasis & developed campground located very close to Borrego Springs CA. Hike or bike to town. There is also a private RV Park named Palm Canyon Resort in town, just to confuse you.

Desert wildflowers blooms, popular hiking & biking trails, plus mud caves & slot canyons draw plenty visitors here, mostly in the winter months. Summer high temps exceed 90 degrees for months at a time.
There are hundreds of miles of dirt roads to explore, and one could easily spend every weekend for a full year, checking out all there is to see in this vast desert, where elevations range from near sea level to 5000′ peaks.

Borrego Desert Campgrounds

Anza Borrego State Park Campgrounds calsp
760-767-5311, Anza Borrego Desert SP

BORREGO PALM CANYON CAMPGROUND
main campground near Visitors Center, in town Borrego Springs, CA
120 camp sites for tents & RVs, flush toilets, overnight / day use fees
reservations accepted

TAMARISK GROVE CAMPGROUND
27 camp sites, flush toilets, fee
on S-3 @ Highway 78 jct (closed June – Sept)
reservations accepted (Oct-May)

Vern Whitaker Horse Camp
equestrian campground w/ corrals, 10 camp sites, flush toilets
elev, 960′, located N of Borrego Springs, near scenic and rugged Coyote Canyon.
reservations accepted

Backcountry Campgrounds Anza

Arroyo Salado
16 miles east of Borrego Springs on County Road S-22

Blair Valley Camping Area
open car camping & RV spots, vault toilets
on SAN DIEGO County Rd S-2 near Highway 78 jct

Bow Willow Campground
elev, 950′, hwy access, 16 camp sites, pit toilets, overnight fee
near Sweeney Pass & badlands overlook; located on S-2, 9 miles N of Interstate 8

Canon Sin Nombre
off S-2 near Sweeney Pass; entrance near Badlands Overlook; slot canyon hikes

Coyote Canyon Camping
N of Borrego Springs via Di Giorgio Road
rugged backcountry dirt road, tent camping only
car camping near ocotillo gardens; 4×4 needed @ creek crossing & Sheep Canyon

Culp Valley Campgound
elev, 3400′, hwy access, 8 camp sites, pit toilets, free camp
located on S-22, atop Montezuma Grade

Culp Valley Boulders
elev, 3700′, dirt road access, primitive camp sites, free
located off S-22, 4×4 near Montezuma Grade

Fish Creek Campground
Hwy 78 near Ocotillo Wells & Split Mountain
elev, 280′, dirt road access, 8 camp sites, pit toilets, free camp
from hwy, go 12 milies south on Split Mountain Road

Yaqui Well
5 mi. south of Borrego Springs on County Road S-3 & right on Yaqui Pass Road, go 6 miles to camping area on right side

Yaqui Pass
5 mi. south of Borrego Springs on County Road S-3 & right on Yaqui Pass Road, go 4 miles to camping area on left side

culpvalleyOHV
Culp Valley trails, North Anza Borrego SP, SoCal Deserts

All Desert Campgrounds Nearby

AGUA CALIENTE HOT SPRINGS
(San Diego County Park)
88 camp sites for tents & RVs, flush toilets, overnight / day use fees, 760-765-1188
located on Co. Rd S-2, 22 miles N of Interstate 8 (closed June-Aug)

BOX CANYON RD Mecca, CA – in between Joshua Tree NP and Anza Borrego Desert
BLM camping in Box Canyon & Mecca Hills Wilderness Park

BUTTERFIELD RANCH RV PARK & HORSE CAMPGROUND
(Private Campground Resort)
located on S-2 between Highway 78 & Interstate 8

LEAPIN LIZARD RV RANCH
(Private Campground Resort)
85 acres, 60 camp sites
located on Split Mountain Road, Ocotillo Wells, CA

OCOTILLO WELLS SVRA
(State Vehicular Recreation Area)
elev. 160′, 4×4 and off road camp sites for trailers & RVs
no water, no hook-ups, pit toilets, no fees, 760-767-5391
located on Highway 78 (closed June-Sept)

PALM CANYON RV RESORT
(Private Campground Resort)
located in town, Borrego Springs, CA

SALTON SEA SRA
(State Recreation Area & Campground)
Mecca Beach, Corvina Beach, Salt Creek Campgrounds
located on Highway 111 on east side of inland sea

SLAB CITY @ SALTON SEA
old Camp Dunlap in California desert badlands
free & open RV camping near Salton Sea
located off Highway 111 on east side of inland sea

STAGECOACH RV PARK & HORSE CAMPGROUND
(Private Campground Resort)
located on S-2 near Highway 78 junction

TRUCKHAVEN HILLS
(OHV trails & camp spots)
elev. 300′, 4×4 and off road camp sites for car camping, touy hauler trailers & RVs
no water, no hook-ups, no fees,
located on S-22, East of Borrego Springs, CA

VALLECITO PARK
(San Diego County Park)
44 camp sites for tents & RVs, no hook-ups, toilets, overnight / day use fees, 760-765-1188
located on S-2, 22 miles N of Interstate 8 (closed June-Aug)

Mecca Hills
Mecca Hills BLM

Desert BLM Camping Spots

  • MECCA – BOX CANYON
  • OCOTILLO – FOSSIL SHELL CANYON
  • YUHA DESERT WILDERNESS – South of Interstate 8

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

camp

FREE CAMPING ANZA – Let us also remind you that this is the best place to camp in California for primitive car camping (camping outside of a developed campground). Open all year long – always! Super secluded, darkest skies, free and always located on the back roads. 4×4 is not required in all areas, so there are plenty of options. Blair Valley or Coyote Canyon Gardens are popular camp spots, but there are thousands of hidden canyons and washes in this giant State Park, just awaiting your tent. You’ll need a decent topographic map. For more info on free camping click here.

Anza wildflowers

San Diego County Road S-2 is the
Great Overland Stagecoach Route of 1849

Anza Borrego Wildflowers

Borrego 4×4 Trails & Camps

Carrizo Gorge Goat Trestle

Split Mountain Anza Borrego

Topo maps, wilderness hiking maps –

COOLNESS
Anza Borrego Desert Slot Canyons

nearby cities & towns:

Carrizo Gorge Goat Trestle

Carizzo Gorge

Carrizo Gorge Goat Trestle – via Mortero Wash. Near the south end of Anza Borrego State Park is the infamous ‘goat trestle’, one of the largest wooden rail road trestles in the US.

This hike can be reached by driving N on County Road S2 (from I-8) into Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Near park boundary keep your eyes peeled for Mortero Canyon Rd (signed) on the left side. This is a sandy dirt road, accessible by passenger car, that leads out to the train tracks & then past to the Mortero Big Boulder campsites. Park at rail road tracks near water tank & start hike from here.

NOTE: Do not be alarmed if you happen to see NUDE hikers coming from the opposite end of this railway, where a nudist resort is located along Interstate 8, called De Anza Springs.

hike bike primitive camp sites

Carrizo Gorge Trestle
Railroad Tunnels, near Anza Borrego Desert

rail road history

San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad ­ SD&A/SD&AE

Ground was broken on September 7, 1907 by San Diego’s Mayor, John Forward and the construction of the 140 mile route was completed on November 15, 1919. The first through train was the called the “Golden Spike Limited”, named after the $286 golden spike, which John D Speckels drove into the ground near tunnel #8.

  • The Goat Canyon Trestle was built in 1932 to re-route tracks due to a landslide.
  • Passenger Cars Ran until 1951.
  • The route through Carriso Gorge was closed temporarily by Tropical Storm Kathleen in September of 1976.
  • And was reopened 1981, and then closed again by recurring storms.
  • Kyle Railways ran freight cars until mid 1984.

The Carriso Gorge section has fallen into disrepair with two trestles being burned and the collapse of two tunnels as the result of fires. The trestles have been rebuilt and one of the tunnels has been repaired but as of 2002 this scenic section of track is used mostly by hikers and mountain bikers. The sounds of the trains exist only in our imagination.

Goat Trestle Anza Borrego Desert

Other Facts: Derailed cars are from 1984 and were filled with bags of cement. Laborers were brought in to unload the cement but the cars were left. The Goat Canyon Trestle is 185″ tall and 600″ long. During its use it was the tallest wooden structure in daily use. This trestle was designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1986. Carrizo means “reed grass” in Spanish. Total cost of construction was $18 million.

In 1979 the SD & AE west of Plaster City was sold to the Metropolitan Transit Development Board for $18.1 million. SD&A was said to stand for “Slow, Dirty and Aggravating” because of the high temperatures, smoke and open windowed trains cars.

South end of Anza Borrego State Park
Dispersed camping
Dispersed camping (for free) in the Boulders

Central Sierra Nevada Mountains

Small Camping Lake
Kirkwood Lake Campground

Central Sierra Nevada: Sequoia to Donner

Although Sequoia trees can be found in the southern Sierra, the National Park is located more in the mid-Sierra. From the Kern River to Kings River,  the southern stretch of Sierra Nevada is home to the southern most Sequoia groves, the longest river in California, and the granite dome wonderlands that overlook the Mojave Desert.

The Tehachapi range is on the tail end to the south w/ Hwy 58, while Kings Canyon Park borders more High Sierra Wilderness to the north end. If you are heading up from SoCal, this is the most accessible portion of the Sierra Nevada range.

While the Kern River Valley can get hot in the summer months, the rivers, streams & higher elevations surrounding it, make it a prime destination for folks seeking cooler mountain breezes, creeks and dark skies. Springtime is one of the best times of year to visit the Kern River. While summer is best for the high wilderness areas, since the snow usually doesn’t melt until May.

Mountain Home State Forest is a little known haven for campers & hikers seeking less-crowded Sequoia groves. With the Tule River, fishing ponds, waterfalls, swimming holes & meadows, this place provides a nice solitude to the busier parks to the north. Balch Park is a county park w/ large campground, that sits adjacent to Mountain Home Forest.

Both National Parks (Seqouia & Kings) are both busy in summer & tourists can be seen lining the main road, Highway 198. Crystal Cave & Boyden Cavern both offer daily tours during the warmer months. Sequoia National Park is open during winter months & is popular among winter sports enthusiasts. Kings Canyon National Park & Hwy 180 are also open during winter, with winter sports recreation.

Big Meadows Road (14S11) offers great camping options for those that wish to camp outside the National Park boundaries.

Sequoia groves

Sequoia forest & parks –

Sequoia National Forest
Mountain Home State Forest
Sequoia National Park
Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia maps & trails –

Sequoia towns nearby –
Alta Sierra, Camp Nelson, Fairview, Kennedy Meadows, Kernville, Lake Isabella, Mineral King, Ponderosa, Springville, Three Rivers, Wofford Heights

Sierra Nevada

Central Sierra Nevada forest & parks –


Sierra National Forest

Yosemite National Park

Stanislaus National Forest

Eldorado National Forest

Tahoe National Forest

Sierra Nevada

Central Sierra Highways –

Central Sierra Nevada maps & trails –

Rancheria Falls
Rancheria Falls, Huntington Lake, CA

Central Sierra Nevada towns nearby –
Bass Lake, Fish Camp, Huntington Lake, Pine Flat Reservoir, Shaver Lake

stanislaus sonora pass

Gold Country California

is located in the western foothills of the Central Sierra Mountains

Historic Highway 49 is the Gold Country Hwy, which begins down near Yosemite and leads north, thru the foothills, up to Sierra Buttes & ends out near Loyalton, CAgold miner

California Topo Maps

topo linesCalifornia Terrain

Topographical maps feature the terrain of a wilderness or hiking area, through colored shading & thin contour lines to represent elevations. Park boundaries, trail routes, trail heads & campgrounds are noted, as well as major landmarks like lakes, rivers, creeks, meadows, peaks, canyons, hot springs, waterfalls & all roads (dirt or paved).

Backpackers & hikers must rely on such maps for planning & trekking their journey. Hard copy, printed, waterproof maps are top choice, but topo maps now come in digital format for download as well. DanaMite has recently started including these digital map links within the Total Escape Map Shop – totalescape.net/shop/

Here in California we are lucky to have so much public land available to us for enjoyment. Numerous map vendors make maps for nearly all of the regions across California.

Affiliate Button

QUADS: 7.5 minute topographic quadrangle maps, available from the USGS, can be found online w/ Avenza Maps (often for free) and also, direct from the government site https://www.usgs.gov/products/maps/topo-maps

A while back, the NFS offered handy books of these sought-after topo maps. They were compiled into booklet form called an ATLAS, with sturdy covers & a spiral bound. Overall size is close to 9″x12″ & they are much easier to handle than the individual paper maps. Look for Forest Topo Atlases

List of topo maps available for California:

wilderness maps CA kings canyon
conradkid
Hiking the High Sierra @ 12,000 feet above sea level

Lake Henshaw

henshawabove

Lake Henshaw
North San Diego County

Lake Henshaw is next to Cleveland National Forest with Palomar Mountain State Park closeby. The northern border of Anza Borrego Desert State Park is not too far away either.

MAPS of this region –SAN DIEGO mountains map

Cleveland National Forest USDA
Cleveland Forest Topo Atlas USDA
Anza Borrego Desert Map
San DiegoBackcountry Map
Agua Tibia Wilderness Map

If you are imagining a forested alpine lake near Palomar Mountain, this is not it. Henshaw is a countryside area w/ meadow setting near ranches with open skies and open terrain. Can be windy at times! Can be hot in late summer.

Perfect remote spot for stargazing. Henshaw is the nearest body of water to Mount Palomar & is located on Hwy. 76, but the terrain is quite the contrast to the pine topped mountain nearby.

treebwTREES: Lake Henshaw has very few trees; mostly large open spaces & fields surrounding it. Cattle grazing & rolling hills w/ mountain backdrop. Stargazing and fishing cabins is more fitting of a description. This bare bones basic, little cabin resort offers a true get away from civilization for maximum relaxation close to SoCal cities.

Lake Henshaw specs:
elevation: 2740′
surface area: 1137 acres

Lake Henshaw Resort
760-782-3501
lakehenshawresort.com

Camping – 400 developed camp sites for tent and RV. swimming, picnicking, hiking, cabins, groceries

fishing:

  • trout
  • catfish
  • bluegill
  • bass
  • crappie

boating:

  • boat launch ramp
  • canoe
  • kayak
  • row boat
  • power boats
  • boat rentals available
  • inflatables
  • windsurfing

California Fishing Cabins SoCal

28E201 – Inyo NF

trailsdown

Road #28E201 – Inyo National Forest
also known as Inyo Road #4S86

Laurel Lakes Road
Inyo National Forest
Eastern Sierra, California

Southeast of Mammoth Lakes, CA
West of Crowley Lake, CA

Steep, rocky, gravel road, way up above (and behind) Convict Lake. 4WD may be needed during wet or snowy weather. High clearance is always advised. Locked GATE at the bottom means the NFS rangers have closed the route (seasonally) for deep snow, rock slides, avalanches, or other erosion hazards.

Laurel Canyon, US Hwy 395
Laurel Creek
Laurel Lakes

amigoaspens
Laurel Lake Road, Eastern Sierra

Find more INYO BACK ROADS

  • backpacking
  • camping
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • horseback
  • lakes
  • mountaineering

GenevieveLake

Trailhead to Lake Genevieve (pictured above), hike lake loop, snowy peaks.
NOTE: No easy access to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)

Laurel Mountain (elev 11,818′)
Bloody Mtn. (12,544′)

oldestrocks

gnarlyrocks
CLICK TO ENLARGE

Geologic:

Oldest, exposed rock in the Sierra Nevada mountains range. Buckling granite w/ volcanic rocks. Evidence of glacial activity including, terminal, lateral, and recessional moraines, glacial striations and polish, erratic boulders, and of course the numerous lakes. see more

Volcanic Eastern Sierra
Volcanic hikes in the Eastern Sierra

1S23 – Inyo NF

inyoroad1S23

Inyo Forest Rd #1S23

Walker Lake & Mono Pass
Bloody Canyon Trailhead

North of June Lake Loop, off of Road #1N17

also known as Little Walker Lake trailhead

1 mile walk downhill to Walker Lake; very steep trail with 800′ elevation decent.
Vault toilet & one campsite at parking lot.

trailheadcamp

Trailhead camp for backpackers who arrive late. Nearby Parker Creek offers more in the line of free camping, more creeks, private setting.

Slim pickins on campsites, means have a plan B or C ready in case these few ideal canyons are full. Minimal camping spots, down on the main drag Road #1N17

Bloody Canyon leads further up the steep ravine to Upper & Lower Sardine Lakes.

walkerlake

 

Walker TH

Bohler Canyon near #1S19 (locked gate)
private property along some portion of this lake, so be aware of signage

Dirt Street

7S02 up hill

An avenue made of dirt, earthen highways, dirt trails, forest roads, fire roads, jeep road, graded roads. Dirt driving trails that lead into the middle of nowhere. No stop signs, no billboards, no stores, no one else around… for miles. Enjoy less crowds and more open space.

dirt streetsIf you are fed up with city life, sitting in traffic & need to vacate your mind among the barren hills of California (if only for a weekend), then Total Escape is your place. You seek solitude, peace, maybe a mini tailgate party & BBQ on a dry lake bed, with the heavenly stars above. Imagine the warm camp fire light reflecting off the high canyon walls, your music echoing, moonlight hikes for a few miles.

California has some awesome spots to drive on dirt, get way back in nature. Right up to the edge of the Wilderness boundary. That’s what this one silly “dirt street” page is all about… helping you get out there, the easiest & best way possible. We even got you the right maps!

Back Roads in California

The End of Dirt Roads

California OHV Maps

Most of this is just dirt road driving, graded, some hills, easy stuff. But on occasion you might come across a 4×4 required sign – or perhaps a triple black diamond trail. Having several good maps on hand will help you enjoy these roads, instead of stressing & wondering if there is a lock gate at the other end – 18 miles in.

Some dirt streets lead to campgrounds, some to waterfalls, some to viewpoints, some have loop options & others are just dead end; sometimes at old mines. Get ready to explore with your truck or SUV. 2WD or low clearance vehicles (such as passenger cars) should be ready to turn back if the road get too nasty. Any decent precipitation can make any unpaved road much worse & may require 4 wheel drive, so have a plan B mud terrainor C as a backup idea.

Best off road areas & parks in California:

Death Valley Roads

Tooling around Goler Wash & Barker Ranch on the very edge of Death Valley

Poppy Stompers

California Golden Poppy

The official state flower of California is the POPPY

Spring usually means it’s warming up, to a great wildflower season in California. Time to get outdoors more! Hike, bike and picnic near the wildflowers and see some poppies.

poppy fields

California Golden Poppies can be found throughout the state, in small patches near the roadways, rolling hills behind vineyards, in high desert flats (where wind gets whipping) or even out near a ranch, with oak hills and fields of golden orange.

POPPIES can blanket hillsides, resulting in a show stopping event – which can be deadly on freeways? N of L.A. interstate 5 (the Grapevine) TEJON PASS (Lebec, Gorman, Junction 138) >> Please pull to nearest exit and stop the car. (It will be safest and well worth the 10 minute stretch break.)

Golden poppies can be found all over California. Flowers like lupine and owls clover can often be found nearby. Wildflowers may only last a few weeks, so go enjoy them while they last.

Bright yellow, gold, deep orange – or any shade in between!

best places to find poppies

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Table Mountain @ Cherokee Road
North of Oroville, CA

wine country

Wine Country NorCal

Alexander Valley Road

Railroad Tracks @ Santa Rosa, CA
Napa County
Sonoma County

Santa Rosa Tracks

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

Kern County

Fort Tejon State Historic Park @ I-5
Cerro Noroeste Road & Klipstein Canyon
Carrizo Plain National Monument BLM
Kern River Canyon
S of Walker Basin @ Caliente Bodfish Rd
North of Tehachapi, CA

Santa Lucia Mountains
Rock Front Ranch
Schoolhouse Canyon
Cottonwood
Hwy 166, West of New Cuyama, CA

Figueroa Mountain Road
Los Padres National Forest
East of Santa Ynez, CA

Pine Flat Reservoir
@ Kings River, Sierra National Forest
East of Fresno, CA

East Bay San Francisco
The rural hills out east are the best places to find poppies in the Bay Area.

Mojave Desert Preserve
Providence Mountain SRA
Interstate 40
East of Barstow, CA

Central Coast California

Gold Country Hiking

Gold Country California

Auburn, CA
Central California Reservoirs
Located all around most rivers w/ dams (reservoirs) poppies can easily be found along highways, rural roads and on oak hillsides.

 

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Boulder Creek Road (dirt)
Descanso to Julian, CA
San Diego Mountain Foothills

SoCal poppies

Lancaster Poppy: Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Poppy Hotline (661) 724-1180

Remember, stay on the trail!  Getting a picture of that one really nice poppy will crush all the plants along the way, and compact the ground leaving lifeless bare dirt for the next year or longer.  If someone else has started a trail, do not add to the damage.  Please be a responsible park visitor and leave the park as nice as you found it.

Or you can avoid the crowds & tour buses at the Poppy Park to head off on your own adventure. All along both sides of high desert Hwy 138 you can find fields of California Poppies, from the small town of Neenach, CA east to Hwy 14. Plus the hills of Gorman are usually full of color.

Gorman @ I-5
Gorman CA – Interstate 5 @ jct Hwy 138

Maxson Trailhead

If you are a backpacker wanting to easily access the John Muir Wilderness, the paved parking area of Maxson is the trail head for you. The Courtright Reservoir is located at over 8000′ elevation, w/ granite domes & alpine scenery all around. This place is way back behind Dinkey Creek, past the McKinley Sequoia Grove inside a deep granite gorge. The Sierra National Forest is the region, which is south of Yosemite National Park. The paved route is a long one from Shaver Lake, via Dinkey Creek Road, but the rewards are great. An all day adventure and a side trip not to be rushed.

Warning: You could spend a whole day just driving & sightseeing in this area! Meadows, wildflowers, dirt roads, trails, Big Creek, McKinley Grove of Sequoias, Wishon Reservoir, the list goes on. All the way out to the Wilderness boundary, Courtright Lake is not a quick or easy drive.

The hikers trailhead is located at the end of Courtright Rd. Cross over the big dam to the right & drive approx one mile; look for signs on the right side of the road. There are minimal areas to set camp at this granite , windswept face. Good luck getting a tent stake in the ground. Rock rules here. There are a few developed Campgrounds on the opposite side of the lake which may be a better choice for car camping. This Maxson parking lot is primarily for backpackers.john muir maps

nearby locales –

maps of this Sierra region –


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Dusy Ershim 4×4 route start right here too – on the opposite side of the road. It’s second only to the Rubicon Trail, as far as High Sierra rocks & terrain.

Rock Climbers also love this spot for the granite domes & walls. Hiking all the way around this lake is a full day trip, with lunch and sightseeing stops. A pleasure not to be rushed.

dusy ershim