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

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 Sequoia
There is another popular camp spot called Wishon, on the Western Divide Highway, much further south in the Sequoia. Wishon Campground on the Tule River in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Just up from Springville, CA. And Bass Lake Wishon; there is another WISHON Campground at popular Bass Lake, South of Yosemite NP.

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 Sequoias. 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 are both busy in summer & tourists can be seen lining the 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

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 (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 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.

Campfires
CAMPFIRE RESTRICTIONS can still be in place from the dry summer, but any decent amount of rain can change the status, so make sure to check with the rangers for up-to-date fire info.

Tent Camp

BOOK CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

Southern California

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.

Kern River Canyon

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

Wishon Reservoir
Lily Pad Campground

Kirkwood, CA
Blue Lakes Road
Carson Pass CA Highway 88

Camping

Northern Sierra

primarily has the big river canyons, most of which have fall colors. Yuba River, Feather Rivers.

Downieville, CA
Yuba River Campgrounds

Hope Valley, CA
Hope Valley Campground Tent Camp

Lake Tahoe

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

Camping

Autumn Bliss Hike

Eastern Sierra

is the ‘place to be’ for Autumn Colors in California. The dramatic desert meets the tallest granite peaks. Every canyon is a different scene, some have small 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, CA
June Lake Loop / Hwy 158
Parker Lake (dirt road to primitive camps)
June Lake CampgroundTent Camp
Oh Ridge CampgroundTent Camp
Reversed Creek CampgroundTent Camp

Lee Vining, CA
Lee Vining Canyon / Hwy 120
One of the biggest aspen grove canyons in the state.
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 in the canyon.
Whitney Portal has only a few aspens.

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

Tom’s Place, CA
McGee Creek Campground Tent Camp

Rockcreek Road
Impressive Rock Creek Road in Rock Creek Canyon, one of the very best “Autumn Drives” in the Eastern Sierra.

Rock Creek Lake Campground @ 9600′ elev Tent Camp

Iris Meadow Campground @ 8600′ elev

iris meadow

Iris Meadow on Rock Creek Rd

Camping

Northern California

(this part under construction)

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

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

Modoc National Forest (coming soon)

Siskiyou Autumn Colors (coming soon)