California Fire Lookouts for Rent
US Forest Service Cabins
Rent a secluded cabin with an amazing view, a historic tower for wildfire spotting, or a USFS guard station – hidden deep inside USDA California National Forests. Several of these NFS lookouts have been closed recently, so the ones listed below have links to status and reservation information.
Dirt road access is common to reach these remote locations. Some require stair climbing, or steep access hikes. Winter months are usually snowy, inaccessible and sometimes dangerous for these high country locations. Access roads suffer from closures due to rock slides or landslides. Check with the locals ranger station for current conditions.
A few of these rentals are open all year long – in the southern part of the golden state.
Historic Town Site: Kongsberg, Eastern Sierra, California
Silver Mountain City
Located on the lightly forested slopes of the Carson River. About 7 miles east of Ebbett’s Pass, Highway 4 (CA SR 4)
Silver Boom Town in 1866
Founded as Kongsberg in the late 1850’s by Scandinavian mining prospectors, the town name was later changed to Silver Mountain City. This wild, remote locale was the county seat for Alpine County from 1864 to 1875. The mining camp town was abandoned by 1886.
This canyon stretch of SR 4 highway has limited primitive camping options along the water. Flat dirt clearings and maybe a rock fire ring. No facilities, no bathrooms.
Silver Creek runs parallel to the highway and meets East fork of Carson River. Google Maps has this named Alpine State Hwy (which is closed in winter)
Drive less than 55 mph to take in all the scenery, slower if you want to find a decent place to stop. Look for easy pull-offs on dirt, a few trails, parking spots, picnic trees, some favorite fishing spots. Campfire permits are needed for dispersed camping.
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
NFS Campgrounds nearby :
Silver Creek Campground @ 6800′ elev.
NFS developed camp w/ fee (open June-Sept)
Centerville Flat Campground @ 5900′ elev.
undeveloped sites. Silver Creek meets East fork of Carson River
Large, granite, alpine lake in the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains. Abundant trout fishing, swimming, camping, boating, hiking, floating, kayaking, picnic sites, and high altitude backpacking trailheads. Shoreline fishing is just as good as by boat. Fishing boats can be rented at Kit Carson Lodge.
The high altitude location makes this a winter wonderland half the year w/ snow ski resorts nearby! It is an awesome summertime family vacation destination as well. Fishing is excellent through Autumn months. Campgrounds close up shop in October, generally when the snow starts. High Sierra – Deep snow pack means they will not reopen until May (at the earliest).
Carson is major Sierra Pass highway, but it closes for big snows, so always check CalTrans before you make the drive up the mountain. Carson Pass is California State Route 88, which connects the Gold Country (on the western slopes) to the South Lake Tahoe region (on the eastern border), near Nevada.
Check Current Highway Conditions for HWY 88 roads.dot.ca.gov
Cal Trans 800-427-7623
Silver Lake Day Use Areas
These areas listed below are operated by El Dorado Irrigation District and they do charge a day-use fee for many of the amenities provided. Boat Launch fee? Yep. Parking fee? Maybe. Picnic stop! How much? Eat fast!
Ferguson Point is located on the north shore of Silver Lake: 10 picnic tables & vault toilets.
Sandy Cove is on NW shore of Silver Lake: Wheel-chair access to lake edge, 5 picnic tables, piped water & vault toilets.
Oyster Creek Rest Area, up along Highway 88, 1 mile NE of Silver Lake: 10 picnic tables & vault toilets.
Historic Memories: Camp Minkalo, Camp Silverado & Kays Silver Lake Resort are all closed now.
Many small businesses come and go in the rural mountains of California. Throughout the decades, some do survive, but many change hands, change names, or have a difficult time ‘making it all work’ in the off-season. Always call ahead (real phone w/ real person) before you make a big drive to a remote location.
National Forest Campgrounds in this lake vicinity:
• Elevation: 7200′
• Number of Sites: 62
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 30′
• Campsite Reservations: Yes
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Toilet: Vault
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: Hidden Lake, Sandy Cove
El Dorado National Forest
Amador Ranger District
26820 Silver Drive
Pioneer, CA 95666
Older lodges, resorts, camps and cabins at Silver Lake were mainly built in the 1920s, while the oldest resort dates back to the mid 1800s. Wow, how cool is that! Much history in this mountain region w/ Kit Carson Emigrant Trail, all stories totally worth exploring.
at Indian Valley, Northern Sierra Nevada mountains
also known as – Taylorsville County Campground Taylorsville Community Campground Taylorsville Park Campground
Beautiful North Sierra Nevada. The rural country life is out here… in the mountains of NorthernCal. Cattle ranches, a few sheep, grazing deer, big old barns, bike races and much residential. Taylorsville is a very small town, on the edge of the Indian Valley. Right across the valley from Greenville and Round Valley Reservoir.
elevation: 3200′ camp sites: 32 piped water near camp: yes toilets: flush showers: yes fee: yes season: May-October
The wooded campground is located at the intersection of North Valley Road, Genesee Rd and Arlington Rd – a few miles off the main highway 89.
Looking for a quiet place to tent camp in between Quincy & Greenville? then this is it. The best developed campground option in the whole region. Closed for winter months – cuz it does snow pretty good up here.
This shaded tent campground loop is on a hillside; across the street from the small rodeo grounds, the community park w/ picnic areas, tennis courts and a small RV park. Campground host located behind the bathrooms.
Nearest local laundromat in nearby Greenville, behind the main grocery market.
bathing… would be nice
Flush toilets and showers, affordable overnight prices, plus ideal walking-hiking-biking location make this a special campground worth mentioning!
Overland pioneers and miners flooded the Sierra Nevada mountains after 1848, when gold was discovered, transforming the natural landscape and native life of California – in horrendous ways. Industrius, eager and using the abundance of natural resources available to build homes, divert creeks, and construct a new way of life. Mining for precious metals was not a hobby, it was a ‘way of life’ for many who sought westward locales. Most traversed a continent on foot with covered wagons to get out here.
Many early bridges made of wood have disappeared in California. Historic places, such as these few wooden bridges of the West, need to be protected and preserved. So no carving your initials; spray paint (tagging), littering – nor bullet holes.
Felton Covered Bridge
Santa Cruz Mountains & Redwoods
Railway Train Rides Felton, CA
Why are California Granges now called Guild Halls?
Simply, it’s FOOD politics.
Corporate food power versus local food production: organic, GMOs, bees, pesticide drift and a host of other issues. In 2011, all hell broke loose with the historic Grange Halls – newly elected officials, and the national goals versus the local community interests.
The following year California was voting to label GMO foods, a proposition which educated millions of eaters and chemical corporations spent gazillions opposing the bill, but it was only narrowly defeated. The National Grange was standing on the opposite side from the California State Grange on this important food issue. This may be when the chasm began to widen.
Hippies, yuppies, left coast thinkers. Fruits, flakes and nuts! Tree huggers, eco-terrorist. Damn liberals. Food and California.
Remember that half of California voters knew about genetically engineered ingredients 5 years ago. Many of them made diet decisions based on new information readily available. Maybe they sometimes exercise outdoors, and dig this web site. Others choose to ignore the food topic. Denial.
Although the labeling law did not pass, many companies begin putting NON-GMO labels on the front of the food packages anyway. Health food manufacturers, now major brands, especially food produced inside California.
The local food movements in cities and in rural communities started growing, prior to the year 2000; Grange membership began increasing (for the first time since the 1950s) as young farmers and organic farmers took a new interests in “creating community” and finding a cleaner, greener way to the future of food.
Now we have farmers markets and CSA’s (community supported agriculture programs) all over the nation, on a weekly basis. Awareness has only been accelerating on the food topic – with organic food sales rising steadily over the past decade.
The California State Grange backed 2012’s Proposition 37, which mandated labeling of genetically modified foods….
The National Grange suspended the California State Grange’s charter in September 2012, and revoked it in May 2013
We are anti-pesticide, anti-fracking but we are for food sovereignty. The National Grange is dynamically opposed to all of those. They are pro-GMO, pro-pesticides, pro-big farming as opposed to small and local farms. Politically there is a dynamic difference.
Sequoia trees naturally grow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, on the west side of the range. Several parks & forests make up what is known as “the Sequoias” – in the Southern Sierra, Sequoia National Forest; Giant Sequoia National Monument; Mountain Home State Forest; Central Sierra is home to Sequoia National Park & neighboring Kings Canyon NP; Sierra National Forest & Yosemite NP. Yep, all those areas have Sequoia groves!
A 60s Street Fair. Celebrate the distinct flavor of the 1960s w/ eat-ins, talks on John Steinbeck & music. Film festival. Exploration of the parallels between Steinbeck’s road trip and those of the Beat Generation.
The historic Mojave Road spans the high desert region of east California – crossing the Colorado River westward to roughly Los Angeles. Now a network of dirt and paved routes follow the original overland trade route. Click the plaque photo below to read more.
The rugged, dirt road cuts right through the middle of the Mojave National Preserve. Mid Hills, Kelso Depot, Cima.
mojave topo maps
Joshua Trees, mountains, boulders, sand dunes, railroad history. The high desert is abundant with wildlife, plant life, lava tubes, caverns, camping, and dirt roads. Plus wild windy weather.
Located on the way to Vegas, NV – or the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Mojave NP is in the triangle space in between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40, on the eastern side of southern California. Freeway close, free camping in the Mojave does indeed exist, if you know where to look.
Mojave Map by Trails Illustrated NatGeo
National Geographic acquired Trails Illustrated Maps more than a dozen years ago. Ever since these plastic topo maps have gone 2 sided, full-color w/ more details featured than ever before. Updated regularly. Waterproof plastic, perfect for outdoor desert travels.
Mitchell Cavern, called Providence Mountains SRA, has camping, but it is situated up on an exposed bluff overlooking the freeway. Location gets windy as hell. Better campground is at Hole in the Wall, or even better, Mid Hills Camp.
Primitive, free camping can be found off of Kelbaker Road, but be warned: dirt roads can get deeply rutted and impassible during extreme wet weather. 4WD may be required sometimes.
MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS
OFF ROAD CAMPING
Mojave Desert Map by Tom Harrison
One of the first readily available topographic style maps of the Mojave desert. Waterproof plastic, Tom Harrison brand maps are perfect for any type of backcountry travel, on foot, on horse, or off-road.
AAA & NPS: one-page freebie; excellent overview map created by the Automobile Association of Southern California w/ the National Park Service. Handed out at Visitors Center and ranger stations (1990s)
BLM Maps of Mojave: OHV (off highway vehicle) maps can be found at the local Bureau of Land Management ranger stations:
These foothill regions below are the rivers & mountains of the infamous California Gold Rush of the mid-1800’s. Many mountain dirt roads will lead to your secluded, private camp site, near a creek or river. Or plan on camping in a developed Campground near a recreation lake lined with amenities, pine trees & oaks. River rafting & kayaking can be found throughout this area, as well as backpacking, mountain biking and hiking trails. Fishing is very popular as well.
Waterfalls, back roads, granite features, historic mining camps, big fishing rivers all abound. Wilderness backpacking in the High Sierra can be accessed by Hwy 108 (Sonora Pass) Hwy 4 (Ebbetts Pass) Hwy 88 (Carson Pass), Sierra US Route Hwy 50 & Interstate 80. Numerous small towns populate Historic Highway 49 for every tourists need – meals, laundry, grocery, coffee, lodging & shopping.
A small but impressive State Historic Park located in downtown Weaverville, a small Northern California town located near the Trinity Alps Wilderness and the Trinity River.
This darling park is only open Thursday through Sundays (mid day) and tours can be arranged. A one room museum tells the story of the Chinese miners who came to the Trinity River region in search of gold. The neighboring temple is a historic masterpiece and has been preserved for all to enjoy. The wooden building has withstood deep snow falls and logging trucks rumbling by on the highway a block away. Neighboring museums, outdoor displays and lush creek side parks make for ideal picnic spots.
2014: due to drought conditions, traditional Gold Rush Days activities cancelled for 2014
The Old Sacramento historic district covers the streets with dirt, hides all things modern and transforms into a legitimate Old West town every Labor Day weekend. Costumed actors, gunfights, musicians, buffalo soldiers and Pony Express riders highlight this popular festival.
The Oakland Black Cowboy Association is best known for the Black Cowboy Parade & Festival, the only celebration of its kind in the U.S.A. This parade is held in memory of the black cowboys that helped to settle the American West.
Nevada City’s Constitution Day Parade has been a local tradition since 1967 and is reported to be the oldest and largest Constitution observance in western America. A parade, Revolutionary War Living History Activities in Pioneer Park, the Gold Country Duck Race on Deer Creek and a free outdoor big band concert in the downtown historic district of Nevada City, Gold Country California. This place is known for its classic small town spirit and unique events, with a population of 3000, Nevada City swells to 10,000 or more on Constitution Day.
In 1854 the first California State Fair was held in San Francisco.
Travel was a hardship for many in those days so organizers arranged for the Fair to move locations each year. Sacramento, San Jose, Stockton, and Marysville hosted the Fair for the subsequent four years. Pioneer residents quickly recognized tremendous riches in the fertile soil and so California’s number one industry, agriculture, was born. The Fair was the yearly source of entertainment and education for early settlers, drawing huge crowds of as many as 15,000 on a single day.
When the Fair returned to Sacramento in 1859, a decision was made to find a permanent home. Sacramento was a bustling city with more than 2,500 buildings and a newly installed water system using two and a half miles of pipe. Six square blocks between E and H Streets from 20th to 22nd Streets were bought with monies raised through a special election and contributions from local citizens. This site was called Capitol Park. One aspect of those early Fairs that deserves special mention is the significance of the horse.
Up in the mountains behind Chico sits a rugged landscape of deep canyons lined with bizarre rock formations and roaring mountain creeks. Wilderness encompasses lower elevations – ranging from 1500′ – 3500′ – making this outdoor destination a winter haven, when the rest of the backcountry is covered in several feet of snow. One of the most historic wilderness areas in the state, as the aboriginal existence of the Native Americans came to an end in this area.
COHASSET ROAD climbs up the volcanic fin of Cohasset Ridge into the pine forests high above the valley floor. The paved road becomes dirt and the road name changes to Ponderosa Way (Lassen Road# 28N29). The Ishi Wilderness can also be accessed from the north side via Highway 32, near the Tehama State Game Refuge.
State Parks, State Forests, State Recreation Area, National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests – What is the Difference?
Forest, Park, Reserve, Monument, Recreation Area, BLM, Nature Preserve… arghh!
Don’t let all the park and forest names confuse you. It is all California and it is your public land! No bikes on trails, No gathering wood, No dogs here, No camping there; Now what?
Sequoia – which one?
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Imagine that the Southern Sierra mountains is home to 3 different public parks named Sequoia. Yep, it’s true. Sequoia National Park, Sequoia National Forest, and Giant Sequoia National Monument. Mountain Home State Forest aslso has Sequoia trees, as well as Yosemite Np.
The super scenic Big Sur coastline is home to Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park and to the similarly named Pfieffer Big Sur State Park. Leave it to the park personnel or the non-locals to create such a confusing naming system within our most-visited state.
Below is our overview graph for all California parks and forests – the basic concepts & the rules broken down for anyone to understand. Permits may be needed in certain areas. Only the government officials understand the true nature of all the ridiculous red tape.
Back country lands very protected from roads and human impact. Off limits to vehicles & mountain bikes. Only accessible by backpacking, hiking or horseback. Endangered species; Hard to reach terrains in the High Sierra. Overnight visits may require a wilderness permit.
Federal lands are national parks, preserves & monuments; highly regarded as some of the most scenic in world & protected. Very popular places and crowds often in summer. Limited use areas for camping & recreation. No mountain biking on trails. No dogs on trails. Try off-season. Drive thru entrance fees.
Located within the National Park System & more specific to a region. Historic buildings, geological features and deserts ruins qualify. Some National Monuments become National Parks. Many locations have entrance fees.
NRA: National Recreation Area
Located within the National Park System & somewhat specific to a waterways, coastlines, lakes and reservoirs. Some locations have entrance fees.
National Scenic Area National Seashore
Located within the National Park System & is basically scenic area worth preserving. Usually no entrance fees.
Areas of forest lands throughout state; some surround the National Parks. 18 national forests make up 20 million acres of federal land. Multiple use areas: snow skiing, mining, grazing, off-roading. OHV & SVRA Tons of small campgrounds, recreation & primitive spots for real seclusion. Best bet for finding a spot away from the crowds. Get a free fire permit & camp on back roads. No entrance fees, some parking or day use fees; SoCal requires an Adventure Pass.
California Department of Parks & Recreation manages more than 260 parks. These smaller parks are located near cities with historical parks, as well as remote wild state land & coastal beaches. Entrance fees, day use, picnic and some have campgrounds. State Parks charge fees for day use, parking and overnight camping.
California SF: California State Forest
California Demonstration Forests, areas to be protected. Redwoods & Sequoia Groves; fragile eco-systems. Handle with care. May charge entrance fee or day use fee.
State Recreation Areas
California Department of Parks and Recreation. Lakes, Reservoirs, Rivers. Many have boat rentals and active marina. Recreation lakes charge entrance, day use, parking or boat launch fees.
Off Roading folks and dirt bikes can have their fun wheelin. Lands set aside for OHV use,; dune buggies, quads & 4×4 enthusiasts. Most in the desert regions; Some forest lands & Central coast, but some NFS areas allow
this vehicle activity as well. Always entrance fees.
California County Parks
Desert hot springs, oak foothills and campgrounds, local hills w/ hikes, parks close to urban regions. Back roads & rural land protected from freeways & development. May require parking or entrance fees. Find these listed on the California A-Z town pages
City Parks in California
Urban Parks & Recreation, inside the city limits. Usually no entrance fees. Find these on A-Z town pages
All public lands that do not fall into the above categories. Little to no fees for day use, recreation or overnight camping. Plenty of desert & off roading areas. Camp almost anywhere out here for free, with a ranger issued fire permit.