Coy Flat Campground

Coy Flat Camping
Giant Sequoia National Monument

Camp Nelson California

se Campground

Southern Sierra mountains and the Giant Sequoias, inside Sequoia National Forest. In the Camp Nelson area, south of the busy National Parks.

GIANT SEQUOIA HWY 190 – Western Divide Highway is the 7000′ ridge line that separates the Upper Kern River from the great Central Valley to the west.

From the San Joaquin Valley – get to Porterville or Springville, continue up the mountain on the main highway, to the paved road turn off (Road #22S94) on the right side of the highway;

After Pierpoint Springs and before Camp Nelson. This quiet campground is located off the highway more than a mile, so traffic noise will not be an issue for the light sleepers. (Unless of course, a loud 4×4 rig screams by at midnight headed to the backwoods, or a horse trailer cruises by at 5am). This camp does border the Tule River Indian Reservation.

Western Divide Campground
Western Divide Highway 190
Giant Sequoia Campground

Sequoia Road #22S94 is a loop road leading to many forest meadows, groves, primitive camps and trailhead destinations. Bear Creek and Coy Creek flow near CoyFlat Campground, which both merge north into the Middle Fork of the Tule River @ the highway.

Belknap Grove is nearby, with Black Mountain Grove a few miles further on the dirt back road (Road #22S94) as it continues to Bateman Ridge and Road #21S12, near the Tule Indian lands. Mountain biking, rock climbing, backpacking and hiking all great in this region. 22S94 continues in forest to 8500′ elevation @ Windy Gap, where the Summit National Recreation Trail intersects road. Popular trail among horse riders. 22S94 connects back to Western Divide Hwy, in between Ponderosa and Trail of 100 Giants. Awesome loop drive for those seeking seclusion on the dirt roads, away from the tourists and RVs. Call ahead to make sure that the dirt roads and gates are open, before you plan a weekend vacation around it.

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

COY FLAT CAMPGROUND camping

Elevation: 5,000′
Number of Sites: 20
Camping Reservations: YesCoyFlat Campground Sequoia NF
Sites Available: First come, First serve
Vehicle Accessibility: Vehicle 22 ft. max.
Length of Stay: 14 Days
Water: Piped; Seasonal creek nearby
Toilet: Vault
Season: Closed for winter months
Fee: Yes
Operated By: National Forest Service
Closest Town: Camp Nelson, Califronia

Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia Ranger Station
559-539-5230

Due to the spread of invasive insects, firewood from outside the area is not permitted. Help protect our forests by purchasing or collecting firewood at or near your camping destination and burning it on-site.

CoyFlat Sequoia

CoyFlat Campground – Giant Sequoia

Lake Campgrounds

Rancheria Falls

Rancheria Falls, Huntington Lake, CA

California Lake Campgrounds

Wanna Camp at the Lake?
(you’re not the only one)

lakes  fishing boating mountains backroad horseback trails picnic mountain bike camps hikesnight skies

Nothing beats fresh, cold, clean water from the California mountains, in the summertime. Find time to exit the urban rat race, soon. Escape the smoggy city life and the triple-digit heat for a road trip to the higher elevations.

View East from Davis

Crocker Mountain @ Lake Davis, California

Lake Campgrounds are abundant in California, where man-made reservoirs and recreation abound. Alpine lakes in pine forests are also numerous in the west, although only accessible for a portion of the year, they draw in the campers all summer long. A majority of the small lakes are located inside the California National Forests.
USDA / USFS / NFS

NFS State Parks

Larger reservoirs can often be managed by California State Park system. State Parks, SRA, State Recreation Area. Suburban lake locations can be local County Parks. A few locations listed could even be desert lakes.

Many ideal secluded lakes are only accessible with a 4WD vehicle, by foot or horseback. Super scenic, backcountry lakes are so far out – that a day hike is usually required.

tent camp developed campground

primitive camping primitive campsites

RV camper trailers allowed RV campground

hikes wilderness access

Spicer

No motorized boats, camping on west shoreline only, no fishing from the dam, catch & release?

No access for trailers? Individual rules for each lake are different. Learn the basic before you get out there.

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS tent camp

Lake Campgrounds are so popular in California that many require reservations during summer. Many locations accept reservations online and we have links for those too. Other lakes are so small and remote, that only the fishermen, hikers and 4×4 gear-heads know of them.

outdoor recreation found at or near lakes

  • backpacking
  • boating
  • camping
  • canoeing
  • creeks
  • fishing
  • floating
  • four-wheelin
  • hiking
  • horseback riding
  • house boating
  • jetski
  • kayaking
  • mountain biking
  • OHV trails
  • picnicking
  • rivers
  • river rafting
  • swimming
  • water skiing
  • waterfalls

Silver Lake from Above

Lake destinations listed here have some sort of campground facilities. Some may be mini resorts with boat launch, marina or bait shop/general store. RV hook-ups, maybe. Dump station, it will cost you. Usually these bigger lakes are busy centers of tourists activity with boat rentals, RV camping and certain locales are even walking distance from ‘town’.

Fine dining is a rare find on the lakes, but some lake side restaurants (open seasonally & with limited hours) can be found. Most will require reservations, especially on the weekends.

Other lake camps listed are literally on the edge of wilderness – with trails to the high country. The best little lakes will have one dirt road access. Below is a wide variety of lake destinations within California.

 gardisky_lake

Floating Flyfishing Tube

Red Lake, 4×4 access (primitive, no facilities)

and let’s not forget the ever-popular California Lake List

Grassy Picnic Faucherie Lake

Walk-In Camp Sites

MIneral KIng Walkin Camps

Walk-In Camps

Below are all developed campgrounds in California that have walk-in camp spots available. Vehicles are parked and you must carry your gear into the camp site (usually a short distance, but can be up to a half mile).

California Campgrounds with more than a 1-mile trek are not included in this list below. Areas such as – Catalina Island, Crystal Cove SP, Angel Island SP, Point Reyes National Seashore, indeed have many hike-to camps, but most are measured in miles (one way).

walk in campsites are perfect for –

  • people who wish not to see cars @ camp
  • people who prefer less noise while camping
  • physically fit folks, who want exercise
  • backpackers, who plan to hit the trails soon
  • avid hikers, who may be out day hiking
  • cyclists, just passing through
  • mountain bike campers
  • one nighters, travelers who only stay one night
  • late comers to the campground
    (hint: these are usually the last campsites to fill up)

NewMelones WalkIn Camps

Walk in campsites are often located away from car campers & RVs. Some camp sites may have more privacy, tucked away in trees, while others have shared community area with fire pits and/or barbecues. All camp sites will have picnic tables and a some kinda toilet nearby. Bear boxes may be available for storing food properly. Sharing the storage boxes with neighboring campers is common practice.

Campgrounds with walk-in sites range in elevation from sea level marshlands to high altitude alpine lakes. Most of these camps listed below are located inside developed campgrounds with overnight fees. Many are small campgrounds, while others are large hubs of activity. The most popular places can be reserved online, with the links provided.

Many parks can also have day use fees, so know where you park and what time span is allowed. Ask the campground host if needing assistance. Some campgrounds lock their gates at sunset and do not permit entry at night. Others may not allow campers to check in anytime after sundown. Know their rules before you make reservations.

If you plan on not making camp reservations; make sure to have a plan B or C choice camp – in case your desired campground is already full. Many popular destinations can fill up fast (by noon in the summer).

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

Walk In Camps in California

hikes campmtb

Andrew Molera State Park, North Big Sur Coast
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, East Bay San Francisco
Austin Creek SRA, Armstrong Redwoods, Guerneville CA

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
Black Rock Campground, Little Grass Valley Reservoir
Boise Creek Campground, Six River National Forest
Bottchers Gap Campground, North Big Sur Mountains
Butana State Park, Pescadero, Santa Cruz Mountains

Cherry Hill Campground, Butte Creek, Lassen National Forest
Chilcoot Campground, Frenchman Lake, Plumas NF
China Camp State Park, SF @ San Pablo Bay, San Rafael
Chula Vista Campground @ Mount Pinos, Los Padres NF mtb
Clear Lake State Park, North Wine Country, Kelseyville CA
Cold Springs Campground
,
Mineral King @ Sequoia NP
Cool Springs CampgroundPG&E Camp, Butt Valley Reservoirhike
Cottonwood Pass / Cottonwood Lakes on Horseshoe Meadow Rd, PCT Eastern Sierra @ Lone Pine

coolsprings

Dark Day Campground, New Bullards Bar Reservoir, N Sierra
Donner Memorial State Park, Interstate 80 @ Truckee CA
Dry Lagoon Walk-In, Humboldt Lagoons State Park

El Capitan State Beach, North Santa Barbara Coast

Gaviota State Park Campground, North Santa Barbara Coast
Glory Hole Campground @ New Melones Reservoir, Gold Co
Granite Flat Campground, Truckee River @ Lake Tahoe
Gualala Point Park, Gualala River, Sonoma County Park

Half Moon Bay State Beach Campground, Half Moon Bay
Headquarters Campground, Salton Sea SRA, Mecca CA
Henry W Coe State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
(wilderness permits required)

Intake Campground, Bishop Creek, Eastern Sierra

Jackson Flat Walk-In Camp PCT @ Angeles NF
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground, NorCal
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur Coast

Klamath National Forest –
small campsite on river

  • East Fork (Salmon River @ Cecilville)
  • Lover’s Camp (Marble Mountain Wilderness)hike
  • Kangaroo Lake (NorCal PCT access)
  • Matthews Creek (South Fork Salmon River)
  • Shadow Creek (East Fork of Salmon River)
  • Sulphur Springs (Marble Mountain Wilderness)
  • Trail Creek (Upper Salmon River)

Liberty Glen Campground @ Lake Sonoma Recreation Area
Limekiln State Park Campground, Hwy 1 Big Sur Coastline

MacKerricher State Park Campground, Mendocino Coast
Macumber Reservoir,
PG&E Camp, West of Lassen NPfishing
Manresa State Beach Campground
, Monterey Bay
Marmot Rock Walk-In Camp, Courtright Reservoir
Mary Smith Campground
@ Lewiston Lake, Trinity River
Merced Recreation Area, Merced River, Mariposa CA
Mesa Campground, Silverwood Lake SRA, Cajon Pass
Mill Creek Campground @ Bucks Lake, Plumas NF
Mill Creek Campground, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP
Montana de Oro State Park, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo mtb

Niagra Creek Campground, OHV 4×4 trails, Stanislaus NF
North Battle Creek Reservoir
PG&E Camp, West of Lassen
North Grove Campground, Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Oak Bottom Campground

Oak Bottom Campground @ Whiskeytown Reservoir SRA

Onion Valley CA

Onion Valley Campground, Eastern Sierra @ Independence, CAhike

Pantoll Campground, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Marin
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground, Big Sur Coast
Pigeon Flat Campground, Stanislaus River, Dardanelle CA
Pomo Canyon Walk-In Camp, Sonoma Coast State Beach
Portola Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
hikePrather Meadows Camp, Bunny Flat @ Mount Shasta
Providence Mountains SRA @ Mitchell Cavern, Mojave

Redwood National Park, NorCal Coast
(no reservations, no fees. open all year)

  • Flint Ridge Walk-In
  • Nickel Creek Walk-In
chulavistacamp

CHULA VISTA CAMP – Wild Iris Meadow at Mount Pinos

Refugio State Beach, North Santa Barbara Coast
Rock Creek Campground
, Eel River @ Standish-Hickey SRA
Roxie Peconom Campground, Bizz Johnson Trail, W Susanville mtb
Russian Gulch State Park Campground, Mendocino Coast

San Clemente State Beach, Orange County Coast
Sanborn Campground, Skyline County Park, Saratoga CA
Sand Flat Campground, Clark Fork, Carson Icerberg Wild
Silver Creek Campground, Truckee River @ Tahoe
Southwest Walk-In Camp
, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Squaw Leap Campground, San Joaquin River, Auberry CA
Stillwater Cove Regional Park, N of Fort Ross, Sonoma Coast

Tahoe National Forest
Donner Area Camping Lakes

NFS 530-265-4531

  • Carr Lake Campground
    10 miles north of Highway 20
    6,700′ elev
    5 walk-in campsites
  • Rucker Lake Campground
    6 miles north of Highway 20
    5,462′ elev
    7 walk-in campsites
  • Sterling Lake Campground
    9 miles north of Interstate 80
    7,000′ elev
    6 walk-in campsites

Toad Lake Walk In Camp, PCT @ Shasta National Forest
Tuolumne Meadows Camp, Yosemite National Park
(reservations & wilderness permits required)

Union Reservoir Walk In Camps, Arnold CA

Union Valley Reservoir – Eldorado National Forest

  • Azalea Cove Campground
  • Fashoda Campground

Van Damme Redwoods State Park, Mendocino Coast

Walker Pass Campground, PCT, East of Lake Isabella CA
Whitney Portal Trailhead Camp, Mount Whitney, Eastern Sierra
Woodside Campground, Salt Point State Park, Sonoma Coast

OnionValleyWalkIns

Walk in campgrounds are considered ‘tent camping‘, as opposed to ‘car camping‘, which is literally camping next to your vehicle. This type of hike-in camping may also be referred to as ‘trailhead camping‘, as many ideal hikes begin at these prime locations. Boat-in, bike-in or hike-in camp sites are also available at some of these locations.

Gold Lake California

lilgoldlake

Hike-in only Gold Lake, Bucks Lake Wilderness.

California has more than one Gold Lake!

goldsign

Gold Lake, CA

(Sierra Co)
6409′ elev.

The biggest Gold Lake, California is the well-known one, along the Gold Lake Highway in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Plumas meets Tahoe National Forest. North of Gold Country Hwy 49, Downieville & the Yuba River. Right where the Sierra Nevada granite meets the volcanic lava rock of NorCal.

Packer Lake

Lakes Wilderness Map

Impressive jagged spires known as The Sierra Buttes (8591′) tower above the stunning lake scenery. This big Gold Lake is surrounded by a dozen smaller alpine lakes which make up the popular region called Lakes Basin. Easy access paved highway, which closes in winter for deep snow and winter recreation. The Gold Lake Highway is also referred to as Plumas County Road #S620

sierra buttes

the sierra buttes

Sardine Peak Fire Lookout lodgeranger rentals
NFS fire tower – overnight rental overlooking the Sierra Buttes and the serene Lakes Basin, Yuba River, Northern Gold Country CaliforniaUSFS

LAKES BASIN RECREATION AREA:
Cabins, camping, lake fishing, backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, off-roading, snow-mobiling.

lakesbasinhikers

California Lakes

mini gold lake

 

Mini Gold Lake

(Plumas Co)
6000′ elev.

Another smaller Gold Lake exist on the granite slopes in Bucks Lake Wilderness – E of Oroville & W of Quincy, CA.

gold lake trailheadThis hidden gem is a hike-in only lake – and well worth the effort. A somewhat short hike, great ridge line views to the east, although the last half mile of this route is a doozie (moderately strenuous).

The main trailhead departs from Silver Lake and climbs a ridge line that heads over to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). An off-shoot trail goes another mile to the miniature Gold Lake, a granite bowl of sheer beauty. A great day hike for those wishing to see the backcountry. Pack your picnic lunch, camera, and make a whole darn day of it!

Swimming & skinning dipping seem quite natural at this alpine lake, since it is a pretty remote location (without a lot of visitors) and there is absolutely no swimming allowed at neighboring Silver Lake.

bucks trailhead

The steep, overgrown, rocky shoreline leads one to bush whack through old trails, only to be met by a rock slide. Many dead ends and obstacles to climb around, or over. Some way… maybe, or maybe not!

Boulder and rock scrambling is the key phrase to remember, once you reach this lake. Knees may be sore from climbing, up and over the boulder ledge surrounding the lake bowl.

goldshore

Bucks Lake Wilderness Map

A few primitive camp sites are scattered about on the edge of the lake for those backpacking in, but be warned – they can be very difficult to reach. Much more suitable campsites can be found scattered throughout the area.

Warning: there are no flat, lush meadows to lounge in up at the lake, so pick yourself a side route (on the walk in) to find real seclusion and privacy.

view to Quincy

This mile-long-ridge hiking trail to mini Gold Lake has some amazing views down to the east side – Jacks Meadow right below; then Meadow Valley & Quincy off in the distant hills. Plumas County from above.

jacks meadow

jacks meadow, way below

Sierra Nevada Lakes

High Sierra, California

hike-in only lakes

hike

Golden Bear Lake
(Tulare Co)
12,000′ elev

High Sierra – Kings Canyon National Park
Center Basin / Center Peak 12,760′
PCT – Pacific Crest Trail
North of Mount Whitney
Eastern Sierra, Independence, CA

hike

Golden Trout Lake
(Inyo Co)
11,500′ elev

Trail #3306 from Onion Valley Campground
North of Mount Whitney
Eastern Sierra, Independence, CA

goldentroutlakecanyon

onion valley trail views

California Fire Lookout

Dome Land from Bald Mtn, KERN

NFS Fire Lookout Towers

Cabin Rentals in California National Forests

Ready to see wide and wild terrain? Views for 100 miles out and the best scenery California has to offer. Be prepared to off road or hike to reach one of these destinations.

Below is a list of historic look out towers & cabins used for spotting wildfires. Some are located on steep granite peaks, ridge lines or dirt roads. 4×4 may be recommended to reach a few. Road conditions can change w/ harsh mountain weather, so be prepared to rough it. Thunderstorms are common on these mountain ridges.

Several of these places are cabins, some are stone houses, but most fire lookouts are basic metal towers – with high climbing staircases, so you must be in decent physical strength to haul your ass up this high.

rangers cabin mountains hikers vacation

Cabins are also called guard stations, huts, bunkhouses. Most are located on mountain tops, but a few exist in desert regions. Some are refurbished & available for overnight rentals. Bare bones furnishings, so forget the frills. People come up here for the thrills. To be outside w/ epic views, way away from the urban grind & to feel on top-of-the-world.

Coon Creek Cabin

 

NFSlogoSee the full list of overnight accommodations on mountain peaks & ridges, some near meadowsNational Forest Cabin Rentals

 

El Dorado National Forest:

Cuyama Peak

Cuyama Lookout is a rough road up. Off Hwy 33, in Los Padres NF

Los Padres National Forest:

  • Cuyama Peak Lookout Tower (pictured above) off Hwy 166 & via Santa Barbara Cyn, 4×4 recommended. Sorta near jct w/ Hwy 33

San Bernardino National Forest:

Sequoia National Forest:

Sierra National Forest:

cabin rentals

BEWARE:
California is the land of wildfires!

Always check for local fire conditions at nearest ranger station, obtain a free campfire permit when camping outside of developed campgrounds, and always practice fire safety when visiting our public lands. You can be held liable for wildfires. Outta control campfire, cigarettes, idling vehicles on tall, dry grass. Be very cautious with fires on the often dry, west coast.