Camping Near Yosemite

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Camp Near Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a top destination, all year long. California masses converge on the sacred valley each summer, so expect more as the buses keep rolling in. Plan a Yosemite trip before Memorial Day weekend – or after Labor Day weekend, for less people.

Camping close to Yosemite National Park without being inside the park boundaries. The scenery and wildness doesn’t stop in the back country. There are numerous National Forests surrounding the popular National Park, so much public land has been set aside for these recreation purposes. Granite-lined mountain meadows, dense forests, raging creeks, wildlife and real seclusion. Plenty of great paved back roads, dirt roads and camping options in the Sierra Nevada.

CAMP OUTSIDE YOSEMITE NP, WHY?

No campground reservations needed, cheap or free, less crowds, less noise. More freedom, more privacy, more nature.

Hundreds of developed, small campgrounds can be found around Yosemite. A few private RV resorts, cabin rentals, lodging on the main highways. Primitive style camping is considered “camping outside of developed campgrounds”. USDA National Forests usually allows open-camping within the forest boundary – with a required camp fire permit. Sometimes wildfire danger is too extreme, so they often ban campfires in dry conditions.

YOSEMITE: SOUTH HWY 41

SIERRA NF @ Fish Camp, CA

East side of Highway 41:

West side of Highway 41:

Lakes West of Yosemite NP:
Stanislaus National Forest

all Lakes near Yosemite

Gold Country @ Mariposa, CA

Gold Country Foothills – listed below are valley reservoirs. Oaks, dry hills, which can can be super hot in summer.

 

camping

YOSEMITE WEST Highway 120

Camping near Highway 120

  • Sweetwater Campground
  • Lost Claim Campground
  • The Pines Campground

North side of Highway:

  • Lumsden Campground
  • Lumsden Bridge Camp
  • Middle Fork Campground
  • Cherry Lake Campground
  • Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (NPS)

camping

highmeadows

See all Lakes near Yosemite Park

lakes near Yosemite hiking

YOSEMITE: EAST Highway 120

Tioga Pass on Hwy 120 (elevation 9410′) is only open during summer months. Generally June through October. Always check road conditions before your trip.

Lakes @ Tioga Pass
High elevation meadows, aspen groves, snowmelt lakes. Just east of Yosemite National Park border. Inyo National Forest

leeviningcamps

Lee Vining Canyon @ US 395
Inyo National Forest

  • Cattleguard Campground
  • Moraine Campground
  • Boulder Campground
  • Aspen Grove Campground
  • Big Bend Campground

 

Mono Maloy

MONO LAKE, CALIFORNIA

Yosemite Lakes

yosemite camping lake
Lakes in & around Yosemite

These are picnic lakes, hiking lakes and camping lakes that are located inside Yosemite National Park or the surrounding areas bordering the granite wonderland.

Tioga

Tioga Tent Camping

Dirt Roads Map

California back roads are plentiful, beautiful and exquisitely wonderful – if you know where to look.

Off Road typically means “off the pavement”

graded dirt road

PLUMAS_i

While many argue the phrase “off-road” means only hard core 4×4 routes, rock crawling or rally racing, here at Total Escape, any road that is not paved is a dirt road and “off road” to us, and always well worth exploring. Graded dirt roads, gravel roads, access roads, washboard routes, forest roads, fire roads, secondary roads, desert washes, one laners, single tracks, OHV trails – can all be dirt roads.

Whether or not your vehicle can handle them is your decision, but believe me, you do NOT need a modified Jeep to start your adventuring. Most dirt roads can easily be accessed with a normal passenger car – if you pay close attention to terrain, deep mud ruts and the rocks in the road.

stuck

Vehicle clearance is usually the first thing that will have you hesitating. If you own a truck or SUV – this is enough to be considered a “high clearance vehicle” and good to go on 90% of dirt roads in Cali. Many dirt roads will become 4×4 required or recommended when mud or snow are present, and no signs to warn you, so always check the weather forecast in advance. And most importantly, BRING A REAL MAP.

Paper Maps vs. Online Maps

Driving on Interstates and state highways is one thing, exploring and discovering new routes and real sightseeing is another animal all together. Go prepared to be delayed: to stop and sit, to listen to the wind, to picnic outside, to watch the weather change, photograph the clouds forming above your head, enjoy the process. Remember the journey: Half the fun is getting there!

ELDORADO_iIf you’ve ever tried to travel across the state with a GoogleMap, YahooMap or MapQuest one page printout, you will soon realize it’s limitations. Stuck in a small town called Julian, at night, on Christmas Eve, arguing with your partner, trying to find your way over to Interstate 10. Not a good plan! A statewide atlas will save you from many unexpected route changes, as well as prove to be an invaluable tool while traveling. Free as a bird, ready to explore the open road and well prepared is the key to less stress in route.

Exploring California

Know your vehicle limitations, and if in doubt, pull over, get out and look. Examine the ruts, the mud depth, the height of the rocks. Sometimes a good camp site is dependent on how far up that dirt road you can drive. RV campers like to stick to the wider, graded dirt roads and plenty can be found on typical topo maps. Tom Harrison, National Geographic & National Forest maps all have dirt roads as well as trails, trailheads, campgrounds listed.

Nearly every map sold on Total Escape has dirt roads noted:

  • US National Forest Maps have all the main routes, the dirt roads and some main hiking trails. Trailheads, ranger stations and campgrounds are well marked.
  • CA Wilderness Map collection have the topographical features you will need to hike the region, peaks, streams, and all dirt roads leading up to the trail heads. Nearby campgrounds will be shown. Equestrian (horse back riding) is okay, but no mountain biking is allowed inside these Wilderness Areas.
  • OHV Routes & Maps will display the “off highway vehicle” routes, which include single tracks for dirt bikes/motorcycles, wider routes for quads and all roads rated for 4×4 only use. Several selected maps will also show hiking biking and equestrian routes.
  • Recreation Maps can feature various types of activities all on one map, from off-roading to snowmobiling, river rafting to waterfalls. These maps cover a smaller area or popular region to enjoy.

dirtroad primtive

dirt roads lead to:

canyons
caves
creeks
dirt bike trails
fire lookouts
fishing holes
forests
groves
hiking trails
horseback trails
hot springs
meadows
mountain biking trails
mountain peaks
off-road trails
petroglyphs
picnic sites
ranches
rafting spots
rivers
scenic viewpoints
secluded campsites
small campgrounds
swimming holes
trailheads
waterfalls
wildflowers

log cabin mine road

‘FROADERS: see also –

California Off Road Areas

California 4×4 Trails

California Off Road Maps

Off-Road Maps PDF

National Forest Cabins

California Fire Lookouts for Rent
US Forest Service Cabins

red cabin

NFSlogo
Rent a secluded cabin with an amazing view, a historic tower for wildfire spotting, or a USDA guard station – hidden deep inside 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 locations. Winter months are usually snowy, inaccessible and sometimes dangerous for these high country locations. A FEW are open all year long – in the southern part of the golden state.

El Dorado National Forest USFS

Harvey West Cabin
4,720′ elev. on Silverfork American River, Gold Rush

Loon Lake Chalet
6375′ elev. near Georgetown, Gold Country California

Robbs Peak Lookout
Robb’s Hut / Robbs Cabin

6686′ elev near Placerville, Gold Country California

Sly Guard Cabin
Sly Park @ Jenkinson Lake, near Placerville, Gold Country California

Van Vleck Bunkhouse
6549′ elev. near Georgetown, Gold Country California

Lassen National Forest USFS

McCarthy Point Lookout
overlooking Mill Creek Canyon and Ishi Wilderness

ranger & info 530-258-2141

Plumas National Forest USFS

Crocker Guard Station
5700′ elev. near Lake Davis Loop, way out behind Portola, California

Big Bear Lake 2002

San Bernardino National Forest USFS

Morton Peak Fire Lookout
SoCal Mountains, Big Bear Lake Area,
near Forest Falls, CA

Coon Creek Cabin
Group Camp Site
Heart Bar Rd #1N02 near Angeles Oaks, CA

Sequoia National Forest USFS

Big Meadows Cabin
Big Meadows Guard Station

off Big Meadows Rd #14S11
7600′ elevation; in between Sequoia NP & Kings Cyn NP

Camp 4 and a half
1100′ elevation; Lower Kings River Cyn
near Hume Lake & Kings Canyon NP

Mountain Home Guard Station Cabin
6000′ elev. near Springville, CA

Oak Flat Lookout
Oak Flat Cabin Rental
4900′ elevation; Kern River canyon near Lake Isabella, CA

Poso Guard Station Cabin Rental
open all year round
4500′ elev. near Kernville, CA

Quaking Aspen Cabin Rental
Giant Sequoia National Monument, Western Divide near Ponderosa, CA

Wishon Campground & Cabin Rental
Giant Sequoia National Monument; open all year round
4000′ elev. near Camp Nelson, CA

Shasta/Trinity National Forests USFS

Forest Glen Guard Station
near Trinity River & Forest Glen, CA

Girard Ridge Lookout
Historic Fire Lookout Tower
4809′ elev. near Dunsmuir, CA

Hirz Mountain Lookout Tower
Hirz Mtn. Fire Watch Tower Rental
overlooking Shasta Lake, CA

Harris Springs Guard Station
near McCloud, CA

Little Mount Hoffman Lookout
Mt. Hoffman Rental
7000′ elev. near McCloud, CA

Post Creek Guard Station
near Hayfork & Platina, CA


Sierra National Forest USFS

Camp Four and a half Cabin
Lower Kings River, open all year round
1100′ elev. near Pine Flat Reservoir


Six Rivers National Forest USFS

Bear Basin Butte
Cabin & Fire Lookout

elevation 5300′ in Six Rivers NF / Smith River NRA
10600 Highway 199
Gasquet, CA 95543

Tahoe National Forest USFS

Calpine Lookout Cabin Rental
near Sierraville, CA

Sardine Peak Fire Lookout
overlooking the Sierra Buttes and the serene Lakes Basin, Yuba Rivers, Northern Gold Country California

lakes basin views

Trinity Alps Camping

Trinity Alps Wilderness Campgrounds

Our tent at site 4 at Trinity Alps Ripstein Campground

Northern California Camping
Shasta Trinity National Forest

Trinity Alps Wilderness

camp

  • backpacking
  • camping
  • fishing spots
  • floating
  • hiking
  • hunting
  • kayaking
  • mountain biking
  • off-roading
  • soaking
  • swimming holes
  • tubing
  • stargazing
  • campgrounds near Trinity trailheads –

    camping Highway 3:

    • Horse Flat Campground, near Eagle Creek trailhead
    • Eagle Creek Campground @ Hwy, near Stoddard Lake & Eagle Creek trailhead
    • Goldfield Campground, near Boulder Creek trailhead
    • Big Flat Campground (via Coffee Creek Road #104)
    • Preacher Meadow Campground @ Hwy, near Swift Creek trailhead

    camping Highway 299:

    • Ripstein Campground, near Canyon Creek trailhead
    • Hobo Gulch Campground, on Road #34N07
    • Hayden Flat Campground, near Big French Creek & Green Mountain
    • Denny Campground, near Jim Jam Ridge, East Fork & New River; Way out west
    • Groves Prairie Campground, near Grizzly Camp trailheadtrinityalps_lg
    • Happy Camp Campground, near Grizzly Camp trailhead

    camping Highway 96:

    • Tish Tang Campground, near Tish Tang trailhead
    • Box Campground, near Red Cap Lake, Bear Hole & Mill Creek Lake
    • Klamath Riverside Campground @ Hwy, near Salmon Summit

    CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

    camping Salmon River (Cecilville Road #1C02):

    NorCal Topographic Maps – Trinity Map

    Shasta Trinity National Forest Map

    Pacific Crest Trail Map #6 (Shasta Cascades)

    Trinity Alps Wilderness Map

    outdoor destinations also nearby –


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