California Camping River

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California River Maps

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

There are many gorgeous rivers in California that are perfect for camping and fishing, but none are located in Southern California. None! Yep, you read that right. If you think about it, the golden state is about half desert! The majority of our natural water in our state is coming from the north – so take this as a warning: you might need to drive a few hours to find your ideal river camp.

The easy-to-access waterways are found mostly along highways in the Sierra Nevada – or way up in NorCal. Deep granite gorges carved out by glaciers, surrounded by forested peaks is only half the appeal. High elevation lakes, waterfalls, big trees, abundant wildlife, and the alpine villages are all part of the Sierra Nevada experience.  Raft, kayak, fly fish, hike, bike or just camp out next to a big, rushing, flowing river. Our selection of California maps will get you narrowed down to a specific region, so you can find that perfect river campground, or explore and discover the back roads – for the most seclusion.

NorCal Rivers:

EEL RIVER
KLAMATH RIVER – Klamath NF Map
MAD RIVER – NFS Campground
MATTOLE RIVER
McCLOUD RIVER
NAVARRO RIVER
NEW RIVER
NOYO RIVER
PIT RIVER
RUSSIAN RIVER
SACRAMENTO RIVER CAMPING
SALMON RIVER
6 RIVERS NATIONAL FOREST
SMITH RIVER
TRINITY RIVER
VAN DUZEN RIVER

Sierra Rivers:

AMERICAN RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
CONSUMNES RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map
FEATHER RIVER Recreation Map
FEATHER RIVER – Plumas NF Map
KERN RIVER – Sequoia NF Map
KAWEAH RIVER – Sequoia
KINGS RIVER
KINGS RIVER – Sequoia Kings Canyon Map
KINGS Cyn NP
MERCED RIVER – Sierra
MERCED RIVER – Yosemite Map
MOKELUMNE RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
OWENS RIVER – Inyo NF Map
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER – Sierra NF
SOUTH YUBA RIVER Recreation Map
STANISLAUS RIVER – Sonora Pass
STANISLAUS RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map
TULE RIVER – Sequoia
YUBA RIVER – Tahoe NF Map

LOCAL TIPS for RIVER DESTINATIONS

calmrivers

KERN RIVER: The Kern River is one of the most popular of all the Sierra rivers due to its proximity to SoCal. Hurried, stressed-out, Angelinos (LA) can be at this destination in under 3 hours which makes it a very busy place most warm months. So, let it be told, that summer is not the best time to enjoy the Kern. If you do plan a summer outting, make sure you head for the Upper Kern (10+ mi N of Kernville & Lake Isabella) or the North Fork of the Kern (out in Monache Meadows) where 4×4 is often needed.

The Lower Kern River has only 2 developed campgrounds: Hobo (closed for winter) and Sandy Flat (open all year). Numerous primitive camp spots are available along Old Kern Canyon Rd, which parallels the Hwy 178 on the south side. None of which are located at the rivers edges. Fire danger is great in this area, so pay extra close attention to signs and fire restrictions.

Beer at River

YOSEMITE RIVER: Take note, this is the most popular park in the whole state. The majority of campers want to stay right on the river when they visit Yosemite National Park, but that is just plain old impossible, since reservations go fast and there is only so much room for everyone in this enclosed, narrow, precious valley. This particular park has some major floods (1997 & 2005) that wipe out bridges, the road ways, all the old wooden cabins (at Yosemite Lodge) are gone and only half of the campgrounds are still available. Yosemite has had 11 winter floods since 1916 that have caused substantial damage to property. Reservations are taken for camping and cabins – far in advance; like one year. No joke!

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

3 Yosemite Campgrounds are located next to the Merced River (inside spectacular Yosemite Valley)

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Way up in the Yosemite high country which is only open a few months outta the year, the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows Campground is located next to lush meadows and the scenic Tuolumne River. All Yosemite campsites must be reserved well in advance, so click the links above – if you are serious about a Yosemite camping trip.

Mokelumne

STANISLAUS RIVER: The Sonora Pass, the fishing is very decent way back in this granite gorge. The highway 108 is only open a few months outta the year, due to snow & rock slides – so time is of the essence. Summer time that is. Several campgrounds are located right on the river, or on the major feeder streams. Or you can opt for secluded primitive camping on the back roads. Find Sonora camping in Stanislaus National Forest.

YUBA RIVER: The biggest play time river in the northern Gold Country, this runs along Hwy 49 near Downieville and also has a major South Fork for the best swimming holes and primitive camping in this region. Tubing, rafting, kayaking, fishing, camping, gold panning, you name it, Yuba has it. Look for more on the South Yuba Recreation map, or Plumas National Forest map.

FEATHER RIVER: The top fishing river in the Lassen – Lake Oville area. Chester and Lake Almanor in the upper reaches. High Bridge Campground is nice paved-camp-site camping; a forested spot where you can fish 2 rivers on the same day. A Plumas NF or Lassen NF map would be quite helpful for this region. Lower down the mountain, lower Feather Rivers which include all 4 forks which feed Lake Oroville – West Fork, North Fork, Middle Fork Feather, and the South Fork. Lots of waterways to explore in between Chico and Quincy.

KINGS RIVER: This one particular river is the longest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, pulling snow melt from the upper reaches of the High Country and Mount Whitney. The river area just to the West of the National Park, over to Pine Flat Reservoir, is all prime for outdoor recreation. Several river rafting companies work this stretch of river.

CAMP FOUR & A HALF CABIN RENTAL
NFS KINGS RIVER
NFSrangers

hikehike

Kings River Rafters

Redwood Hotels

Sierra Lodges, Sequoia Cabins & California Redwood Inns

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Rent a cabin in the redwood forest of the north coast of California, or get a weekend retreat in the Sequoia, deep in the Sierra Nevada. Redwood inns, cottages & yurts can be found in the Central Coast region. Big Sur redwoods & Santa Cruz redwoods. Rustic hostels, historic Sierra lodges, or mountain cabins can be found in the Sierras, from Alta Sierra near Kernville, to Yosemite National Park.

Places to stay overnight in the Redwoods, or close by –

If you seek big lodges made from redwood timbers, those are the historic inns, located all over California. Redwood was harvested in California since 1850, right after gold was discovered and the masses flooded in. State officials have limited harvesting of ancient redwoods in Northern California in 1988. Logging and agricultural farms have already wiped out 96% of redwood forest that once covered California.

Sequoia Cabins

Sierra Cabins near Sequoia Groves

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!

See all the Sequoia & Redwood Groves in California!

California Cabin Rentals near to Sequoia groves –

Sequoia cabin rentals

TOPO MAPS of California Redwoods –

  • Sequoia Maps by NatGeo
  • Yosemite NP Maps
  • NorCal Redwoods Map
  • If you are searching for tallest species, the Coastal Redwoods located on the shores of Northern California, then you can find them over here – NorCal Redwoods

    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
    Mosquito Flat Trailhead Camp, One night limit! Camp is for backpackers heading into back country at the end of Rock Creek Road, Inyo NF hike

    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.

    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.