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Camp Clueless

Camping Tips

California Camping Tips

New to California? Never camped before? Haven’t been out in years? No idea of where to start? Total Escape is here to help with all your camping questions, local destinations and share tips; Introducing you to the big adventure in inexpensive vacationing, primarily outdoors. Find rural, remote locations, ranches, small towns, rivers, lakes, creeks, well away from the crowds. Get outta town more often for less money.

WhiteFir Camp

Camp at Echo Lake

click here for all kindsa cool
california camping destinations

National Parks National Forests State Parks California BLM OHV routes California Wilderness
Beach Camping
California Forests
Wineries
Desert Parks
California Back Roads California Lakes

boon-docking basicscheck

  • be a self sufficient camper
  • get a campfire permit
  • have a shovel, bucket and water
  • bring topographic maps
  • get off the paved roads
  • arrive before dark, or bring GPS
  • expect to find best camp spots already taken, have a plan B & C
  • prepare for bears @ camp, if camping in the forest
  • minimal, if any, cell phone signal

free RV camping

RV

free Campgrounds Sierra

camp

Creekside Camp
California Creekside Camps
roundtentcamp
Mammoth Fishing & Camping
bigdoortent
Flat, level, private, free. >>>> Find the perfect tent spot!

Gold Country RV

camptruck
RV
RVdump

49er RV Ranch
Columbia State Historic Park
Columbia CA
209 532-4978

Angels Camp RV & Camping Resort
3069 Highway 49 South
Angels Camp, CA 95222
209-736-0404
888-398-0404

American River Resort
6019 New River Rd
Coloma, CA 95613
530 622-6700wildflower

Coloma Resort & RV Park
American River
6921 Mt. Murphy Road
Coloma, CA
800 238-2298
530 621-2267

Colusa Sacramento River SRA
Farming Town w/ Fishing
N of Sacramento, CA

Far Horizons 49er Village RV Resort
Plymouth, CA
800-339-6981

Glory Hole Campground
Glory Hole Recreation Area

Gold Country
New Melones Lake, CAcanoe

Golden Pines RV Resort & Campground
Camp Connell, CA
209 795-2820

Harmony Ridge Resort
10492 Harmony Ridge Rd
Nevada City, CA
800 273-0556
530 265-9313

High Sierra RV Park & Campground
40389 Hwy 41
Oakhurst CA
559 683-7662

Columbia State Historic Park
11255 Jackson Street
Columbia CA
209-588-9128

Lake Francis Resort
Northern Gold Country
Dobbins, CA
888 993-7344
530 692-1700

Rollins Lake / Rollins Reservoir –boatramp

Long Ravine Resort
Rollins Lake Campground

530 346-6166

Orchard Springs Campground
530 346-0073

Peninsula Camping & Boating Resort
530 477-9413

melones flora
New Melones Reservoir, Angles Camp, CA

Lake Tulloch RV Campground & Marina
Lake Tulloch
Jamestown, CA
800 894-2267

Plasse’s RV Resort
30001 Plasse Rd.
Sutter Creek, CA 95685
209 258-8814

Scotts Flat Lake Camping
530 265-530

Tuttletown Campground
Tuttletown Recreation Area

Gold Country
New Melones Lake, CA

Willow Creek RV Campground
North Gold Country
17548 Hwy 49
Camptonville, CA 95922
530 288-0646

Yosemite Pines RV Resort & Campground
20450 Old Highway 120
Groveland, CA 95321

colfaxtraindepot
Colfax Train Depot

Marin Camping Point Reyes

Marin County Camping

Point Reyes Peninsula / Pt Reyes Campgrounds

Ocean View CampsitesOne of the most visited coastlines in the world, San Francisco – where 2 peninsulas almost meet – at the mouth of the “hidden bay”.

This is the Golden Gate to California and the Wild West.

So, you wanna escape the tourist masses… and camp out, overlooking an amazing place?

(put on your hiking boots)

lighthouse
Pt Reyes Lighthouse

Nope, the Lighthouse doesn’t have a campground! There are no camping facilities at Muir Woods National Monument, nor Muir Beach. No camping at Stinson Beach, nor Bolinas.

canoeThe Tule Elk Reserve has no camping at all. Tomales Bay State Park no longer has car camping or RV camping available; hike-in or boat-in
camping, maybe.

What is available for campground camping on “the Point” is listed below, with phone numbers and links for more info.

foggy seashore

POINT REYES, CALIFORNIA

Point Reyes National Seashore Campground
reservations required
hike-in, bike-in, and boat-in camp sites only
415-464-5100
415-464-5137

Mount Tamalpais State Park Campground State Parks
reservations required
415-388-2070camp

  • Alice Eastwood Campground
  • Frank Valley Campground
  • Horse Camp Campground
  • Pantoll Campground
  • Steep Ravine Campground
  • Steep Ravine Cabins

Marin Headlands Camping
reservations required; no pets & no RVshiker
415-331-1540

Samuel P. Taylor Redwood State Park State Parks
reservations recommended; open year round
415-488-9897

  • Devils Gulch Horse Camp
  • Historic Camp Taylor
  • Madrone Group Camp
  • Car Camping / Tent Camp
  • RV max 27′
  • Cabin Rentals @ SPT

DSCN4484

Cycling, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, kayaking and boating are all popular outdoor recreation activities.

Small towns located on the Point Reyes peninsula do have a few private campgrounds, some of which can accommodate motorhomes. Follow towns links for those.

RV camping

There are no RV parks, camper trailers or motorhomes allowed in campgrounds on the steep coastal region of Point Reyes. Most of the narrow, winding roads are forbidden for motorhome travels. No shoulder, no guard rails, on many curvy roads. Great viewpoints are best when you STOP to look, off the roadway.

hike NPS

Golden Gate National Recreation Area NPS

Point Reyes National Seashore

Stinson Beach Park

Tomales Bay State Park State Park

Tule Elk Reserve

dockside

nearby towns – 


Camping Vegas

Camping & Hiking Vegas

Valley of Fire Park
Valley of Fire Park

Vegas National Park
Desert Park Areas

The lands surrounding Las Vegas are NOT managed by the NPS, National Park Service – but Lake Mead is considered a National Recreation Area. Hoover Dam is located at the south end of Lake Mead, then the Colorado river connects further down stream to Lake Mohave.

Tourist are no longer burdened by the constant flow of traffic over the dam, because a beautiful, new bypass bridge has been recently built above the dam.

Boating, kayaking, fishing, hiking, off-roading and camping are popular attractions at both the reservoir lakes. Mohave Lake is lesser known and therefore, less crowded. 4×4 may be need to reach certain coves at Mohave.

Vegas Hot Springs
(hike-in or kayak access only)

Most of the public lands in this Vegas desert are managed by BLM or the USDA National Forests. The Great Basin National Park is located in central Nevada, nearly 300 miles NW of the city of Las Vegas.

Lake Mohave
Lake Mohave on border of California, NV & AZ

Red Rock Vegas

redrockmap1997

Some folks know these rock walls as Red Rock Canyon, or Red Rock Park near Vegas – but the official name now ‘Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area’ and the lands are managed by the BLM.

redrock vegas

The closest red rock park to Las Vegas, this one is located at the far west end of Charleston Blvd. – an easy exit to find off the freeway Interstate 15. Day hikes, rock climbing, mountain biking, picnics and a large BLM campground. This desert range can get very windy and the only campground around is poorly located along the busy highway, on a ridge. Bring good tent stakes and be prepared for serious wind. Better camping options can be found over at the higher elevation Mount Charleston, see below.

Vegas Valley of Fire

This beautiful desert park is 60 miles N of Vegas and well worth the day trip to explore native petroglyphs, hike among red rocks, sandy washes and just relax to take in breathtaking vistas. See more about the Valley of Fire State Park

Mount Charleston Camping

Several developed campgrounds are available in a pine forest setting. Some may charge a nightly fee, or a day use fee. Mary Jane Falls is well worth the hike. Two lodges grace this mountains, The Mount Charleston Resort is the big log and stone cabin along a straight away on Kyle Canyon Road #157. The Mount Charleston Lodge is above at 7717′ elevation and has a popular restaurant and nice modern mountain cabin rentals.


View Larger Map

Mount Charleston Campgrounds
USDA NFS

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Spring Mountains National Recreation Area

Dolomite Campground
8,500′ elev
open May-Oct

Fletcher View Campground
7,000′ elev
open all year

Hill Top Campground
8,400′ elev
open May-Oct

Mahogany Grove Campground
8,000′ elev
open May-Oct

McWilliams Campground
8,500′ elev
open May-Oct

Old Mill Campground
8,300′ elev
open May-Oct

Red Rock in Las Vegas


California Mountain Maps

The Mountains of California

Camping El Dorado NF, on the Consumnes River
Camping El Dorado NF, on the Consumnes River

If you know you wanna head up in elevation, higher altitudes – to the pine forests of California, but have no clue where to start, this page may be very helpful in determining your ultimate destination. We have hundreds of pages on adventures & locations throughout the golden state. We sell all California maps for outdoor recreation, hiking topos to off road routes.

Wanna camp under the stars this weekend – and avoid the crowds too? You will need a good back road map to find this awesome camp site, guaranteed. Need a hammock spot, small swimming hole & total seclusion? Or how about a large family camp w/ Sequoia grove nearby? Total Escape has something for every ones budget & lifestyle. See below for an extensive breakdown of California mountain regions.

#1
SoCal mountains have tighter restrictions on campfires, larger number of people camping in a smaller amount of space, minimal primitive camping options in the forests, more fees to access these lands.

#2
The Sierra Nevada mountains are the prime outdoor destination for many in the Central California region. High elevations w/ granite slabs to lower country reservoirs & riverside oak flats. Folks come from all over the world to visit parks and lakes within this mountain range. Indeed, 4 National Parks call the Sierras home: Lassen, Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia NP – not to mention the 10 National Forest and 15+ Wilderness Areas.

#3
You want big water? Cabins next to a prime fishing river or camping near lakes, creeks with dense forests, then you will have to drive to the mid Sierra or even NorCal to find ’em.

Wilderness maps

California Mountain Regions Defined –
find the details on specific region for California mountains

saabaru_forest
Mountain Home Sequoias

epic finds

Find little known parks, camps and forests within our vast California BACK ROADS data base. Below is a small sampling of our picturesque mountain pages, where you can find the best seclusion: hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking trails, rivers, creeks and peaks.

NFSlogo

Sierra Buttes
The Sierra Buttes, Northern Sierra near Gold Lake

sierra National Forest map

Outdoor Recreation Maps of California:

inyohighroad
Inyo high roads, of the Eastern Sierra


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 Sequoia groves. 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 (Seqouia & Kings) are both busy in summer & tourists can be seen lining the main road, 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

Campground San Bernardino

whitecliffs

Big Bear – San Bernardino National Forest Camping & Campgrounds

areas include:
Big Bear Lake, Fawnskin, San Gorgonio, Lake Arrowhead, Forest Falls, Green Valley Lake & Idyllwild

Listed below are all the San Bernardino National Forest campgrounds, public lands for outdoor recreation. SoCal campground reservations can be booked online with the linked campsites below.

Big Bear Campgrounds near Big Bear Lake & Fawnskin area

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Applewhite Campground 6800′ 42 pines vault piped disabled access, RV 30′
Barton Flats Campground 6300′ 52 pines vault shwrs disabled access, RV 45′
Big Pine Flats Horse Camp 6800′ 17 pines vault piped Way back 3N14, year round
Cold Brook Campground 7000′ 36 pines vault piped RV max 25′
Crab Flats Campground 6200′ 29 pines vault piped 3N16, Green Valley Lk
Dogwood Campground 7000′ 90 pines vault piped disabled access, RV 22′
Green Valley Campground 7000′ 37 pines vault piped Green Valley Lake
Hanna Flat Campground 7000′ 88 pines vault RV max 25′
Heart Bar Campground 6900′ 94 pines vault seasonal Hwy 38, equestrian
Holcomb Valley Campgr 7400′ 19 pines vault no Rd 3N16, year round
Horse Springs Campgr 5800′ 17 pines vault no Rd 3N17, year round
North Shore Arrowhead 5100′ 27 vault piped disabled access
Pineknot Campground 6400′ 48 vault piped disabled access, RV 45′
San Gorgonio Campground 7000′ 54 pines vault shwrs Hwy 38, disabled, RV 43′
South Fork Campground 6400′ 24 pines vault piped Hwy 38, RV max 30′

site12

San Jacinto Campgrounds near Idyllwild area

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Black Mountain Group 6000′ 16 pines pit piped group site
Boulder Basin Campground 7300′ 34 pines pit piped No RVs
Dark Canyon Campground 5800′ 22 pines pit piped Creek, Rd 4S02
Fern Basin Campground 6000′ 22 pines vault piped Creek, Rd 4S02
Marion Mountain Campground 6400′ 24 pines vault piped Rd# 4S02
Pinyon Flat Campground 4000′ 18 pinyon vault piped bighorn sheep, year round
Santa Rosa Springs Camp 7000′ 3 pines pit no no RVs, Toro Peak
Thomas Mountain Camp 6800′ 6 mixed vault no no RVs, Rd 6S13; Lk Hemet
Tool Box Spring Campground 6500′ 6 mixed vault piped no RVs, above Lake Hemet
Toro Campground 7800′ 5 pines pit no Santa Rosa Wilderness

Southern California Camping see also –

Topo maps, wilderness hiking maps, Equestrian trails, OHV maps –

SoCal mountain communities include:

Big Bear Campsites

Sunrise at Camp

Zion Sunrise Mesa

What kind of camper are you?

Determining the ideal tent location will vary on whether you are an ‘early riser’ or late night person, otherwise known as the “up-til-wee-hours ’round the campfire” kinda camper.

Night Owl
OK, all you wine-o’s and silly drunks, try to be a considerate camper and place your tent near the campfire if you plan to be up late. You and your partying cohorts will not disturb those who had planned to get ‘a good nights sleep’ and can stumble to your tent close by with ease. Make sure that you have a large bush, boulder or tree on the east side of your tent, as this is where the dreaded sunlight comes in.

Early Riser
If you are the kinda person who welcomes the sunrise, sitting on a boulder with a healthy cup of fresh brewed coffee, then you probably don’t wanna hear folks up late around the campfire discussing philosophy, right next to your pillow. Ear plugs can be good to pack if you plan to camp with more than a few folks. Setting up your tent well away (like 100 feet) from all communal areas will help you get a decent nights sleep, allowing others to do their normal thing without even bugging you.

Light Sleeper
If you wake at the slightest footsteps (or car alarm) you might wanna find a distant camp for your bedding spot. Camp outside of a developed campground for the most secluded and quiet of nature experiences. If you cannot stand anyone snoring, then kindly ask your neighbors ahead of time and position your tent accordingly.

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Sunrise: Determining East & the North Star

determining your direction
If you fear the morning sunlight like a true vampire, make sure that your tent is not in the direct line of fire at 6 am, just in case you planned to sleep in until 9 am.

If you arrive at camp after dark & need to decipher where the sun comes up, just locate the North Star silly. Hmmm, sounds easy? Now where is that sucker. See the diagram below for gathering the astronomy part of the lesson.

Now, for all of you who didn’t get a decent high school education: Locating east can be easy if you always remember this small exercise. Standing up, point your face to the north, extend your right arm out sideways & this will be east . The same goes for left/west. South is right behind ya. The sun sit low in the winter months & follows more along the south horizon.

The familiar stars called the big dipper is a nice way to find the north star. Draw a line from the edge of cup — spilling out straight over to the brightest star.

north star polaris

 

Alder Camp


Winter Wheelin

winterwheelin

Winter wet weather doesn’t need to put a damper on your outdoor exploring, if you can get your hands on a 4×4 vehicle. Almost any SUV or truck with 4 wheel drive is capable of driving through some snow or mud. Just how deep is the mud (underneath the snow) is usually the big question. Many National Forests and State Parks close certain dirt roads due to over-use, or to control soil erosion and prevent the deep muddy ruts which are costly to re-grade come springtime. Call ahead to the rangers to find which back road routes are indeed open, or bring your printed topo map and wing it.

California Road Trips

The California destinations listed below are popular winter spots for off roading enthusiasts. Some places may be busier than others. The dirt roads surrounding these spots are real treasures, so try to plan an all-day loop trip if possible. Camping w/ a campfire permit is an option on many back roads. Plenty lodging in nearby small towns if winter camping is not your thing.

ghost towns

Bodie State Park
Randsburg Mining District
Calico Ghost Town
Ballarat in Panamint Valley
Skidoo @ Death Valley NP
Barker Ranch, Goler Wash @ Death Valley NP
Panamint City @ Surprise Canyon
Cerro Gordo – 4×4 Inyo
Oatman, Arizona

California Road Trips

hot springs:

primitive tubs
hot springs resorts
hot spring campgrounds

fishing spots

Green Creek Road
Walker River
North June Lake Loop
Trinity River

California Road Trips

California Mountains, Viewpoints & Fire Lookout Towers

Bald Mountain, Shaver Lake
Cuyama Lookout, Santa Barbara Canyon, Ventucopa, CA
Coyote Flat, Bishop, CA
Los Padres National Forest
Mount Pacifico, Angeles Forest Highway
Upper Lytlle Creek, Wrightwood, CA

see – NFS Cabins Rentals & California Fire Lookouts

California Road Trips

Indian Casinos

Tribal lands are mostly located in rural regions which always have plenty of dirt roads to explore. Get a good back roads map for the public lands nearby, parks, BLM, National Forest. If the overnight camping is dropping into the twenties or teens, then know the forecast. A good rule of thumb for California hotel stays: If the low temps overnight are below the cost of a hotel room at the nearby casino, the comfy lodge might be well worth considering.

Avi Casino
@ California – Arizona border.
The Laughlin casino in the middle of nowhere, right on the Colorado River. Jet ski rentals, swimming pools and spas, restaurants, RV park. The historic Mojave Trail, aka Mojave Road, starts next to the property.

Gold Country Casino
@ Lake Oroville, California
Sierra Nevada mountains Northern California. Conveniently located near Feather River (all 4 forks) and Plumas National Forest, with Berry Creek and Bucks Lake Wilderness to explore. Snow often closes the highest elevations.

Viejas Casino
@ Pine Valley, East County San Diego
Great bouldered mountains with back road exploring, hiking, mountain biking trails, all easy access from Southern California. Get a Cleveland National Forest map and expect some road closures near Laguna Mountain Sunrise Highway, especially when it snows.

Diamond Mountain Casino
Susanville, Northern California
Located in between US Highway 395 and Mount Lassen, the scenic Susan River region has lots to offer for the outdoor enthusiasts. Plenty of roads to explore, some big lakes too. Many Forest roads could be closed due to snow, so be warned and call ahead to the ranger.

Native Californians

Indian Rock Art
Petroglyphs are found in numerous locations throughout the deserts of the SouthWestern US. Inscription Canyon Mojave. See more on Native American rock art or explore photos.

California Road Trips

California Beaches
Oceano Dunes, Pismo Beach
Lost Coast, Northern Cal Redwoods
Black Sands Beach, Shelter Cove (open to foot traffic only)

California Deserts

Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Box Canyon @ Mecca Hills
Mojave National Preserve
Canebrake Road, Kern Mojave
Black Canyon, Barstow, CA
Panamint Valley, near DVNP
Death Valley National Park
Bodie State Historic Park

California Off Road Parks

These are parks that specifically offer trails and obstacles for off-roaders. Entrance fees and camping fees are usually charged at the entry gate.

Off Highway Vehicle Areas (OHV)
State Vehicle Recreation Areas (SVRA)

Other Off Roading Options

The whole Carson City area in Nevada has some excellent dirt roads to explore. Old mines, caves, many miles of pinyon forests. Lake Tahoe is nearby with luxury resorts, casinos and snow skiing.

If you just can’t stand the cold and snow, then warmer climates lie to the south. Baja California is a tourist/traveler and off-roader haven in the wintertime.

Holiday Wheeling
Jawbone Canyon for Thanksgiving weekend will get dirt bikes by the thousands and big families. Christmas is busy around the Palm Spring desert destinations – like Joshua Tree. Easter weekend is popular w/ wildflowers and campers in Anza Borrego Desert.

RV camping
Occasionally, wide graded dirt roads lead to secondary routes, so overnighting it with a motorhome on the back roads is very possible (if deep mud is not present). RV camping is quite the tradition for Southern Californians. Desert off roaders in tow, all over the Mojave. Steer clear of busy family groups. Pick a lesser known area to camp and explore. Get your real topo maps out and choose easy access from pavement, but wide graded dirt roads are best. Plenty roads like this in the Eastern Sierra, on the east side of US Hwy 395. RV campers that follow Total Escape might very well be interested in testing the limits of their recreational vehicle, slowly.

AWD Sportwagons
Before AWD got marketed as 4WD, Total Escape was way out there exploring in a 2 wheel drive and posting it online for you. All wheel drive station wagons should stick to the paved and plowed roads. If you plan to do a lotta dirt road driving in the old Subaru, keep the rock crawling to a minimum. If not, you may want to invest in a skid plate for the oil pan. Nothing beats first hand experience and learning ahead of time how your car will behave before you loose control on icy dark steep roads. Go practice with the emergency break and get the vehicle in a wide open snow plowed area if possible, just avoid the temptations to get wild. Don’t get the doughnut urge and plant yourself in a tree. Remember, it’s not like the commercial showed us, those are closed roads they are filming on.

Snow Chains
If you plan to be off roading in snow or mud at all you might want to consider some important safety items: tire chains for snow, a tow strap and tire plugs for flats. If you own a high clearance 2WD SUV, you could benefit from running chains on all four tires when snow is present. How deep the snow gets and how steep the hills are, determines how far you can go without a real 4 wheel drive. Some choose to rent a 4WD for the weekend road trip.

Snow Plow - the first pass
Snow Plow First Pass

Carry these items when traveling in winter conditions:
tools, jumper cables, tow strap, emergency gear, first aid kit, real boots, extra clothes, blankets, flashlights, food, drinking water, cell phone, maps


California Reference
California Road Conditions
California Weather
Sierra Highway Conditions

and just imagine when you can’t get past the deepest snow, it is time to try California Snowmobiling

California Covered Bridge

Covered Bridges of California

Oregon City Bridge
Oregon City Bridge, off Cherokee Rd, N Oroville, CA

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

Bridgeport Covered Bridge
(built in 1862)
South Fork of the Yuba River
Northern Gold Country Hwy 49
Nevada City & Downieville, CA

Honey Run Bridge
on Butte Creek @ Skyway
Historic Landmark from 1894
in between Chico & Paradise, CA

Knights Ferry BridgeState Park
State Historic Park

on Sacramento River
North of Sacramento, CA

oregoncitymarker

Oregon City Bridge
(see photo at top of page)
Oregon Gulch, North Lake Oroville
via Table Mountain @ Cherokee Road
North of Oroville CA

Oregon Covered Bridge
Middle Fork of the Yuba River
Northern Gold Country Hwy 49
in between Nevada City & Downieville, CA

Woodson Bridge SRAState Park
State Recreation Area

Woodson Bridge Campground Campgrounds
on Sacramento River, in betweenRV camping
Chico & Corning, CA

Honey Run Bridge
HoneyRun Bridge of Butte County, California

Volcanic Buttes of Chico
Volcanic Buttes of Chico California

Sacramento River Camping

The Sacramento River of Northern California

The main artery from the North; the Big River of California

Sac River California

Mighty Mount Shasta snowmelt flows south, bound to meet the giant Lake Shasta, which merges with the Pit River and numerous other major waterways, becoming the big Sacramento River. Running right down the center of the North Sacramento Valley to merge into the California Delta. Shipping channel links the State Capital city of Sacramento with the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Agriculture and wildlife depend on this river heavily.

tent camping camp sites, campground camping, RV camps, dump stations, marinas, bait, gasoline, public boat ramps, boating, fishing, kayak rentals

Redding Winters

CAMPGROUND PARKS below listed from NORTH to SOUTH

JGW RV Park
Riverland Drive
South Redding, CA

Sacramento River RV Park
Riverland Drive
South Redding, CA

Wildlife Refuge
Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge
Willows, CA
~ Camping is not permitted on the Sacramento NWR. Along the Sacramento River, camping is permitted on GRAVEL BARS for up to 7 days during a 30 day period. For waterfowl hunting, overnight stay is permitted in a vehicle or RV in designated areas. Tents are prohibited. No person may build or maintain fires except in portable gas stoves.

Orchards

Chico Area

Lake Red Bluff Recreation Area
Red Bluff, CA

Driftwood RV & Fishing Resort
@ Mill Creek Park
Los Molinos, CA

Hidden Harbor Marina & RV Park
Los Molinos, CA

River’s Rest Resort
Los Molinos, CA

Woodson Bridge RV Park
Corning, CA

State Parks
Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area
Historic State Park w/ Campground
South Avenue (A9)
Corning, CA

Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park
Chico, CA

Colusa Landing & RV
Butte Slough Road
Colusa, CA

State Parks
Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area
Colusa SRA Camping

Camping Colusa
Tent Camping Colusa SRA

California Delta Region

State Parks
Brannan Island State Park
Rio Vista, CA

Sandy Beach Solano County Park
2333 Beach Drive
Rio Vista, CA

Vieira’s Resort
California Delta
Isleton, CA

State Parks
Old Sacramento State Historic Park
Downtown
Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Hostel, see more budget lodging

Big Sur Campground

Big Sur Camping Sites & Campgrounds

big sur camping

Plaskett Creek Campground has green lawns, pine trees, & flush toilets. Located across the highway from Sand Dollar Beach, right on Hwy 1. Ponderosa Campground, on the other hand, has native grasses, oak trees, a seasonal creek and is located on a paved back road, with easy access from US Hwy 101

Central Coast Camping

Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest manages several Campgrounds along the Central Coast. Some are first come, first serve.

aldercamp
Alder Creek Camp
willowcreekrdsign
Willow Creek Road #23S01

hikes

Los Padres National Forest

Backpacking trails lead into the wilderness backcountry, along ridge lines with vast ocean views and also deep into fern creeks with redwood canyons. Sykes Hot Springs is a remote destination, if you like to hike, although summer can get crowded. Overnight wilderness permits and campfire permits may be needed.

mcwayfalls
McWay Falls @ Julia Pfieffer Burns SP

Free camping in Big Sur
can be found on dirt back roads:

primitive camp sites

DISPERSED CAMP: No charge camp sites means dirt road access, tighter camp fire restrictions & no facilities (table, bathrooms, fire pits). Campfire permits are required for primitive camping (stoves & BBQ), but unfortunately much of the time camp fires are not even allowed in the backcountry due to extreme wildfire danger.

None of these free camp sites are located on the beach or ocean shoreline. They are situated in the mountains near the coast.  These premium, hard to find camp spots usually require that you venture off the beaten path – w/ a National Forest map or regional topo map. If you want to camp without the tourists and crowds, with excellent views of the coast & the night sky, plus avoiding all fees – then take one of these dirt roads off the main highway & start exploring (preferably before sunset, with a high clearance vehicle).

prewittroads

Free camping California

Big Sur Private Campgrounds –

camp

Big Sur State Park Campgrounds –CA state parks

Big Sur Coastal Towns –

Prewitt Ridge Camping

Central Coast Beach Camping

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Beach Camping
on the California Central Coast

Camping right on the sand is possible in California, you just need to drive far enough to find it. Campground reservations are common (year round) on this stretch of coastline, since PISMO is a premier vacation spot for most of Central California.

blue links lead to State Park pages for camp reservations  camp

This camping page features all beach front camping options along the Central Coast, from Santa Barbara to Big Sur. State Parks, State Beaches, bay side marinas and rugged rural coast camps. We even list private campgrounds and RV parks, just so you have more choices.

Santa Barbara Camping & State Parks

Flying Flags RV Resort, Buellton, CA

River Park RV Campground, Lompoc CA

Santa Maria Pines Campground (CLOSED)

San Luis Obispo Camping, Off Road & RV Parks

pismo beach

Pismo Beach Campgrounds

Oceano Dunes State Park (SVRA) – Pismo Dunes Off Road Area State Park

DSCN2931Pismo State Beach State Park

  • North Beach Campground

county park camping Pismo

RV camping near Pismo, CA

Pismo Coast Village RV Resort

Pacific Dunes Ranch & RV Resort

Pismo Sands RV Park

Le Sage Riviera RV Park, Grover Beach, CA

Montana de Oro
Steep Cliff Dunes @ Montana de Oro State Park

San Luis Bay & Point Conception
Avila Beach, Morro Bay Camping

Avila Beach RV Camping Sites

Avila Beach Hot Springs Camping

Montana de Oro State Park State Park

El Chorro Regional Park Campground

Morro Bay State Park Campground State Park

Morro Strand State Beach State Park

Morro Strand RV Park

Morro Dunes RV Park

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San Simeon & Big Sur Campgrounds

San Simeon State Park Campgrounds State Park

  • San Simeon Creek Campground
  • Washburn Primitive Campground

Big Sur Camping & State Parks

Big Sur Coast

 

Los Padres National Forest

USDA National Forests lies inland along the Central Coast of California, all the way from Ventura to Monterey.  Numerous recreational lakes and back roads that lead to secluded small campgrounds. Primitive dispersed camping is allowed, but campfires are limited to local fire restrictions. The later part of the year means drier conditions and sometimes campfires are not allowed during wildfire season. Obtain a free campfire permit & check current conditions from the local ranger before venturing into the backcountry.

Central Coast Inland Lakes Camping

Launch Spot
Flying high at Reyes Peak Launch Spot, Los Padres NF

San Diego Beach Camping

Coastal Cliffs San Diego

San Diego Coastal Campgrounds
Mission Bay & North County
SD Beach RV Parks & Camping

RV camps camp

San Diego’s mild climate means camping is available all year round. Winter storms can get windy and rainy, but most campgrounds are still open. From north county where the coastal cliffs overlook the ocean, to downtown bay side marinas w/ RV camping, to camping right on the sand w/ ocean crashing just feet away. Bike paths are common around downtown San Diego, so you can bring your bike or skates.

San Diego has 2 BAYS, both located along Interstate 5: The main bay downtown is called San Diego Bay (one of the deepest on the west coast) and the other a few miles north, is named Mission Bay (a man-made coastal waterway w/ green parks and paved bike trails).

Reservations are required at almost ALL coastal campgrounds, especially around holidays, any 3 day weekends, and all summer long. Tons of tourists flock to Southern California and this is a very popular coastline – with busy little cities and crowded beach towns. Beware: if you are seeking secluded camping – this would not be the place.

Best Beaches

listed from south to north

Carlsbad Cliffs

There are numerous private RV resorts, some quite large, like KOA and GoodSam parks located in and around San Diego county. Most are metro-close and not located on the beach. This list is primarily coastal camping options for the San Diego region.

camping SoCal

Seagulls at Cardiff

see also
San Diego Campground Camping

see a list of all
San Diego cities & towns

baybridge

San Diego Camping

Redwood Beach Camping

NorCal Redwood Coastal Camping

Redwood Campgrounds

Del Norte County, Northern California

redwood101

There are a few special places in California where redwood trees grow right down to the shore, but it is rare. Searching for place to pitch a tent (under the redwoods at the coast) is possible, but a bit harder to find than you might imagine. State Parks usually offer the standard paved camp site. Maybe need to drive dirt roads to find redwood seclusion.

Crescent City Camping

redwoodmap

Klamath Coast Camping

blue links lead to State Park pages with camp reservations.

State Park

Redwood Park Campgrounds State Parks

Redwood National Park National Park
Camping 

  • Demartin Campground
  • Flint Ridge Campground
  • Mill Creek Campground
  • Nickel Creek Campground (backcountry)

Eureka RV Campgrounds

redwood camping norcal

If you are seeking free or dirt cheap, primitive camping on the coast, then LOST COAST CAMPING on the Mendocino border is one option. Or head east, inland to the abundant National Forest. Dirt roads of the Six Rivers National Forest offer old logging roads, creeks, and secluded places to pitch a tent. Campfire permits are needed for dispersed camping, or ‘boondocking’ as some call it.

Dirt back roads can get muddy during the wet season, so know your vehicles capability and if you are unsure, check with the local rangers over the phone (preferably a ‘field ranger’) before venturing out. Remember that rain and mud are the norm, most of the year.

Fog is typical of the region. Enjoy the sunshine – when you can!

see more towns nearby –

Smith River
Crescent City
Klamath
Orick
Trinidad
Arcata
Eureka
Scotia
Ferndale
Petrolia
Garberville
Redway
Shelter Cove

Sonoma Beach Camping

Sonoma Coast Campgrounds

Gerstle Cove @ Salt Point
Gerstle Cove @ Salt Point SP

tent camp RV camps

Sonoma Coast State Park  State Park

  • Bodega Dunes Campground
  • Wrights Beach Campground

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Salt Point State Park Camping State Park

  • Woodside Campground
  • Gerstle Cove Campground

Fort Ross State Historic Park 
(a Russian fur trading fort from 1812)

  • Reef Campground – 21 camp spots
    No RV hookups. No reservations
    [2018 CLOSED for repairs]
    707-847-3437

coast

Sonoma County Parks Campgrounds

Private campgrounds @ Sonoma Coast –

Sonoma coastal towns –

Woodside Campground
Woodside Campground @ Salt Point State Park

Sequoia Sierra

Sequoia Parks, an overview by Total Escape.Sequoia sierra

As if the government wasn’t confusing enough, now they have named so many areas of the Sierra Nevada “Sequoia” that it confuses people even more. For Pete’s sake, all we wanna do is see some big trees, hike, fish, camp and really relax.

The largest trees in the whole wide world are grounded right here in Cali, deep in the forests of the incredible Sierra Nevada mountains. The giant Sequoia groves are found in several parks in the Sierra, and are not specific to just the parks boundaries. You can find them as far south as the Western Divide Hwy, up past California Hot Springs – in the newest Giant Sequoia park, and you can find them as far north as Gold Rush Country.

These massive Sierra redwoods are not be be confused with the tallest trees – the California Coastal Redwoods, which are found along the Pacific Ocean, from the canyons of Big Sur to rocky shores of Crescent City. The oldest living trees are the Ancient Bristlecone Pines, east of Bishop CA

ancient trees

Big, Tall, Old Trees

A break down of all the redwood parks by geographic regions, so you can find exactly what you are looking for, without the confusing name games.

Wikipedia: an excellent list of Giant Sequoia Groves

Sequoia Area Maps:

Picnic Los Angeles

piru lake

Picnic Area Los Angeles – Picnic Spots LA

picnics

 

LA PICNIC GROUNDS & PARKS:

  • Angeles Crest Hwy 2 – Switzer Picnic, Angeles National Forest
  • El Matador State Beach, Malibu Cliffs just north of Zuma Beach on Pacific Coast Hwy, great area overlooking secluded beach, hiking trails
  • Fort Tejon State Historic Park – great stop along I-5 (atop the Grapevine)
  • Millard Falls @ Chaney Trail, Altadena – Millard waterfall, half mile hike
  • Point Fermin Historic Lighthouse, Palos Verdes – Friendship Bell & surrounding area overlooking Long Beach; LA harbor / Pacific Ocean
  • Palos Verdes @ Palos Verdes Dr. small park on top of hill, cliff w/ field, overlooking ocean , Malibu & LA basin.
  • Deer Creek Rd, Malibu North dirt road pull outs 1 mi. up & 1.5 mi. with spectacular views of ocean; Santa Monica Mtns. nearby
  • Pyramid Lake – North side of lake; Good views, Piru Creek nearby
  • Lake Castiac – NE side on Lake Hughes Rd., Good views, few small pines
  • Lake Piru & the dirt roads surrounding it in Los Padres NF

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Samuel P Taylor Campground

San Francisco Redwoods Camping

Samuel P Taylor State Park

Samuel P Taylor Campground

San Francisco Redwood State Park

SamP is one the large redwood parks north of San Francisco, CA. Coastal redwoods can be found in the mountains above Santa Cruz, as well as on Point Reyes in Marin County. Hiking in the region is amazing w/ enchanted forests, dramatic fog, waterfalls, numerous trails in every direction.

This is one of the best developed campgrounds in the region for car camping and RV campers. Consisting of several loops, a group site, a horse camp and hike-in or bike-in camp sites. There are even cabin rentals in the park. This park has several camp sites that can accommodate visitors with disabilities. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during summer months. Be prepared to pay hefty fees for overnight use.

Max RV Camper Length: 31′Marin Redwoods
Max Trailer Length: 27′

  • Creekside Loop
  • Orchard Hill Loop
  • Madrone Group Site
  • Madrone Cabins
  • Horse Camp
  • Hike & Bike in Sites
    (max 8 persons)

CA State Park

Samuel P Taylor State Park
59 developed campsites
4 cabin rentals
15 miles W of San Rafael on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard
415-488-9897

 

Samuel P Taylor

California Parks List

California Parks and Recreation

State Parks, State Forests, State Recreation Area, National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests – What is the Difference?

public lands

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.

CA Wilderness Areas California Wilderness 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.
CA National Parks California
National Parks – NPS: National Park Service
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.
NM: California
National Monument
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.
NSA:
National Scenic Area National Seashore
Located within the National Park System & is basically scenic area worth preserving. Usually no entrance fees.
California National Parks
California NFS:
CA National Forests
USDA Forest Service
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 State Parks
California SP:
California State Parks
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.
California SRA:
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.
California OHV & SVRA: Off Hwy Vehicle Area and State Vehicle Recreation Areas 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
blm camps
BLM: public lands Bureau of Land Management 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.

topo maps

Find California Park Maps

Wilderness with Horses Sierra Ski Maps Camping California Wilderness Rangers Snow Ski Topo Maps Mountain Biking Maps
Wilderness Hikes Wilderness Hiking Maps Wilderness Topo Maps Sierra Fishing Maps Sierra Topo Maps California Hiking Maps

California Outdoor Recreation:
All parks, forests, preserves, monuments, public lands, lakes, rivers, wilderness, historical sites and museums can be found listed separately on our super local A-Z town pages