Tag Archives: pinyon

Kern River Camping

relaxing at kern

Kern River California

Kern River is a top recreation destination for the lower half of the state, since it is the only big Sierra river within easy reach of Southern California.

Lower mountain elevations 2000-4000′ means camping all year is possible on the Kern. With only a few inches of rainfall, plus an average high temperature of 60 degrees in December & January, Kernville has become a year-round recreation destination for the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Kern Canyon and most surrounding mountains are managed by USDA: Sequoia National Forest, which extends south to the Tehachapi range!

Sierra Nevada ROAD CLOSURES during winter restricts that Kern Canyon is only accessible via the Hwy 178 route. Both the Western Divide Highway (to the north) and Sherman’s Pass Road (to the east) close for many months, due to snow. (typically, NOV-APRIL closure)

Snowy Springs

 

Popular Kern Recreation – backpacking, camping, fishing, hiking, river rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, off-roading & floating (inner tubing).

Kern Tube Ready

Kern River can be divided into 5 different & distinct regions:

kern gorge
Granite gorge, Kern River, South of Whitney

Kern River High Country

headwaters of the Kern River.
High Sierra, Golden Trout Wilderness, Kern Hot Springs, Mount Whitney snowmelt, Kern Gorge. foot access only, wilderness backcountry. fishing, day hikes, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, horse packs.

fencedmeadow

Upper Kern Plateau

Southern Fork of the Kern River
Golden Trout Wilderness
Monache Meadows (Inyo NF)
Troy Meadows
Kennedy Meadows
Horse Meadow Campground
Big Meadow
Long Valley Campground
Chimney Creek Campground
Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway

johnsondale bridge @ KERN

Forks of the Kern

(areas north of Johnsondale)

Johnsondale Bridge
backpackers & fishing trailheads
Big parking lot at the bridge. trails travel rivers edge into a tight canyon, impressive rock gorge continues up to the tallest mountain peaks in the High Sierra.

rincon
Shermans Pass Road turn-off
paved route that connects Kern River to Mojave desert.

RINCON CAMP – The Rincon Fault (an earthquake faut line) runs in a north-south direction, on the east side of Kern River. Popular and rugged RINCON, a dirt bike and mountain bike trail runs this ridge as well. An overgrown hunters camp (which has been almost destroyed) is located up hill from Brush Creek falls; but accessible via unmaintained dirt road – unsigned pull out, just off Shermans’ Pass Road. High clearance vehicle is needed to reach this spot.

Johnsondale Cabins: R Ranch

johnsondale
Johnsondale under Fire 2002

Sequoia #22S82 – Forks of the Kern Road

Boy Scout Camp Whitsett
Lloyds Meadow
Kern River Gorge
Lower Peppermint Campground
Primitive camps – Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3, Camp 4, Camp 5
Jerky Meadows Trailhead to Golden Trout Wilderness

kern flat camping

Upper Kern River

Kern River north of Kernville, CANFS

This part of the river sees much of the action, with kayakers, river rafters, fishermen, RVs, motorcycles, mountain bikers, backpackers and campers, seeking easy river access, hiking trailheads or just a good picnic spot.

Numerous small lodges between Kernville & Johnsondale

Brush Creek: awesome waterfalls & pools on Brush Creek, only accessible by hiking trail.

Rincon Trail runs above the river on the east side, via the Rincon earthquake fault. This is right where Brush Creek comes down the steep mountain. RINCON is favorite mountain biking trail, that is also open to dirt bikes (OHV) & equestrian, so share the trail and play nice. Rincon Camp is rugged, may be overgrown and unmaintained. Long dirt road might require high clearance vehicle or possible 4×4, if weather is wet.

kern fishing

Lake Isabella

Huge recreational reservoir in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Dry and high desert terrain. Canyons have more vegetation. East part of lake is a wildlife refuge w/ abundant cottonwood trees, which turn golden yellow in Autumn.

The earthen dam is on the south westside. California State Route 178 (Hwy 178), which connects Mojave desert w/ Bako. This major east-west Sierra route is a four-laner (freeway) cutting thru the valley. EXIT#  intersects w/ CA 155 to reach Alta Sierra, Wofford Heights, Kernville and all place north of there.

Breckenridge is a Mountain to the south of Isabella and Lower Kern. Tall pines with an empty campground awaits!

Isabella Lake

Lower Kern River

(river access / camping, southwest of Lake Isabella)

Historic Kern – Keyesville OHV
Off-Road Camping

hobo camping
Hobo Camp has a fishing trail along the river.

Old Kern Canyon Road

Minimal to modest campsites in the lower canyon. Most seclusion for overnight spots, can be found along the empty stretches of the Old Kern Canyon Road. Many curvy mountain miles, one lane, paved, several flat spots for easy road-side camping. Caution for cattle in roadway. Speed limit is generally under 40 mph for this historic route which parallels the 178, in between Lake Isabella and Bako.

Kern River Hot Tub
Local Hot Springs

Ojai Camping

ozenavalley
Highway 33 Camping Ojai, California

Los Padres National Forest / Ojai District:

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Holiday Group Camp 2000′ 8 oaks vault creek group site
Middle Lion Campground 3150′ 8 oaks vault creek Rose Valley
Pine Mountain Camps 6650′ 6 pines vault no May-Nov
Reyes Peak Camp 7000′ 6 pines vault no May-Nov
Rose Valley Campground 3450′ 9 scrub vault creek Rose Valley Falls
Wheeler Gorge Campground 2000′ 73 oaks pit piped Matilija Creek
Launch @ Reyes Peak Trailhead

Los Padres National ForestNFS

see also –

middle lion campground
middle lion campground
Creek Camping Lion
Creek Camping @ Lion
Piedras Blancas
Coastal Foothills and Fog with Piedras Blanca backdrop

primitive camp sitesFREE CAMPING
additional NFS camps in the region:

Chumash Quatal Canyon
Chumash Wilderness access via Quatal Canyon

Open Camping in Quatal Canyon
Hwy 33
@ Ventucopa, California. OHV trails and red dirt canyons; Hike into Chumash Wilderness. The main Quatal Road #9N09 is graded (annually) and usually passenger car accessible; side routes to camps in the big wash or up any canyons may require high clearance or 4WD vehicle. No services in this canyon at all; Cell service is minmal. Gasoline is somewhere along the hwy (near a pistachio orchard).

Wilderness Areas along Hwy 33backpacking Los Padres

map of the Los Padres region –

Los Padres mountain towns –

DSCN2342

Rose Valley Falls has a small campground at the trailhead


Kelbaker Road

signage

Kelbaker Road, Mojave NP

Kelbaker Road is one of the well-traveled back roads in the Mojave Desert connecting two major Eastern California routes of Interstate system. The I-40 to the south and the I-15 to the north, spanning 50 miles from one to the other.

Kelbaker Rd continues south to T up w/ historic Route 66 near Amboy, CA. Gasoline is very iffy in Amboy, so remember gas up in Barstow.

This region is super scenic portion of Kelbaker Road, which cuts thru the western edge of Mojave National Preserve. The Kelbaker pavement reaches to an elevation of 4024′ at Granite Pass, about 6 miles north of the exit @ interstate 40. Boulder outcroppings, bare mountain peaks, secluded cove camp sites w/ dirt roads, and old mines all over. Joshua tree forest and pinyon pine forest encircle the Mid Hills region.

4x4Some roads are suitable for passenger cars, but many are not. Dirt slides, erosion gullies, wash outs and rocks are common on these roads, so drive slow and pay attention.

There are private property ranches, active railroad tracks & BLM lands along the Kelbaker route. Some of the boundaries of NPS have been extended, so best to bring a map.

map file case

MOJAVE DESERT
topo maps

Free camping is abundant in this desert region, but it’s all primitive w/ no facilities and all are on dirt roads when your turn off Kelbaker. Some of the best camping areas are around 4000 feet (above sea level), so serious wind and even snow is quite possible in the winter months. Go prepared w/ plenty firewood.

Historic Mojave Trail (aka Mojave Road) is out this way. Dirt bikes, off roaders love this trail that connects the Colorado River @ Avi Casino to Afton Canyon near Barstow.

wildflowerWILDFLOWERS – joshua tree, yucca, barrel cactus
Higher elevation deserts bloom in late Spring, generally March thru May. Perfect rainfall timing in the autumn, can determine wild blooms and flora months later. Providence Mountains SRA can be a good location for wildflower viewing.

depot desert

Kelso, CA

Kelso Depot:  historic spot, centered around the old train depot, which has been restored and has become the new visitors center and museum. Totally worth a 2 hour stop and HIKING/WALKING stretch break. The road heads north from Kelso and the name changes to: Kelbaker-Cima Road

train

Cima, CA

mojave dirt roadsCima Store, 20 miles to the north is one of the few businesses in this region. Post Office next door, maybe. Cima Road connects to I-15 in approximately 15 miles north. Kelbaker Road splits again and it heads up to I-15 @ Baker, CA

See more in this Mojave area —

Kelbaker Rd
Kelbaker Road and Railroad Tracks
Hole in the Rock
Hole in the Rock, Mojave NP
Mojave Scenery
Mojave Mid Hills boulder peaks

Cuyama Valley

Cuyama River Valley, California

Ventucopa WineriesNorth of Ojai, Highway 33 meets Highway 166: Ozena, Ventucopa, & New Cuyama make up the 3 small communities inside the Cuyama River Valley, located in south of the San Joaquin (California’s Central) Valley.

On the outter edge of Santa Barbara County, where Kern, San Luis Obispo & Ventura counties all meet, you can find great solitude, a large red dirt, high desert wash & plenty rural trails. Off-roading, backcountry camping, hiking, mountain biking all over this region.

Ozena Ranger Station sits at the south end of Cuyama, at the intersection of Lockwood Valley Rd & Hwy 33. Ozena Campground with 10 spots @ 3660′ elevation, is to the east off Lockwood.

Nettle Springs Campground (8 spots @ 4400′ elevation) can be accessed via Apache Canyon, a 10 mile long dirt road# 8N06, off Hwy 33

2 smaller campgrounds – Tinta and Ranch Nuevo are on the west side of Hwy 33 & may require a high clearance vehicle to reach. Trails out of these campgrounds lead to the Dick Smith Wilderness.

Chumash Wilderness is just east of Ventucopa, as Los Padres National Forest surround this agricultural valley. Quatal Canyon and Quatal Wash reach from the upper elevations of pinyon pines near Mount Able to Cuyama river bed below, as Cerro Noroeste Road skirts the northern rim of the impressive red rock canyon. Toad Spring Campground is at the top. Apache Saddle and Pine Mountain Club are just east of Quatal Cyn.

Cuyama riverbed follows Highway 33 and then turns west, following Highway 166, past the ranch lands, the volcano hills and notorious Rock Front Ranch.

All the pavement around Cuyama is very popular amongst motorcyclists. Scenic touring kinda roads. A very nice 100 mile loop trip is from Pine Mountain Club – W on Mil Potrero Hwy, W on Cerro Noroeste Rd, W on Hwy 166, S on Hwy 33, East on Lockwood Valley Road – back to Frazier Park & I-5 Lebec.

Mahutasan, the indian sweat lodge and the extremely rustic Sage Brush Annies Restaurant w/ winery are the highlights of this rural agriculture valley called Ventucopa CA. Cuyama Peak and fire lookout tower overlooks the whole Cuayama Valley & can be accessed via Santa Barbara Canyon Rd. 4×4 may be required in certain spots. This lovely oak and manzanita lined canyon was scorched by the Zaca Wildfire in mid 2007.

  • Cuyama Wineries
  • Pistacio Orchards
  • Quatal Canyon
  • Ballinger OHV Park

helpful maps of the region –

towns in the valley –

towns close by –


View Larger Map

Hwy 166 Wildflowers, School House Canyon
Hwy 166 Wildflowers, School House Canyon


Horse Canyon

Horse Canyon Mojave

Horse Canyon California

Southern Sierra / Mojave Road SC 65

Mojave Desert meets the Sierra Nevada Mountains
North Highway 14

North of Mojave, CA
North of Red Rock State Park
North of Jawbone Canyon

South of south of US Hwy 395, south of jct Hwy 178

backroads BLM camping desert roads hiking PCT mountain bike jeep roads primitive camp

elevation: 3000′-7000′

Horse Canyon is a dirt road up a high desert canyon, with joshua trees and wash outs. 7000′ elevation pinyon pine ridges above w/ PCT.

Most would say the see a whole-lotta-nothingness out here in these deserts…. when they zoom by at 70 mph on the blacktop highway.

at Total Escape, we beg to differ.

Solo Driver SUV

Intersection on Hwy 14 @ SC 65, dirt route will travel west into the mountains. Initial desert road follows Little Dixie Wash, but veers north up to Horse Canyon and the higher forested ridges.

Horse Cyn is a scenic, desert, dirt road that becomes a rugged 4×4 trail the higher it climbs in the canyon. The route traverses a ridge line and dead ends at the old cabin; No through route, no loop. The PCT continues on to the Walker Pass @ the 178.

The lower Horse Canyon is area quite accessible by standard truck or SUV. High clearance is recommended out on these kinda roads. Vegetation is quite sparse at first, but improves with the miles traveled. Wildflowers can be awesome, usually April-June. Picnic spots everywhere; primitive camping sites can be found out here, off the main dirt road. Please reuse existing camp sites when possible.

wheelin pals

Passenger cars may attempt this, but should watch for unexpected deep dips and rocks, washed out in the road. (No tow service in the middle of nowhere). Road conditions do change with the seasons out in the boonies. Cell phone reception could be spotty back in the deepest of canyons.

PCT
PCT trail access: Pacific Crest Trail follows this ridge road for miles. They call this range the SCODIE Mountains; Old cabin at the end of the road.

cabin mcivers

Sage Canyon and Cow Heaven Canyon are both to the north, along with Freeman Canyon (CA SR 178). Bird Spring and Dove Spring Canyons are both to the south, along with the most popular regions of Red Rock State Park and the Jawbone OHV area.

nearby towns:

INYOKERN, CA
LAKE ISABELLA, CA
MOJAVE, CA
RANDSBURG, CA
RIDGECREST, CA

joshuacanyons

Chimney Creek Campground

campmap

Chimney Creek Campground
BLM Kern / Mojave

High mountain desert camp is mislabeled on some maps as “Chimney Peak Campground” or “Chimney Rock Campground”. Pinyon pine forest on Chimney Creek, near hiking trailheads, wildflowers and Chimney Peak Wilderness. Southern Sierra ridge near Mojave Desert and California SR 178.

peakpinyons

Canebrake Road is a graded dirt road that makes up part of Chimney Peak Back Country Byway. This rural route is a major graded dirt road located north of Highway 178 – which connects Canebrake to Long Valley up near Kennedy Meadows. Pacific Crest Trail passes next to this campground in the Southern Sierra mountains. The campground turn off is way east of Lake Isabella Hwy 178 is (near Walker Pass & PCT) and follow dirt road north to Kennedy Meadows in the far eastern reaches of Sequoia National Forest

Chimney Peak BLM
• Elevation: 5,700′
• Number of Sites: 32
• Camping Reservations: No
• Sites Available: First come, First serve
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV limit 28′ max
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Water: Piped (April – Sept)
• Toilet: Vault
• Season: Open all year
• Fee: No
• Operated By: BLM
• Closest Town: Lake Isabella, CA

Bureau of Land Management
BLM Bakersfield Ranger Station
661-391-6000

Lamont Peak
Lamont Peak – elev 7510′

nearby destinations –
Camp Kern Backroads

Chimney Peak Wilderness
Lamont Peak
Long Valley Campground
Dome Land Wilderness
Owens Peak Wilderness
Jawbone Canyon
Sequoia National Forest
Sacatar Trail Wilderness
Kiavah Wilderness
Kennedy Meadows
Lake Isabella
Kern River
Monache Meadows


View Chimney Creek Campground in a larger map

9N09 – Los Padres NF

Quatal Canyon

Quattale

Quatal Cyn: Forest Road #9N09 – Los Padres National Forest

Toad Spring Campground is located at high elevations (5700′) of Quatal Canyon, on a dirt road, half mile off the pavement of Cerro Noroeste Rd. The Chumash Wilderness, the Cuyama River Valley, Apache Saddle, Mount Abel plus the Bittercreek National Wildlife Refuge all surround this region. Los Padres National Forest meets the vineyards, orchards & farmlands, near Ventucopa. This is the badlands – 18 mile scenic dirt road, well signed at Hwy 33 & mostly graded. Quatal Cyn connects Ojai’s Highway 33 to the pinyon pine forest above near Pine Mountain Club (@ nearly a straight line?) Motorcycle dirt bikes & off-roaders dig this place. Street bikes will prefer paved Cerro Noroeste which runs the rim above to the north.

This major dirt road is not gated at either end, but winter sometimes closes the route due to snow depth. It never stays closed very long, as some beefy 4×4 will break thru the snow berm soon enough. Top elevation @ Cerro Noreste is approximately 5500′.

Quatal Canyon (possible Chumash word for Snake) is a giant high desert wash, ripping down from Cerro Noroeste (aka Mt Abel). Serious erosion w/ San Andreas fault lines – make it a very interesting canyon to explore on foot, horseback, motorbike, or mountain bike. The lupine & wildflowers here are incredible in late Spring in this red dirt canyon. Both nearby mountain peaks of Mount Abel & Mount Pinos are the tallest in Kern County.

This rugged primitive canyon gets torn up during a good storm in late summer or a big winter storm. Red dirt gets very slippery – especially on the edges of a cliff. Boulders in the road, flash floods – or no road, river of mud! 2WD passenger cars can take this route in dry months, but high clearance is usually preferred. 4×4 is needed during heavy rain or snow – which could be half the year (Nov-April). Flash flooding is possible all over Los Padres NF, so know the weather forecast in advance.

Seen small RVs, trucks pulling trailers & even a U-haul moving truck down this way. MapQuest always amazes me where they route you. This is a graded dirt road, some of the time. MapQuest should post a ‘see Total Escape for this route’. Come on folks, if you’re traveling cross-country, while moving your residence, buy a real map to explore the National Forests of California. You may end up sleeping way out here – broken down in the moving van, in the boonies & no cell coverage, cuz you had a one page, wrinkled map in faded ink, wet & smeared. And MapQuest told you it was paved. It’s not paved 90% of the way.

Primitive camping is also allowed in the canyon wash or on the side routes, in certain seasons. Use an existing camp site when possible. Clean out the rock fire ring of litter & bottles, pull back all dry brush at camps & leave these places better than you found ’em. There are hundreds of dispersed campsites out here. The open wash is especially nice on a full moon hike, just bring friends – cuz it is considered “big cat country”. Camp fire restrictions are in tight control on this SoCal region. You will need a camp fire permit, a big shovel & lotsa water. Check with the Los Padres rangers to make sure. Recently Zaca Fire (2007) & the month long Day Fire (2006) both came very close to this precious sanctuary.

The high desert terrain is pinyon forest, with yucca & manzanita. The eroded cliffs of red rock, white & orange hues, glow best during the clearest sunsets. You will almost think your in Utah, until you get up on a ridge & see the smog in the Central Valley of California.

Mahu Tasen, a Native American camp and sweat lodge, has ceremonial grounds in a canyon off of Quatal. There is also a large rock quarry mining operation, as well as numerous wineries and ranches along this route. Several private residences too.

Ballinger Canyon OHV Park is close by, 5 miles N on Hwy 33

Carrizo Plain National Monument is also pretty close, N off Hwy 166

towns nearby –

PINE MOUNTAIN CA

MARICOPA CA

VENTUCOPA CA

helpful maps of the region –

Quatal Chumash Lands