Tag Archives: primitive

Snag Lake California

Snag Lake California

 

Lakes Basin Recreation Area
Snag Lake

A free lake camp in between Truckee & Quincy, CA

This is one of many small lakes situated within the Lakes Basin Recreation Area , in the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains. Just north of Downieville & Historic Gold Country. Snag Lake is nothing special compared to the rest of the scenic lakes close by, but it is worth a mention due to a few fun facts.

Sierra Nevada Lake

One thing this small lake campground does have is convenience, located right on the Gold Lake Highway – next to Goose Lake, plus hiking distance to the largest of the lakes, Gold Lake. The second feature is the campground is small, 16 primitive sites, picnic tables & one vault toilet. The third thing is that this is a FREE campground; no charge.

campsite snag lake

Snag Lake Campground

• Elevation: 6600′
• Number of Sites: 16
• Vehicle Accessibility: Small RVs
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: No
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: Gold Lake

Boulder Hopping

dirt drive (no pavement)

No motorized boats allowed. No paved boat ramps. Kayaks & canoes can hand launch from several spots. The dirt driveway is easily missed, especially at night. The old wooden, forest service sign is not reflective. The vault toilet is close to the highway and the camp sites are along the lake edge. No pavement anywhere!

Upon arrival, camper trailers will want to get out and select the best route to a camp site. The small boulders, dead trees, root and rock obstacles are abundant on the dirt road entry, all around the campground, and at each camp site. High clearance vehicles would fair best at this camp, but some passenger cars may be able to manage the rocky entrance. Get out and look at the road, before scraping across the biggest rock. Slowly, carefully, maybe… and preferably an arrival before dark.

LOCALS TIP: The wind tends to pick up at night around these lakes, so brace your tent well and position your vehicle appropriately.

NFS lake camping lake fishin hiking lakes lakes

fishing lake?

rainbow trout

Obviously with a name like SNAG, you can imagine that the fishing here is not the best, since roots and old tree stumps make up a good portion of the shoreline. Luckily there are a dozen alpine lakes within a 20 mile radius to choose from for another fishing spot. Some lakes are hike-in only, some require 4×4 to reach and others have cabin resorts.

towns nearby –

sierra snow

SEASONAL SNOW CLOSURES

snowmobile
Gold Lake Hwy (or Gold Lake Road) closes in the winter months (NOV-APRIL) due to snow and the region is used as a winter recreation area. Cross-country skiing and snow-mobiling are both popular activities.

driftwood

Lassen – Snag Lake

ANOTHER SNAG LAKE in NorCal, can be found by foot, hiking into the Lassen Volcanic Wilderness. Backpacking the lake loop is approx 17 miles RT and includes 3 lakes – Snag Lake, Widow Lake, and Jakey Lake. Trailhead is located at Juniper Lake, at the north shore.

read more about this hike

hiker

SIERRA LAKES

4×4 lakes
backpacking lake
camping lakes
canoeing lake
fishing lakes
hiking lake
kayaking lakes
waterfalls

What is Camping?

Old Timers Berry Creek

Basically, what is Camping?

4x4 camping RV camping car camping primitive camping backpacking cabin camping

BLM camping State Park camping National Forest campgrounds National Park camping

 

An overnight stay out-of-doors. Sleeping out under the stars.
Air bed, camping cot, tent… or just a tarp on the ground.
Perhaps A Mountain Cabin Rental. Your choice.

stars camptruck campfire

campFrom a luxurious cabin in the mountains, to a small clearing in near a meadow with a stream nearby – with just a backpack, the idea of “camping” is always a bit different for each person. Roughin’ it for free in the wilderness, or on the backroads; Or pay dearly for the price of real amenities, while on vacation.

car camping

Various types of Camping in California:

type of
camping
average
cost per night
brief description – what to expect
modern cabin $150 – $350 just like a hotel room, full kitchen, phone, internet, TV, real furniture
rustic cabin $90 – $190 bare minimum, beds, kitchen sink, electricity. maybe a bathroom
tent cabins / yurts $60- $150 wood floors, canvas walls, sleeping cots. reservations accepted. (very popular) may be open seasonally
camper vans, motorhome,
recreational vehicle
rentals, or own it all creature comforts on wheels, lots of luxury. camp the back roads.
camper shell own it mini motorhome on the back end of a pickup truck. smaller than RV
RV campground $25- $70 50+ sites, lots of facilities & families w/ RVs. reservations accepted
developed campground $25- $50 usually 30 – 100 sites, paved loop, facilities. toilets, piped water. plenty in our camping section (most popular)
small campground $12- $27 less than 25 camp sites, pit/vault toilets. plenty small campgrounds listed in our camping section
primitive car camping free way-out-there camp spots w/ dispersed camp sites, for the rugged self-contained, self-sufficient camper; access usually via dirt back roads.
SUV/ 4×4 camping free remote spots on long, steep, bumpy dirt roads; dispersed camp sites in secluded areas. 4 wheel drive may be needed
walk-in campsites
bike-in campsites
low cost or free camp sites that require you to physically haul your camp gear from a parking area to the camp spot, ranging from 1/8 mi. walk to a 1-3 mile hike
backpacking free w/ wilderness permit ultimate in seclusion, bring it all on your back, on foot into the wilderness & enjoy trail camps

  pinetree    fish

River Beach Campground
Trinity River Camping, Douglas City, CA

yellowpost

SO CAL CAMP FIRES – Yellow Post Campsites are remote camping spots in secluded areas, in a designated fire safe clearing. Camp FiresNo facilities such as toilets or showers. Maybe a picnic table & fire rings, if you’re lucky. Southern California forests have these kinda spots. Required campfire permit & you must double check on local fire restrictions.

Tent Cabin Rentals

Canvas Tent Cabins & Yurts

These structures are half way between ‘roughing it in a tent on the ground’ & having a ‘mountain cabin’. Tent cabins have wooden floors w/ canvas walls and roof; Dismantled annually for winter rain/snow, they are usually only available in mild, coastal climates or during summer months in the mountains.

deluxe-tent-cabinRentals typically include sleeping cots, but you’ll need to bring your own bedding (sleeping bags, sheets, pillows). Some rentals include shaded porches, wooden decks, minimal furniture, kitchenettes and/or wood burning stoves. Electricity may be available, or maybe not. Ask ahead of time, if you really must have that particular luxury when on vacation.

Yurts are a ’round version’ of this canvas cabin – which need to be aired out, often (to prevent mold). Yurt rentals are very popular and in high demand in California.

Find these type of rentals at yoga retreats, hot springs, beach canyons, remote lakes, redwood forests, high sierra camps, fishing camps and at certain RV parks.

National Forest Service Rangers wildlife

Deck w/ View

National Forest Fire Lookouts
& Historic Cabins

hiker

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

Camping California Back Roads


Campfires in California

Campfires on the Back Roads
Campfires on the Back Roads: permit, shovel & water bucket required

campfireWhen & Where – Campfires in California

California has many different National Forest districts and each region has their own fire restrictions. State Parks & BLM also manages recreation areas & camping in the Golden State. Each agency & region has different rules, so blanket answers cannot apply to general questions on campfires.

CAMPFIRE PERMITS
Campfire permits are required for fires outside of designated recreation sites. During fire restrictions, campfires could be banned. Campfire Permit are available from Forest Service, CalFire or BLM offices or online, http://www.preventwildfireca.org/

ranger

Manter Fire, Dome Land Wilderness
Manter Fire [2000], Dome Land Wilderness, Southern Sierra Nevada

the new abnormal

California suffers more from wildfires now than ever before. Native tribes let lightning strike wild fires burn and they did not suppress wildfire. Residential development creeping ever higher and denser into the foothills, an abundance of roadways, with the overgrown forest make fire danger ever more real.

Closed off wilderness areas, impassable dirt roads, landslides, fallen trees everywhere. Utility services (power lines), plus high winds and overgrown forest also play a huge part in the current wildfire catastrophes. Drought conditions or record winter rains, the huge population on the west coast -along with many other factors – means more fire danger. Educate yourself and others on fire safety, forests and weather patterns. Heed the wind, while in the wild. Wind spreads fire easily!tent camping

Current Fire Restrictions:

By mid summer we have usually have several wild land fires burning, which means campfire restrictions are usually in place before JULY 4th weekend. When this happens – No open campfires are allowed in the backcountry or on the back roads.

Often in the driest of years, no campfires are allowed (even inside the campgrounds).

camp

If you love to primitive camp outside of developed campgrounds, you need to plan more road trips for spring time & autumn. Or head further north, well above Redding – where the forest are moist and snow graces Mount Shasta year round. Or perhaps, go desert camping during winter months. Checking the National Forest web sites can be confusing and their online information could be outdated.

Each forest and area is individually managed. No concise, easy-to-read list or online map exist on which forests are allowing backcountry campfires – and which ones are not. Conditions seem to change so often and they aren’t great about updating those .gov web sites.  Best to call a local ranger station and ask about any current fire restrictions. You know, actually “talk on a phone” to a USFS, BLM or CalFire official.  If you can speak to a field ranger, they can tell you more on dispersed camping. Or you can navigate the USDA web site to find current ALERTS & RESTRICTIONS. Cryptic lingo may be encountered, and many clicks maybe needed; possibly forcing you to down a PDF of current fire rules.NFSlogo

Here is a page with all the California National Forests listed w/ phone numbers
http://www.totalescape.com/active/campstuff/NF/NFS.html

Narrow down a specific region by checking out where fires are active today and selecting a region well away from big fires.
http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

see more on this topic –

Fire Safety
Camping Without a Campfire
Firewood Dealers

rock fire ring

Camp Fires Correctly

walkincampsite
Eagle Lake Tent Campground

 

NO Campfires?
No Campfires in California?

hiker

Fire Light Cove
Cove Camping in Anza Borrego Desert State Park

23S16 – Sequoia NF

Sugarloaf Ridge, Greenhorn Mts
Alta Sierra, Kern River Canyon

sugarloafrd
Sugarloaf Road, above Kern River Canyon

SOUTH SIERRA: This route is located in between the Western Divide Highway and the cedar community of Alta Sierra, CA

Sequoia Camping

Sugarloaf Ridge: Forest Rd# 23S16 – Thompson Camp Spring, The Den @ Sequoia National Forest

Driving north on Sierra Hwy N of Kernville, California; Passing Fairview & the Johnsondale bridge; After the R Ranch @ Johnsondale, take the left fork on the main highway; After you climb in elevation, look for brown signs on right side of road & turn left on Forest Service Rd# 23S16. Primitive camp sites are located throughout this area along Packsaddle Creek. Do not turn left up Sugarloaf Rd. There are no good camp sites up that way (unless you wanna make one).

RV campers are very common at Thompson Camp Spring, as this road is paved up to this point. The paved road is windy & narrows after this point. It is not advised for trailers or long motorhomes past Thompson.

For the more adventurous, Bear Meadow & Packsaddle Mdw are located up the dirt road a bit on #23S64.

Vsugar

Paved Sequoia route# 23S16 continues to climb, which leads to the Speas Meadow, the Greenhorn Mountains & you best have a real good map if you are heading up this way. 20 miles of awesome open meadows, small streams, dense forest, wildflowers, some primitive camp sites & great viewpoints overlooking the Kern Canyon. All passenger car accessible! Elevations between 6000-7000′. Sugarloaf Peak has cross country skiing.

Side route #23S05 will take you to White River Campground w/ 12 spots. The paved road winds west down the mountain to Posey & eventually Glennville on Hwy 155.

Instead, to easily reach Hwy 155 – you’ll need to get on dirt for a few miles. While on 23S16, look for the Panorama Campground (@ 7400′ elevation w/ 10 sites). Take dirt road #24S15 to get back to civilization @ Alta Sierra, California.

NFSlogo

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest MAP

Sequoia Forest Topo Atlas

 

nearby small towns are:

Vbeardrive

kernwildflowers
Kern River Wildflowers (April) w/ Sugarloaf Mountains

Mono Hot Springs

High Sierra Nevada
Mono Hot Springs

Sierra Snowmobile Destination

Mono Hot Pools @ San Joaquin River
Sierra National Forest

Best of both worlds, way back in the boonies – two primitive tubs soaking perched on a soggy hill next to a big river, developed campground below, and a small resort w/ cabins, camping, restaurant and private soaking areas on the other side of the river.

Sierra hot springs15 mi. NE of Huntington Lake off Kaiser Pass Rd. Huntington Lake & Hwy. 168

Two squared cement tubs overlooking the San Joaquin River, deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The coolest thing about this primitive hot springs is that it is a great destination for a one day snowmobile adventure. Rentals are in the nearby community of Lakeshore & the plowed paths are fairly easy to follow. If you plan on visiting the springs, you must not play around in the meadow much, there is plenty great Sierra scenery to be had. The snomo trip is a good 5 hours round trip with a lunch break & dip at mineral spring tubs.

  • backpacking
  • boating
  • camping
  • cross country skiing
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • horseback
  • kayaking
  • mountain biking
  • mountaineering
  • snow mobiling
  • stargazing
  • swimming
Sierra Snow-Mobiling
Sierra Snow-Mobilin’

snomo sierra hot springs

Kasier Pass WildernessWinter: road is closed half the year due to heavy snow. Summer: snow is gone and the road is open.

KAISER PASS ROAD
Large motorhomes, RVs are not allowed on this long, steep, narrow paved route.

Max vehicle length: 25 feet

Take Hwy.168, turn right on Kaiser Pass Rd, just past the big ski resort. Pass the large meadow & follow signs to Mono Springs & Lake Edison. Make sure not to miss the left turn or you may end up at Florence Lake.

Parking near the green bridge over the San Joaquin River & hike over to the tubs on the hillsides. If there are other vehicles parked here, expect to see naked people nearby; Soaking should never be rushed. Clothing is optional – in California.

Green Bridge at San Joaquin Headwaters
camp

Mono Hot Springs Campground NFS

• Elevation: 6700′
• Number of Sites: 30
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 25′
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Campsite Reservation: Yes
• Toilet: Vault
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – September
• Trailheads: Ansel Adams & John Muir Wilderness

NOTE: This USFS Campground, should not to be confused with the neighboring business, a privately run camp called –

Mono Hot Springs Cafe w/ Cabin Resort

Mono Springs Sign

closest forest, lakes, & destinations:NFS

topo maps for this region:

Parking Spot

Primitive Camping California

Sierra Creek Camping

Primitive Camps in California

Free camping outside of a developed campground, for a self-contained camper who wants seclusion and privacy. Real relaxation in total peace and quiet. More nature, less people and minimal vehicles.

Campfire NIghts

Free Campsites • Dispersed Camps  Open Camping Boondocking

primitive camp sites the bare minimum. a clearing for a tent, maybe a fire ring. no toilet, no fees; dirt road access. campfire permits required. And it is up to you to know the current fire restrictions in the area you seek to camp overnight.

  • shovel
  • water
  • topo maps
  • trash bags
  • tow strap
  • camping gear

Back Roads to Secluded Camps –

The further out you are willing to drive, the more remote you can be. Good topo maps of the region help you to find these ultimate, secret camping spots. National Forests & BLM Lands require a free camp fire permit to have a campfire.

campfire

Fire safety is always a big concern in wildfire prone areas like California. Additional Permits & Passes may be needed in some forests or parks; each location is different. Check with the local ranger station for up to date restrictions.

Many dirt roads lead avid campers to the best out-of-the-way camp sites. Camps may have picnic tables or just a fire ring, but usually NO toilets. Have the “No Bathroom Blues”? Don’t sweat it. check out the page on Camp Potty

Some camp sites are as bare as a small clearing, a rock fire ring if you’re lucky. A detailed backcountry map is always advised. If you count on your digital mobile device and online access for mapping, you could find yourself very lost. GoogleMaps is known for mislabeling the smallest of back roads – and they do not feature dirt roads either.

free desert washes
Turtle Mountain Road, SoCal

camptruckA high clearance vehicle may be needed to reach certain camp spots, but many can be accessed with a standard passenger car. Low riders will likely bottom out and motorcycle riders will get dusty.

Know your vehicles limitations for any off-road use and don’t get stuck in a bad situation. Soft sand is quite common in deserts and 4×4 might be needed. There aren’t any tow trucks out in the boonies and if you do find one, it’ll cost you something fierce. Watch for large rocks, deep ruts or tree limbs in the road (at any time) and watch low overhanging branches when driving a motorhome in to such spots. Some dedicated, hard-core RV campers prefer to camp in remote locations.

yellow-post camp sites

Backpackers trailheads often have a few camp sites near the parking lot, but these may be busy during summer months. Dirt roads leading to trailheads can have primitive camp sites along them as well. Long, big creeks in the forests are notorious for having awesome camp sites. Big river camp sites are sometimes free, if you know where to look. Sometimes the smallest of California campgrounds have no charge, first come, first serve (BLM, National Forest, or State run).

freespice

No charge campgrounds in the Sierra Mts 

find free camp spots

Before it got labeled BOONDOCKING: Primitive Camping in remote spots was what we lived for. Camp outside of developed campgrounds, for free

inyohighroad
Inyo High Country Roads

pros and cons

possible dirt road access, seclusion, privacy, darker skies, no fees, no crowds, real peace & quiet

no toilet, no picnic tables, no pavement, no hospital, a long hike out, no cell phone service?

hiker

always be prepared to hike out (if need be). a giant tree can come down and block your exit road. landslides often happen on dirt back roads. the vehicle could break down or become disabled. get a topographic map and know how to read the terrain, without your device/phone.

Primitive Campsites


Camp Fires Correctly

desert bonfires
Deserts & beaches are the only places for bonfires.

kill your television

Camp Fires
The heat source, the light source, the cook source, the sock drier, the night supplier, the outdoor LIVING ROOM. The campfire is the center stage for all entertainment, dining, drinking, music, true tales and ghost stories alike.

Since the beginning of time humans have gathered around the campfire at dark. This nightly ritual is built into us on the deepest level. We miss this today. We miss the real conversations, the community, the bonding, the stories, the soul searching. We miss the connection with nature, the fresh air and the great outdoors. The night sky filled with stars and maybe a meteor shower, a hot drink and the glow of the campfire coals. Enjoying the wilderness requires certain skills. FIRE is only ONE skill – for survival, for cooking, for warmth, for safety.

Total Escape is dedicated to those who yearn to camp, often.

In Certain Circles
photo – Charlie Sweeney 2010

Some folks cannot imagine camping without a campfire, but we better get used to it here on the West Coast. Weather patterns swing from years of super-dry drought to deluge and drenching – as we’ve seen of recent in California. Dry conditions means high wildfire dangers, tight camp stove and strict campfire restrictions.

Each California region, National Forests and State Parks have their own fire restrictions, so call ahead to rangers for current fire conditions on the place you wish to visit. Certain mountain locations will ban fires in the back country, fires on the back roads and sometimes in extreme conditions, no fires allowed even inside a developed campground.

Campfire Basics
Sagebrush could be cleared back another few feet, at least.

Campfire Restrictions

fire

California is well known for its unforgiving drought conditions and its seasonal wildfire danger. Always know the fire conditions in the area you plan to camp. Most Southern California regions have banned ‘open campfires’ in forested areas, due to wildfire threat and population density. Call ahead to get an update on road closures and current campfire restrictions. Find California BLM offices & NFS ranger stations

Campfire Permits

If you plan on camping outside of a developed campground, you will need to get a free “camp fire permit”, which can be obtained at the local rangers office.

Find more on FREE camp fire permits

DSCN3700

California Camp Fires

  • RULE # 1 – Never leave a campfire unattended
  • Build campfires in designated rings. Always try to use an existing ring when possible. If you must build a new rock fire ring, follow the guide on FireSafe
  • You will need water source & bucket, plus a decent shovel for building, maintaining and controlling a campfire. BRING enough water & tools with you to control a fire.
  • A ten foot clearance – all around, down to the bare dirt is the best practice. No brush close to the ring, no bushes, no leaves or pine needles. No dry over-hanging tree branches.
  • You might need to clean trash out of the fire pit, so bring heavy duty trash bags, or a spare old box. Shovel comes in handy here.
  • Kindling is key to getting a good fire going fast, so gather more of the small stuff. Wood gathering away from camp is usually better pickens.
  • Use environmentally friendly fire starters (with damp wood, if you must); not the BBQ lighter fluid or gasoline
  • Building fires up against a big boulder scars them w/ black soot, and although it can reflect heat back to you, it is seldom worth the unsightly damage
  • Bring chainsaws or hand saws for cutting your own campfire wood in the forest
  • Gathering wood for fuel — use only dead and down wood
  • A ranger issued “wood cutting permit” is required if you plan on cutting a full cord
  • Firewood page – buying locally, in California
  • Never burn plastics, batteries or other toxic materials in campfires
  • Tossing beer bottle caps into a campfire only litters site for future campers
  • While glass bottle smelting is a real treat among boys at night, which one is actually gonna get their hands dirty & clean up broken glass out of the campfire the following morning?
  • Do not leave any hot coals during the day (if you are away from camp). Winds could pick up.
  • Always douse campfire with water completely when breaking camp. Stir it, feel for heat, and drown it more if you hear sizzling or see bubbling.
  • Read more wild fire / campfire info on our FireSafe page

Drown Fires

Last Final Step
The Final Step of Breaking Camp

 

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers
Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Stormproof LIghters
Stormproof Lighters

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.

pinetree

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:camptruck

  • Sierra Forest Road #6S07
  • Big Sandy Campground
  • Fresno Dome Campground
  • Kelty Meadow on Road #10 (Sky Ranch)
  • Nelder Grove #6S90 (Sequoia grove)
  • Greys Mountain #6S40
  • Soquel Campground @ Willow Creek
  • Texas Flats Campground (McGilvery Creek)

West side of Highway 41:camp

  • Summerdale Campground on Hwy
  • Summit Camp on Summit Road

Lakes West of Yosemite NP:
Stanislaus National Forest

all Lakes near Yosemite

niruatjackass
Jackass Meadow
Granite Creek
Granite Creek Campground NFS

Gold Country @ Mariposa, CA

Gold Country Foothills – listed below are valley reservoirs. Oaks, dry hills, which can can be super hot in summer. Boating and water recreation can be found at most  of these reservoirs

  • Jerseydale Campground on Triangle Rd
  • Wildcat Camp @ Eastman Lake
  • Cordorniz Recreation Area @ Eastman Lake
  • Hidden View Campground @ Hensley Lake
  • Bagby Recreation Area, Lake McClure
    Merced River @ jct Hwy 49 Gold Rush CA

 

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

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

Inyo Forest Roads

Baker Creek
Baker Creek, Inyo NF

Eastern Sierra Nevada – Inyo Mountains
Inyo Forest Back Roads – Mammoth Off Road

Off Road near US Highway 395. Yep, Olancha has some OHV (off-road) areas near the dunes, but this web site is dedicated to the real deal, the scenery, the trail heads, the hot springs, great secluded camping & of course, back road exploring.

You will need a Inyo National Forest map to discover these back roads. These are minimally traveled routes, un-maintained, sometimes washed out, eroded & maybe even creek crossings (without a bridge). Some gravel two-lane routes, some one lane roads leading deep into dead end canyons.

A few popular routes are paved, but most of these listed are indeed dirt roads. Some may require high clearance vehicle, or even 4×4. Know your vehicles limitations & be prepared to turn back when the road worsens. Cuz more often than not, it’s a sign of what more difficult terrain is to come.

coyote creek route

Watch out for live stock – they are dumber than they look.

Owenyo Rd – Wanna parallel the highway (395) on dirt; Sure, it’s a long bumpy route – from Hwy 136 @ Dolomite to Bend City @ Mazourka Cyn.

Road# 13S05 – Mazourka Canyon Rd – leads up to some old mining camps & way behind Mazourka Peak (9410′) deep into the Inyo mountains. It’s all desert on this side, but these canyons have pinyons & more vegetation than you would imagine. Road# 9S15 & 9S14 circle Andrews Mountain (9460′) then join back up w/ Death Valley Rd (the North Pass into Saline Valley).

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest has some great dirt roads surrounding it. After you are finished with all the touristy sights & you don’t wanna spend the rest of the day in the visitors center or back at camp, try Cottonwood Canyon – full of aspens, camp sites & fishing, not cottonwood trees. 4×4 is required. Crooked Creek has boulders, boulders & more boulders. Plus some amazing camp sites with open sky views. Silver Canyon is for high clearance only, 2WD okay. This will lead you down to Laws Railroad Museum on Hwy 6, on the back side of Bishop, CA

Benton Crossing Rd (green church @ 395)
This wide road leads out to multiple dirt roads that peel off in every direction. Many Eastern Sierra Hot Springs can be found out here – on the east side of the highway. No hot spring resorts, no facilities, no clothing & very primitive.

Bishop 4×4 route Coyote Flat
Coyote Wash leads up to Coyote Flat & out to Coyote Lake. This a a spectacular high altitude plateau overlooks the Owens Valley & requires 4 wheel drive just to get up there. Pinyons, junipers, aspens, wildflower meadows, old mines, & yes, lakes at 11,000′ elevation. Views of the High Sierra & South Lake.

Buttermilk Road – This dirt road is north turn off of Hwy 168, W of Bishop, CA. “The Buttermilks” are a popular spot among rock climbers. A great place for indian petroglyphs too!

Road# 9S21 – Glacier Lodge Road – Paved road. Creek exploring & fishing. Plenty Campgrounds. W of Big Pine CA

Horseshoe Meadows Rd – Paved route with great views over Owens dry lake bed; access via Lone Pine CA; A nice day trip to meadows & High Sierra scenery. Picnic & day hike!

McMurray Meadows Rd – south off of Glacier Lodge Rd (#9S21) just W of Big Pine CA. You can find ancient cinder cone volcanoes & cave-like lava tubes in between this long dirt road & the highway.

monacheMonache Meadows is a high elevation meadow that takes some time & determination to get to. This area is part of the Inyo National Forest, but can be accessed by either: backpacking thru the high Sierra’s or driving a high clearance vehicle thru Sequoia NF # 22S05 Sherman Pass Road, behind the Black Rock Ranger Station & Troy Meadows Campground. High clearance is needed, 4×4 maybe. Great camping sites near Olancha Peak trailhead. The area is surrounded by Golden Trout Wilderness & South Sierra Wilderness. From US Highway 395 to Kennedy Mdws & then Monache is a full day of exploring, so you may as well stay the night up there. But bring warm gear, a campfire permit & a capable vehicle.

Manzanar Routes – Back behind Manzanar Camp there are miles of dirt roads to explore. Many creeks side camp sites can be found even with a passenger car. Small trees & sage brush. Secluded camping (for free) is possible in the Eastern Sierra.

Mono Craters (Rd# 1N11) – the youngest mountain range on the continent. Just south of Mono Lake, this route skirts the pumice cones & climbs over the Aeolian Buttes, before it meets back up with Hwy 395.

Walker Creek Rd #19S01 – Oaks & creek. South of Olancha CA, look for turn off & follow dirt road up into the tight canyon.

Fish Slough Road (Rd #3V01) – open, high-desert area near volcanic tablelands. Find Indian Petroglyphs. N of Bishop, CA

keough hot tubInyo Road# 6S16 – Pine Creek Road – Creek exploring & fishing. NW of Bishop behind Rovana, also known as Round Valley, CA

Road# 4S02 – Owens Gorge Road – N of Bishop behind Lake Crowley. Camping w/ boulders & pines. Good open sky views for stargazing.

Road# 4S86 (Inyo Rd #28E201) – Laurel Lakes Road – Camp in aspens @ Laurel lakes, high elevation; access to alpine lake trailheads; SE of Mammoth Lakes, CA

Road# 2S05 – Deadman Creek – Creek fishing in forest. N of Mammoth

Road# 2S07 – Owens River Road – Pine forest, near hot springs; no facilities. N of Mammoth

Road# 1S63 – June Lake Loop is CA SR 158 (Hwy 158) paved main route, which is often closed for winter months, due to deep snow.

Road# 1N17 North of June Lake Loop; dirt road access to Parker Lakes & Walker Lake trailheads; Side canyon routes offer (unmarked) picnic areas and fishing spots; few primitive camping options.

Road# 1S25A Parker Lakes Road– Aspen & pine forest, near creeks; E of Grant Lake / N of June Lake

Road# 1S23 Walker Lake Road – Pine forest route to Walker Lake; E of Grant Lake / N of June Lake

Impressive Canyons

Salmon River California


salmon river
Photo Credit Erik Meldrum

Salmon River
Forks of the Salmon

NORTHERN CALIF

One of the most remote & biologically intact watersheds left inside California. The headwaters of the Salmon River flow from the Trinity Alps, Marble Mountains, and the Russian Wilderness Areas. 850,000 acres of Wilderness surrounding the Salmon River watershed.

You gotta know how to read a map if you wanna find this hidden gem. For those who love seclusion! This NorCal river region is a prime destination for true nature lovers: campers, hikers, fishermen, river rafters, river kayakers, mountain bikers, backpackers, birdwatchers and horse enthusiasts. Summer is the busiest time and of course, the best weather. The remainder of the year, you’ll basically have the place all to yourself. Winters can be wet and sloppy, so don’t get stuck in the mud. Cell phone reception is minimal in these densely forested backwoods.

Rafting, river beaches, kayak spots. Campground camping, RV camping, tent camping, primitive and wilderness too.

A significant part of the Klamath River’s watershed is in the Karuk Tribe’s Ancestral Territory. Karuk Indians have carefully managed their lands through an integrated continuum with the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem functions for thousands of years. Salmon, or “Ama” in the Karuk language, was a major source of food and spiritual renewal.

Forests & Parks along Salmon River:

12S01 – Sierra NF

12S01kingsriver

Kings River, Sierra National Forest
Road #12S01 – Lower Kings

Located in between Kings Canyon National Park and Pine Flat Reservoir. Graded dirt road w/ trailhead parking & camping; Primitive car camping, vault toilets, some areas accessible by small RV. Campfire permits are required.

Long, (sometimes rough) dirt road, that parallels the north side of the Kings River. Dirt road used by families, fishermen, kayakers, campers, mountain bikers, rafters and rafting shuttle buses, seasonally. May be gated and closed off to the public in wetter months of the year.

Bear Wallow Trailhead
Kings River Trailhead

kingscampsites
click to enlarge

Forest Route 12S01 crosses the river and leads to the south side of the river, near Green Cabin Flat. Mill Flat Campground is back this way.

Road 12S01 gains in elevation, turns to high-clearance, continuing up McKenzie Ridge thru a small slice Sequoia National Forest to the highway Kings Canyon National Park. 4×4 may be needed in wet/snowy weather.

flats of kings

Travertine Hot Springs

Eastern Sierra Hot Springs

Travertine Hot Pools, Toiyabe National Forest

Travertine Tubs

Inyo MapSouth of Bridgeport, California
just off US Highway 395

Also known on some maps as Travertine ACEC.

Take the road next to the Ranger Station (South of Bridgeport, along Hwy 395); Drive up the hill and past the rock quarry. Bear right & look for dirt parking lot. Two pools, short walk, no shade, wonderful views of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Popular with local commuters and travelers, with easy access off the highway. Great spot for views westward w/ sunset picnic and soak.

Dirt Road with Views

campNo overnight camping allowed at Travertine hot springs (posted signs)

Plenty of great, free, camping nearby:
Primitive or developed Campgrounds.

Views to Bridgeport Valley

Hoover Wilderness Trails

parks, lakes and forests nearby:

nearby towns:

Travertine Rock

Lake Campgrounds

Rancheria Falls
Rancheria Falls, Huntington Lake, CA

California Lake Campgrounds

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

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

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

View East from Davis
Crocker Mountain @ Lake Davis, California

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

NFS State Parks

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

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

tent camp developed campground

primitive camping primitive campsites

RV camper trailers allowed RV campground

hikes wilderness access

Spicer

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

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

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS tent camp

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

outdoor recreation found at or near lakes

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

Silver Lake from Above

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

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

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

 gardisky_lake

Floating Flyfishing Tube
Red Lake, 4×4 access (primitive, no facilities)

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

Grassy Picnic Faucherie Lake

BLM Sand Dunes

dumontdunes

Sand dunes are popular spots for tourists, travelers, RVers and off-roaders. Death Valley National Park has many large areas for dunes, Mojave National Preserve has the Kelso Dunes.

Fortunately, those places do not allow driving on the dunes, which is exactly what the off-road boys want to do. Sand flying, motors screaming, music blasting, bon fires blazing and no silence found until the wee hours of early morning.

Autumn, Winter & Spring are the busy months for ‘froaders in the deserts, since summer temps can soar into triple digits heat daily.

Camping out near “the dunes” is usually a big, freaking, free-for-all, outdoors with the latest in motorized toys. Recreation Vehicles encircling bonfires (camp formation for a large group), toy box haulers, trailers, families, and maybe a massive BBQ setup.

OHV (off highway vehicle)
Vehicular Recreation Area

California BLM Desert Sand Dunes

luxurycamper

Below is a list of California Sand Dunes overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

Arroyo Salado / Ocotillo Wells
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 10 mi. west of Highway 86 on Highway 78. Rolling hills and sand washes. Designated “Open Area” consisting of 4,800 acres. Adjacent to Ocotillo Wells Vehicular Recreation Area. Near Split Mountain, Anza Borrego Desert

Dumont Dunes Mojave
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 30 mi. north of Baker on Hwy 127, off Dumont Dunes Rd. Steep and tall sand dunes. Designated “Open Area” of 8,150 acres. South of Death Valley National Park.

Dumont Saabaru AWD
Dumont w/ the Saabaru AWD

Glamis / Gecko Road
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Holiday weekends = NUTS!! Approximately 22,000 acres. Located 25 mi. east of Brawley on HIGHWAY 78. Sand Dunes. Designated “Open Area” Danger: Adjacent to military bombing range.  Contact the El Centro BLM

Imperial Sand Dunes / Buttercup Valley
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Approximately 11,000 acres. Located 10 mi. southeast of Niland on the Niland Glamis Rd. Sand Dunes are designated “Open Area”. Watch for closed area boundary at south end of area. CA Highway 78 near Brawley.  Contact the El Centro BLM

Mojave El Mirage / Shadow Mountains
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 10 mi. west of Adelanto on Crippen/El Mirage Road. Dry lake Bed. Heavy use area. many non-motorized and motorized recreation – including aircrafts. Area consists of 24,000 acres.

Olancha Dunes OHV
Highway US 395 @ jct 190
Thousands of acres w/ open camping, located 5 miles from Hwy 395. In between Eastern Sierra range, Olancha & Death Valley National Park. Contact the Ridgecrest BLM

Plaster City / Yuha Basin
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
South side of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. 15 mi. west of El Centro. Located on county Highway S-80. Consists of 41,000 acres of rolling hills and desert flats. Military bombing range north of area is closed to entry.   Contact the El Centro BLM

Sand Up Close and Personal
Superstition Mountain
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 15 mi. NW of El Centro via Highway S-8, Huff, and Wheeler Roads. Varied terrain consisting of 13,000 acres; dry lakes, badlands, rocky mountains, and sand dunes. Military bombing range north and south of area is closed to entry.   Contact the El Centro BLM

Rasor OHV Recreation Area
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 45 mi. northwest of Barstow, CA on Rasor Road. Sand washes and dunes, mesquite thickets. Designated “Open Area” consisting of 22,500 acres. Contact the Barstow BLM

Rice Valley Dunes
Motorcycle, 4WD, ATV, Dune Buggy / Sand Rail
Located 5 mi. south of Rice Valley off of Highway 62. Access is Santa Fe Road. Sand dunes. Designated “Open Area” consisting of 3,770 acres. Area of little use. Danger: Contaminated with unexploded ordinance.

Road to Kelso Dunes
Road to Kelso Dunes

BLM open camping hiking camping RVs 4WD

see also California Coastal Dunes at Oceano: Pismo Dunes


Kern Flats Camping Free

chamise flat

Dispersed Camping Kern River

boondocking
primitive camping
undeveloped sites

KERNVILLE, CA

Located north of the small community of Riverkern and south of the Johnsondale Bridge, numerous flat camp spots adjacent to the rivers edge can be found.

johnsondale bridge @ KERNAnt Canyon Dispersed Area
Brush Creek Campground
Calkins Flat Dispersed Area
Chamise Flat Dispersed Area
Chico Flat Campground
Corral Creek Campground
Springhill Dispersed Area

 

Kern River Road
Sierra Way in Kernville travels north along the Upper Kern River & becomes Mountain Hwy 99 – which eventually connects with the Western Divide Highway in Giant Sequoia National Monument.

California NFS Kern RVing kern campgrounds open camping

truckcamping

Dispersed Camping Areas along the Kern River

Open Year Round! These FREE camp areas are called dispersed camping sites. No pavement, no picnic tables, no bathrooms, no piped water. Portable toilets & trash bins may be available in the busier summer months. Campfire permits are required for all campfires, BBQs, and camp stoves. Fire restrictions are common in extreme dry conditions. 14 day limit on camping.

Mountain Biking Kernville kern hiking fishing Kern snow Kern

camping, fishing, kayaking, mountain biking, rafting

Many flats are signed w/ small brown signs, while others are not. Some are actually flat and easy to access, while others are steep, eroded dirt trails unsuitable for RV travel.

Kelly’s Hole, overgrown, unknown, well-known or burnt beyond recognition? Roads End is no more.

Camp sites listed on this page are dispersed camping areas around the Kern River Area. Not all camp spots are listed, cuz many are unnamed. Bring your GPS to mark your favorite camp sites and you can arrive in the dark, late at night, anytime, (avoiding city traffic after work).

chamise pre-wildfire

Several spots known as “dirt flats” are easy accessible right off the pavement of Sierra Way. Primitive river camping, fishing spots and raft launch areas north of town. Vault toilets might be available during busy summer months, but you’re on your own the remainder of the year. Bring a shovel and take a hike, away from the water flow. And if that sounds like too much work for a potty break, maybe you are not cut out for the primitive kinda camping style. No garbage service either: pack it in, pack it out.

Wildflowers are abundant in the Kern Canyon nearly every Spring season (April & May), which is a popular time to enjoy this region. Autumn brings minimal fall colors to this dry, desert mountainous landscape, but the fishing is decent at that time of year.

campfiresCAMPING OUTSIDE OF CAMPGROUND means you must obtain a free fire permit from the local rangers. Sometimes these dispersed spots are fire-safe areas, and you are allowed to have camp fires. Other times campfire restrictions are in place w/ wildfire dangers too extreme and no fires are allowed, anywhere. (Not even inside a developed campground!)

Kern RV spot

river Kern WILDERNESS NOTE: The USDA National Forests web site states that “Camping and campfires within 25 feet of the water’s edge is prohibited due to the Wild and Scenic Designation”, but that doesn’t seem to stop some from setting up right on the fragile rivers edge. Doubtful that this rule is being enforced by the rangers, but consider yourself warned unless they start to get serious about this restriction. Many believe that the free camping along the Kern river is destroying it, so don’t be surprised if these areas get closed or barriers placed at the flats.

Caulkins FLAT has some new boulder barriers put in place which prevent cars from reaching certain ideal camp spots (right at the waters edge). Tough luck. Now we have to hike more.

California rivers

kern flat camping

Upper Kern River
North of Kernville, CA

all camps below listed from south to north

ALL CAPS = developed campgrounds managed by US Forest Service, w/ links to Kern River Campgrounds. California NFS

HEADQUARTERS CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Both Halfway & Thunderbird used to be dispersed camps, but they were converted to reservation-only Group Campgrounds by the National Forest in 2014

Chico Flat
2500′ elev
Just south of Hospital Flat Campground.
This camp area is known as “Chico Flat Campground” on GoogleMaps.

HOSPITAL FLAT CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Corral Creek
3200′ elev
Hike to Corral Creek Beach & Picnic Area.
This camp area is known as “Corral Creek Campground” on GoogleMaps.

Spring Hill
This camping area is marked as “Upper Springhill Campground & “Lower Springhill Campground” on GoogleMaps.

GOLD LEDGE CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Ant Canyon
Just north of Goldledge Campground, along the Upper Kern River.
South of Salmon Creek; Hike to Salmon Creek Falls.

Chamise Flatchamisespot
12 miles north of Kernville, CA
This camping bluff could be the most forested of all the ‘kern flat’ camping areas, but river is a short hike down a very steep cliff. Fishing is excellent in this stretch.

Calkins Flat
15 miles north of Kernville, along the Upper Kern River. Just south of Fairview (McNalley’s). Sign at the location reads a different spelling of “Caulkins Flat”. Kayak and rafting put-in spot. One of the best sites for large groups. Area is also known as simply “Lower Campground” on GoogleMap.

free kern river camp

FAIRVIEW CAMPGROUND (NFS)

LIMESTONE CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Brush Creek
3600′ elev
Just south of Sherman’s Pass Road turnoff. This place also serves as a Day Use Area, where Brush Creek meets the Kern. Kayaking put in spot. Popular fishing area. Large open dirt parking lot with a vault toilet.

 

 

California rivers

Lower Kern River
Southwest of Kernville, CA

Lake Isabella has some shoreline camping with wide open access to the lake. Paradise Cove perhaps?

Historic Keyesville – “off-roaders camping paradise” along the river, but no swimming is allowed due to the extremely dangerous section of river. OHV trails lead (west) down river for many miles. Dirt bikes love the rugged boulder-scapes and steep hills. FREE camping; BLM Kern.

SANDY FLAT CAMPGROUND (NFS) – Open all year long! Terraced & paved hillside with numerous camp sites and plenty of room to spread out. RV campers like this location, due to the proximity to Hwy 178. elev 2300

HOBO CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Remington

Remington Hot Springs can be a zoo at times w/ the amount of people who love to stop here. A busy dirt parking lot, right across from the Remington trailhead sign. Many vehicles park here daily for day hikes, hot springs, fishing – and people also like to camp out, although camp sites are on slopes (not ideal), only a few and they fill up fast (before sunset).

Total Escape TIP: The very best camps at Remington are actually the ones you hafta hike down to. Less than a half mile down to the rivers edge to find a private mini beach. Pack light and arrive prepared to walk several miles (back & forth, several times).

Old Kern Canyon Road parallels Sierra Highway 178 and sits well above the river, so any flat spots you find will have great views w/ minimal river access.

Lower Kern River
Lower Kern River has very limited camping options.

22S12 – Sequoia NF

open camping

Big Meadow: Forest Road# 22S12 – Sequoia National Forest

Take Sierra Hwy. N of Kernville, past Fairview & over the Johnsondale bridge; Right turn on Sherman’s Pass Road & drive up to a signed intersection (near a snow gate). NOTE: This area may not be accessible during winter months.

Turn right on Big Meadow Road, aka Forest Service Rd# 22S12. This is a very long road which is paved for the first few miles. 22S12 becomes a graded dirt road, suitable for horse trailers; it forks off to other smaller dirt roads, as it progresses through the forests & dead ends back by Cannell Meadow. The main routes are passenger car accessible, but some of the smaller dirt roads can get quite bumpy. A truck or SUV would be advisable to explore these secondary routes. Certain areas have suffered from wildfires 2000-2002.

Big Meadow Sequoia

Horses & equestrian camping are very popular in this region. There is also a fair amount of backpackers heading into the Domeland Wilderness and mountain bikers looking for premium backcountry rides, away from the crowds at the Kern River.

NFS developed Horse Meadow Campground can be found on the right via road# 23S08. Located at 7400′ elevation w/ 41 spots, in the forest. Trailhead to Salmon Creek leads directly from camp.

SPUR – side routes include:

  • #23S14 Cherry Hill – a few camp spots near creek & a meadow with views at the very end
  • #23S41 Poison Meadow
  • #23S13 Salmon Creek
  • #22S07 Big Meadow – loop road around the “Big Meadow”. Plenty of primitive camp sites around Big Meadow, but they are the first ones to fill up during a popular summer weekend. The region is perfect for backpackers or day hikers wanting to access Manter Mdw. & the Domelands Wilderness.
  • #24S13 feeds the last stretch of road to Rattlesnake Meadow. Taylor Creek near 24S43, features numerous waterfalls leading to the South Fork of the Kern River
  • #24S12 Cannell Meadow & Pine Flat. The Cannell Meadow National Recreation Trail runs thru here, from Big Meadow down to Kernville, CA.

North Meadow

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest MAP

DOME LAND Wilderness MAP

Nearby towns include:

19S01 – Inyo NF

south sierra ridges

Walker Creek Road #19S01
– Inyo National Forest

Southern Slopes, Eastern Sierra Nevada

Just south of Olancha, off US Hwy 395 is a dirt road that takes you 5 miles up to an oak canyon lined with rocks. There are several primitive camp sites along the Walker Creek. A high clearance vehicle may be needed in some sections, but 4×4 is not required. Small RVs might attempt this, but if the first mile frightens you, turn around while you’re ahead.

Dirt Road near 395

This private, shaded, creek area is perfect for those traveling Highway 395, looking for a quick and free camp spot near Olancha, CA

nice shady spots
Shady picnic or camp spots above 4000′ elevation.

some granite
Hiking trails at the end of the road lead deep into the mountains. One on the right takes you to waterfalls. The trail on the left will take you to meet up with the Sage Flat Trail, which leads up to Olancha Pass, Summit Meadows & a small lake, in the South Sierra Wilderness. The Pacific Crest Trail runs the ridges here, just west of Monache Meadows, which is at 8000′ elevation, way above here – up on top. 

First Camp

US 395 highway – the dirt road turn off is very close to a gas station, and it maybe be signed, or not. The gas stop may be in business, or perhaps not. This is rural California, wide open desert and things come and go quickly.

On a good topo map, located Olancha Creek and Summit Creek to the south. Walker Creek is the canyon in between those two, just so know where you are going and can visualize. This one is an easy-to-miss dirt road turn off – especially if you are going over 50 mph.

Dispersed Camping Sequoia

bone creek

Sequoia maps

Open Camping in Sequoia National Forest – Forest Road Camping

Seeking secluded campsites? This is one of the best areas to camp in pine forest w/ privacy, relatively close to Southern California. Plenty of primitive car camping on the dirt roads throughout this whole Sequoia & Kern River area.

nfs primitive back roads mountain biking hiking mountains

No facilities. No picnic tables, no toilet, no fees. Just a rock campfire ring & a clearing. Previously used sites have already been established usually near streams. Try to use these first, if at all possible. It takes a bit of exploring but you will find the perfect spot. Don’t even attempt to try to find these kinds of camp spots at night. They are often buried deep in the forest with no visible markers what-so-ever. But in trade, you will be lulled to sleep by your own private mini waterfall & no RV generators. Many of these back roads are closed & gated during winter months due to snow & rock slides.

No amenities are available in this neck of the woods, but plenty of seclusion & wilderness. Check official Wilderness rules for proper knowledge of the area restrictions. You must get a free camp fire permit from the ranger station in order to build a fire outside of a developed campground. A large shovel, plus bucket w/ water are a bare minimum for the privilege of camping like this. Certain dry seasons (summers into autumn) have very strict camp fire restrictions. Check with the ranger to see the latest on building campfires on the back roads. camping

A Sequoia Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are so many dirt roads for dispersed primitive camping on the back roads. Due to weather & erosion, some roads may require 4×4 or high clearance, so come prepared with a plan B.

Camping Checklist to make sure you’ll have what you need. The drive up from the Los Angeles area averages 3-4 hours and is well worth the trip. Once you’ve found that perfect spot, take detailed note of it, for the next time you visit the area. Then, you will be able to get there easily in the middle of the night, if need be.

Backroad Camping Sequoia: Follow the forest road numbers with your Sequoia map to discover amazing back road camping options. Your own private stream or meadow. Secluded campsites with your own mini waterfall.

overview

see also –
Sequoia Campground Camping

monache mdw

Sawmill Lake Sierra

primitive camp spots

Sawmill Lake, California


N of Donner Pass, Sierra Nevada

elevation 5800′Canyon Creek connects Lake Faucherie, Sawmill Lake and Bowman Reservoir in the Sierra, Tahoe National Forest. 20+ miles of backroad travel, off I-80.

While many consider Faucherie to be the most beautiful scenic lake, Sawmill Lake just downstream a couple of miles is still quite attractive – with dense forests and a granite mountain backdrop. Sawmill is especially nice for those who like to primitive camp, ouside of developed campgrounds. Way off the interstate @ Hwy 20, tucked in way back behind Bowman Lake a few miles, you can find Sawmill Lake.

Sawmill Lake California

Fishing and camping, kayaking and canoeing are all popular recreation around this lake. A trailhead on the northend of the lake leads out to even more alpine lakes (a day hike “lake loop” or backpacking option). The Pacific Crest Trail is also routed nearby.

No motorized boats or watercraft allowed. No boat ramps, no pavement, no picnic tables, no bathrooms, no fees.

4×4 Lake
Fishing Lake
Free Camping Lake

The north shoreline is abundant with dispersed campsites: metal fire rings and a clearing only; no picnic tables, no toilets. Self sufficient campers only. Campfire permits, a water bucket and a shovel are required. During extreme fire restrictions campfires may not be allowed. Check with local rangers for up to date info.

Tahoe National Forest
Truckee Ranger Station
530-587-3558

National Forest Lake & Forest Lake Fishing Kayak lake hiking lake

Most campsites are drive up and park, while others closer to the shoreline have only walk-in access. Hauling your gear down hill won’t seem unthinkable once you’ve seen the lakeside views. There is even a camp below the dam, next to the waterfall.

waterfallfromdam

The main access Road #843-037 is very rocky and 4x4s love to frequent the area. The backroads here are best suite for truck travel, high clearance vehicles, off-roaders and SUVs. No small RVs or trailers. Passenger cars are not recommended. The access roads around the lake and up to the lake are dusty and rugged. The road below the dam is quite rough w/ rocks.

For more driving details, please see entry on Canyon Creek Campground.

road at dam
The water at Sawmill Lake is crystal clear snowmelt. The lakes around here are managed by Nevada Irrigation District, so this is why there are no engines allowed on the lake. This canyon area closes to public entry during winter months (NOV-APRIL), due to deep snow.

clear water