If you are imagining a forested alpine lake near Palomar Mountain, this is not it. Henshaw is a countryside area w/ meadow setting near ranches with open skies and open terrain. Can be windy at times! Can be hot in late summer.
Perfect remote spot for stargazing. Henshaw is the nearest body of water to Mount Palomar & is located on Hwy. 76, but the terrain is quite the contrast to the pine topped mountain nearby.
TREES: Lake Henshaw has very few trees; mostly large open spaces & fields surrounding it. Cattle grazing & rolling hills w/ mountain backdrop. Stargazing and fishing cabins is more fitting of a description. This bare bones basic, little cabin resort offers a true get away from civilization for maximum relaxation close to SoCal cities.
Lake Henshaw specs: elevation: 2740′ surface area: 1137 acres
In the mountains numerous places called ‘big meadows’ exist in California. Large meadows, huge meadows, high elevations and low. We are truly blessed by such a natural beauty in our local region. Remember those who have protected the land for future generations.
For Southern California meadows – Mount Pinos has a large meadow next to the walk-in campground, Chula Vista. San Diego’s Laguna Mountain has some meadows and Big Bear Lake offers sage meadows, on the Fawnskin side.
Wild Meadows range from 3000′ elevation in the foothills, to about 11,000′ elevation in the highcountry. Vacant of trees, these wide open areas are generally colder spots, with moisture and with fragile ecosystems.
Eastern Sierra’s Inyo has gorgeous meadows of lupine wildflower (see above). Cattle grazing and 4×4 roads all over, up to 12,000′. High country mountain peaks surround. That area is called Coyote Flat w/ Coyote Lake. 4WD needed! Winter, snowy and almost inaccessible.
SNOW – Since meadows are generally located in the mountain regions, deep winter snow can make these special places impossible to reach (for about half the year). Summer is the prime time to explore the higher elevations, so plan accordingly.
WILDFLOWERS – Remember that the higher the elevation, the later the wildflowers will bloom. High Sierra meadows often bloom well into July & August.
AUTUMN COLORS – Aspen groves are often located next to meadows. Fall colors can be quite decent around October, before the first snow fall of the season.
NORCAL history – Some Mountain Maidu tribes are known as the “Big Meadow Indians” – they made the Big Meadows of the Upper Feather River their home. Damming the Feather River created Lake Almanor in 1914, which flooded the meadows and forced native people to relocate.
The Big Meadows below are listed from south to north.
Road 308 Ivory Mill Road. Located on the EAST SIDE of the coastal mountain range, west of Stony Gorge Reservoir.
South Fork of Elk Creek, California
Lodoga Stonyford Rd #306 – also known as just plain Stonyford Road, skirts the coastal foothills in a north south direction, on the east side of the range. Oaks and ranches, livestock grazing and fences everywhere. CHP out in force, so watch your speed (55). Public lands and forests are up the hill, above the valley, on the dirt roads. Free camping, off roading, hiking, creeks, lakes, mountains.
Drive up paved Road 308 passing the ranch lands and private properties.
Just inside the National Forest boundary, 308 peels off sharply to the left, uphill and steep, super sandy. The views over the valley, hills and reservoir are epic, but the dirt road is fluffy dry dirt, tight curves, no guardrails. A long and winding track, with very little spot to turn around. Maybe designated as OHV route?
This whole area is where the Ranch Fire of 2018 was burning; contained at road 308. The wildfire burnt half a million acres in Mendo NF (the largest fire in California history). Some of these roads may be closed off now. Call the rangers for current, up-to-date accessibility!
So… back at the National Forest boundary: Straight. Take the right fork instead, which goes straight into the forested canyon, up the creek. Elk Creek, south fork coming from the higher peaks above. This pleasant forest drive is called Mendocino Rd #20N01 and it climbs upward with hairpin turns; continues up to the top of the forested ridges @ 5000’+ elevation.
Wildflowers in Spring. Snow in winter. This back route may have been paved once in 1960, but it is nearly back to dirt again in most sections. Suitable for passenger car travel at slow speeds. Unless of course, it is raining or snowing, then 4WD may be best. And being that this is real Northern California territory, rain and snow are annual.
Dispersed camping is allowed in this region with a valid fire permit.
Various camping spots near roadside, after mile 8. Reset trip meter when your turn off main drag (Lodoga Stonyford Road).
The mysterious topographic map maker, Landon Crumpton, is gone. Although his Baja Almanac book of the Mexican peninsula is still as popular as ever.
The Total Escape crew has been using this amazing topo map for Baja Mexico since our the very first excursions in 1990. Click below to read more about the famous, hard-to-find Baja Almanac publication.
The Oakland Black Cowboy Association is best known for the Black Cowboy Parade & Festival, the only celebration of its kind in the U.S.A. This parade is held in memory of the black cowboys that helped to settle the American West.
Tejon is the largest and oldest privately owned ranch land in California. It spans from the northern slopes of the great central valley to the tops of the oak sided mountains. The Tejon Pass 4144′ elevation, is Interstate 5. The golden state freeway zooms by connecting north Los Angeles to the Central Valley…. at 80mph. Watch for CHP near here. It’s easy to go down hill at 90 and not even realize it.
Angeles National Forest is on the east side of the freeway w/ Castiac Lake and Los PadresNational Forest is on the west side, with Pyramid Lake. Back roads camping and total seclusion is prime pickins in this region, if you have a decent map and are willing to drive a little
Family campgrounds, RV astronomy sites, 4×4 camps on dirt roads, off road parks, walk in campground to alpine meadows, ridge line forest camps, backpacking, horsepacking, mountain biking, hiking. Numerous campgrounds can easily be found by driving 30 minutes from the “Frazier Park Mountain Road” exit off the freeway. Most folks aim for Mount Pinos, but the whole Los Padres forest is devine.
The fort location was established by the U.S. Army in 1854 and was designed to protect Native Americans. Restored adobes and museum feature exhibits on military life and local history. They also hold living history events performed by volunteers in costume. The park has a number of 400 year-old valley oak trees. Mister Peter Lebeck was killed by a grizzly here and there is even a tree to prove it.
Tejon Industrial Complex: This is the first large scale development in a master planned laid out by the privately owned Tejon Ranch Corporation. Another trucker stop on the opposite side of the freeway is already underway. In-N-Out Burger, Starbucks, McDonalds, IKEA distribution center, gasoline @ the bottom of the Grapevine. 30 miles south of Bakersfield & just down the hill from Lebec.