California Fire Lookouts for Rent
US Forest Service Cabins
Rent a secluded cabin with an amazing view, a historic tower for wildfire spotting, or a USFS guard station – hidden deep inside USDA California National Forests. Several of these NFS lookouts have been closed recently, so the ones listed below have links to status and reservation information.
Dirt road access is common to reach these remote locations. Some require stair climbing, or steep access hikes. Winter months are usually snowy, inaccessible and sometimes dangerous for these high country locations. Access roads suffer from closures due to rock slides or landslides. Check with the locals ranger station for current conditions.
A few of these rentals are open all year long – in the southern part of the golden state.
San Bernardino National Forest: Heart Bar Campground
At Hwy 38 & Forest Road #1N02 is a huge, pine forested valley, right next to San Gorgonio Wilderness. Heartbar Campground, Heart Bar Horse Camps, RV Dispersed Sites. Highway 38 – SE of Big Bear Lake, California; Mountain Bike, Hiking & Equestrian Trails with ridges of 10,000′ elevation. SAN GORGONIO peak nearby. Best high elevation scenery for SoCal by far.
Heart Bar Campground
Big Bear Forest – HEART BAR
This gorgeous valley is a developed recreation area w/ 89 camp sites, plus big equestrian area. Picnic, hiking, mountain biking, horseback trails, plenty RV spots, even a creek. (Oooops I meant the Santa Ana River) Highway 38 is kinda the long way into Big Bear Lake, up thru Angelus Oaks. Locals call this stretch of the highway Barton Flats.
Bring the Horses & RVs
Group Campground facilities
Barton Flats – San Gorgonio Recreation Area
Leading out the back way of HeartBar, past the horse camp – is a nice one lane dirt road, narrow in spots, with random, primitive camp sites along the roadway. Authorities refer to these spots as yellow post camp sites.
This backcountry route is marked as Forest Service Rd #1N02 – graded dirt road that leads back to Coon Creek Cabin.
Forest Falls is well worth a stop for a quick picnic or hike – and head dunk. Weekends can be busy and crowded. Since this location is close to Southern California and the population centers, expect weekends to be busy in the Big Bear mountains. Plan a trip for week days to experience less people, and more nature.
Plumas National Foresthas excellent outdoor recreation and developed campgrounds, as well as secluded, primitive back roads camping sites. If you prefer a camp with table, toilet and a campfire ring, then expect to pay a fee. There are several small, remote campgrounds listed below, but most are located on paved roads. Venture down dirt roads to find a premium camp sites for free. Scroll the map links below to explore the back roads of Plumas, and discover hidden fishing holes.
Plumas Camping; Sierra Nevada Campgrounds; Feather River Fishing Lakes
GIANT SEQUOIA: in between Sequoia & Kings Canyon, inside Sequoia NF
This chunk of National Forest land is perfectly located in between 2 very popular National Parks – Kings Canyon and Sequoia. This primary paved road leads to some great camping, a perfect option for NOT camping inside the crowed National Parks.
Turn east off of Sequoia ‘Generals Highway’ 198, on to the well signed Big Meadow Rd. There is primitive camping all over this area & a few developed campgrounds along this route. Motorhomes be warned: the road narrows to one lane with no “turn outs” or U turn spots for the last 10 miles (on a steep cliff w/ large overhanging rocks)
In the first few miles, the dispersed camp sites on the right side have great views & some situated on fairly flat granite slabs, perfect for astronomer campers or adventurous RVs. To the left side of the road is more primitive style campsites in wooded areas. The whole area is also a very popular cross country ski & snowmobiling spot for winter recreation. Hunters also like these camps during hunting season (in September).
There is a developed Horse Camp on the left side of the road for equestrian campers. This camp is located across from the biggest meadow and may be the first place you notice on this drive.
Buck Rock Campground (7600′ elevation, 5 spots) & Big Meadows Campground (7600′ elevation, 25 spots) are both family style camps, perfect for those who want picnic tables, plus bathroom nearby. Sorry no flush toilets out here, only pit toilets.
Buck Rock Fire Lookout Tower @ 8500′ elevation – is located to the north on Forest Rd # 14S02. It’s a great spot for some impressive views – if you aren’t afraid of heights. To reach the tower you must climb several flights of steel steps. This place is worth a stop if planning a sightseeing day.
Big Meadows Guard Station @ 7500′ elevation (also known as Big Meadows Cabin), is located next to the BIG MEADOW and is available for rent on a weekend basis from the NFS. Hiking Jennie Lakes Wilderness and fly fishing Big Meadows Creek are favorite activities to be enjoyed.
Big Meadows Road is long & narrow – 12+ miles. RVs are not recommended beyond the Big Meadow Campground, as the road is one lane in some spots & it skirts a cliff edge. The views are incredible the farther you go & many creeks feed the region.
The narrow, long paved road eventually forks off into several smaller dirt roads back near Horse Corral Meadow. Way back here, the dirt roads lead out to trail heads for backpacking, horse packing or day hiking in Jennie Lakes & Monarch Wilderness. Backcountry access to either Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park! Have a good map if you plan to venture out this far. Pay attention & don’t get lost.
GPS would be helpful in this area. Some of the smaller of the dirt roads are not even on the NFS maps. Make sure to GPS way-point your favorite camp site, so you can find in next time…. in the dark.
Campground Santa Barbara – Lake Cachuma
Los Padres / Santa Barbara District:
year round creek
Lower Caliente Camp
Middle Santa Ynez
shady, 3 walk-in
water can close
Upper Oso Campground
corrals, OHV traffic
Some of these camps above may have been damaged in recent wildfires, so it’s best to inquire before you make the drive. Call rangers to verify or have a backup alternative (plan B). See more campsites @ Santa Barbara Beach Camping
Los Padres Forest Headquarters Goleta CA
The Mt Pinos Recreation Area is located on the border of Southern and Central California, inside Los Padres National Forest. After passing Frazier Park, the winding, paved, mountain road starts atop Cuddy Valley and is approximately 12 miles from Interstate 5 @ Tejon Pass. The 8831′ peak is the tallest in Kern County and is a popular spot for both summer and winter recreation: cross country skiing, snow shoeing, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking. The snow gates often close during heavy snow.
Mount Pinos Road starts atop Cuddy Valley Rd, at the “Y” – where it intersects with Mil Potrero Highway, which heads out to Pine Mountain Club, California.
One mile up the Mount Pinos route, you will find McGill trailhead on the right side (it is popular w/ mountain bikers) and then the first snow gate at Burbank Rd. Another 4 miles up hill, you come to the only set of dirt roads accessible on this range. A left turn will take you winding thru pine forest to the valley below. 4×4 is not required, but a National Forest map could be very handy. Unfortunately all the private properties at the bottom have locked gates & no thru access to Cuddy Valley is allowed. Although it is an awesome drive to just go exploring in the woods, there is no way out (once you get down the hill), so you must return the same way you came.
Back on the main route, shortly after the dirt roads is McGill Campground on the right side & another snow gate. In another mile and a half you will reach Mt Pinos Campground on the left side; the entrance is easy to miss. From here you are less than 2 miles from the end of the main road.
Mountain Bike, Hike, Backpack, Camp, XC Ski, Snow Sled
Darkest Skies for Stargazing in Southern California
The huge paved parking lot is the dead end (2 miles from the peak of Pinos) – very popular with astronomers, mountain bikers, plus the families and snow sledders in winter (if the gates are open). A National Ski Patrol’s Nordic Base, the only building you will see up this way. At 8300′ elevation, the large parking area is perfect overnight spot for amateur astronomers, so be considerate when visiting night. New moon (no moon) weekends APR-OCT are optimal viewing months. In busy summer months you can often find motorhome campers all set up with expensive equipment tracking the heavens all night long. Please be respectful of their hobby & eyes; Turn off headlights when you approach the parking area at night.
ROAD CONDITIONS to Mount Pinos, call the rangers 661-245-3731
Pinos – Peak to Peak Hike
The trailhead for Pinos Summit starts at this parking lot. It is a 2 mile moderate, but steep hike on an old fire road. The neighboring peak to the west is called Mount Abel @ 8286′ elevation (aka Cerro Noroeste). The infamous peak to peak hike along the ridge line from Mt Pinos to Mt Abel is 6.5 miles one way – and very popular in summer months. This hike requires 4-6 hours & a car shuttle should be arranged in advance. The Chumash Wilderness sits between Mount Pinos and the tiny community of Pine Mountain, which can be seen below on many places along the hike.
There are 3 developed campgrounds in the Mount Pinos Recreation Area:
Lake Tahoe California
One of the most popular Sierra destinations – be it summer or winter, Tahoe sure is crowded these days.
Below are all the developed campgrounds surrounding beautiful Lake Tahoe, CA. Most of these are located near the lake or, on the Truckee River. Most accept campground reservations in advance. blue links lead to camp info
Tahoe National Forest encompasses a larger region of the Sierra Nevada mountains surrounding the north portion of Lake Tahoe. American River, Yuba River, Northern Gold Country; Plus many small lakes with excellent forests, including Lakes Basin Recreation Area.
Blue Lakes has several campgrounds, south of South Lake Tahoe.
Little Grass Valley Recreation Area
Plumas National Forest
Tucked way up in the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains, at the top edge of the California Gold Country, is this popular recreational lake in the forest above the busy Sacramento Valley.
Up on the mountain at 5000 feet above sea level, via La Porte Road (Plumas #120), a Sierra Nevada THRU-ROAD – one which closes for winter snow. The lake destination may be open, but the campgrounds are closed up seasonally. (NOV-APRIL)
Little Grass Valley Reservoir
Elevation 5,100′ Surface Area 1,433 acres Shoreline 16 miles Capacity 93,101 acre-feet
With over 300+ camp sites available in 10 different campgrounds, Little Grass Valley has room for everyone. Reservations are recommended in summer months, although some camps are on a first-come basis.
Swim beaches provide excellent swimming and picnicking opportunities. The Lakeshore Trail (13 miles) winds around the entire lake, for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking.
Little Beaver Campground
Red Feather Campground
Sly Creek Campground
TRAVEL NOTE: The nearest town isn’t much of a “town” at all – so driving to get “anywhere w/ tourist services” from here is quite a chore. Gasoline is minimal on this mountain, if any. Plan to bring everything you will need for your outdoor vacation stay, cuz driving to Quincy, or down the hill to O-ville will take more than an hour (one way). Go prepared.
Cycling, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, kayaking and boating are all popular outdoor recreation activities.
Small towns located on the Point Reyes peninsula do have a few private campgrounds, some of which can accommodate motorhomes. Follow towns links for those.
There are no RV parks, camper trailers or motorhomes allowed in campgrounds on the steep coastal region of Point Reyes. Most of the narrow, winding roads are forbidden for motorhome travels. No shoulder, no guard rails, on many curvy roads. Great viewpoints are best when you STOP to look, off the roadway.
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).
Los Padres Group Camping – Big Sur, Monterey & Ojai, California
Los Padres Forest is the SoCal camping mecca. Pinyon forests & peaks of nearly 9000′ make this the highest elevations of Kern County. This coastal forest on the San Andreas Fault burns bad due to winds & wildfires, but there is plenty back country to enjoy with minimal crowds – as long as camp fire safety is key.
Southern Los Padres National Forest operates Group Campgrounds for reservations. Several back country camp spots can accommodate a large group. Mount Able’s Camp-O-Alto and Mount Pinos’ Chula Vista walk-in camp can both handle a big crowd, but you may need to call the Lockwood Valley ranger station for more info and availability.
Northern Los Padres – Hwy 1 around the Big Sur/Monterey CA region has 2 Group Campgrounds w/ facilities, flush toilets & reservations online.
Plaskett Campground is across the road from Sand Dollar Beach, a popular day use area. California Coast Campground – the infamous Central Coast Highway – Hwy 1 (so you may hear traffic @ this camp)
Hungry Valley SVRA – off-road park located near Interstate 5 @ Gorman, accommodates large and small groups with numerous campgrounds. Expect busy weekends and crowds; sometimes snow during winter months.
Ballinger Canyon OHV Park – off road park near Cuyama River Valley, on Hwy 33 near junction w/ Hwy 166. Campgrounds suited for off-road campers and RVs. Dirt bike trails, off road routes; North of Quatal Canyon (Rd #9N09) & Chumash Wilderness.
Numerous Silver Lakes, Creeks and other “silver” terrain can be found inside California. After the Gold Rush of 1849 in the western Sierra, Silver was discovered in Nevada shortly after (east of Sierra Nevada mountains). This page is an overview on all places with SILVER in the name, or places that have had a history of silver mining. California Counties are listed in parenthesis. Links below will lead to more detailed pages or campground reservations.
Silver Fork of the American River. Silver Fork Road connects US Highway 50 & Carson Pass Hwy 88. Silver Fork Campground & China Flat Campground (NFS) are both located on this remote, backcountry route, about 8 miles from US Hwy 50
Autumn aspen groves ignite with color in October. Often, some of the best fall colors in the Eastern Sierra. Day trips w/ fishing. Hiking everywhere. Overnighters or backpackers could be greeted with snow at anytime in October or later. The June Lake Loop (SR 158) closes for snow annually!
Bodie SHP (State Park)
8375′ elev. US Hwy 395 near Bridgeport, CA. Infamous, high desert ghost town, now a California Historic State Park. Large gold mining camp w/ well-preserved, wooden, old town structures. Silver was discovered in nearby Aurora Canyon. All dirt road access. No developed campground @ Bodie, so try nearby Green Creek Road instead. Or high desert, back roads camping, on Aurora Canyon Road over to Bridgeport Reservoir.
8500′ elev. Inyo mountains, West of Death Valley, east of US Hwy 395 @ Junction 136. Old mining camp rich in silver history. Someone might even live up there. Extreme remote location in rugged, high desert mountains. 4×4 is always required!
Silver City Sequoia
6935′ elev. cabin resort on Mineral King Road, in the South Sequoia National Park
Silver Valley Campground & Silver Tip Campground (Alpine Co)are both located near Lake Alpine on Highway 4 Ebbetts Pass , Central Sierra
Silvertip is also a Group Camp at Jackson Meadow Reservoir (Sierra Co) off Hwy 89, North of Truckee, CA. Silvertip Group Campground, as with all group camping facilities, is by reservation only.
Silver Lake @ LA (Los Angeles Co) a hip and popular, tree-lined neighborhood in Los Angeles, near Griffith Park.
(San Bernardino Co)
Silver Dry Lake, a dry lakebed in the Mojave desert, near the Hollow Hills Wilderness, north of Baker, CA off I-15
(San Bernardino Co)
2430′ elev. a desert community southwest of Barstow, near Helendale, CA. Located on the Mojave River (which flows underground) in between Historic Route 66 & US Hwy 395. Attraction nearby – Exotic World, the Burlesque Hall of Fame.
Lassen Volcanic Park is surrounded by beautiful mountains and lakes, some inside the National Park boundary, but most outside. Lassen National Forest, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Lake Almanor, Hat Creek and Burney Falls encompass this pristine water wonderland of NorCal. Outdoor recreation all over – rivers, fish, hunt, camp, mountain bike, off road.
Backpack camps, RV campground, fishing lakes, day hikes, off-road and lake side camp sites, we have it all listed on Total Escape.
Hiking, camping, fishing all over this region! Mountain bike, kayak, or relax all day in the hammock – in a shady spot with a view. Water flows freely and annual snow melt is abundant in this part of California. Some locales may not open until July 4th weekend. Always check with the Lassen NFS rangers to make sure.
alphabetically listed; cross reference by lake or campground name. reservations may be accepted for certain locations; follow links.
Developed Lake Campgrounds
Most of the lake campgrounds listed below are traditional style campgrounds with easy access: paved driveways, toilets, tables, maybe piped water. Various agencies manage these park campsites and additional links are provided.
Some of the campgrounds may be more primitive than others, with long dirt road access, gravel driveways, and minimal facilities. This list includes a wide range of lakes, from reservable group camps, to private RV resorts to back road beauties. Even a few campgrounds without fees!
Higher elevation locations close-up for the seasonal winter snow, which can last from NOV-MAY (or later, depending on snowmelt).
no motor boats?
wilderness lake fishing?
Each lake camp is different, so know what is available at the location before you get out there. Many spots do not have a boat ramp. Some lakes do not allow swimming. Some might be 4×4 access only, w/ hairy granite rock road, 12 miles long. If you require a general store within walking distance, then get the maps out, follow links and make sure.