Forest Road# 21S05 –
Giant Sequoia NM
From the small cabin community of Ponderosa, CA, continue N on the Western Divide Highway. Dirt road# 21S05 will be a right turn, a graded route that leads to a dirt parking lot for hikers.
The trailhead for the granite Needles is a favorite among rock climbers in the Southern Sierra Nevada. The easy 4.5 mile hiking trail is numbered 32E22 & leads out to a historic fire lookout tower, overseeing the Kern Canyon (& Road 22S82) below.
Yosemite National Park, in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, is the most visited of all the National Parks. Tourists, visitors and campers fill the main valley all year long, with the crowds peeking in mid summer. Autumn is gorgeous, winter is snowy, spring is glorious and summer is grand.
The park has numerous alpine lakes, granite domes, meadows, Sequoia groves and a snow ski resort. Backpacking is popular here, hiking all over, bike rentals w/ miles of paved trails. Plus, the best in big wall climbing. Waterfalls and granite cathedrals tower above the lush, glacier- carved valley. Mighty MERCED RIVER, right through the middle of granite and forests.
Storms of recent have rearranged the landscape inside the valley with a number camping facilities wiped out by the river. Yosemite lost half of the campsites, which dramatically reduced the amount of camping available inside the main valley. Older cabins at Yosemite Lodge are gone. Less camping, but more people means you should make camp reservations early as possible; or search for camping just outside the National Park boundary.
Sightseeing and hiking should be part of your visit to Yosemite Valley. Bring your raft for a float down the river. Stay away from the crowds and take the back roads, with our great selection of Yosemite backcountry maps.
We now have links to digital maps for download!
Topographic maps for Yosemite National Park – and the outlying regions:
Low elevation Western Sierra: a big river at the beginning of Kings Canyon. Fishing, biking and hiking. The Kings Cyn National Park is directly east, upriver.
Oak woodlands, steep granite canyons, waterfall hikes, rock beaches, river fishing, mountain biking and wildflowers. Day time temperatures get triple-digit in summer months, so best time to visit is the rest of the year. Small RV accessible, paved road, river close – and best of all, open all year long!
Kirch Flat Campground
Due EAST of Fresno, California in a large river canyon, Western Sierra Nevada
Located 18 miles up Trimmer Springs Road (paved), 5 miles above Pine Flat Lake. Sierra National Forest; River rafting take-out spot for Middle Kings River.
• Elevation: 1100′
• Number of Sites: 17
• Camp Fee: No
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′ max
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: Open Year Round
• Trailheads: Kings River
Inside the granite maze of rock known as Caples Creek, you may find this small lake, just off the highway. Paved access camp ideal for quiet weekends – fish, hike, stargaze and relax. Snow is deep in these parts of the Sierra, so the campground closes annually for winter.
No motor boats
No RV or motorhomes
No horse trailers
• Elevation: 7,600′
• Number of Sites: 12
• Vehicle Accessibility: No RVs
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Campsite Fee: Yes
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• hiking trailheads, fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoe, rock climbing
Bears are active in this region, so use the metal bear boxes provided to store all food items.
Extra precautions should be taken with human waste around fragile eco systems, like lakes and meadows. Use the new bathroom, instead of the bushes (or granite crack).
Castle Crags State Park
Northern California Mountains
South of Dunsmuir, CA Interstate 5
exit #724 – Castella
backpacking, camping, creek fishing, hiking, mountaineering, lakes, rock climbing, snowshoeing, swimming, waterfalls
About an hour north of Redding, you can see those impressive peaks off to the left above the lush forest. Way up off the west side of I-5, lies a hiking paradise of scenic lakes, waterfalls and wildflowers. Opposite the freeway from Mount Shasta; Just south of Lake Siskiyou.
Castle Crags Wilderness neighbors the Castle Crags State Park, which is surrounded by Shasta-Trinity National Forest. This area is named for 6,000′ tall glacier-polished peaks and pointed crags. Due to their relatively low elevation, year-round recreation, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing are popular spring through fall. Snowshoeing near Castle Lake is excellent.
regional history:The northwest area contains the largest glacial cirque, Castle Lake, which is near where the Modoc War’s 1855 Battle of Castle Crags took place. Now a historical landmark, the battle was fought on a ridge saddle between the lake and what is known as Battle Rock. The Wintu tribe inhabited the area, they called the crags the Abode of the Devil and the Spanish explorers called it Castle del Diablo (Castle of the Devil.) read more on wiki
Located in the high elevations between Shaver Lake and Courtright Reservoir is the Dinkey Lakes region. Granite domes and alpine lakes are the key feature of this mid-Sierra forest. John Muir Wilderness is located on the east (right) side of Courtright, while Dinkey Lakes Wilderness is on the opposite west (left) side.
creeks & streams
cross country ski
4 wheel drive trails serve some of the Wilderness boundaries. Dusy Ershim OHV Trail (pronounced ‘doosey’) crosses the boulder strewn terrain for 30 rugged miles, from Courtright to Kaiser Pass. Road #8S10 is known as ‘Red Lake Road’ and pretty popular among 4x4s and fishermen. This high clearance 4×4 trail accesses both scenic lakes – Red Lake and Coyote Lake, as well as Dinkey Wilderness trailheads.
Access the trailheads on the north side of Dinkey Creek Road, a paved route which connects Shaver Lake to the Sequoia McKinley Grove and then on to Wishon and Courtright. Rock Creek Road #9S10 becomes dirt and leads up to the Dinkey Lakes hiking trails.
Paved Dinkey Creek Road leads out to the Trails End trailhead. Dinkey Creek and main Campground is located at 5840′ elevation and tucked deep in the forest, about 10 miles east of Shaver Lake. Beyond the Sequoia grove is Wishon & Courtright Reservoirs w/ Cliff Lake trailhead. All the other trailheads located at these large lakes lead over to John Muir Wilderness.
The Dinky Creek locale (on most maps) is located at the main Dinky Creek Campground, along Dinky Creek near the historic Dinky bridge on a small, paved, side route north of the main road. Although this summer vacation area is well signed, people can often miss this turn, especially at night.
Two main hiking trail systems can be accessed from the west, via Tamarack Ridge (parking at Hwy 168). Both dirt routes from highway, Road #9S09 and Road #8S10 lead out to Dinkey trails, although one is rugged 4×4 trail, Red Mountain OHV, and the other is a long, graded dirt road.
Kaiser Pass Road to the north side has even more trails leading into Dinkey. Badger Flat and White Bark trailheads are closest points to Huntington Lake, CA. Bolsillo trailhead is way back near Florence Lake, which also has a major trailhead and paved parking.
Off road destination, palm canyon in Baja California Norte
East of San Diego
SW of El Centro / Mexicali
Imagine a palm oasis canyon in a remote area of the Baja desert; Cool springs that feed the lush landscape with huge boulders & cliff diving waterfalls. With each campsite featuring it’s very own custom hot springs tub. This place was a paradise 20 years ago, but is now over-developed w/ large groups, parties and camping families. If you can handle the 30+ miles of unimproved dirt roads, this spot is worth a visit mid-week. Winter months are prime time to visit the desert. Temperatures are moderate, days are pleasant & midweek has minimal tourists. Avoid holiday weekends as crowds a can get rowdy and disrupt the peaceful setting. Summer is triple digit heat for months. This canyon is hard to reach and inside a third world country, but well worth the distant journey.
Plenty of great hiking and petroglyph canyons, cool pools and waterfalls, granite boulders, soothing warm waters & gorgeous desert scenery. Summers are usually roasting out here, so plan your vacation accordingly. Palalpas (built for shade) add to the charm & unique look. Each campsite is unique & has a different lay out. Reservations are recommended.
A family run set of campgrounds within a steep palm canyon. Hot Springs are piped to individual pools at each campsite for a maximum of privacy. A cold creek runs through the canyon as well, feeding the palm grove below & waterfalls way up canyon. A desert oasis set upon the slopes of the Sierra Juarez Mountains in Baja.
getting there is a journey –
Recommended high clearance vehicle, sport utility vehicle, or truck. The last 35 miles of the trip is through rough & rugged sandy roads.
Rock Climbing in SoCal is limited to the awesome southern deserts with boulders, boulders & yep, more boulders. Joshua Tree is well known, but Mojave deserts boulders have much to offer, with less crowds. Meaning you’ll get more on exploring new routes, off the beaten path.
Bishop in the Eastern Sierra has the Buttermilks, but we wanna cover stuff further south for climbers. Numerous crags and peaks can be found in the mountain regions of San Diego. Many destinations are also great camp spots.
Good granite is hard to come by & big granite walls are non-existent down south. The most popular piece of Southern California granite among climbers is that of Tahquitz Peak in Idyllwild CA
Big Bear Lake
Bouldering @ various places
Idyllwild Rock Climbing
Tahquitz Peak in San Jacinto Wilderness: Tahquitz Peak Lookout stands at 8846′ elevation, towering above the pine village of touristy shops & cafes below. It’s a small slice of the Sierra Nevada (fabulous blue granite feeling) in SoCal & the rock climbers love it. Humber Park is at the base of the peak. The park is a family & tourist destination, especially during snow days. Paved parking lot is at the very top of the neighborhood, a well signed route. Follow the brown “Humber Park” signs. Hmmm, now is that ta-keets, ta-quits? Just ask a local – who grew up in Idyllwild.
San Diego County climbing destinations:
El Cajon Mountain
Valley of the Moon
For more on California rock climbing places, check out a few of our favorites resources: