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, 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

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

Sardine Lake California

Sardine Lake California Camping

Lakes Basin California, Northern Sierra

Lakes Basin Recreation Area

The granite spires of the Sierra Buttes (8591′) tower above both Upper & Lower Sardine, making for a glorious backdrop to these two lakes. This is a popular fishing lake with no swimming allowed. The water is so clear that at noon you can see to the bottom!

There are numerous, super-scenic, small lakes in this region and one trip here is not nearly enough. Total Escape rates this collection of small lakes up there w/ the ‘best hiking lakes’ in California. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through this awesome lakes area, which is located north of Truckee, east of Downieville.

backpacking
boating
camping
canoeing
fine dining
fishing
hiking
granite peaks
kayaking
mountain biking
off-roading
stargazing
waterfalls
wildflowers

snowmelt lake snowmelt lake snowmelt lake
high elevation means snow

Plumas Co Road #24 is the Gold Lake Road, also referred to as the Gold Lake Highway – which skirts the lakes, the buttes and connects Historic Gold Country Hwy 49 to Graeagle Golfing @ Hwy 89. SNOW CLOSES THIS ROAD, but the area remains open for winter recreation.

SARDINE LAKE ROAD, a paved turn off the main road. NFS Campground is located one mile from the shore at Lower Sardine. Sardine Lake Resort rents cabins and the restaurant serves dinners w/ lake view!

fishing lake Gold Country Lake hiking trailheads National Forest Service Developed Campground

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

Sardine Lake Campground

• Elevation: 5800′
• Number of Sites: 29
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′
• Campsites Reservation: Yes
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Facilities: piped water, vault toilet
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: Sierra Buttes & PCT

sardine campground sign

National Forest Service Rangers Quarters

Sardine Peak Lookout
SARDINE PEAK FIRE TOWER LOOKOUT (NFS)
RESERVE a historic fire lookout tower, built in 1935. A three story enclosed tower with external stairs. (elevation 8138′)

panoramic

Upper Sardine Lake California

Upper Sardine Lake: Takes only a short hike to get to. This is a pure glacial bowl; the rock plunges straight into the water, no beach at all. Great fishing; ice-cold swimming.

local contacts for this lake:

Sardine Lake Resort
530-862-1196

Row boat rentals on Sardine Lake
530-862-1196

Canoes rentals on nearby Packer Lake
530-862-1221

Plumas County Visitors Bureau:
800-326-2247

Plumas National Forest Rangers:
530-862-1368

Sierra County Visitors Bureau:
800-200-4949

nearby towns:
Downieville, CA
Graeagle, CA
Sierra City, CA

nearby lakes:
Gold Lake
Sand Pond
Packer Lake

maps of the region:
Lakes Basin Map USDA
NatGeo Sierra Buttes Map
Plumas National Forest Map
Tahoe National Forest Map

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 –

  • Downieville
  • Gold Lake
  • Quincy, CA
  • Sierra City, CA
  • Sierraville, CA
  • Truckee, CA
  • 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.

    SIERRA LAKES


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

    Canyon Creek Campground

    Tucked way back in the granite high elevations, near Donner Pass is a wilderness water flow called Canyon Creek. Connecting small lakes and big reservoir, this creek is part of the Nevada District water supply. The Sierra Nevada region is Tahoe National Forest and the terrain is abundant rock.

    Campground is perched on the edge of rock overlooking the impressive whitewater; sounds of crashing water at certain campsites is deafening. Half of the campsites are located in a forest loop and the rest are out in the open, with much granite and fewer trees, perfect for star watchers. All campsites have new bear boxes – for proper food storage in black bear country.

    Canyon Creek California

    creekcanyon

    Lake Faucherie is a mile up the creek and Sawmill Lake is a mile down stream, so it’s a great fishing location, as well as hiking, kayaking and canoeing destination. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is also routed close by. A hiking trailhead at the north end of Sawmill Lake leads to a loop hike of small lakes.

    Tahoe Rd 843

    roughest roads in the region

    Campground loop is paved, but the 12+ mile access road is NOT.
    Twenty plus miles of paved & gravel backroads in boulder-hopping bliss, leads to granite lined lakes and forested campsites. Two different driving routes into this canyon:

  • One is the longer way Road 18 – paved access off of Gold Country Highway 20, which becomes an 8 mile long, rocky, rough, one-lane road around Bowman Lake.
  • The other is slightly shorter, county road #843 that comes in the back way from Jackson Meadow Reservoir (off Hwy 89, N of Truckee).
  • Both of these primitive roads join at Jackson Creek Campground, a favorite among off-roaders.

    Canyon Creek Campground is another few miles up Road ##843-037, a rugged canyon route towards Lake Faucherie, where the road comes to a dead end.

    Don’t let the old maps fool you: these National Forest Roads are labeled as gravel roads, but boulders and rock slides are quite common. 4×4 would be nice, but high clearance is recommended.

    Minimal signs designate trails, roads and lake access; What signs that do exist are old, faded and broken. No warning signage reading ‘high clearance’ or ‘4WD recommended’ – so obviously Tahoe NF won’t be installing new signs anytime soon.

    Grassy Picnic Faucherie Lake

    Faucherie, Sawmill and Bowman Lakes are all along this waterway called Canyon Creek.

    Latitude: 39.436863
    Longitude: -120.579564
    Canyon Creek Campground

    • Elevation: 6000′
    • Number of Sites: 20
    • Toilet: Vault
    • Vehicle Access: High Clearance Vehicle, no trailers
    • Campsites Reservation: No
    • Camp Fee: No
    • Length of Stay: 14 Days
    • Season: June – October
    • Trailheads: Faucherie & Sawmill Lakes

    Small Site

    Canyon Creek Campground is an excellent campground for staying away from the crowds, which seem to focus more around Bowman Lake & Jackson Meadows Reservoir.

    granite camp

    Prefer camping outside of developed campgrounds? then the primitive camp sites that line Canyon Creek will be a welcomed surprise. Most are clearly marked with small signs and some may require 4×4 to access. When fire restrictions are tight, campfires are only allowed in the developed campgrounds.

    granite loop

    Tent Cabins in California

    tent cabin rentals

    Merced Lake is one remote destination along the High Sierra Camp Loop, Yosemite Wilderness.

    Tent Cabins & Yurt Rentals
    around California

    Tent cabins are made up of wooden floors, canvas walls & a canvas roof – a combination between a tent & a rustic cabin. Most have sleeping cots for beds; some have heaters, wood burning stoves or electrical outlets. A shared community bathroom is close by. Yurts are round versions of this same concept, with a wooden floor, real beds and usually some nicer decor. Often these places request that you bring your own bed linens and towels, but each resort is different so check the web links for detailed info.

    Hike-in locations in the wilderness, rural river resorts or an easy drive to campground right off the freeway. These popular lodging accommodation are often marketed as GLAMPING, as in Glamour Camping – for the (luxury loving) princess who likes to try out nature – in a very controlled setting. Just watch out for mountain lions and bears.

    Below are unique places in California that offer tent cabins, tree houses and yurt rentals.

    Big Basin Redwoods Tent Cabins
    Boulder Creek, CA
    408-338-8860
    Santa Cruz mountains

    Big Sur Pfeiffer Campground
    Big Sur Coast Cabins
    831-667-2315
    California Central Coast

    Cachuma Lake County Park
    Yurt Rentals & Campground
    Lake Cachuma, CA
    805-568-2460
    Santa Barbara Mountains

    Carmel River Yurt
    Songbird Refuge overlooking River
    Carmel, CA
    California Central Coast

    Costanoa Coastal Lodge
    Pescadero, CA
    650-879-1100
    Santa Cruz Coastline

    coloma river resort

    Coloma Resort
    Hwy 49 @ American River
    800-238-2298
    California Historic Gold Country

    Creekside Yurt Retreat
    near Mt Shasta
    Single Vacation Rental
    Weed, CA
    NorCal Mount Shasta

    El Capitan Canyon
    N of Santa Barbara
    Hwy 1 @ El Capitan
    866-352-2729
    805-685-3887
    North Santa Barbara Coast

    Fallen Leaf Campground
    6 Yurt Rentals @ Campground
    Lake Tahoe Basin, CA
    Sierra Nevada Mountains

    Hat Creek Resort
    Yurts near Fishing Creek
    12533 Highway 44
    Old Station, CA
    530-335-7121
    Lassen National Forest

    High Sierra RV Park
    Yurts near Yosemite NP
    Oakhurst, CA
    559-683-7662
    Western Sierra Nevada

    Hotel Nipton
    Nipton Road @ NV stateline
    760-856-2335
    Mojave Desert National Preserve

    Keough Hot Springs Resort
    Hwy 395, Bishop, CA
    Eastern Sierra High Desert

    Lupin Lodge
    Clothing Optional Resort
    20600 Aldercroft Heights Rd.
    Los Gatos CA
    408-353-9200
    Santa Cruz Mountains

    Middle Fork Ranch
    NorCal Smith River
    15 acre retreat, Hwy 199
    Crescent City, CA
    707-457-3477
    Northern California Coastal Mountains

    Mother Lode River Center
    6280 Hwy 49, Lotus, CA
    530-626-4187
    California Gold Rush Country

    Oz Farm Retreat
    41601 Mountain View Rd
    Point Arena, CA
    Mendocino Coast

    Premier RV Resorts
    Cabin & Yurt rentals (in town)
    Redding, CA
    888-710-8450
    Northern California

    Rancho Cicada Retreat
    Plymouth, CA
    209-245-4841
    877-553-9481
    California Gold Rush Country

    River Park Resort
    River Rafting Trips w/
    Yurts next to American River
    Coloma, CA
    California Gold Rush Country

    Santa Margarita Lake KOA
    Santa Margarita, CA
    805-438-5618
    800-562-5619
    San Luis Obispo Backcountry

    Shasta Lake Yurts
    Lakeshore East Campground
    Lake Shasta, CA
    530-275-8113
    Northern California

    Strawhouse Resort
    31301 State Hwy 299
    Big Flat, CA
    530-623-1990
    NorCal Trinity River

    Treebones Resort
    Ocean view yurts
    Big Sur Highway 1 @ Gorda, CA
    805-927-2390
    877-424-4787
    Big Sur Coastline

    Vermillion Valley Resort
    via Kaiser Pass Road
    Edison Lake, Lakeshore, CA
    559-259-4000
    High Sierra, John Muir Wilderness

    Virginia Creek Settlement
    70847 Highway 395
    Bridgeport, CA
    760-932-7780
    Eastern Sierra Nevada

    Yosemite Lakes Resort
    South Fork of the Tuolumne River
    31191 Hardin Flat Rd
    Groveland, CA
    209-962-0121
    800-533-1001
    Western Sierra Nevada

    Yosemite Pines RV Park
    20450 Old Highway 120
    Groveland, CA
    209-962-7690
    Western Sierra Nevada

    tuolumne cabins

    HSC: HIGH SIERRA CAMP

    Yosemite National Park Tent Cabins:
    (advanced reservations required)
    hikes

    DustMites and AllergiesALLERGY NOTE: Most tent cabins are constructed out of heavy canvas material (fabric), which can mold when exposed to moisture (rain, fog, snow). Often they get dismantled, cleaned and stored properly over each winter season, sometimes not; All depends on weather, terrain difficulty and individual resort practices. If you suffer w/ allergies, moldy tent walls and dust mites can trigger asthma or other allergic reactions. If in doubt speak to the innkeeper or caretaker ahead of time.

    Central Coast California

    San Simeon SP. Central Coast of California

    Rent a Treehouse

    Post Ranch Inn
    Tree-House Rentals in California
    Big Sur, CA
    Big Sur Coastline