Tag Archives: secluded

California Aspens

AspenGroves

Aspen Groves are easy to recognize with their thick stands. White trunks with dark knots, slender, with oval shaped leaves. Growing in a network of roots, which are found lining creeks, alpine lakes, or spilling out from higher elevations, along  scenic canyons.

The unique round leaves which can turn spectacular colors in the fall season. The fluttering and flapping of the oval-shaped, thick, green leaf is a sure sign of summer. When breezes get cooler, Autumn is only a few weeks away and as quick as the cold comes in, what a short and special show they put on.

California Fall Colors

aspensplit

Aspen trees can be found at higher mountain elevations in California, usually above 4000′ – all the way up to about 10,000′ or higher, depending on the mountain range and local water flows. Groves have an extensive root systems underground, so they often withstand wildfires and can come back after the rest of the forest is gone.

Beavers build dams in creeks around aspen trees, fishermen and campers love to camp next to aspens, and lovers carve their initials into their white bark. These trees do indeed take a beating, from all angles, winter weather included… so stop from cutting them!

carvings

fishing creeks mountain biking stargaze Picnic Camp Hiking horseback back roads mountains

  • BIKE
  • CAMP
  • FISH
  • HIKE
  • KAYAK
  • PICNIC

summer and autumn

These deciduous trees are naked half the year, typically from November to April, as winter buries them in snow and ice. Time is of the essence, limited to Summer and Autumn – to enjoy their shade and the beauty of the groves. Scenic meadows and fishing creeks are just an added bonus for searching out the aspen.

Aspens can be found in hidden canyons, primarily along the Eastern Sierra US Hwy 395 and surrounding mountain lakes. Some Sierra Passes have decent displays of color as well – like Carson Pass Hwy 88 and Yosemite’s Tioga Pass Hwy 120.

Below is a list of Total Escape’s favorite aspen areas of California

ASPENDELL
BAKER CREEK (4×4)
BIG PINE CANYON – NORTH FORK TRAIL

BISHOP CREEK
BLUE LAKES, CARSON PASS
BLUE LAKE, MODOC

CONVICT LAKE, US 395
COTTONWOOD CREEK @ ANCIENT BRISTLECONES
COYOTE FLAT (4×4)

CROCKER @ LAKE DAVIS
CROWLEY LAKE, US 395

DUNDERBERG MEADOW

EAGLE LAKE @ ASPEN CAMP

GREEN CREEK ROAD, US 395
HASKINS VALLEY @ BUCKS LAKE
HILTON CREEK, US 395
HOPE VALLEY
JUNE LAKE LOOP

LAKE SABRINA
LAKE TAHOE
LAUREL LAKES ROAD, US 395
LEE VINING CANYON
LUNDY LAKE, US 395

MAMMOTH LAKES, US 395

MCCLOUD CREEK @ ALGOMA
MCGEE CREEK, US 395

MODOC NF @ BLUE LAKE
NORTH LAKE, ASPENDELL @ BISHOP

ONION VALLEY @ INDEPENDENCE
PARKER LAKE RD @ JUNE LAKE LOOP
PINE CREEK ROAD, BISHOP

QUAKING ASPEN CAMP, GIANT SEQUOIA

RED’S MEADOW, MAMMOTH
ROCK CREEK ROAD @ US HWY 395

TOM’S PLACE, US 395
TWIN LAKES @ BRIDGEPORT
VIRGINIA LAKES, US 395

WISHON RESERVOIR

aspentips
Aspen Tips @ Eagle Lake California

 

aspenwall
Green Creek Camping

Autumn Camping in California

 

amigoaspens
Laurel Lake Road @ 9000′ – Eastern Sierra, California

Crocker Campground

Davis Lake Free Camping

Crocker Camp Lake Davis

Crocker Campground
Crocker Guard Station

Plumas Forest Rd #24N06
Crocker Mountain Rd @ Beckwourth-Genesse Rd

Seldom used, but often loved. This old camp used to be a California Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, during the construction of Lake Davis in 1966. Situated next to a big meadow w/ ancient lava flows up hill, the small campground hugs a wooded hillside above the freshly paved Beckwourth-Genesse Road #111

Lake Davis Recreation Area

Plumas National Forest
Beckwourth Ranger Districtranger
530-836-2575

If choosing to enter camp from the lake side, take Crocker Mountain Rd. / Plumas Forest Rd #24N06, up from Grizzly Road #112.

The Lake Davis area is a north turn off Hwy 89, in between Beckwourth and Portola, CA

Access from the paved (east) side is via Beckwourth-Genesse Road #111. Adventurous camper trucks, or small RVs may attempt this dirt hillside campground, but roots and rocks and erosion are abundant in the upper portion of the camp, so be warned.

Off Roaders (dirt bikes, quads, 4x4s) like this rustic camp spot, cuz it’s not too far off the pavement – and they can drive their comfy campers w/ trailers en tow, and the big BBQ grill and easy-up shade.

hikerNote: you cannot see Lake Davis from this side of the hill.

Autumn is nice here w/ aspen groves at nearby Crocker Guard Station. There are no aspen trees in campground – only pines. This primitive campground is located on a forested, volcanic hillside facing east; Dirt road entry, vault toilet w/ minimal facilities. No paved campsite loop here!

Numerous unmarked foot trails lead out to the meadows edge, up lava ridges or into the forest behind the aspens. Crocker Guard Station is a very short walk; and available for rent from the NFS w/ reservation.

Crocker Campground NFS camp

• Elevation: 5600′
• Number of Sites: 10
• Vehicle Accessibility: Small RV
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: No
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – November
• Trailheads: Crocker Meadow Loop

Crocker Campground

Crocker Guard Station

aka Crocker CCC Camp

Set back nicely off the main road, this stylish, historic, two story cabin – with wood siding and front porch – has meadows and aspen groves surrounding it. Paved road access from Beckwourth Genesee Road

CCC = the Civilian Conservation Corps is often mentioned when reading about this specific location.

Crocker Guard Station was built in 1912 as a home for Forest Service personnel, and was later staffed as a fire station until the 1980s. Now the building serves as a USFS Cabin Rental; which could also make a nice (small) wedding location. Very scenic location w/ aspen groves.

lava campsites

Crocker Mountain (7444′ elev)  is popular for deer hunting, mountain biking, as well as off-road travel. Trails can be dusty and steep in summer, then snowy, slippery and muddy in wetter months. This Plumas mountain region does get some snow, so check the weather forecast!

Lake Davis is about 5 miles away from this small campground, to the west. From Crocker Camp to Lake Davis (the most direct way) is a one lane, graded dirt road – Plumas Forest Rd #24N06

The paved driving to the lake will be triple the distance – and you’ll need to go back to the highway.

View East from Davis
Crocker Mountain @ Lake Davis, California

Wishon Reservoir

Lake Wishon – Sierra NF

Western Sierra Nevada Lake
Central Sierra California

lake wishon

East of Fresno, CA
East of Shaver Lake

EB from Fresno, Hwy 168 up to Shaver, w/ another 30+ miles on paved backroads
(Dinkey Creek Rd & then McKinley Grove Rd)
Way, way back, beyond Dinkey

You gotta really wanna BE at places like this. Magical High Sierra mountains – California’s finest. Sheer beauty surrounds this lake w/ granite domes, granite cliffs, granite trails, forests, peaks and plenty hiking, fishing, water and boating. It does take planning (way ahead) to make it out here, cuz the area is only accessible during summer months. Typical of high altitude lakes, snow buries them annually and the roads get closed off to the public (usually NOV-MAY is winter). Some backcountry routes become snowmobiling trails during winter, and the Sierra National Forest has plenty of great snomo action (if snow is deep).

Wishon Lake, California
elevation: 6600′

High Sierra Granite Reservoir with pines trees and rocky, granite shoreline. Not nearly as amazing as its cousin w/ the domes to the north, Courtright, Wishon has less granite & less wind, but more accessible backroads to explore, plus more car camping options. Both lakes are part of the Helms Creek hydro-electric project (dams) that make up the PG&E water infrastructure out in these parts – The Kings River Drainage System.

Backpacker trailheads, Woodchuck, Rancheria & Crown Valley all lead to dead end dirt roads – with nothing but solitude for miles & miles. Some might be passenger car accessible. Winter weather changes dirt road conditions (often).

The Kings River Geological Area is nearby, as well as both the John Muir Wilderness & Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.

Wishon Sierra Nevada

Large Reservoir with 8,000-10,000′ high sierra mountain peaks surrounding. Pine forests, views, fishing, camping, hiking in every direction, secluded dirt roads. Perfect high elevation trailheads, next to John Muir Wilderness. Great for backpackers!

All boating, but no waterski or jet ski.
One public boat ramp. Fishing boat rentals available.

WARNING: Water level changes daily.

 

lake area recreation:

Backpacking
Boating
Campground Camping
Dinkey Lakes Wilderness
Fishing
Hiking
Horse Pack Trips
John Muir Wilderness
Mountain Biking
Primitive Camping
Sierra National Forest
Snowmobiling the Sierras
Spanish Lake 4×4 Route

bridgewishon

Wishon is a summer vacation paradise for trout fishing, hiking, backpacking and back road exploring.

CLOSED FOR WINTER: NOV-APRIL = Snow closes the road for winter. For all you hardcore campers and hikers, you must call ahead to see if roads are open. It is rural forest, well traveled, but snow storms will shut everything down out here (for many months). Although, in some mild winters you can drive as far as Dinkey Creek on pavement. Gates are locked beyond that.

Central Sierra Wishon Lake Camping

LilyPad Campground @ Wishon Lake

Upper Kings Group Campground (by reservation only)

helpful numbers:

High Sierra Rangers Office: 559-855-5355
Pineridge and Kings River Ranger Districts
29688 Auberry Road, Prather, CA 93651

Dinkey Creek Ranger Station
(June thru September)
559-841-3404

Wishon Village RV
66500 McKinley Grove Road, Shaver Lake, CA 93664
559-865-5361

Engineering

Other places nearby


Black Rock Lake
Sierra Forest Road #11S12
Courtright Lake
Dusy Ershim 4×4 Trail

Dinkey Creek Campground
Dorabelle Campground
Gigantea Campground
McKinley Sequoia Grove
Sawmill Campground (dirt road)

Free, primitive or open camping abundant on the dirt backroads in Sierra National Forest. 4 wheel drive is not required for most routes, but a high clearance rig would help. Some gravel roads are graded annually and suitable for passenger cars – during summer months and only for about the first mile or two, off of the main road (pavement). Mud and snow are common on backroads!

Aspens @ Wishon, Western Sierra
nearby towns:
Fresno, CA
Huntington Lake
Lakeshore
Pine Flat
Prather
Shaver Lake

 

Sierra National Forest Map
Sierra National Forest Map
Dinkey Lakes Map
Dinkey Lakes Map
John Muir Wilderness Trail Maps Sierra Nevada Topo Map

Wilderness Wishon California

wish on

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH:
Wishon in Giant Sequoia & Wishon @ Bass Lake

There is another popular camp spot called Wishon Camp – on the Western Divide Highway, much further south in the Sequoia National Forest.

Wishon Campground on the Tule River in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Just up from Springville, CA

And also, the Bass Lake Wishon; there is another WISHON Campground at popular Bass Lake, South of Yosemite NP.

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


Plumas Camping

Lil' Northfork Campsite
Primitive (dispersed) camping near Lil’ Northfork

Plumas National Forest Camping – Primitive Camp Sites

Spanish Creek, Quincy, CA
Spanish Creek, Quincy, CA

Plumas Forest Camping

NFSlogoNorth Sierra Nevada, Northern California

Listed below are primitive campgrounds w/ minimal facilities or open camping areas in Plumas National Forest. Plumas has excellent fishing as the big rivers & numerous creeks run thru this northern Sierra Nevada landscape. Open camping is allowed on almost any dirt road w/ a current campfire permit

see also – Plumas Campgrounds

driftwood

Brady’s Camp
[on Pine Creek near Argentine Rock]
near Quincy, CA – east on Squirrel Creek Rd. & go 8 mi. to the campground. Elevation 7200′ / Open May – October

pct

Bucks Lake has numerous NFS Campgrounds and PCT access; Overall elevation 5000′ w/ abundant boating, fishing and hiking. Snow in winter closes roads. Cabins, marina, lodge, restaurants. Bucks Lake Wilderness, Gold Lake, Silver Lake

Deanes Valley Campground camp
[along Rock Creek] Hwy.70 Quincy, go 3.5 mi. west on Buck Lake Rd. Head south & 7 mi. to the campground. Elevation 4400′ / Open April – October

 

35 mph

Ishi Wilderness hiker

Backpacking trails w/ dirt road access. Above Chico, beyond Cohassett; on the border of Tehema Co. and Butte Co. (Lassen NF & Plumas NF)

Inskip, CA – Way up beyond the Ridge, well past Magalia and Stirling City – find dense forests, dirt roads and camping. Philbrook Reservoir w/ West Branch Campground NFS. Elevation 5546′

24N10 – Plumas NF

Lakes Basin Recreation Area

lakesbasinhikers
lakes basin day hikers

Snag Lake California

4x4 dirtbikes fish

Ohio Valley – Seneca Road
[off Hwy 89 to southside] Primitive forest camping near Lake Almanor. ATV trails, hunting. Creeks and river camping closer to Seneca. High clearance or 4WD may be needed on these dirt back roads – depending on snow and mud. There is plenty dirt roads back here to explore.

Snake Lakecanoe
[good fishing area] Hwy.70 Quincy, go 5 mi. west on Buck Lake Rd. Head north & 5 mi. to the campground at the lake. Elevation 4200′ / Open April – October

Snake Lake, California
Snake Lake, California

Taylorsville Campground

Indian Valley - Plumas California

pinetree

 

digger pines
Bald Rock Road in Berry Creek, CA

see also – Feather River California

foreman creek
Foreman Creek @ Lake Oroville, (maxed out) FEB 2017

nearby towns –

Belden Town
Berry Creek, CA
Bucks Lakes, CA
Butte Meadows
Chico, CA
Greenville, CA
Oroville, CA
Paradise, CA
Portola, CA
Quincy, CA
Twain, CA


California Fire Lookout

Dome Land from Bald Mtn, KERN
Bald Mountain (elev 9382′) Lookout in Sequoia National Forest

NFS Fire Lookout Towers

JULY 2019 – Many thanks goes to Pike County Lookout for initially spotting the #RockFire – in the Plumas National Forest, near Berry Creek, CA

Lookouts in the California National Forests

Ready to see far and wide – with wild terrain? Views for 100 miles out and the best scenery California has to offer. Be prepared to off road or hike to reach one of these destinations.

Below is a list of historic look out towers & cabins used for spotting wildfires. Some are located on steep granite peaks, ridge lines or dirt roads. 4WD may be recommended to reach some of these. Road conditions can change w/ harsh mountain weather, so be prepared to rough it. Thunderstorms are common on these mountain ridges.

Several of these places are cabins, some are stone houses, but most fire lookouts are basic metal towers – with high climbing staircases, so you must be in decent physical strength to haul your ass up this high.

rangers cabin mountains hikers vacation

Cabins are also called guard stations, huts, bunkhouses. Most are located on mountain tops, but a few exist in desert regions. Some are refurbished & available for overnight rentals. Bare bones furnishings, so forget the frills. People come up here for the thrills. To be outside w/ epic views, way away from the urban grind & to feel on top-of-the-world.

Coon Creek Cabin

 

NFSlogoSee the full list of overnight accommodations on mountain peaks & ridges, some near meadowsNational Forest Cabin Rentals

El Dorado National Forest USFS

Robbs Peak Lookout
Robb’s Hut / Robbs Cabin
6686′ elev near Placerville, Gold Country California

Cuyama Peak
Cuyama Lookout is a rough road up. Off Hwy 33, Los Padres NF

Los Padres National Forest

4x4Cuyama Peak Lookout Tower (pictured above) off Hwy 166 & via Santa Barbara Cyn, 4×4 recommended. Sorta near jct w/ Hwy 33

Big Bear Lake 2002
Big Bear Lake, Southern California

San Bernardino National Forest USFS

Butler Peak Fire Lookout
elev. 8537′ (no overnight stays)
located in between Green Valley Lake and Fawnskin

Morton Peak Fire Lookout
(no longer available for overnight stays 2019)

Strawberry Peak Fire Lookout
(no overnight stays)
above Rimforest, off Bear Springs Road, N of Hwy 18

Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout
elev. 8846′ (no overnight stays)
highest lookout in the San Bernardino NF

hiker

Sequoia National Forest USFS

Bald Mountain Lookout (no overnight stays)
off of Sherman’s Pass Road #22S05, 4×4 may be needed.
Bald Mountain 9382′ elevation; in between the Kern Plateau & Kern Riverranger

Big Meadows Cabin
Big Meadows Guard Station
off Big Meadows Rd #14S11
7600′ elevation; located in between Sequoia NP & Kings Canyon NP

Mountain Home Guard Station
Mountain Home State Forest, Sequoia Groves
6000′ elev. near Springville, CA

Needles Fire Lookout
(destroyed in structure fire 2011)

Poso Guard Station Cabin Rental
open all year round 4500′ elev. near Kernville, CA

pinetree

Sierra National Forest USFS

Camp Four and a half Cabin
Camp 4 ½ Cabin Rental
Lower Kings River, open all year round
1100′ elev. near Pine Flat Reservoir

 

Six Rivers National Forest USFS

Bear Basin Butte Cabin & Fire Lookout
elevation 5300′ in Six Rivers NF / Smith River NRA
(road damage & access issues 2017)

4x4

Tahoe National Forest USFS

Calpine Lookout Cabin Rental
near Sierraville, CA

Pike County Lookout (no overnight stays)
near Challenge, CA & New Bullards Bar Reservoir

Sardine Peak Fire Lookout
overlooking the Sierra Buttes and serene Lakes Basin, Yuba Rivers, North Gold Country CA

lakes basin views

BEWARE:
California is the land of wildfires!

campfireAlways check for local fire conditions at nearest ranger station, obtain a free campfire permit when camping outside of developed campgrounds, and always practice fire safety when visiting our public lands. You can be held liable for wildfires. Outta control campfire, cigarettes, idling vehicles on tall, dry grass. Be very cautious with fires on the often dry, west coast.

see also –  National Forest Cabin Rentals

California Meadows

Cherry Mdws

California Meadows

California meadow is a common term people search for when dreaming of their mountain retreat vacation or upcoming weekend camping trip.

Meadows are places in the forest where cool air collects and settles. Deer among other wildlife, can often be found here grazing around dawn and dusk. Alpine meadows are usually surrounded by trees with lush green grasses, located at higher altitudes above 6000′ – the ‘highcountry’ as most like to say.

Find meadows on National Forest lands from 3000-10,000′ elevation, and it is not uncommon to see cattle grazing in these same regions. California National Parks have some of the most protected meadows in the golden state!

MT SAGE – mountain sage meadows

High desert mountains have drier landscapes, with large sage brush meadows surrounded by sparse pinon pine and/or juniper forest. The Mojave desert’s sagebrush reaches out westward to the peaks of West Kern County. High deserts and mountain meadows can both have significant wildflower blooms. The deserts start to show color in March & April, while the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada can bloom as late as July & August. All California Wildflowers depend on autumn seasonal rains & snow melt.

Kennedy Meadows from Bald
Kennedy Meadows from Bald Mountain Fire Lookout

Wilderness Meadows

The best places to find secluded wildflower meadows is on the high country trails of various mountains – Mount Pinos, Sierra Nevada, Shasta, Trinity & Lassen – all have marvelous meadows, some have easy access w/ parking nearby and others are hike-in only. Locate hiking trailheads for meadows and possibly find camp nearby.

Excellent near Meadows:
Stargazing, Wildflowers, Wildlife Viewing, Horse Camping

Explore dirt back roads of California to find your very own meadow. If you would like to explore at this level, a good topo map is highly advised. The Sierra Nevada mountains have the most beautiful meadows in the state (by far). Their scenery w/ granite outcroppings and wild flowers, surpasses all else. Although on rare occasions, even the Antelope Valley can look amazing — with poppies.

Common Wildflowers

BEST PLACES TO FIND MEADOWS

Lupine Drive

Rules of the Meadow

Mountain Meadows are sacred spaces: Do not disturb the lush, grassy landscape, as wildlife rely on these areas for survival.

No driving on meadows. No camping on meadows; No Campfires; Camp next to (or nearby), but not on top of the meadow. Picnicking should be kept on the sidelines.

4x4Stay on designated dirt roads: No tires across the meadow; No mountain biking, No dirt bikes, No off roading. You’re not spreading the seeds, you’re destroying a fragile ecosystem.

Ranch FENCING w/ barbed-wire is quite common around meadows, to keep cattle out of certain problem areas. Fences also help keep the wandering public out of private lands or sensitive areas.

hikerWhen hiking – stay out of the muddy spots and know that if you choose to hike directly across meadow, you may encounter water and deep, sinking mud. HINT: There is usually a shallow creek running through most meadows, during all times of the year.

Winter snow usually blankets these fragile areas in winter, and when deep enough – making this terrain prime destinations for snowmobilers.

Snow Mobiling

highmeadows

meadow views

Mammoth Pool Reservoir

Mammoth Pool Lake, Sierra Nevada

San Joaquin River, Sierra National Forest

Mammoth Pool California

Awesome granite domes of the western Sierra, plus a scenic recreational lake that is only accessible half the year. Home to “Hells Half Acre” – Mammoth Pool Lake is one of the lesser known reservoirs in the western Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s kinda hard to get to although it is located on the border of Yosemite National Park. Area is totally surrounded by granite creeks, hiking trails, dirt roads and wilderness. This Mammoth Pool is an hours drive, way back behind Bass Lake (off Highway 41), and NOT located near Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra.

Camping just outside of Yosemite. Although the National Park boundary and trailheads are near by, accessing Yosemite Valley for day trips from this location will be quite tiresome and difficult, with long winding roads and over 2 hours drive one way. Better to camp near Bass Lake if you wanna be convenient to Yosemite NP.

Mammoth Pool
Sierra National Forest
3330′ elevation
123,000 acres

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

(loop road, backcountry route closed in winter months)

Near the town of Oakhurst and Bass Lake California, get off the main highway and head over to the small town of North Fork. Take South Fork Road 225 (Italian Bar Rd) to Minarets Road (#81) also called Mammoth Road. Side trip paved Auberry Road (#222)  which skirts oak hills down to Redinger Lake Road. Hook up w/ Minarets Road (#81) that parallels the San Joaquin River on the forested ridge above, traveling 20 miles to  Numerous developed campgrounds and primitive camping sites off this route. Mammoth Pool is a signed right turn down Mammoth Pool Road, a steep road w/ a couple of campground near the lake shore and the only public boat launch is narrow, one at a time and it is not paved.

boatramp

The lake is closed to the public during May and the first half of June to allow migrating deer to swim across the reservoir. The reservoir is inaccessible following the first snowstorm, as the access road is not snowplowed.

rangerGrizzly Road, a paved route that leads deeper into the woods and connects over to BEASORE. Back on the main route (Road #81) on the far north end of the loop, a narrow, paved side route connects Clover Meadow Ranger Station and the impressive Granite Creek Campground. Plenty water and hiking trailheads that lead into Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite National Park.

Back on the main route (Road #81) – the pavement becomes dirt in some sections and the route loops down to Beasore Road (#7), which traverses past meadows and dense forest, and heads back towards Bass Lake.Sierra Forest Map

backpacking, boating, camping
fishing, water ski, kayaking
sailing, swimming

backcountry side routes

NFS Campgrounds nearby –camp

hikers trailheadsMammoth Reservoir

  • Shake Flat
  • Logan Meadow
  • Hells Half Acre
  • South Fork
  • McCreary
  • Cassidy
  • Mammoth
  • Isberg
  • Fernandez
  • Norris
  • Jackass Lake

 towns nearby –


View Larger Map

14S11 – Sequoia NF

trails to meadow

Big Meadows Road: Sequoia Forest Rd# 14S11

GIANT SEQUOIA: in between Sequoia & Kings Canyon, inside Sequoia NF

Sequoia Meadows

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)

SEE CAMPING PHOTOS

campIn 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).

horseback

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.

 

Sequoia maps

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.

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest MAP

nearby services:

Sequoia Groves

see all – Big Meadows in California 

Marvin Pass Trailhead

Smith Lake California

Smith Lakes in California

Numerous places called SMITH LAKE exist in the Sierra Nevada.

wildflora

Lakes Basin Recreation Area has two different spots named SMITH LAKE. This region is in the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains, near Downieville, at the north end of the California Gold Country @ Highway 49.

smithlake

Smith Lake hiking trail can be accessed from the Gray Eagle Lodge area along Gold Lake Highway; or this hiking lake can also be accessed from a park on the north side. Plumas Eureka State Park, via the Jameson Creek trail.

mikeatsmiths

Lakes Basin also has a small set of two lakes called “Smith Lakes” – located on Smith Creek. Way back behind the larger, most famous Gold Lake.

4×4 Road #11E71 will lead you to this remote destination, with the proper vehicle, of course. Creek crossings and large rocks; A quality topographic map and a 4 wheel drive rig is needed for this adventure.

nicemeadows
Lakes Basin Recreation Area
Lakes Basin California
North Sierra mountains, Sierra granite meets Cascade volcanic rock. Bordering of State Park & 2 National Forests

nearby towns:

driftwood

Snake Lake, California
Snake Lake, California

Snake Lake Campground, located west of Quincy, CA – has a small neighboring lake named Smith Lake. Chances are Smith is covered with lily pads, just like Snake Lake. Smaller Smith is accessible via dirt road only. Many people hike, horseback, mountain bike or dirt-bike back on these narrow dirt roads, so use caution when traveling. Butterfly Valley Botanical Garden is located way back here, if you can find it. A real forest service map is advised.

  • black bears
  • butterflies
  • frogs
  • snakes

driftwood

Smith River National Recreation Area is a remote watershed located in Northern California, on the Oregon border.

another Smith Lake in California? We’re still looking.


24N10 – Plumas NF

Lake Davis Loop Drive

Lake Davis Loop: Plumas Forest Road #24N10

Plumas National Forest

also known as the Beckwourth Taylorsville Road

5,800′ elevation
Portola, CA

Lake Davis

Lake Davis Loop is a 20 mile circle around the lake. Drive or mountain bike route. Scenic drive on dirt roads, or an easy bike ride. Average ride time 2 hours for biking.

A flat, easy loop around Lake Davis is best in summer months, as snow usually closes this area in winter. The whole route is a mix of paved, dirt and gravel road. There are picnic areas along the way, lake views, bird and wildlife viewing, wildflowers.

NFSlogo

 

Numerous primitive camp sites and secondary dirt roads fork in various directions, off of this main loop.  Volcanic ridges line the west side of the lake, dense forest and seclusion can be found all around. Bald eagles fly overhead and wild life is abundant.

  • boat
  • camp
  • fish
  • hike
  • mountain bike
  • stargaze
  • wildlife

CROCKER GUARD STATION

campCrocker Station is for rent and reservations are required. This wooden 2-story home was built in 1912 for Forest Service personnel, and later staffed as a fire station until the 1980s.

Situated at 5700′ elevation, its alpine beauty and cooler temps make it a much sought after, especially in summertime. Located a few miles from the lake and 10 miles northeast of Portola, California. There is a small campground next door called Crocker Campground. A dirt road access to Crocker Meadow is quickest from lake, but the paved route around is longer.

Camp 5 sign

DIRECTIONS:
From California SR 70 (Highway 70) in Portola take West Street approximately 7 miles to the Lake Davis Dam. Park at the information kiosk and get acquainted with maps and the area info.

Drive or bike the lake loop. Travel 1.7 miles west to Forest Service Road 24N10, travel on that for 8.1 miles until you reach the junction with County Road 112. Then turn east and continue around the lake, past the Grizzly Campground a half mile, turn South on Country Road 126 and continue back to the dam.


View Larger Map

Plumas National Forest
Plumas Map USDA

 

DSCN0077


Moses Gulch Campground

road5 moses
Narrow Dirt Roads lead way back to Moses Gulch.

Moses Gulch Campground
Middle North Fork of Tule River

Northside of Western Divide Highway 190, near Springville, CA

Mountain Home State Forest
559-539-2321 summer
559-539-2855 winter

Located right on the middle north fork of the Tule River

Small developed campground on the back roads of Mountain Home State Forest. Campground closes seasonally, for winter snow.

Usually open: MAY-OCT

tuleday
Swimming Holes on Tule River

MOSES GULCH CAMPGROUND camping

Elevation: 5,500′
Number of Sites: 10 walk-in camp sites
Reservations: No
Sites Available: First come, First serve
Vehicle Accessibility: No RVs
Length of Stay: 14 Days
Water: River nearby
Toilet: Vault
Bear Boxes: Yes
Trailheads: Tule River; Moses Mountain; Golden Trout
Season: Closed for winter months
Fee: Yes
Operated By: National Forest Service
Closest Town: Springville, California

tent camping on river

Motorhome RV campers beware; no hook-ups, no paved roads. This is a primitive style camp, way back on a dirt road – not suitable for large vehicles.

NOTE $ This used to be FREE CAMPING, but they recently started charging an overnight fee for this campground.

spot6 moses

  • hikerbike
  • camp
  • fish
  • hike
  • picnic
  • stargaze

Golden Trout Wilderness is closeby. Plenty of hiking opportunities, great scenery and several Sequoia groves to visit. Mountain biking is allowed on the dirt roads. Single track trails may be overgrown or even off-limits, due to the fragile eco-system around Sequoia trees.

tule middle northfork
Tule River,  north fork of the middle Tule

SEQUOIA_mapBoth Moses Gulch and Hidden Falls are accessible via a long, narrow, paved mountain road; then a dirt road, leading 3 miles back to the remote reaches of the Wilderness edge.

western south sierra

North of Springville on Highway 190, turn left (north) on to J37, some call it Balch Park Road (Google Maps has it as Wagner Drive) and follow it up 3.5 miles to Bear Creek Road (#220). Drive 17.5 miles on curvy Bear Creek Road, turn right and follow signs to campground.

Groves
Hike Sequoia Groves


Hidden Falls Campground

waterfall hidden
Hidden waterfall is tucked inside a cove of granite, at the far end of the parking lot.

Hidden Falls Campground
Middle North Fork of Tule River

Northside of Western Divide Highway 190, near Springville, CA

Mountain Home State Forest
559-539-2321 summer
559-539-2855 winter

Located right on the middle north fork of the Tule River

Inside an unknown area called Mountain Home State Forest, this small campground has a few spots that fill up quickly, on warmer weekends and at anytime during in the summer months. Campground closes seasonally, for winter snow.

Usually open: MAY-OCTin the creek

HIDDEN FALLS CAMPGROUND camping

Elevation: 6,150′
Number of Sites: 8 walk-in camp sites
Reservations: No
Sites Available: First come, First serve
Vehicle Accessibility: Vehicle 20 ft. max.
Length of Stay: 14 Days
Water: River nearby
Toilet: Vault
Bear Boxes: Yes
Season: Closed for winter months
Fee: Yes
Operated By: National Forest Service
Closest Town: Springville, California

tent camping on river

Motorhome RV campers beware; no hook-ups, no paved roads.  This is a primitive style camp, way back on a dirt road – not suitable for large vehicles.

NOTE $ This used to be one of our favorite FREE spots, but they recently started charging an overnight fee for this campground.

viewsfromcamp
Views from Camp
  • hikerbike
  • camp
  • fish
  • hike
  • picnic
  • stargaze

Golden Trout Wilderness trailheads nearby. Plenty of hiking opportunities, great scenery and several Sequoia groves to visit.Mountain biking is allowed on the dirt roads. Single track trails may be overgrown or even off-limits, due to the fragile eco-system around Sequoia trees.

You may actually love this little camp so much, you won’t want to go anywhere else. How ’bout just chillin out: relaxing near the water. Shady swimming holes. Fishing in the Tule River.

Pack a picnic: Back road exploration is a great day trip, for there are many dirt roads weaving in and around this park, near the Giant Sequoia.

Tule River, South Fork
Tule River, North Fork

SEQUOIA_mapHidden Falls is accessible via a long, narrow, paved mountain road; then a dirt road, leading 3 miles back to two very secluded campgrounds: this one & neighboring Moses Gulch Campground.

western south sierra

North of Springville on Highway 190, turn left (north) on to J37, some call it  Balch Park Road (Google Maps has it as Wagner Drive) and follow it up 3.5 miles to Bear Creek Road (#220). Drive 17.5 miles on curvy Bear Creek Road, turn right and follow signs to campground.

saabaru_forest


Gold Lake California

lilgoldlake
Hike-in only Gold Lake, Bucks Lake Wilderness.

California has more than one Gold Lake!

goldsign

Gold Lake, CA

(Sierra Co)
6409′ elev.

The biggest Gold Lake, California is the well-known one, along the Gold Lake Highway in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Plumas meets Tahoe National Forest. North of Gold Country Hwy 49, Downieville & the Yuba River. Right where the Sierra Nevada granite meets the volcanic lava rock of NorCal.

Packer Lake

Lakes Wilderness Map

Impressive jagged spires known as The Sierra Buttes (8591′) tower above the stunning lake scenery. This big Gold Lake is surrounded by a dozen smaller alpine lakes which make up the popular region called Lakes Basin. Easy access paved highway, which closes in winter for deep snow and winter recreation. The Gold Lake Highway is also referred to as Plumas County Road #S620

sierra buttes
the sierra buttes

Sardine Peak Fire Lookout lodgeranger rentals
NFS fire tower – no more overnight rentals!
overlooking the Sierra Buttes and the serene Lakes Basin, Yuba River, Northern Gold Country California

see CalPine Lookout near Sierraville, CA

driftwood

USFS

LAKES BASIN RECREATION AREA
Cabins, camping, lake fishing, backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, off-roading, snow-mobiling.

lakesbasinhikers

snowmo

California Lakes

mini gold lake

Mini Gold Lake

(Plumas Co)
6000′ elev.

Another smaller Gold Lake exist on the granite slopes in Bucks Lake Wilderness – E of Oroville & W of Quincy, CA.

gold lake trailheadThis hidden gem is a hike-in only lake – and well worth the effort. A somewhat short hike, great ridge line views to the east, although the last half mile of this route is a doozie (moderately strenuous).

The main trailhead departs from Silver Lake and climbs a ridge line that heads over to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). An off-shoot trail goes another mile to the miniature Gold Lake, a granite bowl of sheer beauty. A great day hike for those wishing to see the backcountry. Pack your picnic lunch, camera, and make a whole darn day of it!

Swimming & skinning dipping seem quite natural at this alpine lake, since it is a pretty remote location (without a lot of visitors) and there is absolutely no swimming allowed at neighboring Silver Lake.

bucks trailhead

The steep, overgrown, rocky shoreline leads one to bush whack through old trails, only to be met by a rock slide. Many dead ends and obstacles to climb around, or over. Some way… maybe, or maybe not!

Boulder and rock scrambling is the key phrase to remember, once you reach this lake. Knees may be sore from climbing, up and over the boulder ledge surrounding the lake bowl.

goldshore

Bucks Lake Wilderness Map

A few primitive camp sites are scattered about on the edge of the lake for those backpacking in, but be warned – they can be very difficult to reach. Much more suitable campsites can be found scattered throughout the area.

Warning: there are no flat, lush meadows to lounge in up at the lake, so pick yourself a side route (on the walk in) to find real seclusion and privacy.

view to Quincy

This mile-long-ridge hiking trail to mini Gold Lake has some amazing views down to the east side – Jacks Meadow right below; then Meadow Valley & Quincy off in the distant hills. RURAL CALIFORNIA – Plumas County from above.

jacks meadow
jacks meadow, way below

Sierra Nevada Lakes

High Sierra Gold Lakes in California

hike-in only lakes

hike

Golden Bear Lake
(Tulare Co)
12,000′ elev

High Sierra – Kings Canyon National Park
Center Basin / Center Peak 12,760′
PCT – Pacific Crest Trail
North of Mount Whitney
Eastern Sierra, Independence, CA

hike

Golden Trout Lake
(Inyo Co)
11,500′ elev

Trail #3306 from Onion Valley Campground
North of Mount Whitney
Eastern Sierra, Independence, CA

goldentroutlakecanyon
onion valley trail views
Eastern Sierra Lakes
Alpine Lake above Onion Valley, Eastern Sierra

Coy Flat Campground

Coy Flat Camping
Giant Sequoia National Monument

Camp Nelson California

se Campground

Southern Sierra mountains and the Giant Sequoias, inside Sequoia National Forest. In the Camp Nelson area, south of the busy National Parks.

GIANT SEQUOIA HWY 190 – Western Divide Highway is the 7000′ ridge line that separates the Upper Kern River from the great Central Valley to the west.

From the San Joaquin Valley – get to Porterville or Springville, continue up the mountain on the main highway, to the paved road turn off (Road #22S94) on the right side of the highway;

After Pierpoint Springs and before Camp Nelson. This quiet campground is located off the highway more than a mile, so traffic noise will not be an issue for the light sleepers. (Unless of course, a loud 4×4 rig screams by at midnight headed to the backwoods, or a horse trailer cruises by at 5am). This camp does border the Tule River Indian Reservation.

Western Divide Campground
Western Divide Highway 190
Giant Sequoia Campground

Sequoia Road #22S94 is a loop road leading to many forest meadows, groves, primitive camps and trailhead destinations. Bear Creek and Coy Creek flow near CoyFlat Campground, which both merge north into the Middle Fork of the Tule River @ the highway.

Belknap Grove is nearby, with Black Mountain Grove a few miles further on the dirt back road (Road #22S94) as it continues to Bateman Ridge and Road #21S12, near the Tule Indian lands. Mountain biking, rock climbing, backpacking and hiking all great in this region.

22S94 continues in forest to 8500′ elevation @ Windy Gap, where the Summit National Recreation Trail intersects road. Popular trail among horse riders. 22S94 connects back to Western Divide Highway, in between Ponderosa and Trail of 100 Giants. Awesome loop drive for those seeking seclusion on the dirt roads, away from the tourists and RVs. Call ahead to make sure that the dirt roads and gates are open, before you plan a weekend vacation around it.

COY FLAT CAMPGROUND camping

Elevation: 5,000′
Number of Sites: 19
Reservations: YesCoyFlat Campground Sequoia NF
Sites Available: First come, First serve
Vehicle Accessibility: Vehicle 22 ft. max.
Length of Stay: 14 Days
Water: Piped; Seasonal creek nearby
Toilet: Vault
Season: Closed for winter months
Fee: Yes
Operated By: National Forest Service
Closest Town: Camp Nelson, Califronia

Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia Ranger Station
559-539-5230

Due to the spread of invasive insects, firewood from outside the area is not permitted. Help protect our forests by purchasing or collecting firewood at or near your camping destination and burning it on-site.

CoyFlat Sequoia
CoyFlat Campground – Giant Sequoia


California Mountain Maps

The Mountains of California

Camping El Dorado NF, on the Consumnes River
Camping El Dorado NF, on the Consumnes River

If you know you wanna head up in elevation, higher altitudes – to the pine forests of California, but have no clue where to start, this page may be very helpful in determining your ultimate destination. We have hundreds of pages on adventures & locations throughout the golden state. We sell all California maps for outdoor recreation, hiking topos to off road routes.

Wanna camp under the stars this weekend – and avoid the crowds too? You will need a good back road map to find this awesome camp site, guaranteed. Need a hammock spot, small swimming hole & total seclusion? Or how about a large family camp w/ Sequoia grove nearby? Total Escape has something for every ones budget & lifestyle. See below for an extensive breakdown of California mountain regions.

#1
SoCal mountains have tighter restrictions on campfires, larger number of people camping in a smaller amount of space, minimal primitive camping options in the forests, more fees to access these lands.

#2
The Sierra Nevada mountains are the prime outdoor destination for many in the Central California region. High elevations w/ granite slabs to lower country reservoirs & riverside oak flats. Folks come from all over the world to visit parks and lakes within this mountain range. Indeed, 4 National Parks call the Sierras home: Lassen, Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia NP – not to mention the 10 National Forest and 15+ Wilderness Areas.

#3
You want big water? Cabins next to a prime fishing river or camping near lakes, creeks with dense forests, then you will have to drive to the mid Sierra or even NorCal to find ’em.

Wilderness maps

California Mountain Regions Defined –
find the details on specific region for California mountains

saabaru_forest
Mountain Home Sequoias

epic finds

Find little known parks, camps and forests within our vast California BACK ROADS data base. Below is a small sampling of our picturesque mountain pages, where you can find the best seclusion: hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking trails, rivers, creeks and peaks.

NFSlogo

Sierra Buttes
The Sierra Buttes, Northern Sierra near Gold Lake

sierra National Forest map

Outdoor Recreation Maps of California:

inyohighroad
Inyo high roads, of the Eastern Sierra


National Forest Cabins

California Fire Lookouts for Rent
US Forest Service Cabins

red cabin

NFSlogo
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.

El Dorado National Forest USFS

Harvey West Cabin
4,720′ elev. on Silverfork American River, Gold Rush

Loon Lake Chalet
6375′ elev. near Georgetown, Gold Country California

Robbs Peak Lookout
Robb’s Hut / Robbs Cabin
6686′ elev near Placerville, Gold Country California

Sly Guard Cabin
Sly Park @ Jenkinson Lake, near Placerville, Gold Country California

Van Vleck Bunkhouse
6549′ elev. near Georgetown, Gold Country California
download PDF info sheet

Lassen National Forest USFS

McCarthy Point Lookout
overlooking Mill Creek Canyon and Ishi Wilderness
ranger & info 530-258-2141

Plumas National Forest USFS

Crocker Guard Station
5700′ elev. near Meadow on back road
Lake Davis Loop, way out behind Portola, California

 

Big Bear Lake 2002
Big Bear Lake, Southern California

San Bernardino National Forest USFS

Coon Creek Cabin
Actually a reservable group campground next to a set of historic cabins. Big Bear Area Group Camp Site. Heart Bar Rd #1N02 near Angeles Oaks, CA

Morton Peak Fire Lookout
(no longer available overnight stays 2019)

Coon Cabin
Coon Cabin – Southern Cal

Sequoia National Forest USFS

Big Meadows Cabin
Big Meadows Guard Station
off Big Meadows Rd #14S11
7600′ elevation; located in between Sequoia NP & Kings Canyon NP

Camp 4 ½ Cabin
1100′ elevation; Lower Kings River
near Pine Flat Lake, CA

Grouse Valley Cabins
3 cabins near lakes; Giant Sequoia National Monument, Western Divide
4800′ elev.

Mountain Home Guard Station
Mountain Home State Forest, Sequoia Groves
6000′ elev. near Springville, CA

Needles Fire Lookout
(destroyed in structure fire 2011)

the needles
View of The Needles, from Dome Rock on Western Divide Highway (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Oak Flat Lookout
Oak Flat Cabin Rental
4900′ elevation; Kern River canyon near Lake Isabella

Poso Guard Station Cabin Rental
open all year round
4500′ elev. near Kernville, CA

Quaking Aspen Cabin Rental
Giant Sequoia National Monument, Western Divide Highway near Ponderosa, CA

Wishon Cabin Rental
Tule River, Giant Sequoia National Monument; open all year round
4000′ elev. near Camp Nelson, CA

Shasta/Trinity National Forests USFS

Forest Glen Guard Station
near Trinity River & Forest Glen, CA

Frog Meadow Guard Station
7760′ elev. near Lake Isabella, CA

Girard Ridge Lookout
Historic Fire Lookout Tower
4809′ elev. near Dunsmuir, CA

Hirz Mountain Lookout Tower
Hirz Mtn. Fire Watch Tower Rental
overlooking Shasta Lake, CA
(currently closed for repairs 2019)

Harris Springs Guard Station
near McCloud, CA

Little Mount Hoffman Lookout
Mt. Hoffman Rental
7000′ elev. near McCloud, CA

Post Creek Guard Station
near Hayfork & Platina, CA


Sierra National Forest USFS

Camp Four and a half Cabin
Camp 4 ½ Cabin Rental
Lower Kings River, open all year round
1100′ elev. near Pine Flat Reservoir

 

Six Rivers National Forest USFS

Bear Basin Butte Cabin & Fire Lookout
elevation 5300′ in Six Rivers NF / Smith River NRA
(road damage & access issues 2017)

Tahoe National Forest USFS

Calpine Lookout Cabin Rental
near Sierraville, CA

Sardine Peak Fire Lookout
overlooking the Sierra Buttes and serene Lakes Basin, Yuba Rivers, North Gold Country CA

lakes basin views


Wilderness Lakes

Lake Genevieve
Lake Genevieve, hike-in only access. Way up behind Convict Lake @ Mammoth Lakes, CA

calif lakes / secluded lakes / loop hike around lake / best lake in california / lake elevation / geology lakes / alpine lakes

hike-in lakes

Wilderness lakes are as pure as it gets. No cattle, no roads nearby. Snow melt, cool days, good fishing, great mountain scenery, granite, fresh air & clean water. You have to really wanna reach them. You must physically WORK to get to these remote alpine wonderlands – hike, bike, or horseback.

Heart Lake
Heart Lake, near Onion Valley & Kearsarge Pass

Some lakes are accessible via a day hike, with miles of forest trails or granite switchbacks in between. Waterfalls, wildflowers and wildlife will keep you entertained, as you enjoy your trek. No rush, no pressure; Go slow and take it all in. Remember, it’s not a race!

Most people prefer to backpack in to these locations and stay a while. Why not? These puppies are ACCESSIBLE only a few months outta the whole year. May as well enjoy them while you can. The rest of the time they are frozen solid or buried with serious snow. Wilderness areas do not allow dogs nor mountain bikes on trails, so plan accordingly.

camp, fish, hike, horseback, swim

California is lucky to have hundreds of lakes within protected wilderness areas. Almost all are gorgeous and have very limited access. While we haven’t yet been able to hike every Wilderness in Cali, we will leave you with the visuals and links, plus a way to buy the specific topo maps.

California Wilderness Lakes

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Bucks Lake Wilderness

Carson Iceberg Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness

Granite Chief Wilderness

Emigrant Wilderness

Hoover Wilderness

John Muir Wilderness

Lassen National Park

Mokelumne Wilderness

Monarch Wilderness (Kings Cyn)

Jennie Lakes Wilderness

Thousand Lakes Wilderness

Trinity Alps Wilderness

Yosemite National Park

wild California

 

HIGH ALTITUDE LAKES:
4000′ elevation to 14,000′ elevation

snowflake

SEASONAL deep SNOW makes many of these beautiful lakes inaccessible for more than half the year. Call ahead to local rangers to make sure your desired destination is indeed open for traffic. Certain locations may require snow shoes, snowmobile or a 4WD to access.

Forget the hike!

If you are seeking a remote mountain lake that you can drive to, you will need to search for one that has the fewest people. A high clearance vehicle will help you exit the tourist traps, via plenty of the back roads. Some dirt roads are acessible with just a passenger car or AWD wagon. Talk to the ‘field ranger’ for up-todate road conditions and closures.campfires Make sure to get a campfire permit, before you camp outside of developed campgrounds. Always steer clear of crowded, holiday weekends.

Juniper Lake Table
Juniper Lake – Lassen NPS

California LAKE LIST

The lake list above samples most of the lakes in California. For secluded locations and rare finds (accessible by vehicle), see the list below and follow links for more info.

fernlake
Fern Lake – hike in access, June Lake Loop Hwy 158

More California regions with pristine lakes, but not dubbed Wilderness:

turtleandfriend
Turtle and Friend, Junction City, CA
Sunrise Lakes
Sunrise Lakes, Yosemite Loop Hike


Camp Lassen

Lassen Campgrounds

Mill Creek w/ Lassen Peak
Mill Creek w/ Lassen Peaks (July 2011)

Feather River Camping, Lake Almanor Campgrounds, Hat Creek, River Fishing NorCal, Topo Maps, California Campground  Reservations, Lassen National Forest camp sites and all the outdoor recreation you can imagine.

Volcanic lands of Lassen National Park are surrounded by Lassen National Forest, which means if you cannot find camping inside the National Park – you can surely find it in the outlying regions – with rivers . The National Park Lassen Hwy 89 is often closed during winter months due to snow, as Diamond Peak & Reading Peak are around 8000′ elevation. In 2011 the south entrance did not open until late summer due to heavy snows.

Lassen Camping

A few Lassen campground sites may be reservable, more info with links below; the rest of the campgrounds in the green lists are on a first come, first serve basis.

  • BUTTE LAKE CAMPING
  • JUNIPER LAKE GROUP CAMP
  • MANZANITA LAKE CAMPRGOUND
  • SUMMIT LAKE CAMPGROUND
  • GURNSEY CREEK
  • HAT CREEK CAMPGROUND

Lassen National Park Campgrounds NPS

Camp Lassen / Lassen Lakes

campground elevation spots veg toilet water info
Lake Fork Campground 6792′ 18 pines vault piped June-Oct
Southwest Walk-In 6700′ 21 pines flush piped open all year
Warner Valley 5650′ several pines vault piped June-Oct

Lassen National Forest Campgrounds NFS

Eagle Lake District

campground elev. spots veg toilet water notes
Bogard Campground 5600′ 22 vault pump May-Oct
Butte Creek Campground 5600′ 20 vault creek May-Oct
Crater Lake Campground 6800′ 17 vault pump dirt road, June-Oct
Goumaz Campground 5200′ 5 vault creek May-Oct
Roxie Peconom Campground 4800′ 10 flush pump May-Oct, walk-in

Roxie Peconom

Hat Creek District

campground elev. spots veg toilet water notes
Big Pine Campground 4500′ 19 pines vault pump April-Oct
Bridge Campground 4000′ 25 pines vault piped April-Oct, fish
Honn Campground 3400′ 6 pines vault no April-Oct, no trailers
Rocky Campground 4000′ 8 pines vault creek April-Oct, fish
Honn Campground
Hat Creek @ Honn Campground

Lake Almanor District

campground elev. spots veg toilet water notes
Alder Creek Campground 3900′ 6 pines vault creek March-Nov
Benner Creek Campground 5562′ 9 pines vault creek May-Nov
Black Rock Campground 2100′ 6 pines vault creek year round, fish
Butte Meadows Campground 4600′ 13 pines vault piped April-Nov
Domingo Springs Campground 5060′ 18 pines vault piped May-Nov
Echo Lake Campground 6440′ disp pines lake May-Nov, no tables
Elam Campground 4400′ 15 pines vault piped April-Nov, fish
High Bridge Campground 5200′ 12 pines vault piped May-Nov, fish
Rocky Knoll Campground 6000′ 18 pines vault piped May-Nov, Silver Lake
Silver Bowl Campground 6000′ 18 pines vault piped May-Nov, Silver Lake
Soldier Creek Campground 4890′ disp pines vault creek May-Nov, fall hunters
South Antelope Campground 2700′ 4 pines vault creek year round
Warner Creek Campground 5040′ 13 pines vault creek May-Nov
West Branch Campground 5000′ 15 pines vault piped May-Nov
Willow Springs Campground 5100′ 14 pines vault creek May-Nov, fall hunters
Willow Lake Campground disp pines lake May-Nov, no tables

A few PG&E Campgrounds can be found near Lake Alamanor, which are managed by the utility company and not listed on National Forest or National Park web sites.

LAKE ALMANOR – PG&E Campgrounds
Southshore @ Canyondam, CA

LAST CHANCE CREEK – PG&E Camp, North of Lake Almanor

BUTT VALLEY Reservoir – PG&E Campgrounds
West of Lake Almanor, CA

Juniper Lake Table
Juniper Lake – Lassen NPS

Lassen National Park

Lassen National Forest

Northern California Topographic Maps

Lassen Area Maps & Books –

Lassen Towns –

Walk-In Camp Sites

MIneral KIng Walkin Camps

Walk-In Camps

Below are developed campgrounds in California that have walk-in camp spots available. Vehicles are parked and you must carry your gear into the camp site (usually a short distance, but can be up to a half mile).

California Campgrounds with more than a 1-mile trek are not included in this list below. Areas such as – Catalina Island, Crystal Cove SP, Angel Island SP, Point Reyes National Seashore, indeed have many hike-to camps, but most are measured in miles (one way).

walk in campsites are perfect for –

  • people who wish not to see cars @ camp
  • people who prefer less noise while camping
  • physically fit folks, who want exercise
  • backpackers, who plan to hit the trails soon
  • avid hikers, who may be out day hiking
  • cyclists, just passing through
  • mountain bike campers
  • one nighters, travelers who only stay one night
  • late comers to the campground

    (hint: these are usually the last campsites to fill up)

NewMelones WalkIn Camps

Walk in campsites are often located away from car campers & RVs. Some camp sites may have more privacy, tucked away in trees, while others have shared community area with fire pits and/or barbecues. All camp sites will have picnic tables and a some kinda toilet nearby. Bear boxes may be available for storing food properly. Sharing these food storage boxes with neighboring campers is common practice.

Campgrounds with walk-in sites range in elevation from sea level marshlands to high altitude alpine lakes. Most of these camps listed below are located inside developed campgrounds with overnight fees. Many are small campgrounds, while others are large hubs of activity. Some may be smaller campgrounds, with just a few camp sites. The most popular places can be reserved, with the links provided.

Many parks can also have day use fees, so know where you park and what time span is allowed. Ask the campground host if needing assistance. Some campgrounds lock their gates at sunset and do not permit entry at night. Others may not allow campers to check in anytime after sundown. Know their rules before you make reservations.

If you plan on not making camp reservations; make sure to have a plan B or C choice camp – in case your desired campground is already full. Many popular destinations can fill up fast (by noon in the summer).

spacious camps
Spacious Camp @ Aspen Grove Campground, Eagle Lake, CA

Walk In Camps in California

hikes campmtb

Andrew Molera State Park, North Big Sur Coast
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, East Bay San Francisco
Aspen Grove Campground, Eagle Lake, CA
Austin Creek SRA, Armstrong Redwoods, Guerneville CA

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
Black Rock Campground, Little Grass Valley Reservoir
Blue Lake Campground, PG&E 4×4 @ i80 Donner Pass, Truckee, CA
Boise Creek Campground, Six River National Forest
Bottchers Gap Campground, North Big Sur Mountains
Butano State Park, Pescadero, Santa Cruz Mountains

Carr Campground, i80 Donner Pass, Truckee, CA
Cherry Hill Campground, Butte Creek, Lassen National Forest
Chilcoot Campground, Frenchman Lake, Plumas NF
China Camp State Park, SF @ San Pablo Bay, San Rafael
Chula Vista Campground @ Mount Pinos, Los Padres NF mtb
Clear Lake State Park, North Wine Country, Kelseyville CA
Cold Springs Campground
,
Mineral King @ Sequoia NP
Cool Springs CampgroundPG&E Camp, Butt Valley Reservoirhike
Cottonwood Pass / Cottonwood Lakes
on Horseshoe Meadow Rd, PCT Eastern Sierra @ Lone Pine

coolsprings

Dark Day Campground, New Bullards Bar Reservoir, N Sierra
Donner Memorial State Park, Interstate 80 @ Truckee CA

Dry Lagoon Walk-In, Humboldt Lagoons State Park

El Capitan State Beach, North Santa Barbara Coast

Gaviota State Park Campground, North Santa Barbara Coast
Glory Hole Campground @ New Melones Reservoir, Gold Co
Granite Flat Campground, Truckee River @ Lake Tahoe
Gualala Point Park, Gualala River, Sonoma County Park

Half Moon Bay State Beach Campground, Half Moon Bay

Headquarters Campground, Salton Sea SRA @ Mecca CA
Henry W Coe State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
(wilderness permits required)

Intake Campground, Bishop Creek, Eastern Sierra

Jackson Flat Walk-In Camp PCT @ Angeles NF
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground, NorCal
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur Coast

Kidd Lake Group Campground, PG&E @ i80 Donner Pass, Truckee, CA
Kayak, canoe, hike-in camp sites

Kirby Cove @ Golden Gate National Recreation Area
5 tent camp sites on a bluff over the mouth of San Francisco Bay; reservations required

Klamath National Forest –
small campsites on a river

Lassen National Park – Southwest Campground 6700′ elev.
Liberty Glen Campground @ Lake Sonoma Recreation Area
Limekiln State Park Campground, Hwy 1 Big Sur Coastline

MacKerricher State Park Campground, Mendocino Coast
Macumber Reservoir,
PG&E Camp, West of Lassen NPfishing
Manresa State Beach Campground
, Monterey Bay
Marmot Rock Walk-In Camp, Courtright Reservoir
Mary Smith Campground
@ Lewiston Lake, Trinity River

McCabe Flat Campground @
Merced Recreation Area, Merced River, Mariposa CA

Mesa Campground, Silverwood Lake SRA, Cajon Pass (I-15)
Mill Creek Campground @ Bucks Lake, Plumas NF
Mill Creek Campground, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP
Montana de Oro State Park, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo mtb
Mosquito Flat Trailhead Camp, One night limit! Camp is for backpackers heading into back country at the end of Rock Creek Road, Inyo NF hike

Niagra Creek Campground, OHV 4×4 trails, Stanislaus NF
North Battle Creek Reservoir
PG&E Camp, West of Lassen
North Grove Campground, Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Oak Bottom Campground

Oak Bottom Campground @ Whiskeytown Reservoir NRA (wildfire 2018)

Onion Valley CA

Onion Valley Campground, Eastern Sierra @ Independence, CAhike

Pantoll Campground, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Marin
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground, Big Sur Coast
Pigeon Flat Campground, Stanislaus River, Dardanelle CA
Pomo Canyon Walk-In Camp, Sonoma Coast State Beach
Portola Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains
hikePrather Meadows Camp, Bunny Flat @ Mount Shasta
Providence Mountains SRA @ Mitchell Cavern, Mojave

Redwood National Park, NorCal Coast
(no reservations, no fees. open all year)

  • Flint Ridge Walk-In
  • Nickel Creek Walk-In
chulavistacamp
CHULA VISTA CAMPGROUND – Wild Iris Meadow at Mount Pinos

Refugio State Beach, North Santa Barbara Coast
Rock Creek Campground
, Eel River @ Standish-Hickey SRA
Roxie Peconom Campground, Bizz Johnson Trail, W Susanville mtb
Rucker Lake Campground, PG&E @ i80 Donner Pass, Truckee, CA
Russian Gulch State Park Campground, Mendocino Coast

San Clemente State Beach, Orange County Coast
Sanborn Campground, Skyline County Park, Saratoga CA
Sand Flat Campground, Clark Fork, Carson Icerberg Wilderness
Silver Creek Campground, Truckee River @ Tahoe
Southwest Walk-In Camp
, 6700′ elev @ Lassen Volcanic National Park
Squaw Leap Campground, San Joaquin River, Auberry CA
Stillwater Cove Regional Park, N of Fort Ross, Sonoma Coast

Tahoe National Forest
Donner Area Camping Lakes

NFS 530-265-4531

  • Carr Lake Campground
    10 miles north of Highway 20
    6,700′ elev
    5 walk-in campsites
  • Rucker Lake Campground
    6 miles north of Highway 20
    5,462′ elev
    7 walk-in campsites
  • Sterling Lake Campground
    9 miles north of Interstate 80
    7,000′ elev
    6 walk-in campsites

Toad Lake Walk In Camp, PCT @ Shasta National Forest
Tuolumne Meadows Camp, Yosemite National Park
(reservations & wilderness permits required)

Union Reservoir Walk In Camps, Arnold CA

Union Valley Reservoir – Eldorado National Forest

  • Azalea Cove Campground
  • Fashoda Campground

Van Damme Redwoods State Park, Mendocino Coast

Walker Pass Campground, PCT, East of Lake Isabella CA
Whitney Portal Trailhead Camp, Mount Whitney, Eastern Sierra

Willow Placer Campground BLM, Merced River Recreation Area
Woodside Campground, Salt Point State Park, Sonoma Coast

OnionValleyWalkIns

Walk in campgrounds are considered ‘tent camping‘, as opposed to ‘car camping‘, which is literally camping next to your vehicle. This type of hike-in camping may also be referred to as ‘trailhead camping‘, as many ideal hikes begin at these prime locations. Boat-in, bike-in or hike-in camp sites are also available at some of these locations.