Hiking Lake

Guide to Hiking Lakes in California

lakes Southern California

This is California – the beautiful, where millions flock on vacation. California is crowded: the population & tourists are only increasing each year. Thousands of people are looking for hiking mountains or better, a hiking lake – each weekend. Many are using the web for destinations, like the research you are doing right now. All folks seeking nature, water, cooler temps, fresh air & views. High Sierra, NorCal, SoCal Reservoirs, we list the best of these hiking lakes below.

Some of the lakes have mountaineering routes nearby; equestrian trails, regular hiking trails, campgrounds, some even have sorta level paved (granny) trails for biking, hiking & skating around.

High elevation or alpine lakes can be accessed best in summer months. Mountain bike, backpack, horseback into these hidden treasures. With any Sierra Nevada destination, snow pack deep can be in certain seasons. Major Highways (Sierra Passes) can be closed into June or July, due to rock slides and late snow melt. Snow shoes, snowmobile or 4×4 vehicles may be needed to reach such lakes, any months OCT-MAY (fall to spring). Winter can come early & stay late at these higher elevations of California; Be prepared for true Wilderness experience.

But maybe you are just looking for some easy hiking, loop trails & picnic spots; Or perhaps an overnight stay near a lakeside camp w/ kayak rentals. California reservoirs to alpine lakes, we have a wide variety listed below.

This page contains links to some favorite lakes with hiking trails around the lake, along the shoreline or routes on ridge lines overlooking the lake. If no good lake page could be found, we’ve linked to some photos of the lake on Flickr.

Baja California:

SoCal:

Central California / Sierra Nevada:

NorCal:

Blackrock Reservoir in Sierra Nevada

Blackrock Reservoir in Sierra Nevada

Lakes California Map: check out all the maps we have for lakes in Cali

El Dorado Camping

Primitive Camping in El Dorado County

Camping Rivers

More & more people are venturing off the beaten touristy path of Gold Country. Getting outta the developed campgrounds to discover the joys of dispersed back woods camping is a new adventure, not to be taken lightly.

With truck or SUV ownership come some great rewards! Order a good map & go find some dirt roads. Waterfalls, dense forests, secluded creekside camp sites & more await you. Obtaining a camp fire permit is mandatory for this style of camping.

Campfires are often banned in California, due to extreme wildfire danger. Since the gold mining foothills are usually oak and dry grass, with large steep river canyons, extra caution should be given. Always know the fire conditions before you build a campfire. Caldor Camping

Discover the hidden back roads: like Caldor Road off of Grizzly Flat Rd. – up above Placerville CA

Hey, now this is what we’re talking about. Plenty great dispersed camping down by the Cosumnes River & Consumnes Mine Rd. There are hundreds of miles of small roads to discover back behind this historic mining area. Rivers, waterfalls & decent fishing too. Make sure you clean up some litter. This is the only price you pay for the beauty, serenity, peace & quiet & no neighbor campers next to you.

Out exploring these parts, you may run into a dead end road that peters out at some Private Property, which is usually signed & fenced. Make nice with the old crazy miner dude & turn your ass around politely, everything will be okay as soon as you are not within gun shot of him. Yes, there still are plenty of small time mining experts tucked away back here in the hills.

river camping
Premium and secluded river side camp sites in El Dorado National Forest

Plenty creeks and rivers run throughout this central Sierra region, so you can fish all day – until your hearts desire. River rafting and river kayaking opportunities are also great reasons to get wet.

Several mountain reservoirs around offer camping and boating too. Eldorado lakes are listed below.

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

  • Caples Lake @ Carson Pass
  • Ice House Reservoir
  • Jenkinson Lake – US Hwy 50
  • Kirkwood Lake
  • Lower Bear River Res. – South Shore Campground
  • Salt Springs Reservoir
  • Silver Lake @ Carson Pass
  • Union Valley Reservoir
  • nearby towns –

    El Dorado Forest Maps –

    Salmon River California


    salmon river
    Photo Credit Erik Meldrum

    Salmon River
    Forks of the Salmon

    NORTHERN CALIF

    One of the most remote & biologically intact watersheds left inside California. The headwaters of the Salmon River flow from the Trinity Alps, Marble Mountains, and the Russian Wilderness Areas. 850,000 acres of Wilderness surrounding the Salmon River watershed.

    You gotta know how to read a map if you wanna find this hidden gem. For those who love seclusion! This NorCal river region is a prime destination for true nature lovers: campers, hikers, fishermen, river rafters, river kayakers, mountain bikers, backpackers, birdwatchers and horse enthusiasts. Summer is the busiest time and of course, the best weather. The remainder of the year, you’ll basically have the place all to yourself. Winters can be wet and sloppy, so don’t get stuck in the mud. Cell phone reception is minimal in these densely forested backwoods.

    Rafting, river beaches, kayak spots. Campground camping, RV camping, tent camping, primitive and wilderness too.

    A significant part of the Klamath River’s watershed is in the Karuk Tribe’s Ancestral Territory. Karuk Indians have carefully managed their lands through an integrated continuum with the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem functions for thousands of years. Salmon, or “Ama” in the Karuk language, was a major source of food and spiritual renewal.

    Forests & Parks along Salmon River:

    Kings River Camping

    Camping areas along Kings River, Sierra Nevada California

    dirtroadskings

    Kings is the longest river in the Sierra Nevada and very rugged and remote in most of the length. The Upper Kings is situated in the highest of elevation, granite alpine back country, with abundant small lakes and numerous Wilderness areas.

    The tallest peak, Mount Whitney, drains this way – down waterfalls and whitewater, westward to California into the San Joaquin Valley. Agriculture and orchards of citrus. The mid section of this mighty Kings River runs close to Hwy 180 inside the Kings Canyon National Park.

    The Lower Kings is popular among campers, fishermen, kayakers and rafters, accessible most of the year. Upper Kings River is located inside the National Park boundaries.

    NPS Campgrounds near Upper Kings River

    Inside Kings Canyon National Park:
    Cedar Grove Village @ end of Highway 180

    elevation 4600′

    may be closed during winter months.
    reservations recommended.
    NPS

    Sheep Creek Campground (111 sites)
    Sentinel Campground (82 sites)
    Canyon View Campground (37 sites)
    Moraine Campground (120 sites)

    Roaring River Falls, Sentinel Dome (9115′ elev)

    hikes
    Roads End Trailhead
    backpack camping, from paved parking area.
    NPS – wilderness permits required for overnight stays.

    Kings Highcountry Topo Map

    bridge kings

    Camping near Lower Kings River

    Open all year round. Outside the National Park boundary, westward in lower elevations, many more camping options are available.

    NFS

    NOTE: Sierra National Forest is locatedĀ  on the north side, along the river shore in between Pine Flat Lake & Kings Cyn National Park. But Sequoia National Forest is located on the south side!

    Lower Kings is best accessed via the paved roads, up behind Pine Flat Lake, California

    river
    Trimmer Springs Road #11S12: a paved access route, wraps around the northern shore of Pine Flat Reservoir. Very winding and long, with 25 mph curves; this main route continues east into the massive Kings River Canyon.

    Google Maps may have this road crossing the river, toward the end. Proper signage is questionable in the area, since local rednecks love to shoot up signs. Trimmer route quickly peters out to narrow dirt roads, anywhere past the Mill Flat Campground area.

    Lower Kings is NOT easily reached via the National Park – Kings Canyon Highway 180. Dirt road travel is required on Road #12S01, which can be steep and rocky at best. The drivable climb up to the highway may require 4 wheel drive in some sections, depending on weather.

    Winter brings some snow and abundant rains (NOV – APRIL).

    LANDSLIDES and ROCK SLIDES are common with ROAD CLOSURES usually posted on the Sierra National Forest, NFS web site.

    big river kings

     

    poppy

    Wildflowers are abundant in this region for springtime. (MARCH-MAY)

    camp

    (north shore)
    Lower Kings River

    elevation 1100′

    Sierra National Forest
    fish

    Kirch Flat Campground NFS (17 sites)

    tables & toilets

    both above are free camp spots: boondocking, primitive car camping, tent camping, RV camping, fishing, kayaking, rafting

    Sierra Road #12S01 – primitive camping, few pit toilets; fishing access, some trailhead camps and RV spots along river. The northern most arm of this road is also referred to as Road# 12S001 Garnet Dike, on the NFS web site.

    newbridge
    Along paved routes, near bridges, some dispersed camping is also allowed. Campfire permits are required.

    Sierra Road #9 is Big Creek Canyona side route, graded dirt road worth exploring for primitive camping options. The farther you drive up, the more vegetation you will find. Campfire permits are required.

    BlackRock Reservoir Road #11S12, another side route (paved) climbs steeply in elevation, along a cliff edge. This spot offers a small NFS campground near a lake, and is located along the North Fork of the river.

    kingsflow2010

    click to enlarge

    NFS

    (south shore)
    Lower Kings River

    elevation 1000′

    Sierra National Forest

    Pine Flat Reservoir

    elevation 952′

    Lake View


    CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

    rafterskings

    California Countryside Hikes

    California Wine Country Hikes, Gold Country Hiking, Sierra Foothills, River Trails

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