Camp Fires Correctly

Campfire Community

kill your television

Camp Fires
The internet seems to be the modern day campfire – wild stories with good friends and strangers. The heat source, the light source, the cook source, the sock drier, the center stage for all entertainment.

Since the beginning of time humans have gathered around the campfire at night. 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. 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

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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 a water bucket & a decent shovel for building, maintaining and controlling a campfire. PLUS a water source.
  • A ten foot clearance – all around, down to the bare dirt is the best practice. No brush close by.
  • You might need to clean trash outta the fire pit, so bring heavy duty trash bags/spare box.
  • 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 or other toxic materials in campfires
  • Tossing beer bottle caps into a campfire only litters the 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 outta the campfire the following morning?
  • Do not leave any hot coals during the day (if you are away). 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 fire info on our FireSafe page

Drown Fires

Last Final Step

The Last Final Step

 

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Stormproof LIghters

Stormproof Lighters

Group Campgrounds Eastern Sierra

agnewmdws

Group Campgrounds in Inyo National Forest camping

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Agnew Meadow Horse Camp 8400′ 4 pines chem piped Group & Equestrian
Mammoth
Aspen Group 8100′ 4 aspen flush piped Rock Creek
Big Pine Canyon Group 7600′ 1 pines vault piped W of Big Pine; May-Oct
Bishop Park Group 7500′ 21 oaks flush piped Group Camping; May-Oct
Fossil Group Camp 7220′ 11 pines vault no Hwy 168; E of Big Pine
Juniper Group Camp 7000′ 5 juniper vault piped Hwy 168; E of Big Pine
Obsidian Flat Group 6000′ 50 pines vault no Group Camp Mammoth
Pumice Flat Group 7700′ 17 pines flush piped June-Sept; Mammoth
Rock Creek Lake Group 7600′ 1 aspen flush piped Group Camping; May-Oct

see regular Campgrounds – Inyo National Forest

rockcreekcliffs

Obsidian near Hwy 395 & Mammoth

Eastern Sierra Obsidian near US Hwy 395 & Mammoth Lakes, California

Eastern Sierra maps –

Topo maps, wilderness hiking maps, fishing maps
Equestrian trails, 4×4 routes, OHV maps –

lake mary

southforkbishop

Bishop Creek near Aspendell, CA

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 Sequoia
There is another popular camp spot called Wishon, on the Western Divide Highway, much further south in the Sequoia. Wishon Campground on the Tule River in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Just up from Springville, CA. And Bass Lake Wishon; there is another WISHON Campground at popular Bass Lake, South of Yosemite NP.

2N93 – San Berdu NF

Big Bear Dirt Roads

2N93 – Wildhorse Meadows


Heart Bar to Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino National Forest

Big Bear Back Roads
Highway 38, East of Heart Bar @ 1N02
Southern California

alt big bear

This 8 mile long forested, dirt road begins right off Hwy 38, just east of Heart Bar Campground and is an easy turn to miss. The unimproved route heads north through the National Forest, up and over and around SugarLoaf Mountain (elev 9952′), then down to the Big Bear Lake region. Several primitive sites – yellow post camp sites – can be found way back in here, but you might NOT be able to have a campfire (depending on fire restrictions). Check w/ local rangers before you head out.

snow Forest roads are often closed (gated) during the winter, when snow and rain make a muddy mess of the terrain. Rock slides are also common in wetter months. Call the local rangers to inquire on road conditions or if this route is open.

Road 2N93

The whole Big Bear Mountain area is a SoCal favorite forest destination, for weekenders and travelers alike. Mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, camping and 4-wheeling. Plus the recreational lake is full of more water recreation w/ tourist shops and restaurants. Stay away from the crowds and take the back roads for adventure and recreation.

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

On the south side –

Big Bear Highway 38
Heart Bar Campground
Heart Bar Equestrian Camp
San Gorgonio Wilderness

On the north side –

Green Spot Equestrian Campground
Green Canyon Group Campground

SugarLoaf Mountain has a National Recreation Trail, overlooking much of the Moonridge golf & ski area.

San Bernardino National Forest

Big Bear Rangers:

San Gorgonio District
Mentone CA
909-382-2881

Barton Flats District
Barton Flats CA
909-794-4861

Big Bear Discovery Center
909-382-2790

Big Bear Maps
San Bernardino National Forest Map

nearby towns:
Angeles Oaks
Big Bear City
Big Bear Lake
Forest Falls
Mentone, CA

Big Bear OffRoad Areas

Views to Big Bear Lake

California Off Road Areas

4x4 Sierra

The list below is of awesome California locations that do have off-road trails surrounding them. Some destinations listed are heavy use off-road – with OHV parks or camping nearby, while others are simply scenic dirt backroads or forest roads for easy driving. Topographic maps can be found for most areas, and should have all roads displayed, dirt and paved routes, as well as campgrounds, hiking trails and trailheads.

SoCal 4x4 Big Bear

This California “off road towns” list was originally part of the California Off Road Maps page, but it surely deserves it’s own unique post, since it is an ever expanding list. Ongoing.

Searching for Off Road Parks inside California?

Try these links –
State Vehicular Recreation Areas
California OHV Parks

OHV Yields To All

Borrego Valley