All posts by danamite

American River California

american 1

American River, Central Sierra Nevada

Donner Pass – Gold Country California
El Dorado National Forest
Folsom Lake, Sacramento, CA

This is a major river in the Sierra Nevada landscape, as well as in the Gold Rush history of California. Many mining camps, railways, old abandon mines, dirt roads, hiking trails, mountain biking routes, waterfalls and even ancient artifacts can be found on the back roads. The native tribes once heavily populated these river canyons since the location is ideal, half way between the big mountains and the sunny warm valley.

snowNorth fork of American River drains most of the Donner Pass region, all along Interstate 80. Indian Creek is a feeder stream coming from Sugar Pine Reservoir. No large reservoirs exist along this American North Fork, although there is a wide section of the river, above Auburn, called the North Fork Lake.

Middle fork of American River comes down from the Granite Cheif Wilderness, next to Lake Tahoe; Foresthill (3225′ elev) is a small mountain community w/ a ranger station; French Meadows Reservoir is way back in there, toward the highest peaks @ 9000′ elevation.

South fork of American River parallels the State Highway 50, which connects Placerville to Lake Tahoe via the Kyburz Pass. Union Valley Reservoir and Ice House Reservoir make up this part of the drainage for abundant snow melt.

The north and middle flows of this river join in Auburn, near the freway @ I-80. The south fork joins the rest downhill in the Central Valley, at Folsom Lake, NW of Sacramento, CA

rapids: turbulent, fast moving water

canoe

River Rafting on the American River

This is a rapid moving river, with serious force. Not to be taken lightly. Wear life vest and stay alive; Don’t swim in dangerous conditions and spare your life!

Go whitewater river rafting with experienced leaders, who offer professional guide rafting tours. Toying around with an inflatable cheapie raft on a big river, can leads to all kinds of trouble.

rocky beaches

  • backpackfish
  • camp
  • fish
  • hike
  • kayak
  • mountain bike
  • museums
  • off-road
  • raft
  • swim

Camping & Campgrounds on the American River

hiker

 

americanriverabove

Auburn Lodging near the American River with numerous unique overnight options closeby. Colfax, the rail-town up the interstate, also has small motels and inns, most are freeway close. Foresthill is a residential area near the Middle Fork of the American River. Placerville, on the South Fork has more hotel choices.

 

riverbed

Towns along American River:

americanview


Alabama Hills, California

Eastern Sierra BLM – Alabama Hills


A nice surprise for visitors to Mount Whitney region when they happen upon the Alabama Hills. The cool boulder field lies at the base of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range – next to the town of Lone Pine, on the way up to Whitney Portal.

The infamous area features a drive named “Movie Road” – with historical spots for filming old westerns & cowboy movies. Plenty of television commercials & videos have been filmed here as well. Relatively close to Los Angeles and SoCal.

high desert: elevation 5354′

 

From the Mojave desert, take Hwy.395 North to the small town of Lone Pine . At the only traffic light in town; turn left up Mt Whitney Portal Road; continue up to boulders. MOVIE ROAD, right turn to start exploring. Mant graded dirt roads and areas to park vehicles.

  • hike

  • bike

  • camp

  • horseback

  • natural arches

  • rock climbing

  • stargaze

  • wildflowers


MT WHITNEY MAPS

Inyo National Forest next door offers the highest granite peaks, pinon pines to Ponderosa pines, Sierra lakes, fishing, hiking, horseback trails.

campfireNO CAMPFIRES (and no open dispersed camping on this BLM land)

Developed Campgrounds nearby:

bamahillcrew

blm

ALABAMA HILLS – BLM 

download BLM PDF map

US 395

 

Alabama Hills Recreational Area
760-876-4444

 

 

Mt. Whitney Information Center
760-876-6200

 

Eastern Sierra links & info

Alabama Hills Stewardship Group
BLM Alabama Hills Info
Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center
Friends of the Inyo
Mt. Whitney Ranger Station USFS


Salmon River California


salmon river
Photo Credit Erik Meldrum

Salmon River, California
Forks of the Salmon

CAL SALMON – a 19.6-mile long tributary to the Klamath River, located in western Siskiyou County, CA

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.

There’s another Salmon River in Idaho, but this page deals with the Northern California river, dubbed “Cal Salmon” with it’s emerald green waters and lush fern-filled canyons. A granite inner gorge.canoe

You gotta know how to read a map if you wanna find this hidden gem. Highly sought after destination for whitewater rafting and river kayaking. Rapids! With a short rafting season (March-June)

This is a place for those who love seclusion. It’s kinda far for most people to drive here. The NorCal river region is a prime secret spot for true nature lovers: campers, hikers, fishermen, river rafters, 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.

hikerA 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:

Santa Ynez River California

riverbelow
Lake Cachuma views from Camino Cielo West

Santa Inez River, Santa Ynez, CA

One of the largest rivers on the Central Coast of California, close to 100 miles long. You can find this river name spelled with “I” as well as “Y” on various maps featuring Santa Barbara. The smaller river “Inez” begins w/ the upper reservoirs, deep in Los Padres National Forest. After leaving Lake Cachuma heading westward, the name turns into the bigger “Santa Ynez” river. Agricultural farmlands, wineries, horse pastures, all the way to Lompoc.

The Santa Barbara Mountains
Highway 154, San Marcos Pass
Lake Cachuma, Los Padres National Forest

Solvang Danish Village
Lompoc farmland
VAFB

Rancho Oso Campground
Rancho Oso Campground

San Ynez Mountains

Everyone knows this area as Lake Cachuma, in the mountains
behind Santa Barbara. This fire-prone mountain range  parallels the palm tree lined coastal villages, along the scenic coastline of California. North of Ventura, Ojai and Los Angeles.

Indian Creek and Mono Creek drain the Dick Smith Wilderness Area, from the east, in Los Padres National Forest. Jameson Lake (2224′ elev) is a small reservoir where this river starts to come together. Downstream Agua Caliente Hot Springs flows, west to join Gibraltar Reservoir (1399′ elev). Then another 10 miles or so to meet w/ larger Lake Cachuma.  The large river continues thru Santa Ynez Valley, on to Lompoc and empties into the sea around Vandenburg.umbrella

Ocean Beach Park, Lompoc, CA

Ocean Beach sits in pristine isolation steps from engaging and beautiful shoreline, where the Santa Ynez River meets the sea. Bird-watchers and nature photographers love this spot. Beach access is closed to the public annually, from March – September due to bird (snowy plover) nesting season. Fishing is not allowed. Also known as “Surf Beach” and a well known coast for shark attacks.

Hiking is a popular recreation around  this whole wine country region; Campgrounds are generally open all year long. Summers can be hot, winters are usually wet. Wildflowers bloom March-May.

outdoor recreation 

  • backpacking
  • camping
  • hiking
  • horseback
  • mountain biking
  • off-roadinhiker
  • picnicking
  • stargazing
  • wildflowers
  • wine tasting

 

hikingupperoso
Day hikes, horse trails, mountain bike and backpacking trailheads

Santa Ynez Recreation Area

Campgrounds near this River

Camps in this list are managed by Santa Barbara County, USFS and privately owned campgroundscamp

Gibraltar & Agua Caliente
(access road #5N15 closed due to landslide; hike-in access only)

River Canyon AreaRV

Lake Cachuma Area

campupperoso
Upper Oso Camp

Dry SoCal terrain means that this river may be ‘seasonal’ – down to a trickle in drought years, or free flowing and wide during a good winter. Spring and winter storms can bring dangerous conditions and high water flowing over the paved roadways is possible. Authorities may close roads at any time depending on rainfall and river height.  Check the weather forecast and know what to expect, cuz it’s a dead end canyon way back in here.

PARADISE ROAD: The is a main access road to numerous campgrounds, w/ hiking, biking and horseback trailheads and OHV routes all accessible. The canyon wide river bed is strewn will bowling ball sized boulders and wading pools may be found.

Off Roading OHV Trailheaddirtbikes

  • Buckhorn OHV, near Upper Oso
  • Indian Creek Camuesa OHV, near Mono Campground
  • Divided Peak OHV, on Camino Cielo East
  • Davy Brown OHV, Figueroa Mountain

 

mellowentry
Camino Cielo West

CAMINO CIELO
A popular paved, ridge route drive of Santa Barbara (coastline views) with junction at Highway 154.

Camino Cielo East (Rd#51N12), goes southeast to great viewpoints over the epic coast. Channel Islands usually seen on the ocean horizon. Road become dirt & sudden switchback into mountains is quite steep. SUV or high clearance vehicle may be needed; and possible 4×4 in wet weather.

[CLOSED DUE TO LANDSLIDE 2019] The dead-end route leads down to the Gibraltar Dam (#5N15), several camp sites and a remote hot springs (which may or may not be operational)

Camino Cielo West, turns northwest off the highway. Nice viewpoints over Lake Cachuma. Boulders and coves, a party spot for locals kids. Paved road quickly become dirt turns into steep mountains w/ off roading opportunities. OHV trails not well marked w/ signs, so drive slow until you know the terrain. 4×4 may be needed. Mountain bikers and hikers also use this route, so pass with caution.

Santa Ynez, California
Small town Santa Ynez, CA

Los Padres Forest Headquarters
Goleta CA
805/968-6640

Santa Barbara District
Santa Barbara CA
805/967-3481

San Lucia District
Santa Maria CA
805/925-9538

Los Padres National Forest

maps of the Los Padres region –USFS

windmill

towns nearby

 

streetview
Solvang (a tourist haven) can be a good lunch stop, freeway close.

in the vicinity, see also –

Gaviota Hot Springs
Jalama Beach County Park
Nojoqui Falls
Rock Front Ranch 4×4 Camping
Santa Barbara Camping
Santa Lucia Camping
Santa Ynez Park


San Joaquin River California

Light Rain on San Joaquin

San Joaquin River, Sierra Nevada

Edison Lake, Florence Lake, Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake
Kaiser Wilderness, Sierra National Forest

The San Joaquin watershed begins way up in the High Sierra, Ansel Adams Wilderness to be exact. Eastern Sierra ranges, up behind Mammoth Mountain peaks called The Minarets, the snow drains westward. Far from the San Joaquin Valley, way above Fresno, CA

Green Bridge San Joaquin
Green Metal Bridge @ San Joaquin River

Sierra National Forest Map USDA

  • backpack
  • camp
  • canoe
  • fish
  • hike
  • horseback
  • hot springs
  • kayak
  • mountain bike
  • off-road
  • picnic
  • snow-mobile
  • stargaze
  • waterfalls
  • wildflowers
Florence Lake
Florence Lake

Sierra Forest Road #80 is Kaiser Pass Rd. Starting next to China Peak Ski Resort (formerly Sierra Summit) Take the right turn, near Huntington Lake. Kaiser Pass Road is a paved back country road climbing steeply up into the high country.

Sierra Nevada / Central California

Forests along San Joaquin River:pinetree

Sierra National Forest
Dinkey Lakes Wilderness
Kaiser Wilderness
Ansel Adams Wilderness
John Muir Wilderness

Lakes & Hot Springs along San Joaquin River:boatramp

Florence Lake
Ward Lake
Edison Lake
Mammoth Pool Reservoir
Mono Hot Springs
Redinger Lake
Kerckhoff Lake
Milleron Lake SRA

Campgrounds along San Joaquin River:camp

(Florence Lake)
Jackass Meadow Campground
Ward Lake Campground

Mono Hot Springs Campground

(Edison Lake)
Mono Creek Campground
Vermillion Campground

(Kerckhoff Lake)
Smalley Cove Campground

Mammoth Pool Campground
Sweetwater Campground
Rock Creek Campground
Fish Creek Campground
Redinger Campground

Milleron Lake State Recreation Area

Towns near San Joaquin River:ranger

Bass Lake, CA
Fresno, CA
Clovis, CA
North Fork, CA
Shaver Lake, CA
Huntington Lake, CA
Friant, CA
Auberry, CA
Prather, CA
Alder Springs, CA

USFS

Sierra National Forest Headquarters
1600 Tollhouse Road
Clovis, CA 93611
559-297-0706

snowtree2
Serious, big snow country

snowWINTER ACCESS: Kaiser Pass is one of the few areas to enjoy snowmobiling trails and hot spring soaking. The distance to the springs is about 25 miles, one way and requires either cross country skis, snow shoes or snow mobile to reach.

windshldview
Snow Mobile Trails (January-April)
Rentals @ Rancheria
Rentals @ Rancheria

snowmoSNO MO RENTALS: Snow depth is usually best after the first of the year and last through April. The round trip hot springs (self-guided) excursion can be done w/ a half day rental, but only if you follow some guidelines: Reserve machine @ Rancheria Enterprises, way ahead of time;  Pack a lunch and snacks. Arrive early, gear up, get instructions and have a topo map; Be on the trail and traveling, not stopping on side routes, or play in the meadow or sightsee.

Narrow route continues on passing the meadow and goes for many miles. Trail traverses some steep terrain, with curves and cliffs, especially coming down hill to the river & green metal bridge. Parking spot is before bridge on left side. Hike a short distance, across marshy hillside to reach the 2 primitive hot tubs.

pano5
Panoramic Views
pools
Hot tubs @ Mono Hot Springs, 2001
SJoaqriver
River, right next to hot springs.

hiker

Sierra National Forest Map USDA
Sierra National Forest Map USDA
john muir maps
John Muir Trail Maps
kaiser
Kaiser Wilderness Map


Panamint City California

panahills
Photo Credit © Steve Gardiner

Panamint City, a super remote mining camp on the edge of Death Valley National Park

elevation: 7300′

(Not to be confused w/ Panamint Springs, CA which is NW, along the main Highway 190 on the west side of DVNPhiker

Panamint Valley, Death Valley NP
Inyo County, NE of Ridgecrest
East of Hwy 395, south of Hwy 190

Hard to reach ghost town / abandoned mining camp on the mountainous edge of Death Valley National Park. Access via dirt road and steep trail,  off the paved Trona Wildrose Road. Panamint Valley, west of Death Valley

best time to visit: November – April
Triple digit heat is common in the warmer months, so spring, autumn and winter time is best for this region, but beware of winter storms.snow

Snow is common on  the peaks, and at higher elevations (like this place) during winter (DEC-APRIL). If you see trees on the terrain – joshua trees or pinyon pines, that indicates that snow falls here often enough. Snow is possible around Death Valley, down to 3000′ elev. during coldest of winter storms.

Surprise Canyon Wilderness BLM – Desert mountains, steep rocky terrain w/ peaks and very few trees. Surprise Canyon can become a waterfall, during heavy desert rains. The canyon is the  only access up to reach this hidden town4x4

NO MORE 4×4
Hike or backpack up Surprise Canyon
No 4WD access!
Gotta hike it, on foot now.

This desert destination used to be a very popular off-road trail, where Jeeps would wench and crawl up the narrow, rocky passage; but all that changed with a wilderness designation (1994)  and no longer are machines allowed in this specific canyon area. No vehicles (engines) and no mountain bikes. No wheeled anything.

Off-roading and free-wheelin is still allowed and abundant in neighboring canyons of Nadeau Road & Panamint Valley – Pleasant Canyon, South Park Canyon, Jailhouse Canyon, Goler Wash, Isham Canyon

stack
Smoke stack has collapsed in the recent past, so this structure is no longer standing. Photo Credit © Steve Gardiner

 

area activities & links:Death Valley MAPS

  • lookinN
    Looking north in a neighboring canyon

    Campgrounds nearby –

    Ballarat ghost town has a camper bathroom w/ showers and a fee to go along with that. Panamint Springs has a small motel and a big restaurant, plus a large campground (across the highway) which can accommodate tents, camper trailers and RVs.

    campDeath Valley National Park boundary means developed campgrounds are a few miles away up Wildrose Canyon.

    Primitive Camping around Panamint Valley

    Boon-docking, dispersed, FREE, open camping is allowed almost anywhere in Panamint Valley and the neighboring desert canyons. Campfire permits are required and are available at BLM office in Ridgecrest. There is no firewood collecting around these parts, so bring your own.

    Nadeau Road has abundant flat spots for RVs; Well stocked 4x4s can find secluded camping further up the canyons, but must be a self-sufficient camper and bring water, plenty of ice, extra gasoline, food and firewood.

    More Mining Camps & towns nearby:check

    Ballarat, CA
    Pleasant Canyon
    Randsburg, CA
    Skidoo, DVNP
    Tucki Mine, DVNP

    wildrosedrive
    Wildrose Canyon Road, DVNP

    lodging nearby – lodge

    Locating a ‘real bed’ near this remote desert region will require some driving. The closest option in Panamaint Springs, which only has a few rooms. The next closest, would be Stovepipe Wells inside the National Park.

    mike_up5
    This is the kinda wheeling craziness that goes on in other canyons nearby.
    bestnite
    Camping in Panamint Valley is best in cooler months. Triple digit heat in summers!


Oatman Arizona

Oatman Ghost Town, AZ

established 1902

hotelsign_i If you are ever in Laughlin, Nevada and find yourself in a blank stare, mesmorized at a slot machine in front of your face, wondering ‘why the hell am I here?’ – RUN for the doors & take in the warm desert sun & scenery. There is plenty to do around here for sightseeing & Route 66. Oatman, Arizona is just one favorite option.

A lively, rustic town in the Arizona desert, with a silly commercial twist. Tourist trap to some, but entertaining to others. A meeting spot for travelers, an ideal lunch stop, and conveniently located on paved roads near major highways and close to Interstate 40.

OATMAN town began as a small mining camp and grew into a large town. Many residents that live here today are shop keepers or retirees. Located near the Colorado River, with Laughlin and local indian casinos nearby.

wagon_i

burro
Not-so-wild Burros walk the streets, but are not as tame as you may think. Local vendors sell carrots for feed. Always watch your fingers when feeding animals!

The amount of visitors or tourists can vary depending on time of day, there can be a motorcycle club rolling through, or a meeting of hot rods. Both classic cars and bikes are popular in this desert region. Tour buses and guides also bring their guest here as a good stopping point along their desert whirlwind travels. Holiday weekends & festival weekends can get crowded as well. Centrally located, Oatman sees lots of traffic, so don’t expect a desolate ghost town atmosphere. RV

The town streets have very limited parking & bringing that huge RV up the hill via the narrow road is not recommended. It may be possible to take a shuttle bus from a nearby hotel.

storefront

Souvenir shops, diner, saloon, western town walkways. OATMAN ghost town is super easy to get to. Only 12 miles off the main drag (AZ 95) Mojave Hwy. South of Bullhead City, AZ. Situated up on the Black Mesa above Mojave Valley, Oatman is a modern, developed, touristy ghost town (as ghost town standards go).

sign_iBUT, NO GASOLINE IN OATMAN

elevation: 2710′
population: 128

 Desert mountains, canyons.

SouthEast of Laughlin, NV
Mojave Valley – in Arizona
@ Nevada / California borders
Off Interstate 40, Route 66

diner

When traveling in the deserts, consider more stretch breaks (mini hikes). Short hikes and viewpoints offer time for relaxing, snacking and exercise.

town oatman
Parking is tight on main street, so you might need to walk in from the outskirts of town.


Remember that finding a great camp site before dark is of utmost importance, if you are not hoteling it; but bottoming out your rig, or getting stuck is another kinda adventure. No fun. Have topographic maps of the region you plan to explore, on foot, or off-road.

trainride

area activities:

  • Back Roads
  • Camping
  • Casinos
  • Colorado River
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Museums
  • Jet Ski Rentals
  • Sightseeing
  • Shopping

lodging laughlin vacations

plaque

camptruck

Primitive camping on dirt backroads is plentiful and FREE. SUV back road exploring just north of town. Silver Canyon Wash, a graded, dirt road continues back down to Bulhead City. A decent little loop drive (for those needing to get dusty to have fun). Since we’ve been writing about this road, a huge residential neighborhood has sprouted back here, so watch for private property signs. Don’t camp within eye-sight of a home, or you could have the local Sheriff out to move you (at 11pm)

Camper Trailers & RV campers should be very cautious about venturing too far down any dirt road. Wash outs can change the road annually, so it is best to get out & walk it first. The California Mojave is filled with bitchin back road camp sites, and yes, some are very accessible – even with a huge motorhome.

peak

ghost towns
find more mining camps

 


Calaveras Big Trees

BigTreeMatt

California State Park system manages this Gold Country Sequoia grove, called Calaveras Big Trees

Calaveras State Park
1170 Highway 4
Arnold, CA 95223

4 miles northeast of Arnold on California Highway 4, Ebbetts Pass

elevation: 4800′
6073 acres

Park Hours
Day Use: Sunrise to Sunset

Stanislaus River and Sequoia Groves
+ 2 developed campgrounds

Park Headquarters
209-795-2334

Visitors Center
209-795-3840

Calaveras is a small but popular Sequoia Park in the Gold Rush foothill country of the western Sierra Nevada Mountains. Large Sequoia redwood trees, Visitors Center, nature trails, 2 large campgrounds, Stanislaus River access, hiking trailheads and picnic spots. Summer and weekends are usually busy. Plan your visit on weekdays or off-season for less crowds.

Park is open during the winter, but expect rain or snow. Sledding is allowed in the State Park during decent snowfall. Snow chains or 4WD may be needed to reach this location during winter months.

fenceline

toddlers
Photo Credit © Mike Rother

Calaveras Recreation 

Cabin Rentals & Campgrounds
Calaveras has rustic cabin rentals

Fishing
Stanisalus River
Beaver Creek

Hiking
Nature trails near Sequoia groves; Day  hiking throughout park

stanislaus
Stanislaus NF Map

Horses
May-October
Horseback tours
& stagecoach rides

Mountain Biking
on bike routes and roads only

Winter Skiing
Cottage Springs
nearby

Calaveras Backpacking

footbridge
Photo Credit © Mike Rother

This park has nature trails, hiking trails , dirt roads and bike routes.

No trails in the State Park connect to outer wilderness areas or forest.

For backcountry camping on foot, you’ll need to drive into the National Forest and locate a trailhead. Obtain wilderness permit ahead of time at the USFS ranger station in Hathaway Pines, CA

NFS

Calaveras Ranger Station USFS ranger
5519 Highway 4
Hathaway Pines, CA 95233
Phone: 209-795-1381

Closest wilderness areas to Calaveras SP:

StanislausTopoAtlas
Stanislaus Topo Atlas

Calaveras CampgroundsRV camping Sonora

2 large developed campgrounds with  flush toilets.camp
Campgrounds open March- November. Max RV or trailer = 30′
(camp reservations  accepted)

walk-in camp sites for tents only:
North Grove Environmental
Oak Hollow Environmental North
Oak Hollow Environmental South

Calaveras Car Camping
Calaveras Car Camping @ North Grove

NFS Camp Sites Nearby

Beaver Creek Campground is located on Beaver Creek, on a dirt back road, way back in there. Past the big river. Just beyond the South Grove trailhead. USDA web site states that this camp is currently closed due to tree hazards. Google Maps has it listed, but the gov web site does not. Call local rangers to find out!

Sourgrass Recreation Area is just north of the State Park. Forest Road #52 will lead to numerous river destinations, camp sites, fishing spots and swimming holes.

Wakalu Hep Yo Campground: Primitive camp; 49 camp sites w/ fee. Pack it in, Pack it out. No garbage services. No reservations. First-come, first-serve. aka Wild River Campground

Big Meadow Campground is a large NFS camp, located right on Highway 4, about 20 miles from Arnold, CA; Large forested camp w/ shade, hiking and fishing closely; North fork of Stanislaus River; Autumn colors in the aspen grove; 68 camp sites, some of which can accommodate RVs. Max length = 27′

Stanislaus River

Primitive Camp Sites

No primitive camping inside this state park; Campfires are only permitted inside the 2 developed campgrounds.

WALK-IN environmental campsites are available at both of the State Park campgrounds – North Grove & Oak Hollow.

campfireFor car camping and free of charge camping spots, you’ll need to exit the park and start your searching on the back roads, in the neighboring Stanislaus National Forest. First, get a good topo map and try to pick several spots worth exploring. Obtain a campfire permit from the USFS ranger station (Arnold, CA)

Driving dirt roads and looking for a primitive camp site should be accomplished during daylight hours. Arriving at night could pose serious problems, like getting lost, encountering wildlife, settling on a poor place to camp or worst, sleep in your car. Always plan for plenty of time and daylight to find a good (free) camp.

camptruckAcross the Highway (SR 4) from Calaveras State Park a long dirt road ridge line will lead to Railroad Flat –  Forest Service Rd#5N23, Summit Level Road

Just north of Calaveras State Park is a paved road worth checking out – Board Crossing Road #52 becomes Forest Service Rd #5N02

bigtreesmdw

Calaveras Hiking

State Park has nature trail around Sequoia grove & guided tours in hikersummer. Day hiking trails throughout the park and fishing trails along the river.

swat
Did we mention that you should always bring the mosquito repellant?

Grove Hike
Hiking around the North Grove

more public lands nearby –
BLM Gold Country
USDA Stanislaus National Forest

Nearby towns w/ lodging:

Angels Camp, CA
Arnold, CA
Dorrington, CA
Murphys, CA
Sonora, CA


Stanislaus River California

stanislaus
Stanislaus River, Sonora Pass

Stanislaus River

Central Sierra Nevada Mountains
Sonora Pass CA 108 / Ebbetts Pass CA 4
Stanislaus National Forest

The Sierra Nevada mountain route that usually closes first and opens last, due to snow and rock slides . Sonora Pass snow is epic, but often unaccessible most of the year. Snow melt can be slow and this route may not open by until mid-summer. (Quite typical on this highway). Check Cal Trans Hwy Reports. Summer and early Autumn is the time to visit this region, so plan accordingly.

Stanislaus National Forest

This Big Sierra River is so far reaching that it covers areas from two different Wilderness Areas and two Sierra highway systems: Sonora Pass 108 & Ebbetts Pass Hwy 4.

The North Fork of Stanislaus River starts up at Highland Creek (below Highland Lakes) and parallels the Ebbetts Pass pavement westward down the mountain. Numerous lakes and parks along this steep northern fork, all lined with impressive granite rock. Spicer Reservoir, Elephant Rock, Summit LakeCalaveras Big Trees State Park and Stanislaus National Forest.

Middle Fork of Stanislaus River, overview

  • Clark Fork flowing from the Dardanelles in Carson Peak Wilderness, become the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. Numerous Campgrounds, RV camps, horse camps along Clark Fork Road. California Highway 108 may still have  a real old fashioned pay phone at this intersection. Go look.
  • Kennedy Creek comes in from the south side of the highway and creates Kennedy Meadows, a horse packing ranch; Not to be confused with the Kern Kennedy Meadows, way down south.
  • Eagle Creek and Kennedy, plus the Clark Fork are the main headwaters to Stanislaus River making up the Middle fork of this river. Traveling southwest thru the forest, with numerous Reservoirs and plenty of campgrounds.

Middle Fork comes together near the Fence Creek Campground @ Hwy 108. Flowing downhill to join Donnell Lake, then 10 miles of ‘really rugged wild river’ down to Beardsley Lake, then to Sand Bar Flat Campground further below, and on towards the county line @ Calaveras.

South Fork Stanislaus, the shortest of the forks, flows down from Pinecrest Lake, Dodge Ridge Ski Resort and the Emigrant Wilderness Area. Then hits Lyons Reservoir (4228′ elev) near the community of Long Barn, CA Italian Bar brings it right down to Historical Gold Camp, Columbia.

Eventually the massive Stanislaus River ends up in the San Joaquin (Central) Valley, like most of the Western Sierra rivers do, growing the food crops for all. California is a huge agriculture state.

volcanomdws
Volcanic Dardanelles

Backpacking Big Wilderness 

With Wilderness making up the majority of the landscape around these river canyons , there is ample opportunity for day hiking, creek fishing and backpacking adventures. May as well plan for a full week off of work, if you wanna explore in some depth. Many trailheads have small parking lots located on dirt roads, which are usually passenger car accessible.

Carson Iceberg Wilderness
Emigrant Wilderness

pctPCT = The Pacific Crest hiking trail cuts right across the tallest Sierra Nevada mountain pass – Sonora Pass 108 @ 9625′ elev.

Black Bears are common in this region and several areas have bear boxes for proper food storage. If not available, you’ll need a bear canister or learn to properly hang your food in a tree.

Winter closures due to deep snow is common more than half the year up here. Check Cal Trans for highway conditions and w/ local rangers to find out what back roads are open, and which ones are too muddy. 4WD may be needed to reach certain destinations, if snow & mud are still present. Winter SNOW CAN LAST UP HERE: on the peaks all summer long; And snow can start falling as early as October, so know the forecast before you set out on a major backcountry trip.

Wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in the backcountry. Stop by a ranger station to get the latest details before your big trek into the woods. USFS web sites are not always so up-to-date. A phone call or personal visit may be needed to get accurate info.

hikerHiking Trailheads:

PCT Sonora Pass
Seven Pines
Kennedy Meadows
Columns of the Giants
Clarks Fork
Iceberg Meadow
Donnell Vista Point
Wheats Meadow
County Line
Bummers Flat
Sand Bar Flat

Stanislaus Ranger Stations ranger

Stanislaus Forest Headquarters
19777 Greenley Road
Gold Country @ Hwy 49
Sonora, CA 95370
209-532-3671ranger

Summit Ranger District
#1 Pinecrest Lake Road
Highway 108 (Sonora Pass)
Pinecrest, CA 95364
209-965-3434

Calaveras Ranger District
5519 Highway 4 (Ebbetts Pass)
Hathaway Pines, CA 95233
209-795-1381

USFS @ Highway 4
Mi-Wuk Village, CA
[CLOSED to PUBLIC]

SonoraHwy
Massive Granite, California Hwy 108 – West Sonora Pass

River Rafting on the Stanislaus River

Sierra
Stanislaus Map

Outdoor Recreation:

  • Backpacking
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Kayaking
  • Mountaineering
  • Off-Roading
  • River Rafting
  • Rock Climbing
  • Snow Skiing
  • Stargazingsnow
  • Wilderness
  • Wildflowers

Forest & Parks along this River:

icebergmdw
Horse Camping @ Iceberg Meadow, Clark’s Fork

Sierra Mountain Lodging

lodge

Sonora, CA
Twain Harte
Pinecrest
Dardanelle
Lake Alpine
Arnold, CA
Murphys, CA

Motel Rooms
Motel Rooms @ Dardanelle, CA

Best CampsBest Camps are always on the Back Roads

USFS

NFS Campgrounds along this River 

North fork of Stanislaus

Highland Lakes Campground
Sour Grass Campground
Spicer Reservoir Campground

Middle Fork of Stanislaus

campBoulder Flat Campground
Brighten Flat Campground
Dardanelle Campground
Pigeon Flat Campground
Eureka Valley Campground
Baker Campground
Deadman Campground
Clark Fork Horse Camp
Clark Fork Campground
Fence Creek Campground
Sand Flat Campground
Cascade Creek Campground
Sand Bar Flat Campground

South Fork of Stanislaus

Fraser Flat Campground
Pinecrest Lake Campground

Highland Lake
Highland Lakes

Dispersed Camping Mid-Sierra

The Wilderness boundaries on each side of the pavement (CA 108) along with giant granite walls, steep cliffs, boulders, wild raging rivers and dense forests make dirt road accessibility somewhat limited along the Sonora Pass Highway. Ebbetts (CA 4) has more dirt road accessibility, especially beyond Beardsley Lake.

County Line Road #6N06 will take you past a developed NFS Camp called Fence Creek  Campground. The dirt road climbs into the forest meadows, with 2 trailheads to be found within a few miles.  Horse Corral at Wheats Meadow. Numerous primitive campsites for backpackers, car campers, horse campers. Lush meadows, hidden forests, boulder outcroppings, dead end roads.

Back behind Pinecrest Lake & Dodge Ridge Ski are several dirt road loops w/ primitive camping at
Bell Meadow 
Crabtree

campfireCampfire permits are Required for camping outside of developed NFS campgrounds. Obtain a free campfire permit before you build a fire. Have a bucket and shovel at camp, always; attend the fire at all times.

Levitt Lake @ 9556′ elev, on the eastern slope of Sonora Pass has rocky road to wonderful scenery. Mid summer snow melt, so bring the good jacket – even in summer. High elevation camping, hiking, kayaking; rock scrambling at tree line. This alpine lake best reached with high clearance vehicle.

camptruck

Union, Utica, and Spicer Reservoirs have a few dirt roads to explore off Spicer Rd #7N01, with abundant trails for hiking and mountain biking.  Tons of firewood, free for the cutting. Bring your saw!

Kayaking and canoeing are popular at both Union and Utica. Dirt road access. No motors on lake. FREE LAKE CAMP: Shoreline camping is possible, but summer crowds  – can get downright insane. Nothing like a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere. Big families camping out all week long w/ all their toys, tents, multiple vehicles. Try to visit in the off-season for the best experience at these 2 lovely lakes. Spicer has developed campgrounds w/ fees, but has real boat ramps and can also  accommodate RV campers.

Jeep Roads Sierra

OHV Trails Stanislaus 

4x44×4 camps and dirt bike trails can be found at Niagra Creek, on the south side of Highway 108, before Clarks Fork.

Union Reservoir has a popular 4WD trail that connects up to Lake Alpine @ Ebbetts Pass.

BACK ROADS TIP
Regular dirt roads can become “4WD needed” with any decent amount of snow or heavy rains, especially on the steeper sections. Remember: No guard rails on the dirt roads. If you plan to camp ‘way back in there, in  the boonies’ – make sure you know the weather forecast and have a vehicle that can get out; no matter how sloppy the road gets. Thunderstorms are possible. Snow is 75% of the year.

BridgeSonora

Towns along Stanislaus River:

RV

StanislausTopoAtlas
Stanislaus Topo Atlas

Maps on Stanislaus:

Stanislaus National Forest Map USDA
Stanislaus Topo Atlas USDA
Carson Iceberg Wilderness Map USDA
Carson Emigrant NatGeo Map
Emigrant Wilderness Maps

Restrooms
Restrooms w/ Showers @ Dardanelle, CA

Links about Stanislaus River:

USFS – North Fork Stanislaus RiverUS Army Corp of Engineers: Stanislaus River Parks
Stanislaus River Salmon Festival
Lower Stanislaus River Fly Fishing

Stanislaus River Rafting
Stanislaus River – Class 3 Rapids @ Camp 9
DFG – Stanislaus River Report

Sonora Back Roads
Sonora Back Roads


Kern River California

mistykern
Lower Kern River Wildflowers in April

Kern River Recreation 

Due east of Bakersfield, CA the Kern Canyon’s massive rock opens to the west with big water. CA 178 Narrow 2-lane highway, lined by tall rock walls, cliffs, curves, few pull-outs and less guardrails. Geologically, the drive is impressive entering the canyon.

A large sign with death toll looms at the entrance, warning you to stay out and stay alive.

The Kern River is a southern flow, draining much of the southern mountains in the Sierra Nevada, including much Mount Whitney snow melt.  Lake Isabella redirects the river westward to the Central Valley, so farmers can grow orchards of fruit. Citrus blossom fragrance fills the air on warm evenings, so be prepared to roll down the windows as you exit suburbia.

hobocamp

Kern County: Southern Sierra Nevada mountains river canyon, this prized recreation destination is the main attraction for the entire county. Lake levels at Isabella are often low, so know before you go w/ the Dam Task Force web page link and info.

The few oak & pines trees around this river may be the only shade you will find in the summer on the southern end, and this place can get triple digit hot in summer months (so be forewarned). A refreshing dip in the cool Kern River is what you really seek, but this is a real river, a fast river, a dangerous white water river – so take extreme precautions around this river w/ life jackets. Hundreds have died already, as the sign tells us so. Rafters consider whitewater rating a Class V,  for most of the lower Kern section.kernriver3_i

Upper Kern: Main fork of the Kern River is situated along the Rincon Fault line, which become the granite gorge of Kern River Canyon further north; the initial snowmelt and headwaters are located deep in backcountry of the Golden Trout Wilderness. All draining the backside of Mount Whitney and the Great Western Divide.

raftkern

This larger,  main river fork parallels the Sierra Hwy north of Kernville, CA with many miles of epic scenery. Plenty of camping for all types, fishing, tubing, rafting, kayaking, mountain biking and backpackers trailheads.

NFS Kern Campgrounds; FREE CAMPING @ Kern Flats, also used as picnic areas and raft launch spots.

South fork of the Kern River begins up in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Tulare County. Eastern Sierra @ Olancha Peak. Monache Meadows, Inyo National Forest. The river traverses southward over the Kern plateau, Kennedy Meadows, Dome Land Wilderness. Chimney Peak Wilderness,  Long Valley Campground. At Pilot Knob (6200′ elev) the South Kern turns west to join Lake Isabella.

Lower Kern: West of Lake Isabella, the river continues tumbling down the rocky, oak hills below the Greenhorn Mountains and eventually ends up at Lake Ming, or downtown Bako.

Little Kern River: a smaller, western fork coming down from Quinn Peak (10,168′ elev) on the Great Western Divide in the Golden Trout Wilderness. It joins at the Forks of the Kern near Jerky Meadow.

Lake Isabella
Lake Isabella @ Kern Canyon

Kern River Canyon

The whole Kern Canyon region is part of Sequoia National Forest and always under a wildfire threat in the latter part of the year. Kern River is very popular with city dwellers seeking big Sierra water that is close to SoCal.

Wildflowers are incredible in Kern County overall, and the Kern Canyon is no exception. Lower Kern blooms earlier than Upper Kern. Old Kern Canyon Road is a scenic drive that parallels the highway where you can find flora blooming March – May. Above Kernville the wildflower showing may be short, but sweet. Large river Lupine can be found at almost every campground, while Golden Poppies and Owls Clover line meadows near the main highway.

owls clover kern
Upper Kern Wildflowers – Owls Clover

SEQUOIA kern map

 

Sequoia National Forest
Lake Isabella
USFS Headquarters ranger

Ranger Station
760-379-5236

Backpacking & Hiking Kern Canyon

A variety of terrain in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains will have you puzzled where to start. From cedar forests to Sequoia groves, mountain peaks to fishing creeks, granite domes to granite gorges, wildflowers to waterfalls, hot springs to hot summers, Kern County has it.

Winter backpacking is quite popular here, as snow levels do not drop as drastically as in other mountain locations. Elevations from 1000′ – 4000′ are often ideal for winter hiking trips. Summer is usually best in the higher elevations, above 5000′

Wilderness permits are required for backcountry overnight stays.

Kern Hiking trailheadshiker

PCT HIKING TRAIL – The Pacific Crest Trail passes over the Kern Plateau from Walker Pass @ 178 to Kennedy Meadows @ J41.

pct

trail steps

All Kern Campgrounds

Sequoia NF, BLM & Private Camps

On Kern River; North of Lake Isabellacamp

HEADQUARTERS Campground
CAMP 3 Campground
HOSPITAL FLAT Campground
GOLD LEDGE Campground
FAIRVIEW Campground
FRANDY Campground
Camp Kernville

On Kern River; West of Lake Isabella

KEYESVILLE Camping
KERN BLM Camping & OHV
HOBO Campground (CLOSED 2018-2019)
SANDY FLAT Campground

On or Near Lake Isabella

LIVE OAK Campground
TILLIE CREEK Campground
BOULDER GULCH Campground
CAMP 9 Campground
HUNGRY GULCH Camp
OLD ISABELLA Camping
PIONEER POINT Campground
PARADISE COVE Camping
SOUTH FORK Camping
Lake Isabella RV Resort
Lake Isabella Kern River KOA

rafterspaddling_i

More on Kern Canyon Camping

campchef

open campingFree camping, boondocking and primitive camping options are found near small streams and along the backroads of the neighboring Sequoia National Forest areas. Most secluded camps can be found 25+ miles north of Kernville, well away from the Kern River on the feeder creeks that flow into the big river. Dirt road driving may be required to find the most secluded camp spot. See more on Sequoia dispersed camping on back roads.

campfireCampfire Permits are required for back roads primitive camping in this tinder-box region. More often than not, fire restrictions prohibit campfires during dry conditions. Hot summers, even lasting well into autumn. Obtain a free fire permit online or from the local rangers and be sure to find out if any restrictions are currently in place. USFS Ranger stations are located in downtown Kernville and at Lake Isabella. kerncampground

Towns along Kern River:

kernclok

rustic lodging near Kern River Canyon

TH_GoldenTroutSQ
Golden Trout Trail Map

Maps for Kern Canyon Region