Tag Archives: rivers

Feather River California

riverfromtrail
Middle Fork of the Feather River, North Sierra Nevada

All the Feather Rivers in California

Northern California’s impressive Feather River Watershed is massive and drains the lower half of snowy Mount Lassen @ 10,457′ elevation. The Plumas National Forest and Lassen Forest region is where the Sierra Nevada granite meets the volcanic rock of the Cascade mountain range.

RECORD RAINS:umbrella

In most recent times, 2017 was the wettest year on record for California. The Feather River Watershed recorded more water than any other year, based on 112 years of hydrology records.

Lake Oroville
Lake Oroville, California
Fall colors in Berry Creek, CA
Fall colors in Berry Creek, CA
half-full-lake
Lake Oroville Half Full in 2015

Spanning three counties, four big river forks from the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains, to the foothills @ Lake Oroville, CA
Butte County
Plumas County
Lassen County

West Branch (Paradise, CA)
North Feather (Hwy 70 Beldon)
Middle Feather (Berry Creek, CA)
South Feather (LaPorte, CA)

Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains meet the Cascade Range @ Lassen

The North Feather runs along Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon with railways, tunnels and trestles traversing the giant gorge. This granite lined canyon is known as the “stairway to power” – water flows stepping down the mountain from numerous reservoirs. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) operate a series of 9 power plants all interconnected – producing electric power (and in rare occasions, wildfires)canoe

The East Branch of the North Feather River comes out of the American Valley near Quincy, CA

The West Branch of the North Feather River flows south down from “the ridge” – a forested, volcanic ridge line descending from Mount Lassen. West branch flows directly into Lake Oroville at Lime Saddle (Marina). This residential area is currently off limits to tourists, as it recovers from the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California history. The 2018 #CampFire destroyed most of the town and forests of Paradise, Lake Concow, and Yankee Hill. The incident made national news in November, as the worst wildfire season dragged well into autumn.

West Branch
West Branch near Magalia, N of Paradise, CA

The South Fork of the Feather River and its reservoirs, are managed by the South Feather Power Project, consisting of 5 lakes, 4 power plants, and 3 diversion dams. The closest paved road to this region would be La Porte Road, off of Highway 70 between Gridley & Marysville, CA

curtainfalls
Curtain Falls on Dome Trail Hike

DOME TRAIL 3

hiker

The Middle Feather, or Middle Fork of the Feather, is a beautiful wild and scenic river for 78 miles, with granite walls, domes and few trails or roads. Only 2 campgrounds – Milsap Bar and Little North Fork, are well worth the journey.

curtainfalls
Curtain Falls on the Dome Trail Hike

Bald Rock Hiking Trail, Berry Creek, CA

baldrockforest
Atop Bald Rock

EAST PLUMAS CO. Above the lumber & rail town of Quincy, Lake Davis and Frenchman Reservoir are both managed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Excellent mountain biking, stargazing and camping at both locations. NFS Campgrounds w/ fee.

Foreman Creek @ Lake Orville, maxed out. Feb 2017

North Sierra Waters:
via OROVILLE Reservoir
Lake Oroville

All this water listed above is the massive Feather River Watershed. Like a thousand fine hairs that make up a bird feather, there are over 4,500 miles of mountain streams and rivers feeding the bigger Reservoir system below. Dam run by DWR (Department of Water and Power) at the State Recreation Area known as Lake Oroville SRAmarina

  • boating
  • camping
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • houseboats
  • kayaking
  • watercraft

Feather River has always been prone to flooding and wild river swings. All that Mount Lassen snowmelt needs to be managed in harmony with one another, so destructive floods do not ruin the agriculture and cities of the valley. Lake Oroville is the place; they try to control these river flows that are headed down to the Sacramento Valley. Oroville Dam was built in 1967. In 2017, a record rainfall winter in California, the Oroville dam showed major signs of stress with massive amounts of incoming water. Several recently published books tell the story in greater detail.

Fisherman in the Thermalito Afterbay outlet, Oroville, California

Thermalito, California

Below Lake Oroville, 2 giant warming ponds Thermalito Forebay & Thermalito Afterbay – built to control irrigation water and also heat the cold river water for the fish downstreamfish

CA SR 162 – West Highway 162: the farming and residential areas of Thermalito & Biggs are held together by rock levees, all running right next to Highway 99. Diversion drainage leads out of Lake Orovillle above  to the large inland bays – with river parks and salmon fish hatchery in historic, downtown Oroville. Wildlife viewing , kayaking, boating, fishing. Minimal camping at this area. Big rigs may be seen parked along this stretch of highway, due to its proximity to Hwy 99

RV park in Gridley, CA
Loafer Creek Campground on Hwy 162 @ Lake Oroville SRA

The Feather River flows south and merges with the Yuba River at Marysville & Yuba City, before joining the massive Sacramento River coming from the far north.

Eventually entering the California Delta south of Sacramento, CA

northforkfeather
North Feather, known as the “Stairway to Power” due to hydro-electric dams along this stretch.

camp  camptruck

Camping around the Feather River

NORTH FORK:

MIDDLE FORK:

SOUTH FORK:

challenge

challengePO
Small towns are primarily residential on the South Fork – Challenge, CA

horseback

Lassen National Park

 

USFS
Lassen National Forest
Plumas National Forest

maps of the Feather River regiondirtbikes

Middle Fork Feather Topo Map
Plumas National Forest Map
Lassen National Forest Map
Bucks Lake Wilderness Map
Ishi Wilderness Map
Lassen Forest Topo Atlas
Lassen Park Map NatGeo
PCT Map #5 North Sierra

Lassen Books

 

funkybridge
Best one lane bridge yet!
QueenCampsites
Queen Lily Campsites
mellownorth
Mellow North Fork, via Caribou Road

Grand-eous ideas, from white men who conquered this land. The scouts on horseback mapped the canyons w/ primitive tools; the with dynamite and danger, they built a railroad through in 1850.

Hydro-electric power systems  on the Feather, were constructed between 1908-1961. Native lands and tribal communities have been treated as sacrifice zones for national priorities of irrigation, flood control, and hydroelectric development.

Recent upgrades to Oroville Dam have been completed, although a lot of work still goes on around the Feather region due to wildfire debris, tree trimming, fire clearance, upgrades to power lines, and structural improvements.

Hiking trails, dirt roads  and highways may be re-routed, inaccessible or closed due to construction, landslides, rock slides or utility work. Call local rangers for up to date info.

pinetree

Towns near the Feather River –

(in alphabetical order)

hiker

mountains

Wikipedia Links – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feather_River

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Oroville

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_North_Fork_Feather_River_Project


Mountain Home Sequoia

Mountain Home State Forest
Mountain Home Sequoias

mtnhome

North of the Giant Sequoia , above the Western Divide Highway (CA 190) sits a little known Sequoia Park called Mountain Home. This lush forested area separates the Sequoia National Park (to the north) from the Giant Sequoia National Monument  (to the south).

Mountain Home is just up the mountain from the West Sierra river town of Springville, CA

horseback

Western Sierra Nevada

In part of the vast Sequoia National Forest, lies a hidden gem of State Forest land worth visiting. Waterfalls, the Tule River, fishing ponds, campgrounds and easy access to Golden Trout Wilderness trails.

MHDSF

The official name of this forest: Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest is quite a mouth full, so most just call it “Mountain Home”. In short MHDSF is managed by Cal-Fire and the California State Park system.

the Largest old growth Sequoias in the state!

Numerous awesome Campgrounds can be found near the Sequoia groves, the Tule River, hiking trailheads, fishing, waterfalls. Balch Park is the County Park, listed below.

    • Sequoia Backpacking
    • Sequoia Backroads
    • Sequoia Campgrounds
    • Sequoia Groves
    • Fishing Pond
    • Hiking Trails
    • Horseback Trails
    • Mountain Biking
    • Tule River
    • Waterfalls
    • Wilderness
    • Wildflowers

Balch Park Sequoia
located within the Mountain Home State Forest is a popular destination for the locals and families. Balch Park Campground is paved and RV accessible. 71 campsites, on first come basis.

fishin
Small pond fishing near Balch Park

Meadows, mountain peaks, streams, waterfalls, huge granite rocks & cliffs are all over. Plus some secluded groves of Giant Sequoia trees. Mosquitos can be annoying in these parts, so bring the chemical warfare and the screen room tent.snow

Roads Open: May – October
Forest mountain roads close annually, due to winter snow

meadows

SEQUOIA_map
SEQUOIA NF MAP

Area activities include:

Backpacking
Back Road Exploration
Campground Camping
Fishing
Hiking
Horseback Riding
Meadows
Mountain Biking
Picnic
Sequoia Groves
Swimming Holes
Tule River (North Fork)
Golden Trout Wilderness

USDA Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are many dirt roads & numerous trails. Minimal cell phone signal inside these dense forests and large granite river canyons. GPS even has trouble getting connected, due to the immense canopy of trees.

Mountain Home Backpacking

hikerShake Camp – Best hiking trail access to Golden Trout Wilderness

In the backcountry, tent camping is allowed any place on soil 100 feet from trail or water. No camping on meadows. Ground fires are very allowed with fire permit. Use existing camp site when available. Check with the correct ranger district for all back country camping rules. Wilderness permits are needed for backpackers and horse packers staying overnight in the wilderness area.

Local Ranger Stations:

TH_GoldenTroutSQ
Golden Trout Trail Maps

Sequoia USFS Headquarters
Porterville, CA
559-784-1500

Tule River Ranger District
Springville, CA
559-539-2607

Mountain Home Backroads

Dirt back roads are so narrow they cannot accommodate the large motorhome or RV traveler.  Trucks pulling horse trailers are common, with very few options for a pull-out to pass.

This forested area is filled with old logging roads that lead to lush Sequoia groves & meadows.  The whole network of forest roads back here either –  loop back to each other, or deal end, often at a trailhead parking area. No roads connect through to any other portion of the Sierra range. Golden Trout Wilderness is a road-less area of the Southern Sierra Nevada.

Signs Not Reflective

The old skool, painted, wooden road signs do not READ well at night, so avoid arriving in the dark.

When it’s dark outside, it is best to STOP: Shut off the vehicle, get out and take a stretch break,  find the north star; Get your bearing straight, look at the real map with a flashlight – before driving miles to an unknown destination, just to turn around.

Be very aware of the Forest Service signage, use your trip meter for clocking mileage. Have a good map on hand. See MAP ABOVE.  It is very easy to get lost in this forest and you may end up driving for hours, maybe in circles. I swear this intersection looks familiar.

Road Signs

Mountain Home Campgrounds 

camp

Balch and Frazier are the two larger, developed campgrounds; all others are smaller camps w/ primitive facilities.

NOTE: all the Campgrounds in this forest now charge an overnight fee for camping. (Decades ago they were free, but not anymore.)

Balch Park Campground
Frazier Mill Campground
Hedrick Pond Camp

Hidden Falls Campground
Moses Gulch Campground
Shake Camp

campground elev. spots toilet water nearby comments
Moses Gulch 5500′ 10 pit river Tule River no trailers
Hidden Falls 6150′ 8 pit river Tule River no trailers
Shake Camp 6490′ 11 pit piped Golden Trout
Wilderness
backpack & horse trailhead
Hedrick Pond 6200′ 14 vault piped fishing pond RV ok; no hookups
Frazier Mill 6150′ 46 pit piped Sequoia Grove RV ok; no hookups
Balch Park 6000′ 71 flush piped fishing pond Tulare County Park

Frasier Mill Campground is spelled w/ a Z (like Frazier)on many printed maps and inside some camping books, but the proper spelling (on a sign at the campground) is actually Frasier w/ an S. This camp is located at the site of an old lumber mill. Meadows, trailheads, picnic areas, parking.

Decent signage leads to smaller, secluded campgrounds and hiking trail heads. Dirt road driving will be required. See BACKROADS (above heading) for tips on back road driving and night time arrivals.

Plenty of trails for horses back in these parts, most of them lead to Golden Trout Wilderness. Watch out for oncoming vehicles with horse trailers!

No primitive camping outside of developed campgrounds. Due to fire dangers around these majestic Sequoia trees. You must camp within the designated campground, or HOOF IT into the the wilderness for backpacking.

Mountain Home Hiking

hikerNumerous trails around each campground area will lead to the waters edge @ Tule River; into the Golden Trout Wilderness (for longer day hikes), along creeks w/ wildflowers, near lush meadows or through Giant Sequoia Groves.

Deer Ridge & Bogus Meadow Hike

Mountain Home Biking

Bikes are limited to existing paved and dirt roads; NO SINGLE TRACK trails for mountain bikers – due to the fragile, shallow roots of Sequoia groves, and the direct access to Wilderness.  NO bikes in the Golden Trout Wild!

coldriver
Cold Swimming Hole

mtnhomesign

Nearby towns:

Camp Nelson, CA
Ponderosa, CA
Porterville, CA
Springville, CA



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


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


North Bloomfield

North Bloomfield

The remote town of North Bloomfield is part of Malakoff Diggins State Park, an old mining operation inside of a dense forest. Located in Northern Gold Country, North of Nevada City, CA – the Yuba River region attracts tourists and locals alike. Far enough off the beaten path, that many do not make the extra trek, more than a dozen miles off NB Highway 49. Save it for next time and decades will pass.

Autumn colors can start as early as September and last through October. Maple trees line the small Main Street, turning orange, then a brilliant red during fall.

Antique buildings w/ furnishings. A graveyard, schoolhouse, viewpoints w/ benches. Impressive trees and old shacks. Hiking trails throughout the park.

Ranger TourState Park w/ ranger lead tours, daily. Cabins, saloons, museums, a picnic park, a few private homes, and a campground, (reservations recommended).

Back Road NB

This region was a hydraulic mining camp from 1852 to 1884, until it was shut down by environmental laws… the first environmental law in California. The rocky debris and silt washing down river was so excessive, that orchards and towns down stream were being buried and many ruined.

A few full time residents still live in this tiny mountain community called North Bloomfield; please respect their privacy as their homes are located right on Main Street

North Bloomfield
is also known as Humbug City

elevation 3500′
Tahoe National Forest

Antique Buildings
Cabin Rentals
Campground (open May-November)
Museum
Picnic Park
Hiking Trails
Old Schoolhouse
Graveyard

NBschoolhouse

North Bloomfield

North Bloomfield Road (the long way) leaves Nevada City, paved and it winds through a neighborhood, then crosses the river at Edwards Crossing, hairy one lane bridge built before 1900. Road becomes dirt and steep, dusty in certain sections. Camper vans okay, but no camper trailer or RVs!

1 mile uphill, a BLM Campground for South Yuba River is a cheap, small campground w/ vault toilets. Left loop is ideal, but no campsites are located “on the river”. Near the river, but still a really steep hike.

The long dirt road of North Bloom Field continues northbound, past the campground up into the pine forest. Out to the meadows that used to be Lake City, then onward, veering right to the State Park boundary.

Hydraulic Mining Weapon

Tyler Foote Road (the paved way), also known as Tyler-Foote Crossing Road and Tyler-Foote Xing Rd. Leaving Nevada City on Highway 49, northbound many miles. Road is paved the whole way and required for those driving RVs or motorhomes.

Download PDF Map

nearby towns:
Alleghany, CA
Camptonville, CA
Downieville, CA
Graniteville, CA
Nevada City, CA
New Bullards Bar Reservoir
North San Juan, CA
Sierra City, CA
Washington Ridge