However – Spring and Autumn are much shorter, as rapid swings in rain and drought (weather related events) often dominate the West Coast region.
And by the way, Earthquake Season is any time of year.
Camping Season can be all year long in California, where we often have mild winters, sometimes without much precipitation.
Southern California has camping and hiking all the time, in every area. Deserts are a favorite camp destination in the winter months, usually December thru March. Find more info on Desert Camping. See also, a page on Winter Camping.
The Central Coast and Central Valley regions often have campgrounds available and open year-round. Northern California and the Sierra Nevada mountains get most of the real wet weather, between November and April, so campgrounds usually close (for half the year) depending on weather conditions.
Often the higher elevations of California (5000’+) can only be accessed by vehicle during summer months. Deep snowpack means paved roads are usually closed for the majority of the year (Nov-May) and sometimes, during a ‘good’ winter, the main Sierra highway routes do not open up to public access until June or July. Read more on Sierra Road Conditions.
You’ll often hear city folks or gay guys exclaim ” Geesh. I look like hell” – which is usually followed by, “but I am having such a good time this weekend”.
Yep, I hear ya sister. Who cares what you look like! As long as you are enjoying nature & breathing fresh air, that’s all that matters. Bonding with the Earth is something most of us all crave, at one level or another. We’re here to help make that experience better. Soul searching solo camp-out, group camping at a campground w/ reservations or just a weekend fishing in a remote wilderness, via backpack.
be bear aware
blisters – feet (see below)
breath & teeth
dry eyes & irritation
dry skin & bug bites
The vision of a typical “Mountain Man” has changed drastically in the last several decades. Lumbersexual, anyone?Pioneer homesteaders, Trappers, Hunters, Fishermen are rare, mostly found in mountain regions, like Sierra Nevada or Northern California. Chainsaws and all.
Grizzly Adams – big, rugged guy with long hair, un-shaven, dry skin & maybe even white cracked lips. Now-a-days it’s all about the comfort, convenience and healthy choices. The city-life and polished look will not be practical, nor last very long outside in the elements.
Media can glorify outdoor recreation, and feature extreme examples of super fit people, or once-in-a-lifetme adventures. It misleads the general public into a ‘Barbie style vision’ of what back country, wilderness & camping will be like.
Mainstream news about camping and hiking is often BAD news of river drownings, lost hikers, bad accidents and avalanches. Rarely will they focus on the positives of enjoying the outdoors. Remember, THEY want you indoors, glued to the tube and sucking up all that advertising!
UNLESS YOUR FAMILY CAMPED while growing up, most of us get “into the outdoors” with little to no education on the wild. The Wilderness: areas without electricity, spotty cell phone coverage, and no medical facilities. There is a lot to learn, if you want to actually enjoy yourself outdoors, be well fed, comfortable, get good sleep – and not get lost.
Orienteering (using a real compass) and topographic map reading are skills worth exploring. Campfires and cooking over the fire may interest you, if you plan to spend large amounts of time outdoors.
BATHING outdoors? When a cold creek is not readily available, then search for piped water and a spigot. Or pack your own solar shower, designed for campers in mind. Only certain campgrounds have showers available and many will require coins (quarters) to operate.
The topic of ‘outdoor hygiene’ rarely, if ever, comes up in camping conversations. This is what we’re here for. To answer all them embarrassing questions you never had the nerve to ask.
We’ve got the remedies for some physical discomforts many experience while enjoying life outdoors. In the last several years, with new products surfacing daily, there is no excuse not to be comfortable out in the wild. Much of this technique is simply being informed or packing well. Anyone can take advantage of enjoying the mother nature… comfortably & prepared.
< start here >
Choose a Gender (if this is impossible task, then maybe camping isn’t a good fit for ya)
Blisters on feet is usually due to friction, heat and moisture. Sweat makes the pore of your skin open up and expand. That along with hot temperatures, tight shoes or hiking boots and mileage, means you must stop and take more breaks.
Shoe/boot laces should be snug, but not too tight.
Take breaks and remove your shoes/boots – once per hour if needed. Pace yourself; know your limits on hiking distances. Plan to be setting a camp, or back at the car before dark.
Dipping your feet into a cold mountain stream is quite refreshing and can add pleasure to your day. Refilling water jugs while you’re at it. Dry feet thoroughly before putting socks back on. Remember the wilderness goal is not always to reach the destination, but to have a great time outdoors. A rewarding experience, but worn out. When feet hurt or become blistered, the fun becomes physical pain.
Do not hike miles in sport sandals or flips flops. You can ruin your arches and injure your feet, especially on granite mountain trails. Sandals are great around water, lounging at camp or walking to the outhouse, but consider wearing good shoes if you plan to walk or hike any significant distance.
New footwear is notorious for creating blisters. Best to ‘break in’ your new shoes or boots on local trails, close to home. Wear them to work, wear them around town – so your foot can fit the boot, well before you try to “hike” in them.
Buying cheap hiking boots may have you swearing out on the trail, so bring backup shoes, just in case. While we’ve found top brand name (expensive) leather hiking boots failing faster than anticipated, we like the abundant shoe options now – trail runners, trekking boots and snow boots.
Backpackers and avid day hikers like to carry this thin, soft fabric. A sticker side w/ mole skin on one side. You might carry it for years, before needing it. Nice to have, cheap, thin and lightweight.
Clean and dry area around the blister.
With scissors, cut a piece of moleskin larger than your blister. *
Fold moleskin in half, adhesive side down.
Using blister as a reference; cut a semi-circle out of the center of the folded end of the moleskin. Result should be a square piece of moleskin with a hole in the center.
Remove adhesive backing and place over your blister, aligning your blister with the hole you made. The circle should completely surround blister without touching its edges.
You may need to double up if the blister is big. Mole foam is also available.
* Pre-cut sizes to avoid hiking w/ scissors.
TWO PAIR O SOCKS
Thinner nylon pair of sock worn against your skin can help with friction. Wear a thick or thin pair of cotton or wool socks, as the outside layer. Most of the friction will now be in between these sock layers.
Athlete’s foot, blisters, sun burn, foot powders, bee sting or injury; there are numerous cautions to consider. Feet are the wheels for your body. They get you to and from; feet are very important for your survival. Taking care of them is key, especially when outdoors.
Eating when away from home often means expensive dinners out. But eating well, usually means cooking it yourself. If budget travel is key, then you will need at bare minimum – a cooler, otherwise known as an “ice chest” for perishable food.
A heat source for cooking food is another item to consider; unless you plan to eat sandwiches and snacks all weekend. Juice fast anyone?
If you want to do any amount of physical activity outside, then you may want a decent meal or two to nourish your tired body afterwards. This is where the campfire comes in handy.
This page covers an overview of eating and cooking outdoors, more suited to tent campers or car campers traveling. No camp cooking recipes; sorry, the web is full of them.
Campfires require only free firewood (for heat) and the groceries (to cook), so they are the cheapest choice for meals; Free campfire permits are needed, along with water buckets and a shovel, and of course, campfire restrictions should always be followed.
Coleman camp stoves or smaller units are ideal for car campers, tent campers and van-lifers. Butane or propane fuel can get expensive if this is your only cooking method, so take that into consideration.
Motorhome campers have it easy – with full kitchens and appliances, but propane fuel could be costly depending on how many meals you prepare. Propane fridges are most common. RV refrigerators are often one of the first things to fail, so keep that in mind when purchasing an older camper on wheels.
Everything – and the kitchen sink. RVs, camper trailers and some camper vans have it made for cooking. They literally have a mini kitchen to do most of their food prep and cooking (indoors, away from wind, dust, bugs). Or they can easily bounce back and forth between the campfire grilling and the indoor kitchen.
Cabin rentals w/ wood burning stoves, some specially designed for cooking are a rare find on vacation. These beauties are unique, antique and some still fully functional as a cooking appliance. It’s a slower longer process to cook, but it is entertaining and rewarding. Wood-burning stoves use small hardwood pieces, known as ‘stove wood’. Bring some, or ask about it when reserving the cabin.
Otherwise, car campers must rely on make-shift kitchen setups:
first, flat ground helps immensely.
developed parks and campgrounds usually offer pavement, cement and flat areas for people to congregate and dine.
boulder coves near rock outcroppings usually make good picnic spots/camps
camp stoves, BQQ grill or campfire ground tarp, table or tailgate
define kitchen area, light up work area & clean prep surfaces; wash basin areas get sloppy, so keep it off the table top
Prep @ home before the trip:
freeze large juice bottles for cooler ice / block ice last much longer than small ice cubes. If you must have ice cubes for your drinks, take a smaller bag. If it melts too fast, buy another one in route.
pre-chop vegetables; package fruit chunks
Pack & pre-cook:
precooking certain foods
(that would normally take lots of time and fuel, or mess)
rice, pasta noodles, steel cut oatmeal, homemade chili, cakes, bread, sausages, bacon
2 coolers may be needed. depending on the situation, eating habits and amount of travelers
One large ice chest for storage, located in the back w/ a blanket on top to block it from the direct sunlight.
Smaller, portable ice chest up front, near the driving compartment for easy access to snacks, trail mix, sandwiches, beverages. Picnics will be easy with a small cooler. Freezing plastic water bottles days ahead, for block ice without the soggy mess.
JUST HEAT UP
If you want to do more exploring and less cooking, then plan your meals dining out (at home, online), well in advance. Fast food drive-thrus should always be avoided. Budget at least $10 per meal and expect to pay more in smaller towns. Pack lots of snack bars, beverages and easy to fix meals. Sandwiches are great for day time, cuz you’ll be out sightseeing. Night time you can have a camp fire to cook on, or break out the camp stove or grill.
Left overs are super quick to heat and serve. Pancakes, bacon, quiche, casseroles, enchiladas, stir fried rice, pre-chop salads. Save the salad dressing and top salad just before eating. Other easy prep meals include: scrambled eggs, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, soups, tacos, or if all else fails, the dreaded pre-packaged backpackers meals.
We’ve seen the city-boy bachelors show up to camp (after midnight) w/ a cooler packed full of beer and deli sandwiches. Chips and nuts were their only side dishes. Needless to say, but the second day they we’re done w/ their food and wanting ours.
Start the campfire before sunset, so it has time to burn down the wood to make adequate coals.
Cook over glowing hot coals rather than the flames of burning wood. Use flat rocks and/or metal grills for positioning cast iron cookware.
Wait until the campfire becomes hot coals to do the cooking. Rearrange the glowing coals and rocks for optimal cooking spots.
You’ll need plenty of small wood – to keep feeding the fire and pushing the coals in place. Direct flames on cookware means black soot and often burnt chicken. Flames are okay for some food – like roasting wieners or shish kabobs, but generally it is the coals that offer the most even heat source.
Dutch oven (pictured above) is often the first cast iron campers purchase. Positioned over the campfire, it becomes a mini oven for heating up left over food dishes. You can heat them w/ a camp stove as well. Start with a smaller size and buy larger ones as needed.
Cast iron skillets are very handy for cooking up meat or fish dishes. Re-heating left overs, cooking eggs, pancakes and bacon.
Aluminum foil and a roll of paper towels will come in handy. Ziplock bags help with leftovers. Metal spatula and tongs are ideal when cooking over campfires. Choose a can opener w/ a bottle opener built into it. Bring a corkscrew if you are packing a bottle of wine.
Washing up all dishes and pots immediately after a meal is best practice; Before bedtime is mandatory. No food or beverage smells should be found overnight around camp. Tie and pack garbage away (inside a vehicle), or dispose of in trash cans – before retiring for the night.
Remember: No toothpaste or snacks allowed inside the tent. Keep a clean camp to prevent unwanted visitors (wild animals).
Late spring in California is a wondrous time of year for getting out and exploring. Thousands of prime hiking trails and camp spots, coupled with relatively mild weather throughout the state, should insure that your ‘gotta see’ list is long. Total Escape is stuffed full of weekend ideas and your excuses for not leaving the house could be vanishing with the warm weather.
However, for those dwelling in the coastal regions of our great state, spring isn’t all it is cracked up to be. I’m talking about the dreaded marine layer fog, more affectionately referred to as ‘June Gloom’ or ‘May Gray’. This weather pattern can even last into July and August!
The hotter it is inland, the more likely the beach will be cloudy. Advection fog occurs when warm, land air moves out over cool, ocean water. The cold, California Current and upwelling produce cool, moist marine layers that blanket the entire coastline up and down the state. San Francisco is notorious for its dense fog.
Many tourists and newcomers in California expect warm summers with plenty of sunshine, only to be disappointed by dreaded cloudy days. Otherwise known as overcast!
April was warm, but May is gray. It can be annoying, but why wait it out at the beach? … just head east to catch some rays.
If you’re like most folks who prefer the bright, warm sunshine to the gray, cold mist of a heavy marine layer, you might want to head inland. In most places throughout the state it is warm & the sun is shining and very warm inland by June. It only takes only a few miles of eastward travel to lose the gloom and be basking in the warmth of yet another classic California day.
Although, triple digit heat can also begin around June 1st in parts of the southwest. Regions like Death Valley, Vegas, Arizona, and the Central Valley of California often see temperatures creeping past 100 degrees, in the month of June. Consider that tidbit in your road trip planning. Check the forecast.
You may need winter jackets for the campsite at 5000′ elevation – but air conditioning on the drive there. A wide swing in day time temperatures can be expected in Cali.
SNOW MELTS – June is also the month that many of the snow covered mountain passes finally open up for the summer season. These are the main paved routes that go over the highest points in NorCal and the Sierra range, making Wilderness Areas and alpine lakes accessible. Wildflowers will bloom May-July in the Sierra Nevada!
(California State Routes, Interstate & US Highways)
How to Avoid Tourist Crowds when Traveling California
We are sure you’ll agree: Too much of life is spent sitting in traffic jams and waiting in line. Check out the traffic page. This page is created as a warning – CALIFORNIA IS CROWDED.
“Hell is other people.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
Bus loads of senior citizens travel in luxury motor-coaches to casinos; Airport shuttles bring sightseers to local attractions on full day excursions; Mountain bikers head to the trailheads by way of a personal automobile, a sport utility or pickup truck; 4x4s caravan to their meeting spot, in route to the trail destination. People on their daily commute to and from work, school, play. California has loads of traffic, tourism and terrain, with a massive freeway system, plus some awesome state highways. Popular destinations tend to get crowded at certain times of the year.
California Road Trips & Peak Travel Seasons
California population may be ever growing, but they’re not building any more Yosemite Parks. The migratory path westward started w/ the historic gold rush – the trend has literally lasted over 200 years!
Make sure you plan your trip & book your lodging or campgrounds well in advance. In this west coast world of tourism, 3-6 months is not unheard of. The more popular the locale, the more people want that perfect weather month and the further in advance you should reserve. Remember a good portion of these mountains destinations are closed half the year for winter snow.
There’s nothing worse than planning a trip, only to fight traffic on your way outta town, stand in long lines & see way too many tourists running about. Enjoying nature shouldn’t have to include thousands of other people. Try these helpful tips for avoiding the crowds. Get more solitude & relaxation out of your vacation. Check our Fairs, Festivals, & Events list to know when certain towns & areas will be busiest.
With California population near 40 million people it’s a wonder we don’t kill each other faster. Slow down on the freeways and enjoy the back roads with Total Escape. Statistics show: One outta 8 Americans lives in California!
This staggering large population is ever growing and expanding. College students, retirees, world-travelers and young families flock here, bring relatives and friends to migrate west… ever since the gold mining boom of 1849.
Still we are cranking out babies and building more communities in California. Add a huge tourism industry that brings in millions of outta state folks for conventions & outdoor vacations.
Although Cali is a huge regional paradise to explore, it is amazing that locals can find any secret refuge for weekends or week-long fishing trips. With vast deserts, mountains and countryside, half the golden state land could be easily considered public land, park, wildlife refuge or neighborhood open space preserve. Total Escape has this back roads thing covered. Getting you out in the boonies to relax, in nature, is exactly what this site is for.
more nature, less people
Try out new areas! If you’ve never heard of it, chances are most people haven’t either. Go ahead, explore a little. California is a really big state.
California’s Busy Season
Summer is definitely the tourist season in California. All the out-of-staters coming in to see the amazing Golden State: the recreation & the sights it has to offer. Summertime is the busiest time to visit the well-known areas such as:
Best time to plan trips to avoid summer crowds is –
Before Memorial Day (last weekend in May)
After Labor Day (first weekend in Sept.)
Plan your trip to overnight in the National Forest lands adjacent to a National Park . You can still enjoy nature and scenic attractions without having to sleep with the masses in the expensive campgrounds, which take camping reservations a year in advance.
Plenty of secluded primitive camping & small campgrounds are available in the NFS. California State Parks are very abundant too, often less crowded during the week days and non holiday weekends.
Winter can be the busiest time to visit these areas:
Better Book It – Below is a list of some super popular California destinations that have pretty limited accommodations. Tight quarters, limited capacity. Total Escape recommends you book early if you wanna spot at one of these prime places, especially in summer or winter months.
Historic cities and towns are commonplace inside California, but very few towns are totally abandoned. By definition ‘ghost towns’ are population locations that have previously thrived (usually in mining), but they’ve ultimately have been deserted. Sometimes a few residents will stick around for the seclusion, but the place often appears empty. Finding an open business is a rarity.
North Bloomfield allows visitors inside the buildings to examine the furnishings, decor, fixtures and the interior style. As part of a ranger guided daily tour, you can explore these historic structures up close and personal.
Hidden well above Fresno deep in the Sierra National Forest, in between Yosemite & Kings Canyon, is the area of Lakeshore, also known as Huntington Lake. Secluded, remote & largely undeveloped wilderness offers much to the sport of cross country skiing or snow-mobiling. With hundreds of miles of groomed backcountry snow triails, it easy to get away from it all.
Rancheria Enterprises is a short walk from Lakeshore Resort & rents snowmobiles by the day or half day. Most machines are tandem, so you can ride 2 people & split the cost. NOTE: Maximum weight per machine = 300lbs.
Lake Huntington, CA
Western Sierra / E of Fresno
at the end of Hwy. 168
100+ miles of groomed trails
Moderate driving distance from Bay Area or Los Angeles & fairly easy to get to, depending on weather (of course). Saloon and mountaiin dinner resaurant at the old lodge, newer lake view condos up on the hill and Sierra Summit Ski Resort. Not bad for the middle of nowhere in the Sierras.
Central Sierra Nevada Mountains get a fair amount of deep snow most winters. Since there is a ski resort locate back here, HWY 168 is open year round; with very limited access to the backcountry. Mono Hot Springs Resort may be open, but double check before you plan your trip. Lakes Edison & Florence are usually inaccessible for more than half the year.
Bed & Breakfast, Lodging, Ski Rentals, Restaurants & Shops
The historic and rustic Lakeshore Resort offers small rental cabins set in pine forest. Kitchenettes or full kitchens available in all the cabins; No fireplaces or wood burning stoves. Super basic, yet older cabins. Affordable.
If you want your campfire indoors and all the ambience it brings, choose a more expensive lake view condo – on the hill, overlooking the lake. These high end units can usually sleep 6 or more w/ fold out sofas and extra bedrooms. Very spacious rentals w/ lake views and balcony.
Drive partially (at night) and stay overnight in Visalia or one of many other country towns that dot the rolling hills of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
After the snow-mo adventure: On the return trip, make sure to take a slight detour on to Tollhouse Road which runs parallell to Hwy. 168 and rejoins it on the way back down the mountain. Spectacular rolling hills with meadows full of wildflowers and oak trees in mid to late Spring.
Camping isn’t only a summer time thing. In California, it can be enjoyed all year long – if you have the right gear to enjoy yourself. The deserts alone are prime destinations for your winter vacation OUT of DOORS. Star gazing is great & Back Road exploration is a great way to use that SUV.
Most meteor showers occur during the colder part of the year, so winter camping is a great way to experience the full sky & not miss any of these special shooting star shows. Desert locations well away from the city are the “best dark sky” choices. Less crowds, cooler temps and maybe more clouds.
KELBAKER ROAD is perfect place for stargazing, rock climbing, bon fires and free overnight camping.
We are not talking about making igloo camps in the highcountry. No snow shoes, nor cross country skiing chalets. Not even much snow camping. This page is just the basics on how to tolerate chilly temps in the milder climates for California’s dry destinations.
Bring enough clothing for a variety of temperatures. LAYERS, is the best advice for clothing. You may go from shorts to winter jacket all in 10 hours.
rain & wind:
California gets most all it’s precipitation from DECEMBER to APRIL, and a lot of winds along with each storm system. So be prepared for some weather.
Big wind event – can blow old trees down, across the road – trapping you on way back in there, so be prepared for a hike out. Super strong winds (40mph+) are also big factors in these outta control wildfires, as we’ve seen in recent years with the West Redding & Paradise fires.
A good zero degree sleeping bag is well worth the cash you will spend on it and it will make those chilly Sierra nights bearable even in the early season. Where fold-up cots will circulate the cold air underneath you, Inflatable air mattresses can be total luxury!
Don’t throw out that old sleeping bag. Make is useful! Try placing a blanket under your air mattress & another on top for cushion & warmth…and to protect you from the cold ground temperatures that can creep up.
Let’s face it! Human beings were not designed to spend long hours in front of a television or computer. It’s no surprise that 50% of Americans are overweight, with all the lounging we do. The wifi is making my brain ache & too much screen time brings on tension. This cannot be natural, nor healthy.
While computer time is crucial to working & managing a busy schedule, learning a sense of balance in your daily life is of key importance too.
recreate your reality, one trail at a time
Years ago, while living in Los Angeles, I noticed I craved to be outside as much as possible. Whether it be walking in the local park, skating on the strand, lying on the beach or watching the sunset from a mountain top, it was a calling I had to follow. My enjoyment outdoors, be it leisure or recreational, became a very important part of my lifestyle (and thus was born the dream of Total Escape).
The more we go outside & exercise, the better we feel – overall. Enjoying wilderness & walks outdoors gives us peace of mind, naturally. The stillness we seek, in order to slow our minds & listen to our soul, is a primal one. But overall, we have learned to ignore it.
Modern technology should give us more freedom in our lives, but instead, many find themselves strapped to devices, gadgets & insane time schedules. The more we remove ourselves from the natural earth, the less conscious of our own lives we become. Societal influences, daily doses of entertainment, video games, plus the “always online mentality” and smartphone addiction has given us a new reality (always indoors), an invasion of privacy and a sometimes, a false sense of security.
Technology is here to work with us, not against us. Set the boundaries, listen to your body & set yourself free each week. No matter if you are an avid gamer, a couch potato or a hi-tech corporate workaholic, we can all benefit from more time outdoors.
You’re not more productive; You’re more distracted.
Learn to take more breaks, more often, away from the television & computers, for health sake. Total Escape is here to show you a way. Giving you ideas & destinations, to help you create good habits & make visits to nature a part of your weekly routine. The goal is to inspire you to explore & make your dreams of travel happen with a beautiful & easy to use web site, with as minimal obnoxious banners as possible.
recreate your life recreate yourself recreate your weekend
Find a way to let go of stress in your life on a weekly basis. If the dieting & gym routine never worked, try something else. Keep trying. Tensions of the week will dissipate as you near the county line on that open rural highway. 3pm office day dreams will be brighter as you look forward to your next day off.
While you may think of us Escapers, as off-roading tree huggers or health-nut hippies, we go well beyond that. As travelers we are as diverse as the California terrain. We have one thing in common, we all love the earth. That’s why we’re here! Give back a part – of yourself – to helping keep these forest, parks & trails open, healthy & protected.
Volunteer firefighter, CPR class, trail maintenance, or just helping out at the local Grange.
Looking to find a place to volunteer outdoors?
Below is a list of outdoor related organizations, most local to California.