Hermosa Beach Street Fair
This long running beach block party is always held on the extended Memorial Day Weekend – kicking off the summer months. 3 days of live music, art, food & fun.
Annual event; May
Summertime warms up and being outdoors is THE plan. The Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival is held annually near the redwood forests of Guerneville, California. Located of event is Johnson’s Beach – right on the Russian River. This is a great opportunity to camp out in the inland, North Coast region. Plenty beach parks & campgrounds nearby.
Annual event; June
Huntington Beach host the annual surfing contest. Top surfers from around the world, a mix of action sports superstars of skate, BMX and freestyle motocross, as well as top musical talent – all combined in a festival atmosphere for a week-long youth cultural experience that will thrill and excite hundreds of thousands of spectators in beautiful Huntington Beach.
Annual event; July
California’s San Luis Obispo used to have one event called “Sunset Savor the Central Coast” and it was geared around fine food and wine. Now this popular, tourist county has a culinary event every single month, all year in various wine cities and small towns .
Annual event: all year long
San Luis Obispo County, California
SamP is one of the large redwood parks north of San Francisco, CA. Coastal redwoods can be found in the mountains above Santa Cruz, as well as on the Point Reyes peninsula in Marin County. Hiking in the region is amazing w/ enchanted forests, dramatic fog, waterfalls, numerous trails in every direction.
Consisting of several camp loops, a group camp site, a horse camp and hike-in or bike-in camp sites. There are even cabin rentals in the park. This park has several camp sites that can accommodate visitors with disabilities. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during summer months. Be prepared to pay hefty fees for overnight use.
Max RV Camper Length: 31′
Max Trailer Length: 27′
every autumn at Old Mill Park
This Fall Arts Festival is long running and highly competitive art festival that attracts hundreds of artists, many local and some from as far as Hawaii and New York. Thousands of art lovers come from all over the Bay Area to this beloved festival to stroll through the redwood park and discover treasures under the trees: sculpture, painting, ceramics, photography, textiles, woodwork – over 15 media categories that are sure to appeal to all artistic tastes. The festival represents the finest collection of arts and crafts in the country to view and purchase.
Annual event: September
Old Mill Park,
320 Throckmorton Avenue
Mill Valley, CA
Held along Palmetto Avenue in Pacifica, is a weekend arts and crafts fair with over 190 arts and craft booths, live entertainment, plenty of tasty food and drink to please any appetite. Since 1986!
Annual event; September
The Pacific Pride Festival takes place on Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara California. The local parade is called the “Summer Solstice Parade”.
Annual event; July
Score International holds off road races throughout California & Baja. The Baja 500 Race is epic, historic, south of the border race action. Ensenada hosts several races throughout the year. This one is held in summer and is very popular.
Annual event; June
Single loop race: 500 miles
The desert meets the sea at San Felipe. Off Road Race held on the eastern shore of Baja California Norte w/ the Sea of Cortez as the backdrop. Springtime wildflowers in bloom.
Annual event; April
34 years running
Single loop race: 290 miles
If you’ve had it with the traditions, the big meal prep, or just sick of the family. Maybe you are a solo traveler, or a new transplant to California and need to explore more. Take a holiday away – for once this time.
Camping for turkey day? What a concept.
California is the perfect place for camping, all year long!
California mountains often have snow during November. Avoid camping in snow @ 4000-5000′ elevation and above; Freezing temps above 3000-4000′ elevation.
Deserts, coastal regions and foothills are top choices for late Autumn car camping. Always check the weather ahead of departure, and have a plan B as an alternative. NorCal will be much wetter than the rest of the state.
MEALS: Prepare dinner meals ahead of trip departure. Bake turkey days before your trip and create meals based around that. Make mash potatoes at home and don’t forget to bring the butter. Pack pre-baked turkey for sandwiches, plus other quick snacks & meals for on-the-go travel.
Desert Camping is premium at this time of year. Luckily the eastern half of Southern Cal is desert. The lower the elevation, the better the temps will be overnight. Be prepared for wind when the ‘storm fronts’ approach, the winds do get a cranking! Dirt roads can become flowing washes during a good rainstorm, so know the weather forecast.
Coastal campgrounds may need advanced reservations. Be prepared for wet weather, especially up north. The redwoods groves are gorgeous anytime of year.
Gold County Reservoirs are prime areas for relaxing in nature, while everyone else is out shopping. Oak hills, rivers and canyons. RV campers love these large lakes; boating, fishing, mountain biking trails, kayak rentals, hiking near historic Gold Rush towns.
River Canyons of California are always beautiful destinations in the autumn months with fall leaves changing color. Many campgrounds can be found at lower elevation, river access areas.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is always a nice, easy and relatively close get-away for any holiday. Open camping on the backroads (for free) makes it one of the most attractive camping options in all of SoCal. Many dirt roads are accessible for passenger cars, if extreme caution is used. Don’t plan on driving more than a few miles on dirt.
Masses of off roaders love to camp out, especially on Thanksgiving weekend. Wheel all day, eat, drink, bon fires every night and rumor has it ‘they roast their big bird outdoors – deep in a dirt pit’. Really?
El Centro, Glamis, Imperial Dunes, Ocotillo Wells, Truckhaven Hills, Johnson Valley. All popular off roading areas in Southern California, so consider yourself warned.
Mojave Desert, near US Hwy 395
Jawbone Canyon expect to see RVs, toy-boxes and families outside enjoying the weekend. OHV style. Often the group tries to create a round corral with their huge convoy of vehicles, to keep thru traffic to a minimum around “their camp”. Just stay well away from those gear-heads. In general, it is a very busy area around Mojave up to Hwy 178 during the holidays. Try high desert Horse Canyon instead.
Did someone say FREE?
The super scenic Central Coast of California is home to numerous waterfalls, but this one on the Big Sur coast is, by far, the most well-known.
Since I camped out and slept on the cliff featured above, I thought I ought to create a post about it.
Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park is where the most photographed waterfall is located. The creek falls off of a cliff into a secluded cove, on a sandy beach just a few feet from the Pacific Ocean.
After visiting this place more than once, I knew I had to keep coming back. I even found this waterfall photo used as graphic marketing for Mexican Riveria cruises, by Costco.
One sunny autumn day, I called my camping pals to join me on our pre-planned camping trip to the majestic Big Sur coastline. Not just any camping spot or campground, but the two rare, hike-in campsites – located above McWay Falls. The camp reservations had been made months in advance and I was eager to leave the smog basin of L.A.
One by one, all my friends backed out of their commitment to camp that weekend. Too busy at work, a wedding or other plans interfered, home improvements, or the typical lame excuses that city folks always use not to travel locally.
…only 2 camp sites exist here, perched on a forested cliff, overlooking a private sandy cove w/ a gorgeous waterfall
I thoroughly explained to them the spectacular scenery, the unique location, the advanced reservations and fees, and the carpooling options. But not one person could go, so I went anyway.
All alone; which may have been the start of me craving to camp solo (way back in 1995).
The California State Park system has named these as environmental camps, where you must haul your gear – a half mile, on foot, in order to reach these special campsites. Picnic tables and campfire rings are provided, along w/ one vault toilet. Although a real bathroom w/ flush toilets is within walking distance, over at the main paved parking lot.
The picturesque sandy cove is off limits to all = campers, hikers and climbers. New fencing and signs warn visitors not to enter the small beach cove area. Sheer, steep cliffs w/ erosion are unstable and dangerous; and you may have a citation awaiting you, on your climb back up.
Accessing the cliff edges or private cove is dangerous and difficult, and totally off limits. If you wanna die trying, that’s up to you.
Reservations are needed to camp at this location. Contact California State Parks for booking this spot.
The ocean sounds of crashing waves on rocks is very, very loud. located just below (100 feet) the ideal camp sites. Bring ear plugs for sleeping.
Leave food and cooking to the tailgate. Parking in the paved, forested parking lot, and not transporting food, ice chest and cookware back and forth is the lazy way. Since I was camping alone and the parking lot was secluded and full of vegetation, I decided to try minimal food at camp. Worked well for me.
Blackberry bushes are abundant around parking lot.
Danger looms around this State Park entrance, as Coast Highway 1 drivers tend to speed by at 55 mph, on a big shady curve. Be very careful crossing the road at this location and listen for traffic before you walk.
TRAILS & DAY VISITORS:
Swarms of tourists stop at this location, just to walk out, photograph and view this waterfall. Many pay top dollar (day use) to park and then stay less than an hour. The tunnel trail goes past a pelton wheel and then underneath the highway – skirting along the north shore of the cove. The State Park gate closes at sunset, so very few people will be found roaming around after sundown.
Just hiking around this park, plus the back and forth to camp and car will feel like you’ve walked many miles. There is a redwood canyon and creek hike located in the inland portion of the State Park. Mountain peaks here reach to about 3000′ elevation.
AUG 2020 UPDATE: WILDFIRES burning most of this State Park and Limekiln State Park. Not sure how the cove looks now, or if it was affected, but expect the hills to be black, up above the highway.
52801 CA State Route 1, Big Sur, CA 93920
If there is a single most popular image of Big Sur, it is probably of the 80 foot falls seen from this trail as McWay Creek cascades onto the sandy shore. hikinginbigsur.com/hikes_mcwayfalls.html
Even though I spent the warm weekend alone, camping on a waterfall cliff and hiking redwoods forests, I enjoyed myself and the seclusion. I did meet 2 surfers traveling in a vintage VW bus and they joined me for my tailgate dinner one evening. On the last night, the weather turned windy and a storm came in, so the next morning I was happy to leave. So, for all the camping pals that backed out at the last minute, this 2020 post is for you.
on US Hwy 101 Seacliff / Mussel Shoals stretch of beach
blue links lead to State Park pages with camp reservations.
Access to wild land, open spaces, parks, forests, lakes, mountain peaks, public land – USDA National Forests, National Parks, State Parks, BLM. There is more public land available in the west half of the U.S., than anywhere else in the nation. This is one of the top reasons people relocate to the West Coast.
Federal lands, government managed parks, USDA National Forests, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuge, BLM, State Parks, State Forests, County Parks, Regional Open Spaces
California National Parks – most National Parks are so crowded you can’t even enjoy the experience in the summer time. Try the off-season times for your best stay. Neighboring National Forests are a much better bet for abundant space, privacy & less taxing on the wallet for fees. These popular (NPS) parks are subject to federal budget cuts and closures.
California National Forests – protected wilderness areas throughout state are surrounded by National Forests (NFS), and most National Parks (NPS) are surrounded by National Forests. Tons of small campgrounds & primitive spots for real seclusion. Get a free fire permit & camp almost anywhere you want. Use that SUV exploring the many dirt backroads & find that perfect camp spot (for free).
California State Parks – local California parks with a lot to offer the day hikers, picnicking family, tent camper or RV camper. From warm dry deserts soaking in a hot springs to the foggy coastal redwoods, these state run parks encompass a large section of California terrain. These parks are subject to state budget cuts and closures.
BLM: Bureau of Land Management – mostly desert regions on the east side of California. A few coastal redwoods, some river canyons in the Sierra Nevada, many off road areas (OHV) in various mountain ranges. These federal lands are open spaces, generally a free for all on recreation. Allowable = off roading, target shooting, open camping, campfires, bonfires. Geared toward OHV use, RVs and hunting.
Los Padres National Forest Maps
7 minute QUADS (topo maps) inside a spiral bound book. Covers both north & south part of Los Padres National Forest. This map book can be found at ranger station – Los Padres USFS or click the book above to take you to the Total Escape Map Shop!
Waterproof plastic map; USDA National Forest Service Maps
Additional topo maps for Los Padres region –
see more about Los Padres National Forest
You relocated to California for college or your career – and to enjoy the outdoors more, but you ended up in the Los Angeles Basin instead, breathing smog daily. You will need to escape – soon, for sanity sake.
Total Escape – this is your new favorite web site on California outdoors. Bookmark it dude. And be proud to love nature!
PCT hikes – Pacific Crest Trail
The world renowned hiking trail that runs the entire length of the entire West Coast US. Canada to Baja, by way of Washington, Oregon and California – all on foot.
More PCT MAPS: Pacific Crest Trail Maps
Angeles Front Country
Angeles High Country
Angeles National Forest
Channel Islands Map
Dick Smith Wilderness
Joshua Tree Park Map
Los Padres National Forest Map
Malibu Creek Map
Mojave Preserve Map
Mount Baldy Map
Mount Wilson Trail Map
Pacific Crest Trail Maps
Point Mugu Map
San Bernardino National Forest Map
San Berdoo Mountains Maps
San Diego Backcountry Map
San Gorgonio Wilderness Map
San Jacinto Wilderness Map
Sespe Wilderness Map
Topanga Trail Map
Verdugo Mountains Trail Map
Zuma / Trancas Canyons Map
NORCAL – Well beyond San Francisco and Yosemite, there are meadows to be found. Seclusion and tranquility in nature, without the crowds. Too many dirt roads to drive and dozens of rivers to see. Waterfalls abound, with wildflowers and amazing scenery all around. Small towns to discover!
Fly fishing rivers, kayaking lakes, wineries, organic farms, geysers, volcanoes, caves, old bridges and so much more to find in NorCal.
DanaMite loves to cover the real nooks and crannies of California, just for you – right here on Total Escape.
Forest, Park, Reserve, Monument, Recreation Area, BLM, Nature Preserve… arghh!
Don’t let all the park and forest names confuse you. It is all California and it is your public land! No bikes on trails, No gathering wood, No dogs here, No camping there; Now what?
Below is our overview graph for all California parks and forests – the basic concepts & the rules broken down for anyone to understand. Permits may be needed in certain areas. Only the government officials understand the true nature of all the ridiculous red tape.
|California Wilderness||Back country lands very protected from roads and human impact. Off limits to vehicles & mountain bikes. Only accessible by backpacking, hiking or horseback. Endangered species; Hard to reach terrains in the High Sierra. Overnight visits may require a wilderness permit.|
National Parks – NPS: National Park Service
|Federal lands are national parks, preserves & monuments; highly regarded as some of the most scenic in world & protected. Very popular places and crowds often in summer. Limited use areas for camping & recreation. No mountain biking on trails. No dogs on trails. Try off-season. Drive thru entrance fees.|
|Located within the National Park System & more specific to a region. Historic buildings, geological features and deserts ruins qualify. Some National Monuments become National Parks. Many locations have entrance fees.|
|NRA: National Recreation Area||Located within the National Park System & somewhat specific to a waterways, coastlines, lakes and reservoirs. Some locations have entrance fees.|
National Scenic Area National Seashore
|Located within the National Park System & is basically scenic area worth preserving. Usually no entrance fees.|
CA National Forests
USDA Forest Service
|Areas of forest lands throughout state; some surround the National Parks. 18 national forests make up 20 million acres of federal land. Multiple use areas: snow skiing, mining, grazing, off-roading. OHV & SVRA Tons of small campgrounds, recreation & primitive spots for real seclusion. Best bet for finding a spot away from the crowds. Get a free fire permit & camp on back roads. No entrance fees, some parking or day use fees; SoCal requires an Adventure Pass.|
California State Parks
|California Department of Parks & Recreation manages more than 260 parks. These smaller parks are located near cities with historical parks, as well as remote wild state land & coastal beaches. Entrance fees, day use, picnic and some have campgrounds. State Parks charge fees for day use, parking and overnight camping.|
|California SF: California State Forest||California Demonstration Forests, areas to be protected. Redwoods & Sequoia Groves; fragile eco-systems. Handle with care. May charge entrance fee or day use fee.|
State Recreation Areas
|California Department of Parks and Recreation. Lakes, Reservoirs, Rivers. Many have boat rentals and active marina. Recreation lakes charge entrance, day use, parking or boat launch fees.|
|California OHV & SVRA: Off Hwy Vehicle Area and State Vehicle Recreation Areas||Off Roading folks and dirt bikes can have their fun wheelin. Lands set aside for OHV use; dune buggies, quads & 4×4 enthusiasts. Most in desert regions; forest lands. Developed campgrounds large enough to accommodate RVs and trailers. Fees may apply in these off-road areas for day use or camping.|
|California County Parks||Desert hot springs, oak foothills and campgrounds, local hills w/ hikes, parks close to urban regions. Back roads & rural land protected from freeways & development. May require parking or entrance fees. Find these listed on the California A-Z town pages|
|City Parks in California||Urban Parks & Recreation, inside the city limits. Usually no entrance fees. Find these on California A-Z town pages|
|BLM: public lands Bureau of Land Management||All public lands that do not fall into the above categories. Little to no fees for day use, recreation or overnight camping. Plenty of desert & off roading areas. Some forest lands, certain lakes. Small campgrounds or open camping allowed. Fees may apply in developed campgrounds. Camp overnight almost anywhere out here for free, with a ranger issued camp fire permit.|
Sequoia – which one?
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Imagine that the Southern Sierra mountains is home to 3 different public parks named Sequoia. Yep, it’s true. Sequoia National Park, Sequoia National Forest, and Giant Sequoia National Monument. Other parks that have Sequoia groves are – Mountain Home State Forest, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, as well as Yosemite National Park.
As far as the Coastal Redwoods, most are included under State Parks. Find these parks on the Central Coast Big Sur and Santa Cruz mountains, plus Marin County, and all along the north coast US Hwy 101 from Mendocino to the Oregon border. Numerous redwoods parks are located along rivers.
The super scenic Big Sur coastline is home to Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park and to the similarly named Pfieffer Big Sur State Park. Leave it to park personnel, state officials or the non-locals to create such a confusing naming system within our most-visited state.