CLOSED 2020-2022: Campground is undergoing some serious work with removal of hazardous trees and forest clean up. NOTE: DixieFire 2021 did not damage this portion of the forest highway (CA 36)
A developed USDA campground along forested Highway 36, near the junction of Chico’s Hwy 32. This stretch of 36 overlaps with north-south Lassen Hwy 89. Awesome fishing creek, meadows, hiking trails and mountain biking trails nearby. Paved, level camp sites w/ easy access to Lassen Volcanic Park and the National Forest.
This is a popular camp just south of the Lassen National Park boundary and 5 miles east of Child’s Meadow Resort. Car camp, tent camping, some spaces for large motorhomes. Plenty fishing, hiking and mountain biking trails.
Gurnsey Creek begins in Childs Meadows, north on Hwy 36 – just outside of Lassen National Park
Gurnsey Creek Campground, California
on Gurnsey Creek; Campground open May-October
(depending on snow)
Lassen Creek Camping
52 camp sites on Gurnsey Creek @ 4700′ elevation; vault toilets, creek and piped water, bear boxes; first come, first serve camping – and reservations are also accepted
Max Camper Length: no limitations
Shady forest camp sites w/ creek. Numerous fishing spots. Close to Lassen Volcanic National Park, Chester and Lake Almanor. Backpackers, day hikers and horseback riders will enjoy the PCT nearby. Pacific Crest Hiking Trail runs to the east side of this campround.
CHESTER, CA Rangers Office: 530-265-4531 Almanor Ranger DIstrict, Lassen NF
Highly advised: a real map, a printed ‘hard copy’ shows both the National Park and the National Forest of Lassen on one map – with topographic features, all mountain peaks, creeks, lakes, trailheads, plus all dirt and paved roads.
Mount Lassen is part of the Cascade Mountain Range, located north of the Sierra Nevada. The Lassen forest encompasses a large area of wilderness land, snowmelt creeks and an abundant dirt road system. Most of which is covered in deep snow about half the year, so plan accordingly.
Plenty of great dispersed camping along the old logging roads in this Lassen Forest area, surrounding the Volcanic National Park; in Northern California. Many dirt roads are graded annually to allow for passenger car access. You can make it way back there in a car – just watch for the mud and some boulders!
Camp fire permits required (see below). Pease try to choose a camp that has been used before and pack out your garbage.
HINT: a USDA Lassen National Forest Map is very helpful when camping these remote, Lassen back roads. Stay away from the crowds, avoid camp fees & really enjoy your vacation.
Camp right on a rushing river, alone. With no one in sight or sound. Have that secluded camping experience you’ve always dreamed about. Fishing, relaxing, maybe some hiking too. Or better, your mountain bike. Plenty forest roads to explore.
Numerous waterfalls to discover, water flowing everywhere. Mount Lassen @ 10,457′ elevation, is often snow-capped year round. This Northern California region is covered with pine forests and volcanic history.
If you wanna find the nearest biker bar, head over to the rustic and forested Bambi Inn @ Butte Meadows. The place is popular all the time, especially on weekends. Scenic day drive from Chico, located near a nice river and bridge, plus they have cabin rentals too. Sometimes they have big events and it can get pretty crowded and loud w/ drinking and outdoor music.
BSA Camp Lassen is a boy scout camp located E of Chico, off Highway 32 near Butte Meadows, CA
Dispersed Camp sites in Lassen in Lake Almanor Area
Alder Creek Campground
Benner Creek Campground
Black Rock Campground
year round, fish
Echo Lake Campground
May-Nov, no tables
Soldier Creek Campground
May-Nov, fall hunters
South Antelope Campground
Willow Lake Campground
May-Nov, no tables
Northside of Mount Lassen
Excellent back roads camping w/ dense forest and free firewood all over the place (bring hand saw). Dispersed, primitive, free camping, near creek, and highway close. Many forest dirt roads turn offs, all along Highway 44 (California SR 44) near junction w/ Hwy 89 @ Lassen National Park.
Big creeks, dense forests, graded dirt roads, dark night skies. PCT access, trailheads, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, all along Upper Hat Creek.
Campfire permits (shovel, bucket & water) are required when camping outside of a developed campground. Always check on current fire restrictions. Washed out bridges and landslides are common, which means road closed signs can be found on these remote backroads.
Feather River Camping, Lake Almanor Campgrounds, Hat Creek, River Fishing NorCal, Topo Maps, California Campground Reservations, Lassen National Forest camp sites and all the outdoor recreation you can imagine.
Volcanic lands of Lassen National Park are surrounded by Lassen National Forest, which means if you cannot find camping inside the National Park – you can surely find it in the outlying regions – with rivers . The National Park Lassen Hwy 89 is often closed during winter months due to snow, as Diamond Peak & Reading Peak are around 8000′ elevation. In 2011 the south entrance did not open until late summer due to heavy snows.
A few Lassen campground sites may be reservable, more info with links below; the rest of the campgrounds in the green lists are on a first come, first serve basis.
Plumas National Foresthas excellent outdoor recreation and developed campgrounds, as well as secluded, primitive back roads camping sites. If you prefer a camp with table, toilet and a campfire ring, then expect to pay a fee. There are several small, remote campgrounds listed below, but most are located on paved roads. Venture down dirt roads to find a premium camp sites for free. Scroll the map links below to explore the back roads of Plumas, and discover hidden fishing holes.
SOME CAMPGROUNDS are closed due to wildfire damage in the Plumas region.
Camping areas along Kings River, Sierra Nevada California
Kings is the longest river in the Sierra Nevada and very rugged and remote in most of the length. The Upper Kings is situated in the Wilderness and National Park at the highest of elevation. Granite alpine back country, with abundant small lakes, the Pacific Crest Trail and numerous Wilderness areas.
The tallest peak, Mount Whitney, drains this way – down waterfalls and whitewater, westward to the San Joaquin Valley. Agriculture, farmlands and orchards of fruit.
Roads End Trailhead
Backpacking trails lead up river from the paved parking area.
NPS – wilderness permits required for overnight stays.
Camping, day hikes and horseback trails. Wildlife and wildflowers abundant in this Cedar Grove / South Fork canyon.
Camping near Lower Kings River
Open all year round. Outside the National Park boundary, westward in lower elevations, many more camping options are available.
NOTE: Sierra National Forest is located on the north side, along the river shore in between Pine Flat Lake & Kings Canyon National Park. But Sequoia National Forest is located on the south side, so you may need more maps. Cell phone service is spotty or non-existent in this deep canyon.
Trimmer Springs Road #11S12: a paved access road, that wraps around the northern shore of Pine Flat Reservoir. Very curvy and long, with 25 mph curves; this main route continues east into the massive Kings River Canyon.
Google Maps may have this road crossing the river, towards the end. Proper signage is questionable in the area, since local rednecks love to shoot up signs. Trimmer route quickly peters out to narrow dirt roads, anywhere past the Mill Flat Campground area.
Lower Kings is NOT easily reached via the National Park, nor Kings Canyon Highway 180. Dirt road travel is required on Road #12S01, which can be steep and rocky at best. The drive is a steep climb up to the highway, which may require 4 wheel drive in some sections, depending on weather and land slides. This road is rough, so you will need at least a high clearance rig and a good forest map. Winter brings some snow and abundant rains (NOV – APRIL).
LANDSLIDES and ROCK SLIDES are common with ROAD CLOSURES not always posted on the Sierra National Forest, NFS web site.
Wildflowers are abundant in this region for springtime. (MARCH-MAY)
both above camps are free camp spots: boondocking, dispersed camps, primitive car camping, tent camping, RV camping, river fishing, kayaking, rafting
Sierra Road #12S01– primitive camping, few pit toilets; fishing access, some trailhead camps and RV spots along river. The northern most arm of this road is also referred to as Road# 12S001 Garnet Dike, on the NFS web site.
BlackRock ReservoirRoad #11S12, another side route (paved) climbs steeply in elevation, along a cliff edge. This spot offers a small NFS campground near a lake, and is located along the North Fork of the river.
Avocado Lake Park is down river and a perfect spot for a picnic or BBQ. A 210 acre day use park providing recreation that includes swimming, fishing and picnicking. The park has picnic tables, a group picnic area, BBQs, boat launching ramp and a playground. West of Pine Flat Reservoir, this grassy county park is only open during daylight and no overnight camping is allowed.
Next park down river is Kings River Green Belt Park, which seems to be popular with joggers and dog walkers. Also run by the county, this place closes at sundown and no camping facility is offered.
@ Highway 180
Riverbend RV Park
17604 E Kings Canyon Rd
Sanger, CA 93657 with seasoned organic firewood
The Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains run the length of US Highway 395, through most of the eastern side of California. Mammoth mountain is a volcano, so naturally hot springs come with the package. These hot tub destinations listed here are mostly part of the Long Valley Caldera, an ancient volcanic table land. North of Bishop and near the snow ski destination towns of June Lake and Mammoth, California in Mono County, California.
(This region is not to be confused with Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, nor the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.)
Backroads Camping is allowed throughout Inyo National Forest, but there is private ranch lands mixed in w/ public lands. Respect property boundaries, and speed limits around gates and intersections.
Camp sites are not located next to the soaking tubs. A few may be within walking distance. Parking is often limited at these remote, public use hot pools. Total Escape TIP: Behind Lake Crowley: abundant, free camping – wide graded dirt roads (RV and passenger car suitable). Inyo National Forest Map is recommended.
Eastside of Highway 395
Casa Diablo Hot Springs near the Mammoth exit, is a location noted on most maps, but this seems to be the geothermal power plant for the region. If you are looking for hot springs tubs to soak in, you’ll need to get off the main drag for those beauties, way off the highway.
On to dirt roads
Inyo Forest Road #3S45
Hot Creek Hatchery Road
(near Mammoth Airport)
Minimal dirt road driving. A very popular spot where hot springs are located within the big creek, so you can feel cold and hot water flowing by you. Scalding can occur near vents underwater, so use caution when wading. Large parking lot overlooks the soaking area and creek canyon. Swimsuits required.
Benton Crossing Road
leads east, around Lake Crowley, to the small town and camping resort and inn of Benton Hot Springs
Inyo Forest Road #2S84
Benton Crossing Road
This rural intersection at US Hwy 395 is known for the little green church on the corner. Turn east off the highway on to this road > BENTON CROSSING.
Pull over, get out and stretch. Look at your maps, get the GPS out and then start your exploring. First timers might be able to find a soaking tub within half an hour, if you don’t get lost. Or get stuck in a muddy spot, which is easy to do at night.
Hill Top Hot Springs
also known as – “Hilltop, Pulky’s Pool”
Willy’s Hot Spring
also known as – “Wild Willie’s, Crowley Springs”
Inyo Forest Road #2S07
Whitmore Tubs Road
a major graded dirt road that leads north off of the paved road, becomes Owens River Road and connects back to US 395 many miles to the north.
Several primitive hot tubs can be found on dirt roads in this region, which lead off the main paved road. At night these remote pools can be hard to find – with no signage, no street lights and pitch black darkness. Plus the mud bogs and grassy fields all around make the landscape difficult to navigate. If you plan a nighttime arrival, then plan to drive in slowly around the pools, have your GPS handy and look for steam in the air. Cut your headlights if you see other cars or people, and proceed slowly.
Be considerate of others and friendly. Do not litter. Do not crank up music. Wait for others to finish soaking and do not rush anybody. Give others space and privacy to get dressed.
Whitmore Hot Springs
904 Benton Crossing Road Mono County Park w/ public swimming pool & day use fee
also known as – “Whitmore Tubs, Whitmore Springs”
Inyo Forest Road #3S11
Minaret Summit Rd
This wilderness region is located the on the west side of Mammoth Mountain, accessible by the paved Minaret Summit Road, which closes due to deep snow and is generally only open during summer months.
Red’s Meadow Hot Springs
developed campground w/ wooden sheds for baths: showers & tubs.
near Devil’s Postpile National Monument
also known as – “Red’s Meadow Hot Showers”
Iva Bell Hot Springs
remote, wilderness; hike-in hot springs.
south of Mammoth & Rainbow Falls, via trail #2622
also known as – “Fish Creek Hot Springs”
Fouts Springs is multi-use recreation area on the east side of Mendocino National Forest. Located near the Snow Mountain Wilderness trailhead, this region is popular with the off-roaders and dirt bikers. Expect some noise if camping overnight on a weekend.
Excellent picnic spots along creek in springtime. Wildflowers bloom March-May. Campfire restrictions may begin as early as July, so know current fire conditions.
Fouts campgrounds are located on the EAST SIDE of Mendo NF on paved road M10. Situated below 2000′ elevation and open year round.
TRAVELERS NOTE: Tent campers, RV and truck campers can easily access this area, all paved roads. Exit Williams or Willows on I-5 and head west. A decent back country map or Mendocino National Forest Map is advised; Numerous canyons, forested creeks and campgrounds. Always check with Mendocino National Forest for road closures and conditions.
OFF-ROADERS NOTE:Use caution on paved access road M10, especially when driving with trailers or large RVs. Narrow road, long and winding with blind curves and no guard rails. Always check with Mendocino National Forest for road closures and trail conditions.
Mendocino Ranger Stations can be found on link below
Small mountain resort in the forest near Mill Creek, with cabin rentals, RV camping and campgrounds nearby. A general store is open in summer months, and snow can be found in winter. Highway 172 makes a nice paved loop around this forested area and joins back to Hwy 36. Route may be closed due to snow in winter & spring. Free camping can be found along this creek, although a campfire permit is always required for camping outside of developed campgrounds.
Mill Creek Indians: Described as a group of ‘renegade and outlaws’, from multiple tribes in NorCal. Mill Creek Indians took shelter in secluded Mill Creek gorge, located below the Mill Creek Rim, a volcanic ridge which extends from Mount Lassen to the Sacramento River Valley. See more on Ishi Wilderness.
Fouts Springsis a popular off-road camping area on the far east side of Mendocino National Forest. Many miles off I-5, near Stonyford, CA. Numerous NFS campgrounds exist is this rugged canyon. One of them is called Mill Creek Campground and it has few pine tree and lots of chaparral, plus a decent little creek flowing nearby. OHV – off highway vehicle use is heavy in this region, so know when to go. At certain times of the year this remote canyon can be quiet and peaceful. Call the local rangers to find out.
5171 Stonyford-Elk Creek Road
Stonyford, CA 95979
All of the Snow Mountain Wilderness was burnt and affected, including all the National Forest land surrounding it. Fouts Springs Campgrounds may have been spared, but the hills, trails and roads now lead to blackened forest. Many routes could be closed; check with ranger station in advance of travel.
Mill Creek Waterfall is located on the western slopes of the Warner Range, near the South Warner Wilderness. On the headwaters to the Pit River; About 6 miles east of US Highway 395, near the town of Likely, south of Alturas, California
TheBucks Lake Wilderness region also has a developed NFS Mill Creek Campground. The camp location is well off the Bucks Lake Road, tucked deep in a tight canyon; northern most point and near a dam for the large Bucks Lake.
elevation = 5200′
10 camp sites
closed in winter
14 night camp limit
RV = 21′ max
camp fire rings
Bucklin Road (aka Bucklin Dam Rd and Road 33) #24N24 a paved road on the west end of Bucks Lake, connects to Road #24N88X which leads back to this smaller campground; camp sites are paved. Steep driveway down.
This Mill Creek intersects Bucks Lake at the campground, then connects to the PCT hiking trail, although the narrow dirt road #24N88X veers away from creek a few miles up.
This Mill Creek is located on the south shore of the lower Kings River, above Pine Flat Reservoir. This is the boundary where Sequoia NF meets the big river, and on the other side of the water is the Sierra NF.
Mill Flat Campground (also known as Mill Creek Camp) is a shady, oak flat campground on a dirt road, located at a dead end canyon site, right on the rocky rivers edge.
As usual – the further you drive, the more seclusion you will find. This observation holds true for this Mill Creek location. During peak summer months, there may be families enjoying this spot, but most of the year it is virtually empty and rarely used.
Below are developed campgrounds in California that have walk-in camp spots available. Vehicles are parked and you must carry your gear into the camp site (usually a short distance, but can be up to a half mile).
California Campgrounds with more than a 1-mile trek are not included in this list below. Areas such as – Catalina Island, Crystal Cove SP, Angel Island SP, Point Reyes National Seashore, indeed have many hike-to camps, but most are measured in miles (one way).
walk in campsites are perfect for –
people who wish not to see cars @ camp
people who prefer less noise while camping
physically fit folks, who want exercise
backpackers, who plan to hit the trails soon
avid hikers, who may be out day hiking
cyclists, just passing through
mountain bike campers
one nighters, travelers who only stay one night
late comers to the campground
(hint: these are usually the last campsites to fill up)
Walk in campsites are often located away from car campers & RVs. Some camp sites may have more privacy, tucked away in trees, while others have shared community area with fire pits and/or barbecues. All camp sites will have picnic tables and a some kinda toilet nearby. Bear boxes may be available for storing food properly. Sharing these food storage boxes with neighboring campers is common practice.
Campgrounds with walk-in sites range in elevation from sea level marshlands to high altitude alpine lakes. Most of these camps listed below are located inside developed campgrounds with overnight fees. Many are small campgrounds, while others are large hubs of activity. Some may be smaller campgrounds, with just a few camp sites. The most popular places can be reserved, with the links provided.
Many parks can also have day use fees, so know where you park and what time span is allowed. Ask the campground host if needing assistance. Some campgrounds lock their gates at sunset and do not permit entry at night. Others may not allow campers to check in anytime after sundown. Know their rules before you make reservations.
If you plan on not making camp reservations; make sure to have a plan B or C choice camp – in case your desired campground is already full. Many popular destinations can fill up fast (by noon in the summer).
Walk in campgrounds are considered ‘tent camping‘, as opposed to ‘car camping‘, which is literally camping next to your vehicle. This type of hike-in camping may also be referred to as ‘trailhead camping‘, as many ideal hikes begin at these prime locations. Boat-in, bike-in or hike-in camp sites are also available at some of these locations.
East San Diego County Road S2 winds thru the lower passes & washes of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. On the edge of the State Park boundary Vallecito is a small campground & park, but it was a stage coach route in the 1800’s.
California Historic Marker #304
VALLECITO STAGE STOP – A 1934 reconstruction of Vallecito Stage Station (originally built in 1852) on the eastern slopes of the mountains in the high desert. A super important stop on the first official transcontinental route, serving ‘The Jackass Mail‘, the Butterfield Overland Stage Line, and the southern emigrant caravans.
camp sites: 44
first come, first serve
Campfire pits, picnic tables, bathrooms, & historic buildings; 22 sites are tents only. RV 40′ limit; Additional 8 equestrian campsites w/ corrals. No RV hookups, no dump station. No piped water. No gasoline, no store, no amenities. No firewood, no collecting of firewood. No shade trees, just tall desert brush. Arrive adequately prepared for real desert roughin it.
A neighboring and very rural stage coach stop is further down a long wash, to the south east. Getting there usually requires 4×4, since you must ford a muddy desert wash w/ creek & deep holes. There are no signs out in this sandy desert wash, so you best have a good map and a compass.
The Old Carrizo Stage Station site is accessible by 4 different dirt roads (desert washes) way off the paved highway. None of these are well signed at the highway: Vallecito Creek, Willow Creek near Mountain Palm Springs, Carrizo Creek near Bow Willow, and Canyon sin Nombre.
Agua Caliente, Bow Willow Campground, Canebrake, Sweeney Pass, the badlands overlook, mud caves and slot canyons are all located south of Vallecito. California SR 78 and Blair Valley are north of Vallecito.
Vallecito is located at the apex of the gap in the Carrizo Badlands created by Carrizo Creek and its wash in its lower reach, to which Vallecito Creek is a tributary. Once a seasonal village of the native Kumeyaay people, on a trail across the desert from the Colorado River, this oasis, became a crucial stopping place for Spanish and then Mexican travelers to recover from the desert crossing between Sonora and New Mexico to California. The non native settlement of the site began in 1850, as a camp with a one room sod warehouse as the U.S. Army Depot Vallecito for the supply of Fort Yuma. It was later increased in size and became a store, a stage station, and a ranch house. read more on wiki
Hole-in-the-Ground Campground NFS Lassen National Forest
dirt road access #28N06, off Hwy 172 @ Mill Creek, CA
South of Highway 36, near jct Hwy 89
• Elevation: 4,300′ • Number of Sites: 13 • Vehicle Accessibility: No trailers • Campsite Fee: Yes • Campsite Reservation: No • Campsite Water: hand-pump well • Toilet: vault • Length of Stay: 14 Days • Season: April – October • Trailheads: Mill Creek Trail
Shady pines campground situated near the wild and raging Mill Creek, on the south side of Mount Lassen. Outside of the Lassen National Park, this NFS camp offers a real backwoods feel and more seclusion. Easy foot access to Mill Creek and also theIshi Wilderness.
Picnic tables and metal campfire rings provided at these campsites. Summers can be busy, but mid week you may have the whole place to yourself. NOTE: 3 miles dirt road access Lassen Forest Road #28N06. Trailers and large RVs are not recommended on this dirt road.
Hole in the Ground, is also the name of a remote wilderness canyon deep in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Located on the Upper Kern River – in Grasshopper Flat near Hockett Peak (8551′ elev). All inside the Golden Trout Wilderness; accessible only by horseback or hiking trail. Find it on foot @ Jerky Trailhead on National Forest Road# 22S82
Hole in the Wall, California
Similarly named, Hole in the Wall Campground is a popular spot in the Mojave National Preserve. Group facilities, horse corrals, developed campgrounds, centrally located, yet close to Interstate 40.
Stop by the “Hole in the Wall” Information Center (760) 252-6104, for more info and maps. The most popular hike, the Ring Trail, will leads thru rock face (above) to the campground on Black Canyon Road, on the other side of this huge rock wall.
Mid Hills Campground (nearby) has better choice on secluded camping, but rougher road to access. Mojave desert has abundant camping, so there is plenty space for everyone!
Samuel P Taylor State Park
Samuel P Taylor Campground
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.
One of the best developed campgrounds in the region for car camping and RV campers.
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.
There are many gorgeous rivers in California that are perfect for camping and fishing, but none are located in Southern California. None! Yep, you read that right. If you think about it, the golden state is about half desert! The majority of our natural water in our state is coming from the north – so take this as a warning: you might need to drive a few hours to find your ideal river camp.
The easy-to-access waterways are found mostly along highways in the Sierra Nevada – or way up in NorCal. Deep granite gorges carved out by glaciers, surrounded by forested peaks is only half the appeal. High elevation lakes, waterfalls, big trees, abundant wildlife, and the alpine villages are all part of the Sierra Nevada experience. Raft, kayak, fly fish, hike, bike or just camp out next to a big, rushing, flowing river. Our selection of California maps will get you narrowed down to a specific region, so you can find that perfect river campground, or explore and discover the back roads – for the most seclusion.
KERN RIVER: The Kern River is one of the most popular of all the Sierra rivers due to its proximity to SoCal. Hurried, stressed-out, Angelinos (LA) can be at this destination in under 3 hours – which makes it a very busy place most months.
So, let it be told, that summer is not the best time to enjoy the Kern. If you do plan a summer outting, make sure you head for the Upper Kern (10+ mi N of Kernville & Lake Isabella) or the North Fork of the Kern (out in Monache Meadows) where 4×4 is often needed.
The Lower Kern River has only 2 developed campgrounds: Hobo (closed for damage 2019) andSandy Flat (open all year). Numerous primitive camp spots are available along Old Kern Canyon Rd, which parallels the Hwy 178 on the south side. None of which are located at the rivers edges. Remington Hot Springs is a popular spot for soaking. Fishing trails, mountain biking trails and hiking trails, all over. Fire danger is great in this area, so pay extra close attention to signs and fire restrictions.
Kern River above Lake Isabella and Kernville is a better choice for camping availability.
Everybody loves Yosemite! This is the most popular park in the whole state; maybe the whole nation.
The majority of campers want to stay “right on the river” when they visit Yosemite NP, but that is just plain old impossible, since reservations go fast and there is only so much room for everyone in this enclosed, narrow, precious valley.
This particular park has some major floods (1997 & 2005) that wiped out bridges, road ways; all the old wooden cabins (at Yosemite Lodge) are gone and only half of the campgrounds are still available. Yosemite has had 11 winter floods since 1916 that have caused substantial damage to property. That number is expected to increase, as winter precipitation is getting less predictable.
Reservations are taken for camping and cabins – far in advance; like one year. No joke!
3 Yosemite Campgrounds are located next to the Merced River (inside spectacular Yosemite Valley)
Way up in the Yosemite high country, which is only open a few months outta the year, the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows Campground is located next to lush meadows and the scenic Tuolumne River. All Yosemite campsites must be reserved well in advance, so visit links above – if you are serious about a Yosemite camping trip anytime soon.
MOKELUMNE RIVER: Way up the road, deep in the western Sierra, Gold Country. Small NFS campgrounds, right on the river; Access is long, narrow paved, switch-back road, not suitable for RVs or trailers.
STANISLAUS RIVER: The Sonora Pass, the fishing is very decent way back in this granite gorge. Highway 108 is only open a few months outta the year, due to deep snow & rock slides – so time is of the essence. Summer time is prime vacation weather up here. Several campgrounds are located right on the river, or on the major feeder streams. Or you can opt for secluded primitive camping on the back roads. Find Sonora camping in Stanislaus National Forest.
YUBA RIVER: The biggest play time river in the northern Gold Country, this runs along Hwy 49 near Downieville and also has a major South Fork for the best swimming holes and primitive camping in this region. Tubing, rafting, kayaking, fishing, camping, gold panning, you name it, Yuba has it. Look for more on the South Yuba Recreation Map, or the USDA issued Tahoe National Forest Map
FEATHER RIVER: Top fishing river in the Lassen to Oroville area. Chester and Lake Almanor in the upper reaches. High Bridge Campground is nice paved-camp-site camping; a forested spot where you can fish 2 rivers on the same day. A Plumas NF or Lassen NF map would be quite helpful for this region. Lower down the mountain, lower Feather Rivers which include all 4 forks which feed Lake Oroville – West Fork (Paradise, CA), North Fork, Middle Fork Feather, (Berry Creek, CA) and the South Fork (Lumpkin). Lots of waterways and creeks worth exploring in between Chico and the mountain town of Quincy.
KINGS RIVER: This one particular river is the longest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, pulling snow melt from the upper reaches of the High Country and Mount Whitney. The river area just to the West of the National Park, over to Pine Flat Reservoir, is all prime for outdoor recreation. Several river rafting companies work this stretch of river.
GIANT SEQUOIA: in between Sequoia & Kings Canyon, inside Sequoia NF
This chunk of National Forest land is perfectly located in between 2 very popular National Parks – Kings Canyon and Sequoia. This primary paved road leads to some great camping, a perfect option for NOT camping inside the crowed National Parks.
Turn east off of Sequoia ‘Generals Highway’ 198, on to the well signed Big Meadow Rd. There is primitive camping all over this area & a few developed campgrounds along this route. Motorhomes be warned: the road narrows to one lane with no “turn outs” or U turn spots for the last 10 miles (on a steep cliff w/ large overhanging rocks)
In the first few miles, the dispersed camp sites on the right side have great views & some situated on fairly flat granite slabs, perfect for astronomer campers or adventurous RVs. To the left side of the road is more primitive style campsites in wooded areas. The whole area is also a very popular cross country ski & snowmobiling spot for winter recreation. Hunters also like these camps during hunting season (in September).
There is a developed Horse Camp on the left side of the road for equestrian campers. This camp is located across from the biggest meadow and may be the first place you notice on this drive.
Buck Rock Campground (7600′ elevation, 5 spots) & Big Meadows Campground (7600′ elevation, 25 spots) are both family style camps, perfect for those who want picnic tables, plus bathroom nearby. Sorry no flush toilets out here, only pit toilets.
Buck Rock Fire Lookout Tower @ 8500′ elevation – is located to the north on Forest Rd # 14S02. It’s a great spot for some impressive views – if you aren’t afraid of heights. To reach the tower you must climb several flights of steel steps. This place is worth a stop if planning a sightseeing day.
Big Meadows Guard Station @ 7500′ elevation (also known as Big Meadows Cabin), is located next to the BIG MEADOW and is available for rent on a weekend basis from the NFS. Hiking Jennie Lakes Wilderness and fly fishing Big Meadows Creek are favorite activities to be enjoyed.
Big Meadows Road is long & narrow – 12+ miles. RVs are not recommended beyond the Big Meadow Campground, as the road is one lane in some spots & it skirts a cliff edge. The views are incredible the farther you go & many creeks feed the region.
The narrow, long paved road eventually forks off into several smaller dirt roads back near Horse Corral Meadow. Way back here, the dirt roads lead out to trail heads for backpacking, horse packing or day hiking in Jennie Lakes & Monarch Wilderness. Backcountry access to either Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park! Have a good map if you plan to venture out this far. Pay attention & don’t get lost.
GPS would be helpful in this area. Some of the smaller of the dirt roads are not even on the NFS maps. Make sure to GPS way-point your favorite camp site, so you can find in next time…. in the dark.
Southern Sierra mountains and the Giant Sequoias, inside Sequoia National Forest. In the Camp Nelson area, south of the busy National Parks.
SEPT 2021: Closed due to the Windy Fire
GIANT SEQUOIA HWY 190 – Western Divide Highway is the 7000′ ridge line that separates the Upper Kern River from the great Central Valley to the west.
From the San Joaquin Valley – get to Porterville or Springville, continue up the mountain on the main highway, to the paved road turn off (Road #22S94) on the right side of the highway;
After Pierpoint Springs and before Camp Nelson. This quiet campground is located off the highway more than a mile, so traffic noise will not be an issue for the light sleepers. (Unless of course, a loud 4×4 rig screams by at midnight headed to the backwoods, or a horse trailer cruises by at 5am). This camp does border the Tule River Indian Reservation.
Western Divide Highway 190
Giant Sequoia Campground
Sequoia Road #22S94 is a loop road leading to many forest meadows, groves, primitive camps and trailhead destinations. Bear Creek and Coy Creek flow near CoyFlat Campground, which both merge north into the Middle Fork of the Tule River @ the highway.
Belknap Grove is nearby, with Black Mountain Grove a few miles further on the dirt back road (Road #22S94) as it continues to Bateman Ridge and Road #21S12, near the Tule Indian lands. Mountain biking, rock climbing, backpacking and hiking all great in this region.
22S94 continues in forest to 8500′ elevation @ Windy Gap, where the Summit National Recreation Trail intersects road. Popular trail among horse riders. 22S94 connects back to Western Divide Highway, in between Ponderosa and Trail of 100 Giants. Awesome loop drive for those seeking seclusion on the dirt roads, away from the tourists and RVs. Call ahead to make sure that the dirt roads and gates are open, before you plan a weekend vacation around it.
• Elevation: 5,000′
• Number of Sites: 19
• Sites Available: First come, First serve
• Vehicle Accessibility: Vehicle 22 ft. max.
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Water: Piped; Seasonal creek nearby
• Toilet: Vault
• Season: Closed for winter months
• Fee: Yes
• Operated By: National Forest Service
• Closest Town: Camp Nelson, Califronia
Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia Ranger Station
Due to the spread of invasive insects, firewood from outside the area is not permitted. Help protect our forests by purchasing or collecting firewood at or near your camping destination and burning it on-site.
Twenty five years ago, when I began this outdoor web site for California, did I ever imagine ‘times like these’ – where we would be held up inside our homes during summer, as annual wildfires destroyed our vast and beautiful forests. Frightened to breathe the toxic, smokey air outside. Saddened by news of yet another town or historic structure burning to the ground. Checking the destruction daily online, in hopes of more containment, fresh photos or any good report.
Now I fear Total Escape may become photographic documentation of how beautiful California once was.
Most California National Forest are currently closed!
Lassen Volcanic National Park is CLOSED due to damages from the Dixie Fire.
In case you missed it: 2020 was the worst year for wildland fires in California history, but 2021 is shaping up to be just as bad. Many forests, roads, trails, campgrounds and parks listed below have been closed to the public for the 2021 season, and possibly longer.
BIG SUR COAST Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP
SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS Big Basin Redwoods SP
Butano Redwoods SP
Boulder Creek, CA
Expect that campfire rules will be tighter in the future, overall. Campfires will likely be restricted to ‘only inside developed campgrounds’. Or only allowed during the wet season on the backroads or in the backcountry.
*Unfortunately, this is not a complete list of all the closures inside California parks and forests. I am adding more to this list, as more places burn. This page is a work in progress for autumn 2021
Driving north on Sierra Hwy N of Kernville, California; Passing Fairview & the Johnsondale bridge; After the R Ranch @ Johnsondale, take the right fork off the main highway, which goes deep into Kern River Gorge. This narrow & winding paved road skirts the Upper Kern River Gorge & the impressive Rincon Fault. Numerous primitive camp site can be found on dirt roads off this paved route. The pavement dead ends at Jerky Meadow trail head, which accesses the Golden Trout Wilderness & the Great Western Divide. Backpackers can get to the high country Sierra Nevada & Mineral King in Sequoia National Park from these trails.
Boy Scout Camp Whitsett is one of the first places you pass, near Sentinel Peak.
The Western Divide Hwy runs parallel to road 22S82; way up above it @ 7000′ elevation – with destinations like Dome Rock & the Needles (2 very cool granite features) that overlook this Kern Gorge. The small community of Ponderosa, CA is also up there, along with the quaking aspen groves & the Trail of 100 Giants. Forest Rd# 22S02 connects paved route 22S82 to the Giant Sequoia highway above.
There are many primitive camp areas way above Kern River Gorge – all located on the right side of this road 22S82. Look for small signs for CAMP AREA #1-6. Camps 1-3 are great for RV campers with creeks & dense forests. Long Meadow Creek is one of the first of many streams, you will cross as driving this paved, winding, canyon route. Camp areas #4, 5, & 6 are the best bet for seclusion, plus awesome hiking trails to falls, granite pools & the impressive Kern gorge. Swimming holes are plentiful. Fishing can be decent at times. Many waterfalls can be found in this region as the tributary streams fall towards the deep granite gorge in the Sierra Nevada range. All roads off of 22S82 are dirt roads & most are passenger car accessible. Wetter months could be challenging. Some routes back here are considered to be 4×4 routes tho, so know your vehicles limitations. High clearance is needed to reach some camp sites. Summers can be busy.
This area was burnt from recent wildfires in 2002-2005, but the primitive, dispersed campsites near the streams are full of vegetation & making a nice comeback. Alder Creek runs down from the Sequoias, into Dry Meadow Creek nearby.
Lower Peppermint Campground @ 5300′ elevation, on the west side of the road, is the only developed camp ground on this main forest road. Lower Peppermint has 17 spots, piped water, & picnic tables. Peppermint Meadows & Peppermint Creek are adjacent to the camp area.
Lloyd Meadows @ Sequoia Forest Road# 20S67 – is the Forks of the Kern Trailhead & the dirt road that accesses it, is very popular among equestrian campers. Freeman Creek joins Lloyd Meadows Creek near Pyles Camp. There is a small developed campground called “Forks of the Kern”. Steep trail leads down to the granite gorge where Little Kern River meets the main Kern River; Rattlesnake Creek & Ninemile Creek also join the Kern River in this 10 mile stretch. Kern Hot Springs requires a backpacking trip.
This pine forest is home to the developed NFS campground – which has been named after the tribal elder. The camp location is a sacred spot to the local native tribes. Just above Susanville, CA on the west side, south of the highway; forested w/ creeks and aspen groves. Autumn colors can be found in the creek beds.
Dirt roads all over the place, leading to far away destinations like Diamond Mountain, Antelope Lake and Taylorsville. The backcountry region was recently damaged by wildfires: 2020 Sheep Fire and now the Dixie Fire
FREE CAMPING – W Susanville, CA en route camp
Less than 3 miles of dirt road #29N03 driving will get you back off the highway and into this forest, Hwy 36 W of Susanville. Bring the mountain bike for abundant usage and a week of exploring.
Only 13 miles to downtown Susanville, via the back road. Chaney Creek Road is a main dirt road near Highway 36, which parallels the river, the red rock bluff and the road, downhill into town.
This FREE campground is popular with the hipcampers and pediums – and gets rave reviews; small RV campers do like to use this camp spot, if they don’t mind a little dirt road driving; they’ll need to park in the dirt parking lot, 40+ feet away (not adjacent to the picnic tables or fire rings).
off road trails
walk in campground, and close to town
Walk-In Campsites @ Roxie
AUG 2021 – CLOSED due to the Dixie Fire
Roxie P Campground
Susanville, CA – Lassen NF
• Elevation: 4,800′
• Number of Sites: 10 (walk-in only)
• Vehicle Accessibility: any
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Campsite Fee: No
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: open all year
• Trailheads: Diamond Peak
Flat forest and easy to walk. Shade and pine needles, picnic tables and group fire pits. All facilities are encompassed with a sturdy wooden, fence line. No RV or trailer access to camp sites. Mountain bikers like this spot and so do horseback riders. Travelers passing through eastern California will welcome the convenient location, plus the ease of dirt road.
The Roxie Camp is situated near Willard Creek on the south side of the Highway 36, close to Susanville. Willard is a feeder stream into the Susan River, which flows into town. Quiet camp, most of the time. If a big family is camping here w/ children, or there is a tribal gathering, it could get loud.
PLAN B – head over to Goumaz Campground NFS, due north. Located in between, near the junction of Hwy 38 & 44. Near the railroad tracks and the Susan River. Smaller camp near the NRT (National Recreation Trail), the Biz Johnson Trail (BLM). 2021, this camp is CLOSED!
so find someplace else: PLAN C
(make sure any camp is open by calling rangers before traveling).
OHV activity may be passing the developed campground, but are discouraged – due to the layout of camp. Plenty spots for ‘froaders further out – at the end of the road. Way back there!
Jeeps, 4×4 trucks, quads, dirt bikes, anglers and hunters travel these dirt back roads, as well as rangers, campers, horses, mountain bikes, and big logging trucks. 25 mph slow is always best. Daytime headlights help you get seen in the shadows. Forest is dense and road conditions are ever changing.
Forest Road #29N03 is Gold Run Road, the bumpy dirt road – that skirts around Diamond Mountain on the south side. Lots of one single track or one-lane dirt roads, which will require a National Forest map or a decent topo map to navigate properly.
OHV is common in these areas, but not so busy at this camp. If you seek peace and quiet and solitude, know how to read a map and where the noise is expected to be. Avoid the OHV areas, if you want to nap in the hammock and read a book.
Wild red necks with guns live in NorCal, so pay close attention to property lines and trespassing signs.
USFS Ranger Station is located on the west side, just outside of town, on the wide downhill grade on the highway @ the Eagle Lake turnoff. Cal Fire station is also located along this stretch of road.
Lassen National Forest
Ranger Station USFS
CA-36 @ Eagle Lake Rd
Susanville, CA 96130
Cal Fire Station
697 CA-36, Susanville, CA 96130