Tag Archives: backroads

California Aspens

AspenGroves

Aspen Groves are easy to recognize with their thick stands. White trunks with dark knots, slender, with oval shaped leaves. Growing in a network of roots, which are found lining creeks, alpine lakes, or spilling out from higher elevations, along  scenic canyons.

The unique round leaves which can turn spectacular colors in the fall season. The fluttering and flapping of the oval-shaped, thick, green leaf is a sure sign of summer. When breezes get cooler, Autumn is only a few weeks away and as quick as the cold comes in, what a short and special show they put on.

autumncabin
Green Creek historic cabin, on the Eastern Sierra

California Fall Colors

Aspen trees can be found at higher mountain elevations in California, usually above 4000′ – all the way up to about 10,000′ or higher, depending on the mountain range and local water flows. Groves have an extensive root systems underground, so they often withstand wildfires and can come back after the rest of the forest is gone.

Beavers build dams in creeks around aspen trees, fishermen and campers love to camp next to aspens, and lovers carve their initials into their white bark. These trees do indeed take a beating, from all angles, winter weather included… so stop from cutting them!

carvings

fishing creeks mountain biking stargaze Picnic Camp Hiking horseback back roads mountains

  • BIKE
  • CAMP
  • FISH
  • HIKE
  • KAYAK
  • PICNIC

summer and autumn

These deciduous trees are naked half the year, typically from November to April, as winter buries them in snow and ice. Time is of the essence, limited to Summer and Autumn – to enjoy their shade and the beauty of the groves. Scenic meadows and fishing creeks are just an added bonus for searching out the aspen.

Aspens can be found in hidden canyons, primarily along the Eastern Sierra US Hwy 395 and surrounding mountain lakes. Some Sierra Passes have decent displays of color as well – like Carson Pass Hwy 88 and Yosemite’s Tioga Pass Hwy 120.

Below is a list of Total Escape’s favorite aspen areas of California

ASPENDELL
BAKER CREEK (4×4)
BIG PINE CANYON – NORTH FORK TRAIL

BISHOP CREEK
BLUE LAKES, CARSON PASS
BLUE LAKE, MODOC

CONVICT LAKE, US 395
COTTONWOOD CREEK @ ANCIENT BRISTLECONES
COYOTE FLAT (4×4)

CROCKER @ LAKE DAVIS
CROWLEY LAKE, US 395

DUNDERBERG MEADOW

EAGLE LAKE @
ASPEN GROVE CAMPGROUND

GREEN CREEK ROAD, US 395
HASKINS VALLEY @ BUCKS LAKE
HILTON CREEK, US 395
HOPE VALLEY
JUNE LAKE LOOP

LAKE SABRINA
LAKE TAHOE
LAUREL LAKES ROAD, US 395
LEE VINING CANYON
LUNDY LAKE, US 395

MAMMOTH LAKES, US 395

MCCLOUD CREEK @ ALGOMA
MCGEE CREEK, US 395

MILL CREEK to MINERAL, CA
HWY 172 LOOP aspensofmineral1000

MODOC NF @ BLUE LAKE
NORTH LAKE, ASPENDELL @ BISHOP

ONION VALLEY @ INDEPENDENCE
PARKER LAKE RD @ JUNE LAKE LOOP
PINE CREEK ROAD, BISHOP

PLUMAS-EUREKA STATE PARK
@ UPPER JAMISON CREEK CAMPGROUND

PLUMAS EUREKA

QUAKING ASPEN CAMP, GIANT SEQUOIA

RED’S MEADOW, MAMMOTH
ROCK CREEK ROAD @ US HWY 395

ROSS CAMPGROUND, PLUMAS NF

SPALDING, CA @ EAGLE LAKE

TOM’S PLACE, US 395
TWIN LAKES @ BRIDGEPORT
VIRGINIA LAKES, US 395

WISHON RESERVOIR

aspentips
Aspen Tips @ Eagle Lake California

 

aspenwall
Green Creek Camping

Autumn Camping in California

 

amigoaspens
Laurel Lake Road @ 9000′ – Eastern Sierra, California

 

aspensplit

California Motorcycle Roads

f

CA motorcycle roads

These are the roads that drivers love. More room to roam, more space, more pavement, more scenery to love and less people, less drivers and less distractions. California has endless roadways that wind through every part of the entire state. If you enjoy real driving in California, you like the curvy roads & scenery. Total Escape  has dedicated numerous hours to the collection of back roads in California. Some paved, some not.

4000 RPMs or higher / Cerro Noroeste Road to Hwy 166

CALIFORNIA driving WAYS & ROADS

CALIFORNIA SCENIC HIGHWAYS & MAIN ROADS

free stickers
get your free sticker

singlelanerd

MAPS, PARKS & LINKS

see also

scenic drives
Some random road east of Trinity River

What is Camping?

Old Timers Berry Creek

Basically, what is Camping?

4x4 camping RV camping car camping primitive camping backpacking cabin camping

BLM camping State Park camping National Forest campgrounds National Park camping

 

An overnight stay out-of-doors. Sleeping out under the stars.
Air bed, camping cot, tent… or just a tarp on the ground.
Perhaps a luxury Cabin Rental in the mountains or on the coast. Your choice.

stars camptruck campfire

campFrom a luxurious cabin in the mountains, to a small clearing in near a meadow with a stream nearby – with just a backpack, the idea of “camping” is always a bit different for each person. Roughin’ it for free – in the wilderness, or on the back roads; Or pay dearly for the price of real amenities, while on vacation.

car camping

Various types of Camping in California:

type of
camping
average
cost per night
brief description – what to expect
modern cabin $300 – $600 better than a hotel room, full kitchen, phone, internet, TV, real furniture and maybe a hot tub
rustic cabin $90 – $299 bare minimum, beds, kitchen sink, electricity. maybe a bathroom
tent cabins / yurts $60- $150 wood floors, canvas walls, sleeping cots. reservations accepted. (very popular) may be open seasonally
camper vans, motorhome,
recreational vehicle
rentals, or own it all creature comforts on wheels, lots of luxury. camp the back roads.
camper shell own it mini motorhome on the back end of a pickup truck. smaller than RV
RV campground $35- $80 50+ sites, lots of facilities & families w/ RVs. reservations accepted
developed campground $20- $50 usually 30 – 100 sites, paved loop, facilities. toilets, piped water. plenty in our camping section (most popular)
small campground $12- $27 less than 25 camp sites, pit/vault toilets. plenty small campgrounds listed in our camping section
primitive car camping free way-out-there camp spots w/ dispersed camp sites, for the rugged self-contained, self-sufficient camper; access usually via dirt back roads.
SUV/ 4×4 camping free remote spots on long, steep, bumpy dirt roads; dispersed camp sites in secluded areas. 4 wheel drive may be needed
walk-in campsites
bike-in campsites
low cost or free camp sites that require you to physically haul your camp gear from a parking area to the camp spot, ranging from 1/8 mi. walk to a 1-3 mile hike
backpacking free w/ wilderness permit ultimate in seclusion, bring it all on your back, on foot into the wilderness & enjoy trail camps

  pinetree    fish

River Beach Campground
Trinity River Camping, Douglas City, CA

yellowpost

SO CAL CAMP FIRES – Yellow Post Campsites are remote camping spots in secluded areas, in a designated fire safe clearing. Camp FiresNo facilities such as toilets or showers. Maybe a picnic table & fire rings, if you’re lucky. Southern California forests have these kinda spots. Required campfire permit & you must double check on local fire restrictions.

Tent Cabin Rentals

Canvas Tent Cabins & Yurts

These structures are half way between ‘roughing it in a tent on the ground’ & having a ‘mountain cabin’. Tent cabins have wooden floors w/ canvas walls and roof; Dismantled annually for winter rain/snow, they are usually only available in mild, coastal climates or during summer months in the mountains.

deluxe-tent-cabinRentals typically include sleeping cots, but you’ll need to bring your own bedding (sleeping bags, sheets, pillows). Some rentals include shaded porches, wooden decks, minimal furniture, kitchenettes and/or wood burning stoves. Electricity may be available, or maybe not. Ask ahead of time, if you really must have that particular luxury when on vacation.

Yurts are a ’round version’ of this canvas cabin – which need to be aired out, often (to prevent mold). Yurt rentals are very popular and in high demand in California.

Find these type of rentals at yoga retreats, hot springs, beach canyons, remote lakes, redwood forests, high sierra camps, fishing camps and at certain RV parks.

National Forest Service Rangers wildlife

Deck w/ View

National Forest Fire Lookouts
& Historic Cabins

hiker

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

Camping California Back Roads


California 4×4 Club

4WD clubs / 4×4 off road / 4×4 vehicles / 4×4 club

California has no shortage of 4 wheel drive vehicles, but how many of them actually use them for what they were intended? If you’ve had your 4WD for a while and are itching to get to know the local trails, then grab yourself a few good OHV maps & head for the hills.
If you are a total novice and think you might want to get familiar with routes, what your vehicle can and cannot do, and learn the ropes from the pros, then you might want to discover the friendly folks in your local 4×4 club. Below we list as many legitimate groups we can find, with or without web sites. If your club is not listed, then please contact us & we might add it.
anzawashes
Anza Borrego Desert Washes

Off roaders (with running rigs) can enjoy pre-planned back road trips with various 4×4 Groups in California:

The very best place to start searching for 4WD routes inside California — is right here on Total Escape. After you’ve narrowed it down to a general location, then buying a decent topo map is a necessity. We have extensive sections devoted to California back roads, SUV interests, OHV Parks, off road tour guides, and of course, offroad trail maps.

califrepublic

Giant Sequoias
Hidden Sequoia Groves, Western Divide

 

4WD clubs
4×4 Camps @ Los Padres National Forest

DanaMite’s dirt roads list

4x4

Lake Davis

Baker Creek
Upper Baker Creek, Inyo NF – 4×4 Camp

Lake Kaweah

wildflowers

Sequoia Foothills Reservoir, CA SR 198
Kaweah Lake

Southern Sierra lake located on Kaweah River, near the mouth of Mineral King Canyon. In between the western Sierra foothills and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley. West of Sequoia NP, east of Visalia, California.

Crystal Cave
Mineral King
Sequoia National Park
Three Rivers
Visalia

The small town of Three Rivers is just up the road from this small reservoir & their slogan is the ‘southern gateway’ to the Sequoia National Park.

There are several recreational reservoirs that are situated at the base of the Sierras, along the western slopes. The Kaweah River transports snowmelt deep from the Sierra Nevada mountains, down to the San Joaquin Valley (Central Valley), for human consumption, households, and agriculture.

Lake Kaweah California

elevation: 1945′
surface area: 1200′
vegetation: minimal trees, scrub oak, wildflower foothills

fishing –

  • bass
  • bluegill
  • catfish
  • crappie
  • trout

recreation –

  • backpack
  • bike
  • boat
  • camp
  • canoe
  • hike
  • houseboat
  • kayak
  • sail
  • swim
  • waterski

Horse Creek Recreation Area
Horse Creek Campground
76 camp sites

Kaweah Rentals

Kaweah Marina has patio boats, fishing boats, and paddle boards available for rent. Reservations are needed in summer for weekends and holidays. 559-597-2526

Kaweah Houseboats

Privately owned house-boats can be seen on this lake, although none are available at the marina for rent. Some can usually be found for sale on visalia.craigslist.org

Weather: Lake Kaweah Dam

US Army Corps of Engineers
PO Box 44270
34443 Sierra Drive
Lemon Cove, CA 93244
559-597-2301

Gateway

Sequoia Highway 198 has many side routes worth exploring: Mineral King Road will get you to amazing scenery, but there ARE NOT ANY Sequoia groves up that way; Crystal Cave, open for tours is located near the south entrance of the National Park; and a lesser known campground in this area is called South Fork, off on a residential side route canyon – South Fork Drive (Road #348); Located on the quiet South Fork of the Kaweah River.

Sequoia Maps:

North Fork Drive: North Fork of the Kaweah River is a seldom traveled dirt back road that leads from the east side of the lake @ Hwy 198, northbound (along the North Fork of Kaweah River), straight into the backdoor of Sequoia National Park’s ridge line highway @ Dorst Campground. The original town of Kaweah (elev 960′) is along this route. Many small dirt roads to explore up this way and a good topo map is advised.

 

Eshom Campground (on western border of Sequoia NP), a small slice of Giant Sequoia National Monument land, Redwood Creek and a trailhead called Redwood Saddle are all back up in here.

DanaMite

founder of Total Escape

Internet Pioneer

totalescape.com  – online since 1996

(before the dot com crash, before digital cameras, before GPS, before social media & way ahead of smartphones)

Sole creative force of Total Escape, Dana Williams left her 3D animation career to start living and working her dream job, online and off. Utilizing artistic talents, computer skills, a vast knowledge of the California landscape and a simple love of nature, to make it all come together for a killer web site called Total Escape. Over 25 years online means fresh content & updates every month; reworking web code every few years to keep up with various browsers, apps, maps, and wildfires.

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“travel agent to the back woods”

greenhouseLiving close to the earth with organic gardening and rural living, DanaMite strives to offer California residents, new-comers and visitors unique, local destinations, concentrating on the outdoors – well away from overcrowded, busy, urban cities and tourist traps. Total Escape can show you how to discover the secret, hidden spots on your public lands that the gov web sites will not even dare to mention.

Support this site

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total escape
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the independent source for California travel

NO CORPORATE sponsorshipCalifornia Camping Photos
No venture capital
No government subsidies
No annoying pop-up ads
No scripts chugging bandwidth

No membership needed

 

Decades without a television set lends plenty of time for studying terrain, topographic maps, GPS coordinates and thousands of photographs to compile more than 8000 pages on just California travel. Far from the daily grind of everyday life, DanaMite continues in educating the public about local travel, camping, family farms, organic cafes, outdoor recreation, respecting the land, responsible use of our resources & how to get more enjoyment out of weekend travels.

outdoor girls

Things that started Total Escape:

 

entrepreneur

YOUR SUPPORT keeps Total Escape going:

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Expert Camping Pro California
40+ years of documenting back roads of California, plus some Baja & Utah too!
utahlover
DanaMite loves Utah, almost as much as she loves California.
tejonpass
Tejon Pass “Cristo’s Umbrellas” art installation 1991. Photo copyright – Kevin Robinson

condor costume

California Camping River

map river | hiking river | map gorge

California Rivers & River Topo Maps

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

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.

NorCal Rivers:

Burney Falls
Burney Falls, is part of the Pit River

EEL RIVER
KLAMATH RIVER
Klamath NF Map
MAD RIVER – NFS Campground
MATTOLE RIVER
McCLOUD RIVER

NAPA RIVER
NAVARRO RIVER
NEW RIVER
NOYO RIVER
PIT RIVER
RUSSIAN RIVER
SACRAMENTO RIVER CAMPING
SALMON RIVER
6 RIVERS NATIONAL FOREST MAP
SMITH RIVER
TRINITY RIVER
VAN DUZEN RIVER

MiddleForkFeather
Middle Fork of Feather River, Berry Creek, CA

Sierra Nevada Rivers:

AMERICAN RIVER
AMERICAN RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
CONSUMNES RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map

FEATHER RIVER
FEATHER RIVER Recreation Map
FEATHER RIVER – Plumas NF Map

Kern River Hot Tub
Kern River Hot Tub

KAWEAH RIVER – Sequoia
KERN RIVER CAMPING
KERN RIVER – Sequoia
KINGS RIVER California
KINGS RIVER CAMPING
KINGS RIVER – Sequoia Kings Canyon Map
KINGS CANYON NP
MERCED RIVER – Sierra
MERCED RIVER – Yosemite Map
MOKELUMNE RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
OWENS RIVER – Inyo NF Map
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER – Sierra
SOUTH YUBA RIVER Recreation Map
STANISLAUS RIVER – Sonora Pass
STANISLAUS RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map
SUSAN RIVER – Lassen
TULE RIVER – Sequoia

YUBA RIVER – North Gold Country
YUBA RIVER – Tahoe NF Map

Central Coast Rivers:

BIG SUR RIVER
SALINAS RIVER

SoCal Rivers:

COLORADO RIVER CAMPING
Colorado River Jet Ski
LAKE HAVASU
LAKE MEAD (NV) Recreation Map
LAKE MOHAVE

SANTA YNEZ RIVER @ Lake Cachuma – Santa Barbara Mountains
SESPE RIVER – more creek than river, Los Padres NF & SESPE WILDERNESS

Colorado River California
Colorado River California

 

LOCAL TIPS
River Destinations in California

califrepublic

calmrivers
Lower Kern River – Calm but Dangerous

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) and Sandy 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.

Beer at River

YOSEMITE RIVER: Yosemite National Park –
Merced River & Tuolumne River

NPSEverybody 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)

hikehike

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.

check

Mokelumne

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.

CAMP FOUR & A HALF CABIN RENTAL
NFS KINGS RIVER
NFSrangers

hikehike

Kings River Rafters

River Beach Campground
Trinity River Camping, Douglas City, CA
riverrunsclear
Sierra Nevada Rivers are the dreams that Summers are made of.


14S11 – Sequoia NF

trails to meadow

Big Meadows Road: Sequoia Forest Rd# 14S11

SEPT 2021: Closed due to the KNP Complex Fire

GIANT SEQUOIA: in between Sequoia & Kings Canyon, inside Sequoia NF

Sequoia Meadows

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)

SEE CAMPING PHOTOS

campIn 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).

horseback

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.

 

Sequoia maps

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.

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest MAP

nearby services:

Sequoia Groves

see all – Big Meadows in California 

Marvin Pass Trailhead

32S13 – Los Padres NF

Sierra Madre Road
Sierra Madre Ridge, San Rafael Wilderness

Los Padres National Forest
Forest Road #32S13

off of Cuyama Valley Hwy 166

32S13 Sierra Madre Road

East of Santa Maria, CA – along Highway 166 (on the south side of the pavement) are several dirt roads that lead up to the main ridge road that access this part of Los Padres National Forest.

  • backpacking
  • camping
  • dirt bike trails
  • dirt roads
  • hiking
  • horse camping
  • mountain biking
  • off road routes
  • petroglyhs
  • wildflowers

4WD not required, but high clearance is helpful. Open almost all year. Rainy season gate closures (at hwy) during winter months.

4x4

dirtbikes

cruiseronridge

Sierra Madre Mountains

Miranda Pine Mountain (elev. 4120′)
Timber Peak (elev. 4754′)
Peak Mountain (elev. 5843′)
McPherson Peak (elev. 5749′)
Samon Peak (elev. 6221′)

Sierra Madre Ridge is forest road #32S13, which parallels Hwy 166 (Cuyama River) for over 50 miles on the Sierra Madre Ridge at approx. 5000 feet elevation.

NOTE: A good stretch of this dirt road is closed to vehicle traffic. Although it connects to Santa Barbara Canyon near Ventucopa, you cannot drive it. Only hike or mountain bike!

Hog Pen Sign

NFS Gate locked at the HOG PEN trailhead, and from there you can bike or walk all the way the other end at Santa Barbara Canyon near Cuayama Fire Lookout @ Dick Smith Wilderness

Still Standing

camp

Small campgrounds in the region:

off Highway 166
Miranda Pine Campground (on 32S13 @ 11N03)
Bates Canyon Campground (via Cottonwood Canyon Rd)
also known as White Oaks Campground
Aliso Canyon Campground (via Aliso Canyon Road)
not accessible by vehicle, from dirt road 32S13; only by trail

in the backcountry
Painted Rock Camp (hike-in)
Sycamore Camp (hike-in)

high clearance, off road accessible
Horseshoe Springs (11N04)
Lazy Campground (11N04)
Wagon Flat Campground (11N03)
Barrel Springs (10N06)
Colson Canyon (11N04)

wildflower

coastridges

Highway 166 Cuyama River Valley
EAST San Luis Obispo County

Wildflowers Bloom: APRIL-MAY

mayflowers

redflora

San Rafael Wilderness

Sisquoc River
Native Rock Art
Sierra Madre Mountains

Rock Art Sign

MAPS of the Area:

hiker

Los Padres USFS MAP
Los Padres Topo Atlas
Los Padres West NatGeo Map
Dick Smith Wilderness Map

sisquocriver6nearby destinations: 

Cuyama Peak Fire Lookout
New Cuyama, CA

Rock Front Ranch 4×4
Santa Maria, CA
Ventucopa, CA

7N23 – Angeles NF

wildflowers angeles

Foothills: North Los Angles County

I-5 Freeway Close, Camping on Dirt Road

Angeles National Forest extends far north of Santa Clarita, CA. Way up Interstate 5, almost to Tejon Pass (4144′ elev). On the west side of the freeway is Los Padres National Forest and on the opposite side is Angeles National Forest. Both sides have abundant off roading and dirt roads, trails and camping areas.

4x4

A few developed campgrounds exist along I-5, but who really wants to camp out and listen to the freeway traffic? This route is a skinny dirt road, leading out to small remote campgrounds, often visited by off roaders. No facilities and no running water; you’ll be lucky if the picnic table isn’t shot up. Simple, bare bones, middle of nowhere for L.A. County.

Forest Road # 7N23

Long dirt road that begins at Three Points Road, off of Hwy 138 – the Antelope Valley freeway which connects the Grapevine and Tejon Pass @  I-5 to the Mojave Highway 14 out east.

USDA National Forest Map is advised, a high clearance vehicle is recommended – and free time needed to enjoy such a spot. 4WD may be needed during snow and really wet weather.

PCT access

pctThe ever popular Pacific Crest Trail passes by this small NFS campground listed below. Backpackers, horse packers, dirt bikes and truck campers can all access this dirt road, but be warned it is WAY OUT THERE.

snow

Yes, it snows up here (very infrequently) – terrain elevations range from 1000-5000′ around this region. Basic note: if Interstate 5 has snow warnings, this small, backcountry dirt road will get winter weather too. And sometimes that can be significant, during JAN-MARCH.  If more than a few inches of snow are predicted, you best have a 4×4 and/or snow chains.

  • camping
  • dirt roads
  • hiking
  • off roading
  • wildflowers

wildflower

Wildflowers bloom in April, and will need a decent amount of winter rain/snow to display the vivid colors. This area is not too far from the California Poppy Reserve in the Antelope Valley.

Hungry Valley SVRA is a large, popular off road park, located to the north. On the edge of the Los Padres National Forest  @ the GORMAN exit.

camp

Bear Campground
[2021 CLOSED, due to wildfire from 2020]

open all year
elevation: 5400′

7 camp sites
no toilets
no water
no fee

Oak trees, sage, chaparral w/ wide open sky views. Picnic tables, fire rings and fresh air. Well spaced sites, with lots of room to spread out. OHV trucks & trailers do frequent this spot, so be warned.

Far from everything, so no impromptu beer runs to the mini -market. Bring everything you will need for any overnight stay, including ice, food, drinking water, washing water, and campfire water. LOTS of water is always good. No creeks flow year round. Summer and autumn can be very hot in these hills.

road7N23

nearby destinations:

camptruck

23S16 – Sequoia NF

Sugarloaf Ridge, Greenhorn Mts
Alta Sierra, Kern River Canyon

sugarloafrd
Sugarloaf Road, above Kern River Canyon

SOUTH SIERRA: This route is located in between the Western Divide Highway and the cedar community of Alta Sierra, CA

Sequoia Camping

Sugarloaf Ridge: Forest Rd# 23S16 – Thompson Camp Spring, The Den @ Sequoia National Forest

Driving north on Sierra Hwy N of Kernville, California; Passing Fairview & the Johnsondale bridge; After the R Ranch @ Johnsondale, take the left fork on the main highway; After you climb in elevation, look for brown signs on right side of road & turn left on Forest Service Rd# 23S16. Primitive camp sites are located throughout this area along Packsaddle Creek. Do not turn left up Sugarloaf Rd. There are no good camp sites up that way (unless you wanna make one).

RV campers are very common at Thompson Camp Spring, as this road is paved up to this point. The paved road is windy & narrows after this point. It is not advised for trailers or long motorhomes past Thompson.

For the more adventurous, Bear Meadow & Packsaddle Mdw are located up the dirt road a bit on #23S64.

Vsugar

Paved Sequoia route# 23S16 continues to climb, which leads to the Speas Meadow, the Greenhorn Mountains & you best have a real good map if you are heading up this way. 20 miles of awesome open meadows, small streams, dense forest, wildflowers, some primitive camp sites & great viewpoints overlooking the Kern Canyon. All passenger car accessible! Elevations between 6000-7000′. Sugarloaf Peak has cross country skiing.

Side route #23S05 will take you to White River Campground w/ 12 spots. The paved road winds west down the mountain to Posey & eventually Glennville on Hwy 155.

Instead, to easily reach Hwy 155 – you’ll need to get on dirt for a few miles. While on 23S16, look for the Panorama Campground (@ 7400′ elevation w/ 10 sites). Take dirt road #24S15 to get back to civilization @ Alta Sierra, California.

NFSlogo

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest MAP

Sequoia Forest Topo Atlas

 

nearby small towns are:

Vbeardrive

Best Paved Roads in the Sierra Nevada

Pine Canyon Road
Inyo National Forest Rd # 6S17
Bishop, CA

Western Divide Highway
Giant Sequoia NM
Ponderosa, CA
(LIMITED ACCESS 2021, due to wildfire damage)

Forks of the Kern: Sequoia National Forest
Forest Rd# 22S82
(CLOSED 2021, due to wildfire damage)

23N16 Motorcylce Ride: Pashnit
pashnit.com/ca-forest-road-23s16

kernwildflowers
Kern River Wildflowers (April) w/ Sugarloaf Mountains

Snake Lake California

Snake Lake Campground

Snake Lake Campground, Plumas NF

campDon’t let the name frighten you, Snake Lake is a very scenic fishing lake – but you will NOT want to swim in it. Lily pads cover the water surface most of the year so it is considered “frog heaven” during the warmer months. NFS has been upgrading these camping facilities recently. Snake Lake Campground has new picnic tables, camp fire rings, bear boxes, vault toilet and expanded equestrian camps and corrals. No piped water, so bring your own. A bucket & shovel are always required for proper campfire maintenance.

morninglakeview

One of the best campgrounds in the region, Plumas National Forest and close to Quincy, CA. Paved road access means an easy 3 miles off the main road (Bucks Lake Road, aka Oroville-Quincy Highway, Oro Quincy Hwy). 7 miles west of the town of Quincy, the green, metal, one-lane bridge is easy to spot, but the small sign for “Snake Lake 3” is easy to miss, if driving 50 mph or faster. Turn off is located in between Quincy and Meadow Valley.

New Signs

Horse Camping

Equestrian camp sites, horse corrals, OHV trails, group picnic areas. Hiking, fishing, mountain biking, off roading, horseback trails, kayaking or canoe.

horseback

Snake Lake Campground NFS

• Elevation: 4200′
• Number of Sites: 17
• Vehicle Accessibility: small RV
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – October
• Trailheads: OHV, Horse & Winter Rec

This lake camp serves as a central hub for travelers, motorcyclists, campers, hikers, fishermen, off roaders and equestrians alike. Mountain biking & OHV trails go off in numerous directions and horseback trails are readily accessible. Winter Recreation Area means snowmobile trails too.

Another smaller lake, Smith Lake, is a short drive or short hike (on dirt road) further into the woods, with the Butterfly Valley Botanical Area neighboring it.

fish

another Snake Lake?

Another SNAKE LAKE exist inside Plumas National Forest. The smaller Snake lake can be accessed by off-road trail Road#12E66, off the Gold Lake Highway; 4×4 is required to reach this one. West of Gold Lake in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. The PCT is routed nearby one mile away.

middayblue

Crocker Campground

Davis Lake Camping

Crocker Camp Lake Davis

Crocker Campground
Crocker Guard Station

Plumas Forest Rd #24N06
Crocker Mountain Rd @ Beckwourth-Genesse Rd

Seldom used, but often loved. This old camp used to be a California Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, during the construction of Lake Davis in 1966. Situated next to a big meadow w/ ancient lava flows up hill, the small campground hugs a wooded hillside above the freshly paved Beckwourth-Genesse Road #111

Lake Davis Recreation Area

Plumas National Forest
Beckwourth Ranger Districtranger
530-836-2575

If choosing to enter camp from the lake side, take Crocker Mountain Rd. / Plumas Forest Rd #24N06, up from Grizzly Road #112.

The Lake Davis area is a north turn off Hwy 89, in between Beckwourth and Portola, CA

Access from the paved (east) side is via Beckwourth-Genesse Road #111. Adventurous camper trucks, or small RVs may attempt this dirt hillside campground, but roots and rocks and erosion are abundant in the upper portion of the camp, so be warned.

Off Roaders (dirt bikes, quads, 4x4s) like this rustic camp spot, cuz it’s not too far off the pavement – and they can drive their comfy campers w/ trailers en tow, and the big BBQ grill and easy-up shade.

hikerNote: you cannot see Lake Davis from this side of the hill.

Autumn is nice here w/ aspen groves at nearby Crocker Guard Station. There are no aspen trees in the campground – only pines. This primitive campground is located on a forested, volcanic hillside facing east; Dirt road entry, vault toilet w/ minimal facilities. No paved campsite loop here!

Numerous unmarked foot trails lead out to the meadows edge, up lava ridges or into the forest behind the aspens. Crocker Guard Station is a very short walk; and available for rent from the NFS w/ reservation.

Crocker Campground NFS camp

• Elevation: 5600′
• Number of Sites: 10
• Vehicle Accessibility: Small RV
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – November
• Trailheads: Crocker Meadow Loop

Crocker Campground

Crocker Guard Station

aka Crocker CCC Camp

Set back nicely off the main road, this stylish, historic, two story cabin – with wood siding and front porch – has meadows and aspen groves surrounding it. Paved road access from Beckwourth Genesee Road

CCC = the Civilian Conservation Corps is often mentioned when reading about this specific location.

Crocker Guard Station was built in 1912 as a home for Forest Service personnel, and was later staffed as a fire station until the 1980s. Now the building serves as a USFS Cabin Rental; which could also make a nice (small) wedding location. Very scenic location w/ aspen groves.

lava campsites

Crocker Mountain (7444′ elev)  is popular for deer hunting, mountain biking, as well as off-road travel. Trails can be dusty and steep in summer, then snowy, slippery and muddy in wetter months. This Plumas mountain region does get some snow, so check the weather forecast.

Lake Davis is about 5 miles away from this small campground, to the west. From Crocker Camp to Lake Davis (the most direct way) is a one lane, graded dirt road – Plumas Forest Rd #24N06

The paved driving to the lake will be triple the distance – and you’ll need to go back to the highway.

View East from Davis
Crocker Mountain @ Lake Davis, California

Campfires in California

Campfires on the Back Roads
Campfires on the Back Roads: permit, shovel & water bucket required

campfireWhen & Where – Campfires in California

Campfire Restrictions in California

California has many different National Forest districts and each region has their own fire restrictions. State Parks & BLM also manages recreation areas & camping in the Golden State. Each agency & region has different rules, so blanket answers cannot apply to general questions on campfires.

CAMPFIRE PERMITS
Campfire permits are required for fires outside of designated recreation sites. During fire restrictions, campfires could be banned. Campfire Permit are available from Forest Service, CalFire or BLM offices or online,
http://www.preventwildfireca.org/

ranger

Manter Fire, Dome Land Wilderness
Manter Fire [2000], Dome Land Wilderness, Southern Sierra Nevada

the new abnormal

California suffers more from wildfires now than ever before. Native tribes let lightning strike wild fires burn and they did not suppress wildfire. Residential development creeping ever higher and denser into the foothills, an abundance of roadways, with the overgrown forest make fire danger ever more real.

Closed off wilderness areas, impassable dirt roads, landslides, fallen trees everywhere. Utility services (power lines), plus high winds and overgrown forest also play a huge part in the current wildfire catastrophes. Drought conditions or record winter rains, the huge population on the west coast -along with many other factors – means more fire danger. Educate yourself and others on fire safety, forests and weather patterns. Heed the wind, while in the wild. Wind spreads fire easily!tent camping

Current Fire Restrictions:

By mid summer we have usually have several wild land fires burning, which means campfire restrictions are usually in place before JULY 4th weekend. When this happens – No open campfires are allowed in the backcountry or on the back roads.

Often in the driest of years, no campfires are allowed (even inside the campgrounds).

camp

If you love to primitive camp outside of developed campgrounds, you need to plan more road trips for spring time & autumn. Or head further north, well above Redding – where the forest are moist and snow graces Mount Shasta year round. Or perhaps, go desert camping during winter months. Checking the National Forest web sites can be confusing and their online information could be outdated.

Each forest and area is individually managed. No concise, easy-to-read list or online map exist on which forests are allowing backcountry campfires – and which ones are not. Conditions seem to change so often and they aren’t great about updating those .gov web sites.  Best to call a local ranger station and ask about any current fire restrictions. You know, actually “talk on a phone” to a USFS, BLM or CalFire official.  If you can speak to a field ranger, they can tell you more on dispersed camping. Or you can navigate the USDA web site to find current ALERTS & RESTRICTIONS. Cryptic lingo may be encountered, and many clicks maybe needed; possibly forcing you to download a PDF of current fire rules.NFSlogo

Here is a page with all the California National Forests listed w/ phone numbers
https://totalescape.com/active/campstuff/NF/NFS.html

Narrow down a specific region by checking out where fires are active today and selecting a region well away from big fires.
http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

see more on this topic –

Fire Safety
Camping Without a Campfire
Firewood Dealers

rock fire ring

Camp Fires Correctly

walkincampsite
Eagle Lake Tent Campground

 

NO Campfires?
No Campfires in California?

hiker

Fire Light Cove
Cove Camping in Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Lassen Forest Roads

Lassen Backroads

Lassen National Forest roads and trailheads, surrounding Lassen NP

Lassen Forest

Lassen National Park is completely encompassed by National Forest land with dirt roads, off road trails, serene lakes, secluded camp sites, hiking trailheads and wilderness access

California State Route 89 (highway 89) runs north/south thru the middle of the park and closes for months due to winter snow.

California State Route 36 (highway 36) runs east/west on the south side of the National Park, connecting Red Bluff to Susanville, CA

California State Route 44 (highway 44) runs east/west on the north side of the National Park, connecting Redding to Susanville, CA

camp

East of Lassen National Park

Lassen Forest Road #10
Echo Lake, Silver Lake, Caribou Lake. Campgrounds, trailheads, backpacking, day hikes, parking, equestrian.

Crater Lake on the north side of Hwy 44

Lassen Forest Road #318
Juniper Lake Road (aka Chester Juniper Lake Rd)
N of Chester, CA
paved first 5 miles, then becomes graded dirt road for another 5.

Benner Creek runs along the first half of this route w/ Banner Creek Campground: elevation 5562′ / 9 camp sites / open May-Nov

Juniper Lake at end of road w/ NPS campground
elevation 6792′ / 18 camp sites / open June-Sept

Lassen Forest Road #312
Warner Valley Road (aka Drakesbad Road)
N of Chester, CA
10 miles long, paved most of the way, then becomes graded dirt road out to Drakesbad meadow.

Lassen Forest Road #311
W of Chester, CA

Wilson Lake Road, connects Hwy 36 to Road #312
Domingo Springs Campground: elevation 5060′ / 18 camp sites / open May-Nov

fish

Lassen Road #29N18
W of Chester, CA
Loop route off Forest Road #311 w/ North Fork of the Feather River, leading to Elizabeth Lake trailhead

Lassen Road #29N19
W of Chester, CA
Graded dirt road w/easy access. Connects Forest Road #311 to highway, paralleling Hwy 36. Lost Creek runs along this route w/ Willow Springs Campground: elevation 5100′ / 14 camp sites / open May-Nov

West of Lassen National Park

Lassen Forest Road #17
W of Lassen NP
North-South dirt road that connects highway 36 to highway 44.

Heart Lake trailhead
At the south end on Hwy 36 is Battle Creek Campground: elevation 4800′ / 50 camp sites / open April-Oct

Lassen Forest Road #29N22
Mineral Road connects Hwy 89 to Viola on Hwy 44
McGowan Lake Winter Recreation Area at South entrance of Lassen National Park

nlassen
Camping North Lassen

North of Lassen National Park

Lassen Forest Road #32N13
Lassen Forest Road #32N22 (PCT crosses this route)
Twin Bridges networks dirt roads @ Hat Creek.
near Old Station Visitors Center (junction Hwy 89 & 44).

Hat Creek and Cave Campground on highway 89, Big Pine Campground off highway; Numerous dirt back roads for dispersed camping, near the viewpoint on highway 44

Road #32N20
Road #32N56 – road just south of Subway Cave near Old Station, off SR Hwy 44 lead to small Baker Lake.

Road #32N92Y side route leading from Hwy 44 to Road #32N21 along Butte Creek.
Butte Lake Ranger Station and Butte Lake Campground: elevation 5600′ / 20 camp sites /open May-Oct

Road #32N09 connects Forest Road #10 to Widow Lake trailhead and Butte Lake.
Road #32N60 is Bogart Winter Recreation Area, at Hwy 44

Hat Creek Lassen Road #18 runs north/south along Hat Creek Rim. Dirt road parallels Hat Creek Valley on the east side of Hwy 89
Road #22 connects Hwy 89 to Hat Creek Rim. A popular hang glider launch area after the University of California Radio Astronomy Observatory, then the road continues eastbound to cross Pittville Rd #111 and ends up at Little Valley

Lassen NF Road #111 is Pittville Rd, runs north/south paralleling Hat Creek Rim to the east side. This 30 mile long route connects Hwy 44 to Pitt River at Hwy 299 near Fall River Mills, CA

LASSEN MAPS

Lassen Camping for Free, Mill Creek @ 172
Lassen Camping for Free on Mill Creek

campfire

see also – Thousand Lakes Wilderness & Lassen Lakes

2N93 – San Berdu NF

Big Bear Dirt Roads

2N93 – Wildhorse Meadows

Heart Bar to Big Bear Lake, via the dirt road
San Bernardino National Forest

Big Bear Back Roads
Highway 38, East of Heart Bar @ Road #1N02
Southern California

alt big bear

This 8 mile long forested, dirt road begins right off Hwy 38, just east of Heart Bar Campground and is an easy turn to miss. One tiny, brown sign is all that is found (on the guard rail). Driving too fast, you are bound to miss it.

The unimproved route heads north through the National Forest, up and over and around SugarLoaf Mountain (elev 9952′), then down to the Big Bear Lake region.

Several primitive sites – yellow post camp sites – can be found way back in here, but you might NOT be able to have a campfire (depending on fire restrictions). Check w/ local rangers before you head out.

snow Forest roads are often closed (gated) during the winter, when snow and rain make a muddy mess of the terrain. Rock slides are also common in wetter months. Call the local rangers to inquire on road conditions or if this route is open.

Road 2N93

The whole Big Bear Mountain area is a SoCal favorite forest destination, for weekenders and travelers alike. Mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, camping and 4-wheeling.

Plus the recreational lake is full of more water recreation w/ tourist shops and restaurants. Stay away from the crowds and take the back roads for adventure and recreation. Spend less money, stay outta town and camp for free.

camp

On the south side –

Big Bear Highway 38
Heart Bar Campground
Heart Bar Equestrian Camp
San Gorgonio Wilderness

On the north side –

Green Spot Equestrian Campground
Green Canyon Group Campground

SugarLoaf Mountain has a National Recreation Trail, overlooking much of the Moonridge golf & ski area.

San Bernardino National Forest

ranger

Big Bear Rangers:

San Gorgonio District
Mentone CA
909-382-2881

Barton Flats District
Barton Flats CA
909-794-4861

Big Bear Discovery Center
909-382-2790

Big Bear Maps
San Bernardino National Forest Map

nearby towns:
Angeles Oaks
Big Bear City
Big Bear Lake
Forest Falls
Mentone, CA

Big Bear OffRoad Areas

Views to Big Bear Lake

Kelso Dunes

Kelso Dunes, Mojave NP

Kelso Sand Dunes are a unique geological feature in the middle of the Mojave desert; Located in triangle of high desert in between Barstow, the Interstate 40 and the Interstate 15.

The (long) main (dirt) road (bumpy) access to these sands dunes – is located off of paved Kelbaker Road, which is just south of the train depot at Kelso, CA

KELSO DUNES

 

checkKelbaker Road is located right off Interstate 40, at the eastern edge of Mojave National Preserve. From Barstow California take Interstate 40 eastbound to Kelbaker Road exit, turn north & follow the signs  20+ miles to the Kelso Dunes. The dirt road that accesses the sand dunes is a coupla miles of washboard & low rider passenger cars should use caution.

NPS

There is no off road OHV access on these dunes – as this vast desert area of flowing & blowing sand is part of the protected Mojave NP. Nearby, the historic Mojave Road is a dirt 4×4 trail that cuts straight thru the desert 138 rough miles, from the Colorado River to Afton Canyon near Barstow, CA

Kelso Depot, Mojave NP

depot desert

kelso weather

Primitive Camping Mojave Desert

Granite Mountains has secret boulder coves and primitive camp sites. Mountain biking, stargazing and bbikeouldering (rock climbing) are abundant this region. Open camping on nearly any dirt road is an option, but pay attention yo signs as there are a few private ranches in these parts. Free camp spots serve as an excellent overnight stop for hikethose traveling to and from the east — Vegas, NV, Grand Canyon, AZ or Utah.

camp

Campground Camping Mojave Desert

Mojave National Preserve

campgrounds

Afton Canyon Campground BLM



View Larger Map of Kelso Dunes

DanaMite Dunes

WIDE OPEN High DESERT

FREE CAMPING

SAND DUNES

RAIL ROAD

DIRT ROADS

JOSHUA TREES

BOULDERS

desert

nearest towns in the vicinity:

more Mojave links

Hole-in-Rock Lava

Union Pacific Poster - California Calls You

California Reference

shasta back roads

California Information Centers w/ Helpful Links, Tips, Weather & Road Advice


SIERRA HWYS / Sierra Passes:
Annual Highway Closures in the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains

snow

California Road Conditions

 caltrans
Cal-Trans Road Conditions
800-427-7623
All CHP Offices
Web cams on California freeways

Nevada Road Conditions
702-793-1313

Oregon Road Conditions
503-588-2941

California Travel Timelines

California Back Roads Info

L.A. Road Closures
Department of Public Works Los Angeles

North State Road Conditions & Web Cams
Siskiyou County California

Weather Bureau
530-221-5613

California Mountain Roads –
Snow Chain Requirements

R1 – Chains are required on all vehicles except passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks under 6,000 pounds gross weight and equipped with snow tires on at least two drive wheels. Chains must be carried by vehicles using snow tires. All vehicles towing trailers must have chains on one drive axle. Trailers with brakes must have chains on at least one axle.

R2 – Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles except four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicles with snow-tread tires on all four wheels. NOTE: four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicles must carry traction devices in chain control areas.

R3 – Chains required. Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles, no exceptions.

The most common chain controls are R-1 and R-2. Highways will often be closed before an R-3 control is imposed, but winter weather conditions can change any road condition, hour by hour.

California Information Centers

check

California Office Of Tourism
1121 L St., Suite 103, Sacramento, CA 95814

California Welcome Centers
various locations, usually near freeway & factory outlet malls

California Bureau of Land Management
BLM

California Department of Fish and Game
916-445-0411

California National Forests NFS
USFS

CaliforniaNational Parks NPS
NPS

California State Parks calsp
SP, SHP, SRA

Eastern Sierra Interagency Center 
US Highway 395 @ Death Valley turn off
760-876-6200
2 miles south of Lone Pine CA
@ junction of Hwy 395 & SR 136

Kelso Depot Visitors Center
Mojave National Preserve
760 252-6108
Kelbaker Road, Kelso, CA

Old Station Visitor Information Center
13435 Brian’s Way
Highway 44/89, Old Station, CA 96071
530-335-7517
Hat Creek, East Lassen NF

California State Transportation

CA Trains – Amtrak, MetroLink, Coaster, BART, Skunk

California Statewide Bus Lines – Amtrak bus, Greyhound & FlixBus

train

California off road links

California 4×4 Groups
Cal 4-Wheel

Total Escape Back Roads

dirtbikes

California Travel Tours

California by Bicycle
California 4×4 Tours
California by Helicopter
California by Horseback
California by Llama
Lake Tahoe Tours
Palm Springs Tram
Vegas Outdoor Tours

hiker

California Maps: Parks, Wilderness, OHV trails

longwayup
Breckenridge Mountain, eastern, paved access from Breckenridge Road #28S06, Sequoia National Forest, Kern County California

gorgeview
Sierra National Forest Road #11S12 – Big Creek, granite gorge view. Dirt road connecting Wishon Reservoir to the Kings River, on the Western side of the Sierra Nevada

Road 64 South Warner
Exploring Modoc Road 64 (aka South Warner Rd) located back behind Blue Lake Campground. Excellent horse camping opportunities next to South Warner Wilderness.

California Roads

observatorio
Observatory @ San Pedro Martir, Baja California Norte – Pine Forest Camping Laguna Hanson, Parque Nacional Constitution de 1857; located off Hwy 3 east of Ensenada

signage
Kelbaker Road, Mojave Desert – paved connector and main route between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40. Mojave Desert National Preserve

newarmypass
Backpacking, Equestrian and Hiking Trailheads to the High Country Eastern Sierra. Cottonwood Lakes, Inyo National Forest @ US Highway 395

Gold Lake California

lilgoldlake
Hike-in only Gold Lake, Bucks Lake Wilderness.

California has more than one Gold Lake!

goldsign

Gold Lake, CA

(Sierra Co)
6409′ elev.

The biggest Gold Lake, California is the well-known one, along the Gold Lake Highway in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Plumas meets Tahoe National Forest. North of Gold Country Hwy 49, Downieville & the Yuba River. Right where the Sierra Nevada granite meets the volcanic lava rock of NorCal.

Packer Lake

Lakes Wilderness Map

Impressive jagged spires known as The Sierra Buttes (8591′) tower above the stunning lake scenery. This big Gold Lake is surrounded by a dozen smaller alpine lakes which make up the popular region called Lakes Basin. Easy access paved highway, which closes in winter for deep snow and winter recreation. The Gold Lake Highway is also referred to as Plumas County Road #S620

sierra buttes
the sierra buttes

Sardine Peak Fire Lookout lodgeranger rentals
NFS fire tower – no more overnight rentals!
overlooking the Sierra Buttes and the serene Lakes Basin, Yuba River, Northern Gold Country California

see CalPine Lookout near Sierraville, CA

driftwood

USFS

LAKES BASIN RECREATION AREA
Cabins, camping, lake fishing, backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, off-roading, snow-mobiling.

lakesbasinhikers

snowmo

California Lakes

mini gold lake

Mini Gold Lake

(Plumas Co)
6000′ elev.

Another smaller Gold Lake exist on the granite slopes in Bucks Lake Wilderness – E of Oroville & W of Quincy, CA.

gold lake trailheadThis hidden gem is a hike-in only lake – and well worth the effort. A somewhat short hike, great ridge line views to the east, although the last half mile of this route is a doozie (moderately strenuous).

The main trailhead departs from Silver Lake and climbs a ridge line that heads over to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). An off-shoot trail goes another mile to the miniature Gold Lake, a granite bowl of sheer beauty. A great day hike for those wishing to see the backcountry. Pack your picnic lunch, camera, and make a whole darn day of it!

Swimming & skinning dipping seem quite natural at this alpine lake, since it is a pretty remote location (without a lot of visitors) and there is absolutely no swimming allowed at neighboring Silver Lake.

bucks trailhead

The steep, overgrown, rocky shoreline leads one to bush whack through old trails, only to be met by a rock slide. Many dead ends and obstacles to climb around, or over. Some way… maybe, or maybe not!

Boulder and rock scrambling is the key phrase to remember, once you reach this lake. Knees may be sore from climbing, up and over the boulder ledge surrounding the lake bowl.

goldshore

Bucks Lake Wilderness Map

A few primitive camp sites are scattered about on the edge of the lake for those backpacking in, but be warned – they can be very difficult to reach. Much more suitable campsites can be found scattered throughout the area.

Warning: there are no flat, lush meadows to lounge in up at the lake, so pick yourself a side route (on the walk in) to find real seclusion and privacy.

view to Quincy

This mile-long-ridge hiking trail to mini Gold Lake has some amazing views down to the east side – Jacks Meadow right below; then Meadow Valley & Quincy off in the distant hills. RURAL CALIFORNIA – Plumas County from above.

jacks meadow
jacks meadow, way below

Sierra Nevada Lakes

High Sierra Gold Lakes in California

hike-in only lakes

hike

Golden Bear Lake
(Tulare Co)
12,000′ elev

High Sierra – Kings Canyon National Park
Center Basin / Center Peak 12,760′
PCT – Pacific Crest Trail
North of Mount Whitney
Eastern Sierra, Independence, CA

hike

Golden Trout Lake
(Inyo Co)
11,500′ elev

Trail #3306 from Onion Valley Campground
North of Mount Whitney
Eastern Sierra, Independence, CA

goldentroutlakecanyon
onion valley trail views

Eastern Sierra Lakes
Alpine Lake above Onion Valley, Eastern Sierra

California Covered Bridge

Covered Bridges of California

Oregon City Bridge
Oregon City Bridge, off Cherokee Rd, N Oroville, CA

Overland pioneers and miners flooded the Sierra Nevada mountains after 1848, when gold was discovered, transforming the natural landscape and native life of California – in horrendous ways. Industrius, eager and using the abundance of natural resources available to build homes, divert creeks, and construct a new way of life. Mining for precious metals was not a hobby, it was a ‘way of life’ for many who sought westward locales. Most traversed a continent on foot with covered wagons to get out here.

Many early bridges made of wood have disappeared in California. Historic places, such as these few wooden bridges of the West, need to be protected and preserved. So no carving your initials; spray paint (tagging), littering – nor bullet holes.

Felton Covered Bridge
Santa Cruz Mountains & Redwoods
Railway Train Rides
Felton, CA

Bridgeport Covered Bridge
(built in 1862)
South Fork of the Yuba River
Northern Gold Country Hwy 49
Nevada City & Downieville, CA

Honey Run Bridge
on Butte Creek @ Skyway
Historic Landmark from 1894
in between Chico & Paradise, CA

Knights Ferry BridgeState Park
State Historic Park

on Sacramento River
North of Sacramento, CA

oregoncitymarker

Oregon City Bridge
(see photo at top of page)
Oregon Gulch, North Lake Oroville
via Table Mountain @ Cherokee Road
North of Oroville CA

Oregon Covered Bridge
Middle Fork of the Yuba River
Northern Gold Country Hwy 49
in between Nevada City & Downieville, CA

Woodson Bridge SRAState Park
State Recreation Area

Woodson Bridge Campground Campgrounds
on Sacramento River, in betweenRV camping
Chico & Corning, CA

Honey Run Bridge
HoneyRun Bridge of Butte County, California

Volcanic Buttes of Chico
Volcanic Buttes of Chico California