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.
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.
Markleeville CA & Monitor Pass (Hwy 89) are south of Lake Tahoe, connecting US Highway 395 to the upper alpine heights of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Car camping spots and backpacking in this region are located near the aspen groves, lakes, creeks or pine forest.
Starting in 2014 Death Valley National Park announced that there will be NO sporting events of any kind held within Death Valley National Park, so this particular event has been relocated to the high desert region of Reno, Nevada
Claimed as the “Toughest 48 hours in Sport”, a 508-mile bicycle race revered the world over for its epic mountain climbs, stark desert scenery, desolate roads, and its reputation as one of the toughest but most gratifying endurance challenges.
*NOTE: moved from the month of October to September
The very busiest weekend to visit the Downieville – Yuba River canyon region, so consider yourself warned.
Bicycle Expo & Street Fair on Saturday and Sunday. Live music & dancing. Big Air River Jump, plus, race cross country style or the infamous Downieville Downhill. Shuttle service available.
One of the biggest mountain bike events on the west coast. Located deep in the heart of Northern Gold Country, along the Yuba River & historic Highway 49. Camping options available in every direction. The small historic hotels book up well in advance.
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
San Luis Obispo County Off Roading
Los Padres National Forest
Rock Front Area is located on the north side of Hwy 166 in between New Cuyama and Nipomo, on the very edge of San Luis Obispo county in the center of the Santa Lucia Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest. Landscape varies from rock covered canyons to ridge line trails with outstanding vistas of the the mountains and Cuyama Valley. Remote area features Los Machos Hills, Alder Creek, Branch Creek, Cuyama River, cool rock formations.
41 miles of trails
From US Hwy 101 @ Hwy 166 travel east 25 miles, left turn into Rock Front Ranch gate on left side. (This road may also be known as Branch Creek Rd on some maps). This off road area can be closed during rainy seasons, so it is best to call rangers ahead of time to ensure the gates are open. There is also one brown Forest Service sign along highway 166, (couple of miles from 101) letting eastbound traffic know if this OHV area is open or closed.
The dirt Road #32S07 (Arroyo Seco) from the west connecting historic Huasna townsite to Rock Front is CLOSED to thru traffic and has a locked gate. Private properties and ranches are abundant in the backcountry of Arroyo Grande, CA
OHV trail ratings in this region are designated below
Green diamond – easy & least difficult
Blue diamond – moderate & more difficult
Black diamond – extreme & most difficult
Logan Ridge Trail #17E05
Green diamond. Least difficult. Open to motorcycles, ATVS, 4WD. 1.4 miles long. This route is a good route for beginning riders. It is located on the main ridge top of Logan Ridge. Route dead-ends at a locked gate.
Shaw Ridge Trail #17E06
Black diamond. Most difficult. Open to motorcycles, ATVS, 4WD. 8 miles long. This route leaves the Twin Rocks route on a spur ridge that drops into the Alamo Creek drainage and dead-ends. A very steep section of trail exists at the end of this route where specialized equipment is recommended. This section is recommended for advanced riders.
Los Machos Trail #17E07
Green diamond. Least difficult. Open to motorcycles, ATVS, 4WD. 2.8 miles long. This route is a good route for beginning riders. It is located on the main ridge top of the Los Machos Hills. Route dead-ends at a locked gate.
Paradise Trail #17E08
Blue diamond. More difficult. Open to motorcycles, ATVS, 4WD. 2 miles long. Access to Paradise Campground and Los Machos route. It is best suited for intermediate riders due to a steep section along the route. Route dead-ends at a locked gate.
Branch Creek Trail #17E09
Blue diamond. More difficult. Open to motorcycles, ATVS, 4WD. 5.5 miles long. Access to Buck Springs Campground, parallels the Big Rock route and offers a loop ride.
Big Rocks Trail #17E10
Blue diamond. More difficult. Open to motorcycles, ATVS, 4WD. 4 miles long. Located on the main ridge top and intersects with the Jack Springs route.
Twin Rocks Trail #17E12
Blue diamond. More difficult. Open to motorcycles, ATVS, 4WD. 3.5 miles long. This route intersects Shaw Ridge and dead-ends at a locked gate. The first half-mile of this trail is steep. Once on top of the ridge you have excellent views of the Cuyama Valley and the Santa Lucia Range.
Kerry Canyon Trail #30W02
Black diamond. Most difficult. For motorcycles only. 6 miles long. This trail must be accessed through Colson Canyon or Sierra Madre. The trail is highly technical and is recommended for advanced motorcycle riders only.
HORSE TRAINING – Along the highway at the gate of Rock Front Ranch is a rock house and ranch, which may or may not offer equine services.
Large, flat campground at the lake, with shady forest and common parking lot. Bathroom with running water and flush toilets are part of the amenities, along with wheel barrows for transporting your gear to distant camp sites.
Walk-in Camp sites: A few camps are located close to the parking lot, but half the sites require a short walk to reach. Firewood is sold by camp host, or bring the saw to gather free wood on the nearby back roads. There is literally TONS of free firewood on the dirt roads.
Walk-in only season is from Labor Day to December 31st
This is a tent-only designated campground with flush toilets, next to a lake. What luxury! Camping vehicles of any type (vans, motorhomes, truck campers) are not allowed in the campground. No generators at all, makes for peaceful camping. Wheelbarrows are provided to assist moving camping gear to and from campsite.
Aspen Grove Campground
• Elevation: 5,100′
• Number of Sites: 28
• Camping Reservations: Yes
• Sites Available: First come, First serve
• Vehicle Accessibility: no RVs
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Water: Piped water
• Toilet: Flush
• Season: Closed winter & spring
• Fee: Yes
• Operated By: National Forest Service
• Closest Town: Susanville, CA
What they fail to mention on the .gov
National Forest web site:
The largest aspen grove at this lake & camp is buried under pavement. Yep, that’s right.
The trees are bursting through the pavement hungry for growth. On the west side of camp, where the old boat launch used to be – before they realized it was the ideal spot for birds / wildlife and moved the boat ramp a mile or so away.
your tax dollars hard at work?
Now the ‘authorities’ should (manage themselves) to tear up all the old, unused paved parking lots, so the poor struggling aspen trees can make a come back. Autumn colors could be better at this location, and this aspen grove could be bigger and healthier, if the USDA would do their job and quit destroying nature.
Did I mention that this is one of the few aspen groves on any lake shore in Northern Cal?
National Forest signs blame the disappearing aspen grove on the lack of sunlight and bigger pine tree shade, and is in the process of removing some. What about ripping up the old, unused parking lot next door – the one with weeds growing in the crack and the real phone booth – so that the aspen grove can flourish. Better forest management is needed at this prime Autumn location.
Located right on the middle north fork of the Tule River
Inside an unknown area called Mountain Home State Forest, this small campground has a few spots that fill up quickly on weekends and at anytime during in the summer months. Campground closes seasonally, for winter snow.
Usually open: MAY-OCT
HIDDEN FALLS CAMPGROUND
• Elevation: 6,150′
• Number of Sites: 8 walk-in camp sites
• Reservations: No
• Sites Available: First come, First serve
• Vehicle Accessibility: 20′ max.
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Water: River nearby
• Toilet: Vault
• Bear Boxes: Yes
• Season: Closed for winter
• Fee: Yes
• Operated By: National Forest Service
• Closest Town: Springville, California
tent camping on river
Motorhome RV campers beware; no hook-ups, no paved roads. This is a primitive style camp, way back on a dirt road – not suitable for large vehicles.
NOTE $ This used to be one of our favorite FREE spots, but they recently started charging an overnight fee for this campground.
Golden Trout Wilderness trailheads nearby. Plenty of hiking opportunities, great scenery and several Sequoia groves to visit.Mountain biking is allowed on the dirt roads. Single track trails may be overgrown or even off-limits, due to the fragile eco-system around Sequoia trees.
You may actually love this little camp so much, you won’t want to go anywhere else. How ’bout just chillin out: relaxing near the water. Shady swimming holes. Fishing in the Tule River.
Pack a picnic: Back road exploration is a great day trip, for there are many dirt roads weaving in and around this park, near the Giant Sequoia.
Hidden Falls is accessible via a long, narrow, paved mountain road; then a dirt road, leading 3 miles back to two very secluded campgrounds: this one & neighboring Moses Gulch Campground.
western south sierra
North of Springville on Highway 190, turn left (north) on to J37, some call it Balch Park Road (Google Maps has it as Wagner Drive) and follow it up 3.5 miles to Bear Creek Road (#220). Drive 17.5 miles on curvy Bear Creek Road, turn right and follow signs to campground.
The past weekend makes the Occupy Wall Street protest look like a walk in the park w/ a picnic.
Only 8 and a half years ago (2011) – Americans were in the streets marching in mass. After 15 million people lost their home to foreclosure, 9 million lost their jobs and the banking system was teetering on the edge of financial collapse (2008), people woke up, joined together to demand a better system.
Banks got bailed out, We got sold out.
Mass Protest: Did things get better for everyone since then?
are you ready to leave your comfort zone?
(manual labor may be involved)
a vast resource for rural California
plenty of space for everyone grow food, save seeds
Summer in the City = Uncertain
They want you – for your own safety – indoors, online, controlled and monitored. Wait, what? Do we really need to stay inside 24/7 – stir crazy, checking news and social media hourly.
Escape to the real Outdoors
Turn off the television and the computer and go outside. Plant a garden, grow some food, read a book, go for a long walk or a day hike. Find a new waterfall, dust off the old mountain bike or bring a picnic to the nearest open space.
@ HOME, for how long?
Choose the outdoors, over the indoors. Solo and safe. Secluded, distant, remote. Total Escape specializes in these types of locations.
Mountain biking has become a popular sport especially in California. We’ve got so much great terrain, so close to home (the urban sprawl), that this outdoor hobby is bound to get you back in shape, fast. Start slow to avoid burnout and injury. The weather is awesome, just go. Plan a camping weekend & bring your bike!
Obvious (but humorous) information on bike riding or mountain biking in Sequoia NP. Upon doing research for this page, noticed a heck of a lotta folks typing in the phrase
Sequoia National Park Bike Trail
I laugh…. but plenty people are searching for bike trails near Sequoia groves, inside the most protected of lands, the National Parks.
Firstly, most National Parks in California do not allow bikes on hiking trails. The Sierra Nevada has NO National Parks that allow mountain biking on their trails. (official words are: Biking is allowed on the main roads in the parks but is prohibited on park trails.)
Yuk. Who wants to ride on asphalt in the wild?
Yosemite & Lake Almanor both have nice paved bike paths. But you may want dirt trails for biking. Be it mellow mountain biking on forest roads, or the hard core Downie-droppers.
California Wilderness Areas are the same rules, but even tighter. So that brings us to Sequoia National Forest. Yes, indeed California National Forests allow mountain bikes on most trails, in most cases. The popular trails might even get small brown signs showing bikes that are allowed.
Second, there are no bike rentals inside Sequoia National Park (or Kings), so you must bring yours in, or better yet ride in. I dare you. Although you cannot take said bike on a dirt trail, so you’ll need to stick to pavement only. The main highway (Hwy 198) has got to be one of the curviest, narrow, fern lined ridge routes of the region. You would be a fool to ride this area, as a senior citizen w/ a 40 foot motorhome or a speeding SUV may take you out on a curve. Seriously! You better be in great shape if you plan to descend into Kings Cyn. That route is just as dangerous if not more so. These 2 National Parks – Sequoia & kings, both get a lotta traffic. Year round.
Thirdly – here is the biggest tip of the whole topic. In between Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks is a slice of Sequoia National Forest land. (Meaning you can ride bikes or mountain bikes here) Most call it Big Meadows Road # 14S11 & there is plenty camping all down this road – 12 miles with spur roads in every direction. A nice chunk of forest with rocks, meadows, camps & dirt roads. Granite & great scenery. What more could you ask for? More forest roads than single track trails tho and please watch for equestrian traffic. The dead end of this road leads out to 2 Wilderness areas, so be prepared to navigate with a good map in hand. No bikes are allowed in the Wilderness, remember?
Spicer Meadow Reservoir can also be found on various publications, listed as Spicer Meadows, Spicer Mdws, Spicer Lake and Spicer Reservoir.
Ebbett’s Pass is California State Route (SR 4) Highway 4, which cuts thru the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains (east-west). Wilderness peaks and rivers surround this whole region. Deep snow pack is common, so much of this region is off-limits half the year (or more). Always check with local rangers by phone before venturing out, as winter conditions can keep these roads closed late into the year.
N of Arnold, California; Continue up SR 4. Passing Calaveras Big Trees State Park & Camp Connell; After Big Meadow Campground, take the paved right turn for Spicer Meadow; This is forest road 7N01. Meandering thru a forest and descending in elevation, road will dead end at Spicer Reservoir.
7N01, the main paved mountain road, is located on the south side of the highway. The highway turn off reads ‘Spicer Reservoir’. Suitable for travel w/ RVs and trucks with boat trailers. Quite curvy, scenic and about 7 miles long. There are developed campgrounds in the vicinity.
The dirt side roads off the pavement can be narrow, muddy, rocky and overgrown, so be cautious when exploring. Choosing a dispersed camp site should be done during daylight hours, and will require a campfire permit ahead of time. Use an existing camp site whenever possible, instead of creating new ones.
Several man-made reservoirs attract outdoor seekers, mountain bikers, campers, canoes and fishermen. Kayakers tend to love Union and Utica, but power boats and sail boats prefer Spicer Lake.
Volcanic features mix with Sierra granite in this part of the forest, and geologic formations make for interesting hikes. Mountain biking is common around these lakes, as well as day hiking and backpacking.
NFS Campgrounds in the region:
Stanislaus River Campground
Spicer Group Camp
Campgrounds only open June-September. Some campsites at the campground are wheelchair accessible. Boat ramp located near campgrounds.
Left fork turn off, Dirt Road #7N05 leads out to Utica & Union Reservoirs. Granite rock, alpines lakes w/ forests surrounding. No motorized boats allowed on those two lakes. Very popular among the stand up paddlers (SUP), all kayaks and canoes.
No developed campgrounds back that way either. No flush toilets, nor paved roads. No flat RV spots; only primitive style camping. These 2 scenic lakes get crowded during summer weekends, so opt for a mid-week stay if possible.
Another dirt road treks steeply up the hill from Union Reservoir to Lake Alpine (at the highway). That primitive truck trail is actually a (somewhat designated, but not well-signed) 4×4 route and suitable for high clearance vehicles only.
Spur Road #7N29Y is another small dirt road which leads a couple miles into the forest, over to overgrown trailheads and primitive camping options. Ideal for accessing all the lakes (on foot) from this prime location. A camp fire permit is required. No water, no bathrooms, no facilities, no garbage services.
7N01 – Los Padres NF
There is another USFS Road in California named 7N01, but that one is a 4×4 OHV access route @ Dutchman Campground, located in South Central California; the southern part of Los Padres National Forest. We have mention of it on the page for Frazier Park Camping.
JULY 2019 – Many thanks goes to Pike County Lookout for initially spotting the #RockFire – in the Plumas National Forest, near Berry Creek, CA
Lookouts in the California National Forests
Ready to see far and wide – with wild terrain? Views for 100 miles out and the best scenery California has to offer. Be prepared to off road or hike to reach one of these destinations.
Below is a list of historic look out towers & cabins used for spotting wildfires. Some are located on steep granite peaks, ridge lines or dirt roads. 4WD may be recommended to reach some of these. Road conditions can change w/ harsh mountain weather, so be prepared to rough it. Thunderstorms are common on these mountain ridges.
Several of these places are cabins, some are stone houses, but most fire lookouts are basic metal towers – with high climbing staircases, so you must be in decent physical strength to haul your ass up this high.
Cabins are also called guard stations, huts, bunkhouses. Most are located on mountain tops, but a few exist in desert regions. Some are refurbished & available for overnight rentals. Bare bones furnishings, so forget the frills. People come up here for the thrills. To be outside w/ epic views, way away from the urban grind & to feel on top-of-the-world.
Always check for local fire conditions at nearest ranger station, obtain a free campfire permit when camping outside of developed campgrounds, and always practice fire safety when visiting our public lands. You can be held liable for wildfires. Outta control campfire, cigarettes, idling vehicles on tall, dry grass. Be very cautious with fires on the often dry, west coast.
Cycling, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, kayaking and boating are all popular outdoor recreation activities.
Small towns located on the Point Reyes peninsula do have a few private campgrounds, some of which can accommodate motorhomes. Follow towns links for those.
There are no RV parks, camper trailers or motorhomes allowed in campgrounds on the steep coastal region of Point Reyes. Most of the narrow, winding roads are forbidden for motorhome travels. No shoulder, no guard rails, on many curvy roads. Great viewpoints are best when you STOP to look, off the roadway.