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.
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!
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
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.
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.
From 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.
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
free w/ wilderness permit
ultimate in seclusion, bring it all on your back, on foot into the wilderness & enjoy trail camps
SO CAL CAMP FIRES – Yellow Post Campsites are remote camping spots in secluded areas, in a designated fire safe clearing. No 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.
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.
Rentals 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Atlas Three Rivers is small town, located along the Kaweah River, near south entrance to Sequoia National Park
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.
Have a few good maps to cross-reference while traveling back roads and trails.
This major dirt route is often closed and gated by the rangers during wet, winter months.
Numerous Silver Lakes, Creeks and other “silver” terrain can be found inside California. After the Gold Rush of 1849 in the western Sierra, Silver was discovered in Nevada shortly after (east of Sierra Nevada mountains). This page is an overview on all places with SILVER in the name, or places that have had a history of silver mining. California Counties are listed in parenthesis. Links below will lead to more detailed pages or campground reservations.
Silver Fork of the American River. Silver Fork Road connects US Highway 50 & Carson Pass Hwy 88. Silver Fork Campground & China Flat Campground (NFS) are both located on this remote, backcountry route, about 8 miles from US Hwy 50
Autumn aspen groves ignite with color in October. Often, some of the best fall colors in the Eastern Sierra. Day trips w/ fishing. Hiking everywhere. Overnighters or backpackers could be greeted with snow at anytime in October or later. The June Lake Loop (SR 158) closes for snow annually!
below are silver mining camps and other silver related destinations, plus some campgrounds
Bodie SHP (State Park)
8375′ elev. US Hwy 395 near Bridgeport, CA. Infamous, high desert ghost town, now a California Historic State Park. Large gold mining camp w/ well-preserved, wooden, old town structures. Silver was discovered in nearby Aurora Canyon. All dirt road access. No developed campground @ Bodie, so try nearby Green Creek Road instead. Or high desert, back road camping on Aurora Canyon Road over to Bridgeport Reservoir.
8500′ elev. Inyo mountains, West of Death Valley, east of US Hwy 395 @ Junction 136. Old mining camp rich in silver history. Someone might even live up there. Extreme remote location in rugged, high desert mountains. 4×4 is always required!
Silver City Sequoia
6935′ elev. cabin resort on Mineral King Road, in the South Sequoia National Park
Silver Valley Campground & Silver Tip Campground (Alpine Co)are both located near Lake Alpine on Highway 4 Ebbetts Pass , Central Sierra
Silvertip is also a Group Camp at Jackson Meadow Reservoir (Sierra Co) off Hwy 89, North of Truckee, CA. Silvertip Group Campground, as with all group camping facilities, is by reservation only.
Silver Lake @ LA (Los Angeles Co) a hip and popular, tree-lined neighborhood in Los Angeles, near Griffith Park.
(San Bernardino Co)
Silver Dry Lake, a dry lakebed in the Mojave desert, near the Hollow Hills Wilderness, north of Baker, CA off I-15
(San Bernardino Co)
2430′ elev. a desert community southwest of Barstow, near Helendale, CA. Located on the Mojave River (which flows underground) in between Historic Route 66 & US Hwy 395. Attraction nearby – Exotic World, the Burlesque Hall of Fame.
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.
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.
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
Kern River is a top recreation destination for the lower half of the state, since it is the only big Sierra river within easy reach of Southern California.
Lower mountain elevations 2000-4000′ means camping all year is possible on the Kern. With only a few inches of rainfall, plus an average high temperature of 60 degrees in December & January, Kernville has become a year-round recreation destination for the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Kern Canyon and most surrounding mountains are managed by USDA: Sequoia National Forest, which extends south to the Tehachapi range!
Sierra Nevada ROAD CLOSURES during winter restricts that Kern Canyon is only accessible via the Hwy 178 route. Both the Western Divide Highway (to the north) and Sherman’s Pass Road (to the east) close for many months, due to snow. (typically, NOV-APRIL closure)
Popular Kern Recreation – backpacking, camping, fishing, hiking, river rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, off-roading & floating (inner tubing).
Kern River can be divided into 5 different & distinct regions:
Kern River High Country
headwaters of the Kern River.
High Sierra, Golden Trout Wilderness, Kern Hot Springs, Mount Whitney snowmelt, Kern Gorge. foot access only, wilderness backcountry. fishing, day hikes, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, horse packs.
backpackers & fishing trailheads
Big parking lot at the bridge. trails travel rivers edge into a tight canyon, impressive rock gorge continues up to the tallest mountain peaks in the High Sierra.
Shermans Pass Road hard right, up hill, turn-off the main (paved) route that connects Kern River to Mojave desert.
RINCON CAMP – The Rincon Fault (an earthquake fault line) runs in a north-south direction, on the east side of Kern River. Popular and rugged RINCON, a dirt bike and mountain bike trail runs this ridge as well. An overgrown hunters camp (which has been almost destroyed) is located up hill from Brush Creek falls; but accessible via unmaintained dirt road – unsigned pull out, just off Shermans’ Pass Road. High clearance vehicle is needed to reach this spot.
BUSY: This part of the Kern River sees much of the action, with kayakers, river rafters, fishermen, RVs, motorcycles, mountain bikers, backpackers and car campers, seeking easy river access, hiking trailheads or just a good picnic spot.
Numerous small lodges between Kernville & Johnsondale
Brush Creek: awesome waterfalls & pools on Brush Creek, only accessible by hiking trail.
Rincon Trail runs above the river on the east side, via the Rincon earthquake fault. This is right where Brush Creek comes down the steep mountain. RINCON is favorite mountain biking trail, that is also open to dirt bikes (OHV) & equestrian, so share the trail and play nice. Rincon Camp is rugged, may be overgrown and unmaintained. Long dirt road might require high clearance vehicle or possible 4×4, if weather is wet.
Huge recreational reservoir in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Dry and high desert terrain. Canyons have more vegetation. East part of lake is a wildlife refuge w/ abundant cottonwood trees, which turn golden yellow in Autumn.
The earthen dam is on the south westside. California State Route 178 (Hwy 178), which connects Mojave desert w/ Bako. This major east-west Sierra route is a four-laner (freeway) cutting thru the valley. EXIT# intersects w/ CA 155 to reach Alta Sierra, Wofford Heights, Kernville and all place north of there.
Minimal to modest campsites in the lower canyon. Most seclusion for overnight spots, can be found along the empty stretches of the Old Kern Canyon Road. Many curvy mountain miles, one lane, paved, several flat spots for easy road-side camping. Caution for cattle in roadway. Speed limit is generally under 40 mph for this historic route which parallels the 178, in between Lake Isabella and Bako.
There once was a time when we connected more with nature. Before we closed ourselves off, behind the doors and windows, behind the computer screens, before the internet became part of daily life.
Overweight and obesity is now epidemic in America (as if you didn’t notice). Fast food feasting and soda pop, GMO-gut disorders – and yet we’re still frustrated or disappointed with life; Addicted to television, processed food, copious amounts of sugar, daily coffee, smoking, prescription drugs, and what else.
Wi-fi streaming, video games, always indoors, online, enjoying air conditioned cubes. Inactive physically, emotionally vacant, bored with our choices and always on social media.
Stop and think. Look what has happened to us.
Is this the life you envisioned?
Cooking over a camp fire and real conversation are just a few examples of what we have lost in our modern world of technology, fantasy and face-time. Fresh air, wild flowers, alpine lakes, star filled skies and total silence – all still exist in certain areas, but you must know where to look. Birds and bees, wildlife is disappearing at extinction levels. Pollution, powerful corporations and politics.
Stop and look. See what has happened to earth.
Is this the world you envisioned?
Gone! Away, split, out of town. Off work, out of school, on vacation. Outdoors, always. Far, far away. Unplugged, out of range, vacant lands, big trees, open skies, clear views. California is the land of dreams. Opportunity, fantasy, education, agriculture, terrific terrain and epic scenery. Campfires, waterfalls and mountain meadows are waiting for you.
Taking time off of work – or your typical daily routine – is often rewarding physically as well as mentally. Imagine a week away in a gorgeous location, with minimal to do. Really relax, zone out, chill. Gaze at the water, nap in a hammock, find wildflowers, deer bones, or bear fur on a tree. Cook over the campfire, stargaze every night.
Running to a general store for ice will be your biggest task of the week.
Wilderness boundary, abundant dirt roads and freedom; cell phone calls dropped. Beyond the city limits. Well past the county line.
Roads do lead out of the matrix, if you desire to follow them. Concentrate on a new reality – and disconnect long enough to commune with nature. Find the free time to really relax and re-evaluate life. Explore other options, consider real life in the bigger picture. Hike, bike, walk, camp, birdwatch. Be outdoors, often!
Cheap Road Trips
Total Escape is your California planner. We’ve been doing this “region” for more than 30 years, always focusing on the back roads. Discover hidden secrets, meadows and unknown waterfalls. Find free campsites, canyons, rivers, creeks and new places to explore.
Jamison Creek Canyon: the small stream flows all year long
Small Sierra Nevada camp on Upper Jamison Creek in a granite canyon, within a gorgeous red fir forests, wildflowers and fresh mountain air.
high clearance vehicle recommended
Gravel (rocky) road access, and here we use the word “road” loosely: Plumas County Road #507
Plumas Forest Route 507
also known as Johnsville Road; Johnsville McRea Road (misspelled McCrea on Google Maps)
Ross Campground NFS
• Elevation: 6,070′
• Number of Sites: 5
• Vehicle Accessibility: High clearance; No RVs or trailers
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Campsite Reservation: No
• Toilet: Vault
• Water: Creek only
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May–October
• Trailhead: McRea Ridge & PCT
RUSTIC CAMP: No Picnic Tables!
4 camp sites are located at this turnoff @ driveway. Another single camp spot is located half mile up road, next to 2 nice swimming holes. Although the National Forest web site states that this place has 3 sites, it does indeed have 5 camp fire rings. All are available on a first come basis.
No OHV off-road riding in camp.
Snow is possible at this elevation, between October-April. Thunderstorms are common in summer in the Sierra Nevada mountains. 4×4 will be needed to access this area, if winter weather sets in.
Across Jamison Creek from Ross Camp
is Mount Fillmore @ 7715′ elev. Up canyon is Mc Rae Ridge PCT trailhead Mt Etna @ 7063′ Blue Nose Mtn @ 7290′
USFS just started charging a fee for this remote creekside camp. It used to be free, but no more.
Located off the main highway, on a side road, with the epic Salmon River! This NFS campground is popular with whitewater enthusiasts in the spring. Rafters, kayakers. Many challenging rapids ranging from Class 3 to 5 are available. Swimming is also popular in the summer and numerous river access areas are a short drive or walk from the campground.
Car campers in Southern California dream of the perfect setting: an uncrowded campsite, in a lush forest, with tall trees & flowing stream of crystal clear water. A swimming hole nearby, plus a place for the hammock. They also want it less than a 2 hours drive from their home. Unlikely.
The real California rivers & mountains are in the northern half of the state, while the lower is more like a desert. You will need to drive hours to reach these kinda spots. The Sierra Nevada mountains are the closest bet for finding a creek side camp. Lassen is next, for exploring numerous dirt roads that lead to secluded spots. Northern California, above Redding usually has water flowing and decent fishing, even in the driest years.
Read more on specific California camping techniques:
thin blue lines – You’ll know a decent road when you see it. But when you are starting out at home, you need to concentrate of what dirt roads are along what water sources. And will these streams be flowing at this time of year? Many are seasonal creeks & can dry up in late summer. The most likely place to find great water flow is to look for the streams flowing directly into a major river or Lake/ Reservoir.
And if you are really not into to roughing it, but wanna find a CABIN on RIVER or CREEK, check out our extensive list of all vacation cabins here, California Cabin Rentals
No Reservations. most camp sites are available first-come, first-serve
RV limitations: 30 feet
69 miles east of Jackson, CA on Highway 88 and then another 12 miles south on Blue Lakes Road. This area is close to Hope Valley, south of Lake Tahoe, CA
Blue Lakes consist of several developed campgrounds. Blue Lakes Rd# 13 is a well signed, paved road off Hwy 88, just east of Carson Pass (8560′ elev). The route is closed during winter snow, while it serves as a winter recreation area. The main paved road becomes dirt near the campgrounds. A dirt road continues past the lakes and south to Deer Creek and meets w/ Hwy 4 near Ebbett’s Pass.
RV campers, fishing folks, hikers, kayakers and disabled travelers like this lake camp area due to the easy access, paved parking and campground amenities. Handicapped camp sites are also prime lake front locations.
Group Campgrounds are reservable. Picnic Areas, Group Sites and campfire rings. Piped water, bear boxes and vault toilets. No RV hookups, no dump station, no showers. Unimproved boat ramps are available at Upper and Lower Blue Lakes.
Upper Blue Lake Campground elev. 8136′
camp sites: 32
Overflow Camp camp sites: 34
Backpackers and day hikers: Sierra trailheads out here lead south into the Mokelumne Wilderness Area. The infamous Pacific Crest Trail also passes thru this high elevation region: PCT access @ Carson Pass, Upper Lake & Tamarack Lake
EASTBOUND Paved Road #64 is Jess Valley, which leads along the Pit River, cool volcanic cliffs, and up to forested Blue Lake Campground, elevation 6051′
Donner Blue Lake
DONNER PASS – Sierra Nevada
Interstate 80 BLUE LAKE CAMPGROUND
i80 Donner Pass, near Truckee, CA; a PGE Campground w/ 4×4 access and hike-in only. First come, first serve. No tables or restrooms, elevation 5900′
Lake side resort w/ boat rentals and fishing, near Upper Lake, CA
A small resort w/ hotel suites and a lakeside setting w/ abundant nature. Two small lakes, kinda close to the highway. Non motorized boats only, kayaks, paddle boards, canoe, swimming, birdwatching, bike paths and fishing. Wedding venue next to lake. Wineries, restaurants, and a casino nearby.