Lake Davis @ Plumas National Forest elevation 5886′
Three paved roads access Lake Davis which is located north of Highway 70. Residential areas exist on the south side of the lake, which is 7 miles north of Portola, CA
Grizzly Ridge (elev 7000′) is located on the westside of Lake Davis, East of Quincy, CA
Beckwourth Taylorsville Road #112 (a dirt road) follows Little Grizzly Creek down from Genesee, and flows into this rural reservoir. Grizzly Valley Dam, also known as the Grizzly Creek Dam, reinforced the lake when it was built in 1967.
Quiet Lake Davis
Lake Davis Recreation Area offers a wide variety of outdoor experiences for summer including: camping , picnicking, fishing, hunting, boating, mountain biking, swimming, and wildlife viewing. Waterskiing and jet skis are not permitted. In the winter, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing are popular activities.
Frequent strong winds can cause the lake to become very hazardous for small craft. Boat Ramps at Camp Five, Honker Cove, Lightning Tree and Mallard Cove. Launching facilities have loading docks, paved ramps, parking and restrooms, and they all charge a fee.
Relatively uncrowded lake in the Northern Sierra, this location is often overlooked by travelers for more the popular, larger lakes. Locals use this location for outdoor recreation. Plumas National Forest
The developed campgrounds are located on the southern end of the lake. The backside of the lake is mostly made of up creeks, meadows, forests, dirt roads, wildflowers and abundant wild life.
A list of recent wildfires in California, with counties and acres affected. Forest fires listed here are the ones that have affected public lands – like National Forests, National Parks, State Parks and BLM land.
On public lands you may see signs like –
Warning: Entering a Burned Area Potential Hazards include:
FALLING TREES + LIMBS
>>> Entering a CLOSED FOREST with burn scar is a crime and can result in jail time. Check USFS forests web site for current closures.
Forest Fires listed below are alphabetical. Green & blue links to more data on these wildfires.
on the Lassen National Forest map this huge meadow area along Highway 36 is marked as “Childs Meadows”
Childs Meadow sits at 5000 feet in elevation, on the edge of the Mill Creek drainage, just south of Lassen National Park. The meadow spans from Mill Creek, eastward along State Route 36 for many miles. Gurnsey Creek flows down Wild Cattle Mountain, near the resort, crosses the pavement, and heads east to meet up with the Deer Creek drainage above Chico, California
This sacred meadow was the summer camp and ceremonial ground for native tribes that existed long before the white men showed up. The meadow basin was originally owned by J.C. Tyler who used it for summer grazing land. He established a resort about 1864 and by 1896 it was a regular stage stop for travelers.
In 1900, Tyler sold the land to Abner Nanny who used it for summer grazing. Frank Childs purchased it in 1909 and also grazed livestock there seasonally. By the late 1930s a service station and cafe had been established. Then came cabins that were the precursor of the privately owned Childs Meadow Resort, which burned down some time later. These days Highlands Ranch Resort is the newest place to call this location home.
Lassen: Childs Meadow (before the fire)
July 2011 vs. July 2021
What a difference a decade makes. Drought in California makes a green meadow brown!
RENOVATED (2017) across the street Village Inn at Highlands Ranch
MOUNT LASSEN MEADOWS
Lassen Peak @ 10,457 feet has the highest known winter snowfall amounts in California. There is an average annual snowfall of 660 inches, and in some years, more than 1,000 inches of snow falls at its base elevation of 8,250 feet.
and a month later (after I start this post)…
AUG 2021 the DIXIE FIRE
As for the spelling on the name: Childs Meadows is commonly seen on USFS maps, and found inside a book called Tehama County Place Names.
Most locals know it as Childs Meadow, but it also seen spelled with an apostrophe s – Child’s Meadow
CLOSED 2020-2022: Campground is undergoing some serious work with removal of hazardous trees and forest clean up. NOTE: DixieFire 2021 did not damage this portion of the forest highway (CA 36)
A developed USDA campground along forested Highway 36, near the junction of Chico’s Hwy 32. This stretch of 36 overlaps with north-south Lassen Hwy 89. Awesome fishing creek, meadows, hiking trails and mountain biking trails nearby. Paved, level camp sites w/ easy access to Lassen Volcanic Park and the National Forest.
This is a popular camp just south of the Lassen National Park boundary and 5 miles east of Child’s Meadow Resort. Car camp, tent camping, some spaces for large motorhomes. Plenty fishing, hiking and mountain biking trails.
Gurnsey Creek begins in Childs Meadows, north on Hwy 36 – just outside of Lassen National Park
Gurnsey Creek Campground, California
on Gurnsey Creek; Campground open May-October
(depending on snow)
Lassen Creek Camping
52 camp sites on Gurnsey Creek @ 4700′ elevation; vault toilets, creek and piped water, bear boxes; first come, first serve camping – and reservations are also accepted
Max Camper Length: no limitations
Shady forest camp sites w/ creek. Numerous fishing spots. Close to Lassen Volcanic National Park, Chester and Lake Almanor. Backpackers, day hikers and horseback riders will enjoy the PCT nearby. Pacific Crest Hiking Trail runs to the east side of this campround.
CHESTER, CA Rangers Office: 530-265-4531 Almanor Ranger DIstrict, Lassen NF
Highly advised: a real map, a printed ‘hard copy’ shows both the National Park and the National Forest of Lassen on one map – with topographic features, all mountain peaks, creeks, lakes, trailheads, plus all dirt and paved roads.
Mount Lassen is part of the Cascade Mountain Range, located north of the Sierra Nevada. The Lassen forest encompasses a large area of wilderness land, snowmelt creeks and an abundant dirt road system. Most of which is covered in deep snow about half the year, so plan accordingly.
Plenty of great dispersed camping along the old logging roads in this Lassen Forest area, surrounding the Volcanic National Park; in Northern California. Many dirt roads are graded annually to allow for passenger car access. You can make it way back there in a car – just watch for the mud and some boulders!
Camp fire permits required (see below). Pease try to choose a camp that has been used before and pack out your garbage.
HINT: a USDA Lassen National Forest Map is very helpful when camping these remote, Lassen back roads. Stay away from the crowds, avoid camp fees & really enjoy your vacation.
Camp right on a rushing river, alone. With no one in sight or sound. Have that secluded camping experience you’ve always dreamed about. Fishing, relaxing, maybe some hiking too. Or better, your mountain bike. Plenty forest roads to explore.
Numerous waterfalls to discover, water flowing everywhere. Mount Lassen @ 10,457′ elevation, is often snow-capped year round. This Northern California region is covered with pine forests and volcanic history.
If you wanna find the nearest biker bar, head over to the rustic and forested Bambi Inn @ Butte Meadows. The place is popular all the time, especially on weekends. Scenic day drive from Chico, located near a nice river and bridge, plus they have cabin rentals too. Sometimes they have big events and it can get pretty crowded and loud w/ drinking and outdoor music.
BSA Camp Lassen is a boy scout camp located E of Chico, off Highway 32 near Butte Meadows, CA
Dispersed Camp sites in Lassen in Lake Almanor Area
Alder Creek Campground
Benner Creek Campground
Black Rock Campground
year round, fish
Echo Lake Campground
May-Nov, no tables
Soldier Creek Campground
May-Nov, fall hunters
South Antelope Campground
Willow Lake Campground
May-Nov, no tables
Northside of Mount Lassen
Excellent back roads camping w/ dense forest and free firewood all over the place (bring hand saw). Dispersed, primitive, free camping, near creek, and highway close. Many forest dirt roads turn offs, all along Highway 44 (California SR 44) near junction w/ Hwy 89 @ Lassen National Park.
Big creeks, dense forests, graded dirt roads, dark night skies. PCT access, trailheads, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, all along Upper Hat Creek.
Campfire permits (shovel, bucket & water) are required when camping outside of a developed campground. Always check on current fire restrictions. Washed out bridges and landslides are common, which means road closed signs can be found on these remote backroads.
We used to have such a beautiful, lush and diverse forest in the Northern Sierra Nevada, but all that has changed with recent wildfires that have scorched millions of acres of National Forest land in the past few years.
An unbelievable amount of destruction has taken place with losses in wildlife, forest ecosystems, personal property, and human lives, as well as buildings of historic value.
Sadly, I find my California landscape photographs are now mere documentation of what beauty once was.
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.
NorCal Mushroom Festival
Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival, Mendocino
This used to be an annual event, but now it seems Mendo is promoting MUSHROOMS year round with various events, at different locations. Held in the redwoods region, each Autumn on the North Coast of California.
MENDOCINO COUNTY, CALIF. – Every November, as the flavors of fall arrive in Northern California’s Mendocino County so does the annual crop of coveted candy cap, chanterelle, porcini and morel mushrooms. Straddling historic Highways 1 and 101 with nearly 2,500 sq. miles of live oak, pygmy forests and stately redwood groves, the region is a natural hotspot for some 3,000 mushroom varieties. The annual haul is nothing short of historic, nurturing nirvana for local mycologists, chefs and fungi foragers. Add to the mix a cache of artisan chefs, 95+ wineries, a formidable craft beer and hard cider scene and the annual salute to Mr. Fungi sprouts into action.
Visitors can tap into a variety of adventures from mushroom hunts by horseback, foraging excursions, Pinot and porcini menus, educational seminars, art exhibits. The annual Skunk Train trek and cook-off deep in the depths of the Noyo River forest are always a popular attraction.
Regional hotels and restaurants offer special menus and packages throughout November.
There are many gorgeous rivers in California that are perfect for camping and fishing, but none are located in Southern California. None! Yep, you read that right. If you think about it, the golden state is about half desert! The majority of our natural water in our state is coming from the north – so take this as a warning: you might need to drive a few hours to find your ideal river camp.
The easy-to-access waterways are found mostly along highways in the Sierra Nevada – or way up in NorCal. Deep granite gorges carved out by glaciers, surrounded by forested peaks is only half the appeal. High elevation lakes, waterfalls, big trees, abundant wildlife, and the alpine villages are all part of the Sierra Nevada experience. Raft, kayak, fly fish, hike, bike or just camp out next to a big, rushing, flowing river. Our selection of California maps will get you narrowed down to a specific region, so you can find that perfect river campground, or explore and discover the back roads – for the most seclusion.
KERN RIVER: The Kern River is one of the most popular of all the Sierra rivers due to its proximity to SoCal. Hurried, stressed-out, Angelinos (LA) can be at this destination in under 3 hours – which makes it a very busy place most months.
So, let it be told, that summer is not the best time to enjoy the Kern. If you do plan a summer outting, make sure you head for the Upper Kern (10+ mi N of Kernville & Lake Isabella) or the North Fork of the Kern (out in Monache Meadows) where 4×4 is often needed.
The Lower Kern River has only 2 developed campgrounds: Hobo (closed for damage 2019) andSandy Flat (open all year). Numerous primitive camp spots are available along Old Kern Canyon Rd, which parallels the Hwy 178 on the south side. None of which are located at the rivers edges. Remington Hot Springs is a popular spot for soaking. Fishing trails, mountain biking trails and hiking trails, all over. Fire danger is great in this area, so pay extra close attention to signs and fire restrictions.
Kern River above Lake Isabella and Kernville is a better choice for camping availability.
Everybody loves Yosemite! This is the most popular park in the whole state; maybe the whole nation.
The majority of campers want to stay “right on the river” when they visit Yosemite NP, but that is just plain old impossible, since reservations go fast and there is only so much room for everyone in this enclosed, narrow, precious valley.
This particular park has some major floods (1997 & 2005) that wiped out bridges, road ways; all the old wooden cabins (at Yosemite Lodge) are gone and only half of the campgrounds are still available. Yosemite has had 11 winter floods since 1916 that have caused substantial damage to property. That number is expected to increase, as winter precipitation is getting less predictable.
Reservations are taken for camping and cabins – far in advance; like one year. No joke!
3 Yosemite Campgrounds are located next to the Merced River (inside spectacular Yosemite Valley)
Way up in the Yosemite high country, which is only open a few months outta the year, the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows Campground is located next to lush meadows and the scenic Tuolumne River. All Yosemite campsites must be reserved well in advance, so visit links above – if you are serious about a Yosemite camping trip anytime soon.
MOKELUMNE RIVER: Way up the road, deep in the western Sierra, Gold Country. Small NFS campgrounds, right on the river; Access is long, narrow paved, switch-back road, not suitable for RVs or trailers.
STANISLAUS RIVER: The Sonora Pass, the fishing is very decent way back in this granite gorge. Highway 108 is only open a few months outta the year, due to deep snow & rock slides – so time is of the essence. Summer time is prime vacation weather up here. Several campgrounds are located right on the river, or on the major feeder streams. Or you can opt for secluded primitive camping on the back roads. Find Sonora camping in Stanislaus National Forest.
YUBA RIVER: The biggest play time river in the northern Gold Country, this runs along Hwy 49 near Downieville and also has a major South Fork for the best swimming holes and primitive camping in this region. Tubing, rafting, kayaking, fishing, camping, gold panning, you name it, Yuba has it. Look for more on the South Yuba Recreation Map, or the USDA issued Tahoe National Forest Map
FEATHER RIVER: Top fishing river in the Lassen to Oroville area. Chester and Lake Almanor in the upper reaches. High Bridge Campground is nice paved-camp-site camping; a forested spot where you can fish 2 rivers on the same day. A Plumas NF or Lassen NF map would be quite helpful for this region. Lower down the mountain, lower Feather Rivers which include all 4 forks which feed Lake Oroville – West Fork (Paradise, CA), North Fork, Middle Fork Feather, (Berry Creek, CA) and the South Fork (Lumpkin). Lots of waterways and creeks worth exploring in between Chico and the mountain town of Quincy.
KINGS RIVER: This one particular river is the longest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, pulling snow melt from the upper reaches of the High Country and Mount Whitney. The river area just to the West of the National Park, over to Pine Flat Reservoir, is all prime for outdoor recreation. Several river rafting companies work this stretch of river.
The Western Divide Highway, at 6000 feet elevation, connects the Kern River Valley w/ granite peaks, dome rock, aspen groves & the Giant Sequoia trees! This is one of the southernmost Sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The easy hike is more of a nature trail, wheel chair accessible & approximately 1 mile long. Large Sequoia trees, picnic grounds, near campground.
SEPT 2021: Closed due to the Windy Fire
On busy weekends and holidays the rangers charge a “day use” parking fee, for those wishing to park in the paved parking lots. Avoid this fee by finding additional parking along the highway. Only a few good free parking spots along this busy 3 mile stretch of highway, and don’t forget to park all the way off the pavement.
SOUTHERN SIERRA: Great destination for camping families & sightseers traveling through the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains.
Western Divide Campgrounds
The USDA National Forest Campground across the road from the Trail of One Hundred Giants is called Redwood Meadow Campground. There is also a separate parking lot for the picnic grounds w/ a similar name.
Giant Sequoia National Monument has numerous dirt back roads for free, primitive, car camping. You’ll need a good topo map to find the best ones. Some roads may be muddy, overgrown or extremely rocky, depending on recent weather. Know you vehicles limitations. There is no tow truck service available way back here in the boonies.
Silver Lake Road #10
20 miles off Highway 89. Northbound, outside of Westwood @ Lake Almanor, take County Road A21 to County Road 110 (Silver Lake Rd)
Dirt road boat ramp @ southern end of lake. Winter weather & snow closes this area annually, so this lake is mainly a summertime destination. Mid-week tends to be less popular for those seeking seclusion.
Hiking trails lead to Caribou Lake, Emerald Lake, Betty Lake, Trail Lake, Shotoverin Lake & Caribou Wilderness.
Silver Bowl Campground NFS
• Elevation: 6400′
• Number of Sites: 18
• Vehicle Accessibility: small RV
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Toilet: Vault
• Water: piped/potable
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – October
• Trailheads: Caribou Wilderness
Lassen National Forest
Lassen National Forest
Almanor Ranger District
900 East Highway 36
Chester, CA 96020
2 Silver Lake in East Lassen? Surely.
Only 12 miles apart. As the crow flies.
Largest is Silver Lake, south of Caribou Lake, Lassen National Forest. East of the National Park, accessible by vehicle. The popular one that is mentioned above.
Small Silver Lake at 6600′ elevation, is a hike-in only lake. Inside Lassen National Park, west of Snag Lake and the Fantastic Lava Beds.
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.
You manage to drag yourself off the couch, congratulations! You’ve packed up your ride and are heading out to your favorite “secret” spot. Anticipation builds as you arrive and pull into the empty lot. Your heart sinks however when you discover that your once pristine camp spot has been transformed into the new town dump. An old lawn chair, candy wrappers and beer cans litter the area that you once loved. Impromptu fire rings are strewn about and armies of weekend warriors have trampled your favorite meadow into a dust bowl.
DON’T BRING THE CITY TO THE WILDERNESS. The noise, the food containers, the beer bottles, the fast food wrappers, the broken plastic crap and the balled up baby diapers. The disposable society we have created now makes us all too LAZY. Getting off your ass and outdoors means you need to take some responsibility.
You get much needed exercise, outdoors breathing fresh air, and enjoying life, while discovering new destinations and awesome terrain. The least you can do is clean up a little, and encourage others to do the same.
thinking about that plastic water bottle you dropped on the trail?
Trash isn’t specific to just campers and target shooters. Hunters are notorious pigs, especially when gathering in groups. Day hikers ‘accidentally’ loose stuff all the time – from sunglasses to bottle caps. Picnickers often forget something at the site.
Family day in the snow sounds great. Sledders leave massive amounts of trash – from broken sleds to food trash.
Litterbugs include many types of folks: disruptive teens, toothless alcoholic contractors, local yolkels, urban mishaps, gangster wanna-bes, home boys, totally oblivious yuppies & even uneducated families…
keep the trash & tagging to the city!
EDUCATION is key on this matter & it starts with you. Please pass along good outdoor ethics.
Seems you can’t go deep enough. The further into the forest you go, you still seem to see it – evidence of neglect for our land. In every outing these days, we constantly notice tons of litter and graffiti. Deliberate disrespect for the open spaces and valued wilderness lands. What is going on here?
Please report graffiti in action to the local law enforcement or nearest rangers office! Or better yet, get them on video and post it on YouTube.com
What’s the worst that can happen?
Small fragments of plastics are being found inside birds, wildlife and marine life, due to the vast amounts of micro-trash that is found outdoors. Ingested plastics often kill the animals.
Our secluded swimming holes and creek trails are now littered so badly, that the smaller trash is making it into major rivers and into the bellies of fish and the near-extinct California condors.
Misuse and sheer disregard is how OUR lands get closed (by OUR OWN government). Closed off forever, turned into ‘off limit’ roads and more totally closed wildernesses, that only can be explored on foot. OHVs, dirt bikes, 4x4s need to realize their overall impact on natural habitats could have a detrimental effect on these lands. There is a balance. Play wisely. This includes all the red necks with guns too.
Graffiti, Soda Cans, and Cigarette Butts are a nuisance to nature.
As more and more office drones venture from their cubicles and out onto the unbeaten path, they leave behind the remnants of their bold treks for all to see. Refuse, human waste, smoldering campfires and crushed flora from selfish tent placements and trail blazing destroy our fragile eco-system and pollute the environment for years to come.
Be cautious walking around to avoid destroying the fragile ecosystems, such as meadows, seedlings, wildlife & wildflowers.
Pick up all your trash & even some left behind by previous campers. Leaving the camp or picnic site in better condition than you found it.
Below are some simple tips that, coupled with common sense, will enable you to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution!
Mountains of Northern California / NorCal Mountain
California sure has a lot of mountains. West Coast land is home to the tallest Sierra Nevada range, plus the Cascade range, which extends northwards to Canada. (Many of which have volcanic peaks.)
We break down all the mountainous regions in the north part of the state below w/ links, topo maps, lakes, rivers, wilderness, parks and forests. Small towns & cities are linked in red.
North Coast Mountains
Redwood forests and rivers are what make up most of the Northwest part of California, just below the Oregon coast. Logging and fishing are the big industries up here. Lumber mill towns and camps still exists today. Wilderness areas, dirt back roads, river kayaking, stream fishing, camping and real wild indians. Oh yeah, and Big Foot!
The landscape in more dramatic along the North Coast of California, as the steep rocky terrain tumbles into the sea w/ the San Andreas fault running parallel to the shore. Marine life, rocky shores w/ small towns. Del Norte County & Humboldt County. Wild rainy weather, at least half the year; fog and sun the other half.
The furthest north is Siskiyou County, which borders the state of Oregon. We have the Klamath River flowing south into California, with plenty of mountain peaks, forests and wilderness. Interstate 5, Highway 3 and Highway 96
Pacific Crest Trail passes through the area and backpacking is common (all year long). Notable spots – Klamath Knot and The Eddy’s. Prominent Mount Shasta is actually situated inside Siskiyou County, not Shasta.
Giant Mount Shasta is located inside Siskiyou County, and Shasta County & Trinity is everything located to the south of it. Interstate 5, Highway 3 and Highway 299. Recreational lakes, rivers and streams, and off roading trails.
Waterfalls, hot springs, mountain biking and stream fishing can be found within this region. Mining history and museums are primarily situated around Weaverville. Houseboats and boat rentals can be found on the big reservoirs. Whiskeytown was totally toasted in wildfire of 2018. Alpine lakes, granite spires, campgrounds and cavern tours, all located along the Interstate 5 corridor.
Coastal mountains located above the Napa & Sonoma wine country. US 101 & Highway 20. Rivers, forests, wilderness and redwoods is the key terrain that make up the Mendocino County mountains.
There is a fair amount of off road trails and dirt roads located in and around Mendocino, so you can expect to see 4x4s, dirt bikes and toy haulers on the east side of the mountain range. The coastal side of the Mendo National Forest will have the rivers and redwood parks.
Northern Sierra Nevada mountains is where the granite rock of the Sierra meets to volcanic rock of Lassen Volcano. Butte County and Plumas County is the Feather River drainage, all flowing south from Mount Lassen.
Pacific Crest Trail is routed through Bucks Lake Wilderness and the Feather River Canyon, so backpacking is popular. Highway 70
Technically speaking, the Susan River is the top waterway of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Lassen County spans the distance from the Nevada state line, west to Plumas forest and the Feather Rivers (all 4 forks).
Lassen Peak is the middle of the National Park and the National Forest totally surrounds that. Numerous lakes, hiking trails, wilderness areas and dirt roads make up this huge forested area. Snow-mobiling is popular in winter months around the town of Chester.
The far northeast corner of the golden state is the remote cattle range lands of Modoc Country inside Modoc County. Drier than the rest of NorCal, the high desert sage brush meadows, a few lakes and pine forest mountains. Highway 299 & US 395
Free Campgrounds in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
no charge camp, no fee camping, free campgrounds
No fee camping: Bare bones. California Sierra Campgrounds without the fee.
Developed BLM or NFS campgrounds, where you can still have a campfire. Vault toilets, panic tables and fire rings. Use bear boxes when provided for proper food storage.
Below is a good long list of some favorite free developed campgrounds in the Sierras. Many will require dirt road driving, as most are located well of the highway. Perhaps the 12 mile rough road will thin out the crowds. Free overnight stay!
2020 update:this list is shrinking, as more California National Forests start charging for the smallest of campgrounds.
Pack in your drinking water and pack out your trash. Campfire permits are not required at developed campgrounds; but a bringing a water bucket and shovel is necessary for tending your campfire. Piped water is not always available, or perhaps, not in working order at these primitive style camps. Be prepared to rough it a little.
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 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/
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!
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).
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.
Wilson Lake Road, connects Hwy 36 to Road #312
Domingo Springs Campground: elevation 5060′ / 18 camp sites / open May-Nov
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
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