Tag Archives: National Forests

Lake Davis California

lakedavis

As the massive wildfire bears down on yet another prime vacation destination in Northern California, I feel the need to update this old lake page, so you can see what areas are being affected.
(Dixie Fire of 2021)

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.

View East from Davis
Crocker Mountain @ Lake Davis, California

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.

canoe

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 Forestfish

  • bird watching

  • boating

  • camping

  • cycling

  • fishing

  • forests

  • hiking

  • horseback

  • kayaking

  • meadows

  • mountain biking

  • stargazing

  • wildflowers

  • wildlife viewing

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davis_dirtroads

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.

recent wildfires:
Dixie Fire 2021
Beckwourth Complex 2021
Walker Fire 2019

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NFS Campgrounds near Lake Davis, California

Closed due to DixieFire 2021

genesee19mi
Half way between Genesee and Portola, CA

camptruck

fishingsign
Fishing Access Road
Lake Davis Trails
Lake Davis Trails

horseback

NEARBY TOWNS:

Portola, CA
Quincy, CA
Taylorsville, CA

meadowarea
Little Grizzly Creek

Oak Bottom Campground

Oakbottom Campground

Whiskeytown Recreation Area:
Oak Bottom Campground

Carr Fire 2018: some portions of this lake, shore, roads and trails may be closed due to the recent wildfire

The large, level, paved campground is right on the north shore of Whiskeytown Lake, on Hwy 299 – E of Redding CA

hiker

101 walk-in campsites
22 RV sites
elevation 1200′

  • boating
  • camping
  • hiking trails
  • kayaking
  • marina
  • mountain biking trails

Campground Reservation on NRA

Camp Sites near Water

Group Camping can be reserved at
Whiskey Creek Group Picnic Area
3 group camping sites with excellent views of the lake and mountains, on the northeastern shore of Whiskeytown Lake.

nearby towns:

Views Westward

canoe

Lake Sunset Whiskeytown

And by golly, there is another

OAK BOTTOM CAMP in Northern California,
way over west near Marble Mountain Wilderness

camp

Salmon River @ Somes Bar:
Oak Bottom Campground NFS

elevation 700′
26 sites
No electricity, water or sewer hookups

Six Rivers National Forest – Oak Bottom Campground loops around a forested hillside with large trees providing ample shading for multiple sites within the campground. A variety of wildlife makes its home in the area.

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.

4×4 Camping California

tecuya ridge

  • Baja Calif
  • Coastal Ranges
  • High Sierra Routes
  • Gold Country
  • Lake Camping
  • Northern Cal
  • Sierra Nevada
  • California Deserts
  • SoCal Mountains

Small campgrounds and secluded camps, accessible by dirt bikes or 4-wheel drive vehicles. Numerous dirt roads, sand dunes and canyons to explore, some with developed campgrounds, other areas w/ primitive camping. Self sufficient campers will enjoy this list.

4×4 camping in California

Okay, you got your 4 wheel drive vehicle dirty, it is now several years old & maybe you even have a scratch or two. Now is the time to finally start using that beast for real off road adventures. The real edge-of-wilderness trips you dream about when your sitting in your cubical wondering what life is really about. Fishing, camping, off roading and enjoying nature, of course!

4×4 camping in California is plentiful. California has trails for OHV use – which means ‘off highway vehicle’, that can accommodate your machine. These remote camps are always primitive camp sites, with picnic tables, fire rings & maybe a pit toilet (if you are lucky). You can find total seclusion on these back roads & trails, well away from the developed campgrounds & RV parks.

4x4

Anza Borrego Desert 4×4 Trails – pretty much everywhere in Borrego desert is off road heaven. Minimal pavement and maximum desert means dirt roads galore, white sandy washes, slot canyons, badlands, wind caves, wildflowers, petroglyphs, boulder outcroppings, old railroad trestles and so much more. The San Diego desert elevations range from near sea level to 4000′ on the eastern slopes of Laguna Mountain.

Colorado River Camping, California

Havasu Lake California
Picacho Park SRA, near Yuma, AZ
Needles BLM Camping
Turtle Mountain Road, near Needles

Mojave Desert California

Johnson Valley OHV Area
Pioneertown, CA
Kelbaker Road
Mojave National Preserve
The Historic Mojave Road
Dumont Dunes OHV Area
Death Valley
Rainbow Basin BLM
Inscription Canyon
Panamint Valley
Saline Valley Hot Springs
Cerro Gordo Mines

San Bernardino National Forest – has a few trail camps for 4×4 enthusiasts. John Bull Trail (near Holcomb Valley) has one real awesome camp spot with great views over the desert night lights. Holcomb Creek Trail also has a few spots near the creek. Overall this area is somewhat crowded for wheelin’ (especially on the weekends), as the population is so dense nearby.

dirtbikes

Los Padres National Forest – the most 4×4 camping, readily accessible to Southern California. This is truly the best kept secret for Angelinos wanting an escape. The southern portion of the forests has Tecuya Ridge #9N22, with several camps only minutes from I-5. Cherry Creek 4×4 Camp, with a few other campsites tucked way back in there. Dome Springs Campground is located off Lockwood Valley Road, while Nettle Springs Campground is over near Highway 33.

Out west, Cerro Noroeste Road has the Blue Ridge w/ Marion and Caballo Camps. Red dirt high desert wash Quatal Canyon #9N09, is right next to the Chumash Wilderness.

Hwy 166 leads out to Rock Front Ranch, a vast area of steep hills and caves worth exploring; Santa Lucia has mucho camping on dirt roads. Miranda Pines towering above the fields of Santa Maria.

2 OHV parks in the Los Padres Area: Hungry Valley & Ballinger both serve the off road crowds and have ample facilities, large camp spots to accommodate RVs and trailers.

The northern section of Los Padres (near Big Sur) has plenty of dirt roads & primitive camps, but none are truly 4×4 routes, as most can be accessed easily with a passenger car. See more on Big Sur Camping and  Big Sur BackRoads.

pinetree

Sequoia National Forest – Southern Sierra Nevada area has 4×4 camping right along the Kern River @ Keyesville, at the junction where Hwy 178 meets Hwy 155. Also, further up the river, Forest Rd#22S82 leads to primitive Camp 4, where there are several spots near granite pools, that can only be accessed by 4 wheel drive. The Big Meadows area also has some gorgeous forested back roads worth exploring. Kern Plateau has hundreds of miles of OHV trails near Troy Meadow.

High elevation Monache Meadows is a prime fishing & hiking destination on the south fork of the Kern River, accessed by an authentic “Jeep Road”.

Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway also has a couple of campgrounds, way back in the drier pinyon pine forest. Chimney Creek Campground and Long Valley Campground – although a huge portion of the loop road is now impassible, so get a good map and talk to the local rangers, before you venture to these parts.

canoe

Sierra National Forest – central Sierra forest has plenty of 4×4 routes that lead to granite rock gardens & mighty fine, secluded, forested camp sites. Gorgeous Red Lake & Coyote Lake are popular spots that require some technical skills & much patience to access. Both are frequented by fishermen & horses. Bald Mountain trailhead has awesome creekside camps on Rock Creek. Up near Wishon Reservoir is the dead end trail of Spanish Lake. Onion Springs Meadow is awesome back behind Edison Lake. Near the granite wonderland Courtright Reservoir is the infamous Dusy Trail signed #28E34 (aka #7S32, the Dusy Ershim), second only to the Rubicon Trail for high Sierra granite.

Jeepers on granite @ Bald Mtn, above Shaver Lake, CA

Stanislaus National Forest – camping in the Crandall & Niagara Creek OHV section of the forest, right off Hwy 108. Elevations range from 5000′-7000′. Higher up on the other side, Levitt Lake (access road near Levitt Falls) on the east end of the mountain range, east of the Sonora Pass sign.

El Dorado National Forest – has an area called Rock Creek for off roading in the Gold Country. Plus the ever popular Rubicon Trail starts hear (near Georgetown) & leads 20 miles across the High Sierra Nevada granite slabs to Lake Tahoe. Tons of camping back here in the National Forest.

Lakes Basin Recreation Area – Northern Gold County, just above the Yuba River. Gold Lake has many campable lakes. The area sees a lot of snowmobile traffic during winter snows, but warmer months are the time for fishing and camping. Most of the big lakes have small developed campgrounds, some are minimal, or primitive style camp sites on dirt roads without facilities. Maybe a picnic table at most.

Smith Lake is a place that fishermen and 4×4 enthusiasts love. It is small, secluded and kinda hard to find. You’ll need a good topo map of the region. Situated on the border of Tahoe and Plumas National Forest off the Gold Lake Hwy (aka Road #24). The PCT cuts thru this Lakes Basin area w/ Sierra Buttes  There are dirt roads and off road trails leading deep into the backcountry from the Packer Lake and Gold Lake areas. Snag Lake is a free camp right on the main road.

fish

Plumas National Forest

Snake Lake Campground has numerous dirt roads and trails leading out to Butterfly Valley. Horse campers use this popular camp spot, so no loud vehicle activity inside the campground. No shooting up the bear locker either!

rednecksofquincy

Milsap Bar is a long, narrow 9 mile dirt road which leads from Bald Rock Road in Berry Creek, down to the Middle fork of the Feather River. NFS Campground on the big river without fees!

China Gulch Road #60, a very long and winding dirt road, leads from Oro-Quincy Highway down to the Little North Fork. Although the NFS Campground is closed due to a landslide (1 mi before camp) there still is primitive camping at the second bridge. Be warned: the campsite at the first bridge is often over run with giant, juicy slugs at night.

rockfirering

Out there east of Quincy, somewhere off the historic, long and winding La Port Road, a few decent 4WD trails thru forest, access ridge lines or the big river below. Great fishing, amazing scenery & very secluded.

(north of La Porte Road)
– Feather River access
@ Cleghorn Bar Campground, 4 campsites (Road #23N24)
@ Stag Point Campground, 5 campsites (Road #22N80Y)
@ Hartman Bar NRT to Dan Beebe Camp (Road 94 to #22N42Y)

(south of La Porte Road)
– Poker Flat Camp near Sawmill Ridge & Table Rock (Road 800)

Sly Creek Reservoir is a super popular NFS Campground with trailheads and dirt roads leading deeper into the forests. The camp area is  a favorite amongst the off roaders and dirt bikers that migrate up to the mountains for the weekend, to escape from the heat of the summer in the Sacramento Valley. LGVR is another body of water back in these parts and is more scenic and peaceful than the Sly Creek.

Mendocino National Forest Red Lake California

This coastal range is dirt road heaven, graded dirt roads, ridge routes, hiking trails, equestrian trails, big lakes, small lakes, creeks, meadows, forests, wilderness and 4×4 routes. Snow can be the most fun and challenging for the 4WD crews. Mud, snow, some road closures seasonally.

2019 WILDFIRE: Ranch Fire – wiped out most of this area. South of Snow Mountain Wilderness, plenty off road trails leading to peaks and ridge lines. Numerous small campgrounds to choose from, trailheads everywhere, acres and acres of wild mountainous areas, and a lake resort nearby. Lake Pillsbury is kinda the center of all the 4×4 action in Mendo.

Fouts Springs – Numerous NFS Campgrounds catering to the off-road types a portion of the year, but mostly quiet other times.

foutspicnic
Fouts Camping

 

see also – OHV areas & SVRA parks

 

Sierra Nevada off road

And yes, no question about it – you WILL NEED printed hard copy map to get to these great spots.

[This list will continue to grow as we unravel all the decades worth of notes & photos. Stay tuned.]

Camping Near Yosemite

Yosemite Lake View Camp Sites

Camp Near Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a top destination, all year long. California masses converge on the sacred valley each summer, so expect more as the buses keep rolling in. Plan a Yosemite trip before Memorial Day weekend – or after Labor Day weekend, for less people.

Camping close to Yosemite National Park without being inside the park boundaries. The scenery and wildness doesn’t stop in the back country. There are numerous National Forests surrounding the popular National Park, so much public land has been set aside for these recreation purposes. Granite-lined mountain meadows, dense forests, raging creeks, wildlife and real seclusion. Plenty of great paved back roads, dirt roads and camping options in the Sierra Nevada.

CAMP OUTSIDE YOSEMITE NP, WHY?

No campground reservations needed, cheaper fees (or free), less crowds, less noise. More freedom, more privacy, more nature.

pinetree

Hundreds of developed, small campgrounds can be found around Yosemite. A few private RV resorts, cabin rentals, lodging on the main highways. Primitive style camping is considered “camping outside of developed campgrounds”. USDA National Forests usually allows open-camping within the forest boundary – with a required camp fire permit. Sometimes wildfire danger is too extreme, so they often ban campfires in dry conditions.

YOSEMITE: SOUTH @ HWY 41

SIERRA NF @ Fish Camp, CA

East side of CA SR 41:camptruck

West side of CA SR 41:camp

Lakes & Camping West of Yosemite NP:
Sierra National Forest

all Lakes near Yosemite

niruatjackass
Jackass Meadow
Granite Creek
Granite Creek Campground NFS

YOSEMITE: WEST @ Highway 140

Camping near CA SR 140

Gold Country @ Mariposa, CA

boatrampGold Country Foothills – listed below are valley reservoirs. Oaks, dry hills, which can can be super hot in summer. Boating, camping and water recreation can be found at most Reservoirs, out in these parts.

camping

YOSEMITE: WEST Highway 120

Camping near CA SR 120NFSlogo

North side of CA SR 120:

highmeadowstentsatlake

See all Lakes near Yosemite Park

lakes near Yosemite hiking

YOSEMITE: EAST Highway 120

Tioga Pass on Hwy 120 (elevation 9410′) is only open during summer months. Generally June through October. Always check road conditions before your trip.

hiker

Camping Hiking Lakes @ Tioga
Very high elevation meadows, aspen groves, snowmelt lakes. Just east of Yosemite National Park border, near the EAST GATE, inside Inyo National Forest

leeviningcamps

Lee Vining Canyon @ US 395,
10 steep miles, 
EAST of Yosemite border @ Tioga Pass
Inyo National Forest

  • Cattleguard Campground
  • Moraine Campground
  • Boulder Campground
  • Aspen Grove Campground
  • Big Bend Campground
leeviningvalley
lee vining canyon

Mono Maloy

MONO LAKE, CALIFORNIA

National Forest Cabins

California Fire Lookouts for Rent
US Forest Service Cabins

red cabin

NFSlogo
Rent a secluded cabin with an amazing view, a historic tower for wildfire spotting, or a USFS guard station – hidden deep inside USDA California National Forests. Several of these NFS lookouts have been closed recently, so the ones listed below have links to status and reservation information.

Dirt road access is common to reach these remote locations. Some require stair climbing, or steep access hikes. Winter months are usually snowy, inaccessible and sometimes dangerous for these high country locations. Access roads suffer from closures due to rock slides or landslides. Check with the locals ranger station for current conditions.

A few of these rentals are open all year long – in the southern part of the golden state.

El Dorado National Forest USFS

Harvey West Cabin
4,720′ elev. on Silverfork American River, Gold Rush

Loon Lake Chalet
6375′ elev. near Georgetown, Gold Country California

Robbs Peak Lookout
Robb’s Hut / Robbs Cabin
6686′ elev near Placerville, Gold Country California

Sly Guard Cabin
Sly Park @ Jenkinson Lake, near Placerville, Gold Country California

Van Vleck Bunkhouse
6549′ elev. near Georgetown, Gold Country California
download PDF info sheet

Lassen National Forest USFS

McCarthy Point Lookout
overlooking Mill Creek Canyon and Ishi Wilderness
ranger & info 530-258-2141

Mendocino National Forest USFS

Pine Mountain Lookout
>>>> Renovated & ReOPENS soon! April 2020
4400′ elev.  over looking Eel River wilderness
ranger & info 707-275-2361

Plumas National Forest USFS

Crocker Guard Station
5700′ elev. near Meadow on back road
Lake Davis Loop, way out behind Portola, California

 

Big Bear Lake 2002
Big Bear Lake, Southern California

San Bernardino National Forest USFS

Coon Creek Cabin
Actually this one is a reservable group campground – next to a set of historic cabins. Big Bear Area Group Camp Site. Heart Bar Rd #1N02 near Angeles Oaks, CA

Morton Peak Fire Lookout
(no longer available overnight stays 2019)

Coon Cabin
Coon Cabin – Southern Cal

Sequoia National Forest USFS

Big Meadows Cabin
Big Meadows Guard Station
off Big Meadows Rd #14S11
7600′ elevation; located in between Sequoia NP & Kings Canyon NP

Camp 4 ½ Cabin
1100′ elevation; Lower Kings River
near Pine Flat Lake, CA

Grouse Valley Cabins
3 cabins near lakes; Giant Sequoia National Monument, Western Divide
4800′ elev.

Mountain Home Guard Station
Mountain Home State Forest, Sequoia Groves
6000′ elev. near Springville, CA

Needles Fire Lookout
(destroyed in structure fire 2011)

the needles
View of The Needles, from Dome Rock on Western Divide Highway (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Oak Flat Lookout
Oak Flat Cabin Rental
4900′ elevation; Kern River canyon near Lake Isabella

Poso Guard Station Cabin Rental
open all year round4500′ elev. near Kernville, CA

Quaking Aspen Cabin Rental
Giant Sequoia National Monument, Western Divide Highway near Ponderosa, CA

Wishon Cabin Rental
Tule River, Giant Sequoia National Monument; open all year round. 4000′ elev. near Camp Nelson, CA

Shasta/Trinity National Forests USFS

Forest Glen Guard Station
near Trinity River & Forest Glen, CA

Frog Meadow Guard Station
7760′ elev. near Lake Isabella, CA

Girard Ridge Lookout
Historic Fire Lookout Tower
4809′ elev. near Dunsmuir, CA

Hirz Mountain Lookout Tower
Hirz Mtn. Fire Watch Tower Rental
overlooking Shasta Lake, CA
(currently closed for repairs 2019)

Harris Springs Guard Station
near McCloud, CA

Little Mount Hoffman Lookout
Mt. Hoffman Rental
7000′ elev. near McCloud, CA

Post Creek Guard Station
near Hayfork & Platina, CA


Sierra National Forest USFS

Camp Four and a half Cabin
Camp 4 ½ Cabin Rental
Lower Kings River, open all year round
1100′ elev. near Pine Flat Reservoir

 

Six Rivers National Forest USFS

Bear Basin Butte Cabin & Fire Lookout
elevation 5300′ in Six Rivers NF / Smith River NRA
(road damage & access issues 2017)

Tahoe National Forest USFS

Calpine Lookout Cabin Rental
near Sierraville, CA

Sardine Peak Fire Lookout
overlooking the Sierra Buttes and serene Lakes Basin, Yuba Rivers, North Gold Country CA

lakes basin views


California Locations

La Porte Road
One Eyed Jacks Market & Grill – on La Porte Road. Clipper Mills, CA

Abundant on California Locations

califrepublic

depot desert
Kelso Depot, Mojave National Preserve

train

Subway Cave California
Subway Cave California

ranger

bridge kings
Kings River, California

hiker

kongsberg_town


Tahoe Camping

Lake Tahoe Campgrounds

tahoe camping

Lake Tahoe California
campOne of the most popular Sierra destinations – be it summer or winter, Tahoe sure is crowded these days.

Below are all the developed campgrounds surrounding beautiful Lake Tahoe, CA. Most of these are located near the lake or, on the Truckee River. Most accept campground reservations in advance. blue links lead to camp info

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Bayview Campground 6000′ 10 pines vault Emerald Bay, SLT
Camp Richardson Tahoe 6500′ 330 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe
Campground by the Lake 6000′ 157 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe
D.L. Bliss State Park 6000′ 168 pines flush piped Westshore, Lake Tahoe
Eagle Point Tahoe 6100′ 100 pines flush piped California State Park
Emerald Bay State Park 6000′ 16 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe CA
Fallen Leaf Lake Campground 6737′ 205 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe CA
General Creek Campground 6000′ 175 pines flush piped Westshore, Lake Tahoe
Kaspian Campground 5800′ 20 pines flush piped Westshore, Homewood CA
Lake Forest Campground 6300′ 21 pines flush piped Northshore, Tahoe Vista CA
Meeks Bay Campground 6000′ 17 pines flush piped Westshore, Tahoma CA
Mount Rose Campground 8500′ 24 pines flush piped in Nevada @ Tahoe
Nevada Beach Campground 6200′ 54 pines flush piped Nevada Lake Tahoe
Pope Beach Campground 6000′ 49 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe CA
Sandy Beach Campground 6300′ 44 pines flush piped Northshore, Tahoe Vista CA
Silver Creek Campground 5800′ 26 pines vault piped Truckee River fishing
Sugar Pine Point SP 6200′ 30 pines flush piped Westshore, Tahoma CA
Tahoe Pines Campground 6000′ 49 pines flush piped Meyers California
Tahoe Valley RV Campground 6000′ 413 pines flush piped South Lake Tahoe CA
Tahoe Campground SRA 6200′ 16 pines flush piped West shore, Tahoe City
William Kent Campground 6300′ 95 pines flush piped Westshore, Tahoe City
Zephyr Cove Campground 6200′ 170 pines flush piped boat rentals Tahoe NV

All Tahoe Campgrounds charge a fee; Many require advanced reservations. Nightly rates vary per park. Most campgrounds are closed during the winter due to snow. Check with the ranger districts listed here.

camp RV camps NFS hikes fishing mountain biking camps river fishing

bowmanbig
Bowman Lake

Tahoe Forest

NFSlogoTahoe National Forest encompasses a larger region of the Sierra Nevada mountains surrounding the north portion of Lake Tahoe. American River, Yuba River, Northern Gold Country; Plus many small lakes with excellent forests, including Lakes Basin Recreation Area.

Blue Lakes has several campgrounds, south of South Lake Tahoe.

Grover Hot Springs State Park is also beyond SLT, near Markleeville.

Below are Tahoe Campgrounds located away from the Lake Tahoe Basin; Most small camps are on a first come, first serve basis. blue links lead to camp info.

 

campground elev. spots veg toilet water notes
Ahart Campground 5300′ 12 pines vault American River
Alpine Meadows 5900′ 25 pines vault Martis Creek
Bear Valley Campground 6600 10 pines vault piped OHV trails, Sierraville
Berger Campground 5900 7 pines vault lake Packer Lake, fishing
Big Reservoir Campground 4000 18 pines vault piped non motor lake, Foresthill
Boca Campground 5605′ 26 pines vault boat launch
Boca Rest Campground 5605′ 25 pines vault piped on Boca Reservoir
Boca Spring Campground 5800′ 17 pines vault piped horses
Bowman Lake 5585 7 pines vault lake Donner area
Boyington Mill Campground 5680′ 12 pines vault Boca Reservoir
Cal-Ida Campground 2000′ 21 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Canyon Creek Campground 6000′ 20 pines vault creek Donner area
Carlton Flat Campground 2200′ 21 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Carr Lake Campground 5900′ 5 pines vault lake Carr Feeley Lake
Chapman Creek Campground 6000′ 29 pines vault piped Yuba River
Chute Hill Campground 3400′ 30 pines flush piped Malakoff Diggins SP
Cold Creek Campground 5800′ 13 pines vault piped Sierraville
Cottonwood Campground 5600′ 24 pines vault piped Sierraville
Dark Day Campground 2200′ 16 oaks vault piped Bullards Bar Reservoir
Diablo Campground 5800′ 20 pines vault Gold Lake
Donner State Park Campground 5850′ 154 pines flush Donner Lake
East Meadow Campground 6100′ 46 pines flush piped Jackson Meadows Reservoir
Fiddle Creek Campground 2200′ 15 oaks vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Findley Campground 6100′ 14 pines flush piped Jackson Mdws Res
Fir Top Campground 6100′ 12 pines vault flush Jackson Mdws Res
French Meadows Campground 5300′ 75 pines vault flush French Meadows Reservoir
Garden Point Campground 2000′ 19 variety vault fishing boats
Giant Gap Campground 3700′ 30 pines vault fishing boats
Goose Meadow Campground 5800′ 24 pines vault piped fish Donner
Grouse Ridge Campground 7400′ 9 pines vault Bowman Lake
Hampshire Rocks Campground 5800′ 31 pines vault piped fishing I-80
Independence Lake Campground 6900′ 20 pines vault piped fishing, Sagehen Forest
Indian Springs Campground 5600′ 35 pines vault piped fishing I-80
Indian Valley Campground 2200′ 17 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Jackson Creek Campground 5600′ 14 pines vault creek
Jackson Point Campground 6100′ 8 vault boat access Jackson Mdws Res
Lakeside Campground 5700′ 41 vault boat ramp Prosser Reservoir
Lake Spaulding Campground 5000′ 24 vault boat ramp PG&E Campground
Laiser Meadow Horse Camping 6200′ 11 vault piped High Sierra PCT access
Lewis Campground 5300′ 40 pines flush piped French Meadows Reservoir
Lindsey Lake Campground 5900′ 7 vault lake
Lodgepole Camping 5800′ 18 vault Lake Valley Reservoir
Loganville Campground 6000′ 29 vault piped Yuba River, Sierra City
Logger Campground 6000′ 252 pines flush piped Stampede Reservoir
Long Ravine Campground 2300′ 28 pines flush piped Rollins Reservoir
Lower Little Truckee 6000′ 15 vault piped Truckee River fishing
Madrone Cove Campground 2000′ 11 vault Bullards Bar Reservoir
Meadow Lake Campground 7200′ 15 vault Sierra fishing camp
Meadow Lake Shoreline 7200′ 10 vault High Sierra Nevada
Mumford Bar Campground 5300′ 5 vault Foresthill Road
North Fork Campground 4400′ 17 vault piped American River
Onion Valley Campground 2300′ 5 oaks vault Sierra fishing camp
Orchard Springs Campground 2300′ 15 oaks flush piped Rollins Reservoir, Colfax
Pack Saddle Campground 6000′ 15 pines vault pump Packer Lake
Parker Flat OHV Camping 3900′ 7 pines vault off roading trails
Pass Creek Campground 6100′ 30 pines flush piped Jackson Mdws Res
Peninsula Campground 2300′ 58 pines flush piped Rollins Reservoir
Pine Aire Campground 2700′ 75 pines flush piped South Yuba River Camp
Poppy Campground 5300′ 12 pines vault French Meadows Reservoir
Prosser Campground 5800′ 29 pines vault Prosser Res.
Ramshorn Campground 2600′ 16 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
River Rest Campground 2700′ 105 pines flush piped South Yuba River Camp
Robinson Flat Campground 6800′ 5 pines vault well
Rocky Rest Campground 2300′ pines vault Yuba River, Downieville
Rucker Campground 5800′ 10 pines vault Rucker Lake fishing
Sagenhen Campground 6480′ 10 pines vault
Salmon Creek Campground 5800′ 32 pines vault fishing Lakes Basin Recr
Sardine Campground 5800′ 29 pines vault Sardine Lake fishing
Schoolhouse Campground 2200′ 56 oaks flush piped Bullards Bar Reservoir
Scott’s Flat Campground 3200′ 86 oaks flush piped Scotts Flat Reservoir
Shirttail Creek Campground 3700′ 30 pines vault Sugar Pine Reservoir
Sierra Campground 5600′ 16 pines vault Yuba River, Sierra City
Silver Creek Campground 5800′ 27 pines vault Truckee River fishing
Snag Lake Campground 6000′ 12 pines vault Gold Lake California
South Yuba Campground 2700′ 16 pines vault South Yuba River Camp
Sterling Lake Campground 6500′ 6 pines vault lake
Talbot Campground 5600′ 5 pines vault American River
Union Flat Campground 3400′ 11 pines vault piped Yuba River, Downieville
Upper Little Truckee Camp 6100′ 26 pines vault Truckee River fishing
Webber Lake Campground 6800′ 60 pines vault lake Sierra fishing
White Cloud Campground 4200′ 46 pines flush piped biking, Nevada City
White Rock Lake Camp 7800′ 8 pines none High Sierra Nevada
Wild Plum Campground 4400′ 47 pines vault piped waterfalls, Sierra City
Woodcamp Campground 6100′ 20 pines flush piped
Woodchuck Campground 6300′ 8 pines vault creek
Yuba Pass Campground 6700′ 12 pines vault piped Yuba Pass, Hwy 49
Sierra Buttes
The Sierra Buttes, Lakes Basin Recreation Area (Gold Lake Highway) 

towns surrounding Lake Tahoe

towns in the Tahoe region

Tahoe Views

Find a Creek

Finding a Creek in California

Creek Bound Campers

California Stream Fishing
California Creek Camping

Since SoCal is more of a desert terrain, big water in California can be found elsewhere throughout the state. Natural waterways flow primarily from NorCal and from the backbone of the west coast, the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Determining the region to explore is a first step, then narrowing it down to several possible camp spots after you’ve found a good printed map (a hard copy, non digital, non electricity, the old fashioned kind).

California Rivers are popular destinations for the outdoor vacationer. The most desirable streams or creeks in California flow into a reservoir, not out of. The wilder scenery above the lake, deeper up the canyons are the secluded places we seek. Some accessed only by dirt back roads. 4×4 camps are commonly positioned near creeks.  Wilderness trail heads can lead to even more privacy if you are willing to huff it.

SELECTING A MAP

Full color, waterproof maps show every creek, stream, river, paved road, dirt road

Topographic maps show more detail on terrain, elevation, trails, roads; Less colorful.

READING THE MAP

look for the tiny blue lines, the bolder the better

– is your choice a main blue line?
– does this one creek feed into another larger stream?
– is it a creek that will be flowing strong?
– how far from a paved road is it?

How to find a streamside camp

Forest Service Back Roads are usually one lane dirt roads and have strange long numbers attached to them. Maybe signed, but don’t count on it. In the illustration: Look Road #22S59 is right along a creek, and maybe 22S08 has some water sources, but has a developed campground w/ possible fee. 22S59 is very likely to have some dispersed sites along it. You always have options open when you have a good map; make your back up choices when planning your destination. Have a few plan B roads chosen, just in case your first choice is too steep of a slope, or packed with RV families, or totally muddy and impassable with your vehicle.

 

Creekside Camping in California

MIneral KIng Walkin Camps

4WD needed?

Spring snow melt is when the dirt roads are still closed (gated) and often quiet muddy. Some primitive camp sites may be best access with a 4-wheel drive, but each river or creek side camp spot is unique at different times of the year, due to the snow depth and land erosion process. For easy-going exploring purposes, small all-wheel-drive vehicles work well too, but clearance can be a limiting factor. You wouldn’t believe what passenger cars we see on the back roads of Baja. Almost anything goes anywhere, slowly, as long as it runs and rolls.

last tip – mosquito, where?

Screen room tents may appear unsightly, but those hungry, annoying mosquitoes don’t really care what flavor you are. Them lil suckers are abundant in areas with water, standing or still water, meadows, creek beds, especially active in the warmer summer months. Beat ’em before they hatch – camp in the springtime. By autumn their numbers seem to dwindle with the night time chilly temps, but make sure to come prepared for those colder nights.

Dirt Street

7S02 up hill

An avenue made of dirt, earthen highways, dirt trails, forest roads, fire roads, jeep road, graded roads. Dirt driving trails that lead into the middle of nowhere. No stop signs, no billboards, no stores, no one else around… for miles. Enjoy less crowds and more open space.

dirt streetsIf you are fed up with city life, sitting in traffic & need to vacate your mind among the barren hills of California (if only for a weekend), then Total Escape is your place. You seek solitude, peace, maybe a mini tailgate party & BBQ on a dry lake bed, with the heavenly stars above. Imagine the warm camp fire light reflecting off the high canyon walls, your music echoing, moonlight hikes for a few miles.

California has some awesome spots to drive on dirt, get way back in nature. Right up to the edge of the Wilderness boundary. That’s what this one silly “dirt street” page is all about… helping you get out there, the easiest & best way possible. We even got you the right maps!

Back Roads in California

The End of Dirt Roads

California OHV Maps

Most of this is just dirt road driving, graded, some hills, easy stuff. But on occasion you might come across a 4×4 required sign – or perhaps a triple black diamond trail. Having several good maps on hand will help you enjoy these roads, instead of stressing & wondering if there is a lock gate at the other end – 18 miles in.

Some dirt streets lead to campgrounds, some to waterfalls, some to viewpoints, some have loop options & others are just dead end; sometimes at old mines. Get ready to explore with your truck or SUV. 2WD or low clearance vehicles (such as passenger cars) should be ready to turn back if the road get too nasty. Any decent precipitation can make any unpaved road much worse & may require 4 wheel drive, so have a plan B mud terrainor C as a backup idea.

Best off road areas & parks in California:

Death Valley Roads

Tooling around Goler Wash & Barker Ranch on the very edge of Death Valley

Travertine Hot Springs

Eastern Sierra Hot Springs

Travertine Hot Pools, Toiyabe National Forest

Travertine Tubs

Inyo MapSouth of Bridgeport, California
just off US Highway 395

Also known on some maps as Travertine ACEC.

Take the road next to the Ranger Station (South of Bridgeport, along Hwy 395); Drive up the hill and past the rock quarry. Bear right & look for dirt parking lot. Two pools, short walk, no shade, wonderful views of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Popular with local commuters and travelers, with easy access off the highway. Great spot for views westward w/ sunset picnic and soak.

Dirt Road with Views

campNo overnight camping allowed at Travertine hot springs (posted signs)

Plenty of great, free, camping nearby:
Primitive or developed Campgrounds.

Views to Bridgeport Valley

Hoover Wilderness Trails

parks, lakes and forests nearby:

nearby towns:

Travertine Rock

Tahoe Lake Map

Tahoe Maps: trail maps

lake camp, hike, mountain bike, off-road, ski, snowmobile

Tahoe Trail Maps / Tahoe National Forest

tahoe hiking maps

Numerous State Parks dot the shoreline at Tahoe, while the National Forest lands and Wilderness Areas span most of the peaks above. Camping, backpacking, boating, kayaking, fishing, climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking, snow skiing, snowmobiling are all popular recreation in this Sierra region. US Highway 50 and Interstate 80 are the main western access routes to Lake Tahoe. US Hwy 395 leads to Tahoe, up from the Eastern Sierra and Southern California.

Wanna find every waterfall or every creek to fish? This is the place that will help you find them. Easily, with good old fashion printed maps. Hard copies, some waterproof & tear resistant, most with topographical data and all roads, trails, campgrounds and parks. Whether or not you water ski or cross country ski, these maps will save your ass – when you are way back there in the boonies.

Tahoe’s Rubicon Trail connects the historic Gold Country to the alpine lake via granite wilderness sky ways above 7000′ elevation, but a real 4×4 and overnights are required. The back roads and trails are endless in these parts of the Central Sierra Nevada mountains.tahoe maps

keep tahoe blue

Nearby attractions surrounding Lake Tahoe –

Tahoe National Forest
Tahoe Rim Trail
Rubicon 4×4 Trail
Lakes Basin Recreation Area
Sierra Buttes
Desolation Wilderness
Grover Hot Springs
Blue Lakes
Hope Valley

cabin rentals

Yosemite Lakes

yosemite camping lake
Lakes in & around Yosemite

These are picnic lakes, hiking lakes and camping lakes that are located inside Yosemite National Park or the surrounding areas bordering the granite wonderland.

Tioga
Tioga Tent Camping

Dirt Roads Map

California back roads are plentiful, beautiful and exquisitely wonderful – if you know where to look.

Off Road typically means “off the pavement”

graded dirt road

PLUMAS_i

While many argue the phrase “off-road” means only hard core 4×4 routes, rock crawling or rally racing, here at Total Escape, any road that is not paved is a dirt road and “off road” to us, and always well worth exploring. Graded dirt roads, gravel roads, access roads, washboard routes, forest roads, fire roads, secondary roads, desert washes, one laners, single tracks, OHV trails – can all be dirt roads.

Whether or not your vehicle can handle them is your decision, but believe me, you do NOT need a modified Jeep to start your adventuring. Most dirt roads can easily be accessed with a normal passenger car – if you pay close attention to terrain, deep mud ruts and the rocks in the road.

stuck

Vehicle clearance is usually the first thing that will have you hesitating. If you own a truck or SUV – this is enough to be considered a “high clearance vehicle” and good to go on 90% of dirt roads in Cali. Many dirt roads will become 4×4 required or recommended when mud or snow are present, and no signs to warn you, so always check the weather forecast in advance. And most importantly, BRING A REAL MAP.

Paper Maps vs. Online Maps

Driving on Interstates and state highways is one thing, exploring and discovering new routes and real sightseeing is another animal all together. Go prepared to be delayed: to stop and sit, to listen to the wind, to picnic outside, to watch the weather change, photograph the clouds forming above your head, enjoy the process. Remember the journey: Half the fun is getting there!

ELDORADO_iIf you’ve ever tried to travel across the state with a GoogleMap, YahooMap or MapQuest one page printout, you will soon realize the limitations. Stuck in a small town called Julian, at night, on Christmas Eve, arguing with your partner, trying to find your way over to Interstate 10. Not a good plan! A statewide atlas will save you from many unexpected route changes, as well as prove to be an invaluable tool while traveling. Free as a bird, ready to explore the open road and well prepared is the key to less stress in route.

Exploring California

Know your vehicle limitations, and if in doubt, pull over, get out and look. Examine the ruts, the mud depth, the height of the rocks. Sometimes a good camp site is dependent on how far up that dirt road you can drive. RV campers like to stick to the wider, graded dirt roads and plenty can be found on typical topo maps. Tom Harrison, National Geographic & National Forest maps all have dirt roads as well as trails, trailheads, campgrounds listed.

Nearly every map sold on Total Escape has dirt roads noted:

  • US National Forest Maps have all the main routes, the dirt roads and some main hiking trails. Trailheads, ranger stations and campgrounds are well marked.
  • CA Wilderness Map collection have the topographical features you will need to hike the region, peaks, streams, and all dirt roads leading up to the trail heads. Nearby campgrounds will be shown. Equestrian (horse back riding) is okay, but no mountain biking is allowed inside these Wilderness Areas.
  • OHV Routes & Maps will display the “off highway vehicle” routes, which include single tracks for dirt bikes/motorcycles, wider routes for quads and all roads rated for 4×4 only use. Several selected maps will also show hiking biking and equestrian routes.
  • Recreation Maps can feature various types of activities all on one map, from off-roading to snowmobiling, river rafting to waterfalls. These maps cover a smaller area or popular region to enjoy.

dirtroad primtive

dirt roads lead to:

canyons
caves
creeks
dirt bike trails
fire lookouts
fishing holes
forests
groves
hiking trails
horseback trails
hot springs
meadows
mountain biking trails
mountain peaks
off-road trails
petroglyphs
picnic sites
ranches
rafting spots
rivers
scenic viewpoints
secluded campsites
small campgrounds
swimming holes
trailheads
waterfalls
wildflowers

log cabin mine road

‘FROADERS: see also –

California Off Road Areas

California 4×4 Trails

California Off Road Maps

Off-Road Maps PDF

Trinity Alps Camping

Trinity Alps Wilderness Campgrounds

Northern California Camping
Shasta Trinity National Forest

Trinity Alps Wilderness

camp

 

  • backpacking
  • camping
  • fishing spots
  • floating
  • hiking
  • hunting
  • kayaking
  • mountain biking
  • off-roading
  • soaking
  • swimming holes
  • tubing
  • stargazing

trinitydetail

campgrounds near Trinity trailheads –

camping Highway 3
(California State Route 3):

  • Horse Flat Campground, near Eagle Creek trailhead
  • Eagle Creek Campground @ Hwy, near Stoddard Lake & Eagle Creek trailhead
  • Goldfield Campground, near Boulder Creek trailhead
  • Big Flat Campground (via Coffee Creek Road #104)
  • Preacher Meadow Campground @ Hwy, near Swift Creek trailhead

camping Highway 299
(California State Route 299):

  • Ripstein Campground, near Canyon Creek trailhead
  • Hobo Gulch Campground, on Road #34N07
  • Hayden Flat Campground, near Big French Creek & Green Mountain
  • Denny Campground, near Jim Jam Ridge, East Fork & New River; Way out west
  • Groves Prairie Campground, near Grizzly Camp trailheadtrinityalps_lg
  • Happy Camp Campground, near Grizzly Camp trailhead

camping Highway 96
(California State Route 96):

  • Tish Tang Campground, near Tish Tang trailhead
  • Box Campground, near Red Cap Lake, Bear Hole & Mill Creek Lake
  • Klamath Riverside Campground @ Hwy, near Salmon Summit

camping Salmon River (Cecilville Road #1C02):

trinitysign
Trinity Scenic Byway (CA SR 3)

NorCal Topographic Maps – Trinity Map

Shasta Trinity National Forest Map

Pacific Crest Trail Map #6 (Shasta Cascades)

Trinity Alps Wilderness Map

outdoor destinations also nearby –


View Larger Map

California Campground Maps

California topo mapsWhen you go camping, you wanna explore the area. That’s why you are camping there, right? Hiking & biking trails, equestrian trails, off road routes, river, streams, waterfalls & the closest trail heads. If you prefer primitive camping, outside of developed campgrounds without all the amenities, topographic maps of the back roads give you a perfect overview on where to begin your search. The ultimate creek side camp spot awaits.

The California maps we carry have developed Campgrounds featured for that region. These camps could be managed by any government agency, BLM, NPS, NFS, SP or perhaps a private campground. Below is a list of gorgeous regions that have excellent Campgrounds:

CA National Forest Maps

grover hot springs

Where to Camp

Where to set Camp in California?
Camping Spots
Small campgrounds have fewer facilities than the larger developed campgrounds, but less sites means more nature and less people. Roughing it on the back roads with dispersed camping is by far the best experience for seclusion and privacy

real peace and quiet.

Primitive, free camping requires more thought and planning than just pitching a tent in a flat spot at a developed campground.

First off, you will need a decent topo map to find the dirt back roads, the trailheads and the creeks with the best camp sites; a dependable and capable rig to get you out there, plus your camping gear.

Campfire permits are usually required for camp stoves, BBQs and any open fires. (bucket & shovel needed).

And most importantly, since California is known for its super dry climate and seasonal wildfires, make sure to check with local rangers to find out about any current campfire restrictions.

Streamside Camping
some tips for a good camping experience – without scoldings or citations from Mr. Ranger:

  • Choose existing campsite in a used area – rather than creating another rock ring & trampling a fresh spot.
  • Always know fire conditions; get a fire permit if you have a campfire outside of a developed campground.
  • Set up camp away from other people. The majority of people go to the wilderness to experience quiet, peace, & solitude. There is plenty space for everyone, so spread out.

mountains

  • Never set camp in a meadow. It is a very fragile ecosystem.
  • Use an existing camp site when possible. Rebuilding and cleaning campfire pits is part of the job!
  • Camping right on the a creek bed or lake shore is damaging to the vegetation and wildlife areas. Place tent at least 20+ feet away from waters edge. Many camp site already exist in prime areas on creek front, so seek out those first. The deeper you go into the wood, the more you will find. Seclusion is possible, if you want to drive beyond the pavement.
  • Do not camp beneath large dead trees. Check tent spots for old overhanging branches too.
  • Do not camp near a mine shaft; Toxic heavy metals or radioactive debris could be present in the dirt.
  • Camping next to a lake, wetlands or a meadow can often result in abundant mosquitoes & insects overall.
  • Snow is possible anytime from October to May above 5000′ elevation. Chilly nights are common in summer.

deserts

  • Avoid camping inside desert canyons when the threat of rain is approaching: possible flash floods.
  • Consider the benefits of potential windbreaks in desert terrain. Large rocks, bushes, trees, your vehicle & even a hillside.
  • Picking a camp spot on a ridge line means sun exposure and windy conditions. Breezes will keep the bugs away and you can’t beat the better view, but wind can pick up at any time especially in desert regions.
  • Low elevation in late spring and fall means very warm temps; summer is triple digit heat most days.
  • Do not camp near a mine shaft; Toxic heavy metals or radioactive debris could be present in the dirt.

coastal

  • Avoid camping on fragile coastal cliffs; unstable, which can give way, caving in, resulting in danger to you.
  • Camping on the beach means watching the tides. Know where high water mark is before you set camp up.
  • Beach camping in early summer means low clouds and fog are likely. June Gloom can last months.

countryside

  • Avoid building campfires up against a large boulders or against a rock face.
  • Rivers controlled by hydroelectric dam systems mean that the water levels can change at any time without warning.
  • Never set camp in a wildflower meadow. It’s too fragile of an ecosystem.
  • Lower elevations in summer time means potential triple digit heat during mid-day.
  • Do not camp near a mine shaft; Toxic heavy metals or radioactive debris could be present in the dirt.
National Parks National Forests State Parks California BLM OHV routes California Wilderness
Beach Camping
California Forests
Wineries
Desert Parks
California Back Roads California Lakes