Tag Archives: no charge

What is Camping?

Old Timers Berry Creek

Basically, what is Camping?

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

BLM camping State Park camping National Forest campgrounds National Park camping

 

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

stars camptruck campfire

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

car camping

Various types of Camping in California:

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

  pinetree    fish

River Beach Campground
Trinity River Camping, Douglas City, CA

yellowpost

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

Tent Cabin Rentals

Canvas Tent Cabins & Yurts

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

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

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

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

National Forest Service Rangers wildlife

Deck w/ View

National Forest Fire Lookouts
& Historic Cabins

hiker

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

Camping California Back Roads


Atascadero Fourth of July

Atascadero Fourth of July Music Festival returns

Atascadero Fourth of July Music Festival

Celebrate Freedom and Independence Day lakeside under giant shady oaks with three great musical acts on an afternoon of music, food & drinks! General Admission is free to the music festival. If you want to be closer to the music there is a reserved VIP area and VIP Plus to get into the front row. ?Don’t forget to bring your low back chair or blanket.

July 4th @ 4 to 8 pm

Atascadero Lake Park

Annual event: July
One day event,  always held on Fourth of July

Atascadero, CA

atascadero4thofjuly.org

Father’s Day Invitational Auto Show

Annual Father’s Day Invitational Auto Show
Yountville Car Show

Napa Wine Country celebrates the “art of the driving machine,” from the national champions to the local favorites, to one-of-a-kind collector curiosities. More than 100 early and late model automobiles.

Annual event; June
707-944-2451

One Day Only
Free to the public from 10am to 3pm

V Marketplace
Yountville CA

Roxie Peconom Campground

Lassen Forest Road #29N03
Roxie Peconom Camp

Roxie Peconom

MAIDU INDIANS: Roxie was a native medicine woman and lived over 100 years in these parts. Read more here

AUG 2021: Closed due to the Dixie Fire

Wild onions were found along the top of Thompson, Diamond, Eagle Lake, Willard, and Mountain Meadows.

Lassen National Forest – W of Susanville, CA

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 

pinetree

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).

  • camping

  • ceremony

  • drum circle

  • fishing

  • hiking

  • horseback trails

  • hunting

  • mountain bike

  • off road trails

Roxie Circle
Bear Dance Circle @ Roxie

roxie seating

walk in campground, and close to town

hiker

Shady Campground

Walk-In Campsites @ Roxie

AUG 2021 – CLOSED due to the Dixie Fire

Roxie P Campground
Susanville, CA – Lassen NFNFSlogo

• 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

 

shadycamp

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).

Fire Lookout hike near Milford Grade

Susanville Hiking Trails PDF
BLM Southside Trails
mountain bike, hike, horseback

aspenroxie
Aspen trees at Roxie in Autumn

dirtbikes

off road Susanville

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.

ranger

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
530-257-4188

Cal Fire Station
697 CA-36, Susanville, CA 96130
530-257-4171

fish

NEARBY TOWNS:

Chester, CA
Lake Almanor, CA
Susanville, CA
Westwood, CA

Susan River is nearby, but not really walking distance from Roxie Camp

eagleclouds
Large Eagle Lake, N of Susanville, CA

Algoma Campground

Free NFS campground, east of McCloud, CA

McCloud Creek becomes McCloud River a few miles downstream from this small camp. Aspen grove, one lane bridge, dirt back roads, river hiking trail.

NOTE: This campground is NOT near the waterfalls, and it’s a 10 mile long hike to reach them.

algomacamp

  • autumn colors/aspens
  • camping
  • creek/river
  • hiking
  • hunting
  • fishing
  • mountain biking
  • off-roading
  • wildflowers
    camp

alldaylong

Park that chair in the creek and relax all day long.

lastalgoma

dirtroad39N06

Grizzly Peak Road #39N06,
aka Grizzly Peak Lookout Road

vanlifenorcal
Van Life, on McCloud Creek @ Algoma

Algoma Campground NFS

• Elevation: 3,800′
• Number of Sites: 8
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 24′ max (trailers not advised)
• Toilet: Vault
• Piped Water: No
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – October
• Trailheads: McCloud River Trail
• Operated By: NFS
• Closest Town: McCloud, CA

hiker

From McCloud @ Highway 89: Drive 13+ miles (east), past CalTrans warehouse.

The turnoff for Algoma (Stouts Meadow) is NOT SIGNED. Rangers recommend turning at the cross country skier sign, but that sign is so small and faded, you can barely even see it. The paved road intersection is the only one around, so it is hard to miss (if driving under 50 mph). Turn right off the highway, and drive 1 mile to the campground at bridge.

rangerOnly two campsites on north side of bridge, and the rest are on the other side of the river. Algoma Bridge may be closed in 2020, so you can park and walk across to reach the campsites. Call ahead to find out current conditions.

McCloud Ranger Station
530-964-2184

Algoma Bridge
Algoma Bridge over McCloud Creek, California

fish

Silver Lake @ Bucks

Silver Lake from Above

Silver Lake @ Bucks Lake Wilderness

(Plumas Co)

Plumas Road #24N29, off Bucks Lake Road
East of Bucks Lake, California.
a six mile, one lane, dirt road is the only vehicle access into this high elevation, dammed reservoir, tucked back against the wilderness. Secluded lake campsites await, you’ll just need to get a little dusty first. The turn off, at a small brown sign reading “Silver Lake”, one which is very easy to miss – due to the amount of homes, cabins, fencing and driveways in the vicinity.

bucks trailhead

Bucks Lake Wilderness
Plumas National Forest

All Bucks Lake Campgrounds

Kayaker @ Silver Lake

hiker

No swimming allowed at this Silver Lake, as it serves as a drinking water source for the neighborhoods below. Canoe & kayaking are allowed. Fishing is also popular at this location. Hiking trailheads at Silver Lake lead to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), Mount Pleasant, Spanish Peak and a small gem of a swimming hole, we call mini Gold Lake.

Bucks Lake Wilderness Map

NFS Campground @ Silver Lake, near Quincy, CA

This small campground is actually set downhill from the rock earthen dam, which is something to ponder before/during a big earthquake. With sites 1-5 in a shady forest area and the others a bit closer to the lake, no campsite is too close to another. These are all well-spaced-out sites, providing decent privacy and minimal noise from neighboring campers. No campsites are located at the lake edge, as the rocky dam is a long structure and quite complex with water control measures.

All the campsites have new bear boxes for food storage, cuz ‘wilderness’ usually means black bears are roaming about. Deer tend to frequent campsites 1 & 2.

2020 update:
overnight camping fees now charged at this campground

silver camp 5

Silver Lake Campground NFS

campground

• Elevation: 5800′
• Number of Sites: 9
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′
• Campsite Reservations: No
• Camp Fee: Yes
• Toilet: Vault
• Water: No piped/potable
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – October
• Trailheads: PCT, Gold Lake, Rock Lake, Granite Gap, Bucks Lake Wilderness

silverbackdrop

As with most of the high elevation lakes in California, winter months can mean deep snow and dirt road closures. This campground is usually open through the end of October, but call head to the local rangers if in doubt.

Plumas National Forest
Mt. Hough Ranger District
39696 State Highway 70
Quincy, CA 95971
530-283-0555

ranger

See all Silver Lakes in California

Free Campgrounds Sierra

Granite Creek

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.

NFSlogoDeveloped 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.

secluded campgrounds

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. 

campfirePack 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.

Sierra National Forest – Central Sierra

Mammoth Pool Areacamptruck

Granite Creek Camp
Granite Creek Campground

Redinger Lake lakeboatramp
open all year long; no campfires

Redinger Campground

Courtright Reservoirlake
no-fee OHV

Voyager Rock 4×4 Camping

4x4

Huntington Lakelake
no-fee OHV

West Kaiser Camp 4×4

Kaiser Pass Roadlake
no-fee camping

Dinkey Creek Roadlake

Sawmill Flat Campground

Kings River Campgroundfish
free river camping

mosquito_lake
Mosquito Lakes @ Ebbetts Pass Hwy 4

Stanislaus National Forest – Central Sierra

Highway 4 – Ebbetts Passhiker

mosquitoTH

Highway 108 – Sonora Pass

Hwy 120 – West of Yosemite NPcamp
Tuolumne Wild & Scenic River

Eldorado National Forest – Central Sierra

Tahoe National Forest – Northern Sierra

creekcanyon
Canyon Creek, Tahoe NF

Highway 89 – Truckeehiker

Interstate 80 – Donner Pass

French Meadows Reservoircanoe

campsite snag lake
Snag Lake (free) Camping on Gold Lake Highway

Plumas National Forest –  Northern Sierra

Brady’s Campcamptruck
NFS Campground
West of Quincy, CA
Highway 70

breckensign

Sequoia National Forest – Southern Sierra

Breckenridge Campground
Forest Rd# 28S06
South of Kern Rivertree_stainglass

Giant Sequoia Area

Kings River Area

Mill Flat Kings River
Mill Flat @ Kings River
campground mill creek
Kings River Camping

see alsoWalk-In Campsites


Primitive Camping California

Sierra Creek Camping

Primitive Camps in California

Free camping outside of a developed campground, for a self-contained camper who wants seclusion and privacy. Real relaxation in total peace and quiet. More nature, less people and minimal vehicles.

Campfire NIghts

Free Campsites • Dispersed Camps  Open Camping Boondocking

primitive camp sites the bare minimum. a clearing for a tent, maybe a fire ring. no toilet, no fees; dirt road access.

campfire

campfire permits required. And it is up to you to know the current fire restrictions in the area you seek to camp overnight.

Campfire Restrictions in California

  • shovel

  • water

  • topo maps

  • trash bags

  • tow strap

  • camping gear

Back Roads to Secluded Camps –

The further out you are willing to drive, the more remote you can be. Good topo maps of the region help you to find these ultimate, secret camping spots. National Forests & BLM Lands require a free camp fire permit to have a campfire.

4x4

Fire safety is always a big concern in wildfire prone areas like California. Additional Permits & Passes may be needed in some forests or parks; each location is different. Check with the local ranger station for up to date restrictions.

Many dirt roads lead avid campers to the best out-of-the-way camp sites. Camps may have picnic tables or just a fire ring, but usually NO toilets. Have the “No Bathroom Blues”? Don’t sweat it. check out the page on Camp Potty

Some camp sites are as bare as a small clearing, a rock fire ring if you’re lucky. A detailed backcountry map is always advised. If you count on your digital mobile device and online access for mapping, you could find yourself very lost. GoogleMaps is known for mislabeling the smallest of back roads – and they do not feature dirt roads either.

free desert washes
Turtle Mountain Road, SoCal

camptruckA high clearance vehicle may be needed to reach certain camp spots, but many can be accessed with a standard passenger car. Low riders will likely bottom out and motorcycle riders will get dusty.

Know your vehicles limitations for any off-road use and don’t get stuck in a bad situation. Soft sand is quite common in deserts and 4×4 might be needed. There aren’t any tow trucks out in the boonies and if you do find one, it’ll cost you something fierce. Watch for large rocks, deep ruts or tree limbs in the road (at any time) and watch low overhanging branches when driving a motorhome in to such spots. Some dedicated, hard-core RV campers prefer to camp in remote locations.

Kern RV spot

yellow-post camp sites

Southern California has something called yellow post camps, but we’ve really ONLY seen them inside San Bernardino National Forest areas, which includes Idyllwild and Mount San Jacinto, plus all the Big Bear Lake Mountains.

YELLOW STICK? These are fire safe spots w/ picnic table; secluded in the forest, some accessible by passenger cars, while other camps require a 4×4 to reach. Yellow post sites campfires are often off limits during fire restrictions, when only fires are allowed inside the larger developed campgrounds.

dirt road and trailheads

Backpackers trailheads often have a few camp sites near the parking lot, but these may be busy during summer months. Dirt roads leading to trailheads can have primitive camp sites along them as well. Long, big creeks in the forests are notorious for having awesome camp sites. Big river camp sites are sometimes free, if you know where to look. Sometimes the smallest of California campgrounds have no charge, first come, first serve (BLM, National Forest, or State run).

freespice

No charge campgrounds in the Sierra Mts 

find free camp spots

Before it got labeled BOONDOCKING: Primitive Camping in remote spots was what we lived for. Camp outside of developed campgrounds, for free. Campfires will usually be banned on these back roads during the driest part of the year. Check with local ranger stations for current fire restrictions.

Campfire Restrictions in California

check

inyohighroad
Inyo High Country Roads
39N06dusk
McCloud #39N06 – Grizzly Peak Lookout Rd

pros and cons

possible dirt road access, seclusion, privacy, darker skies, no fees, no crowds, real peace & quiet

no toilet, no picnic tables, no pavement, no hospital, a long hike out, no cell phone service?

hiker

always be prepared to hike out (if need be). a giant tree can come down and block your exit road. landslides often happen on dirt back roads. the vehicle could break down or become disabled. get a topographic map and know how to read the terrain, without your device/phone.

elevation

PAY extra close attention when driving in (visually with terrain and your eyes and your map). You never know when you may need to back track – or turn around to find a PLAN B campsite.

Avid camper people are indeed known to GPS waypoint their favorite pick campsites (way on the back roads), so they can arrive after work, in the dark, on a Thursday night. Now that’s planning ahead!

rockfirering

Camp Hole

northlassen

Primitive Campsites


California Meadows

Cherry Mdws

California Meadows

California meadow is a common term people search for when dreaming of their mountain retreat vacation or upcoming weekend camping trip.

Meadows are places in the forest where cool air collects and settles. Deer among other wildlife, can often be found here grazing around dawn and dusk. Alpine meadows are usually surrounded by trees with lush green grasses, located at higher altitudes above 6000′ – the ‘highcountry’ as most like to say.

Find meadows on National Forest lands from 3000-10,000′ elevation, and it is not uncommon to see cattle grazing in these same regions. California National Parks have some of the most protected meadows in the golden state!

MT SAGE – mountain sage meadows

High desert mountains have drier landscapes, with large sage brush meadows surrounded by sparse pinon pine and/or juniper forest. The Mojave desert’s sagebrush reaches out westward to the peaks of West Kern County. High deserts and mountain meadows can both have significant wildflower blooms. The deserts start to show color in March & April, while the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada can bloom as late as July & August. All California Wildflowers depend on autumn seasonal rains & snow melt.

Kennedy Meadows from Bald
Kennedy Meadows from Bald Mountain Fire Lookout

Wilderness Meadows

The best places to find secluded wildflower meadows is on the high country trails of various mountains – Mount Pinos, Sierra Nevada, Shasta, Trinity & Lassen – all have marvelous meadows, some have easy access w/ parking nearby and others are hike-in only. Locate hiking trailheads for meadows and possibly find camp nearby.

Excellent near Meadows:
Stargazing, Wildflowers, Wildlife Viewing, Horse Camping

Explore dirt back roads of California to find your very own meadow. If you would like to explore at this level, a good topo map is highly advised. The Sierra Nevada mountains have the most beautiful meadows in the state (by far). Their scenery w/ granite outcroppings and wild flowers, surpasses all else. Although on rare occasions, even the Antelope Valley can look amazing — with poppies.

Common Wildflowers

BEST PLACES TO FIND MEADOWS

Lupine Drive

Rules of the Meadow

Mountain Meadows are sacred spaces: Do not disturb the lush, grassy landscape, as wildlife rely on these areas for survival.

No driving on meadows. No camping on meadows; No Campfires; Camp next to (or nearby), but not on top of the meadow. Picnicking should be kept on the sidelines.

4x4Stay on designated dirt roads: No tires across the meadow; No mountain biking, No dirt bikes, No off roading. You’re not spreading the seeds, you’re destroying a fragile ecosystem.

Ranch FENCING w/ barbed-wire is quite common around meadows, to keep cattle out of certain problem areas. Fences also help keep the wandering public out of private lands or sensitive areas.

hikerWhen hiking – stay out of the muddy spots and know that if you choose to hike directly across meadow, you may encounter water and deep, sinking mud. HINT: There is usually a shallow creek running through most meadows, during all times of the year.

Winter snow usually blankets these fragile areas in winter, and when deep enough – making this terrain prime destinations for snowmobilers.

Snow Mobiling

highmeadows

meadow views

Canyon Creek Campground

Tucked way back in the granite high elevations, near Donner Pass is a wilderness water flow called Canyon Creek. Connecting small lakes and big reservoir, this creek is part of the Nevada District water supply. The Sierra Nevada region is Tahoe National Forest and the terrain is abundant rock.

Campground is perched on the edge of rock overlooking the impressive whitewater; sounds of crashing water at certain campsites is deafening. Half of the campsites are located in a forest loop and the rest are out in the open, with much granite and fewer trees, perfect for star watchers.

Canyon Creek California

 

creekcanyon

Lake Faucherie is a mile up the creek and Sawmill Lake is a mile down stream, so it’s a great fishing location, as well as hiking, kayaking and canoeing destination. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is also routed close by. A hiking trailhead at the north end of Sawmill Lake leads to a loop hike of small lakes.

Tahoe Rd 843

roughest roads in the region

 

Campground loop is paved, but the 12+ mile access road is NOT.
Twenty plus miles of paved & gravel backroads in boulder-hopping bliss, leads to granite lined lakes and forested campsites. Two different driving routes into this canyon:

  • One is the longer way Road 18 – paved access off of Gold Country Highway 20, which becomes an 8 mile long, rocky, rough, one-lane road around Bowman Lake.
  • The other is slightly shorter, county road #843 that comes in the back way from Jackson Meadow Reservoir (off Hwy 89, N of Truckee).

Both of these primitive roads join at Jackson Creek Campground, a favorite among off-roaders.

Canyon Creek Campground is another few miles up Road ##843-037, a rugged canyon route towards Lake Faucherie, where the road comes to a dead end.

Don’t let the old maps fool you: these National Forest Roads are labeled as gravel roads, but boulders and rock slides are quite common. 4×4 would be nice, but high clearance is recommended.

Minimal signs designate trails, roads and lake access; What signs that do exist are old, faded and broken. No warning signage reading ‘high clearance’ or ‘4WD recommended’ – so obviously Tahoe NF won’t be installing new signs anytime soon.fish

  • backpacking

  • camping

  • canoeing

  • fishing

  • hiking

  • kayaking

  • stargazing

Grassy Picnic Faucherie Lake

Faucherie, Sawmill and Bowman Lakes are all along this waterway called Canyon Creek.

National Forest Campground
Latitude: 39.436863
Longitude: -120.579564

Canyon Creek Campground

• Elevation: 6600′
• Number of Sites: 20
• Toilet: Vault
• Vehicle Access: High Clearance Vehicle, no trailers
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: No
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: June – October
• Trailheads: Faucherie & Sawmill Lakes
• Managing agency: Nevada Irrigation District
530-265-5302

Small Site

Canyon Creek Campground is an excellent campground for staying away from the crowds, which seem to focus more around Bowman Lake & Jackson Meadows Reservoir.

check

All campsites at this campground have steel bear boxes – for proper food storage in black bear country.

granite camp

Prefer camping outside of developed campgrounds? then the primitive camp sites that line Canyon Creek will be a welcomed surprise. Most are clearly marked with small signs and some may require 4×4 to access. When fire restrictions are tight, campfires are only allowed in the developed campgrounds.

granite loop
Two paved loops at this small campground.

pinetree

6N06 – Stanislaus NF

graded road

Forest Rd #6N06 – County Line Road, Fence Creek, Stanislaus National Forest

Central Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
N of Hwy 108; W of Sonora Pass

On the very edge of wilderness
Stanislaus National Forest
County Line Road
Fence Creek Campground (NFS)

Graded dirt road near Clarks Fork junction @ SR 108. Dirt road travels up into forest, hiking trails and meadows; South side of the volcanic Dardanelles @ Tuolumne Co. & Alpine Co. boundary

Carson Iceberg Map

County Line Trailhead
Wheats Meadow Trailhead
Carson Iceberg Wilderness Area
The Dardanelles (9524′ elev)

Clark Fork, Middle Stanislaus River

Topo Maps of this Region:

Stanislaus National Forest Map USDA
Carson Iceberg Wilderness Map USDA
Carson, Emigrant, Mokelumne Map NatGeo
Sierra Nevada Topo Map

hiker

  • backpacker access
  • day hiking
  • horse camping
  • primitive camping
  • trailhead camping

winter road closure, annually
check with local rangers on road access and conditions.

Rd# 6N06, climbs to mountain scenery at upper elevations, well of the main highway. Route is a 2-lane wide road at times, narrower and private towards the end of roads; several dirt roads, overgrown 2 tracks w/ many camp sites to choose from. Dispersed primitive camping requires a camp fire permit.

6N06rd

OHV off-roaders will only find dead ends on dirt route 6N06. NO motorized access in nearby wilderness. Wheelers should try south of Highway 108 @ Niagra Campgrounds; Niagra Off Road #5N01 for all the noise-makers, gear heads, dirt bikes, and toy boxes. Niagra Creek, Niagra OHV, Niagra 4×4.

dirtbikes

nearest towns:

Dardanelle
Pinecrest Lake
Twain Harte

volcano mdws

White Tank Campground

White Tank @ Joshua Tree

quiet camp

Joshua Tree National Park
White Tank Campground

desert hikers and rock climbers
love this small camp

hiker

whitetank

White Tank & Belle campgrounds are the smallest camps Joshua Tree National Park has to offer. On the east side of park both campgrounds are located half a mile from one another.

This Southern California desert lunar-scape National Park is more popular & crowded because of the proximity to major urban areas. The south east side of the park entrance station, Cottonwood, is the least busiest gate.

  • bouldering
  • camping
  • hiking
  • stargazingawesome rocks

 

From the town of 29 Palms (on Highway 162) take National Park entrance South on Gold Park Rd. At intersection with Loop Rd. (do not turn right) Go straight through onto El Dorado Mine Rd. about two miles drive leads the 2 campgrounds.

camp

Joshua Tree National Park
760-367-5500
760-367-7511

breakfastclub

campground  elev. spots  veg toilet water fee
White Tank  3800′ 15 josh vault none no

joshes

chair4marc
In the years between 2000-2005  founder of Total Escape, DanaMite, lead several guided camping trips to Joshua Tree and liked this specific area the best.

desert

danarocks

Best View Camp Sites

view campsite

Great Overlooks for Camping

Best View Camp Site in California 

Overlook Camps, View Spot Camp Sites

This camp list is comprised of primitive camp sites and developed campgrounds with good views overlooking a large area (valley, town, canyon, desert, river, ocean). Many ideal spots may require dirt road driving, and a few might need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach.

Prewitt Ridge, Big Sur Coast

We were suggesting this very spot way back in 1999, well before anyone else was ‘blogging’ about it. This area is by far the best, free coastal camping on the Central Coastline of Big Sur. Dirt roads traverse 10 miles out to vacant ridges overlooking the Pacific, with steep hills down to the highway. Camp above the fog layer and above the crowds. Explore the beaches during the day, and camp above the traffic & crowds at night.

Dry brush is abundant on the mountains of Los Padres National Forest. Camp fire restrictions should be of utmost concern in this area, since wildfires burn here often. Camp fire permits are required for camping on the back roads, and much of the time camp fires are banned in this region. Call ahead to the rangers to find out the current conditions.

Swinger

Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park
Big Sur Coastline

Two prime walk-in camp sites, on a shady point, high above a beach cove w/ scenic waterfall.

Called “environmental camps” these highly desirable spots need advanced reservations w/ fees many months in advance. Tables, fire rings and a vault toilet. Bare bones basics, but the ideal location is worth it. A forested cliff on the edge of the ocean, high above a secluded cove. This location a can get windy if a storm moves in (generally October – March).

Los Padres National Forest

Kirk Creek Campground
on Highway 1 @ Nacimiento Road
Big Sur CA

Willow Creek Road # 23S01
primitive camping on dirt road, above Hwy 1 @ Gorda, CA

sunset watch

Reyes Peak Camping
North of Ojai, CA
Pine Mountain Summit, CA Hwy 33

Off Cerro Noroeste Road, W of Pine Mountain, CA

Above Santa Maria, Highway 166
West of New Cuyama, CA

  • Miranda Pines Campground @ 4100′ elev
    Located well off hwy. on Road #32S13

Mendocino National Forest

There are several primitive campsites off of M10 with views of chaparral and canyons. Just above Stonyford, CA, on the way up to Fouts Springs. Unfortunately Mendocino National Forest is may be closed for 2019 due Ranch Fire (wildfire 2018) w/ Snow Mountain Wilderness completely 100% burnt.

Planning more scouting of this region summer 2019. Stay tuned.

Angeles National Forest

  • Mount Pacifico Campground
    Angeles Forest Highway
  • Lightning Point Group Campground
    near Jackson Lake @ Hwy 2
Fire Safe Spot
Random ridge spot in Big Sur
john bull camp spot
john bull 4×4 camp

San Bernardino National Forest

Toro Peak Campground Rd# 7S02

toro_campsite

  • San Berdu has more than a few trail camps for 4×4 enthusiasts. Weekends can be busy all year long. Snow usually closes some routes. Pine forest in southern California means very tight campfire restrictions. All yellow post camp sites include table and a fire ring. Campfire permits are required.
  • East ridge line, rocky, dusty, 4WD-only route, the John Bull Trail (near Holcomb Valley) has ONE real awesome view camp spot with great spans over the Mojave desert w/ smog and city lights @ night.
  • Mesa Campground @ Silverwood Lake SRA

I-8 East of San Diego, CA

  • Larkin Campground
    McCain Valley BLM OHV
  • Mar Tar Awa above Viejas Casino
  • Sweetwater Summit Co Park San Diego

I-5 North of San Diego, CA

  • San Elijo Campground, San Elijo State Beach
    Coastal cliffs, overlooking beach and ocean
    Solana Beach, CA

S-22  East San Diego County

Montezuma Grade, overlooking Borrego Springs & Anza Borrego Desert

  • Culp Valleyboulders, primitive camps on dirt roads; better views off-road. Vault toilet. Few tables, no signs. Small campground at the highway is easy to find. Boulders and bouldering. Mountain biking and hiking. Wildflowers in spring.

providence

Interstate 15 & I-40 Mojave Desert

view spot mojave

US Hwy 395 Eastern Sierra

inside Death Valley National Park

  • Mahogany Flat Campground steep dirt road access. Trailhead for tallest peak in the park, Telescope Peak (11,049′ elev)
  • Tucki Mine, 4×4 route. Unmarked dirt road inside Emigrant Canyon, off Wildrose Road.

inside Inyo National Forest

ohridgeview
oh ridge view
    • Coyote Flat @ Pinyon Boulders – 4×4 required, one primitive camp w/ great views overlooking the Owens Valley & peaks to the east. Coyote Flat has views toward the Sierra
    • Oh! Ridge Campground Off the main highway 158, June Lake Loop
      (148 sites @ 7600′ elev.) near June Lake, CA
    • Onion Valley Campground – High Sierra @ 9200′ elevation. Trailhead to Kearsarge Pass. W of Independence, CA

4x4 Camps

Western Sierra Nevada Mountains
Sierra National Forest

cabin rental

NFSsee also – NFS Fire Lookouts & Rental Cabins
many of which have excellent views of the wilderness areas; a hike or climb may be necessary

Colorado River Camping

Multiple riverside RV havens, county parks, and campgrounds near Parker, AZ

Riverside RV parks in Blythe, CA

Riverside RV parks in Lake Havasu, CA

coloradoriverRV
colorado river camping

 


Big Sur Campground

Big Sur Camping Sites & Campgrounds

big sur camping

Plaskett Creek Campground has green lawns, pine trees, & flush toilets. Located across the highway from Sand Dollar Beach, right on Hwy 1. Ponderosa Campground, on the other hand, has native grasses, oak trees, a seasonal creek and is located on a paved back road, with easy access from US Hwy 101

Central Coast Camping

Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest manages several Campgrounds along the Central Coast. Some are first come, first serve.

aldercamp
Alder Creek Camp
willowcreekrdsign
Willow Creek Road #23S01

hikes

Los Padres National Forest

Backpacking trails lead into the wilderness backcountry, along ridge lines with vast ocean views and also deep into fern creeks with redwood canyons. Sykes Hot Springs is a remote destination, if you like to hike, although summer can get crowded. Overnight wilderness permits and campfire permits may be needed.

mcwayfalls
McWay Falls @ Julia Pfieffer Burns SP

Free camping in Big Sur
can be found on dirt back roads:

primitive camp sites

DISPERSED CAMP: No charge camp sites means dirt road access, tighter camp fire restrictions & no facilities (table, bathrooms, fire pits). Campfire permits are required for primitive camping (stoves & BBQ), but unfortunately much of the time camp fires are not even allowed in the backcountry due to extreme wildfire danger.

None of these free camp sites are located on the beach or ocean shoreline. They are situated in the mountains near the coast.  These premium, hard to find camp spots usually require that you venture off the beaten path – w/ a National Forest map or regional topo map. If you want to camp without the tourists and crowds, with excellent views of the coast & the night sky, plus avoiding all fees – then take one of these dirt roads off the main highway & start exploring (preferably before sunset, with a high clearance vehicle).

prewittroads

Free camping California

Big Sur Private Campgrounds –

camp

Big Sur State Park Campgrounds –CA state parks

Big Sur Coastal Towns –

Prewitt Ridge Camping

Bureau of Land Management

free desert washes

California BLM

desert figure blythe
Giant figures INTAGLIOS, on desert floor, near Blythe, CA

Camping while traveling. The east-west corridors across the California deserts are well traveled routes. If you plan to camp, get to know areas managed by the California Bureau of Land Management.

All BLM Offices in California BLM CA

  • 4×4
  • Back Roads
  • Car Camping
  • Canyons
  • Deserts
  • Dirt Bike Trails
  • Dunes
  • Hiking
  • Historic Sites
  • Hot Springs
  • Intagios
  • Mountain Bike
  • Off Road
  • Palm Canyons
  • Petroglyhs
  • River Camps
  • RV Camping
  • Slot Canyons
  • Tent Camping
  • Wildflowers

ocotilloBLM

BLM lands in California are often known as the ‘free camping’ option. freeway close campingNo charge camp sites, convenient, in-route locations, many areas along major highways or interstates. Campfire permits are always required for any open fires, BBQs and campfires.

BLM Field Offices in California located in neighboring towns can provide maps, information and campfire permits. 

giantcholla

DESERT WILDFLOWERS can be found annually, February – April in most of these areas. Springtime blooms draw the crowds, but few visitors actually camp out overnight.

When searching out premium camp sites – drive slower than 50 mph & look for the brown recreation signs. Since people like to drive fast in the desert, make sure to put your hazard lights or blinkers on, so traffic knows you are slow poking. Typically dirt roads are only marked with small, thin reflectors, maybe numbers or letters, if you’re lucky.

Traffic noise will be minimal if you camp away from the main drag at least ONE mile or more. Motorhomes may not have the luxury to travel that distance; they often prefer to stay in large, level, flat pull outs, right near the pavement.

If daring to venture more than 2 miles from the pavement, be prepared for rough conditions. 4WD drive may be needed in certain spots, or in the wettest of weather. Wind is always a factor in desert regions, so keep that in mind. Deep sandy washes, tow strap anyone? No facilities, no services, no toilet. Spotty cell phone coverage. Basically – the boonies!

BOONDOCKING
is the latest phrase for “open, free camping”

Palo Verde Washes

 

SEEKING QUIET CANYONS? stay away from the off-roaders. They usually congregate in dunes and specified OHV areas. Trails and dirt roads are for multi-purpose use, so a variety of recreation can be had. Many people use these public lands, so leave them clean and better than you found it. Boulder coves, palm gardens, primitive hot springs. There are plenty of hidden camp spots within the vast desert region of SoCal.

Several BLM lands are near Wilderness Areas. Camping is allowed close by, mountain biking & hiking are usually abundant. Off roading prohibited within Wilderness boundaries.

hikes tent camping 4x4

URLs within the official BLM site keep changing, which is why we are rebuilding our BLM pages. So you can find what you need, easily.

ca.blm.gov
blm.gov/ca

www.blm.gov/ca
https://www.blm.gov/california

road BLM

Kern Flats Camping Free

chamise flat

Dispersed Camping Kern River

boondocking
primitive camping
undeveloped sites

KERNVILLE, CA

Located north of the small community of Riverkern and south of the Johnsondale Bridge, numerous flat camp spots adjacent to the rivers edge can be found.

johnsondale bridge @ KERNAnt Canyon Dispersed Area
Brush Creek Campground
Calkins Flat Dispersed Area
Chamise Flat Dispersed Area
Chico Flat Campground
Corral Creek Campground
Springhill Dispersed Area

 

Kern River Road
Sierra Way in Kernville travels north along the Upper Kern River & becomes Mountain Hwy 99 – which eventually connects with the Western Divide Highway in Giant Sequoia National Monument.

California NFS Kern RVing kern campgrounds open camping

truckcamping

Dispersed Camping Areas along the Kern River

Open Year Round! These FREE camp areas are called dispersed camping sites. No pavement, no picnic tables, no bathrooms, no piped water. Portable toilets & trash bins may be available in the busier summer months. Campfire permits are required for all campfires, BBQs, and camp stoves. Fire restrictions are common in extreme dry conditions. 14 day limit on camping.

Mountain Biking Kernville kern hiking fishing Kern snow Kern

camping, fishing, kayaking, mountain biking, rafting

Many flats are signed w/ small brown signs, while others are not. Some are actually flat and easy to access, while others are steep, eroded dirt trails unsuitable for RV travel.

Kelly’s Hole, overgrown, unknown, well-known or burnt beyond recognition? Roads End is no more.

Camp sites listed on this page are dispersed camping areas around the Kern River Area. Not all camp spots are listed, cuz many are unnamed. Bring your GPS to mark your favorite camp sites and you can arrive in the dark, late at night, anytime, (avoiding city traffic after work).

chamise pre-wildfire

Several spots known as “dirt flats” are easy accessible right off the pavement of Sierra Way. Primitive river camping, fishing spots and raft launch areas north of town. Vault toilets might be available during busy summer months, but you’re on your own the remainder of the year. Bring a shovel and take a hike, away from the water flow. And if that sounds like too much work for a potty break, maybe you are not cut out for the primitive kinda camping style. No garbage service either: pack it in, pack it out.

Wildflowers are abundant in the Kern Canyon nearly every Spring season (April & May), which is a popular time to enjoy this region. Autumn brings minimal fall colors to this dry, desert mountainous landscape, but the fishing is decent at that time of year.

campfiresCAMPING OUTSIDE OF CAMPGROUND means you must obtain a free fire permit from the local rangers. Sometimes these dispersed spots are fire-safe areas, and you are allowed to have camp fires. Other times campfire restrictions are in place w/ wildfire dangers too extreme and no fires are allowed, anywhere. (Not even inside a developed campground!)

Kern RV spot

river Kern WILDERNESS NOTE: The USDA National Forests web site states that “Camping and campfires within 25 feet of the water’s edge is prohibited due to the Wild and Scenic Designation”, but that doesn’t seem to stop some from setting up right on the fragile rivers edge. Doubtful that this rule is being enforced by the rangers, but consider yourself warned unless they start to get serious about this restriction. Many believe that the free camping along the Kern river is destroying it, so don’t be surprised if these areas get closed or barriers placed at the flats.

Caulkins FLAT has some new boulder barriers put in place which prevent cars from reaching certain ideal camp spots (right at the waters edge). Tough luck. Now we have to hike more.

California rivers

kern flat camping

Upper Kern River
North of Kernville, CA

all camps below listed from south to north

ALL CAPS = developed campgrounds managed by US Forest Service, w/ links to Kern River Campgrounds. California NFS

HEADQUARTERS CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Both Halfway & Thunderbird used to be dispersed camps, but they were converted to reservation-only Group Campgrounds by the National Forest in 2014

Chico Flat
2500′ elev
Just south of Hospital Flat Campground.
This camp area is known as “Chico Flat Campground” on GoogleMaps.

HOSPITAL FLAT CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Corral Creek
3200′ elev
Hike to Corral Creek Beach & Picnic Area.
This camp area is known as “Corral Creek Campground” on GoogleMaps.

Spring Hill
This camping area is marked as “Upper Springhill Campground & “Lower Springhill Campground” on GoogleMaps.

GOLD LEDGE CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Ant Canyon
Just north of Goldledge Campground, along the Upper Kern River.
South of Salmon Creek; Hike to Salmon Creek Falls.

Chamise Flatchamisespot
12 miles north of Kernville, CA
This camping bluff could be the most forested of all the ‘kern flat’ camping areas, but river is a short hike down a very steep cliff. Fishing is excellent in this stretch.

Calkins Flat
15 miles north of Kernville, along the Upper Kern River. Just south of Fairview (McNalley’s). Sign at the location reads a different spelling of “Caulkins Flat”. Kayak and rafting put-in spot. One of the best sites for large groups. Area is also known as simply “Lower Campground” on GoogleMap.

free kern river camp

FAIRVIEW CAMPGROUND (NFS)

LIMESTONE CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Brush Creek
3600′ elev
Just south of Sherman’s Pass Road turnoff. This place also serves as a Day Use Area, where Brush Creek meets the Kern. Kayaking put in spot. Popular fishing area. Large open dirt parking lot with a vault toilet.

 

 

California rivers

Lower Kern River
Southwest of Kernville, CA

Lake Isabella has some shoreline camping with wide open access to the lake. Paradise Cove perhaps?

Historic Keyesville – “off-roaders camping paradise” along the river, but no swimming is allowed due to the extremely dangerous section of river. OHV trails lead (west) down river for many miles. Dirt bikes love the rugged boulder-scapes and steep hills. FREE camping; BLM Kern.

SANDY FLAT CAMPGROUND (NFS) – Open all year long! Terraced & paved hillside with numerous camp sites and plenty of room to spread out. RV campers like this location, due to the proximity to Hwy 178. elev 2300

HOBO CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Remington

Remington Hot Springs can be a zoo at times w/ the amount of people who love to stop here. A busy dirt parking lot, right across from the Remington trailhead sign. Many vehicles park here daily for day hikes, hot springs, fishing – and people also like to camp out, although camp sites are on slopes (not ideal), only a few and they fill up fast (before sunset).

Total Escape TIP: The very best camps at Remington are actually the ones you hafta hike down to. Less than a half mile down to the rivers edge to find a private mini beach. Pack light and arrive prepared to walk several miles (back & forth, several times).

Old Kern Canyon Road parallels Sierra Highway 178 and sits well above the river, so any flat spots you find will have great views w/ minimal river access.

Lower Kern River
Lower Kern River has very limited camping options.

Dispersed Camping Sequoia

bone creek

Sequoia maps

Open Camping in Sequoia National Forest – Forest Road Camping

Seeking secluded campsites? This is one of the best areas to camp in pine forest w/ privacy, relatively close to Southern California. Plenty of primitive car camping on the dirt roads throughout this whole Sequoia & Kern River area.

nfs primitive back roads mountain biking hiking mountains

No facilities. No picnic tables, no toilet, no fees. Just a rock campfire ring & a clearing. Previously used sites have already been established usually near streams. Try to use these first, if at all possible. It takes a bit of exploring but you will find the perfect spot. Don’t even attempt to try to find these kinds of camp spots at night. They are often buried deep in the forest with no visible markers what-so-ever. But in trade, you will be lulled to sleep by your own private mini waterfall & no RV generators. Many of these back roads are closed & gated during winter months due to snow & rock slides.

No amenities are available in this neck of the woods, but plenty of seclusion & wilderness. Check official Wilderness rules for proper knowledge of the area restrictions. You must get a free camp fire permit from the ranger station in order to build a fire outside of a developed campground. A large shovel, plus bucket w/ water are a bare minimum for the privilege of camping like this. Certain dry seasons (summers into autumn) have very strict camp fire restrictions. Check with the ranger to see the latest on building campfires on the back roads. camping

A Sequoia Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are so many dirt roads for dispersed primitive camping on the back roads. Due to weather & erosion, some roads may require 4×4 or high clearance, so come prepared with a plan B.

Camping Checklist to make sure you’ll have what you need. The drive up from the Los Angeles area averages 3-4 hours and is well worth the trip. Once you’ve found that perfect spot, take detailed note of it, for the next time you visit the area. Then, you will be able to get there easily in the middle of the night, if need be.

Backroad Camping Sequoia: Follow the forest road numbers with your Sequoia map to discover amazing back road camping options. Your own private stream or meadow. Secluded campsites with your own mini waterfall.

overview

see also –
Sequoia Campground Camping

monache mdw

Chimney Creek Campground

campmap

Chimney Creek Campground
BLM Kern / Mojave

High mountain desert camp is mislabeled on some maps as “Chimney Peak Campground” or “Chimney Rock Campground”. Pinyon pine forest on Chimney Creek, near hiking trailheads, wildflowers and Chimney Peak Wilderness. Southern Sierra ridge near Mojave Desert and California SR 178.

peakpinyons

Canebrake Road is a graded dirt road that makes up part of Chimney Peak Back Country Byway. This rural route is a major graded dirt road located north of Highway 178 – which connects Canebrake to Long Valley up near Kennedy Meadows. Pacific Crest Trail passes next to this campground in the Southern Sierra mountains. The campground turn off is way east of Lake Isabella Hwy 178 is (near Walker Pass & PCT) and follow dirt road north to Kennedy Meadows in the far eastern reaches of Sequoia National Forest

Chimney Peak BLM
• Elevation: 5,700′
• Number of Sites: 32
• Camping Reservations: No
• Sites Available: First come, First serve
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV limit 28′ max
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Water: Piped (April – Sept)
• Toilet: Vault
• Season: Open all year
• Fee: No
• Operated By: BLM
• Closest Town: Lake Isabella, CA

Bureau of Land Management
BLM Bakersfield Ranger Station
661-391-6000

Lamont Peak
Lamont Peak – elev 7510′

nearby destinations –
Camp Kern Backroads

Chimney Peak Wilderness
Lamont Peak
Long Valley Campground
Dome Land Wilderness
Owens Peak Wilderness
Jawbone Canyon
Sequoia National Forest
Sacatar Trail Wilderness
Kiavah Wilderness
Kennedy Meadows
Lake Isabella
Kern River
Monache Meadows


View Chimney Creek Campground in a larger map

Sawmill Lake Sierra

primitive camp spots

Sawmill Lake, California


N of Donner Pass, Sierra Nevada

elevation 5800′Canyon Creek connects Lake Faucherie, Sawmill Lake and Bowman Reservoir in the Sierra, Tahoe National Forest. 20+ miles of backroad travel, off I-80.

While many consider Faucherie to be the most beautiful scenic lake, Sawmill Lake just downstream a couple of miles is still quite attractive – with dense forests and a granite mountain backdrop. Sawmill is especially nice for those who like to primitive camp, ouside of developed campgrounds. Way off the interstate @ Hwy 20, tucked in way back behind Bowman Lake a few miles, you can find Sawmill Lake.

Sawmill Lake California

Fishing and camping, kayaking and canoeing are all popular recreation around this lake. A trailhead on the northend of the lake leads out to even more alpine lakes (a day hike “lake loop” or backpacking option). The Pacific Crest Trail is also routed nearby.

No motorized boats or watercraft allowed. No boat ramps, no pavement, no picnic tables, no bathrooms, no fees.

4×4 Lake
Fishing Lake
Free Camping Lake

The north shoreline is abundant with dispersed campsites: metal fire rings and a clearing only; no picnic tables, no toilets. Self sufficient campers only. Campfire permits, a water bucket and a shovel are required. During extreme fire restrictions campfires may not be allowed. Check with local rangers for up to date info.

Tahoe National Forest
Truckee Ranger Station
530-587-3558

National Forest Lake & Forest Lake Fishing Kayak lake hiking lake

Most campsites are drive up and park, while others closer to the shoreline have only walk-in access. Hauling your gear down hill won’t seem unthinkable once you’ve seen the lakeside views. There is even a camp below the dam, next to the waterfall.

waterfallfromdam

The main access Road #843-037 is very rocky and 4x4s love to frequent the area. The backroads here are best suite for truck travel, high clearance vehicles, off-roaders and SUVs. No small RVs or trailers. Passenger cars are not recommended. The access roads around the lake and up to the lake are dusty and rugged. The road below the dam is quite rough w/ rocks.

For more driving details, please see entry on Canyon Creek Campground.

road at dam
The water at Sawmill Lake is crystal clear snowmelt. The lakes around here are managed by Nevada Irrigation District, so this is why there are no engines allowed on the lake. This canyon area closes to public entry during winter months (NOV-APRIL), due to deep snow.

clear water

Camping Inyo

Primitive Camping Inyo National Forest – Eastern Sierra Car Camping

395 Sign

The mighty US Highway 395 runs from the Mojave Desert north through the eastern side of California, where the state line of Nevada meets. Mount Whitney and the tallest peaks run on the western range @ 14,000’+ the highest in elevation.

The Inyo Mountain range sits @ 11,000′ to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. Major elevations but little vegetation, when compared to it’s neighboring Sierra range. The Inyos lay in the rain shadow of the taller western mountains – but still get snow. Plenty of primitive SUV camping on the dirt roads throughout this desert area north of Death Valley.

camp sitesA more forested part of the Inyo National Forest is the Eastern Sierra region. Encompassing Mount Whitney & Mammoth Mountain area, plus the entire Hwy 395 corridor. This side of the Inyo National Forest is quite different that the desert range of Inyo.

Eastern Sierra back roads lead all over the place & may require 4WD. A high clearance 2WD can still get you to some awesome viewpoints & scenery. No picnic tables or toilets are available out in the boonies, but plenty of seclusion & vast open space wilderness. INYO Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are many dirt roads for dispersed primitive camping w/ no fees. See the Camping Checklist to make sure you’ll have what you need.

Open (free) Camping along Hwy 395

Monache Meadows – This high elevation (8000′) south Sierra Meadow is accessible by 4WD truck or SUV. Near Kennedy Meadows CA

Walker Creek Rd – quick camp in the lowlands; an easy in route camping near oaks & creek. Southside of Olancha CA, look for turn off & follow dirt road up into the tight canyon. No RVs whatsoever.

Fish Slough Road – open desert camping w/ popular bouldering & rock climbing areas; near Indian Petroglyphs. N of Bishop, CA

Road# 6S16 – Pine Creek Road – Camp on creek, no facilities. NW of Bishop behind Rovana.

Lower Rock Creek Road – signed turn off US Hwy 395. Only a couple good camp spots tucked away in the trees. Small creek, very overgrown, traffic noise minimal. Nearby Round Valley @ Sherwin Pass had a big wildfire in wintertime (dry) FEB 2015!

crowley camps

Road# 4S02 – Owens Gorge Road – N of Bishop behind Lake Crowley. Free RV camping w/ boulders & pines

Road# 4S86 – Laurel Lakes Road – Camp in aspens @ small lakes, high elevation; no facilities. SE of Mammoth

Road# 2S05 – Deadman Creek – Camp in pine forest on creek; no facilities. N of Mammoth

Road# 2S07 – Owens River Road – Camp in pine forest, near hot springs; no facilities. N of Mammoth

Parker Lake Road – Camp along aspen creeks or in pine forest, near lakes; no facilities. E of Grant Lake on June Lake Loop (Hwy 158)

Coyote Flat 4×4 Bishop – just west of Bishop CA is a 4 wheel drive paradise, Coyote Creek – This steep dirt road is quite a climb. A true off-roaders dream of open space, great views, large meadows, & alpine lakes. Great primitive camping along creeks, in pine or aspen forest or near small secluded lakes. Real remote Sierra high country, usually only reached by backpackers, is accessible to those who dare to venture off the beaten path of Highway 395.

At the golf course keep your eyes peeled — from the highway take Schober Ln. / Underwood Ln. due west through a residential neighborhood to the backside of the town. Find the electrical power station to the left at the base of the hills. Veer onto the slightly paved /dirt road to the right of the station & continue straight up the sandy wash. 4×4 is recommended, since the lowest gears are needed for the careful climb. The road will begin to get steep & gain in elevation fast. The area up here changes with the mileage: passing pinyon pines on cliffs, topping off to high meadows & aspen lined creeks, finally reaching large towering pines & small alpine lakes with snow melt still visible. Basically TREE LINE. This region is most likely open only half the year, due to its high elevation of 8000’+ and winter snow.

  • BISHOP PASS TRAIL MAP
  • INYO Forest Service Map
  • PALISADES TRAIL MAP
  • WHITNEY MAPS