Southern Sierra mountains and the Giant Sequoias, inside Sequoia National Forest. In the Camp Nelson area, south of the busy National Parks.
SEPT 2021: Closed due to the Windy Fire
GIANT SEQUOIA HWY 190 – Western Divide Highway is the 7000′ ridge line that separates the Upper Kern River from the great Central Valley to the west.
From the San Joaquin Valley – get to Porterville or Springville, continue up the mountain on the main highway, to the paved road turn off (Road #22S94) on the right side of the highway;
After Pierpoint Springs and before Camp Nelson. This quiet campground is located off the highway more than a mile, so traffic noise will not be an issue for the light sleepers. (Unless of course, a loud 4×4 rig screams by at midnight headed to the backwoods, or a horse trailer cruises by at 5am). This camp does border the Tule River Indian Reservation.
Western Divide Highway 190
Giant Sequoia Campground
Sequoia Road #22S94 is a loop road leading to many forest meadows, groves, primitive camps and trailhead destinations. Bear Creek and Coy Creek flow near CoyFlat Campground, which both merge north into the Middle Fork of the Tule River @ the highway.
Belknap Grove is nearby, with Black Mountain Grove a few miles further on the dirt back road (Road #22S94) as it continues to Bateman Ridge and Road #21S12, near the Tule Indian lands. Mountain biking, rock climbing, backpacking and hiking all great in this region.
22S94 continues in forest to 8500′ elevation @ Windy Gap, where the Summit National Recreation Trail intersects road. Popular trail among horse riders. 22S94 connects back to Western Divide Highway, in between Ponderosa and Trail of 100 Giants. Awesome loop drive for those seeking seclusion on the dirt roads, away from the tourists and RVs. Call ahead to make sure that the dirt roads and gates are open, before you plan a weekend vacation around it.
• Elevation: 5,000′
• Number of Sites: 19
• Sites Available: First come, First serve
• Vehicle Accessibility: Vehicle 22 ft. max.
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Water: Piped; Seasonal creek nearby
• Toilet: Vault
• Season: Closed for winter months
• Fee: Yes
• Operated By: National Forest Service
• Closest Town: Camp Nelson, Califronia
Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia Ranger Station
Due to the spread of invasive insects, firewood from outside the area is not permitted. Help protect our forests by purchasing or collecting firewood at or near your camping destination and burning it on-site.
Sierra Madre Ridge is forest road #32S13, which parallels Hwy 166 (Cuyama River) for over 50 miles on the Sierra Madre Ridge at approx. 5000 feet elevation.
NOTE: A good stretch of this dirt road is closed to vehicle traffic. Although it connects to Santa Barbara Canyon near Ventucopa, you cannot drive it. Only hike or mountain bike!
NFS Gate locked at the HOG PEN trailhead, and from there you can bike or walk all the way the other end at Santa Barbara Canyon near Cuayama Fire Lookout @ Dick Smith Wilderness
Small campgrounds in the region:
off Highway 166 Miranda Pine Campground (on 32S13 @ 11N03) Bates Canyon Campground (via Cottonwood Canyon Rd) also known as White Oaks Campground Aliso Canyon Campground (via Aliso Canyon Road) not accessible by vehicle, from dirt road 32S13; only by trail
in the backcountry Painted Rock Camp (hike-in) Sycamore Camp (hike-in)
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
Culp Valley – boulders, 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.
Topographical maps feature the terrain of a wilderness or hiking area, through colored shading & thin contour lines to represent elevations. Park boundaries, trail routes, trail heads & campgrounds are noted, as well as major landmarks like lakes, rivers, creeks, meadows, peaks, canyons, hot springs, waterfalls & all roads (dirt or paved).
Backpackers & hikers must rely on such maps for planning & trekking their journey. Hard copy, printed, waterproof maps are top choice, but topo maps now come in digital format for download as well. DanaMite has recently started including these digital map links within the Total Escape Map Shop – totalescape.net/shop/
Here in California we are lucky to have so much public land available to us for enjoyment. Numerous map vendors make maps for nearly all of the regions across California.
A while back, the NFS offered handy books of these sought-after topo maps. They were compiled into booklet form called an ATLAS, with sturdy covers & a spiral bound. Overall size is close to 9″x12″ & they are much easier to handle than the individual paper maps. Look forForest Topo Atlases
Road 308 Ivory Mill Road. Located on the EAST SIDE of the coastal mountain range, west of Stony Gorge Reservoir.
South Fork of Elk Creek, California
Lodoga Stonyford Rd #306 – also known as just plain Stonyford Road, skirts the coastal foothills in a north south direction, on the east side of the range. Oaks and ranches, livestock grazing and fences everywhere. CHP out in force, so watch your speed (55). Public lands and forests are up the hill, above the valley, on the dirt roads. Free camping, off roading, hiking, creeks, lakes, mountains.
Drive up paved Road 308 passing the ranch lands and private properties.
Just inside the National Forest boundary, 308 peels off sharply to the left, uphill and steep, super sandy. The views over the valley, hills and reservoir are epic, but the dirt road is fluffy dry dirt, tight curves, no guardrails. A long and winding track, with very little spot to turn around. Maybe designated as OHV route?
This whole area is where the Ranch Fire of 2018 was burning; contained at road 308. The wildfire burnt half a million acres in Mendo NF (the largest fire in California history). Some of these roads may be closed off now. Call the rangers for current, up-to-date accessibility!
So… back at the National Forest boundary: Straight. Take the right fork instead, which goes straight into the forested canyon, up the creek. Elk Creek, south fork coming from the higher peaks above. This pleasant forest drive is called Mendocino Rd #20N01 and it climbs upward with hairpin turns; continues up to the top of the forested ridges @ 5000’+ elevation.
Wildflowers in Spring. Snow in winter. This back route may have been paved once in 1960, but it is nearly back to dirt again in most sections. Suitable for passenger car travel at slow speeds. Unless of course, it is raining or snowing, then 4WD may be best. And being that this is real Northern California territory, rain and snow are annual.
Dispersed camping is allowed in this region with a valid fire permit.
Various camping spots near roadside, after mile 8. Reset trip meter when your turn off main drag (Lodoga Stonyford Road).
Near the Pine Mountain Summit (elev 5080′) on California Highway 33, the small sign only reads PINE MTN and points east, to a rugged side road. By far one of the worst paved roads around.
This Reyes Pine Mountain, should not to be mistaken for the golf course community of Pine Mountain Club, many miles north of here, around the other side of Mount Abel.
This is Reyes Peak, also known as Pine Mountain Ridge “north of Ojai”, on the sorta paved Pine Mountain Road. (Los Padres National Forest Rd # 6N06)
The view above is from one huge dirt pull out, on the left – over looking Ozena Valley, on the west end of Lockwood Valley Rd. Motorhomes, trailers, off-roaders and hunters like this as a last minute camp site, very close to the highway.
If your vehicle can endure 9 long miles of poor pavement, pot-holed roads, then maybe you can find seclusion back in the woods around here.
Six or more primitive campsites, spread out along a forested ridge line (around 5000′ elevation). Tables and fire rings only. No fees, no toilets. Bring a shovel and plenty water. No pipes, no running water up here.
The scattered camp sites are located far enough away from each other, that the location provides some privacy and still relatively close to town. Some sites are in forested settings, while others have big boulders, but are exposed to wind and sun. Although these few sky view camps are perfect for the stargazers.
Dark night skies can be okay, if the coastal fog stays low. Neighboring Mount Pinos is all paved – usually best choice for RV campers w/ telescopes, who need large areas of flat level ground.
One particular camp site is located at a very decent view spot. Boulders, pine trees and mountain views to the south. Click the image above to expand.
Campfire permits are required.
The end of the road is a top destination LAUNCH spot for hang gliders & para-sailers. Watch them jump on YouTube compliments of DanaMite.
The hiking Trailhead for Reyes Peak and the Chorro Grande Trail #23W05 are also at the end of this dead end road #6N06. Reyes Peak Trail leads east, out to 7510′ elevation, overlooking the whole lower Los Padres region – Lockwood Valley, Ozena, Piedra Blanca, Sespe Gorge, Potrero Seco.
Get outside this weekend. There are no more excuses!
If you want trees in your Death Valley visit, than this is it. Mahogany Flats Campground is located in a juniper forest on a ridge line of the Panamint Mountains. Often windy camp sites with the highest elevation campground in the area. If you seek to get away from the desert heat, this may be the best option. Spectacular views to the east, over the Death Valley basin. Access to hiking, backpacking, off roading, mountaineering opportunities. A great place to escape summer heat, but be warned of thunderstorms. Picnic table, fire ring, pit toilets – maintained with NPS.
Number of Sites: 10
Vehicle Accessibility: High Clearance, recommended. No RVs or trailers. 4×4 needed in heavy rain or snow.
Campsites Reservation: No
Length of Stay: 30 Days
Season: March – November
Trailheads: Telescope Peak & Tuber Canyon
From Stovepipe Wells, follow Highway 190 W to Emigrant Canyon. Turn left on Wildrose Road and follow it thru the tight rocky canyon, climbing in elevation the whole way.