Trinity is NorCal’s jewel of alpine lakes and granite peaks – many above 8000′ elevation, about 40 miles inland from the ocean. Trinity is located in between the infamous redwood coast and the I-5 corridor. Rivers, creeks, lakes, and trails into the high elevations regions, bqckpackers and equestrian campers alike.
Hiking trailheads are accessed from all sides -On the east side you have Trinity Lake & Trinity River w/ Highway 3 running lengthwise in a north-south direction. Hwy 299 runs east-west along the south side of the wilderness. Klamath River Hwy 96 lies on the west side of the wilderness. Salmon River, Scott Mountains and Cecilville are north of the alps.
Both the small Russian Wilderness & the larger Marble Mountain Wilderness are located to the north of Trinity Alps, along with rural towns near the Scott Mountains and the Salmon River. Castle Crags Wilderness is to the eastern side, near Interstate 5.
The mountainous area is quite unique, as exposed granite mountain peaks and alpine lakes are pretty rare in the coastal Cascade ranges. The only other spot in California that has an 8000′ peak nearing the coast is just north of Los Angeles – Los Padres’s Mount Abel & Mount Pinos peaks, both over 8000′ in elevation.
TRINITY ALPS TOPO MAP
The USDA map for Trinity Alps Wilderness was outta print for nearly 2 years and it has recently been updated and reprinted. New edition released in 2013 and now available at the Total Escape map store. Printed on waterproof map paper and updated in 2012.
Mill Creek, California
Giant, curly lupine on a big creek, just south of Lassen National Park. Park along Hwy 172 on the east side, about a mile before the Mill Creek Resort and hike along creek to find large lupine. Great picnic area.
wildfire note: burn scars are excellent spots to find wild flowers
North Sierra Nevada Mountains
Bald Rock Road Loop, Berry Creek, CA
Granite dome above Lake Oroville SRA
Hiking trailhead, Scenic drive loop. Lupine, poppies, monkey flower, dogwoods. Wildflower drive through a recently burnt forest (2020) #BearFire
Plumas National Foresthas excellent outdoor recreation and developed campgrounds, as well as secluded, primitive back roads camping sites. If you prefer a camp with table, toilet and a campfire ring, then expect to pay a fee. There are several small, remote campgrounds listed below, but most are located on paved roads. Venture down dirt roads to find a premium camp sites for free. Scroll the map links below to explore the back roads of Plumas, and discover hidden fishing holes.
SOME CAMPGROUNDS are closed due to wildfire damage in the Plumas region.
Small mountain resort in the forest near Mill Creek, with cabin rentals, RV camping and campgrounds nearby. A general store is open in summer months, and snow can be found in winter. Highway 172 makes a nice paved loop around this forested area and joins back to Hwy 36. Route may be closed due to snow in winter & spring. Free camping can be found along this creek, although a campfire permit is always required for camping outside of developed campgrounds.
Mill Creek Indians: Described as a group of ‘renegade and outlaws’, from multiple tribes in NorCal. Mill Creek Indians took shelter in secluded Mill Creek gorge, located below the Mill Creek Rim, a volcanic ridge which extends from Mount Lassen to the Sacramento River Valley. See more on Ishi Wilderness.
Fouts Springsis a popular off-road camping area on the far east side of Mendocino National Forest. Many miles off I-5, near Stonyford, CA. Numerous NFS campgrounds exist is this rugged canyon. One of them is called Mill Creek Campground and it has few pine tree and lots of chaparral, plus a decent little creek flowing nearby. OHV – off highway vehicle use is heavy in this region, so know when to go. At certain times of the year this remote canyon can be quiet and peaceful. Call the local rangers to find out.
5171 Stonyford-Elk Creek Road
Stonyford, CA 95979
All of the Snow Mountain Wilderness was burnt and affected, including all the National Forest land surrounding it. Fouts Springs Campgrounds may have been spared, but the hills, trails and roads now lead to blackened forest. Many routes could be closed; check with ranger station in advance of travel.
Mill Creek Waterfall is located on the western slopes of the Warner Range, near the South Warner Wilderness. On the headwaters to the Pit River; About 6 miles east of US Highway 395, near the town of Likely, south of Alturas, California
TheBucks Lake Wilderness region also has a developed NFS Mill Creek Campground. The camp location is well off the Bucks Lake Road, tucked deep in a tight canyon; northern most point and near a dam for the large Bucks Lake.
elevation = 5200′
10 camp sites
closed in winter
14 night camp limit
RV = 21′ max
camp fire rings
Bucklin Road (aka Bucklin Dam Rd and Road 33) #24N24 a paved road on the west end of Bucks Lake, connects to Road #24N88X which leads back to this smaller campground; camp sites are paved. Steep driveway down.
This Mill Creek intersects Bucks Lake at the campground, then connects to the PCT hiking trail, although the narrow dirt road #24N88X veers away from creek a few miles up.
This Mill Creek is located on the south shore of the lower Kings River, above Pine Flat Reservoir. This is the boundary where Sequoia NF meets the big river, and on the other side of the water is the Sierra NF.
Mill Flat Campground (also known as Mill Creek Camp) is a shady, oak flat campground on a dirt road, located at a dead end canyon site, right on the rocky rivers edge.
As usual – the further you drive, the more seclusion you will find. This observation holds true for this Mill Creek location. During peak summer months, there may be families enjoying this spot, but most of the year it is virtually empty and rarely used.
There are many gorgeous rivers in California that are perfect for camping and fishing, but none are located in Southern California. None! Yep, you read that right. If you think about it, the golden state is about half desert! The majority of our natural water in our state is coming from the north – so take this as a warning: you might need to drive a few hours to find your ideal river camp.
The easy-to-access waterways are found mostly along highways in the Sierra Nevada – or way up in NorCal. Deep granite gorges carved out by glaciers, surrounded by forested peaks is only half the appeal. High elevation lakes, waterfalls, big trees, abundant wildlife, and the alpine villages are all part of the Sierra Nevada experience. Raft, kayak, fly fish, hike, bike or just camp out next to a big, rushing, flowing river. Our selection of California maps will get you narrowed down to a specific region, so you can find that perfect river campground, or explore and discover the back roads – for the most seclusion.
KERN RIVER: The Kern River is one of the most popular of all the Sierra rivers due to its proximity to SoCal. Hurried, stressed-out, Angelinos (LA) can be at this destination in under 3 hours – which makes it a very busy place most months.
So, let it be told, that summer is not the best time to enjoy the Kern. If you do plan a summer outting, make sure you head for the Upper Kern (10+ mi N of Kernville & Lake Isabella) or the North Fork of the Kern (out in Monache Meadows) where 4×4 is often needed.
The Lower Kern River has only 2 developed campgrounds: Hobo (closed for damage 2019) andSandy Flat (open all year). Numerous primitive camp spots are available along Old Kern Canyon Rd, which parallels the Hwy 178 on the south side. None of which are located at the rivers edges. Remington Hot Springs is a popular spot for soaking. Fishing trails, mountain biking trails and hiking trails, all over. Fire danger is great in this area, so pay extra close attention to signs and fire restrictions.
Kern River above Lake Isabella and Kernville is a better choice for camping availability.
Everybody loves Yosemite! This is the most popular park in the whole state; maybe the whole nation.
The majority of campers want to stay “right on the river” when they visit Yosemite NP, but that is just plain old impossible, since reservations go fast and there is only so much room for everyone in this enclosed, narrow, precious valley.
This particular park has some major floods (1997 & 2005) that wiped out bridges, road ways; all the old wooden cabins (at Yosemite Lodge) are gone and only half of the campgrounds are still available. Yosemite has had 11 winter floods since 1916 that have caused substantial damage to property. That number is expected to increase, as winter precipitation is getting less predictable.
Reservations are taken for camping and cabins – far in advance; like one year. No joke!
3 Yosemite Campgrounds are located next to the Merced River (inside spectacular Yosemite Valley)
Way up in the Yosemite high country, which is only open a few months outta the year, the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows Campground is located next to lush meadows and the scenic Tuolumne River. All Yosemite campsites must be reserved well in advance, so visit links above – if you are serious about a Yosemite camping trip anytime soon.
MOKELUMNE RIVER: Way up the road, deep in the western Sierra, Gold Country. Small NFS campgrounds, right on the river; Access is long, narrow paved, switch-back road, not suitable for RVs or trailers.
STANISLAUS RIVER: The Sonora Pass, the fishing is very decent way back in this granite gorge. Highway 108 is only open a few months outta the year, due to deep snow & rock slides – so time is of the essence. Summer time is prime vacation weather up here. Several campgrounds are located right on the river, or on the major feeder streams. Or you can opt for secluded primitive camping on the back roads. Find Sonora camping in Stanislaus National Forest.
YUBA RIVER: The biggest play time river in the northern Gold Country, this runs along Hwy 49 near Downieville and also has a major South Fork for the best swimming holes and primitive camping in this region. Tubing, rafting, kayaking, fishing, camping, gold panning, you name it, Yuba has it. Look for more on the South Yuba Recreation Map, or the USDA issued Tahoe National Forest Map
FEATHER RIVER: Top fishing river in the Lassen to Oroville area. Chester and Lake Almanor in the upper reaches. High Bridge Campground is nice paved-camp-site camping; a forested spot where you can fish 2 rivers on the same day. A Plumas NF or Lassen NF map would be quite helpful for this region. Lower down the mountain, lower Feather Rivers which include all 4 forks which feed Lake Oroville – West Fork (Paradise, CA), North Fork, Middle Fork Feather, (Berry Creek, CA) and the South Fork (Lumpkin). Lots of waterways and creeks worth exploring in between Chico and the mountain town of Quincy.
KINGS RIVER: This one particular river is the longest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, pulling snow melt from the upper reaches of the High Country and Mount Whitney. The river area just to the West of the National Park, over to Pine Flat Reservoir, is all prime for outdoor recreation. Several river rafting companies work this stretch of river.
Lake Oroville Salmon Festival
Salmon Fest in O’ville
Feather River Fish Hatchery, Feather River Nature Center and Riverbend Park
On the Feather River between Historic Downtown Oroville and the Fish Hatchery, the town bursts with fish-flavored activities during the annual Salmon Festival. Friday night starts @ Feather River Nature Center for dinner & dance. Saturday brings on the fun, food, music and vendors on Main Street. Lots of great local info – salmon recipes, water/drought, fishing and environmental issues. Big pancake breakfast, a farmer’s market, live music, a craft fair, clowns, rides for the kids. Hatchery tours. The Bounty of Butte County will be located atop Myers Street, next to the Municipal Auditorium leading into Salmon Court. FREE to attend and tastes sold as desired. There will be food demonstrations, local food vendors, restaurant tastings and so much more.
Kern River is a top recreation destination for the lower half of the state, since it is the only big Sierra river within easy reach of Southern California.
Lower mountain elevations 2000-4000′ means camping all year is possible on the Kern. With only a few inches of rainfall, plus an average high temperature of 60 degrees in December & January, Kernville has become a year-round recreation destination for the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Kern Canyon and most surrounding mountains are managed by USDA: Sequoia National Forest, which extends south to the Tehachapi range!
Sierra Nevada ROAD CLOSURES during winter restricts that Kern Canyon is only accessible via the Hwy 178 route. Both the Western Divide Highway (to the north) and Sherman’s Pass Road (to the east) close for many months, due to snow. (typically, NOV-APRIL closure)
Popular Kern Recreation – backpacking, camping, fishing, hiking, river rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, off-roading & floating (inner tubing).
Kern River can be divided into 5 different & distinct regions:
Kern River High Country
headwaters of the Kern River.
High Sierra, Golden Trout Wilderness, Kern Hot Springs, Mount Whitney snowmelt, Kern Gorge. foot access only, wilderness backcountry. fishing, day hikes, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, horse packs.
backpackers & fishing trailheads
Big parking lot at the bridge. trails travel rivers edge into a tight canyon, impressive rock gorge continues up to the tallest mountain peaks in the High Sierra.
Shermans Pass Road hard right, up hill, turn-off the main (paved) route that connects Kern River to Mojave desert.
RINCON CAMP – The Rincon Fault (an earthquake fault line) runs in a north-south direction, on the east side of Kern River. Popular and rugged RINCON, a dirt bike and mountain bike trail runs this ridge as well. An overgrown hunters camp (which has been almost destroyed) is located up hill from Brush Creek falls; but accessible via unmaintained dirt road – unsigned pull out, just off Shermans’ Pass Road. High clearance vehicle is needed to reach this spot.
BUSY: This part of the Kern River sees much of the action, with kayakers, river rafters, fishermen, RVs, motorcycles, mountain bikers, backpackers and car campers, seeking easy river access, hiking trailheads or just a good picnic spot.
Numerous small lodges between Kernville & Johnsondale
Brush Creek: awesome waterfalls & pools on Brush Creek, only accessible by hiking trail.
Rincon Trail runs above the river on the east side, via the Rincon earthquake fault. This is right where Brush Creek comes down the steep mountain. RINCON is favorite mountain biking trail, that is also open to dirt bikes (OHV) & equestrian, so share the trail and play nice. Rincon Camp is rugged, may be overgrown and unmaintained. Long dirt road might require high clearance vehicle or possible 4×4, if weather is wet.
Huge recreational reservoir in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Dry and high desert terrain. Canyons have more vegetation. East part of lake is a wildlife refuge w/ abundant cottonwood trees, which turn golden yellow in Autumn.
The earthen dam is on the south westside. California State Route 178 (Hwy 178), which connects Mojave desert w/ Bako. This major east-west Sierra route is a four-laner (freeway) cutting thru the valley. EXIT# intersects w/ CA 155 to reach Alta Sierra, Wofford Heights, Kernville and all place north of there.
Minimal to modest campsites in the lower canyon. Most seclusion for overnight spots, can be found along the empty stretches of the Old Kern Canyon Road. Many curvy mountain miles, one lane, paved, several flat spots for easy road-side camping. Caution for cattle in roadway. Speed limit is generally under 40 mph for this historic route which parallels the 178, in between Lake Isabella and Bako.
California fishing recreation ranges from sport-fishing, an open sea adventure, to solo casting in deep river canyons. Big Sierra Reservoirs near Gold Rush Country to High Country Alpine Lakes, the golden state has the water – and the outdoor recreation you crave.
Below is an alphabetical list of popular fishing destinations within California. Mountains to coastline, there are many maps to choose from.
If you’ve had it with the traditions, the big meal prep, or just sick of the family. Maybe you are a solo traveler, or a new transplant to California and need to explore more. Take a holiday away – for once this time.
Camping for turkey day? What a concept.
California is the perfect place for camping, all year long!
Stick to the lower elevations, look for canyons, and seek seclusion
California mountains often have snow during November. Avoid camping in snow @ 4000-5000′ elevation and above; Freezing temps above 3000-4000′ elevation.
Deserts, coastal regions and foothills are top choices for late Autumn car camping. Always check the weather ahead of departure, and have a plan B as an alternative. NorCal will be much wetter than the rest of the state.
MEALS: Prepare dinner meals ahead of trip departure. Bake turkey days before your trip and create meals based around that. Make mash potatoes at home and don’t forget to bring the butter. Pack pre-baked turkey for sandwiches, plus other quick snacks & meals for on-the-go travel.
Desert Camping is premium at this time of year. Luckily the eastern half of Southern Cal is desert. The lower the elevation, the better the temps will be overnight. Be prepared for wind when the ‘storm fronts’ approach, the winds do get a cranking! Dirt roads can become flowing washes during a good rainstorm, so know the weather forecast.
Coastal campgrounds may need advanced reservations. Be prepared for wet weather, especially up north. The redwoods groves are gorgeous anytime of year.
Gold County Reservoirs are prime areas for relaxing in nature, while everyone else is out shopping. Oak hills, rivers and canyons. RV campers love these large lakes; boating, fishing, mountain biking trails, kayak rentals, hiking near historic Gold Rush towns.
River Canyons of California are always beautiful destinations in the autumn months with fall leaves changing color. Many campgrounds can be found at lower elevation, river access areas.
California’s abundant Hot Springs are also top picks for holiday weekends.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is always a nice, easy and relatively close get-away for any holiday. Open camping on the backroads (for free) makes it one of the most attractive camping options in all of SoCal. Many dirt roads are accessible for passenger cars, if extreme caution is used. Don’t plan on driving more than a few miles on dirt.
Masses of off roaders love to camp out, especially on Thanksgiving weekend. Wheel all day, eat, drink, bon fires every night and rumor has it ‘they roast their big bird outdoors – deep in a dirt pit’. Really?
El Centro, Glamis, Imperial Dunes, Ocotillo Wells, Truckhaven Hills, Johnson Valley. All popular off roading areas in Southern California, so consider yourself warned.
Mojave Desert, near US Hwy 395 Jawbone Canyon expect to see RVs, toy-boxes and families outside enjoying the weekend. OHV style. Often the group tries to create a round corral with their huge convoy of vehicles, to keep thru traffic to a minimum around “their camp”. Just stay well away from those gear-heads. In general, it is a very busy area around Mojave up to Hwy 178 during the holidays. Try high desert Horse Canyon instead.
Mountains of Northern California / NorCal Mountain
California sure has a lot of mountains. West Coast land is home to the tallest Sierra Nevada range, plus the Cascade range, which extends northwards to Canada. (Many of which have volcanic peaks.)
We break down all the mountainous regions in the north part of the state below w/ links, topo maps, lakes, rivers, wilderness, parks and forests. Small towns & cities are linked in red.
North Coast Mountains
Redwood forests and rivers are what make up most of the Northwest part of California, just below the Oregon coast. Logging and fishing are the big industries up here. Lumber mill towns and camps still exists today. Wilderness areas, dirt back roads, river kayaking, stream fishing, camping and real wild indians. Oh yeah, and Big Foot!
The landscape in more dramatic along the North Coast of California, as the steep rocky terrain tumbles into the sea w/ the San Andreas fault running parallel to the shore. Marine life, rocky shores w/ small towns. Del Norte County & Humboldt County. Wild rainy weather, at least half the year; fog and sun the other half.
The furthest north is Siskiyou County, which borders the state of Oregon. We have the Klamath River flowing south into California, with plenty of mountain peaks, forests and wilderness. Interstate 5, Highway 3 and Highway 96
Pacific Crest Trail passes through the area and backpacking is common (all year long). Notable spots – Klamath Knot and The Eddy’s. Prominent Mount Shasta is actually situated inside Siskiyou County, not Shasta.
Giant Mount Shasta is located inside Siskiyou County, and Shasta County & Trinity is everything located to the south of it. Interstate 5, Highway 3 and Highway 299. Recreational lakes, rivers and streams, and off roading trails.
Waterfalls, hot springs, mountain biking and stream fishing can be found within this region. Mining history and museums are primarily situated around Weaverville. Houseboats and boat rentals can be found on the big reservoirs. Whiskeytown was totally toasted in wildfire of 2018. Alpine lakes, granite spires, campgrounds and cavern tours, all located along the Interstate 5 corridor.
Coastal mountains located above the Napa & Sonoma wine country. US 101 & Highway 20. Rivers, forests, wilderness and redwoods is the key terrain that make up the Mendocino County mountains.
There is a fair amount of off road trails and dirt roads located in and around Mendocino, so you can expect to see 4x4s, dirt bikes and toy haulers on the east side of the mountain range. The coastal side of the Mendo National Forest will have the rivers and redwood parks.
Northern Sierra Nevada mountains is where the granite rock of the Sierra meets to volcanic rock of Lassen Volcano. Butte County and Plumas County is the Feather River drainage, all flowing south from Mount Lassen.
Pacific Crest Trail is routed through Bucks Lake Wilderness and the Feather River Canyon, so backpacking is popular. Highway 70
Technically speaking, the Susan River is the top waterway of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Lassen County spans the distance from the Nevada state line, west to Plumas forest and the Feather Rivers (all 4 forks).
Lassen Peak is the middle of the National Park and the National Forest totally surrounds that. Numerous lakes, hiking trails, wilderness areas and dirt roads make up this huge forested area. Snow-mobiling is popular in winter months around the town of Chester.
The far northeast corner of the golden state is the remote cattle range lands of Modoc Country inside Modoc County. Drier than the rest of NorCal, the high desert sage brush meadows, a few lakes and pine forest mountains. Highway 299 & US 395
Free Campgrounds in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
no charge camp, no fee camping, free campgrounds
No fee camping: Bare bones. California Sierra Campgrounds without the fee.
Developed BLM or NFS campgrounds, where you can still have a campfire. Vault toilets, panic tables and fire rings. Use bear boxes when provided for proper food storage.
Below is a good long list of some favorite free developed campgrounds in the Sierras. Many will require dirt road driving, as most are located well of the highway. Perhaps the 12 mile rough road will thin out the crowds. Free overnight stay!
2020 update:this list is shrinking, as more California National Forests start charging for the smallest of campgrounds.
Pack in your drinking water and pack out your trash. Campfire permits are not required at developed campgrounds; but a bringing a water bucket and shovel is necessary for tending your campfire. Piped water is not always available, or perhaps, not in working order at these primitive style camps. Be prepared to rough it a little.
On paved Bald Rock Road a rusted metal sign reads “Dome Trail 3” which is where the fun begins, on the dirt.
3 mile drive to trailhead from pavement
4.6 miles RT hike
w/ a 2000 feet elevation drop to the river
Plumas Forest Rd #21N51Y is located in the forested community of Berry Creek – opposite from Upper Zink Road. Road 21N51Y becomes Bean Creek Rd #21N36: The forested route passes a few private properties and gates, the dirt road leads 3 miles down to an old wildfire (2008) burn area and eventually dead-ends at the Dome trailhead. The hiking trail descends down while overlooking the Bald Rock Canyon with the Middle Fork of the Feather River.
Rated as a moderately difficult hike: Steep hillsides, plenty switchbacks, downed trees across trail, boulder hopping, cliff edges, extreme heights and rock slides. Delighted by dozens of wildflowers, the old metal staircase still in use, steel pipe railings and the minimal fencing and of course, the big river deep inside an impressive rock canyon. Sierra Nevada spectacular!
Indian Creek spills down into Curtain Falls up the canyon, sometimes within view. Secluded Milsap Bar Campground is also up the river from here. The stretch of the whitewater river is popular with rafters and kayaks. Rock climbers gravitate to the big walls above. Bring a picnic lunch and water filter for this amazing all day hike.
Granite Domes & Bald Rocks
There are numerous granite domes and bald rocks within the Plumas National Forest, most located near the big river canyons. This particular granite dome is situated overlooking the Middle Fork of the Feather River, and it is called Bald Rock Dome w/ 3509′ elevation.
Not to be confused with another shorter hike nearby on Bald Rock Road at a well marked trailhead for Bald Rock, which over looks the forest and valley to the west side. The official peak is named “Big Bald Rock” as listed on most maps.
Craggy granite peaks, abundant meadows, big streams, w/ 89 lakes are the main highlights of this wild land area in Northern California.
Marble Mountain itself, a stark, red-and-gray marbled peak. Most of the peaks exceed 6,000 feet in height, with Boulder Peak being the highest at 8299 feet. Long recognized for its wild value, this region became a Primitive area in 1931, a Wilderness in 1953, and a part of the NWPS in 1964. Numerous trails provide excellent and extensive access to the Wilderness, and human use is rated as moderate.
Majority of the lakes are tranquil gems set in rocky settings. At least one-third of the wilderness is cloaked in a great variety of trees, dominated by Tanbark oak, madrone, and Douglas fir populate lower elevations, with whitebark pine, foxtail pine, and mountain hemlock higher up in altitude.
Alpine meadows and bare rock in the highest elevations. Bear, deer, and many other species of wildlife are plentiful. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the entire Wilderness for 32 miles north-south, and accesses many other trails. Most of the trails offer relatively easy travel for people and horses, and excellent campsites are to be had along the way. Nearby guest ranches offer pack trips and accommodations during summer season.
NorCal weather = Rain and snow is common for more than half the year, so winter access could be muddy, snowy, rainy, windy and cold. Kayakers, anglers and hunters may not mind the inclement weather, but most of the hikers, backpackers and horse like the warmer months.
Yuba county, city and river are located in the upper Sierra Nevada, north Gold Country. Only a few small towns around here, but lotsa National Forest land and gorgeous granite rock. Yuba City is well known for its orchards, agriculture and diverse population. Yuba River is a recreation hot spot most of the year – spanning from the foothill canyons up to higher elevation alpine lakes. Camping, kayaking, fishing, camping, hiking, swimming holes & waterfalls.
Most of us want to dunk ourselves in a cool mountain stream when the temperatures get beyond 100 degrees, which is summer months in Central California. Big rivers, like the Yuba are popular spots for all kinds of outdoor recreation and they really draw the crowds. Find your own piece of solitude by getting a good topo map of the region and exploring well away from the main road.
This Yuba River gold country region of the Sierra Nevada mountains, is only about an hour drive up the hill from Sacramento; obviously, the further you drive the better it gets. Tons of one lane and dirt roads to explore. Fishing and camping almost everywhere.
Several NFS Campgrounds, line the North Yuba River right along the Highway 49, between Bassetts and North San Juan, CA
Wild Plum Campground
Union Flat Campground
Cannon Point Campground
Rock Rest Campground
Indian Valley Campground
Fiddle Creek Campground
MIDDLE FORK of the YUBA
This water comes from the rugged and remote Henness Pass area. The long, dirt, historic route Road 293 which connects Reno, NV to the old mining camps along Highway 49 @ Camptonville, south of Downieville.
The Oregon covered bridge and the Bridgeport covered bridge run along this fork of the river. There is another State Park down @ Bridgeport; although bridge may be in reconstruction 2020.
A nice place to dip into the this fork of the river – is right off main Highway 49 on Moonshine Road, a secondary road that leads over to Bullards Bar Lake. Minimal parking spots and a steep hike down to the river; and you may have the whole place to yourself (on a weekday morning.)
SOUTH FORK of the YUBA
Donner Pass in the Truckee region, North side of Interstate 80. Snowmelt becomes creeks, around alpine lakes like Spaulding, Bowman, which all flow west. Graniteville & Washington, CA
A very popular State Park for South Yuba is located along Hwy 49, north of Nevada City, CA. Many backpacking trails, mountain biking trails and day hiking trails, plus several old bridges (crossings), built before 1900 still exist and in use. Bureau of Land Management has the quietest and cheapest developed campground around these parts, accessible only by dirt road (North Bloomfield Road).
Few National Forest Campgrounds are located on the South Fork. Many scenic, small lakes exist up in these higher altitudes, where the best camping is. Granite peaks, numerous creeks, forests and gravel roads.
BEAR RIVER, Lake Faucherie, Sawmill Lake and Bowman Lake are all part of this Yuba watershed, along with about a dozen other lakes. Rugged granite gravel rock rocks will lead deep into these areas. 4WD or high clearance vehicle may be needed to reach these destinations.
The whole region gets buried DEEP feet in snow, so access is usually limited to summer and autumn only.
Spicer Meadow Reservoir can also be found on various publications, listed as Spicer Meadows, Spicer Mdws, Spicer Lake and Spicer Reservoir.
Ebbett’s Pass is California State Route (SR 4) Highway 4, which cuts thru the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains (east-west). Wilderness peaks and rivers surround this whole region. Deep snow pack is common, so much of this region is off-limits half the year (or more). Always check with local rangers by phone before venturing out, as winter conditions can keep these roads closed late into the year.
N of Arnold, California; Continue up SR 4. Passing Calaveras Big Trees State Park & Camp Connell; After Big Meadow Campground, take the paved right turn for Spicer Meadow; This is forest road 7N01. Meandering thru a forest and descending in elevation, road will dead end at Spicer Reservoir.
7N01, the main paved mountain road, is located on the south side of the highway. The highway turn off reads ‘Spicer Reservoir’. Suitable for travel w/ RVs and trucks with boat trailers. Quite curvy, scenic and about 7 miles long. There are developed campgrounds in the vicinity.
The dirt side roads off the pavement can be narrow, muddy, rocky and overgrown, so be cautious when exploring. Choosing a dispersed camp site should be done during daylight hours, and will require a campfire permit ahead of time. Use an existing camp site whenever possible, instead of creating new ones.
Several man-made reservoirs attract outdoor seekers, mountain bikers, campers, canoes and fishermen. Kayakers tend to love Union and Utica, but power boats and sail boats prefer Spicer Lake.
Volcanic features mix with Sierra granite in this part of the forest, and geologic formations make for interesting hikes. Mountain biking is common around these lakes, as well as day hiking and backpacking.
NFS Campgrounds in the region:
Stanislaus River Campground
Spicer Group Camp
Campgrounds only open June-September. Some campsites at the campground are wheelchair accessible. Boat ramp located near campgrounds.
Left fork turn off, Dirt Road #7N05 leads out to Utica & Union Reservoirs. Granite rock, alpines lakes w/ forests surrounding. No motorized boats allowed on those two lakes. Very popular among the stand up paddlers (SUP), all kayaks and canoes.
No developed campgrounds back that way either. No flush toilets, nor paved roads. No flat RV spots; only primitive style camping. These 2 scenic lakes get crowded during summer weekends, so opt for a mid-week stay if possible.
Another dirt road treks steeply up the hill from Union Reservoir to Lake Alpine (at the highway). That primitive truck trail is actually a (somewhat designated, but not well-signed) 4×4 route and suitable for high clearance vehicles only.
Spur Road #7N29Y is another small dirt road which leads a couple miles into the forest, over to overgrown trailheads and primitive camping options. Ideal for accessing all the lakes (on foot) from this prime location. A camp fire permit is required. No water, no bathrooms, no facilities, no garbage services.
7N01 – Los Padres NF
There is another USFS Road in California named 7N01, but that one is a 4×4 OHV access route @ Dutchman Campground, located in South Central California; the southern part of Los Padres National Forest. We have mention of it on the page for Frazier Park Camping.
One of the most remote & biologically intact watersheds left inside California. The headwaters of the Salmon River flow from the Trinity Alps, Marble Mountains, and the Russian Wilderness Areas. 850,000 acres of Wilderness surrounding the Salmon River watershed.
You gotta know how to read a map if you wanna find this hidden gem. For those who love seclusion! This NorCal river region is a prime destination for true nature lovers: campers, hikers, fishermen, river rafters, river kayakers, mountain bikers, backpackers, birdwatchers and horse enthusiasts. Summer is the busiest time and of course, the best weather. The remainder of the year, you’ll basically have the place all to yourself. Winters can be wet and sloppy, so don’t get stuck in the mud. Cell phone reception is minimal in these densely forested backwoods.
Rafting, river beaches, kayak spots. Campground camping, RV camping, tent camping, primitive and wilderness too.
A significant part of the Klamath River’s watershed is in the Karuk Tribe’s Ancestral Territory. Karuk Indians have carefully managed their lands through an integrated continuum with the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem functions for thousands of years. Salmon, or “Ama” in the Karuk language, was a major source of food and spiritual renewal.
EB from Fresno, Hwy 168 up to Shaver, w/ another 30+ miles on paved backroads
(Dinkey Creek Rd & then McKinley Grove Rd)
Way, way back, beyond Dinkey
You gotta really wanna BE at places like this. Magical High Sierra mountains – California’s finest. Sheer beauty surrounds this lake w/ granite domes, granite cliffs, granite trails, forests, peaks and plenty hiking, fishing, water and boating. It does take planning (way ahead) to make it out here, cuz the area is only accessible during summer months. Typical of high altitude lakes, snow buries them annually and the roads get closed off to the public (usually NOV-MAY is winter). Some backcountry routes become snowmobiling trails during winter, and the Sierra National Forest has plenty of great snomo action (if snow is deep).
Wishon Lake, California
High Sierra Granite Reservoir with pines trees and rocky, granite shoreline. Not nearly as amazing as its cousin w/ the domes to the north, Courtright, Wishon has less granite & less wind, but more accessible backroads to explore, plus more car camping options. Both lakes are part of the Helms Creek hydro-electric project (dams) that make up the PG&E water infrastructure out in these parts – The Kings River Drainage System.
Backpacker trailheads, Woodchuck, Rancheria & Crown Valley all lead to dead end dirt roads – with nothing but solitude for miles & miles. Some might be passenger car accessible. Winter weather changes dirt road conditions (often).
The Kings River Geological Area is nearby, as well as both the John Muir Wilderness & Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.
Large Reservoir with 8,000-10,000′ high sierra mountain peaks surrounding. Pine forests, views, fishing, camping, hiking in every direction, secluded dirt roads. Perfect high elevation trailheads, next to John Muir Wilderness. Great for backpackers!
All boating, but no waterski or jet ski.
One public boat ramp. Fishing boat rentals available.
Wishon is a summer vacation paradise for trout fishing, hiking, backpacking and back road exploring.
CLOSED FOR WINTER: NOV-APRIL = Snow closes the road for winter. For all you hardcore campers and hikers, you must call ahead to see if roads are open. It is rural forest, well traveled, but snow storms will shut everything down out here (for many months). Although, in some mild winters you can drive as far as Dinkey Creek on pavement. Gates are locked beyond that.
Dinkey Creek Campground
Gigantea Campground McKinley Sequoia Grove
Sawmill Campground (dirt road)
Free, primitive or open camping abundant on the dirt backroads in Sierra National Forest. 4 wheel drive is not required for most routes, but a high clearance rig would help. Some gravel roads are graded annually and suitable for passenger cars – during summer months and only for about the first mile or two, off of the main road (pavement). Mud and snow are common on backroads!