These are the roads that drivers love. More room to roam, more space, more pavement, more scenery to love and less people, less drivers and less distractions. California has endless roadways that wind through every part of the entire state. If you enjoy real driving in California, you like the curvy roads & scenery. Total Escape has dedicated numerous hours to the collection of back roads in California. Some paved, some not.
Feather River Camping, Lake Almanor Campgrounds, Hat Creek, River Fishing NorCal, Topo Maps, California Campground Reservations, Lassen National Forest camp sites and all the outdoor recreation you can imagine.
Volcanic lands of Lassen National Park are surrounded by Lassen National Forest, which means if you cannot find camping inside the National Park – you can surely find it in the outlying regions – with rivers . The National Park Lassen Hwy 89 is often closed during winter months due to snow, as Diamond Peak & Reading Peak are around 8000′ elevation. In 2011 the south entrance did not open until late summer due to heavy snows.
A few Lassen campground sites may be reservable, more info with links below; the rest of the campgrounds in the green lists are on a first come, first serve basis.
on the Lassen National Forest map this huge meadow area along Highway 36 is marked as “Childs Meadows”
Childs Meadow sits at 5000 feet in elevation, on the edge of the Mill Creek drainage, just south of Lassen National Park. The meadow spans from Mill Creek, eastward along State Route 36 for many miles. Gurnsey Creek flows down Wild Cattle Mountain, near the resort, crosses the pavement, and heads east to meet up with the Deer Creek drainage above Chico, California
This sacred meadow was the summer camp and ceremonial ground for native tribes that existed long before the white men showed up. The meadow basin was originally owned by J.C. Tyler who used it for summer grazing land. He established a resort about 1864 and by 1896 it was a regular stage stop for travelers.
In 1900, Tyler sold the land to Abner Nanny who used it for summer grazing. Frank Childs purchased it in 1909 and also grazed livestock there seasonally. By the late 1930s a service station and cafe had been established. Then came cabins that were the precursor of the privately owned Childs Meadow Resort, which burned down some time later. These days Highlands Ranch Resort is the newest place to call this location home.
Lassen: Childs Meadow (before the fire)
July 2011 vs. July 2021
What a difference a decade makes. Drought in California makes a green meadow brown!
MOUNT LASSEN MEADOWS
Lassen Peak @ 10,457 feet has the highest known winter snowfall amounts in California. There is an average annual snowfall of 660 inches, and in some years, more than 1,000 inches of snow falls at its base elevation of 8,250 feet.
and a month later (after I start this post)…
AUG 2021 the DIXIE FIRE
As for the spelling on the name: Childs Meadows is commonly seen on USFS maps, and found inside a book called Tehama County Place Names.
Most locals know it as Childs Meadow, but it also seen spelled with an apostrophe s – Child’s Meadow
As the massive wildfire bears down on yet another prime vacation destination in Northern California, I feel the need to update this old lake page, so you can see what areas are being affected.
(Dixie Fire of 2021)
Lake Davis @ Plumas National Forest elevation 5886′
Three paved roads access Lake Davis which is located north of Highway 70. Residential areas exist on the south side of the lake, which is 7 miles north of Portola, CA
Grizzly Ridge (elev 7000′) is located on the westside of Lake Davis, East of Quincy, CA
Beckwourth Taylorsville Road #112 (a dirt road) follows Little Grizzly Creek down from Genesee, and flows into this rural reservoir. Grizzly Valley Dam, also known as the Grizzly Creek Dam, reinforced the lake when it was built in 1967.
Quiet Lake Davis
Lake Davis Recreation Area offers a wide variety of outdoor experiences for summer including: camping , picnicking, fishing, hunting, boating, mountain biking, swimming, and wildlife viewing. Waterskiing and jet skis are not permitted. In the winter, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing are popular activities.
Frequent strong winds can cause the lake to become very hazardous for small craft. Boat Ramps at Camp Five, Honker Cove, Lightning Tree and Mallard Cove. Launching facilities have loading docks, paved ramps, parking and restrooms, and they all charge a fee.
Relatively uncrowded lake in the Northern Sierra, this location is often overlooked by travelers for more the popular, larger lakes. Locals use this location for outdoor recreation. Plumas National Forest
The developed campgrounds are located on the southern end of the lake. The backside of the lake is mostly made of up creeks, meadows, forests, dirt roads, wildflowers and abundant wild life.
A little bit of high altitude, alpine forests in Southern Cal. Mount Pinos campgrounds are the ones on the way up to Mt Pinos 8831′ on the paved route to the top parking lot, Mount Pinos Road. Only 2 campgrounds take reservations & can be busy in summer months. Chula Vista Camp (at the top parking lot, short walk on trail) has an amazing wildflower meadow w/ group camp area. Drum circles are common on summer weekends.
sledding & snow play
Mount Pinos parking lot is well known among RVers, astronomers & cross country skiers. If the 2 snow gates are open, you’ll find RVs camping out here until winter officially starts. The peak to peak trail from Mt Pinos to Mt Abel 8243′ starts at this parking area & trail head. Cool ski hut that no Forest Personnel every seems to be operating. Portable toilets available.
In the mid-winter, snow is almost guaranteed up here. Families & sledders flock to this region for snow play causing major traffic jams & parking problems. On the busiest of weekends w/ a recent snow storm, you may find several miles of vehicles, backed up from Pinos to the freeway (causing 10 miles of traffic jam in the mountains). It is not uncommon to see CHP managing traffic flow on the weekend. Snow play areas are located at the top on Pinos, if the gates are open.
If not the “Y” – where Cuddy Valley meets Mil Potrero Hwy. is the main snow-play destination. This is a very busy intersection at all times of the year, as it is the main route entering Pine Mountain Club, located 5 miles to the west. Be considerate! Do not litter and please park OFF THE PAVEMENT; keep kiddies, sleds & BBQs out of the road ways.
The pinyon pine forests surrounding Mount Pinos Recreation Area is Los Padres National Forest, where there is every kinda camping imaginable.
Outdoor resort communities such as Pine Mountain Club & Lockwood Valley Road are close by and surround the highest mountain peak in Kern County. Mil Potrero Campground, developed NFS Campground, open during summer only.
Rugged backpacking, or back road motorcycle 4×4 camps – with maybe one camp fire ring (still intact). Windwolves Preserve, Quatal Canyon, Cerro Noroeste, Valle Vista, Lockwood & Cuyama Valley.
• 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
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.
Only 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.
locking down the forests, before they burn (again)
Outside of developed campgrounds and permitted facilities, igniting, building, maintaining or using a fire on national forests in California will be prohibited.
List of Current Fire Restriction Orders for all USFS National Forests in California w/ links.
Fire Restrictions are now in effect for most all public lands in California. Data and news change weekly, so follow links for most up-to-date restrictions, before you make your drive.
These are the earliest and most restrictive campfire orders ever. No? Maybe the long drought years would be equivalent. Below is a brand new list broken down by federal land regions – forest and deserts, including BLM camping areas.
Looks like we are already into Stage II Restrictions for the begining of summer 2020.
NOTE: BBQ grills, all stoves, smoking, firecrackers, welding, chainsaws, off roading, dirt biking, hunting and target shooting are restricted within these orders. A few of these fire restrictions are dated to extend until DEC 31, 2025
More details and specifics can be found on each forests .gov web site, so please use THESE LINKS BELOW (before they break).
The land is dry and wildfire threat is an ongoing battle in California.
FOREST-WIDE FIRE RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE
BLM (Bureau of Land Management)
no campfires outside of developed campgrounds (statewide) (APR 29, 2020 – DEC 31, 2025)
see the current 2020 BLM Campfire Map
USDA PDF map shows only 26 places that you have have a campfire inside Modoc. The far drive could be worth it – for minimal crowds, darkest skies and maximum fishing. Best for week long road trips, super lazy summer style.
Persons with a valid California Campfire Permit are not exempt from the prohibitions.
However, persons with a valid California Campfire Permit may use a portable campfire ring/pit, stove, or lantern ( 5+ feet from flammable materials) IF THE UNIT burns gas, kerosene, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel, and is EQUIPPED w/ a shut-off valve.
Wow, what a mouthful. Guess the propane campfire is okay?
SUSANVILLE, Calif. May 29, 2020 – Lassen National Forest is enacting campfire restrictions… effective immediately and until further notice. Outside of developed campgrounds and certain permitted facilities, igniting, building, maintaining or using a fire on national forests in California will be prohibited.
BLM Eagle Lake
no campfires outside of developed campgrounds (APR 29, 2020 – DEC 31, 2025)
see the current 2020 BLM Campfire Map
Donner Summit and Lake Tahoe get a majority of the Sierra Nevada snowfall and traffic. Deepest snowpacks are measured way up here, with dozens of small lakes surrounded by granite. Less snow means drier forests for 2020, and more tourists means more campfires. One spark is all it takes!
Yosemite’s west side w/ Bass Lake, Mammoth Pool, Granite Creek, Dinkey Creek, McKinley Grove, Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake, San Joaquin River, Mono Hot Springs, Edison Lake, Florence, Ward, Courtright, Wishon, Blackrock, and the Kings River. Biggest water reservoirs draws the largest crowds. Be fire safe and camp inside of a developed campground this summer.
Sonora Pass and the Gold Country have been hit hard by recent wildfires in the past decade, so now we pay the price w/ much tighter campfire restrictions. Popular mid Sierra region, easy access w/ many lakes and reservoirs; highways of CA 108 & CA 44
Tighter than normal campfire rules for the drier Southern Sierra. Kern River Canyon, Kennedy Meadows, Chimney Peak and beyond. Drive up hill, gaining levation to Sherman’s Pass or the Western Divide Highway and find a cooler campground in the dense trees. Forget the triple digit heat, brushy river and the masses, and climb to a higher altitude for the Big Trees and Big Meadows. Breckenridge, Horse Meadow, Long Valley, Mountain Home.
The possession or use of any steel jacketed or steel core ammunition of any caliber. This would include handgun, rifle and shotgun ammunition unless a person is in possession of a valid State of California hunting license and is actively engaged in the legal take/pursuit of game and non-game species in accordance with current California hunting regulations, and
During the issuance of Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches, as determined by the National Weather Service (NWS), all recreational shooting and use of campfires, is temporarily suspended to reduce the potential of unintended wildland fire ignitions for the period of the event.
Stage II Restriction:
All the restriction in Stage I above, and
Setting, building, maintaining, attending, or using open fire of any kind is prohibited, except campfires within approved fire pits and grills provided for in developed recreation sites; or campfires within the Imperial County Special Recreation Management Areas with a valid California Campfire Permit. Controlled flame devices such as portable stoves and lanterns with shut-off valves,using gas, jellied petroleum, or pressurized liquid fuel are allowed and require a valid California Campfire Permit, and
Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or camp trailer or while stopped or standing in a three-foot diameter area barren or cleared of all flammable materials and away from federal facility doors, windows and air ducts.
Stage III Restriction:
All the restrictions in Stage I above, and
Setting, building, maintaining, attending, or using open fire of any kind is prohibited. Controlled flame devices such as portable stoves and lanterns with shut-off valves,using gas, jellied petroleum, or pressurized liquid fuel are allowed with a valid California Campfire Permit, and
Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or camp trailer unless prohibited by State or local laws.
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.
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 onCamp 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.
A 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.
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).
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.
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?
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.
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!
Inyo Forest Campgrounds – Eastern Sierra Campgrounds
areas include: Lone Pine, Mount Whitney, Independence, Onion Valley, Ancient Bristlecone Pines, Big Pine, Bishop [Hwy 168], High Sierra, Owens River, Lake Crowley, Rock Creek, Mammoth Lakes [Hwy 203], June Lake Loop [Hwy 158], Lee Vining & East Yosemite National Park [Hwy 120]. Camping on Eastern Sierra Highway 395
Eastern Sierra recreation – backpacking, horse packing, day hiking, creek fishing, mountain biking, mountaineering, rock climbing
Listed below are Inyo National Forest campgrounds, County Parks, BLM public camps for outdoor recreation. Many campgrounds are closed for winter months. Blue links lead to more camp information. Boldface links to detailed information & photos on campground.
Lassen Volcanic Park is surrounded by beautiful mountains and lakes, some inside the National Park boundary, but most outside. Lassen National Forest, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Lake Almanor, Hat Creek and Burney Falls encompass this pristine water wonderland of NorCal. Outdoor recreation all over – rivers, fish, hunt, camp, mountain bike, off road.
Backpack camps, RV campground, fishing lakes, day hikes, off-road and lake side camp sites, we have it all listed on Total Escape.
Hiking, camping, fishing all over this region! Mountain bike, kayak, or relax all day in the hammock – in a shady spot with a view. Water flows freely and annual snow melt is abundant in this part of California. Some locales may not open until July 4th weekend. Always check with the Lassen NFS rangers to make sure.
Mountain biking has become a popular sport especially in California. We’ve got so much great terrain, so close to home (the urban sprawl), that this outdoor hobby is bound to get you back in shape, fast. Start slow to avoid burnout and injury. The weather is awesome, just go. Plan a camping weekend & bring your bike!
Obvious (but humorous) information on bike riding or mountain biking in Sequoia NP. Upon doing research for this page, noticed a heck of a lotta folks typing in the phrase
Sequoia National Park Bike Trail
I laugh…. but plenty people are searching for bike trails near Sequoia groves, inside the most protected of lands, the National Parks.
Firstly, most National Parks in California do not allow bikes on hiking trails. The Sierra Nevada has NO National Parks that allow mountain biking on their trails. (official words are: Biking is allowed on the main roads in the parks but is prohibited on park trails.)
Yuk. Who wants to ride on asphalt in the wild?
Yosemite & Lake Almanor both have nice paved bike paths. But you may want dirt trails for biking. Be it mellow mountain biking on forest roads, or the hard core Downie-droppers.
California Wilderness Areas are the same rules, but even tighter. So that brings us to Sequoia National Forest. Yes, indeed California National Forests allow mountain bikes on most trails, in most cases. The popular trails might even get small brown signs showing bikes that are allowed.
Second, there are no bike rentals inside Sequoia National Park (or Kings), so you must bring yours in, or better yet ride in. I dare you. Although you cannot take said bike on a dirt trail, so you’ll need to stick to pavement only. The main highway (Hwy 198) has got to be one of the curviest, narrow, fern lined ridge routes of the region. You would be a fool to ride this area, as a senior citizen w/ a 40 foot motorhome or a speeding SUV may take you out on a curve. Seriously! You better be in great shape if you plan to descend into Kings Cyn. That route is just as dangerous if not more so. These 2 National Parks – Sequoia & kings, both get a lotta traffic. Year round.
Thirdly – here is the biggest tip of the whole topic. In between Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks is a slice of Sequoia National Forest land. (Meaning you can ride bikes or mountain bikes here) Most call it Big Meadows Road # 14S11 & there is plenty camping all down this road – 12 miles with spur roads in every direction. A nice chunk of forest with rocks, meadows, camps & dirt roads. Granite & great scenery. What more could you ask for? More forest roads than single track trails tho and please watch for equestrian traffic. The dead end of this road leads out to 2 Wilderness areas, so be prepared to navigate with a good map in hand. No bikes are allowed in the Wilderness, remember?
Los Padres National Forest, Mount Pinos Ranger District
open year round
open year round; campground reservations 805-434-1996
Pinyon w/ jeffrey pines, a high desert feel to this mountain side ideal camp – where the Mojave desert merges with the coastal ranges in Lockwood. Up high near the Tejon Pass @ Gorman. Sage brush slopes w/ forested campground is approx. 6 mi. off Lockwood Valley Rd. via paved road #8N04 (also called, Frazier Mountain Road).
Adequate for RVs, small creeks around this camp provide
decent vegetation. The sites on the outside back loop are best
for shade & seclusion. Good for a base camp for the weekend
& drive out to see the rest of Los Padres National Forest.
For the mtn. biker, this is a prime spot for hitting up the dirt
back roads on Frazier Mtn. Plenty of hiking and nice views
of the valley around too.
The easy to reach USFS campground can accommodate motorhomes, RVs, camper trailers up to 26 feet long. Paved access road is narrow and curvy and climbs the hill behind the large ranger station on Lockwood Valley Road.
Seeking a dark shady hole to spend the night? Then Cherry Creek canyon is choice for a quick overnighter near Frazier Park and the I-5 Tejon Pass. Steep dirt road access will challenge even the biggest skeptic.
4WD only access
The 4×4 Camp (signed) turn off is along Cuddy Valley Road, on the north side of the pavement – just a few miles west of Frazier Park, inside Los Padres National Forest.
Oak trees and brush clog the dense hillsides. Owls live in this canyon. Deer and wildlife sightings are common – which makes this an ideal hunters camp for those looking to explore on foot.
The canyon gets narrower as it heads down hill (northward) w/ the single track route becoming a blanket of slick dark mud (in the wet months). Without trees on the worst section, making a self-rescue impossible.
Real 4 wheel drive is needed for this camp! All wheel drive vehciles (SUV & sportwagons) should not attempt this location without a tow strap or winch – AND another 4WD vehicle to help out. Yep, seriously. We know, because we had to rescue someone last time we were here.
On the eastern mountain slopes of Big Bear Lake, Holcomb Creek creates a forested sage valley – called Holcomb Valley, located only a few miles away from the big lake. A graded dirt road leads out to this pine forest & a prime campground area. Perfect location for picnics and sightseeing.
Although the developed campground is open all year long, please take into consideration that SNOW and mud is the norm for winter months.
Nice shady sites to beat the summer heat. Camp spots spaced out fairly well. Hikers parking lot is located at one end of the campground. Bears are well known in the region, so please lock all food in the provided metal bear lockers.
The epic Pacific Crest Trail runs right through the Holcomb Valley. Doble Trail Camp is out this way for PCT parking, next to Holcomb Valley Road #3N16 which encircles this whole forested area inside San Bernardino National Forest.
Holcomb Valley has a historic cabin to see. Numerous old mines exist around this area. Nearby Gold Mountain is a popular 4WD route.
The dirt back road leads east down to the high desert @ Highway 162. Down to Pioneertown and Yucca Valley, and eventually Joshua Tree National Park.
California Fire Lookouts for Rent
US Forest Service Cabins
Rent a secluded cabin with an amazing view, a historic tower for wildfire spotting, or a USFS guard station – hidden deep inside USDA California National Forests. Several of these NFS lookouts have been closed recently, so the ones listed below have links to status and reservation information.
Dirt road access is common to reach these remote locations. Some require stair climbing, or steep access hikes. Winter months are usually snowy, inaccessible and sometimes dangerous for these high country locations. Access roads suffer from closures due to rock slides or landslides. Check with the locals ranger station for current conditions.
A few of these rentals are open all year long – in the southern part of the golden state.
More & more people are venturing off the beaten path. Tourist flocks to Gold Country, and many do not even leave Highway 49. Get up the mountains, higher than the foothills.
Getting outta the developed campgrounds to discover the joys of dispersed back woods camping is a new adventure, not to be taken lightly.
With truck or SUV ownership come some great rewards! Order a good map & go find some dirt roads. Waterfalls, dense forests, secluded creekside camp sites & more await you. Obtaining a camp fire permit is mandatory for this style of camping.
Campfires are often banned in California, due to extreme wildfire danger. Since the gold mining foothills are usually oak and dry grass, with large steep river canyons, extra caution should be given. Always know the fire conditions before you build a campfire.
Discover the hidden back roads: like Caldor Road off of Grizzly Flat Rd. – above Placerville CA
Hey, now this is what we’re talking about. Plenty of great dispersed camping down by the Cosumnes River & Consumnes Mine Rd. There are hundreds of miles of small roads to discover back behind this historic mining area. Rivers, waterfalls & decent fishing too. Make sure you clean up some litter. This is the only price you pay for the beauty, serenity, peace & quiet & no neighbor campers next to you.
Out exploring these parts, you may run into a dead end road that peters out at some Private Property, which is usually signed & fenced. Make nice with the old crazy miner dude & turn your ass around politely, everything will be okay as soon as you are not within gun shot of him. Yes, there still are plenty of small time mining experts tucked away back here in the hills.
Plenty creeks and rivers run throughout this central Sierra region, so you can fish all day – until your hearts desire. River rafting and river kayaking opportunities are also great reasons to get wet.
Several mountain reservoirs around offer camping and boating too. Eldorado lakes are listed below.
Plumas National Forest Camping – Primitive Camp Sites
Plumas Forest Camping
North Sierra Nevada, Northern California
Listed below are primitive campgrounds w/ minimal facilities or open camping areas in Plumas National Forest. Plumas has excellent fishing as the big rivers & numerous creeks run thru this northern Sierra Nevada landscape. Open camping is allowed on almost any dirt road w/ a current campfire permit
Ohio Valley – Seneca Road
[off Hwy 89 to southside] Primitive forest camping near Lake Almanor. ATV trails, hunting. Creeks and river camping closer to Seneca. High clearance or 4WD may be needed on these dirt back roads – depending on snow and mud. There is plenty dirt roads back here to explore.
[good fishing area] Hwy.70 Quincy, go 5 mi. west on Buck Lake Rd. Head north & 5 mi. to the campground at the lake. Elevation 4200′ / Open April – October
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).
Eastern Sierra Nevada – Inyo Mountains
Inyo Forest Back Roads – Mammoth Off Road
Off Road near US Highway 395. Yep, Olancha has some OHV (off-road) areas near the dunes, but this web site is dedicated to the real deal, the scenery, the trail heads, the hot springs, great secluded camping & of course, back road exploring.
You will need a Inyo National Forest map to discover these back roads. These are minimally traveled routes, un-maintained, sometimes washed out, eroded & maybe even creek crossings (without a bridge). Some gravel two-lane routes, some one lane roads leading deep into dead end canyons.
A few popular routes are paved, but most of these listed are indeed dirt roads. Some may require high clearance vehicle, or even 4×4. Know your vehicles limitations & be prepared to turn back when the road worsens. Cuz more often than not, it’s a sign of what more difficult terrain is to come.
Watch out for live stock – they are dumber than they look.
Owenyo Rd – Wanna parallel the highway (395) on dirt; Sure, it’s a long bumpy route – from Hwy 136 @ Dolomite to Bend City @ Mazourka Cyn.
Road# 13S05 – Mazourka Canyon Rd – leads up to some old mining camps & way behind Mazourka Peak (9410′) deep into the Inyo mountains. It’s all desert on this side, but these canyons have pinyons & more vegetation than you would imagine. Road# 9S15 & 9S14 circle Andrews Mountain (9460′) then join back up w/ Death Valley Rd (the North Pass into Saline Valley).
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest has some great dirt roads surrounding it. After you are finished with all the touristy sights & you don’t wanna spend the rest of the day in the visitors center or back at camp, try Cottonwood Canyon – full of aspens, camp sites & fishing, not cottonwood trees. 4×4 is required. Crooked Creek has boulders, boulders & more boulders. Plus some amazing camp sites with open sky views. Silver Canyon is for high clearance only, 2WD okay. This will lead you down to Laws Railroad Museum on Hwy 6, on the back side of Bishop, CA
Benton Crossing Rd (green church @ 395)
This wide road leads out to multiple dirt roads that peel off in every direction. Many Eastern Sierra Hot Springs can be found out here – on the east side of the highway. No hot spring resorts, no facilities, no clothing & very primitive.
Bishop 4×4 route Coyote Flat
Coyote Wash leads up to Coyote Flat & out to Coyote Lake. This a a spectacular high altitude plateau overlooks the Owens Valley & requires 4 wheel drive just to get up there. Pinyons, junipers, aspens, wildflower meadows, old mines, & yes, lakes at 11,000′ elevation. Views of the High Sierra & South Lake.
Buttermilk Road – This dirt road is north turn off of Hwy 168, W of Bishop, CA. “The Buttermilks” are a popular spot among rock climbers. A great place for indian petroglyphs too!
Road# 9S21 – Glacier Lodge Road – Paved road. Creek exploring & fishing. Plenty Campgrounds. W of Big Pine CA
Horseshoe Meadows Rd – Paved route with great views over Owens dry lake bed; access via Lone Pine CA; A nice day trip to meadows & High Sierra scenery. Picnic & day hike!
McMurray Meadows Rd – south off of Glacier Lodge Rd (#9S21) just W of Big Pine CA. You can find ancient cinder cone volcanoes & cave-like lava tubes in between this long dirt road & the highway.
Monache Meadows is a high elevation meadow that takes some time & determination to get to. This area is part of the Inyo National Forest, but can be accessed by either: backpacking thru the high Sierra’s or driving a high clearance vehicle thru Sequoia NF # 22S05 Sherman Pass Road, behind the Black Rock Ranger Station & Troy Meadows Campground. High clearance is needed, 4×4 maybe. Great camping sites near Olancha Peak trailhead. The area is surrounded by Golden Trout Wilderness & South Sierra Wilderness. From US Highway 395 to Kennedy Mdws & then Monache is a full day of exploring, so you may as well stay the night up there. But bring warm gear, a campfire permit & a capable vehicle.
Manzanar Routes – Back behind Manzanar Camp there are miles of dirt roads to explore. Many creeks side camp sites can be found even with a passenger car. Small trees & sage brush. Secluded camping (for free) is possible in the Eastern Sierra.
Mono Craters (Rd# 1N11) – the youngest mountain range on the continent. Just south of Mono Lake, this route skirts the pumice cones & climbs over the Aeolian Buttes, before it meets back up with Hwy 395.
Walker Creek Rd #19S01 – Oaks & creek. South of Olancha CA, look for turn off & follow dirt road up into the tight canyon.