Western Sierra. The sleepy foothills town on Hwy 190, Springville California, holds their annual Apple Festival near the Tule River & the Sierra Nevada mountains. Enjoy apple burritos, apple pies, apple tamales and apple cobblers!
Craft and food vendors, costume contest. 5k & 10k runs (Apple Run) Celebrating 40 years on this local event.
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.
The Western Divide Highway, at 6000 feet elevation, connects the Kern River Valley w/ granite peaks, dome rock, aspen groves & the Giant Sequoia trees! This is one of the southernmost Sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The easy hike is more of a nature trail, wheel chair accessible & approximately 1 mile long. Large Sequoia trees, picnic grounds, near campground.
SEPT 2021: Closed due to the Windy Fire
On busy weekends and holidays the rangers charge a “day use” parking fee, for those wishing to park in the paved parking lots. Avoid this fee by finding additional parking along the highway. Only a few good free parking spots along this busy 3 mile stretch of highway, and don’t forget to park all the way off the pavement.
SOUTHERN SIERRA: Great destination for camping families & sightseers traveling through the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains.
Western Divide Campgrounds
The USDA National Forest Campground across the road from the Trail of One Hundred Giants is called Redwood Meadow Campground. There is also a separate parking lot for the picnic grounds w/ a similar name.
Giant Sequoia National Monument has numerous dirt back roads for free, primitive, car camping. You’ll need a good topo map to find the best ones. Some roads may be muddy, overgrown or extremely rocky, depending on recent weather. Know you vehicles limitations. There is no tow truck service available way back here in the boonies.
Sugarloaf Ridge, Greenhorn Mts
Alta Sierra, Kern River Canyon
SOUTH SIERRA: This route is located in between the Western Divide Highway and the cedar community of Alta Sierra, CA
Sugarloaf Ridge: Forest Rd# 23S16 – Thompson Camp Spring, The Den @ Sequoia National Forest
Driving north on Sierra Hwy N of Kernville, California; Passing Fairview & the Johnsondale bridge; After the R Ranch @ Johnsondale, take the left fork on the main highway; After you climb in elevation, look for brown signs on right side of road & turn left on Forest Service Rd# 23S16. Primitive camp sites are located throughout this area along Packsaddle Creek. Do not turn left up Sugarloaf Rd. There are no good camp sites up that way (unless you wanna make one).
RV campers are very common at Thompson Camp Spring, as this road is paved up to this point. The paved road is windy & narrows after this point. It is not advised for trailers or long motorhomes past Thompson.
For the more adventurous, Bear Meadow & Packsaddle Mdw are located up the dirt road a bit on #23S64.
Paved Sequoia route# 23S16 continues to climb, which leads to the Speas Meadow, the Greenhorn Mountains & you best have a real good map if you are heading up this way. 20 miles of awesome open meadows, small streams, dense forest, wildflowers, some primitive camp sites & great viewpoints overlooking the Kern Canyon. All passenger car accessible! Elevations between 6000-7000′. Sugarloaf Peak has cross country skiing.
Side route #23S05 will take you to White River Campground w/ 12 spots. The paved road winds west down the mountain to Posey & eventually Glennville on Hwy 155.
Instead, to easily reach Hwy 155 – you’ll need to get on dirt for a few miles. While on 23S16, look for the Panorama Campground (@ 7400′ elevation w/ 10 sites). Take dirt road #24S15 to get back to civilization @ Alta Sierra, California.
BALCH PARK campground is on a first come basis; no campground reservations needed.
2021 – THIS CAMPGROUND IS CLOSED indefinitely, due to the Castle Fire 2020
Balch Park open May to October
Park info # 559 539-3896
Hedrick Pond lined w/ Sequoia trees
Balch County Park is right in the middle of Mountain Home State Forest, which is within the bigger Sequoia National Forest (aka Giant Sequoia National Monument). But don’t let all the bureaucracy mislead you, this is an ideal park and location, well worth your trip. The campground is the most developed one within the area – with paved roads, RV spaces, flush toilets and a fee to go along with all that. Even gotta fishing pond.
Bears are a big deal in these neck of the woods. Please store all your food properly to avoid a un-welcomed visitor
A Sequoia Grove is nearby with plenty of creeks & meadows.
Trailers not recommended due to the long curvy road leading up the mountain.
Forest Road# 21S05 –
Giant Sequoia NM
From the small cabin community of Ponderosa, CA, continue N on the Western Divide Highway. Dirt road# 21S05 will be a right turn, a graded route that leads to a dirt parking lot for hikers.
The trailhead for the granite Needles is a favorite among rock climbers in the Southern Sierra Nevada. The easy 4.5 mile hiking trail is numbered 32E22 & leads out to a historic fire lookout tower, overseeing the Kern Canyon (& Road 22S82) below.
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.
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.
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.
Bear Meadow: Forest Rd# 23S64 – Packsaddle Creek, Sequoia National Forest
For the more adventurous & ones seeking some seclusion, Bear Meadow is located up the dirt road a bit from Thompson Camp Spring . From Forest Road #23S16 @ Thompson Camp Spring – continue straight on the dirt road #23S64, cross over the one lane wooden bridge; within a mile, turn left into a secluded creek side camping area. Note: Bears are common here (hence the name Bear Meadow)!
Packsaddle Creek runs thru this forest. Very primitive area with rutted dirt roads & sometimes overgrown; there are several campsites back in here for the ones who seek the wild. (Yes, bears & wild animals are very common way back here). If you continue on straight on the main dirt road Packsaddle Meadow also has camping spots & small corral. The last time we were out this way (2002-ish), the dirt road does not connect with highway to the west, as indicated on the map; due to landslide.
Located in the South Sierra Nevada mountains alongside the Southern Sierra Wilderness. Inside the remote rugged peaks of a deep, granite crevasse known as the Upper Kern River with ancient Sequoia forest to the west and to the eats, some of the tallest peaks in the Sierra range. This wild land area is home to the California golden trout and is the main water flow southward from the tallest peak in the lower 48 – Mount Whitney on the Eastern Sierra front.
Roads, campgrounds and trailheads surrounding Golden Trout Wilderness
Eastern Sierra –
Horseshoe Meadows Road (paved) leads up to high elevation meadows from the high deserts of Lone Pine, CA. Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) access; Mount Whitney and John Muir Wilderness are to the north. Equestrian corrals and horse trails. Camping is limited to a one night stay at any of the 3 campgrounds up here.
Fork of the Kern / Loyds Meadow Road #22S82 – This main paved road connects the Kern River (Sierra Hwy Road #99) to the lower elevation, granite slopes of the Western Divide, and the route dead ends at Jerky Meadow parking lot. Camp 1-6 are primitive camp areas located on dirt side roads and 4×4 might be required on some of them. Obtain a campfire permit from rangers in Kernville. Fishing, camping, waterfalls and swimming holes are popular in this region. The big developed camp along this road, is located 10 miles up, in a pine filled valley on Peppermint Creek on the west side of the street and is within the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
Lower Peppermint Campground: elevation 5300′ / 17 camp sites / open year round
Lloyd Meadows @ Sequoia Forest Road# 20S67 – is the Forks of the Kern Trailhead & the dirt road that accesses it, is very popular among equestrian campers.
Western Divide Highway –
Road #20S79 leads from Western Divide Hwy to Lewis trailhead.
Road #20S50 leads from Western Divide Hwy to 2 hiking trailheads.
Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers, CA –
South Fork Road leads up Kaweah River at Southfork trailhead.
Mineral King Road is only open seasonally, access to high country lakes and trailheads.
east side –
Cottonwood Trailhead (near Lone Pine)
Blackrock Trailhead (Monache Mdws)
south side –
Forks of the Kern Trailhead
Lewis Camp Trailhead (Western Divide)
Summit Trailhead (Western Divide)
Clicks Creek Trailhead (Western Divide)
Camp Wishon Trailhead (Western Divide)
west side –
South Fork Trailhead (Three Rivers) Atwell Mill Trailhead (Silver City)
Franklin Pass Trailhead (Mineral King)