Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bass Lake Camping

Bass Lake is a very popular outdoor recreation area in Gold Country California. Lake Camping, due mainly to the fact that it is next to Yosemite National Park's south entrance, Hwy 41. Bass Lake has good fishing, boating, plenty campgrounds & this pine forested lake is close to the Central Valley, north of Fresno, CA.

aka - Crane Valley Reservoir 
Crane Valley Dam

Bass Lake offers outdoor recreation: marinas, fishing, permits, public boat launches, boat rentals, kayak rentals, jet ski rentals, horseback rides, horseback and hiking trails. Residential cabins, homes and condo neighborhoods surround the lake on all sides.

There are numerous Sequoia Groves tucked way back near Yosemite, behind Bass Lake in Sierra National Forest. Miles and miles of forest roads to explore will lead to secluded, primitive camp sites (free), small campgrounds, creek fishing, lake fishing and recreation, higher elevations, backpacker trailheads, hiking trails, kayaking creeks and rock climbing.

Scenic and secluded Nelder Grove is a great gem of a small camp ground, dirt road access of course.  Further back in the dense forest and deep in the mountains is a wonderful loop route - when it's not closed for winter conditions. Beasore Road #7 connecting to Minarets Road #81 make an excellent weekend of adventure for those who like winding one lanes roads. RVs and motorhomes are not permitted on certain portions on the road, so check w/ rangers before venturing too far back with a large vehicle. Boats and trailers, big dualie trucks, and smaller RVs are quite  common on the paved route between Mammoth Poole and the small community of North Fork, CA. Certain sections of this back-behind-bass-lake region is closed off to through traffic annually in Spring for fawning season, so deer can do there thing in peace and quiet. Make sure to contact local rangers at North Fork for up-to-date road conditions and forest restrictions currently in place.

Primitive camp sites can be found on flowing creeks, scenic meadows, hiking trails and fresh air. On this backcountry route is the small ranger town of North Fork, Mammoth Pool Reservoir,  Beasore Creek, Chiquito Creek, Clover Meadows, Granite Creek Campground, Jackass Lakes trailhead, Jackass Meadows and Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Sierra National Forest is the land surrounding Bass Lake & these hidden areas found on Total Escape, are perfect for camping for free outside Yosemite NP. Mountain bike trails, creeks, meadows and numerous reservoirs. Several hiking and backpacking trailheads lead to Yosemite Park or into higher elevations in Ansel Adams Wilderness.

None of campgrounds at Bass Lake are lakeside, but located close to the lake within walking distance. Large, developed National Forest campgrounds w/ fees, or private RV parks & cabin rentals. The free camp sites are found on the dirt back roads, so take a few good maps so you can cross reference your perfect, secluded, primitive camp site. Real maps, hard copies for backup!

USDA Sierra National Forest Map
Tom Harrison Sierra Forest Map

BASS LAKE Campgrounds

Redinger Lake, South of Yosemite NP
Chilkoot Campground
Kelty Meadow
Lupine Campground
Nelder Grove
Soquel Campground
Spring Cove
Wishon Campground

nearby towns:

View Larger Map

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cabins for Rent

Alpine Cabin Homes, Soda Springs near Donner Pass I-80

Cabins to Rent

California has some amazing locations for cabin rentals. Gorgeous scenery in so many places, nearby hiking, mountain biking and fishing. Cabins in the redwoods, cabins on the coast, cabins on rivers, or in the mountains and rustic cabins in the desert.

Cabin Communities in California

Alta Sierra
Bass Lake
Ben Lomond
Big Bear
Big Sur
Huntington Lake
Gold Lake
June Lake
Lake Almanor
Lake Arrowhead
Lake Tahoe
Mount Laguna
Panamint Springs
Pine Mountain
Shaver Lake
Silver City
Willow Creek 

Rental Cabins in California

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fossil Falls on Hwy 395

While it may be a bit hot to visit here during summer, I thought I would let everyone know about this awesome "stretch break" along Hwy 395, where the Mojave meets the Sierra Nevada. When you are on your way northbound toward Bishop, entering the lava corridor of the Eastern Sierra, look for a red cinder cone volcano on the right side of the highway. This easy to miss turn off is after Little Lake (which is the remains of a burnt hotel) & before Coso Junction. If you are driving over 55 mph, you may actually miss it.

To find Fossil Falls (which is not a waterfall anymore) -- turn right off Highway 395, on to a well marked gravel road called CINDER ROAD. High clearance vehicle is not required. Follow road to the right w/ signs approx. 1 mile & you will be at a small primitive BLM campground & trailhead parking lot. Surrounded by a field of black lava chunks, the Sierra Nevada mountains to the west and Death Valley Park to the east.

New picnic tables & pit toilets are provided. Stop, get outta the car, breathe, stretch & view the surreal terrain.

Standing inside ancient lava beds from the Owens River, you can breathe deep and take in the lunarscape surroundings.

Hike from the parking lot less than half a mile & you are on top of a huge lava gorge, where a maze of fun awaits you. It's literally a jungle gym of climbing & exploring here. Rock climbers love this spot & if you are careful you can manage to squeeze your fat ass into one of the tubes, cubby holes or slots. Some of this terrain is smooth and slick, so it's easy to slip. Wear hiking shoes if you plan to explore deeper into the canyon. Your first time here you could easily get lost in the network of exploration, spending an hour or more discovering new stuff - right off the highway!

The primitive camp sites in the main parking lot are RV and handicapped accessible. Possibly 2 or 3 more camp sites located behind the rocks, away from the main parking lot.

Maps for the North Mojave Desert - 

Forest Maps for the lower Eastern Sierra -

towns in the North Mojave region:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kern River Camping

Camping is great here nearly year round, but campfires restrictions are often tight in dry summer months and into late fall. The Kern River draws visitors from Southern California, as well as Central Cal. It is the southern most big river of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Located near a few big Sequoia trees, the Kern River winds thru Golden Trout Wilderness & Sequoia National Forest, dumping into Lake Isabella before heading west to the flatlands of Bako.

The smaller & lesser known south fork of the Kern River is located way up top at Monache; Granite peaks, joshua trees, sage meadows & wilderness near Olancha Peak, on the very border of the North Mojave desert.

Plenty cool stuff to see and do around the Lower Kern Canyon:

Alta Sierra
Domelands Wilderness
Fairview CA
Golden Trout Wilderness
Kennedy Meadows
Kernville CA
Lake Isabella
Remington Hot Springs
Road's End
Sequoia National Forest
Wofford Heights CA

Upper Kern is often thought of as anything north of Kernville, but in reality the Upper Kern River comes from the headwaters south of Mount Whitney on the Eastern Sierra. True wilderness, the rugged portion of this river is north of the Johnsondale Bridge, leads into the Golden Trout Wilderness.

Wildflowers on the Kern start in March & continue into May.

Upper elevations on Sherman's Pass Road lead to camp seclusion.

Kicking it on the Kern River below Fairview, CA

Total Escape usually camps along the Kern River in the Spring & we have a decade worth of great outdoor photos to share with you. Kern for camping, anytime of the year.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The ABC's of California

Most people moved to California for the great weather, the awesome scenery & the forward thinking culture. Or maybe you just relocated here for a job, a career or college. Either way, you are here now & all the plans you had to travel have slipped by the wayside. Computers have now taken over your daily entertainment, your life and society. NOT!

No matter what your excuse is the need to be outside enveloped in nature and to explore new trails is still buried deep within you. You crave the sunshine, the fresh air, the real true connection w/ the earth. Caves & caverns of Gold Country, the High Sierra peaks, the wineries to tour.. it's all still out there.

Not all the forests have burned - yet.

California  A to Z

In case you don't already know the back roads of California like you really wanted to, DanaMite has compiled the awesome California small town list, an ever growing compilation of all small towns & some not-so-small cities. It's the perfect reference page to bookmark on the 4000 page Total Escape web site.

Focusing mainly on the rural back roads, Total Escape features local links to museums, parks & forests, rivers & lakes, campgrounds, RV parks, outdoor recreation, guides & outfitters, plus the very best independent lodging in the golden state w/ NO CHAIN HOTELS. Perfect outdoorsy destinations for your own weekend getaway. Hike, bike, fish, kayak, play. The stuff you really wanna do!

When is the last time you really got excited about a road trip?

Mokelumne River campground, Eldorado NF

Mammoth Pool Reservoir, Sierra NF

Figueroa Mountain Road blooms in Santa Barbara Co

Onion Valley Trailhead, John Muir Wilderness

Day dreaming yet?

Mokelumne River Canyon

Mokelumne Peak is at a towering 9334' elevation in the High Sierra known as Mokelumne Wilderness. Granite scenery, high country, big water at high elevations.

105,165 acres straddles the crest of the central Sierra Nevada, within the Stanislaus, Eldorado, and Toiyabe National Forests; bordered by Highway 4 on the south and Highway 88 on the north.

The Mokelumne River starts way up here near Blue Lakes and flows down to Salt Springs Reservoir, on the Amador & Calaveras county line. Once inside the Gold Country region the Mokelumne River drains into Pardee Reservoir, near Jackson CA.

Salt Springs Reservoir has a trailhead for the Mokelumne Wilderness.

Ellis Road - El Dorado National Forest Road #8N25

signed turn off of Highway 88, a steep long, winding, hairy drive on a paved, back road that switchbacks down to river and prime camping. Minimal access and recreation at Salt Springs reservoir.

Mokelumne River Camp (free camping)

Mokelumne Campground: elevation 3200' / 8 camp sites

View Larger Map

Mokelumne Wilderness is a popular destination for backpackers or equestrian folks, mostly in summer months. A topographic waterproof Mokelumne Map or the standard issue USDA El Dorado Forest Map

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mohave Preserve

Mojave Desert / Mohave Camping

Mojave, one of the largest deserts in the USA. Named after the Mohave tribe of Native Americans, it contains a number of ghost towns, the old railroad depots, and nearly 2000 plants species. The Mojave Desert is crossed by major routes - Interstate 15, Interstate 40, US Highway 395 & US Highway 95. READ MORE

Right in the middle of the Mojave Desert is the National Preserve. The largest joshua tree forest in the state of Cali. Summer temps can easily reach the triple digits, so camping and hiking is most favored in autumn, winter or spring months. There are many primitive style (free) camp spots inside the park and surrounding the park, and there are also a few developed campgrounds as well. Goffs schoolhouse to the east has outdoor showers.
Hundreds if not thousands of dirt roads network the Mojave desert
This desert park is an ideal spot for "in-route camping" and RVs if traveling to or from Southern California. Graded roads and paved roads make it easy access, but you best get a good topo map of this place if you plan to explore it in any depth. TOM HARRISON & NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC both make excellent maps of this area. The camping photo above is the secret boulder cove, off Kelbaker Road. Go see if you can find it (but please don't trash it).


Surrounded by the preserve is Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, home to Mitchell Caverns & Winding Stair Caverns. There is a small campground with an spectacular view up near the caves.

Kelso Depot has been renovated & restored, serving as the main Visitor Center.
Lake Mohave is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area

lake mohave

Along the state border of the eastern edge of California where Nevada & Arizona meet, the Colorado River below Hoover dam gives way to a large reservoir called LAKE MOHAVE. The lake is great for secluded 4x4 camping, fishing, boating and kayaking. Access to this remote area is thru Searchlight, NV.

El Dorado Canyon rents kayaks, a few miles west of the lake.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Kennedy Meadows California

General Store at Kennedy Meadows, on the Kern Plateau, California

There are 2 different places in the Sierra Nevada mountains called Kennedy Meadows. This one photographed above is on the Kern Plateau, located in the Southern Sierra in between Dome Land Wilderness & Golden Trout Wilderness. The infamous Pacific Crest Trail (the PCT) passes through this region. Sequoia National Forest spans most of the land to the south and west of Kennedy Meadows. Inyo National Forest sits directly to the east. Monache Meadows and Olancha Peak are to the north side

kennedy meadows on the kern plateau - 

High elevation Sherman's Pass Road leads uphill from the west, where the steep turn off, next to the Kern River is often gated. Way north of Kernville, CA. Shermans Pass Rd is a paved back road that closes annually for snow, so call the local ranger for up to date weather & road conditions.

Access to Kennedy Meadows from the east side, Inyo County Road # J41 off of Eastern Sierra Highway 395, switchbacks steeply up the paved road to this outdoor recreation mecca. This mountain community is a collection of cabins & campgrounds; open sage meadows, pinyon pines & the South Fork of the Kern River. Many wildfires have scared this area in the recent decades.  Southern Sierra means high desert, sagebrush and minimal water so fire safety is always a big concern over here.

Up behind Troy Meadows Campground, Black Rock station may only be seasonal summer office, if at all. USFS just restructured its ranger offices recently and this one might be cut completely. Kernville rangers should be readily available year round to answer any questions. See Sequoia National Forest for more ranger info and phone numbers.

Leavitt Falls from viewpoint on Sonora Pass, Highway 108 California

kennedy meadows on the sonora pass - 

The other Kennedy Meadows is way further north in the High Sierra on Sonora Pass, Highway 108. Surrounded by Emigrant Wilderness, Carson Iceberg Wilderness and positioned within the Stanislaus National Forest. Known as Kennedy Meadows Resort, it serves as a seasonal horse pack station that is open primarily in the summer months w/ an alpine resort and cabins. The closest town is Dardanelle, CA where you can find rustic lodging accommodations, campgrounds and a general store.

Dense forests and scenic landscapes in Stanislaus National Forest

Sierra Nevada Map

The Sierra Nevada mountains range in elevation from 2000' - 14,494' above sea level. From rolling foothills with creek, oaks & wildflowers to tower granite peaks, alpine lakes & high country meadows of the Eastern Sierra.

Imus Geographics makes a nice overview map of the Sierra Nevada mountains and this one is a hot seller on Total Escape!

Round Valley Reservoir, Sierra Nevada

Over at the Total Escape map store we have an epic selection of Sierra Maps -

see all Sierra Nevada Maps

Eastern Sierra Map
Gold Country Maps
Lassen Maps
Mammoth Maps
Mt Whitney Maps
Sequoia Maps
Tahoe Maps
Yosemite Maps

Northern Sierra Forest Map Set
Central Sierra Forest Map Set
Easterm Sierra Forest Map Set
Southern Sierra Forest Map Set

California Sierra Wilderness Maps
PCT - Pacific Crest Trail Maps

Campground Camping near Donner Pass

Mountain Bike Downieville, California 

Sierra Buttes in Northern Gold Country

Friday, April 5, 2013

Baja Atlas - Baja Maps - Baja Almanac

Called the BAJA ATLAS (6.75"x8.75") @ $19.95, this smaller one has full color ads & road maps. Some major dirt roads, hotels & general tourist info. For those real Baja adventurers wanting greater details on roads & visuals for comparison, I have scanned a page from each of these 2 top selling Baja map books - so you can see the difference. Both images are of the same coastal region just south of Ensenada, Baja California.

/map_detail/baja_atlas_inside.jpg (856k)
/map_detail/baja_almanac_inside.jpg (1019k)

the Baja California Atlas (above) and the Baja California Almanac (below) are both outta stock and outta print, as of 2013. Scroll down to see the new Baja Maps from NatGeo.

Being the back roads hound that I am, I was hoping that this new title would be suitable to replace the nice topographical Baja Almanac, but sorry to say I am disappointed with the land features, colors, contrast & minimal size. Topographical details are very limited; No topo lines, just satellite imagery & pixelated textures. The paid advertisements aren't too bad though! It is a bit more cramped & no room for writing notes. As far as 4x4 routes or Baja Racing, this Baja Atlas is not a map book that you should use if seriously off-roading the Baja peninsula.

Update Spring 2013
BAJA ALMANAC: the ever popular, best-selling Baja California Almanac is once again SOLD OUT and not available at this time!

Nothing beats a hard copy, a real map, a physical map... when traveling way down into the Baja, the wild west. No internet, no cell phone coverage for miles, no 4G digital network anything. When you have a good map or two, you give yourself more options and freedom when traveling and less stress., what is in stock right now for Baja California Mexico?

NEW National Geographic Baja Maps: 

NatGeo just came out with some mighty fine, colorful, gorgeous, waterproof, topographic, recreation fold out maps. One covers Baja Norte (north) and the other Baja Sur (south). Buy them individually for $12 each, or w/ the 2-pack set for less than $20.  

NatGeo Baja Maps • NORTESURSET

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Camping in California

California is the most epic place to live for those who love the outdoors and camp often. Terrain can be extreme like the vast deserts and higher elevation mountains. Moderate elevation forest, mountains and rural regions, such as river canyons in the gold country and Northern California. Mild and mellow landscape w/ developed campgrounds along the coast and near the urban centers.

The weather is always decent somewhere in the golden state. Deserts are prime areas for wintertime camping, off-roading, old mines and ghost towns, as well as early Spring wildflowers. Wine country camping, farm-stays and recreation reservoirs are abundant all around the Central Valley and areas north of San Francisco. Coastal and beach camping is the most popular and sought-after destinations, so make your reservations if you want a guarantee spot. City camping is primarily offered by State Parks, county parks, regional parks and private RV resorts. California mountains are the place to be in the summer months, with the mighty Sierra Nevada range as the main focus, with the granite spine running hundreds of miles - and only accessible half the year (May-November).

Below you can find the best links to camping suggestions and local destinations on Total Escape. Individual campgrounds are also listed in the nearest small town

California A to Z