California | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Sat, 21 Oct 2017 00:30:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg California | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Death Valley Camping for Tents and RVs https://moon.com/2017/08/death-valley-camping-for-tents-and-rvs/ https://moon.com/2017/08/death-valley-camping-for-tents-and-rvs/#respond Wed, 30 Aug 2017 17:09:50 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58471 Between the hidden springs, salt flats, and ghost towns, a whole desert is waiting to be explored. Plan your Death Valley camping trip at one of these campsites.

The post Death Valley Camping for Tents and RVs appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
There are 12 campgrounds in Death Valley National Park; with the exception of Furnace Creek Campground, all are first-come, first-served. Finding an open site is rarely a problem; however, Texas Spring Campground in Furnace Creek may fill during spring weekends. There are also primitive campgrounds and many opportunities for backcountry camping.

Campgrounds are open seasonally (either Oct.-May or May-Oct.) depending on their elevation. Check the National Park Service website for seasonal alerts prior to heading out on a Death Valley camping trip.

bathrooms and a tent in Furnace Creek

Texas Spring Campground is tucked into the hills above Furnace Creek. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Furnace Creek Campgrounds

There are four campgrounds clustered around Furnace Creek, all with their pros and cons. Furnace Creek Campground is the only campground open in summer. Texas Spring and Sunset Campgrounds are open October 15 to May 1. Furnace Creek and Sunset Campgrounds both sit at 196 feet below sea level, making them oppressively hot in summer, and Texas Spring, at sea level, is not much higher or cooler. Site passes for Sunset and Texas Spring are sold at automated kiosks that take major credit cards and cash. Passes are for general overnight admission but do not specify sites.

Summer at Furnace Creek can create its own kind of ghost town due to the excessive heat at lower elevations. If you are planning to camp in Death Valley in summer, you would be wise to camp at higher elevations in other sections of the park.

Tip: All campgrounds can get very windy at night regardless of the time of year or the temperature. If you are tent camping, make sure you have your tent properly staked, and make sure everything that could be blown away is secured (camp chairs love to catch air when you’re not watching). If you’re relying on RV electric hookups, don’t be surprised by electricity surges.

Furnace Creek RV Park and Fiddlers Campground

Located at Furnace Creek Ranch, the privately run Furnace Creek RV Park and Fiddlers Campground (760/786-2345 or 800/236-7916, $18-38) offers 36 RV sites with full hookups and 35 RV or tent sites (no hookups). While not the place for those seeking desert solitude, it does include amenities such as wireless Internet and access to Furnace Creek Ranch’s pool, showers, and sports facilities. Communal picnic tables and fire pits are available within the campground but not at individual sites. Sites can be reserved year-round through Furnace Creek Ranch.

Furnace Creek Campground

The Furnace Creek Campground (877/444-6777, year-round, $18) is an RV and tent campground with 136 sites. It’s the only public campground that takes reservations (Oct. 15-Apr. 15) in Death Valley, so for busy weekends in spring or on holidays, or for travelers who like to have a set itinerary, this is a good option. From mid-April to mid-October, sites are first-come, first-served; reservations are not accepted and the fee is reduced to $12. The campground is right next to Furnace Creek Ranch, so while it’s easy to walk to dining and amenities, it also means this is not the serene desert escape you might be looking for. The surrounding valley and hills provide a beautiful setting, but the campground itself can be crowded and disorderly. There are some walk-in tent sites, which afford slightly more serenity. Day passes ($5) are available for the Furnace Creek Ranch pool and showers. This might be a selling point if you’re staying for several days or are visiting in the hotter parts of the year.

Sunset Campground

Sunset Campground (first-come, first-served, Oct.-May, $12) is across the road from Furnace Creek Campground and conveniently located near the services at Furnace Creek Ranch. With 270 sites, it caters mainly to RVs and is peaceful but spare, meaning it is basically a very scenically located parking lot. Amenities include water, flush toilets, and a dump station. It’s useful as an overflow if Furnace Creek Campground is full or to avoid some of the congestion there.

Texas Spring Campground

Texas Spring (first-come, first-served, Oct.-May, $14) shares an entrance with Sunset Campground, but it is a little more scenic, tucked farther into the hills with tamarisks offering shade at a few of the sites. This also means that it is the most popular campground in the area, and its 92 tent and RV sites fill up quickly. Amenities include water, picnic tables, fire pits, flush toilets, and a dump station.

Backcountry Camping in Furnace Creek

Furnace Creek has the most restrictions on where backcountry camping is allowed. Camping is not allowed on the valley floor from Ashford Mill in the south to two miles north of Stovepipe Wells. Camping is also not allowed directly off the West Side Road, but it is permitted along some of the Panamint Mountain canyon roads that are accessed by the West Side Road. To camp off the canyon roads, such as Johnson and Hanaupah Canyons, you must drive at least two miles in along any of the canyon roads from the West Side Road. (Pay attention to any posted signs, as the two-mile mark is a general rule of thumb, and some canyon roads may require you to go farther from the West Side Road.)

Backcountry sites are unmarked and have no amenities; look for spots that are flat, have easy turnouts, or look like they have been camped in before. The roads in this area become increasingly rough farther toward the canyon; if you’re driving a basic, high-clearance vehicle, such as a city SUV, you might not want to venture much past the two-mile mark. If you do snag one of these canyon spots, they can be austere and quiet with views of Badwater Basin glowing in the distance; however, they can be very windy, especially at night.

Amenities sign at Stovepipe Wells

The campgrounds at Stovepipe Wells feature views of the Cottonwood Mountains. Photo © aiwells/flickr, licensed CCBY.

Stovepipe Wells Campgrounds

The campground at Stovepipe Wells (190 sites, first-come, first-served, Sept. 15-early May, $12) has tent sites and RV sites with hookups. This is a central location for exploring a big swath of Death Valley. Beyond the prime location, the campground mostly resembles a parking lot, although the surrounding desert and Cottonwood Mountains are lovely in their austerity. The campground sits right at sea level, and the sites are completely exposed, which means it can be blazingly hot, and there is no privacy. Prepare to become friends with your neighbors. Amenities include picnic tables, potable water, and flush toilets. There is access to the Stovepipe Wells Hotel pool and showers ($4 per day).

Stovepipe Wells RV Park (14 sites, year-round, $32.75) shares space with the Stovepipe Wells campground; sites are located next to the General Store. RV fees include access to the swimming pool and to Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby.

Backcountry Camping in Stovepipe Wells

If you’re adventurous and prepared, backcountry camping might be a better and certainly more scenic option than the developed campground at Stovepipe Wells.

Backcountry camping is not allowed off Titus Canyon Road, Mosaic Canyon Road, Grotto Canyon Road, the first eight miles of Cottonwood Canyon Road, or on the valley floor from two miles north of Stovepipe Wells down to Ashford Mill in the Furnace Creek region. This list limits your options since it covers most of the roads that enter the region’s mountains and scenic bypasses.

Cottonwood Canyon makes a fine camp, as long as you camp beyond the first eight miles; it is scenic and has a water source. Chloride City, in the Nevada Triangle area, offers backcountry options in a scoured landscape with the Funeral Mountains as the backdrop. You’ll have no problem finding a place all to yourself out here.

picnic table and campfire in Death Valley

Campsites at Mesquite Spring are tucked along low hills. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Scotty’s Castle and Eureka Valley Campgrounds

There are no services in the Eureka Valley region—no hotels, restaurants, or gas. The park hubs of Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek are one to three hours’ drive south, and the closest services are in Big Pine, about 50 miles (two hours) west. Scotty’s Castle offers some bottled drinks and premade sandwiches, but hours are limited, and there are no other supplies. Bring your own food and water, make sure you have enough gas, and be prepared to camp.

Mesquite Spring Campgrounds

Mesquite Spring (30 sites, first-come, first-served, year-round, $12) is the only developed campground in the region. It’s a pretty campground, dotted with mesquite bushes and set along low hills less than five miles west from Scotty’s Castle. At an elevation of 1,800 feet, the temperature is bearable most of the year, except summer. Sites are exposed, but spaced far enough apart that you get some privacy. Though reservations aren’t accepted, it’s very likely you’ll get a spot, even in the busy spring season. Stop to reserve a spot first thing in the morning; pay via an automated kiosk, which takes credit cards and cash, and put your receipt on the site marker. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and access to flush toilets and water; there are no RV hookups, but there is a dump station.

Directions

The turnoff to Mesquite Spring is located 0.6 mile south of the intersection of Scotty’s Castle Road and Highway 190; from the turnoff, continue 1.9 miles south to the campground.

Eureka Dunes Dry Camp

Eureka Dunes Dry Camp (first-come, first-served, free) is a small, primitive maintained campground. A stay here puts you within easy distance of the remote Eureka Dunes. Sites have fire pits and sturdy cement picnic tables; there is no water and no electric hookups, but there is a pit toilet. If all the sites are full, there are backcountry camping spaces just beyond the campground off Eureka Road. The only thing that distinguishes them from the official campsites is their lack of a picnic table and a fire pit.

Directions

To get here from the intersection of Scotty’s Castle Road and Highway 190, head north for 2.8 miles and continue on Big Pine-Death Valley Road for 21.8 miles. At Crankshaft Crossing, marked by a sign and rusted crankshafts, turn left (southwest) to stay on Big Pine-Death Valley Road. The turnoff to Eureka Dry Camp is 12.2 miles farther. Turn left onto the South Eureka Road and drive 9.6 miles to the campground at the base of the dunes. Big Pine-Death Valley Road, as well as Eureka Dunes Road, are graded dirt roads usually suitable for passenger cars and good enough to bring a camper or RV to this spot.

Homestake Dry Camp

In Racetrack Valley, your best bet is Homestake Dry Camp (first-come, first-served, free), a primitive maintained campground. Four camp spaces have been graded so that you can comfortably park and pitch a tent. In the highly unlikely event that these sites are full, simply set up camp nearby. The only amenity is one decrepit pit toilet, and there are no fire pits provided, so fires are not permitted. Bring your own water. Despite the lack of amenities, the campground serves as a good base to explore the surrounding area—Ubehebe Peak, the Racetrack, Lippincott Mine, Ubehebe Lead Mine, and Corridor Canyon.

Directions

To reach Homestake Dry Camp, access the Racetrack Valley Road from where it leaves paved Highway 190 and drive 19.4 miles south to Teakettle Junction. Continue south on the Racetrack Valley Road for eight miles to the southern end of the Racetrack playa. Continue two miles south beyond the playa, a total of 29.4 miles from Highway 190, to a small campground sign and the graded camping spaces that mark Homestake Dry Camp.

Backcountry Camping near Scotty’s Castle and Eureka Valley

Only a few roads traverse this region, so it’s important to know where backcountry car camping is allowed. The main dirt road, Racetrack Valley Road, is tempting, but there is no camping between Teakettle Junction and Homestake Dry Camp.

Instead, consider turning left at Teakettle Junction and heading south along Hidden Valley Road toward Hunter Mountain. The road is passable in a high-clearance vehicle for 13 miles to the area around Goldbelt Spring, at the base of Hunter Mountain. Beyond Goldbelt Spring, the road becomes 4WD-only as it climbs Hunter Mountain.

If you plan to rock-climb or explore the Cottonwood Mountain Canyons, camp in the vicinity of White Top Mountain. White Top Mountain Road is located off Hidden Valley Road; take the left turn at the junction 3.2 miles south of Teakettle Junction. The road begins as passable for high-clearance vehicles, then requires a 4WD vehicle after about five miles. There is no camping allowed at the Ubehebe Mine or the Lost Burro Mine.

tent cabin in Death Valley

Panamint Springs Resort offers tent cabins. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Panamint Springs and Saline Valley Campgrounds

Panamint Springs Resort

The Panamint Springs Resort Campground (40440 Hwy. 190, 775/482-7680, 7am-9:30pm daily year-round, $10-65) has a total of 76 accommodations, including tent cabins (1-5 people, $35-65), RV sites (30- and 50-amp hookups, $20-35), tent sites (1 tent, 1 vehicle, $10), and one group site. All sites have fire pits; most have picnic tables. Amenities include drinking water and flush toilets. Best of all, they have hot showers (free with a site, fee for nonguests), a rarity in Death Valley campgrounds (Furnace Creek, the crowded hub on the other side of the park, is the only other campground with showers). The campsites can fill quickly, so make reservations well ahead of time. There is a surcharge of $5 for pets in RV and tent sites.

Emigrant Campgrounds

Emigrant Campground (10 sites, first-come, first-serve, year-round, free) is a tiny tent-only campground located at the junction of Highway 190 and Emigrant Canyon Road. It’s a pretty spot that more closely resembles a day-use area. Sites are small, close together, and exposed to the open desert. It’s too small to serve as a base camp for several days, but it will do in a pinch. At 2,100 feet elevation and with no shade, it can be uncomfortably hot in summer, although cooler than the valley floor (but almost any place is cooler than the valley floor). Amenities include picnic tables, drinking water, and restrooms with flush toilets.

Directions

Emigrant is located directly off paved Highway 190, approximately 21 miles east of Panamint Springs, so it’s easy to access and centrally located.

Wildrose Campgrounds

Cheerful and sunny Wildrose Campground (23 sites, first-come, first-served, year-round, free) is tucked away at the lower end of Wildrose Canyon. At 4,100 feet elevation, the camp sits at a good mid-level point to avoid the scorching temperatures of the valley floor in summer and the snow of the higher elevations. Unlike the seasonal campgrounds located at the higher elevations of the canyon, Wildrose is open year-round and rarely fills up. Its level sites don’t offer privacy or shade, but it’s a peaceful campground in a quiet and lovely section of the park. It’s a great place to set up a base camp for exploring the Emigrant and Wildrose Canyon areas, with easy access to Skidoo, the Charcoal Kilns, Wildrose Peak, and Telescope Peak. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, potable water, and pit toilets; the campground is also accessible to small trailers.

Directions

To get here from the north, take Emigrant Canyon Road south toward Wildrose Canyon from Highway 190 for approximately 21 miles, to the end of Emigrant Canyon Road. From the south, Trona Wildrose Road veers past it approximately 46 miles north of Trona. Trona Wildrose Road is prone to washouts, and the road was closed for most of 2014. Pay attention to park alerts, and check for road closures before planning your route.

Thorndike Campgrounds

Rocky and remote Thorndike Campground (6 sites, first-come, first-served, Mar.-Nov., free) is perched between the canyon walls high up in Wildrose Canyon. This campground lies between Wildrose Campground, downcanyon, and Mahogany Flat, at the top of the canyon, which means it can get overlooked. Since it’s lightly visited, you should have no problem getting a spot; you might even have it all to yourself. The combination of steep canyon walls, a perch off the winding canyon road, and winds whipping downcanyon through gnarled juniper trees gives this place a wild and forgotten feel. However, the sheerness of the canyon walls cuts in on the daylight hours, so when the sun dips, it can get chilly. Bring firewood, as the nights can get surprisingly cold, even in summer. However, this can be a welcome relief when it’s too hot at lower elevations.

Almost all campsites are shaded—a rarity in Death Valley. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets; there is no drinking water available (the closest drinking water is at Wildrose Campground, about eight miles downcanyon). If you want to hike both Telescope Peak and Wildrose Peak, this is a great home base.

At 7,400 feet elevation, snow can make access impossible to vehicles from November to March.

Directions

To get here from the north, take Emigrant Canyon Road south toward Wildrose Canyon from Highway 190 for approximately 21 miles, to the end of Emigrant Canyon Road at Wildrose Campground. At Wildrose Campground, take Wildrose Canyon Road another nine miles up the canyon. The pavement ends at seven miles, at the Charcoal Kilns. The gravel road is steep and rocky from here. A high-clearance vehicle is necessary; a 4WD vehicle is preferable when navigating snow, ice, or washouts. The road is not accessible to trailers. From the south, drive Trona Wildrose Road 46 miles north of Trona to the Wildrose Campground, and then drive an additional nine miles up Wildrose Canyon Road. Keep in mind that Trona Wildrose Road is prone to washouts. If the road is closed, you might have to bypass it.

Mahogany Flat Campgrounds

Perched at the top of Wildrose Canyon, Mahogany Flat Campground (10 sites, first-come, first-served, Mar.-Nov., free) offers cool temperatures, sweeping views, and access to Telescope Peak, the highest mountain peak in the park. At 8,200 feet elevation, expect cool nights, which can be a lifesaver in the summer. Many people use this campground as a jumping-off point to hike Telescope Peak, since the trailhead starts just outside the campground. It gets some traffic because of the popularity of Telescope Peak, but you are still likely to find a spot.

Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets; there is no drinking water available (the closest water is at Wildrose Campground, about nine miles down canyon). Snow may make the campground inaccessible November through March.

Directions

To get here from the north, take Emigrant Canyon Road south toward Wildrose Canyon from Highway 190 for approximately 21 miles, to the end of Emigrant Canyon Road at Wildrose Campground. At Wildrose Campground, take Wildrose Canyon Road another 11 miles up the canyon to the end of the road at the campground. The road gets slightly steeper and rockier past Thorndike Campground. A high-clearance vehicle is necessary; a 4WD vehicle is better when navigating snow, ice, or washouts. From the south, drive Trona Wildrose Road 46 miles north of Trona to Wildrose Campground, and then drive an additional 11 miles up the Wildrose Canyon Road until it ends at the campground.

Backcountry Camping in Panamint Springs and Saline Valley

Depending on where you go, backcountry camping could be your only option—or your best option.

In the Emigrant Canyon and Wildrose Canyon areas, developed campgrounds are the best bet; the most tempting backcountry choices here are off-limits. Backcountry camping is not allowed off Skidoo Road, Wildrose Canyon Road, or Aguereberry Point Road. These are all considered day-use only roads and are some of the only roads in the area.

Western Panamint Canyons Campgrounds

When exploring the western Panamint Canyons, backcountry camping is the only choice, unless you commute from Panamint Springs or Wildrose Canyon for day explorations only. Of course, this limits your fun. The Western Canyons, including Surprise Canyon and Jail Canyon, are popular backpacking and 4WD trails. Many of these canyons begin on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and cross into the jurisdiction of Death Valley National Park. When camping on BLM land, or for any backcountry camping, camp in a site that has already been disturbed (sometimes called a dispersed site or dispersed camping). To locate dispersed sites, look for pullouts or spurs off the road that are hard-packed and devoid of vegetation. These are not labeled as campsites, but if you know what to look for, you can have an enjoyable backcountry experience.

If you want to set up a main base camp or give yourself a fresh start for backpacking or exploring the 4WD trails in the canyons, the ghost town of Ballarat is a good place to start. There are no supplies aside from the cold soda and beer in the caretaker’s icebox, but you will be strategically located to get your fill of old mining camps, rocky creeks, and sculpted canyon walls.

Saline Valley Campgrounds

Saline Valley Warm Springs has semideveloped camping spots. These sites are used primarily by people visiting the springs. There are well-maintained pit toilets and outdoor shower stations with water piped from the hot springs. There are no fees for camping, and drinking water is not available. From Saline Valley Road, the primitive 6.8-mile road to the camp can be sandy and hard to follow.

Maps - Death Valley National Park 1e - Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park


Planning a Death Valley camping trip? Here's a look at all 12 campgrounds in the park, including rates and reservation information.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Death Valley National Park.

The post Death Valley Camping for Tents and RVs appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/08/death-valley-camping-for-tents-and-rvs/feed/ 0 58471
10 Fun Activities in Yosemite for Families https://moon.com/2017/08/10-fun-activities-in-yosemite-for-families/ https://moon.com/2017/08/10-fun-activities-in-yosemite-for-families/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 17:00:00 +0000 http://moon.com?p=22033&preview_id=22033 Whether you're headed to Yosemite for your first family vacation or you've been a dozen times already, you may be looking for ideas to help your kids experience the best of this beautiful park. This list of ten activities in Yosemite is kid-approved and offers fun for the whole family.

The post 10 Fun Activities in Yosemite for Families appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
Whether you’re headed to Yosemite for your first family vacation or you’ve been a dozen times already, you may be looking for ideas to help your kids experience the best of this beautiful park. This list of ten activities in Yosemite is kid-approved and offers fun for the whole family.

young girl walking in Yosemite

Yosemite offers fun activities for the whole family. Photo © Star80z/iStock.

  1. Rent bikes at Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) or Yosemite Lodge recreation centers and ride around Yosemite Valley. Don’t worry about it being a tough ride; 12 miles of smooth, level paths make it easy for everybody to keep up. Bikes are available year-round, and bikes with kid-trailers attached are available for children too young to ride on their own.
  2. Go for a hike on the quieter trails off Glacier Point Road. The easy trails to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome make good family hikes; each is only 2.2 miles round-trip. The Glacier Point Snack Stand is a nice stop for a tasty reward for all that hard work, and the view is amazing. If you’re there in the evening, there’s a ranger talk to get kids interested, and the point is a great place for stargazing with or without a telescope.
  3. Sign up for rock climbing lessons at the Yosemite Mountaineering School. The guides there are well equipped for beginners of all ages, and kids will always get a kick out of permission to climb all over everything.
  4. Go see a live show at the Yosemite Theater. Kids’ tickets are discounted.
  5. Drive to the giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove and buy tickets for the open-air tram tour through the big trees.
  6. Take a trip through history at the Pioneer Yosemite History Museum in Wawona and treat everybody to a ride in a horse-drawn wagon.
  7. In early summer, float in a raft on the Merced River. You’ll start your river journey at Half Dome Village and meander three miles downstream to a shuttle bus that’ll return you to your starting point. Since rafting is generally only safe in June and July, a nice alternative for water fun later in summer is a swim at Sentinel Beach.
  8. Sign up for a guided two-hour morning mule ride at the Yosemite Valley Stables or Big Trees Stables. Calm and even tempered, mules are a great companion for kids to explore the park, and these sure-footed animals are perfect for the rugged terrain. The two-hour ride at Yosemite Valley Stables heads to beautiful Mirror Lake, and the popular Big Trees Stables two-hour ride travels the historic wagon road.
  9. Go for a Junior Ranger Walk. Part of earning an official Junior Ranger badge, a Junior Ranger Walk is a one-hour expedition full of activities to keep kids hooked on the fun. Learn more about Yosemite’s Junior Ranger Programs.
  10. Stop in at the Yosemite Art and Education Center in Yosemite Valley to take part in children’s art classes. Watercolors are the focus here, so don’t worry too much about packing paint-friendly clothes but be prepared for the inevitable face and body painting with some easy clean up wipes.

Whether you're headed to Yosemite with kids for the first time or you've been a dozen times already, you may be looking for things to do in the park. This list of ten activities in Yosemite is kid-approved and offers fun for the whole family.

For more ideas and customizable travel itineraries, pick up a copy of Moon Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon.

The post 10 Fun Activities in Yosemite for Families appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/08/10-fun-activities-in-yosemite-for-families/feed/ 0 22033
Joshua Tree National Park Campgrounds https://moon.com/2017/08/joshua-tree-national-park-campgrounds/ https://moon.com/2017/08/joshua-tree-national-park-campgrounds/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 17:51:17 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58272 Backcountry, RV, or tent—whatever your overnight preference, Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds offer a little something for every outdoor adventurer.

The post Joshua Tree National Park Campgrounds appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
Backcountry, RV, or tent—whatever your overnight preference, Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds offer a little something for every outdoor adventurer.

There are seven NPS campgrounds located within the park boundaries, two of which—Black Rock Campground and Indian Cove Campground—accept seasonal reservations October through May. The other five campgrounds are first-come, first-served year-round.

Campgrounds in Joshua Tree start to fill up on Thursday mornings most weekends October through May, beginning with the more popular and centrally located campsites like Hidden Valley, Jumbo Rocks, and Ryan Campground, which have sites tucked in among Joshua Tree’s famous boulders and Joshua trees. By Thursday evening, your options are limited. If you can’t make it into the park by Thursday afternoon, and you don’t have a reservation, better have a contingency plan. Fortunately, there is overflow camping and private camping available outside the park boundaries. In summer, all campgrounds are first-come, first-served.

Only three campgrounds—Black Rock, Indian Cove, and Cottonwood—have drinking water. Even if you are staying at one of these campgrounds, it is wise to bring at least two gallons of water (per person per day) with you into the park.

There are no RV hookups at any of the park campgrounds. Black Rock and Cottonwood Campgrounds have RV-accessible potable water and dump stations, and there are spaces that can accommodate trailers under 25 feet at Hidden Valley and White Tank Campgrounds.

camper and car at a campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Black Rock and Cottonwood Campgrounds have RV-accessible potable water and dump stations, and there are spaces that can accommodate trailers under 25 feet at Hidden Valley and White Tank Campgrounds. Photo © Steven Kriemadis/iStock.

Campgrounds Inside Joshua Tree National Park

Black Rock Canyon Campground

Black Rock Canyon Campground (99 sites, 877/444-6777, $20) is in the northwest corner of Joshua Tree, just south of the town of Yucca Valley. Black Rock Canyon has a distinct geographic feel; instead of boulder jumbles, you’ll find rolling hills dotted with Joshua trees and yuccas. This is a good campground for first-time visitors, as drinking water is available and the location offers easy access to Yucca Valley for supplies. This campground also offers limited equestrian sites (by reservation only), and trailer and RV sites with water fill-up and dump stations are also available. Campground amenities include drinking water, flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and a small visitors center with maps and guides.

The road in dead-ends at the campground, and there is no driving access into the rest of the park. A series of hiking trails, including the short Hi-View Nature Trail, the view-filled Eureka Peak, Panorama Loop, and Warren Peak trails, leave from the campground and offer access into the park by foot. The trailhead for the 35-mile California Riding and Hiking Trail also starts at the campground.

Reservations are accepted online from October through May up to six months in advance. To get there from Highway 62 in Yucca Valley, turn south on Joshua Lane and drive five miles into the park.

Hidden Valley

Central Hidden Valley (44 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $15) tends to be the most difficult campground to get a spot in. On the southern end of the Wonderland of Rocks, the campground is popular with rock climbers … and everyone else. Its sites are picturesquely set amidst Joshua Tree’s signature boulders, and you are right in the heart of the park. The campground can accommodate trailers and RVs (under 25 feet), and amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. To reach Hidden Valley from the Joshua Tree Visitors Center on Highway 62, turn south onto Park Boulevard and continue 14 miles to the intersection with Barker Dam Road. The campground will be to the left.

Ryan Campground

Ryan Campground (31 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $15) is a scenic campground centrally located between Hidden Valley and Jumbo Rocks with campsites interspersed among boulders and Joshua trees. The adjoining Ryan Horse Camp (760/367-5545, $15) offers four equestrian sites by reservation only from October through May. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. To reach Ryan Campground from the Joshua Tree Visitors Center on Highway 62, follow Park Boulevard south for 27 miles, passing the Hidden Valley Campground. Immediately past the Keys View Road turn-off, the campground will appear on the right.

Sheep Pass Group Camp

Towering rock formations and Joshua trees surround Sheep Pass Group Camp (6 sites, 877/444-6777, $35-50), a tent-only group campground centrally located off of Park Boulevard in between Ryan and Jumbo Rocks Campgrounds. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are required and can be made up to one year in advance. The campground is 18 miles south of the West Entrance and 16 miles south of the North Entrance.

campsite with large rocks surrounding it in the desert

Jumbo Rocks is the largest campground in the park. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Jumbo Rocks Campground

Jumbo Rocks (124 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $15) is the largest campground in the park. Despite its size, sites fill up quickly thanks to a convenient location along Park Boulevard and access to plentiful rock climbing opportunities, as well as the Skull Rock Nature Trail. Popular sites are scenically tucked into the large rock formations for which the campground is named, but the sheer volume of sites leaves little privacy. This lends the place the feel of a small village, which may be good for families or groups. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. To reach Jumbo Rocks from the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, follow Utah Trail south as it becomes Park Boulevard and continue southwest for eight miles. From the West Entrance in Joshua Tree, it is a drive of about 24 miles.

Belle Campground

Belle Campground (18 sites, first-come, first-served Oct.-May, $15) is a small, low-key campground with cozy sites tucked amid a pile of rock formations. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. To reach Belle from the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, follow Utah Trail south as it becomes Park Boulevard and continue about 5 miles to the junction with Pinto Basin Road. Follow Pinto Basin Road 1.5 miles south, turning left onto Belle Campground Road.

White Tank Campground

The smallest campground in the park, White Tank (15 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $15) is a laid-back campground with sites tucked in amid scattered rock formations. Sites can accommodate trailers and RVs (under 25 feet). Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. White Tank is located just south of Belle Campground along Pinto Basin Road, about 7.4 miles south of the North Entrance.

Indian Cove

Indian Cove (101 sites, first-come, first-served June-Sept., $20) is one of two campgrounds in the park that accepts reservations (877/444-6777, Oct.-May) and it has drinking water available at the ranger station just two miles away. The sites are tucked into spectacular boulder formations and offer both group and RV (under 25 feet) camping options. Indian Cove sits on the northern edge of the Wonderland of Rocks and is popular with rock climbers; the north end of the popular Boy Scout Trail also begins here. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables, and access to drinking water.

The campground is located off Highway 62, between the towns of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, and is accessed via Indian Cove Road South. The road dead-ends at the campground, so there is no vehicle access into the rest of the park. The nearest park entrance is the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms.

campsite with table and chairs in Joshua Tree

Cottonwood Campground in Pinto Basin. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Cottonwood Campground

The area around Cottonwood Campground (62 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $20) is much more lightly visited than the Hidden Valley region, which makes finding a site here slightly less competitive. Still, you should plan to be here by Friday morning on weekends from October through May. The campsites are scattered across an open desert dotted with creosote. Though there is little to divide them, the sites are nicely spaced and offer some privacy. The nearby Cottonwood Visitors Center is a fully stocked visitors center and bookstore, while hiking trails to scenic Lost Palms Oasis and Mastodon Peak depart directly from the campground. There are also trailer and RV sites with water fill-up and a dump station. The Cottonwood Group Campground (3 sites, 877/444-6777, $35-40) provides tent-only sites by reservation. Amenities include flush toilets, fire rings, picnic tables, and drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. Cottonwood Campground is located in the Pinto Basin at the South Entrance to the park. From I-10 south of the park, take Cottonwood Spring Road north for about 10 miles. At the Cottonwood Visitors Center, turn right onto Cottonwood Oasis Road and continue 7.5 miles to the campground on the left.

Campgrounds Outside Joshua Tree National Park

Campgrounds in the park fill quickly October through May. Outside the park, options include backcountry camping on BLM land or at a privately owned RV park in Joshua Tree.

BLM Camping

Overflow camping is available on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land both north and south of the park. Note that BLM camping includes no amenities (toilets, water, fire pits, or drinking water). Fires are allowed in self-contained metal fire pits (provide your own) in the overflow camping south of the park, but are not allowed on BLM camping north of the park. Bring your own firewood.

For camping north of the park: Drive four miles east of Park Boulevard on Highway 62 and turn left (north) on Sunfair Road. Continue two miles to Broadway, then turn right (east) on Broadway, where the pavement ends. Drive one mile to a one-lane, unmarked dirt road (Cascade) at a line of telephone poles running north and south. Turn left (north) onto Cascade, and drive 0.5-mile until you pass a single-lane, unmarked dirt road. Camping is allowed on the right (east) side of that road for 0.5-mile beginning with the unmarked dirt road.

For camping south of the park: Drive six miles south of the Cottonwood Visitors Center, passing the park boundary sign. Just beyond the aqueduct, turn right or left on the unmarked water district road. Camping is allowed south of the water district road west and east of the Cottonwood Road. South of I-10, Cottonwood Road turns into Box Canyon Road; camping is allowed south of I-10 on both the east and west sides of Box Canyon Road.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground (2601 Sunfair Rd., Joshua Tree, 760/366-1213, first-come, first-served, $10 pp tent sites, $4 children 12 and under; $20-30 RV sites) is 14 miles north of the West Entrance. The property offers tent and RV camping on exposed desert. Sites include picnic tables and fire pits, and the campground has a small fishing lake, a camp store with firewood and basic supplies, RV hookups, hot showers, flush toilets, and a playground.

Backcountry, RV, or tent—whatever your overnight preference, Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds offer a little something for every outdoor adventurer. Find your perfect sleeping spot with this guide.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Palm Springs & Joshua Tree.

The post Joshua Tree National Park Campgrounds appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/08/joshua-tree-national-park-campgrounds/feed/ 0 58272
Choosing the Perfect Campground For You https://moon.com/2017/08/how-to-choose-your-campground/ https://moon.com/2017/08/how-to-choose-your-campground/#respond Wed, 02 Aug 2017 16:16:51 +0000 https://moon.com?p=58982&preview=true&preview_id=58982 With so many options it can be hard to pick the “right” campground. And because every camper is different, finding the perfect campsite is actually more about finding your perfect campsite. Here are some things to consider as you research sites for your next getaway.

The post Choosing the Perfect Campground For You appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
Working with the Moon California Camping book this summer has introduced me to hundreds of camping spots in every corner of the Golden State. The plethora of places to pitch a tent is both exciting and slightly overwhelming. With so many options it can be hard to pick the “right” spot, but so far I’ve found that by following my gut and knowing what I want out of a trip, I always end up in the right place.

Choosing the perfect campground is easier than it sounds—expert camper Tom Stienstra claims that “camping is like religion: many paths, one truth.” Every camper is different, so finding the perfect campsite is actually more about finding your perfect campsite. Here are some things to keep in mind as you research sites for your next getaway.

Two Moon guidebooks (California Hiking and Northern California Camping) sit on a picnic table at Fowlers Camp, a fire pit and a distant tent are visible in the background

Don’t forget the essentials! Photo © Annabella Sherman (Fowlers Camp).

Consider Your Interests

Being drawn to waterfalls and other fun water features, I seek out campgrounds that are on the water or near some sort of aquatic adventure. By honing in on the swimming icons next to the campground listings I discover everything from waterfalls to hot springs. (Note that, if you’re camping by the water, it is probably a good idea to bring bug spray.)

A stream with cloudy water flows over a log, creating a small waterfall. A fallen tree (log) extends outwards, draping itself over the collecting pool below

What do you hope to see on your trip? Photo © Asher Jaffe (Van Damme State Park).

Another way to follow your adventure is to look at Tom’s “Best Of” lists in the beginning of the guidebook, where he compiles the top 10 choices for scenic views, fishing, and hiking (among others). This is a good way to begin your search if you know what you are after—and if you don’t quite have an answer yet, you can never go wrong with the “Best Scenic Campgrounds” list, which covers a range of options while also guaranteeing you a beautiful spot.

Your Must-Haves

Important to consider is what kind of outdoor experience you’re after; if you prefer easy access to amenities (running water, picnic tables, paved roads), then state, county, and national parks may be your best bet. These parks are often more established and tend to have lots of space for kids and pets to run wild and make new friends. On the other hand, if you’re after quiet seclusion off the beaten path, look for Forest Service campgrounds, or tent-only walk-up sites where you can get away from noisy generators and immerse yourself in natural solitude. If you need inspiration, try these secluded campgrounds where less than 5% of campers camp.

A man opens the door of an outhouse which is set underneath tall redwood trees in Van Damme State Park

Consider what sort of amenities you and your campers are comfortable with. Photo © Annabella Sherman (Van Damme State Park).

After I’ve made my list and highlighted potential campsites, I always read Tom’s review and consider his scenic ratings. I opt for campsites with higher scenic ratings and rave reviews by Tom, because who doesn’t love waking in the morning immersed in spectacular outdoor beauty?

An interior shot from an open tent showcases a picnic table in a secluded and moist grove of trees.

I hiked 1.75 miles from the populated drive-in campground to this primitive campsite. Photo © Asher Jaffe (Van Damme State Park).

Making the Final Choice

If I am still finding it hard to choose from a small selection of scenic campgrounds, I do a simple Google image search. This usually ends up being the tell-all portion of my research as I tend to get mesmerized by the beauty of a certain spot—and that becomes my campsite. Be sure to look at the campsite reservation page (if you know the exact date of your adventure), as campgrounds tend to fill up in the summer and you may need to reconsider your options! Many campground reservation pages also include pictures of the actual campsites—like a Google image search, this can be an easy way to scope out the contenders. Some things to look for are the amount of shade, the proximity of the sites to one another, and the surrounding scenery. If you’re really lucky, there may even be pictures of specific sites: if you find one that you like, you can often reserve it online.

You will also want to factor in accessibility: if you are leaving after work on a Friday, you may want to seek out campgrounds that are near major highways or on well-paved roads for ease of access. Scrambling to find a campsite when it is dark and people are sleeping isn’t always the best way to start your trip. General location is also important: I often like to plan my trips so there’s, as Tom says, “a great payoff to crown your trip.” You can schedule this so that your base camp is close to something else that excites you, whether it’s a hidden stream or a breathtaking view at the top of a hiking trail.

Water flows down the river and over Middle Falls, collecting in a green-blue pool at the bottom. Aerial view.

Middle Falls, on the McCloud River, looks like something out of a dream world. Photo © Asher Jaffe.

After being seduced by pictures of Burney Falls, I did some clicking around Google Maps and ended up finding many nearby scenic options, thus turning my Burney Falls trip into a three-day waterfall tour extravaganza. I ended up visiting Burney Falls, hiking Cinder Cone, floating on Butte Lake, and gasping at the beauty of each of the McCloud Falls (Upper, Middle, and Lower)! If you have a few spots of interest within the area, you can pack your days full of adventure and get the most out of your time. If you prefer camping trips filled with good books and sunny naps, you may opt for a more remote setting that gives you a scenic and relaxing experience in and of itself.

Setting up Camp

Once you’ve chosen your campground, it’s time to actually camp! Once you arrive at the site, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • When you’ve found a good spot for your tent, don’t forget to look up! Note the arc of the sun, and determine where it will set and where it will rise. With this in mind, you can pitch your tent at an angle that’s best suited to your preferences: either for morning shade or a blast of bright sunshine to wake you up the natural way.
  • Clear the spot of any big twigs, rocks, or otherwise intrusive objects that could leave you bruised and unhappy.
  • Ground cloths or tarps are important—throw one under your tent so that you stay dry.
  • Consider the weather forecast (if you have access to it). If rain is expected, try and find high ground. (I made the mistake of opting for a very scenic, but very low, campground in Oregon and awoke in the middle of the night to pouring rain and a lake in and around my sleeping bag.)
  • If you can’t find a flat spot for your tent, make sure you position your head on the uphill side.
A wet-looking tent stands on the grass, beach grass and waves are visible on the Gold Bluffs Beach in the background. A picnic table with rocks on it is in the left foreground.

Prepare for inclement weather ahead of time. Photo © Asher Jaffe (Gold Bluffs Beach Campground).

Consider these last words from Tom Stienstra, and let Moon help you choose your next adventure!

“Once you answer the question “What sets you free?” your mission becomes “This is the year I start doing it.” Don’t put your life on hold for anything. Make this the year where you start having the fun you deserve – and let Moon California Camping be the portal to a new life.”


Planning a camping or backpacking trip? These tips and tricks will help you discover your perfect campsite and prepare for outdoor adventure.

The post Choosing the Perfect Campground For You appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/08/how-to-choose-your-campground/feed/ 0 58982
Scenic Southern California Campgrounds with Swimming https://moon.com/2017/07/scenic-southern-california-campgrounds-with-swimming/ https://moon.com/2017/07/scenic-southern-california-campgrounds-with-swimming/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 23:37:29 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58505 There is no place like Southern California, where sun-swept beaches and inland coastal forests abound. However, the area is also known for its scorching temperatures—especially in the late summer months. These campgrounds will keep you cool as you enjoy the outdoors: with swimming options ranging from Sierra lakes and hot springs to Malibu beaches and swimming holes, there’s an aquatic adventure out there for everyone.

The post Scenic Southern California Campgrounds with Swimming appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
There is no place like Southern California, where sun-swept beaches and inland coastal forests abound. However, the area is also known for its scorching temperatures—especially in the late summer months. These campgrounds will keep you cool as you enjoy the outdoors: with swimming options ranging from Sierra lakes and hot springs to Malibu beaches and swimming holes, there’s an aquatic adventure out there for everyone.

A stream flows over rocks, forming mini waterfalls and pools on its way to Bass Lake

The north area of Bass Lake has many streams and swimming holes to explore. Photo © Dill11/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Spring Cove Campground (on Bass Lake in Sierra National Forest)

Region: Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Scenic Rating: 8/10
Swimming: lake

This is one of several camps set beside Bass Lake, a long, narrow reservoir in the Sierra foothill country. Most of the lake is bordered by wonderfully sandy shores, which makes for good swimming and sunbathing. Expect hot weather in the summer. Boats must be registered at the Bass Lake observation tower after launching. The elevation is 3,400 feet. Another nearby option, just slightly north of Spring Cove, is Wishon Point (scenic rating 9/10), the smallest (and many say prettiest) of the camps at Bass Lake.

Note: Since publication, the landscape around Bass Lake has changed dramatically due to tree thinning, and thus there may be little shade at the campgrounds. Check here for more information as available.

A creek runs through boulders and green trees, a mountain and blue sky in the background

Wonderful scenery abounds and makes for an unforgettable hotspring experience. Photo © Vlad Butsky/Wikimedia, licensed CC BY.

Mono Hot Springs (on the San Joaquin River in Sierra National Forest)

Region: Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Scenic Rating: 8/10
Swimming: river, hot springs, lakes

This campground in the Sierra sits at 7,400 feet elevation along the San Joaquin River, directly adjacent to the Mono Hot Springs Resort. The hot springs are typically 104°F, with public pools (everybody wears swimming suits) just above the river on one side and the private resort (rock cabins available) with its private baths on the other. A small convenience store and excellent restaurant are available at the lodge.

Many find the hot springs perfect, but don’t worry if they’re too hot for your liking; the best swimming lake in the Sierra Nevada, Doris Lake, is a 15-minute walk past the lodge. Doris is clear, clean, and not too cold since it too is fed by hot springs. There are walls on one side for fun jumps into deep water. Tule Lake is another spring-fed option that is great for swimming, about a 3/4-mile easy hike past Doris Lake. The one downer: the drive in to the campground is long, slow, and hellacious, with many blind corners in narrow sections. Reservations are recommended, and they also have cabins.

A section of the river as it flows through Sequoia National Forest

A magical slice of the Kern River. Photo © Christine Warner Hawks/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Camp Three (on the North Fork of the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest)

Region: Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Scenic Rating: 9/10
Swimming: river

This is the second in a series of camps along the North Fork Kern River north of Isabella Lake (in this case, five miles north). There is a nice swimming hole in the river, but be careful of currents which can be dangerous at times. If this spot isn’t for you, Hospital Flat is just two miles upriver and Headquarters is just one mile downriver. The camp elevation is 2,800 feet. Note: No glass of any kind is allowed in this campground.

Lopez Lake Recreation Area (near Arroyo Grande)

Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 7/10
Swimming: lake, there is also a nearby water park

Lopez Lake, set amid oak woodlands southeast of San Luis Obispo, has truly gotten it right: there are specially marked areas set aside exclusively for waterskiing, personal watercraft, and sailboarding, and the rest of the lake is designated for fishing and low-speed boating. There are also full facilities for swimming, with a big beach area and two giant water slides, and a children’s wading pool—making this the perfect spot for camping with kids.

Another bonus is the scenic boat tours available on Saturdays, which get plenty of takers. A 25-mile trail system provides opportunities for biking, hiking, and horseback riding. The lake is just about perfect for just about everyone, and with good bass fishing to boot, it’s become very popular, especially on spring weekends when the bite is on. Other species include trout, bluegill, crappie, and catfish. The lake is shaped something like a horseshoe, has 940 surface acres with 22 miles of shoreline when full, and gets excellent weather most of the year. During the summer, there are ranger-led hikes and campfire shows available. Many campsites overlook the lake or are nestled among oaks. All boats must be certified mussel-free before launching.

Shoreline with gentle waves at sunset

A slice of life at El Capitán Beach. Photo © NOAA/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

El Capitán State Beach (near Santa Barbara)

Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 10/10
Swimming: ocean

This is one in a series of beautiful state beaches along the Santa Barbara coast. El Capitán has a sandy beach and rocky tidepools. The water is warm, the swimming excellent. A stairway descends from the bluffs to the beach—a beautiful setting—and sycamores and oaks line El Capitán Creek. A paved, two-mile bicycle trail is routed to Refugio State Beach, a great family trip. This is a perfect layover for Coast Highway vacationers, and reservations are usually required to ensure a spot. Refugio State Beach (scenic rating 9/10) to the north is another option, or Gaviota State Park (scenic rating 10/10, though there is a train that runs next to the camp) which includes a 0.5-mile trail to hot springs.

Pink, orange, and purple sea anemones under the sea at Anacapa Island

Swimming is taken to the next level with the undersea paradise at Anacapa. Photo © Ed Bierman/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Anacapa Island (in Channel Islands National Park)

Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 10/10
Swimming: ocean

This getaway does require a ferry ride, but it is worth it as it ranks sixth for best island retreats. Little Anacapa, long and narrow, is known for its awesome caves, cliffs, and sea lion rookeries that range near huge kelp beds. After landing on the island, you face a 154-step staircase trail that leaves you perched on an ocean bluff. From there, it is a half-mile hike to the camp. Other trails venture past Inspiration Point and Cathedral Cove and provide vast views of the channel. The inshore waters are a marine preserve loaded with marine life and seabirds, and, with the remarkably clear water, this island makes a great destination for snorkeling and sea kayaking. At only 50 minutes, the boat ride here is the shortest one to the Channel Islands.

Leo Carillo State Beach shoreline at sunset

Pristine views and so much ocean to explore! Photo: NPS / Public Domain.

Leo Carrillo State Park (north of Malibu)

Region: Los Angeles and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 8/10
Swimming: ocean

If you’ve always wanted to experience Malibu beaches, here is your chance to access an unspoiled one. The camping area at this state park is in a canyon, and reservations are essential during the summer and on weekends the remainder of the year. Large sycamore trees shade the campsites. The Nicholas Flat Trail provides an excellent hike to the Willow Creek Overlook for beautiful views of the beach. In addition, a pedestrian tunnel leads to a wonderful coastal spot with sea caves, tunnels, tide pools, and patches of beach. This park features 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, and surf fishing. In the summer, lifeguards are posted at the beach. (Some of you may remember a beach camp that used to be here—unfortunately, the once-popular spot was wiped out by a storm!)

Wildflower blooms of orange poppies on the hills

There are many beautiful hiking options around Lake Elsinore. Photo © Nick Doty/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

La Laguna Resort (on Lake Elsinore)

Region: Los Angeles and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 7/10
Swimming: lake

The weather is hot and dry enough in this region to make the water in Lake Elsinore more valuable than gold. Elsinore is a huge, wide lake—the largest natural freshwater lake in Southern California—where water-skiers, personal watercraft riders, and sailboarders can find a slice of heaven. This camp is along the north shore, where there are also several trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There is a designated area near the campground for swimming and water play; a gently sloping lake bottom is a big plus.

Fishing has improved greatly in recent years and the lake is stocked with trout and striped bass. Other fish species include channel catfish, crappie, and bluegill. Night fishing is available. Anglers have a chance to fish for Whiskers, a very special catfish. It is a hybrid channel catfish that was stocked in 2000. It is a genetic cross between a blue and channel catfish, meaning that Whiskers could grow to more than 100 pounds.

If you like thrill sports, hang gliding and parachuting are also available at the lake and, as you scan across the water, you can often look up and see these daredevils soaring overhead. The recreation area covers 3,300 acres and has 15 miles of shoreline. The elevation is 1,239 feet. While the lake is huge when full, in low-rain years Elsinore’s water level can be subject to extreme and erratic fluctuations. Boaters planning to visit this lake should call first to get the latest on water levels and quality. Those familiar with this area will remember it was once named Lake Elsinore Campground and Recreation Area.

Doheny State Beach at sunset. Shallow waters come onto the sand and palm trees are visible in the distance

Book your spot early – this scene is too good to resist! Photo © Sergei Gussev/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Doheny State Beach (on Dana Point Harbor)

Region: San Diego and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 10/10
Swimming: ocean

Doheny Beach is a gorgeous (and one of the most scenic) park with a campground that requires working the reservation system the first morning campsites become available. Some campsites are within steps of the beach, yet this state beach is right in town, at the entrance to Dana Point Harbor. It is a pretty spot with easy access off the highway. A lifeguard service is available in the summer, and campfire and junior ranger programs are also offered. A day-use area has a lawn with picnic spots and volleyball courts. Bonfire rings are set up on the beach. Surfing is popular, but note that it is permitted at the north end of the beach only. San Juan Capistrano is a worth-while side trip, just three miles away.

Green manicured lawn with a footpath and picnic table under a tree on the coast of Chula Bista Bayfront Park

This carefully maintained facility offers gorgeous landscaping and parking. Photo © Port of San Diego/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Chula Vista RV Resort (in Chula Vista)

Region: San Diego and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 8/10
Swimming: ocean, pool

Perfect for those who prefer to camp via RV, this RV-only park is about 50 yards from San Diego Bay, a beautiful, calm piece of water where waterskiing is permitted in designated areas. Each site is landscaped to provide some privacy and there is a pool in the middle of the site. The park has its own marina with 552 slips. An excellent swimming beach is available, and conditions in the afternoon for sailboarding are also excellent. Bike paths are nearby.


Find your perfect California Campsite with swimming access!

Want even more options for camping your way in California? Pick up a copy of Moon California Camping to learn more about these sites and hundreds of others up and down the Golden State.

The post Scenic Southern California Campgrounds with Swimming appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/07/scenic-southern-california-campgrounds-with-swimming/feed/ 0 58505
San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip https://moon.com/2017/07/san-francisco-to-seattle-road-trip/ https://moon.com/2017/07/san-francisco-to-seattle-road-trip/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 19:51:04 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58287 Most people view the Golden Gate Bridge as the magnificent entrance to the beautiful and storied city of San Francisco, but after my road trip driving north out of San Francisco, I now see it the other way around. That iconic red bridge is not only your gateway to the magnificent northern California coast and the emerald-meets-indigo shores of the Pacific Northwest, but it’s also the perfect start to a San Francisco to Seattle road trip.

The post San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
Most people view the Golden Gate Bridge as the magnificent entrance to the beautiful and storied city of San Francisco, but after my road trip driving north out of San Francisco, I now see it the other way around. That iconic red bridge is not only your gateway to the magnificent northern California coast and the emerald-meets-indigo shores of the Pacific Northwest, but it’s also the perfect start to a San Francisco to Seattle road trip.

There are faster ways to do this road trip. You can take Interstate 80 east out of San Francisco to Interstate 5, making the 850 (1400 km) mile drive north to Seattle in about 12 hours—a ho hum day or two, if you’re in a hurry—and if you stay on Highway 101 north of Golden Gate, it’s only four hours cutting through agricultural country to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. But if you believe life is more about the journey and less about getting from point A to point B, keep the Pacific Ocean on your left and give yourself five days to a week to soak up beautiful scenery, picturesque towns, and giant trees.

View of the coastline at Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California.

Point Reyes National Seashore has miles of hiking trails. Photo © mtilghma/iStock.

Driving north across the Golden Gate, you’ll enter Point Reyes National Seashore after about an hour; nature lovers will marvel at the hundred square miles of unspoiled grasslands, forests, estuaries, and beaches. Another hour finds you driving along the 17-mile stretch of Sonoma Coast State Park, where every turn of the cliffside highway offers another majestic vista, showing off rocky headlands framing sandy coves below.

You’ll be tempted to think it doesn’t get any better, but the next 120 miles of remote and rugged California coast will prove you’ve only scratched the surface! Crossing from Sonoma into Mendocino county, you can spend an entire day simply stopping at viewpoints to marvel at the intense Pacific hues and endless craggy bluffs. Eventually, you’ll reach Mendocino, an artsy village presiding over a pristine bay, where every shop and gallery along Main Street boasts a million-dollar view.

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway near Mendocino.

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway near Mendocino. Photo © duha127/iStock.

Fifty miles ahead, Highway 1 rejoins Highway 101 and heads back inland, for your first taste of redwood forest. Parallel to the highway, the famous 30 mile stretch called the Avenue of the Giants cruises past centuries-old groves populated by trees taller than the Statue of Liberty. 

Next, Highway 101 returns to the coast, where the twin towns of Eureka and Arcata provide a last stop on the road to one of California’s greatest natural treasures, the Redwood National and State Parks—two million acres of old growth forest providing some of the best hiking and camping opportunities on the planet.

You may take Highway 199 out of the Redwoods to link to Interstate 5, the expressway to Portland and Seattle. But then you’d miss the entire Oregon coast, where winds have spent thousands of years carving rocky sea stacks that rise like monoliths out of flat sand beaches. The craggy, woodsy coast of Southern Oregon is interrupted only by forty miles of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where shifting sands form dunes as high as 500 feet over the ocean!

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Park. Photo © Capricornis/Dreamstime.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Park. Photo © Capricornis/Dreamstime.

Charming small towns populate Oregon’s coast, every one of them offering warm bowls of delicious local clam chowder, whether its small resort towns like Bandon and Cannon Beach, or more cosmopolitan destinations like Newport and Astoria.

From Astoria, you may easily shoot east to reach one-of-a-kind Portland, a truly creative city that wears its weirdness like a badge of honor. But for a more adventurous journey, continue north to reach Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Rising out of the state’s southern shores, the Olympic Peninsula is home to the awe-inspiring Olympic National Park, where temperate rainforests dotted by sparkling lakes and bisected by salmon-rich rivers climb slopes up into a breathtaking snowcapped mountain range.

The entire park is surrounded by coastline where Native American communities continue to fish the oceans as they have for generations, and where driftwood pieces the size of entire trees pile up on remote beaches that are often accessible only by enervating fresh air hikes.

The Pier in Port Townsend. Photo © Jeff Ferguson/123rf.

The Pier at Port Townsend. Photo © Jeff Ferguson/123rf.

As Highway 101 curls around the northeastern corner of the Olympic Peninsula, consider a side-trip to the elegant Victorian mariner town of Port Townsend, which is surrounded by water and boasts mountain views both to the east and west. From there you may descend in short order to Bainbridge Island, where a short ferry ride takes you across the Puget Sound—the gateway to America’s gleaming northwest metropolis, Seattle: home to a thriving cosmopolitan culture, and all the delicious oysters you can eat! 

 


San Francisco to Seattle Travel Maps

Travel map of San Francisco

San Francisco

Maps - Northern California 7e - San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco Bay Area

Travel map of California's north coast.

California’s North Coast

Color map of the South Coast of Oregon

South Coast of Oregon

Color map of the central coast of Oregon

Central Coast of Oregon

Color map of the north coast of Oregon

North Coast of Oregon

Travel map of the Olympic Peninsula and the Coast of Washington

Olympic Peninsula

Travel map of Seattle, Washington

Seattle

The post San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/07/san-francisco-to-seattle-road-trip/feed/ 0 58287
Dog-Friendly Campsites on California Beaches https://moon.com/2017/07/dog-friendly-campsites-california-beaches/ https://moon.com/2017/07/dog-friendly-campsites-california-beaches/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 18:03:53 +0000 https://moon.com?p=58316&preview=true&preview_id=58316 Summer fun in the sun wouldn’t be complete without man’s best friend! Each of these beautiful, dog-friendly campsites have beach access, so you and your pup can enjoy all that California beaches have to offer.

The post Dog-Friendly Campsites on California Beaches appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
Summer fun in the sun wouldn’t be complete without man’s best friend! Each of these beautiful, dog-friendly campsites have beach access, so you and your pup can enjoy all that California beaches have to offer. For details, directions, and even more pet-friendly campsites, pick up a copy of Moon California Camping and look for the easy-to-use dog icon to find hundreds more options for camping with pets. Moon Coastal California also has a “dog days” section that lists the best places for traveling and adventuring with dogs.

Sleeping golden retriever in front of a tent at a dog-friendly campsite

These beach camping adventures are sure to give your dog a good night’s sleep. Photo © chendongshan/iStock.

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Northern California

Gold Bluffs Beach (in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: Redwood Empire
Dog Policy: Leashed dogs are allowed in campground and on the beach, but not on trails

The campsites are in a sandy, exposed area with windbreaks; there’s a huge, expansive beach on one side and a backdrop of 100- to 200-foot cliffs on the other side. You can walk for miles at this beach, often without seeing another soul, and there is a great trail routed north through forest, with many hidden little waterfalls.

In addition, Fern Canyon Trail, one of the best 30-minute hikes in California, is at the end of Davison Road. Hikers walk along a stream in a narrow canyon, its vertical walls covered with magnificent ferns. Sturdy hikers can continue heading north on the Coastal Trail through its pristine woodlands and fantastic expanses of untouched beaches. However, note that dogs are not allowed on Redwood National and State Park trails. There are some herds of elk in the area, often right along the access road. These camps are rarely used in the winter because of the region’s heavy rain and winds. The expanse of beach here is awesome, covering 10 miles of huge, pristine ocean frontage.

Nearby Elk Prairie is another option for camping with dogs in Prairie Creek Redwoods. Though it is not directly on the beach, it has a scenic rating of 9/10 and is rated as one of the best campgrounds for families.

Clam Beach County Park (near McKinleyville)

Scenic Rating: 7/10
Region: Redwood Empire
Dog Policy: Dogs must be on leash in the campground, off leash areas may be available at the beach

Here awaits a beach that seems to stretch on forever, one of the great places to bring a date, a dog, your kids, or, hey, all three. While the campsites are a bit exposed, making winds out of the north a problem in the spring, the direct beach access largely makes up for it. The park gets its name from the fair clamming that is available, but you must come equipped with a clam gun or special clam shovel, and then be out when minus low tides arrive at daybreak. Most people just enjoy playing tag with the waves, taking long romantic walks, or throwing sticks for the dog.

Looking out Wrights Beach towards the hills and cliffs in the distance. Waves crash onto shore and onto a boulder close to the shoreline

Enticing and turbulent waters of Wrights Beach. Photo © Bill Williams, licensed CC BY.

Wrights Beach (in Sonoma Coast State Park)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: Mendocino and Wine Country
Dog Policy: Leashed pets are permitted in the campground and on the beach

This park provides more than its share of heaven and hell. This state park campground is at the north end of a beach that stretches south for about a mile, yet to the north it is steep and rocky. The campsites are considered a premium because of their location next to the beach. Because the campsites are often full, a key plus is an overflow area available for self-contained vehicles. Sonoma Coast State Beach stretches from Bodega Head to Vista Trail for 17 miles, separated by rock bluffs and headlands that form a series of beaches. More than a dozen access points from the highway allow you to reach the beach.

There are many excellent side trips. The best is to the north, where you can explore dramatic Shell Beach (the turnoff is on the west side of Highway 1) or take Pomo Trail (the trailhead is on the east side of the highway, across from Shell Beach) up the adjacent foothills for sweeping views of the coast. That’s the heaven. Now for the hell: Dozens of people have drowned here. Wrights Beach is not for swimming; rip currents, heavy surf, and surprise rogue waves can make even playing in the surf dangerous. Many rescues are made each year. The bluffs and coastal rocks can also be unstable and unsafe for climbing. Got it? 1) Stay clear of the water. 2) Don’t climb the bluffs. Now it’s up to you to get it right.

Shot of the beach, where two people and their dogs stroll next to the shoreline. Fog and hills in the background a bit across the water.

Dogs enjoy a long walk on Carmel Beach. Photo © Stuart Thornton.

Carmel by the River RV Park (on the Carmel River)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: Monterey and Big Sur
Dog Policy: Leashed pets are permitted at the campground, and nearby Carmel Beach (20 minute drive) and Garland Ranch Regional Park (9 minute drive) offer off-leash areas

Location, location, location. That’s what vacationers want. Well, this park is on the Carmel River, minutes away from Carmel, Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, golf courses, and the beach. One of the best California dog beaches is nearby Carmel Beach, where dogs abound and can roam leash-free. Carmel Valley’s Garland Ranch Regional Park is also one of the best places to hike with your dog, offering pet water fountains and off-leash areas. Hedges and flowers separate each site at this RV park.

Note: No tents are permitted here, so this is ideal for RV campers, but closeby Saddle Mountain Ranch RV Park and Campground offers 28 tent sites.

A dark golden retriever leaps out of the water with a wooden stick in its mouth

A special section of Huntington Beach is reserved for dogs and their owners. Photo © John Liu, licensed CC BY.

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Southern California

Bolsa Chica State Beach (near Huntington Beach)

Scenic Rating: 7/10
Region: Los Angeles and Vicinity
Dog Policy: Dogs are allowed at the campsites, but not on the state beach. However, they are allowed on several miles of paved coastal trails and the Huntington Dog Beach is a bit down the coast

This state beach extends three miles from Seal Beach to Huntington Beach City Pier. A bikeway connects it with Huntington State Beach, seven miles to the south. Across the road from Bolsa Chica is the 1,000-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve, managed by the Department of Fish and Game. The campground consists of basically a beachfront parking lot, but a popular one at that. A great little walk is available at the adjacent Bolsa Chica State Reserve, a 1.5-mile loop that provides an escape from the parking lot and entry into the 530-acre nature reserve, complete with egrets, pelicans, and many shorebirds. Lifeguard service is available during the summer.

This camp has a seven-day maximum stay during the summer and a 14-day maximum stay during the winter. Surf fishing is popular for perch, cabezon, small sharks, and croaker. There are also occasional runs of grunion, a small fish that spawns in hordes on the sandy beaches of Southern California.

San Elijo State Beach (in Cardiff by the Sea)

Scenic Rating: 9/10
Region: San Diego and Vicinity
Dog Policy: Leashed pets are permitted at the campground, but not in some areas of the beach. However, Del Mar City Beach is just down the coast and has a dog section that extends from 29th Street to Solana Beach

These are bluff-top campgrounds and about half the sites overlook the ocean. Swimming and surfing are good, with a reef nearby for snorkeling and diving. What more could you ask for? Well, for one thing, how about not so many trains? Yep, train tracks run nearby and the trains roll by several times a day. So much for tranquility.

Regardless, it is a beautiful beach just north of the small town of Cardiff by the Sea. Nearby San Elijo Lagoon at Solana Beach is an ecological preserve. Though this is near a developed area, there are numerous white egrets, as well as occasional herons and other marine birds. Reservations are usually required to get a spot between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend.

Aerial shot of the coast at Ocean Beach. There is a large sandy area and some wave breaks.

Ocean Beach has lots of room for dogs to run. Photo © Hasan Can Balcioglu/Dreamstime.

Campland on the Bay (on Mission Bay)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: San Diego and Vicinity
Dog Policy: Leashed dogs are allowed, with some restrictions. Though they are not allowed on the beach, there are designated Dog Walk Areas and nearby Ocean Beach, the “original dog beach,” allows dogs

This is one of the biggest campgrounds this side of the galaxy. The place has a prime location overlooking Kendall Frost Wildlife Preserve and is set on Mission Bay, a beautiful spot that’s a boater’s paradise with a private beach. Waterskiing, sailboarding, and ocean access for deep-sea fishing are preeminent. SeaWorld, just north of San Diego, offers a premium side trip. This campground is consistently rated one of San Diego’s best. There are more than 558 sites, and many facilities are available.


Find the best dog-friendly California campsites with beach access.


Excerpted from the 20th Edition of Moon California Camping.

The post Dog-Friendly Campsites on California Beaches appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/07/dog-friendly-campsites-california-beaches/feed/ 0 58316
The Best Waterfalls in Yosemite https://moon.com/2017/07/the-best-waterfalls-in-yosemite/ https://moon.com/2017/07/the-best-waterfalls-in-yosemite/#comments Tue, 25 Jul 2017 14:16:22 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=20911 A helpful guide to viewing the best waterfalls in Yosemite, including when to time your visit, what sort of hikes to expect, & how to get around the park.

The post The Best Waterfalls in Yosemite appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
People come from all over the world to get a negative-ion fix from the plentiful waterfalls in Yosemite National Park. But there’s a catch: Show up in mid- to late summer and your waterfall fantasies may be all dried up. Waterfall aficionados should time their Yosemite visit for April, May, or June, the months during which 75 percent of the high country’s snowmelt occurs, producing powerful cascades of water. Start with Yosemite Valley’s waterfalls, which are easily seen by walking, driving your car, riding the free Yosemite Valley shuttle bus, riding a bike, or any combination of the above.

lush green trees reflected in a pool of water below a waterfall in Yosemite

Yosemite Falls is not to be missed. Photo © Maridav/iStock.

Bridalveil Fall

Bridalveil Fall in its 620 feet of cascading glory is an obvious must-see, but don’t miss some of the lesser-known falls nearby. At the overlook for Bridalveil Fall, turn directly around and you’ll see Ribbon Fall pouring off the north rim of the Valley. Also look for Sentinel Fall on the south canyon wall, roughly across from Yosemite Falls, just west of Sentinel Rock.

Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Fall is an easy walk, but waterfall lovers can’t leave Yosemite without a trip to the top of the highest waterfall in North America, 2,425-foot Upper Yosemite Fall. Start hiking at the trailhead behind Camp 4 and after 3.6 miles and 2,700 feet of elevation gain, you’re at a railed overlook that is perched alongside the brink of this behemoth.

water tumbling over rock into a pool with a rainbow

Hike the Panorama Trail or the Mist Trail to enjoy beautiful Vernal Fall.

Vernal and Nevada Falls

Hike the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point down to Yosemite Valley (it’s an 8.5-mile one-way trek; you’ll need to catch the tour bus at Yosemite Valley Lodge in the morning to deliver you to the trail’s start). Just two miles downhill from Glacier Point you’ll come to the lip of 370-foot Illilouette Fall. Keep going and an hour or so later you’ll reach the brink of Nevada Fall, then finally Vernal Fall. It is a dizzying experience to stand at the railing-lined overlooks on top of these two falls and stare down into the powerful plunge of white water below.

Staircase Falls

Behind Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village), Staircase Falls skips its way down the stair-step cliff below Glacier Point. If you have time, drive partway up Big Oak Flat Road toward Crane Flat, where Cascade Falls drops just west of the tunnels. Or visit Cascade Falls’ final drop to the valley floor near Cascades Picnic Area, 2.8 miles east of the Arch Rock entrance on Highway 140.

waterfall flowing into Tuolomne River

Visit Tuolomne Falls in July and August. Photo © Patrick Poendl/iStock.

Tuolumne Falls

For waterfall fans who are unlucky enough to miss the prime falling-water season in Yosemite, there’s still hope. July and August park visitors can enjoy a waterfall-laden hike along the Tuolumne River that leads past four falls: Tuolumne, California, LeConte, and Waterwheel. The trailhead is on Tioga Pass Road near Lembert Dome and Soda Springs, and the trail is not usually accessible until July 1 each year due to snow and wet conditions. This epic hike is a whopping 16 miles round-trip, but with only 1,900 feet of elevation change. The good news is that you don’t have to hike the entire distance to enjoy some of the falls. The first one, Tuolumne Falls, is located only 4.5 miles from the trailhead.

Chilnualna Falls

Drive to the south part of the park to see a lesser-known waterfall. Hike the 8.0-mile round-trip trail to Chilnualna Falls, located near Wawona.

Tueeulala and Wapama Falls

Head to Hetch Hetchy Valley to see its spectacular free-leaping falls. Tueeulala and Wapama Falls can be seen via an easy-to-moderate 4.8-mile round-trip hike along the edge of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Park near the dam, walk across it, and then follow the trail through a tunnel and along the north edge of the reservoir. You’ll cross over the flow of both falls on a series of sturdy bridges.

Map of Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park

See the best waterfalls in California's Yosemite National Park, whose abundance of nature make it one of the top travel destinations.


Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon.

The post The Best Waterfalls in Yosemite appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/07/the-best-waterfalls-in-yosemite/feed/ 1 20911
10 Best Family Campgrounds in California https://moon.com/2017/07/10-best-family-campgrounds-in-california/ https://moon.com/2017/07/10-best-family-campgrounds-in-california/#respond Tue, 25 Jul 2017 00:18:59 +0000 https://moon.com?p=58289&preview=true&preview_id=58289 Showing kids the wilderness can be a special experience indeed, as their inquisitive and observant minds often notice things that we take for granted. However, adventuring with younger children also requires a fair bit of stamina. These top 10 sites, personally selected as the best places for camping with kids in California, guarantee never-ending adventure and stimulation—satisfying the first Commandment for Camping with Kids: Take children where there is a guarantee of action.

The post 10 Best Family Campgrounds in California appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
Showing kids the wilderness can be a special experience, as their inquisitive and observant minds often notice things that we take for granted. However, adventuring with younger children also requires a fair bit of stamina. These ten best family campgrounds, personally selected as the top places for camping with kids in California, guarantee never-ending adventure and stimulation—satisfying the first Commandment for Camping with Kids: Take children where there is a guarantee of action.

Family Campgrounds in Northern California

Two elk stand in the tall grass in front of a wooden fence. One has its head in the grass, presumably eating, the other looks off to the side

Elk Bulls in Prairie Creek Redwoods. Photo © Miguel Vieira, licensed CC-BY.

Elk Prairie (in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park)

Scenic Rating: 9/10
Region: Redwood Empire

A small herd of Roosevelt elk wander free in this remarkable 14,000-acre park. Great opportunities for photographs abound, including a group of about five elk often found right along the highway and access roads. Where there are meadows, there are elk; it’s about that simple. An elky here, an elky there, making this one of the best places to see wildlife in California. Remember that these are wild animals, they are huge, and they can be unpredictable; in other words, enjoy them, but don’t harass them or get too close.

This park consists of old-growth coastal redwoods, prairie lands, and 10 miles of scenic, open beach (Gold Bluff Beach). The interior of the park can be reached by 70 miles of hiking, biking, and nature trails, including a trailhead for a great bike ride at the visitors center. There are many additional trailheads and a beautiful tour of giant redwoods along the Drury Scenic Parkway.

Summer interpretive programs with guided walks and junior ranger programs are available through the visitors center. On the James Irvine Trail (trailhead near the visitors center), you can see world-class redwoods, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and Douglas fir in the span of a few miles. The forest understory is very dense due to moisture from coastal fog. Western azalea and rhododendron blooms, peaking in May and June, are best seen from the Rhododendron Trail. November through May, always bring your rain gear. Summer temperatures range 40-75°F; winter temperatures range 35-55°F.

Lake Siskiyou reflecting snow-capped mount Shasta under beautiful sky after sunset

Mount Shasta reflects in glassy Lake Siskiyou. Photo © Chanya Kaya/iStock.

Lake Siskiyou Resort & Camp (near Mount Shasta)

Scenic Rating: 9/10
Region: Shasta and Trinity

Securing the spot for the top family campsite is this true gem of a lake, a jewel set at the foot of Mount Shasta at 3,181 feet, the prettiest lake on the I-5 corridor in California. The lake level is almost always full (because it was built for recreation, not water storage) and offers a variety of quality recreation options, with great swimming, low-speed boating, and fishing. The campground complexes are huge, yet they are tucked into the forest so visitors don’t get their styles cramped.

The water in this 435-acre lake is clean and fresh. There is an excellent beach and swimming area, the latter protected by a buoy line. In spring, the fishing is good for trout, and then as the water warms, for smallmouth bass. A good boat ramp and boat rentals are available, and a 10-mph speed limit is strictly enforced, keeping the lake pristine and quiet. The City of Mount Shasta holds its Fourth of July fireworks display above the lake. The campgrounds are huge and often fill on weekends and summer holidays.

The perfect summer vacation awaits. Photo © Ken Lund, licensed CC-BY SA.

Historic Camp Richardson Resort (on Lake Tahoe)

Scenic Rating: 7/10
Region: Tahoe and the Northern Sierra

Camp Richardson Resort is within minutes of boating, biking, gambling, and, in the winter, skiing and snowboarding. It’s a take-your-pick deal. It’s a legendary spot, often called “Camp Rich.” With cabins, a restaurant, and live music (often nightly in summer) also on the property, this is a place that offers one big package. The campsites are set in the woods, not on the lake itself, but are within a short walking distance of the lake. From here you can gain access to an excellent bike route that runs for three miles, then loops around by the lake for another three miles, most of it flat and easy, all of it beautiful. You can also make the easy, beautiful ride to Fallen Leaf Lake. A marina for boating, waterskiing lessons (I actually did this!), an ice cream parlor, and year-round recreation make Camp Rich a popular winner. The elevation is 6,300 feet.

Tree and boulder lined shore of Lake Alpine, which is blue and reflects the sky above in its glassy surface

Lake Alpine. Photo © PDTillman., licensed CC-BY.

Lake Alpine Campground (on Lake Alpine in Stanislaus National Forest)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: Tahoe and the Northern Sierra

Lake Alpine is one of the prettiest lakes you can drive to, set at 7,300 feet elevation amid pines and Sierra granite. This is the campground that is in the greatest demand at Lake Alpine, and it is easy to see why. It is very small, a boat ramp is adjacent to the camp, you can get supplies at a small grocery store within walking distance, and during the evening rise you can often see the jumping trout from your campsite. A trailhead out of nearby Silver Valley Camp provides a two-mile hike to pretty Duck Lake and beyond into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.

A small and shallow stream weaves its way between large rocks, with trees on either side of the river

Hiking in Eldorado National Forest. Photo © Mark Doliner., licensed CC BY-SA.

Silver Lake West (on Silver Lake in Eldorado National Forest)

Scenic Rating: 9/10
Region: Tahoe and the Northern Sierra

The Highway 88 corridor provides access to three excellent lakes: Lower Bear River Reservoir, Silver Lake, and Caples Lake. Silver Lake is difficult to pass by, with cabin rentals, pretty campsites, decent trout fishing, and excellent hiking. The lake is at 7,200 feet elevation in a classic granite cirque just below the Sierra ridge. This camp is on the west side of Highway 88, across the road from the lake. A great hike starts at the trailhead on the east side of the lake, a two-mile tromp to little Hidden Lake, one of several nice hikes in the area. In addition, horseback riding is available nearby at Plasse’s Resort. Note that bears frequent this campground, so store food properly and avoid scented products.

Rancho Seco Recreation Area (near Sacramento)

Scenic Rating: 6/10
Region: Sacramento and Gold Country
Green meadows, trees, ponds, with the Sierra Mountains behind. Taken at Rancho Seco recreational park.

Sierra Mountains loom in the back of this gorgeous Racho Seco vista. Photo © Eric Sonstroem, licensed CC-BY.

There is a shortage of campgrounds close to Sacramento, so this one about 35 miles from the state capital comes in handy. This public facility has a 160-acre lake surrounded by 400 acres of open space and includes trails for walking and bicycling. The centerpiece of this recreation area is the lake, which is especially popular for fishing and sailboarding. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, and fishing derbies are held during the winter. Other fish species include bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, crappie, and catfish. Live bait is prohibited and only electric motors are allowed.

A bonus is that the lake level remains constant year-round, and since the lake is fed by the Folsom South Canal, the water is warm in summer. Swimming is popular and there is a large sandy beach with summer lifeguard service. Pedal boats and kayaks can also be rented on weekends in summer. Tent sites are situated along the lake and a seven-mile nature trail loop is also next to the lake. The Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge is here, and visitors can observe exotic captive wildlife that has been rescued from circuses and other performing groups. Migratory birds, including bald eagles, winter at the lake. What are those two large towers? They’re remnants of the now-closed Rancho Seco nuclear power-generating station.

Family Campgrounds in Southern California

A paved road with about 6 wood cabins lining it. There is a hill in the background.

The cabins at El Capitan Canyon. Photo © Ayleen Gaspar., licensed CC-BY.

El Capitan Canyon (near Goleta)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity

El Capitan Canyon is a unique campground where you do not bring your own tent but rather rent permanent safari tents or cabins on-site. The tent cabins are situated on 12-by-14-foot wood platforms, and they come fully furnished with beds and linens. The safari tents are heated and have electricity. The park covers 65 acres in the coastal foothills north of Santa Barbara and offers visitors the best of both worlds: There are 2,200 acres of public land near the camp with backcountry hiking and mountain-biking trails, or for those who prefer the sand and surf, beach access is within walking distance and ocean kayaking and deep-sea fishing trips can be booked at the resort.

In the summer live entertainment is available, including a concert series and the “Blues and Barbecue” event every Saturday night. Dogs are strictly prohibited in a mission to stop the spread of nonnative plants; this in turn has inspired a return of native habitat and the birds and wildlife that rely on it.

Reflective blue lake with a rocky, bouldery island with trees in the middle growing on it. In the foreground there are some docked boats and hills with trees in the background

Boulder Bay is one of the most photogenic areas on Big Bear Lake. Photo © Don Graham., licensed CC-BY SA.

Serrano (on Big Bear Lake in San Bernardino National Forest)

Scenic Rating: 8/10
Region: Los Angeles and Vicinity

This campground opened in the 1990s and became the first National Forest campground to offer state-of-the-art restrooms and hot showers. That is why it costs more to camp here. Regardless, it has since become the most popular campground in the region. Location is also a big plus, as this is one of the few camps at Big Bear within walking distance of the lakeshore. It covers 60 acres, another big plus. Another bonus is a paved trail that is wheelchair-accessible.

Want more? Big Bear is the jewel of Southern California lakes, the Lake Tahoe of the South, with outstanding trout fishing and waterskiing. All water sports are allowed. The lake is stocked with trout and catfish, and it also has large- and smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and sunfish. Swimming is excellent at this lake, with large, sandy beaches around the shoreline. However, the water is cold. A trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail is nearby, and Canada is only 2,200 miles away. The elevation is 6,800 feet.

A chipmunk, which looks like a tiny squirrel, peeks its head and front paws out of an opening in the center of a tree

Spotting wildlife is a fun activity for kids. Look out for the cute chipmunks! Photo © Robyn Gallant, licensed CC BY.

Dorst Creek (on Dorst Creek in Sequoia National Park)

Scenic Rating: 7/10
Region: Sequoia and Kings Canyon

This is one in a series of popular camps in Sequoia National Park and is a favorite with families. The campground is huge, with spacious sites beneath a forest canopy. There is plenty of room to run around and youngsters are apt to make friends with kids from other sites. An easy hike to the Muir Grove of giant sequoias is nearby. The elevation is 6,700 feet.

Bear visits are common. Campers must keep food in a bear-proof food locker or they will get a ticket. Why? Things that go bump in the night swing through Dorst Creek camp all summer long. That’s right; Mr. Bear, along with many friends, makes food raids like a UPS driver on a pickup route. That’s why keeping your food in a bear-proof locker is not only a must, it’s the law.

The shore of June Lake. Photo © m01229, licensed CC-BY SA.

Pine Cliff Resort (at June Lake)

Scenic Rating: 7/10
Region: Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes

You’ll find “kid heaven” at Pine Cliff Resort. This camp is in a pretty setting along the north shore of June Lake (7,600 feet elevation), the feature lake among four in the June Lake Loop. The campsites are nestled in pine trees, designed so each site accommodates different-sized rigs and families, and the campground is about a quarter mile from June Lake. This is the only camp at June Lake Loop that has a swimming beach. The landscape is a pretty one, with the lake set below snowcapped peaks. The bonus is that June Lake gets large numbers of trout plants each summer, making it extremely popular with anglers. Of the lakes in the June Lake Loop, this is the one that has the most of everything—the most beauty, the most fish, the most developed accommodations, and, alas, the most people. This resort has been operated as a family business for more than 50 years.

10 Best Family Campgrounds in California


For the rundown on more outdoor adventures in the Golden State (with kids or without!), pick up a copy of the 20th edition of Moon California Camping today.

The post 10 Best Family Campgrounds in California appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/07/10-best-family-campgrounds-in-california/feed/ 0 58289
Three Great Road Trips from Monterey, California https://moon.com/2017/07/three-great-road-trips-from-monterey-california/ https://moon.com/2017/07/three-great-road-trips-from-monterey-california/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 20:56:28 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=57652 Perched on the southern end of the Monterey Bay, Monterey is one of the California Central Coast’s most popular visitor destinations. Though there’s plenty to see in Monterey—including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Monterey State Historic Park, sea otters, and more—the city is an ideal place to head out on a road trip to explore the Central Coast, whether it’s a day trip or an overnight excursion. Here are three ideas.

The post Three Great Road Trips from Monterey, California appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
Perched on the southern end of the Monterey Bay, Monterey is one of the California Central Coast’s most popular visitor destinations. Though there’s plenty to see in Monterey—including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Monterey State Historic Park, sea otters, and more—the city is an ideal place to head out on a road trip to explore the Central Coast, whether it’s a day trip or an overnight excursion. Here are three ideas.

Santa Cruz

roller coaster and palm trees back the beach in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo © Stuart Thornton.

Across the bay from Monterey, Santa Cruz has a distinctly different feel due to the youthful influence of the University of California, Santa Cruz and its vibrant surf culture. The drive from Monterey to Santa Cruz can range from 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. Just hop on CA-1 and head north to reach Santa Cruz.

Make your first stop at Steamer Lane Supply, a concession stand in Lighthouse Field State Beach right across from Steamer Lane, one of the beach town’s most popular surf breaks. With a tasty breakfast quesadilla and coffee from the eatery in hand, take in the waves peeling below at Steamer Lane and decide if you want to try and catch a few. The waves are best for intermediate to advanced surfers.

Beginners should head to the adjacent Cowell’s Beach, home to an easy rolling wave that is ideal for learners. Also, nearby is the Cowell’s Beach Surf Shop if you need to rent equipment or take a lesson.

After some time in the water, walk over to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Beach Street for a pulse quickening ride on the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, which has been thrilling visitors since opening in 1924.

Awake from adrenaline, make the two-mile drive to Akira Sushi for lunch. The wonderful menu draws from both classic sushi ingredients (tuna, salmon, ginger) and items unusual in the typical sushi roll (skirt steak, Siracha, truffle salt).

Head to downtown Santa Cruz post-lunch to browse the local shops lining Pacific Avenue. Get a boost of caffeine from local Verve Coffee, which has expanded into Los Angeles, before browsing through vinyl at Streetlight Records or perusing paperbacks at Bookshop Santa Cruz, an independent bookstore that has been open for over 50 years.

Before sunset, drive 2 miles north of Santa Cruz on CA-1 to Wilder Ranch State Park. The 7,000-acre former dairy farm has 35 miles of paths including the Old Cove Landing Trail, which takes hikers out to the craggy coastline.

On your return trip to Monterey, detour off CA-1 onto the 41st Avenue Exit for dinner at Café Cruz. This longtime local favorite has all the right ingredients for a great meal: attentive service and great food at a reasonable price.

Or if you want to keep your Santa Cruz excursion going, consider getting a room at the moderately priced Seaway Inn on West Cliff Drive. This small motel is walking distance to Steamer Lane in case you want to paddle out again the next morning.

San Luis Obispo Coast

aerial shot of Morro Bay

Morro Bay State Park. Photo © modernschism/iStock.

The coastline of San Luis Obispo County offers an ideal mix of laidback oceanside towns, recreational opportunities, and California’s best version of a European castle, Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Be sure to make reservations for a castle tour before heading out. The drive to Hearst Castle from Monterey is two and a half hours long via CA-68 West, U.S. 101 South, CA-46 West, and CA-1 North.

There are several tours available at Hearst Castle, but the “Grand Rooms Tour” is recommended for first time visitors. The one hour long guided tour includes stops in the Billiards Room, Theater, and Neptune Pool.

Next up, explore the coastline within Harmony Headlands State Park. Drive 17 miles south of Hearst Castle on CA-1 and park on the western side of the roadway. The 784-acre park opened in 2003 and includes the 1.5 mile Headlands Trail, which wanders to a coastal marine terrace with a view of the undeveloped seashore.

With an appetite growing, head five miles south on CA-1 to the small town of Cayucos. Though located in a small building, Ruddell’s Smokehouse dishes up fish tacos with big flavor. The suggested order is either the smoked salmon or smoked albacore tacos, each served with chopped apples as a condiment.

Hop on CA-1 once again and head six miles south to Morro Bay to take in one of the Central Coast’s natural wonders: Morro Rock. One of the Nine Sisters, a chain of volcanic mountains in San Luis Obispo County, the 581-foot high rock towers over the scenic harbor of the fishing village.

To further explore Morro Bay, rent a kayak to paddle around the protected estuary, where you can spot sea lions, harbor seals, and 100 different bird species. Gear is available nearby at Kayak Horizons, or opt for a tour through Central Coast Outdoors.

End your day with fresh seafood at Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant right on Morro Bay’s harbor. The raw oysters or barbecued oysters in garlic butter are a great start to any meal.

Not feeling like driving back to Monterey? The Masterpiece Hotel in Morro Bay is decorated with reproductions of classic artworks and has a replica Roman style bath for soaking.

Inland Adventure

vineyards in Paso Robles

Paso Robles Vineyards. Photo © Stuart Thornton.

While the coastlines of Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties get most of the attention, there’s a handful of worthy destinations inland along the Salinas Valley down to Paso Robles on U.S. 101. One of the best sights is the rocky wonderland of Pinnacles National Park, an hour’s drive from Monterey. The western entrance in Soledad offers a superb introduction to the park’s rock spires, caves, and oversized boulders. A suggested hike is the 4.3-mile-long Juniper Canyon Trail, which includes a steep and narrow section at its highest point.

Having earned a great lunch, travel 30 minutes south on U.S. 101 to King City. This sleepy agricultural city boosted its foodie cred with the opening of The Cork & Plough in 2015. Go hearty with the venison meatloaf sandwich or lighter with the shaved cauliflower salad.

Now properly sated, hit the road again for a 40-minute drive south on U.S. 101 to Mission San Miguel. This overlooked California mission has one of the best-preserved church interiors in the whole mission system along with being the site of a murderous rampage back in 1848.

Maybe it’s the fact that the padres of the Mission San Miguel made wine or just because you are thirsty continue another 10 miles down U.S. 101 to the booming wine region of Paso Robles. Recommended stops include Opolo Vineyards and the Eberle Winery. Visit pasowine.com for more information about the area’s wineries.

Soak up the wine with a meal at Artisan in downtown Paso Robles. This longtime favorite serves up wood fired pizzas, veggies, and meatier fare including slow braised pork.

If you are getting drowsy after such a full day, splurge for a night at the Hotel Cheval, an upscale boutique hotel. Another option is to secure a room at the Paso Robles Inn, where you can relax in a private tub filled with warm local mineral waters.


Need more California road trip ideas? Check out Moon California Road Trip.

The post Three Great Road Trips from Monterey, California appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

]]>
https://moon.com/2017/07/three-great-road-trips-from-monterey-california/feed/ 0 57652