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Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

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Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby Abrahm » Mon May 12, 2014 5:38 pm

I'm sure this everyone's favorite post, but I need some advice. I'm new to the southern Sierra and need a recommendation for (read -- someone willing to spill the beans on their favorite secret spot) a car camping accessible, dispersed camping area, for Memorial Day weekend. Obviously, its a busy time of year, so we're open to a wide geographic area to find the right spot. Had been thinking Sequoia National Monument area to be near the park entrances. Alternatively Courtright Reservoir area, or further north around Kaiser pass/Florence Lake. Down south -- around upper Kern river valley above Lake Isabella is a thought as well.... so basically we're all over the place.

Goal is dramatic scenery, preferably near river/lake with good hiking. High elev would be nice. No RVs and the less people the better.

What say you all?



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Re: Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby Strider » Mon May 12, 2014 5:54 pm

Take one of the Sierra National Forest service roads, for example by Whiskey Falls, and you will find lots of turn-outs with fire rings and level tent areas. Just bring your own water, table & chairs, etc.
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Re: Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby Beantown » Mon May 12, 2014 9:08 pm

Mountain home state demonstration in sequoia national forest. Balch park, shake camp, Moses gulch, hidden falls camp. Take your pick was at hidden falls last memorial weekend and went backpacking. Hidden falls was empty
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Re: Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby AlmostThere » Mon May 12, 2014 9:48 pm

Courtright will be packed, and odds are good mosquito-y.

I'm going to the coast. :)

No secrets at Courtright- they outlawed dispersal camping within shouting distance of the lake along the roads. But you'd have no problems loading a boat with backpacking gear and heading out to camp on the far shore.

Good luck getting away from RVs. They make it out to Edison even on those horrible narrow roads. And they live in the pullouts as well as designated campgrounds.
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Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby Ross939 » Tue May 13, 2014 8:10 am

I am in a similar predicament, coming from the north, Sonoma County area. I am looking for a three day excursion on Memorial Day weekend. Has Anyone been to Silver Fork Campground in Eldorado National Forest? I've read where this is another spot that stays pretty quiet on the holiday weekends.
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Re: Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby TehipiteTom » Tue May 13, 2014 8:21 am

One alternate idea: go to the Sierra & Sequoia NF websites and look at all the campgrounds they list. Note the ones that have no running water--those are the ones that are least likely to fill over Memorial Day. And if through some stroke of bad luck that doesn't work out, do the dispersed camping as a backup plan.
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Re: Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby balzaccom » Tue May 13, 2014 8:49 am

Ross939 wrote:I am in a similar predicament, coming from the north, Sonoma County area. I am looking for a three day excursion on Memorial Day weekend. Has Anyone been to Silver Fork Campground in Eldorado National Forest? I've read where this is another spot that stays pretty quiet on the holiday weekends.



We've camped there before. One year we were "incredibly lucky" according to the campground host, as we arrived on Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend just as someone was pulling out of a site. And this was twenty years ago. I wouldn't count on there being a lot of space there.

Best advice I can give is to take a water supply---either a water filter or lots of gallons--and camp in some of the campgrounds in the national forest that do not provide water. Dispersed camping in these areas is always the best bet...particularly on the East Side of the Sierra.
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Re: Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby maverick » Tue May 13, 2014 9:47 am

Ross wrote:
Has Anyone been to Silver Fork Campground in Eldorado National Forest?


Please do not piggyback on OP's thread, start your own. Thanks
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Re: Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby seanr » Tue May 13, 2014 2:29 pm

Abrahm wrote:I'm sure this everyone's favorite post, but I need some advice. I'm new to the southern Sierra and need a recommendation for (read -- someone willing to spill the beans on their favorite secret spot) a car camping accessible, dispersed camping area, for Memorial Day weekend. Obviously, its a busy time of year, so we're open to a wide geographic area to find the right spot. Had been thinking Sequoia National Monument area to be near the park entrances. Alternatively Courtright Reservoir area, or further north around Kaiser pass/Florence Lake. Down south -- around upper Kern river valley above Lake Isabella is a thought as well.... so basically we're all over the place.

Goal is dramatic scenery, preferably near river/lake with good hiking. High elev would be nice. No RVs and the less people the better.

What say you all?


You mentioned solitude, good dayhiking, high elevation, lakes, streams/rivers, stunning scenery, and quiet camping. I tend to base my camp spots on proximity to the hikes I most want to do and my hikes tend to fit those descriptors.

What is your ideal range of mileage and elevation gain per dayhike?

Are you willing and able to deal with a little snow on your hikes, or is it important to avoid snow?

Do you prefer relatively flat hikes, easy peak hikes, or peaks/hikes requiring some serious motivation?

Do you want to hike in a sequoia grove?

Do you prefer one base camp for multiple hikes, a short drive to a new base camp each night, or a long drive to check out additional areas of the region via roads?

I often do what you seem to be describing early May-late November with specific location always dependant on the weather forecast and sometimes dependant on which roads are open/accessible. Scenic hikes are my priority on most/all days. I tend to hike peaks, but finding scenic ridges, lakes, streams, and waterfalls along the way is ideal. Having a pleasant spot to park for the night near or at the trailhead is also ideal.

I haven't specifically tried Memorial Day weekend in several years, but have managed to find spots in the mentioned areas that were uncrowded or not at full capacity 4th of July weekend(s) and Labor Day weekend. Sometimes I've had to look around a bit in a given area to find quieter spots during peak visitation. As others have mentioned, getting away from the National Parks on long roads, narrow roads, dirt roads, and to areas lacking piped drinking water will thin out crowds and big RV's, but almost never completely eliminate having to share with camp trailers, RV's, or owners of large truck campers (the latter describes me). Keep in mind that the relative freedom of these areas often attracts lots of people who may not hike much, but who may enjoy riding around in jeeps, riding atv's/dirt bikes, playing stereos, towing small fishing boats, or target shooting. Some specific areas attract/allow noisy activities more than others, but a guarantee of avoiding it altogether is hard to give absent of hiking into the wilderness. Aside from occassional parking lot noise, areas near wilderness trailheads are often good for camping in solitude or around like-minded people. In some cases developed campsites may be quieter than an area people specifically have chosen in order to be away from others to do something noisy. Having mentioned all that, I'll admit that I've only once found an area completely intolerable (incessant shooting, loud music, and yelling) once and was able to find a good enough spot about a mile away.

Anyway, I would have specific suggestions for campsites and hikes based on what kind of hiking you want. Without more information from you, I'll just say you could easily fill a weekend in Sierra NF with excellent scenic dayhikes and pleasant car camping at/near Kaiser Pass/Kaiser Wilderness-Florence Lake, at Courtright-Dinkey Lakes, or in the large area NE of Bass Lake. For dayhiking and car camping I strongly prefer the scenery in those areas to Sequoia NF, but I would have specific suggestions for the area between Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon NP, as well as in the NF/NM south of SEKI. I would recommend Sequoia NM/NF when other places are snowed in or for mountain biking, climbing, fishing, or for uncrowded hikes in sequoia groves. Tell us specifically what you want to do and you'll probably get some specific details on hikes and campsites.

If you can snag a spot, Cold Springs campground or the other campground near Mineral King might be ideal for you even though it is in SEKI NP. Both are inexpensive and the long, winding road combined with lack of easy tourist attractions deters crowds and RV's. For what you seem to be looking for, the dayhiking up there is better than elsewhere in SEKI and Sequoia NF/NM. The main areas of SEKI are great if you don't mind crowds or if you go backpacking. You could see some tourist sights/do some popular scenic hikes if you leave Mineral King with time leftover and later camp along the NF roads near Jennie Lakes Wilderness if needed.

I realize you may have already been, or may be looking for more of a deep backroad experience, but in my opinion, unless you are coming from Fresno-Merced-South San Jose-Monterey area, you can access stunning national forest scenery more quickly on the Eastside from Bridgeport to Lone Pine areas, or on the Westside from the areas near Tioga Pass, Sonora Pass, Carson Pass, Echo Summit, and north of Tahoe.
Last edited by seanr on Tue May 13, 2014 6:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice -- secret camp spot in Sequoia/Sierra ntl forests?

Postby Sierra Miguel » Tue May 13, 2014 6:11 pm

This thread came up last month: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=10808&p=81764
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