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Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.
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Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby Willythedog » Thu Mar 17, 2016 11:33 am

Not backpacking but just car camping. Preferably where there is snow on the ground. Any places (campground or national forest land) you fellas recommend? I have a Rubicon so offroad is ok. I usually go up to the Trinity River for winter camping but looking for something else.

Been getting cabin fever... need to get outside for a while before backpacking season...



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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby balzaccom » Thu Mar 17, 2016 12:01 pm

Hmmm. I don't know any car campgrounds that are open in winter with snow....but the area around Castle Peak off Highway 80 has many snow trails and camping opportunities.

I supposed you could also hike in a bit from Dodge Ridge and camp in there somewhere...

And the campground at the southern entrance to Lassen National Park is a walk-in campground that will have snow this time of year.
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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby FeetFirst » Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:49 pm

Most, if not all, National Forests allow "dispersed camping" year-round. This means that you can camp pretty much anywhere on NF land you'd like except areas specifically prohibited (e.g. close to highways, major recreation areas, private property boundaries). I know from experience that the Eldorado (http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_018795.pdf) & Tahoe NF have many areas suitable during winter and the Rangers are more than welcome to offer suggestions. I've done a couple of long weekend, late winter/early spring, car camping trips in the Crystal Basin (highway 50 east of Sacramento, Ice House Road/FR 3) area. Usually we just drive up past the snowline and start looking for pullouts near sources of moving water. Be sure to have your CA fire permit and don't drive on any unimproved road surfaces. Have fun!
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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby balzaccom » Thu Mar 17, 2016 9:22 pm

Ice House is a good recommendation as well! The road is kept open because of the PG&E facilities in that area.
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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby Willythedog » Thu Mar 17, 2016 10:41 pm

Thanks for the good info! I'm gonna make a call to the ranger station and see what's up.

Come to think of it there was a cool little spot I found up near bowman lakes area too... Don't know if that road is accessible though...

Also thought about castle lake up in shasta but I guess a culvert blew out and the roads closed...

Still searching. Ice house reservoir area sounds pretty good though. So what's the deal? You just kinda pull off the road and set up shop?
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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Fri Mar 18, 2016 6:14 am

If you are thinking of going to Bowman Lake road, there is a gate across the road at Fuller Lake so you won't be able to go any further. I second the idea of Icehouse Road. I have snow camped up there a few time and its been nice. No Snowpark Permits required either. We find a place with the deepest snow and a decent pullout and then strap on the snowshoes, hoist our backpacks and off we go! You don't need to hike very far to find total solitude during the winter.
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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby rlown » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:55 am

Ice House is nice. You can actually get all the way to Loon Lake as they plow that road as well due to equipment for the reservoirs. Just check the weather first. And, even though the campground is closed in Winter, you can get access. Definitely check with the ranger station on road status..

Used to go there a LOT in the early 80's during Winter.. In a '64 Chevy impala, 4 door. :p Spun out once. No chains, bald tires, right rear quarter panel hit a piece of granite. All fun.
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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby Tom_H » Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:00 am

You can access the TRT @ Spooner Summit. It's possible to go south. If you're going north, you can park at the parking lot for the state park and head across the meadow. At the far side of the meadow you can Nordic ski just a few miles up the jeep trail to Spooner Lake. There usually already are tracks.

I like Silver Lake. It should be frozen over with a very thick ice pack. You could ski or snowshoe to the island and camp. I much prefer Nordic skis on frozen lakes just because they are longer than snowshoes and safer in terms of crossing the interface between land and floating ice. The ice is usually thinnest right against the shore and that is the most dangerous place.

Hope Valley is another beautiful possibility.
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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby rlown » Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:05 am

I like the Hope Valley suggestion as well! :thumbsup:

And yes, I prefer the ski thing as well. Did that on the way back from the East end of Loon as it was faster than the snow march.
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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby FeetFirst » Mon Mar 21, 2016 4:03 pm

Willythedog wrote: So what's the deal? You just kinda pull off the road and set up shop?


:nod:

Of course all of the don't be "that guy" rules apply. Also, the Eldorado NF's guide to "dispersed camping" (http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_018795.pdf) says to "[k]eep your vehicle on designated roads and trails to prevent resource damage. Vehicles must be parked within one vehicle length of the edge of the surface of a designated road or trail. When you pick your spot, make sure that it is at least 100 feet away from streams and lakes, to help protect stream side vegetation, and prevent pollution. Dispersed campsites must be outside the boundary markings of developed campgrounds."

Finally, here's a list of areas specifically identified as off limits to dispersed camping:
    Echo Lake
    Caples Lake
    Gerle Creek Reservoir
    Ice House Reservoir
    Kirkwood Lake
    Silver Lake
    Stumpy Meadows Reservoir
    Woods Lake
    Wrights Lake

Have fun!
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Re: Snow camping area northern Sierra?

Postby Willythedog » Tue Mar 22, 2016 12:40 pm

thanks to all for the replies!
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