the dyrt
Leslie R.
Los Angeles, CA
Joined August 2016
Camp underneath the tallest peak in the lower 48

The Whitney Zone has an other-worldly feel to it. You can start your adventures to this unique place in the High Sierras by camping at the end of the road, just before the trailhead. The elevation is high enough to make it substantially cooler than Lone Pine, and it also has plenty of shade. The drastic climate difference here should acclimate you for even colder weather and altitude, if you're hiking up into the Whitney Zone!

There are plenty of bearboxes, sufficient pit toilets, and it tends to be quiet. Most people who stay here use it as a launch pad to hike into the backcountry early in the day. So, in my experience, you won't run into boisterous parties, and the campground is fairly spread out.

Just a reminder to obtain permits before you head into the Whitney Portal!

Fantastic camping around granite domes

This section of the park, while not as popular as the Valley, is arguably just as beautiful, and is much easier to secure camping. This campground is MASSIVE. Reservations can be made in advance, but we didn't have any trouble finding a walkup site in the middle of June. The elevation here means that it gets fairly cold at night, even during the summer.

Groceries may be conveniently purchased a short drive down the road, but keep in mind that the markup is pretty substantial, so you probably only want to use it for last-minute essentials.

While there is running water, if you're looking to take a shower, you'll need to head down to the Valley.

One way to actually reserve camping in JTree, if you have a group

One of my complaints about JTree camping is usually that the sites all fill up so quickly and it's hard to be guaranteed a spot. That's what nicer about the group camp sites! Sheep Pass campground is one of three group sites in JTree (along with Cottonwood and Indian Cove), all of which can be reserved online ahead of time. You just have to have a group with a minimum of 10 people.

This campground has 6 individual sites, and host large groups pretty comfortably. It's great for our group climbing trips, when we actually make plans far enough in advance. See here for all rock climbing info for the immediate area.

FYI, this campground gets its name because there actually can be big horn sheep spotted in JTree! Though we have yet to see any on our trips…

As with all campgrounds in JTree, remember that there is no potable water available here. For large groups, that means you need to be packing A LOT of water for drinking/cooking for the duration of your stay.

relatively secluded camping oasis in Joshua Tree

When compared to Hidden Valley, Jumbo Rocks may often feel pretty isolated. It is roughly in between the northern and western entrances of the park, which means that it's essentially on the eastern edge of most of the rock climbing areas. If you drive towards the northern entrance, you will note the subtle differences in terrain between the Mojave desert (to the west), and the Sonoran desert (to the east), which many people often miss!

Many of the camping spots are tucked away in between rocky alcoves, which provides a great deal of privacy. Unfortunately, like other campgrounds in Joshua Tree, it suffers from a lack of shade and fills up very quickly during the fall, winter, and spring seasons.  

The facilities are fine - a simple pit toilet and trash are essentially all you get, so as always, be sure to bring your own water!

Dogs are allowed anywhere within 100 ft of the campground and the roads, but not on trails or in the backcountry.

Mecca of Yosemite climbing

This iconic campground, situated in the middle of Yosemite Valley, was once home to many of America's early rock climbing pioneers. It is so historic that it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places! While the campground is no longer home strictly to climbers, you'll still see many of them walking through, whether to find partners, or to project many of the classic boulders within the campground limits. It is the absolute best campground to stay in if you're climbing in the valley.

The facilities are top-notch (running water, toilets, trash bins, picnic tables, fire pits), as is the access to nearby climbing and hiking. It also happens to be one of the few campgrounds that doesn't take reservations in the park, so for these reasons, be sure to show up EARLY in the morning to snag a site. It is extremely popular. In June it's pretty hot, but fortunately there is ample shade.

Convenient access for rock climbing

This camping area is at the end of dirt road Route 21S69, there is a sign for Dome Rock. It's very close to Ponderosa, a small town(?) with a general store and lodges, so that makes it super convenient if you need to buy some standard supplies.

At the end of the dirt road there is a parking area. You can camping anywhere in this area, no fee. Just make sure to apply for a fire permit ahead of time. There are NO facilities at this campground - no bathrooms or trash even. That said, it is a beautiful area, especially if you want to rock climb or hike with great views, including The Needles. Rock climbing info for the area can be found here.

Keep in mind that this location is at ~7,000ft elevation, so the temperatures will be cooler here, and you should plan accordingly.

Good facilities, but less scenic and shady than other nearby options

This campground has better facilities than Brush Creek or Limestone campgrounds, but we found it to be less scenic because it has fewer trees throughout the campground. The camping experience seems to be variable depending on which site area you get - the ones by the river are larger and feel more private, because there is more space between sites.

Upsides are that this site has a campground host (who was very friendly) and running water. There are vault toilets - cleanest we found in the surrounding areas. Both trash and recycling collection bins are available (not the case for nearby day use areas or dispersed camping). Each site has its own campfire ring and picnic table.Single sites are $28/night, doubles sites are $56/night. This campground is very close to a store for supplies and to McNally's Lodge and Hamburger Restaurant. Dogs are allowed everywhere as long as they are on a leash.

Activities in the area:

  • hike the 7 teacups trail or go canyoneering
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • White water tubing/rafting/kayaking
Good backup option for when campgrounds are full

This backcountry camping is the easiest to get to from the West entrance. You can't just backcountry camp anywhere in Joshua Tree, because you must first register at one of the backcountry boards. This trailhead has one of the approximately dozen backcountry boards in the park. Rules for backcountry camping in Joshua Tree:

  • Register at a backcountry board and park your car in that parking lot
  • Hike in at least 1 mile from any roads
  • Set up camp at least 500 feet from any trails and water sources
  • Not fires permitted

Pros:

  • free
  • guaranteed camping during busy weekends

Cons:

  • No facilities along the trail (just the bathroom in the parking lot)
Great wilderness camping near the Kern River

Beautiful campground for $24/night. It is popular during the summer months, so if you want to reserve a site for the weekend, make sure to reserve online well in advance. Sites are pretty nicely spaced out and almost all sites have shade. The lsites are not as close to the river as Brush Creek campground, but still closer than Fairview, which is down the road.

Facilities. There are vault toilets. Both trash and recycling collection bins are available (not the case for nearby day use areas or dispersed camping). Each site has its own campfire ring and picnic table.

Dogs allowed throughout the forest as long as they are on leash.

Activities in the area:

  • hike the 7 teacups trail or go canyoneering
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • White water tubing/rafting/kayaking
Free, beautiful, stream-side camping

This is our favorite campground in the Sequoia National Forest, of the four we've stayed in. As long as you are 25 feet away from the river you can camp anywhere you want, so definitely not restricted to the parking lot area. There are some beautiful spots high up on a bank overlooking the stream. A quick walk down to the stream allows for quick refreshing dips whenever you want. The sound of the stream makes for wonderful white noise at night.

Facilities. There are vault toilets. During the summer season there are also trash bins provided. Unfortunately this campground does not have separate recycling bins nor running water. But hey, it's free! Just make sure to apply for your fire permit online ahead of time to be allowed to set up campfires or use camp stoves.

Dogs allowed throughout the forest as long as they are on leash.

Activities in the area:

  • This campground is the closest to the trailhead for 7 teacups hiking or canyoneering
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • White water tubing/rafting/kayaking
Lake Jabu in Desolation Wilderness

Camping here is magical! The 5-stars are not for facilities or accessibility, as this dispersed camping experience is really in the wilderness. You can hike in for 6 miles each way (12 miles round trip) via the Echo Lakes trail, or park and take the water taxi ($12) to cut off 2.5 miles of the hike each way. You must obtain an overnight wilderness permit, year round. The permits have quotas enforced April through September. Permits cost $5 per person per night for first night, or $10.00 per person for 2+ nights (14 day max). Campfires are prohibited, so bring a camp stove. They are serious about no trace here, to conserve the amazing beautiful of the area. So pack out your trash, and bury your poop deep!

A little hot in summer

As is with most of the camping in the area, summer months are pretty hot and dusty, and this campground does not offer much shade unfortunately. Very popular with RV campers. All sites are first-come, first serve. There are vault toilets, and water is available March 1st to October 31st. In terms of scenery, the view of the eastern Sierras is stunning! Dogs are welcome throughout the area as long as they are leashed. Depending on the weather, the wind can get pretty intense here, so if you have flexibility for your camping dates, check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. Sites are pretty well spaced out, so you can expect a pretty quiet and private camping experience.

Great camping for extended trips

This camp ground is smaller relative to some of the other camping options in the area, but still well maintained. It is close to the road but still quiet. Each site has a table, fire ring, and a food storage locker. There are two vault toilets. Bring your own water. You cannot reserve sites ahead of time.

If you want to experience the Yosemite area with your dog, camping in the Inyo National Forest is a great option, because dogs are allowed to join you anywhere you go in the area, as long as they are leashed or well trained to verbal commands. Since the Yosemite NPS does not allow dogs on trails, these national forest campgrounds are a better pet-friendly alternative.

If you like fishing, there are great fishing spots at the nearby stream and lake.

Because this campground is actually a part of the national forest, you can stay here for up to two weeks, in addition to the two week maximum enforced for camping within the NPS limits. So in total you could can stay in "Yosemite" for a month by combining camping at this site (or other nearby national forest sites) with camping inside the park, which is why we stayed here for a long rock climbing trip.

Popular campground with easy access to bouldering

This campground fills up quickly with families, hikers, and boulderers. Pretty affordable at only $10 a night. You can also camp at nearby yellow post sites for free. There is bouldering available right in the campground - doesn't get much more convenient than that! Hiking the trails a few minutes outside the campground also brings you to breathtaking views. Each site has a table and campfire ring with grill. Vault toilets are available. Although water is sometimes available, it is not potable and spigots are off during droughts. So make sure to pack enough water ahead of time.

Convenient, primitive camping for rock climbers

Dispersed camping exists at the trailhead for The Needles which is at the end of FS-21S05, a three mile dirt road. Camping is free. The only amenity is a pit toilet, so you need to bring your own water and pack out all your trash. No fire pits, if you want to use a stove you should get a fire permit ahead of time. Very quiet, plenty of room to spread out. Gets cool during summer nights still.

Lovely place to camp in winter

We camped in March, and the daytime weather was perfect. just make sure to bring lots of layers for nighttime.

Within walking distance of the camp are some sand dunes that are fun to run down. There’s plenty to check out in the area: hiking trails, a visitor center, nearby locations where Star Wars scenes were filmed, and a past borax mine.

This campground allows dogs as long as you keep them on a leash of 6 ft or less. Just make sure you bring a travel water bowl and paw protection. When the ground is too hot, paws can burn, and dog booties help keep paws safe. Also be careful about the coyotes, which frequent this campground.

Most beautiful campground in the Angeles National Forest!

We've wanted to camp here for so long, but we've never been able to get a spot. We finally did this weekend, and it fully lived up to our expectations. Because this campground is set within a ravine that has a stream during the rainier months, so the landscape feels very different than the other nearby campgrounds - very green with tall trees. The campsites have plenty of space between neighbors, so we felt we had privacy and weren't disturbed by any noise from other sites. Each site has a picnic table, firepit, and bear box for food storage. There is a water spigot at the campground, but the ranger advised that it's not potable.

There's day parking at the end of the campground for the trailhead to Cooper Canyon Falls. In the summer the "waterfall" is barely a trickle, but the hike still has a nice stream and is worth doing.

Ranger Review: Matador Camera Case at Leo Carrillo State Park

Campground review (3 of 5 stars)

The Canyon Campground is located on a spectacular stretch of the PCH just north of Malibu. Like most other California State Parks, it is quite expensive. The sites are located in a dusty coastal sage scrub valley, often right on top of each other.  This place is packed with RVs and families on vacation during the summer, so don't expect to find peace and solitude here. There are full facilities (e.g., showers, camp store), but the $45 per night fee is the highest we've paid for any camping.

One perk is that you can walk to the beach within minutes. Also, one of the few dog beaches in LA is only a couple minutes drive away. Luckily, dogs are allowed in the campground too. If you can look past your nearby neighbors, the views of the nearby Santa Monica Mountains are charming. It's also only a short drive to some spectacular hiking and bouldering. If you bring your crashpad and shoes, the sandbox and temporal boulders are about a 15-30 minute hike upstream, and you certainly won't have any crowds there! Finally, don't forget to reserve your site far in advance (you can do this online), especially for weekends. Otherwise the rangers recommend showing up at 8AM on a Friday or Saturday to try to snag one of the few walk-in sites or a site from cancelled or no-show reservation.

Product review (4.5 of 5 stars)

As a Ranger for the Dyrt, I get to test products for review for some of my camping trips. On this trip, we tested the Matador camera base layer case and the lens base layer. See our demo video, presented by my husband, the photography pro. These are two phenomenal products that offer some sleek protection for your camera and lenses. 

Pros:

  • easily removable from bag
  • modular designs fit most cameras and lenses
  • sleek and unobtrusive
  • high-quality and durable material
  • super lightweight, adds no weight to carry

Cons:

  • no mechanism to clip the camera base layer to the camera or strap, which can be somewhat cumbersome while attempting to take a quick shot
  • some larger DSLR cameras may have a small gap on the sides of the base layer that lacks complete protection if the lens is left attached

Overall, these two products provide ample protection while you're trying to snap some great photos in the outdoors. I don't think they provide quite the same level of protection as larger bags with more padding, but that's not what they're aiming for. I felt a tremendous peace of mind having my camera dangling from my neck in the base layer while scurrying down the steep sand dunes, which I certainly wouldn't have felt had I not had the base layer on.

Ranger Review: Mountain House freeze dried meals at Meander Lake

Campground Review

This campground is a magical escape without crowds or any sign of the modern world. You will most likely have the whole place to yourself, with your choice of the three campsites. The boundary waters are one of the few places in the United States that you can go to be without any man-made sounds - no nearby cities, no planes flying above. Just the wildness.

The camping is free. Just park at the dirt road and walk in to the sites. There is one outhouse up by the parking area. Each site comes with a picnic table and fire pit. Make sure to bring your own water, and pack out your trash.

This campground is particularly great for swimming, kayaking, and canoeing in the summer months. The lake is so comfortably warm that in the morning the water is warmer than the air temperature. In July and August there are wild blueberries everywhere - fun to gather them and delicious to eat! For fishing info and a map, refer to this document.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products to review for some of my camping trips. On this trip, we tested out two meals from Mountain House. (See my review of other meal options in my Horse Flats campground review). On this trip we had the Pasta Primavera and Italian Pepper Steak. These meals are the tastiest camp food - so delicious!

Pros

  • super great taste. DELICIOUS. The more recipes I try, the more I am convinced that this brand makes amazing tasting meals
  • quick to make. These meals are ready in 10 minutes or less, some are ready as soon as you add water. After a long day of climbing or hiking, or when you're waking up in the morning, it's so nice to have food ready so quickly
  • easy to make. Just add water (boiling, usually). This also means that all we need to pack is a Jetboil, which is so much more convenient than packing a stove, pots, cooking oil, ingredients, cutting boards, etc.
  • lightweight, and you can choose among packaging options for more compactness

Cons

  • there are no vegan options, and very few vegetarian options. The Pasta Primavera is one of the two vegetarian options.
  • I find the serving amounts to be unhelpful in their current format, because the calories per serving are so low. For example, with the Italian Pepper Steak, the pouch says "2.5 services", but there are only 180 calories per serving. If this were your sole meal item for dinner, I'd say that's more like 1 serving, especially if you're consuming these meals after a day of vigorous outdoor activity.

All in all, I'd say these meals are awesome for short trips or backcountry camping, when you want to pack minimally. And if you aren't trying to stick to a budget, then these meals are also great for longer trips / car camping if you just want delicious, easy, quick food without having to cook everything yourself

great if you can get a spot, limited options for dogs

The campground itself continues to be five stars in terms of quality and facilities. However, there really is difficulty finding a spot during the fall through spring season, so you can’t count on it unless you can arrive early on Friday or during weekdays. Also, although dogs are allowed at the campgrounds, they must be within 100 ft of sites or major roads at all times. This isn’t a fault of the campground specially, as this restriction applies to the whole national park and all campgrounds within it. However, it’s good to know if you’re planning a trip with your dog, because it rules out any hiking and 95% of climbing options.