Mark C.
San Diego, CA
Joined August 2016
Basic no frills camping - but that view!

First, let me not bury the lead, and start with the fact that if you have not been to Homer and taken in the beautiful scenery, the views of Kachemak bay and the surrounding mountains and glaciers are something that absolutely need to be seen in person. Just breathtaking. Since this campground lies on the very flat sea level strip of sand and gravel known as the spit, it offers great views in every direction.

This seasonal (it is Alaska, after all) campground is about halfway down the Homer spit (on the way to the very end which is called Land's end). The campground itself offers mostly RV sites (which it looked like had all amenities you could want) and a handful ~maybe 20 tent sites. Good amenities with clean bathrooms, had wifi, and saw a laundry room but did not use it for my stay. I can't speak for the RV experience, as I've only used the tent sites. Stayed here for a couple nights, before and after a job opportunity leaving out of Homer. The campground is still about ~2 miles or so walking down to the main harbor, as well as most of the shops and few restaurants closer to Land's end. Yes, this includes the infamous Salty Dawg saloon, which is a great spot to grab a drink and epitomizes the Alaskan fishing culture. I would add that having a vehicle is not essential if you only plan on walking down to the end of the spit, and there are a dozen or so restaurant choice if that is your thing, but a lot of stuff is just out of realistic walking distance back up the hill in Homer proper. Overall, this campsite offered a good value and a chance to really soak in the gorgeous view and lifestyle of the fishing town of Homer.

Basic camping

Lees Ferry was a nice stop on the way from Utah heading to Grand Canyon National Park. Nothing too crazy to rave about, except for the view! Campsite was $18 for a primitive tent site for the night but there are no reservations so it's essentially first come basis. It looked like there were maybe 50 sites in total. If you get there early enough can you get a nice view of the river below. Although there were no amenities besides bathrooms, it was a good option for a one night stopover for us. Got pretty windy in the evening so make sure you have tent stakes or at least heavy bags to keep it down. This campsite is very close between Horseshoe bend and Marble Canyon (both a must see if heading through).

Lake Hemet RV & Campground

This campground is a very large site, with huge amounts of RV and tent sites spread out, hookups and non-hookup sites, with a layout around the water of Lake Hemet. We only stayed for one night before continuing on to Idyllwild, so cannot speak for anything related to the actual lake but there was a lot of recreational boating and fishing going on when we were there in August. Our site was a tent site in the interior, we did not pay the extra money for a premium lakefront site. Overall it is your run of the mill campsite, but with the lake as a main attraction and focal point of course. With all of the families and kids it was more on the noisy side, and was noisy until later into the night. I would recommend this campsite on the value of the lake if that is something you are into, but other than that I would prefer something more quiet and peaceful. Another downside is visitor parking and I believe even day use of the grounds to get in were an extra charge. There is a large country style camping store before the gate. Overall, the surrounding scenery is still beautiful, and you can't really beat that.

Fire Road Camping for Tahquitz Peak - South Rim

This campsite is one of a few areas near the base of the south rim of Tahquitz. If planning on doing an overnight in Idyllwild and want to skip the crowded campgrounds in town, as well as skip the permitting process for the popular Devil's Slide trail, then this is your spot. Just a few miles from the ranger station (you will still need to get a permit from there even if you are just hiking the south rim) there are a series of "yellow-post" camping sites that are quiet and free of charge. Along with being free, these sites need no reservations but are first come first serve and only 8 parties are allowed up on the road per night. For perspective, we stayed at this site in August and had the entire area to ourselves. The road to get up to the sites is an uneven dirt and rocky (very steep at times) road, but can be accomplished even with a smaller car. The road turns from dirt to pavement before turning to dirt again to the campsites and finally to the south rim trailhead.

If you are planning on camping like this then you probably already know what you're getting yourself into in regards to water and food/no amenities, but the road is very nice and the site we stayed at was at the end of a sort of dirt cul-de-sac overlooking the ridge. The ridge has plenty of flat (not rocky which was nice) ground for small tents, but also is interspersed with a very large rocky outcrop which makes cooking dinner and watching the sunset/sunrise just perfect. The only negative thing I can think of to mention for this site was the fact that is indeed very buggy at the campsites (and for the first 1/3 of the hike up to Tahquitz if that is what you're planning) so plan accordingly with spray. Campfires are not allowed because it is so dry, so keeping the bugs away can be challenging at times. There were some mosquitoes, but it is mostly gnats and flies that are seemingly endless as well as relentless at times. However, this absolutely shouldn't deter you from staying at this beautiful site.

Nice little spot outside Idyllwild

Hurkey Creek is a gated campground with a nice family vibe. There are plenty of tent and RV sites (over 100 sites) and the grounds are well kept and clean. The sites are relatively close together as one might expect from a typical campground, but the many tall trees interspersed provide a bit of privacy as well as shade. We only stayed one night but the grounds were only about 1/3 full and the atsmopehere was quiet. The staff at the gate were extremely friendly. Bathrooms and showers were available. We don't have any kids, but there is a playground on the premises that seemed like a popular family picnic/play area. Recommended for a nice family campground experience that is located just outside of Idyllwild.

Yellow post free camping

If you're looking for a quiet, more remote campsite while hiking the Idyllwild area then look no further. These "yellow post" sites are essentially boondocking in the forest off dirt fire service roads. The best part is that you don't need reservations and they're free. This particular site has 8 campsites which do have signs to mark the general area, although it is entirely up to you to where to set up camp in the general area. The roads leading up are uneven roughly graded dirt and gravel so be prepared for that, and the campsites are spaced out quite a bit between site 1 and sites 2-8. These sites are basic and no campfires are allowed. You will obviously have no amenities and need to pack in food and water and pack out all trash. We used the site to hike Thomas mountain.

Boondocking on fire roads in Kaibab National Forest

If you are looking to car camp/backpack and the campgrounds near Grand Canyon Village (south of south rim entrance) are full, or you simply want to camp on the cheap and without any neighbors, consider boondocking in the Kaibab National Forest. All of the area has fire roads (which you can look up/explore until you find the right spot that suits you) and you can basically just set up anywhere. The roads are dirt/gravel so expect some uneven rides, but all the ones that we drove on were extremely manageable. Fire service road 306 is where we spent the majority of nights, and even though it was close proximity to the Grand Canyon airport, it was extremely quiet and peaceful with elk walking past and coyotes howling in the distance. Obviously, no amenities exist, will need to bring plenty of water and food for the duration of the stay. The Fire service roads can be easily accessed by turning immediately off of route 180. The small herd of elk that passed by were very indifferent to us, but it should go without saying do not approach any wildlife if encountered while camping in the Kaibab forest.

Beautiful, an absolute must see. Campground itself could benefit from better practices.

First off, if you have never been to Havasupai, and hiked down into Havasu falls, I highly recommend it. There really is nothing quite like the desert oasis that it opens up to at the bottom of the canyon. With that said, and with the money that is paid for the "permitting" process, one does start to question some of the business practices and where that money is going to. There is also the issue of questionable animal ethics from the part of the native tribe that uses mules and horses to transport goods (and sometimes people) down into the canyon. To say the animals are treated anywhere near humanely would be kind, as anyone that has done this hike can attest to, and future visitors will soon see.

Just getting the ability to stay the night in the campground requires a permit which can be hard to come by because of the limited staff and phone lines available in the office at the bottom of the canyon. (FWIW, we were told that they limit the amount of people to 200 per night, but the most we saw in our 3 days there was maybe 100). Day hikes down the canyon into the town (which is not really possible to get to enjoy the falls unless you decide to hike out in the dark) is not allowed. The hike down takes you from an overcrowded parking lot atop the canyon hillside eventually into the "town" of Havasupai where you obtain your overnight camping permit. It should be noted that hikers need maintain the utmost vigilance for the baggage/supply trains of horses (which are sometimes running at full speed ahead of the handler) because they WILL trample you if you do not get out of the way. That might come off as a bit of an overreaction, but if you are on the descent or ascent of the canyon at the beginning/end of the hike the trail is narrow and one could easily be knocked off in the train is coming fast from behind. Once checked in with the office, it is another ~1-2 miles to get further down into the campground.

The campground itself is a long semi-narrow stretch that runs along the Havasu creek and has areas on both sides of the water (essentially you are in another canyon offshoot with real estate along the entire floor from wall to wall). Space is not assigned, and is on a first come basis, and prime sites fill up fast. The later you get down into the canyon the further back you will have to walk past other campers to claim your site. This can be a sort of tradeoff though, as there is only one water source (a monitored spring) in the camp, and it is located on the canyon wall near the front of the camp. I wouldn't recommend drinking water from the creek unless you have a serious water filter/chem drops because of all the campers/animals that have potentially polluted the water. The benefit of staying near the back of the camp was that most of the falls/hikes/places you will want to explore are past the campsites and will require hiking back past all of the available camping space anyway.

Again, there really are no camping "sites", so you can set up camp wherever you think is a good spot. There are some picnic benches in some areas, and there are a couple of composting toilets which is a nice bonus. You have to pack out your trash (and you will see that many don't - leaving fuel canisters, paper products, etc, behind). Campfires are not allowed, as one might expect. There are many squirrels present that will get into your packs and food if left unattended, but overall it was not buggy and the atmosphere is quiet and absolutely stunning. The hikes are very easy and you can explore all the way back to where the creek empties into the Colorado River.

Easy camping in central California

If planning a trip longer than just a day hike to the beautiful Pinnacles National Park, and since backpacking in not allowed in Pinnacles, the Pinnacles campground on the east entrance is a nice quiet place to spend a night. This campground is also a nice option to get an early start to a long hike the following morning. The campground is situated only accessible from the east side (this is important if you are coming in off the 101 on the west side of the park - you will need to make sure you plan your route properly or will end up on the wrong side of the park with the closest option Bittersweet Rd. (G13) to cut across and get to the east entrance. The campground itself was very clean, and while we used a small tent site, also offers RV sites. Sites are primarily close together but also had many trees which offered a little shade and semi-privacy feeling. Standard campground with picnic tables and metal fire pits, water located in multiple areas throughout including showers. There was also a pool located on the grounds but we did not use it.