Stayed for two nights last year and hoping to make it back this year. There is plenty of hiking. We found our way up to deadman’s lake about 1 mile south south east. A completely remote high mountain lake. It was a refreshing swim after a steep hike up.
Last year when I-5 was closed down due to the fires I had to take a detour and I was driving late at night and realized I wouldn’t make it to the next gas station along my route. I was stuck, nearly out of gas so I drove to Lake of the Woods resort and slept in the car from about 2am-5am, then walked the campground while I waited for the marina fuel pump to open. Very family friendly campground with looks like a popular lake for boaters. The staff at the store were very friendly and the coffee was delicious.
I was lucky enough to spend four nights here last winter. It was breezy and rained on and off. The walk in sites are secluded and this park has all the amenities including free showers. Dog friendly. I hear it gets very busy in the summertime. There are a few year round residents, and it’s fun to stroll through the RV section of the park, but also fun to go back into the trees and get away from it all.
I happened along this campsite on my way up to Fort Bragg. It’s a small Mendocino County run campsite with 9-10 sites, first come first served. In the summer the park fills up early on Fridays, but is pretty empty mid-week. This is my go to spot for winter camping. There are a few short .5 mile trails through the redwoods and if you don’t mind getting your feet wet you can wade down the creek to the Novarro river. There is a nice secluded swimming hole and the temps are warm enough to swim in mid April. There is a general store a mile down the road in the town of Philo that has a great selection of meat and seafood and there are countless wineries for wine tasting in the valley.
PROS: Camping under big giant redwoods. Swimming hole. Only 2 hrs from San Francisco. Dog friendly, must remain on the leash but allowed on trails and along the creek, which is not allowed at many local state parks. Excellent AT&T cell phone reception, 2-4 bars LTE. I’ve had the entire park to myself in February and March.
CONS: Trash bins often are overflowing. The bathrooms aren’t kept clean daily. No host, so the campsites are often left littered with trash.
This place is amazing. I’ve been five times since I discovered it late last year. This campground is about an hour’s drive to any kind of amenities or cell phone service. The road in is bumpy and there is a shallow creek that you will need to drive across, but I had no problems driving a 2wd Honda Fit compact car up. This park didn’t even open until late July this year due to all the snowfall. There is 1 vault toilet and an old-school hand pump for water, which isn’t always functioning so bring plenty of water. All of the sites are first come first served, each has a fire pit with grill plate, and a picnic table. No dumpsters for trash, pack it in and pack it out.
There is plenty of hiking, both steep and moderate. Folger peak trail can be very challenging due to all the loose shale. There is an equestrian trail that is more flat going the other direction which is less steep but still a very scenic hike. Ranchers bring their cattle up to graze during the summer months so you’ll hear their cowbells all day long. There is a weather station in the valley and it’s fairly accurate so you can get the forecast before you go, just google weather Highland Lakes. I would recommend a 4 season tent, even in the summer. On my last trip it was a little to cold for my taste so we drove back down the road and camped along the creek the last few nights.
It’s the last campground along hwy 4 with amenities and cell phone reception. A truly great spot but for these reasons alone it’s far too crowded for my tastes. Inspiration point trail is an easy hike with amazing views. Also a hike into Carson Iceberg wilderness into a majestic valley with old log cabins and free range cattle. Sadly this campground did not open until early July this year and will close after Labor Day weekend. There are still plenty of other camping options for late season if you continue up Highway 4 towards Ebbetts pass.