Ryan W.
San Diego, CA
Joined July 2016
Camper, Hiker, Eco-Restaurant Consultant
A River Runs Thru it (well, next to it anyway).

Just north of Sisters, OR, which is just north of Bend, Or, you'll find a series of small National Forest Campgrounds along the Metolius River. Instead of huge parks the Forest Service designed these little campgrounds so more people could appreciate the river without being overwhelmed in an RV park style camp that would feel out of place. THANK YOU FS!

This camp only has 10 sites. The reservable ones are, generally, reserved long weekends all summer long, but site 6 is first come, first serve. There are about 8+ (not exactly sure) similar campgrounds spread up and down the river that have a similar setup with with each having a few 1st come, 1st serve sites. It is a simple loop with a trash dump and pit toilets.

There is one couple who serves as the park hosts for all the campgrounds along this side of the river. They work hard but sometimes things aren't done quite as quickly as if there was a dedicated host. 

The true star here is the river itself. It rushes along the backside of camp, and directly along half the sites. There are little enclaves next to the river perfect for setting up a chair and knitting, or reading or drinking or napping or any other thing you can imagine. 

There is also a trail that runs along the rivers edge. Even if it is "your" campsite the trail is accessible to everyone. Take the trail 1 mile south and it takes you back to Camp Sherman. You'll never really leave civilization as there are campgrounds along the whole way, and a few house abutting the river near the general store. Take the trail north, and for a mile you'll be meandering thru other campgrounds on a dirt trail before a steep incline and then veering far inland around a private property before being routed back to the river (also down a steepish switchback). It's at this point the river turns into the incredible, almost glacial blue. Look down and you can see two distinct currents below. 4 miles away you come to a bridge and a fish hatchery where you can see fish being bred for sport, and feed the fish in the semi wild pond. If you're lucky and eagle or osprey will swoop down for a snack. #Nature

Amenities: 

  • Pit Toilets
  • Flat ground
  • River access
  • Fire pit
  • Beautiful night skies
  • Camp Sherman General Store

*Pro-Tip 1: If headed north thru Sisters, OR to get here during the summer months, plan for heavy, heavy traffic in Sisters if anywhere close to a weekend. There is only one way in or out of town, and the weekend warriors from Bend are here gassing up or getting last second supplies. Getting gas on a Sunday afternoon took almost an hour.

* Pro-Tip 1a: There is the Camp Sherman General Store 1 mile from camp. It DOES have a gas pump. It is only a few pennies more than in town. Good on them. They have any sort of supply you need from food to wine to fishing to coffee to wine to souvenirs to books to wine.

Last Chance Camp in Oregon.

Harris Beach is the last state park campground before you hit California heading south. It has all the amenities you need, along with a lot of people, rv's, kids, views of the ocean, a beautiful beach, some minor nature trails, and is right in town.

Hiker/Biker camp area is fenced off and a little separated from the rest of camp which is nice. REI sponsored storage boxes, USB charging stations, Bike Tools and Rack are available along with shared fire pits, picnic tables and scatter bike racks. The area is fairly open to other hiker/bikers but with shade and close to the ocean.

One of the biggest highlights of the camp amenities is that the showers DON'T HAVE TIMED PUSH BUTTONS! Meaning you have to push the button every 35 seconds to keep the water flowing. It is just a regular shower knob so you can stand there like a normal person. Makes a huge difference after a long day of riding or hiking. 

There is a lot of beach, and some minor nature trails leading down to it. There are some benches along the trails that make for great wine drinking spots. The main campground area is packed in mid-june even during the early part of the week. Lots of families, groups and RVS. Town is only a few blocks away so there seem to be quite a lot of people who make this a meet up for family reunions. Not really camping but a nice camp all the same. And despite it's location town there have been recent bear sightings so keep an eye out.

Amenities include: 

  • Hot Showers & Flush Toilets
  • Hiker/Biker storage boxes with USB Charging stations
  • Bike Tools & Racks
  • Fire pits, picnic tables and firewood available.
  • Full wifi/cellular service
  • Beach/Ocean Access

Oregon Hiker/Biker sites are $7-8

*Pro-Tip: Bring a nice camp pad. The ground in Hiker/Biker looks flat but is lumpy.

Great location, but watch your step.

Camp Humbug is, surprisingly, at the base of hill. Meaning if you are on a bike or on foot you won't have to climb it to end your day. You'll just have to do it in the morning. The views on the way in are some of the best along the coast. Slate grey sand, rivers weaving out of the hills and large rock formations along the water's edge. 

Hiker/Biker Camp is between the first and second loop. The camp itself is long and shaped like the letter "C" if the c had been pancaked a bit. Hiker/Biker is on the hillside of the camp road working its way up. The very first site on the right is where I camped because it was the flattest of the H/B sites. Most were on an incline. There was also a picnic table but I can't be sure there was a fire pit. Most of the sites had a lot of privacy and shade cover. There was a drainage creek running near by, and accessible water not far. The first loop was closer and had new flush bathrooms with outlets and individual showers. There were not any charging stations or storage boxes. I didn't take any photos of that site. More on that later.

The main camp area is nice with an entry loop, and then another larger loop closer to the beach. There is a short trail running along a river out the West end of camp to the beach and ocean. It runs underneath a beautiful bridge that is the Coast HWY above. There isn't a lot of privacy in the RV/Tent sites, and there is a playground for kids and a big field to play in on that West loop. There is also some phone service in the loop closer to the road which isn't the case in most of the surrounding area.

Along the north side of camp is Fern Trail which is an old portion of the original HWY 101 that has decommissioned, and also a connecting piece of the Oregon Coastal Trail. The entrance is just to the side of the camp entry. The trail climbs and drops at a leisurely pace before connecting with the coastal highway about three miles north. If you were riding a bicycle with a hybrid or thicker tire you could traverse it easily which I wish I would have done coming in.

On my way back to camp I saw my first snake of the summer. I do not like snakes. I do not like them at all. And despite spending quite a bit of time in nature I had not seen one in a long time. This one was a bit further away, moving away from me and small. I took a deep breath, held my big walking stick a little tighter and made it past. I survived. I stopped by the park ranger and asked about poisonous snakes in the area but she assured me there wasn't any to really worry, and that seeing snakes was fairly rare in the camp.

I went back out towards the beach to take a breathe, and enjoy the sunset. Then as I was just about underneath the aforementioned bridge another snake, much, much bigger sloughed it's way off the trail just under my foot. I shouted and scared my Wife with whom I was on the phone. The second snake rattled me. I went back to my tent and spent the next 12 hours inside until it was light out, and dry enough out the next morning to pack up and leave. That is why I took no more photos of the camp or its amenities. I saw two more snakes on the road (crushed by cars) on my way out of the camp. That ranger was full of it!

Amenities include: 

  • Flush toilets and free hot showers
  • Trail access
  • Kids playground and meadow
  • Firewood
  • Beach/Ocean Access

*Pro-Tip: This camp is a great jumping off point to explore the natural areas around you. There is a very, very vertical climb up Humbug Mountain that leaves from just across the camp entrance.

Cliffside among the tall pines.

I visited Cape Blanco twice this summer. Once in early June, and again in late July. Early June was definitely greener, lusher, more beautiful with wildflowers, but this place won't disappoint late in the summer either.

One of my favorite campgrounds of the summer (and that is saying a lot as I camped in about 25 different places). Cape Blanco is on top of a cliff and very wooded. It is small-ish with less than 20 sites for cars/rvs/tents, several ocean view yurts/cabins, a completely separate Hiker/Biker area off in the woods and an equestrian camp nearby. They don't accept reservations so this is a great place to luck into or make a destination if you're winging it (as always no res needed for hiker/biker).

Hiker/Biker was really off on it's own and very private. There was an REI sponsored storage box station complete with USB charging ports, bike stand, tools, shared fire pit and picnic table. Each "site" which are just unnumbered clearings had its own bike rack near by, and despite being completely separate it was only a short walk to a flush toilet and bathroom. Though at night that walk was very, very dark as you had to walk through the trees. This is a very shaded campground.

The Coastal Trail runs through camp and you can follow it North for a half mile through the trees while listening to the ocean waves. You'll pop out into a meadow of wild flowers and tall grasses (early in the summer) overlooking the ocean and out towards the Cape Blanco lighthouse. There is a bench there. I strongly recommend picking up a cheap bottle of red wine, and spending the better part of an afternoon on this bench looking out at the rocks waiting for the occasional thought to float by.

The ride into Cape Blanco is also beautiful with a river winding it's way out to the sea, a tourist stop at the Hughes House and a stop at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. As a hiker/biker you'll be traveling up a large hill to get up to the top. Don't let the elevation scare you off. It isn't as hard as you think with plenty of pull-offs and views to distract you.

Amenities include: 

  • Storage boxes with USB Chargers
  • Flush Toilets and Hot Showers
  • Fire Pits and Picnic Tables
  • Bike Tools, Bike Stand and racks
  • Nature/Coastal Trail
  • Yurt/Cabin camps
So...Whales live in the Bay and everything else doesn't matter.

Bullards Beach State Park, just north of Bandon, OR, is another massive RV parking lot. And if that is the kind of camping you do, you'll love it. If you tent camp, probably not so much.

But…a pod of Orca Whales lives year round in the Bandon Bay which is walkable out of the camp which makes the reality of the park irrelevant. A POD OF ORCAS!

There are actually three known pods but two of them migrate for a big part of the year. However, the third has learned that the bay is a great place to feed. The odds aren't always in your favor to see them so close  in the bay (one local told me he hadn't seen them in four years), but sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you get into a staring contest with a California Grey Seal while sitting near the lighthouse on a melancholy afternoon, and when he or she decided the game is up you turn around and see five of the biggest fins you've ever seen. You may think to yourself, "Wow, those are some big f@#king dolphins!" before you realize what you are seeing.

The campground has all the amenities. Hiker/Biker sites have REI sponsored storage boxes with USB charging station. There are hot showers, and a Welcome Yurt with donation based hot coffee and tea until 8pm.

Wildlife is abundant. Despite it's location near town there are regular bear sightings. Birds flit about, and some of those birds may be gnats and mosquitos that have just taken steroids. There are also red ants, which considering how sandy the ground is are good to look for before pitching camp.

The Hiker/Biker area has shared fire pits and picnic tables, shade cover and no established sites. The main campground area is big, and some loops are literally just fields. Stick to the outside of a loop if you want a tree in your site.

The campground is fine. It's fine. It will be fine. And none of that matters because you could see a whale. The opportunity to see a whale takes this from a three star to a 4 star. Plus nearby Bandon has a great coffeeshop, some cool art, and the beginning of the glorious Oregon Coast starts getting even bigger, and even beautiful-er.

Amenities include: 

  • Hot Showers & Flush Toilets.
  • Welcome Station with hot coffee/tea
  • Storage Boxes & USB charging stations (Hiker/Biker)
  • Bike Racks
  • Kids playground, Adults playground with "bags" or "cornhole" depending on your region.
  • Active ranger programming with a nightly class, Saturday/Sunday group bike rides and organized hikes.

*Pro-Tip 1: Bandon Coffee has good coffee, and a great staff who will make you feel at home.

**Pro-Tip 2: There is a lighthouse out by the beach/dunes. It looks like a lighthouse.

***Pro-Tip 3: Plan to spend some time wandering the coast on the Bandon side of the bay. That first three miles of coastline is beautiful and has numerous spots to have a picnic lunch.

At the top of the hill. Small and overlooked.

Umpqua Lighthouse Campground is on top of a hill, which would make sense since there is a lighthouse there. If you are hiking and biking you may not want to make the effort choosing to stay at the bottom of the hill at the crappy RV/Tent camp in the wind or just keep going in either direction to a campground on more level ground, but that would be a mistake. Make it up to the top, and you'll be rewarded with an out of the way, minimally populated camp tucked into the trees just past the lighthouse, and with trails, wildlife and brand new bathrooms and showers.

The Hiker/Biker Camp is just past the entry to the camp, down the trail towards Lake Marie. It has three different areas leveled off with shared storage boxes, fire pits and picnic tables. Each little clear is open to itself but nicely private to the other clearings so if you're traveling with a small group you can take over a whole area if you choose. Unlike most of the other Oregon State Park campgrounds there were not REI branded charging stations or bike tools, but the camp hosts let us plug into their outlets as needed.

They were just finishing the building of brand new bathroom/shower facilities while I was there, but even the portable set up they had was one of the nicest ones I've seen in a campground. Deer were wandering about, and there was plenty of bird watching. 

The main campground area was divided into a loop and straight line stretch. Sites varied from open with privacy trees to entirely shaded. Despite it being a weekend during the summer the camp wasn't full, and it was easy for travelers to pull in and grab a spot.

Walk down the hill to the Lake Marie Trail for a quiet trip around the small lake. A few benches were found along the lake making great opportunities for relaxed reflection or a glass of wine. Shooting off from the LMT were trails out to the Umpqua Bay and the ocean side beaches.

Amenities include:

  • New Bathrooms & Showers
  • Fire pits & Picnic Tables
  • Trails
  • Storage Boxes
  • Firewood for sale.

Oregon State Park Hiker/Biker sites cost $7-8 

*Pro-Tip: There is a really windy, less cool campground at the bottom of the hill near the entry to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. Go up the hill. It will be worth it. Even if you've been hiking or riding all day. It is better.

The people make or break this place.

I camped here twice this year. Once in June in the Hiker/Biker area, and again in July in a regular site. The experiences couldn't have been more different.

Hiker/Biker is fairly segregated from the rest of camp. The access point is actually before the entry to the main campground itself. My first visit left me surprised at the beauty of the camp. It feels like it is in the wilderness despite being less than a few miles from Florence's cool Old Towne.

The trees here are big, and the ground cover lush with ferns. The trails are canopied by Rhododendrons. Nature paths lead off to Cleawox and Woahink lakes. Sand dunes abut the west side of camp. They seem endless, and otherworldly. At Cleawox Lake day use area there are paddleboats, boards and water toys for rent by the day or hour. Sand boards are available from a temporary space set up in the day use parking area. 

On my first visit the entry Ranger station was closed but the Welcome Yurt was open. Maps, advice, firewood, a lending library was available. 

Honeyman Camp is huge. When I was there in early June it made for a lovely exploration, and seemingly great spaces between campers. In late July the vibe had completely changed. Each of the several hundred spaces was occupied by a seemingly large family with 5 kids to every adult, or 25 belligerently drunk RV campers who felt the need to blast Fleetwood Mac. 

That second visit, in the main campground, made it very clear that your experience here will depend on the quality of people choosing to stay in the same park. All the amenities were the same, but despite it's size, a campsite with stereo speakers set to full boar are hard to ignore even when you're on the other side of camp. Now multiply that by several campsites per loop.

One thing of note: Each campsite is issued a set of rules, including "Quiet Hours". Unlike some other sites in which hosts ignored those rules in an attempt to avoid confrontation the hosts here were on top of it. For as obnoxious as the camp was at 9:45pm, by 10:15 it was silent, and we were able to enjoy the remains of a campfire and view of the stars in the slight clearing between trees.

Amenities include: 

  • Flush Toilets
  • Hot Showers (free and some without having to keep pushing a button!)
  • Picnic tables & Fire pits
  • Welcome yurt
  • Kids playground
  • Access to lakes and dunes (Bear sitings on the path to Woahink Lake in July)
  • Nature Trail

*Pro-Tip: Stop in Old Towne Florence and buy some fresh fish or get a coffee at the local roaster.

Convenience, Rogue, Sand and Trees...also a campground.

The South Beach State Park Campground is at the mouth of the Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon. The first thing you'll notice is the wind on the way in. Generally, north to south in the summers, the wind is strong, always strong, like 30 mph or more pretty much all the times according to the locals. It felt like it was raining, but it was just water being blown off the ocean. However, once you're in the campground you don't notice it at all since it is well protected by surrounding dunes and tree line.

There is a Tim Burton-esque trail system surrounding the camp leading out in all directions to the beach and bay. Some trails are blacktopped, some sand, and some horse accessible. Google maps struggled to get me to the correct entrance so pay a little more attention when arriving.

My visit was during Oregon Parks day so camping was free. The Hiker/Biker area is just inside the camp entrance across from the hospitality yurt where you can get hot tea, coffee, ice cream, wood bundles, stickers and Oregon Parks merchandise. The camping (all of it) area itself is pretty open with minimal privacy or separation from your neighbors, but everything is very clean and organized. 

The campground was packed, and the RV/Tent area was essentially a parking lot. It seemed like a lot of families to come to the same place, the same weekend every year. However, it was a well regulated, and well behaved campground. The nice thing about this campground is the location. There are hiking trails, beach access, and it is close to all the amenities of Newport. Once you left the camp on a trail you could wander the trees without seeing anyone for awhile if you needed to get away.

Hiker/biker area had faux fencing built up to separate sites and wood platforms to get tents off the ground which I haven't seen in any other hiker/biker camps. The fences were a bit weird but made it easy to lock up a bike, hang some laundry and would a good stop if I were traveling with a hammock.

Amenities include:

  • Camp Store
  • Storage box with usb charging station
  • Raised wood platforms for tents
  • Flush toilets
  • Hot free showers
  • Access to beach & trails
  • Walking distance to Rogue Brewery, Yaquina Bay State Park, South Beach State Park, 
  • Bike Stand and tools
  • Fire pit and picnic tables

Pro-Tip: In Newport, just across Yaquina Bay, is the Newport Bike Shop. It is one of the few bike repair shops along the coastal Oregon Route. If you get a $35 bike tune up you can take a break in their upstairs lounge with tv, wifi, fridge with beverages, and washer/dryer.

Welcome to Partytown.

Devil's Lake State Park Rec Area Campground (it's a mouthful) is right on the edge of town. That is convenient if you're trying to access things in town. It really sucks if you're trying to actual "camp". This is a party spot for local ruffians, and an RV parking lot for people who want to get away without losing any sort of amenities whatsoever.

The Hiker/Biker area is just a little patch of grass on a hill just inside the entrance to the left. The hill makes it hard to find any flat ground for a tent, and you are adjacent to a road to the north and a single family home to the east. The coast highway is a block to your west. Basically, it is a lawn. 

There is lake access but the lake is more of a pond. Ocean access is across the highway about 15 minute walk. You can also just walk into town for a beer if you want. Being so close to town makes it an easy place for people to go and get rowdy too. 

The camp hosts here have given up on enforcing any sort of rules in the park. There were people openly doing drugs. The site across from the host had a keg and set up speakers blasting some terrible classic rock. On a trip the the bathroom I saw the camp host looking out the window at the loudest site in camp, and then just pull his shade in the RV down. And not even joking, at one point a group (college age?) woke me up with shouting as they cheered on their friend who was getting laid in the tent. Another group was doing night skateboarding through the park in loops.

However, if you're just passing through you'll have everything you need to get through the night here including a hot shower, bike tools, and charging station. 

I gave this place two stars because the amenities are there. If based on my experience alone it would be zero, but I am sure there are days when it is fine.

Amenities: 

  • free hot showers
  • storage boxes with USB charging stations for phones and lights
  • Picnic Tables
  • bike racks
  • bike repair station
  • flush toilets
  • Wetlands nature trail
  • lending library

Oregon Hiker/Biker Camps are $7-8 (this one is $8)

Pro-Tip: If you're heading south stop at Big Mountain Coffee Roastery. It is decent, a little kitschy, and has AC/Wifi. Plus it is a very small, local business to support.

Cape Lookout for the Hiker/Biker win.

In May/June I rode a bicycle down the coast of Oregon. Cape Lookout was the first hiker/biker camp I stayed at after leaving Portland, and it set the standard by which all other camps would be judged.

The area around camp is fairly rural until you crest Whiskey Creek Road (heading south). Neterts Bay spreads out in the distance, along with a dense pine forest. The road in is smooth and blacktopped. The trip in will overwhlm the senses with the lushness of all the green (in the spring), the freshness of the fragrances and the always magic of the Pacific.

Camp itself splits in two parts. RVs, Car Campers and Tents on the north side. Hiker/Bikers on south. They are connected by both beach, trail and a blacktop road to a day use area. 

The north side is nice but fairly packed in. You better like your neighbor. There are also yurts and cabins available on this side. The cabins looked more appealing being a little separated at the foot of the North Trail. I camped on the south side so this review primarily reflects that space.

The hiker/biker site was flipping awesome. A dozen plus sites tucked under giant trees but close enough to ocean to view it through the trees, and listen to the crashing waves at night. The sites were close to each other but the ground growth including ferns reaching over my head made for a fairly private camping experiences.

Also, awesome amenities. After a long day of riding (or hiking) Cape Lookout offered: 

  • free hot showers (on the north side)
  • storage boxes with USB charging stations for phones and lights
  • Fire Pits
  • Picnic Tables
  • hiking right out of camp (Birding!)
  • bike racks

There was also plenty of firewood lying around, as well as bundles available at the entry. There are plenty of hiking trails leading out both sides of the camp, and you can go for over 3 miles along the beach out of camp towards the Neterts Bay Peninisula.

Oregon Hiker Biker Sites are $7-8.

*Pro-Tip: If you are headed south on foot or bicycle there is an 875' climb immediately leaving camp. It is a beast. Fairly vertical. There is a lookout point about halfway up you'll run into plenty of others who need a break.

It's the beach and only the beach that will bring you here.

There is one reason and one reason only to stay at South Carlsbad Campground, and that is Carlsbad State Beach. It's a pretty convincing reason. The sand is perfect. The waves consistent. The water warmer than normal (which probably isn't a good thing in the long run, but it feels like the Caribbean Sea right now.

The actual campground is huge and narrow with one road splitting the sites down the middle. All the sites are roughly the same with the major differences being depth and the amount of shade. The ocean side sites are premium priced ($50 during peak season) and the road side is more affordable ($35) but still pricey for a campsite. Especially one that has no privacy and is backed up against a highway. The Pacific Coast Highway but still. Sites are on sand, have a picnic table and a fire pit…and that's about it. If you're lucky, we weren't, you'll have some shade or privacy to one direction or another. Not many sites do so google earth it if you can. There are pay showers, flush toilets and a camp store with booze, ice cream bars and flip-flops if you forget yours.

And it's busy…all the time. Most sites are booked in advance most of the peak seasons and the camp also acts as the access point for locals and tourists accessing big portions of the beach. With nearly 200 sites and additional traffic be prepared for sand always being kicked up, kids wandering aimlessly and noise from generators, partiers and traffic.

That all sounds not so great, but the location of the camp on the cliffs overlooking the beach is still pretty great. It's not Big Sur, but it if you're looking for beach you won't find a finer spot to camp just about anywhere in SoCal. San Elijo Campground down the road is a smaller version of Carlsbad SB but is also hard to get a spot in without reservations.

Overall, I'm giving Carlsbad SB Campground 2 1/2 Tent Stakes of Awesomeness. It isn't wilderness, but it is the beach. The location makes it worth it. Car, RV or Van camping is more fun that tent camping just because of all the sand, and to cut down on noise, and surf spots within walking distance. 

Pro-Tip #1: California has its own reservation site now. reservecalifornia.com. You can still see the basics on reserveamerica but can't actually reserve it. The new reservecali site is kind of a dick.

Pro-Tip #2: The far south end of the camp has the most shade/privacy brush, and only has sites on the ocean side so you'll have far more privacy.

Pro-Tip #3: Google Earth your site. The difference between sites next to each other is big when you're talking about any versus zero shade.

Pro-Tip #4: Pizza Port Brewing for pizza and beer. You'll be glad you did.

Howard's Gulch Campground in Modoc National Forest

Howards Gulch Campground • Modoc National Forest • $12

Northern California • Basin & Range Birding Trail 15 Northeastern location

Just past a hundred miles of farmfield coming from the North we enter the Modoc National Forest, and turn left against our GPS’ wishes into Howard’s Gulch Campground (Forest Service). Pay attention to the signs. It's analog but it's right. It’s a small, primitive camp in Northern California with 12 sites. Two which are walk in only and none which are for large RV’s. The fee is $12 which is significantly more than the next campground down the road which is free, but the consistency of the Forest Service sites makes it worth it. 

The trees are tall and red, and according to a conveniently placed sign, coniferous. There are also signs indicating common birds of the area and their habitats, along with a 1.5 mile trail built by the U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and the California Department of Corrections. The trail has been dedicated “for your hiking pleasure…” This campground is also part of the Basin & Range Birding Trail system of Northern California and Southern Oregon.

Like all forest service campgrounds there is a fire pit and a picnic table in each site. Most of the sites are spaced relatively privately, but since you’re in the middle of nowhere you’ll probably be sharing the camp with one, maybe two other campers. In addition, some sites have a stand alone charcoal grilling set-ups.

Trails like this one lead right from camp. Bring your binoculars.

There are plenty of water taps. At least five, but since it isn’t potable there isn’t really much benefit. Since the water is being “treated with chemicals” I wouldn’t even recommend boiling it for use leaving it for the dousing of fires, but the camp is under no-burn restrictions. Rightfully so, considering the summer California has had so far.

Toilets are standard vaults, but there are three of them for 12 sites. Two of which are recent new builds. Being low in the gulch you’re surrounded by walls on three sides to the outer side of the camp loop. The inner loop still backs up to a cliff wall for an unusually located tall mound…and OHMYGOD MY WIFE JUST CHOPPED HER THUMB! SHIT! SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!

The reason to camp here is…you’re on your way somewhere else most likely. Coming from Oregon to Yosemite or Tahoe or vice versa. But if you do you won’t be disappointed and if you like birds you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The nearest town is at least 20+ miles if you need anything so come prepared. My Wife's thumb is fine by the way. Despite a serious scare at the time. She field dressed it like a boss using our first aid kit (which we've since upgraded). She'll have a reminder scar, but her badass level went up like a million points. I give Howard’s Gulch 3 Tent Stakes of Awesomeness for being a solid campground with nice sites and trails leaving right from camp but not much else going on. Also, there is no indication of who Howard is. I certainly didn't meet him.

Pro-Tip #1: Prepare for summer heat. You aren’t at elevation here.

Pro-Tip #2: Bring binoculars.

Pro-Tip #3: Bring water and anything else you might need. No place near by to get anything.

Oh Ridge Campground • June Lake, Inyo National Forest

Oh Ridge Campground • June Lake, Inyo National Forest • Site 147 - Gull Loop.

Fees Vary

If there is full 4g wifi available is it really camping? Is something you’ll have to ask yourself when you pull off June Lake’s South Loop entrance to Oh Ridge Campground. Oh Ridge is a site you come to for one reason one reason only, June Lake. As blue as any Caribbean Sea and as crystal clear as water melting directly off a glacier this lake is beautiful. Surrounded by snowcapped Eastern Sierra Mountain peaks and a half dozen campgrounds June Lake is a popular spot for families and random travelers who spot it on the map. This is the kind of place a reservation goes a long way since they rarely have openings during the summer. That said, even if the sign says “Campground Full” stop and ask. They may just have one site left stashed away somewhere for you.

The camp has flush toilets and there is a camp store just outside the gates with survival amenities like ice cream bars, souvenir straw hats, maps, beer and pay showers. Each site comes equipped with a grill, fire ring with grate, bear box, patio table (in varying shades of disrepair) and flat to nearly vertical spot for your car, rv or tent. Every several sites has a wind shield wall. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to their placement, but if you can get one it sure comes in handy. The winds come in over the mountain range to your west in the early afternoon and get gusty.

Your views from your site will vary. You’ll partially see rocky mountain peaks in the distance and forested areas to the left and right. Scrub brush and green going up the hill behind you block any views of the road or highway. More immediately you’ll be looking directly at your neighbors SUV or RV or Tent or dog. There is little to zero separation. This isn’t a wilderness retreat.

But it is a great camp in the vacation with the family sort of way. The June Lake swimming area is nestled in the camp. There are kayaks and paddle boards to rent and the sun and scenery is incredible. For a week with your kids (if you have them) or a night passing through on a roadtrip this is a great spot. It is also within a half hour of the Eastern Yosemite Entrance at Tioga Pass making it a good location for exploring this side of Yosemite without risking not getting a site closer or in the park itself.

If you’re looking to interact with nature a little more privately and with a few less noisy plague infected chipmunks this might not be the place.

Oh Ridge gets 2 3/4 Tent Stakes of Awesomeness for location and incredible lake. It gets docked for privacy, wind and worn out sites. But really, location and lake will win out 4 out of 5 times.

Pro-Tip #1: Bring your tent down to the lake and set it up. It will help with the wind and the sun. Just be sure to stake it down.

Pro-Tip #2: Car or Van camping works well here because the ground isn’t great for tents. Rock and sand with a slant.

Pro-Tip #3: The back sites, Owl & Deer Loop, have better views but almost zero shade. Not worth it.

This review is also available on the One Wild Life Field Journal.

Fallen Leaf Campground at Fallen Leaf Lake, South Lake Tahoe

Fallen Leaf Campground • South Lake Tahoe

$34.50 - 36.50 • Sites 078, 156

Pulling into Tahoe via Stateline, Nevada is like pulling into a Las Vegas/Up North baby. Casinos and resorts turn into camps and fudge shops. From the East you’ll pass thru all of that, past the Camp Richardson and finally turn away from Lake Tahoe into Fallen Leaf Campground. If you’re going to camp in Tahoe you’ve made the right decision. Fallen Leaf Lake is at the rear of the camp. While smaller and not as well known it is also not overly trafficked, crystal clear and surrounded by hiking paths along the water.

Fallen Leaf Campground is a massive 206+ site compound complete with its own store, shower houses and if you travel past the camp all the way to the other side of the lake (and other campgrounds) an ice cream shop. That said, Fallen Leaf Campground does a great job of keeping an “out in the woods” vibe. It is absolutely that place that families go year after year after year, but if you can get a site on the outer loop you can still have some separation, plenty of trees and with the lake so close, feel like you’re in the heart of nature. One of the better jobs by a large scale campground I’ve experienced.

But be prepared. It’s going to be full of kids and dogs and campers who are not necessarily out there to experience nature but to see family and friends and likely drink a caseload of Bud Light a day. There may also be bears. Bears are everywhere here. Or so we heard. We never saw one, but the camp staff and campers around us all had bear stories that "just happened yesterday! or last week! or in 1950!" Basically, bears. There are bear boxes at each site, and kids everywhere you probably won't be a bears first target. Just be bear aware. Across the main road from the campground is the mighty Lake Tahoe. It was okay. Lots of people, lots of choppy waves. We preferred setting up the hammock by Fallen Leaf Lake.

The showers were nice but pricey. Four U.S. Quarters for 3 minutes. You can get done what you want but no more. There are about four per loop (give or take 25 sites) but we never had a problem finding one open. There are no outlets for charging or bathroom appliances though. The older bathrooms along the inner loop are dated and worn but have accessible outlets if you need some juice. The toilets everywhere are flush and each loop has at least one camp host staying on it. The staffers were friendly, helpful and accessible.

The outer loop is where you want to be if you are looking for any privacy or traveling alone. The inner loop, with its lack of privacy, was the spot for large groups. On our second night we stayed in the inner loop and our neighbors had booked 19 sites for incoming family and friends. It’s tough being in the middle of that when you weren’t planning on joining a new family. The outer loop sites are mostly well shaded and have a lot more privacy, as well as lake accessibility if you are in the back row which I’d recommend. At $34.50 you want the best spots. It also forced me to ask myself, “How much is too much for a campsite?”

Fallen Leaf Lake Campground gets 3 Tent Stakes of Awesomeness. In Tahoe, you’ll never escape the crowds or tourists, but Fallen Leaf Lake Campground does a good job of insulating you somewhat from that while maintaining a nice campground on the edge of a lovely lake. No blasphemy intended but I’d spend the day at Fallen Leaf Lake over Lake Tahoe any day.

Pro-Tip #1: Site 078-079 are massive pull-thru sites but great if you’re tent camping. More private, well shaded and closest to the lake and free downed firewood.

Pro-Tip #2: Site 156 sucks. Unless you want to look at stars. No shade or privacy. A long way from any shower/bath house and electric wires running above you.

Pro-Tip #3: Firewood is readily available downed by the lake or on trails if you’re willing to put in five minutes of effort. 

Pro-Tip #4: The Baldwin ruins aren’t worth it, but the walk around the lake or along the Morraine Trail is.

Pro-Tip #5: There is a decent wind that starts early to mid-afternoon coming in against the shore over the lake. It is blocked to the camp, but mornings are the best time for lake time. Mornings are glassy on the lake for paddle boarding and kayaking as well, but choppier in the afternoon.

REVIEW: DENNYS CREEK CAMPGROUND IN SNOQUALMIE NATIONAL FOREST

Denny Creek Campground • Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

Standard Tent to RV Sites - $20-32.00

Group Sites - $84

When you pull off HWY 90 into Snoqualmie Pass you’re going to be tempted to stop at Dru Bru Brewing just off the exit on your left. We understand the desire, but look temptation in the eye and keep moving forward. You’ve got a sixer in the cooler and just three miles ahead is Denny Creek Campground.

We’d almost never advise against stopping at a local brewery, but if you haven’t made a reservation you’ll want to keep moving (if you have then by all means…). Denny Creek fills up most days. Even on the Monday we were passing through only 3 of the 33 spots remained available and there was a car in front of us, and another behind us. Passing through all two blocks of civilization and the new condo construction you’ll pull up onto a road that is nearly 100% jackknife switchbacks. At first you’ll be exposed with wild flowers on both sides, but by the third turn you’re completely emerged in Snoqualmie National Forest with moss covered pines and the glimpse of a river in the distance. You’ll pass dozens of cars pulled off at hiking trailheads for access to the PCT, and even an established parking area for day-use hikers. This is a heavily trafficked corner of the forest a mere 45 minutes from downtown Seattle.

Denny Creek Campground is overseen by Camp hosts, Mitch and his lovely Wife (whose name we never got). They run a tight ship, well-oiled, clean and efficient. They have been hosting here for seven years, and by golly, we don’t think we’ve ever seen a cleaner camp bathroom or had a friendlier chat with a host. They even took time out of their busy schedule to deliver our firewood to us. Fine people to have representing the outdoors.

On our visit sites 14, 16 and 33 were open. The car in front of us passed on 14 so we snagged it. It was okay. Shaded and near the flush toilets. As we hustled to get our payment up to the entry box we passed site 16. Looking at it from the paved camp loop road it looked a little bit like heaven. A pull in for your vehicle with a little pathway back to the site which was nearly 100% private and within seeing and hearing distance of the creek. I stood in the entry, scribbling the new number onto our pay stub and holding the spot while the Wife sprinted to get the car before the lollygaggers behind us caught up and stole it.

When we spoke to our hosts they said, “You got 16? That’s the best one!” And, “Since we opened 6 weeks ago this site has never not been reserved.” We’re calling it road trip luck and saying our thanks. The sites all have the standard picnic table and fire ring, but the fire ring is only partially a manufactured grate with the other part a rock ring. The rocks collected from the river nearby giving it a more nature feel to it, and a downed tree log for seating. There was a enough branches to used for kindling and a burst of flame every now and again, but bringing or buying a bundle of firewood is recommended. No guarantee on downed wood on the inner circles. Bundles run $6.00 from Mitch at the entrance. Our picnic table had cut flowers in a recycled pop bottle from our hosts, and there was a leveled pad for our tent. One of the best functionally designed campsites we’ve ever had.

And all that was just the basics. The river runs past camp making for a lovely gurgling sonnet to fall asleep too, and from our site you could walk out into the middle of the river on downed trees looking up at a mountain on one side and pines on the other.

Besides a great place to sleep, this area is extremely popular for hikers. In addition, to the PCT access points there were multiple hiking trails leaving directly from camp. We took the Franklin Falls trail, a well-groomed trail upstream culminating in the Franklin Falls which isn’t just a view point, but you can actually walk out to it (or shower if you so choose). Just be sure to pick up after yourself. It was disappointing to see trash left behind. We took the Wagon Wheel trail back to camp through the old growth forest. It crossed two paved roadways. Totally hike distance for both was just over three miles and we despite the popularity of the area we didn’t see more than two sets of other hikers the entire time with a departure time of 8:30AM-ish.

The only really con of the camp was at night when most were quiet the occasional semi-truck passing on the highway would interrupt the sound of crackling fire and silence. Despite feeling like you’re deep in the woods and the twisty road in you never really get too far from the interstate. It was easy to overlook for the scenery and experience of Denny Creek Camp which we give 3.5 Tent Stakes of Awesomeness. One of our top scores so far, and favorite memories of our recent road trip.

Pro-Tip #1: Sites 15 & 16. Oh yeah. Those two. If not, watch for group campsites near you. They are open and it is a popular spot for large roving bands of weekend camping children. 

Pro-Tip #2: Reservations recommended. Even during the week.

Big Trees. Big Crowds.

IMPORTANT recreation.gov and reserveamerica.com both list this campground as having water. That is NOT TRUE. There are no water fill up sites. There are also NO BEAR BOXES despite claims otherwise and the requirement that food be kept in them. Bears do frequent the area and are know to be numerous within a mile of camp.

**

Do you like shopping at REI’s parking lot sale? You might love Redwood Meadow Campground in Sequoia National Park. At 6500 feet of elevation and 40 miles from the nearest convenience store it should be far enough out there to minimize the crowds. However, it is located directly across from the trailhead to the Trail of 100 Giants, a 1/2 mile walking tour of some of the biggest trees Sequoia has to offer. Let me be clear, this is not a hiking trail. This is a tourist stop. You’ve been warned. And with a name as cool as “Trail of 100 Giants” plenty of people who are outdoorsy just enough will make the trip. I know what you’re thinking, “Why all this trail talk? Isn’t this a campground review?”

Yes, it is. But the campground and the trail’s proximity have intertwined their destinies. If you are lucky enough to get one of the 13 camp sites, a combination of tent, van or yurt, you’ll be able to step across the road and have your morning coffee on a bench looking up at a maze of overturned sequoia roots shading a gurgling brook, or up at a tree so tall and so wide it is hard to fathom. You’ll also be dealing with the literally, 1000s of tourists who have come to see the trail over a three day weekend (strong recommend for a middle of the week site. Those tourists will have cars that overflow the parking lot, they will use your camp’s vault toilets, and they will continually be stepping out at random into the road or stopping abruptly on the the trail. They will impact your campsite experience. In fact, the camp is currently constructing a yurt general store to provide additional amenities to trail and camp visitors.

The campground consists of an outer and inner ring. The inner ring sites ate all decent size but lack any semblance of privacy. They are pretty much open to each other, but with plenty of tall ass trees providing some shad and blocking a bit of line of sight. Sorry neighbor trying to see around that tree while we tested our new camp shower. The effects of recent forest fire are evident everywhere. In our site (005) There where large piles of ash and charred stumps remain. A year ago fire ravaged areas nearby and this location was only nicked by blaze but the effects are lasting. It makes for a dusty overall camp. Prep for a good vehicle wash afterwards.

The outer ring is where it’s at. Particularly, along the West side of the camp where the river runs behind the sites, and the tree cover is a little thicker. The sites here (particularly 004, 006, 008) are far away and down hill from the roadway. They looked pretty idyllic and we were a bit envious that we didn’t have access to the river.

In the evenings the trail visitors had gone back to where they came from and our small park was left with a smattering of campfires, the sounds of the river and the dark shadows of towering trees between which stars sparkled and parts of constellations teased. Those evening fires were aided by the plentiful amount of dry wood on the ground with a hatchet, like the kick-ass one from CRTK we excited to try out for the first time, you could easily put together enough wood for your visit. We had brought some but took advantage of the dry brush for starter and to keep things going when we were running low. 

This summer Nick and Katylyn from Jersey are the hosts. They are only a few days on the job but handling the crowds like pros. They have plenty of helpful tips (Nick has been here before) and were more than helpful. Even with the crowds they were on the ball with the pit toilets, site maintaining etc.

At the Trail of Giants the Sequoia’s all seem to have faces, and histories so long you can feel the a dignified weight settle in the stiller moments of the early morning when the masses have not yet awoken from their slumbers or the evening when their whiskeys are being poured. Those moments make a visit to this camp more than worthwhile. And during the day when they trail is filled past capacity you merely need to head a few miles in any direction and pull off at a forest road or trailhead that is completely free of visitors on even the busiest days to experience the park as a wilder, free place than we can find most of the time in our day to day lives.

Pro-Tip 1: There are two sets of toilets. The one to the rear of the camp is hidden from the entry and not used by trail visitors. It is also shaded making for a better experience than the one closer to the front of camp.

Pro-Tip 2: Kern River Brewing Company. Have lunch there, and beer. Then go to the general store across the street for everything from meat and cheese to hiking boots and rifles. Campfire wood is only $5/bundle and includes more than most bundles we’ve seen anywhere.

Fry Creek Campground is second only to Palomar Observatory Camp across the road.

Just south of Palomar Mountain Observatory (a must visit) Fry Creek is a heavily wooded (oak, fir, pine) campground in a narrow valley surrounded by steep forested banks.

The campsite is really an extension of the Palomar Observatory Campground across the site with a shared camp host (who pretty much sucked during our visits). That site is much better for stargazing, but this one is just as pretty especially in the fall with changing oak leaves. All of the sites are heavily wooded and in a valley with steep walls. That's important because it seems to amplify sounds from the other campsites. No matter if you have good camp neighbors but if your camp neighbors starts setting up a portable chainlink fence for a cadre of dogs they are training…There are some more segregated sites near the back of the camp loop.

There are bathrooms and showers (peak) and even though the sites are near each other they are really private. They each have fire-pits and picnic tables. The sites are decent sized with nice flat spots for at least two tents.

There is a decent hike that loops around the camp with plenty of elevation changes and incredible forest smells. The trail is fairly easy to follow and despite being short is moderately challenging. It takes about an hour at normal pace. Head across the road and you can take the trail all the way to the Palomar Mountain Observatory. It's meandering and plenty of elevation changes. At the top the Observatory Museum has nice bathrooms open to visitors. The museum is free.

Campsites are $15/night.

Palomar has that feeling of magic in the wilderness.

Palomar Mountain Observatory Campground is one of the prettiest spots I've seen to camp close to San Diego in Southern California. When coming from the south it's 7 miles up the twistiest-turniest road into a forest of oak, fir and pine. The campground itself is a loop with sites that are pull in, back-in and park and hike.

The sites are 50/50 well shaded and open air for some of the best star-gazing SoCal can offer. The inner loop is mostly open air but still has shade and trees surrounding the sites. #27 a first come-first serve site in particular was epic with a perfectly clear sky above the camp but also a huge oak tree for shade if you want it.

The campground has three bathrooms. Two set of pit toilets and one with flushing toilets and showers (peak season only). There are also some pre-set concrete slabs for telescopes or cameras. There are two listed hikes that leave the campground. Both are listed as "Easy to Moderate" but in my opinion are closer to moderate (but short) or at the very least, a challenging middle ground.

The hike to Palomar Mountain is 2.2+ miles with 700 ft of elevation. That doesn't account for all the ups and downs which really makes the elevation change feel more like eleventy billion feet. The path itself is well maintained with hairpin turns and a viewpoint over the valley. At the top you'll find the Palomar Observatory. The doors are open most days from 9am-3pm, and it's worth the hike.

Heading across the road the other hike is a loop around Fry Creek Campground. It's shorter at 1.7 miles but prettier and just as up and down as the first. You should really just do both. Take two days to make it leisurely. Seriously.

Campsites at Palomar have a grill, a fire pit with a grate and a picnic table. When we were there they did not have firewood for sale. About a mile away is a general store that does. We just picked up wood from the trail and some leftovers from other campsites. It really just depends on how much effort you want to put into it.

Our only complaint was the campground host. None of the bathrooms had been cleaned and one was covered in what looked like blood from a bloody nose gone wrong. About once a day she'd walk the loop chain-smoking cigarettes with two dogs who would bark incessantly. She'd ask each campsite if they were the "reservation holder" since she hadn't updated them in over a week. Then she'd explain she was sick so she couldn't change the signs or clean. Then she'd light another cigarette and yell at the dog for barking.

Host aside, Palomar Mountain is a great facility, and I'm stoked to go back for some summer camping.

Palomar has that feeling of magic in the wilderness.

Palomar Mountain Observatory Campground is one of the prettiest spots I've seen to camp close to San Diego in Southern California. When coming from the south it's 7 miles up the twistiest-turniest road into a forest of oak, fir and pine. The campground itself is a loop with sites that are pull in, back-in and park and hike.

The sites are 50/50 well shaded and open air for some of the best star-gazing SoCal can offer. The inner loop is mostly open air but still has shade and trees surrounding the sites. #27 a first come-first serve site in particular was epic with a perfectly clear sky above the camp but also a huge oak tree for shade if you want it.

The campground has three bathrooms. Two set of pit toilets and one with flushing toilets and showers (peak season only). There are also some pre-set concrete slabs for telescopes or cameras. There are two listed hikes that leave the campground. Both are listed as "Easy to Moderate" but in my opinion are closer to moderate (but short) or at the very least, a challenging middle ground.

The hike to Palomar Mountain is 2.2+ miles with 700 ft of elevation. That doesn't account for all the ups and downs which really makes the elevation change feel more like eleventy billion feet. The path itself is well maintained with hairpin turns and a viewpoint over the valley. At the top you'll find the Palomar Observatory. The doors are open most days from 9am-3pm, and it's worth the hike.

Heading across the road the other hike is a loop around Fry Creek Campground. It's shorter at 1.7 miles but prettier and just as up and down as the first. You should really just do both. Take two days to make it leisurely. Seriously.

Campsites at Palomar have a grill, a fire pit with a grate and a picnic table. When we were there they did not have firewood for sale. About a mile away is a general store that does. We just picked up wood from the trail and some leftovers from other campsites. It really just depends on how much effort you want to put into it.

Our only complaint was the campground host. None of the bathrooms had been cleaned and one was covered in what looked like blood from a bloody nose gone wrong. About once a day she'd walk the loop chain-smoking cigarettes with two dogs who would bark incessantly. She'd ask each campsite if they were the "reservation holder" since she hadn't updated them in over a week. Then she'd explain she was sick so she couldn't change the signs or clean. Then she'd light another cigarette and yell at the dog for barking.

Host aside, Palomar Mountain is a great facility, and I'm stoked to go back for some summer camping.

Two Campgrounds in One.

There are two types of campsites at Upper Sage Flat. The first are lovely shaded sites with the rear of the site adjacent to Big Pine Creek. They have tree cover but are really open to the neighboring sites. Honestly, would have thought they were pretty great if we hadn't stayed at nearby Big Pine Creek Campground (check it out).

The second are the sites on the roadside and they are HOT AS BLAZES. There is almost no shade and they are basically just dirt/sand/rock pads. It's like being in an entirely different campground. Strongly recommend using Google Earth to check the site you're reserving (or first come, first serve if at (lower) Sage Flat campground.

If you're in the river side sites you'll love it. There is a bridge over the river that leads to a trail heading north to the Big Pine Creek Trailhead. You can also walk up the road but the trail is a more interesting option. Plus, it is the narrowest part of the trail you'll run for about 5 miles. That's a good thing because if you make it that first 1/2 mile you'll be fine the rest of the way when it opens up into some pretty incredible trail after passing through Big Pine Creek Campground and Glacier Lodge Cabins & RV park.

Decent pit bathrooms but right in the sun all day so much nicer in the mornings than evenings as far as flies and smell go. Bear boxes, fire pits and picnic tables. ***So basically a 4 if you have river side and a 2 if not. Maybe a 1. Location alone is worth 2. Yep. At least that. But really, try to stay by the river.