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Suggestions for out of the way spots in Northern Cal?


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Hi everyone! After a couple years of fulltiming, I've now settled down in Oakland for the foreseeable future. My fiance and I miss the road, and staying in places that are far less crowded than where we currently live. We want to get away on the weekends as much as possible. Unfortunately, most places we've gone on the weekends are filled with Bay Area folks trying to do the same as us, I suppose. I'm looking for suggestions of any lesser known scenic destinations/camping spots that are within a 5-6 hour drive of the Bay area? Boondocking opportunities would be nice, as well as opportunities to do things we like: hike, mtn bike, dual sport moto, golf and just plain ol' relax.

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Redding and Chico both have some good MTB trails. I don't know how big your RV is but there are a lot of NFS campsites east of Chico in the Sierras. Whiskeytown Lake has some camping and a lot of MTB riding. Google maps says Redding is about 3 hours from Oakland so that would put it within range. I think I'd choose some spot for a base camp and then explore looking for more remote spots.


Allstays smartphone app is great for finding out-of-the-way campsites.



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California is really behind the other western states in providing recreational opportunities to its residents. The good news is that HALF of Calfornia is under public ownership and Federal protection.


Having lived in California in the 60's and 70's and RV'ing there in the early 10's here are my suggestions.


Winter. California has great winter weather and nobody goes out!!! That must be a hangover from all the mid-western migrants to California. Anywhere below snowline in winter is a great place to visit and recreate. So put a line around 4000 feet in the Sierra's and probably a little higher in the Coast Range. I would shift much of my local recreation opportunities to winter. Time the winter storms so trails are fairly dry. My favorite trick when I lived there was to leave on the LAST day of a winter storm. That found me alone in some pretty spectacular country. The good news is that California weather forecasts are pretty good.


I loved going to Yosemite Valley in winter. I went back a couple of years ago in winter and it was much more crowded, but the campground had vacancies!! Winter it is the season to recreate in California.


That said. Focus on the coast range north of San Francisco and the area north and east of Redding. There are few people in those areas compared to Tahoe and other areas.


Take your long vacation trips to the Northwest, Montana, Utah, Wyoming in summer.


For summer trips....get a canoe or kayaks and float the various rivers as they enter the central Valley and other areas in California. That gets you away from the crowds and gets you into lots of wildlife and interesting areas.


California was a wonderful state with 20 million in 1975, and with 40 million I think the trick is to find a time and place where you do not have to deal with them!!!

Vladimr Steblina

Retired Forester...exploring the public lands.


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desert rat, and Vladmir, thanks for the tips! I'll start doing research. Most weekends this past winter were spent weekend warrioring up to Tahoe to ski, but I think next winter I'm going to try to spread out more time elsewhere, as you suggested. Now, to figure out where to go this spring/summer....


Thanks again!

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  • 2 weeks later...

My wife and I are returning to CA after twenty-one years in MA. (Three of our four native CA kids are back out here, and hopefully the fourth will follow suit shortly; grandkids, weather, etc.) We will be in the Sierra Nevada foothills at around three thousand feet. I'm looking forward to "exploring" the different campgrounds in the region, and pass on what we experience. We plan to post our address for members passing through the area. I realize this doesn't help at the moment, but hopefully we can be of assistance in the future. (The wife was born in SF and raised in Fremont. I was staioned on NAS Alameda with the Marine Corps and went to Cal).


Godspeed! ;)

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It depends on how big your rig is. There are a lot of campgrounds along the Sonoma County and Mendocino County coastline. We have stayed in a lot of them, but not all. We also enjoy the Redwoods in Mendocino County. There are some nice spots along the 101 corridor. There are also a couple of decent spots around Clear Lake in Lake County. The Auburn area along the I80 corridor has some nice spots as well. If you want specific park recommendations, give a little information about your rig size. Google and Google Maps and word of mouth are how I find our spots. We are still weekenders until retirement, but the three county area of Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma is where we spend most of our time and we try to go out at least once a month year round. We are in Willits right now.

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  • 3 months later...

I like to go to the Russian River area (Guerneville) & sometimes camp in that area. (I don't have an RV,yet). It's very scenic with lots of redwoods. During the week is best. If you're going anywhere in CA, the best thing to do is travel Sunday thru Thurs, then leave before the weekend hits, otherwise lots of places are crowded or booked.There is a big campground in Monte Rio (Casini Ranch) that's pretty nice although it's not real cheap ($50 a night to tent camp) but you're near the coast (Goat Rock Beach) which is really beautiful & the mouth of the Russian River comes out there and you can see harbor seals at the base of the river. They have their babies in the spring there, which you can view. Just don't swim in the ocean there, the waves are very dangerous & there are lots of sharks & it's often very cool there. The afternoon is sunnier after the fog lifts.Armstrong Woods Park is in Guerneville which is just as beautiful (but much less crowded) than Muir Woods and the redwoods are big there. You can camp in part of the park there, but I'm not sure if RV's are allowed. There are other campgrounds all over the area. There are also lots of wineries up there, including Korbel champagne cellars (which is a nice stop) & it's much cheaper (& I think better) to go wine tasting in this area than to go over to Napa. You can kayak all along the Russian River and stop at various beaches and swim which is fun. They rent kayaks in several places up there by the hour.

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Two places that are quiet and need no reservations.

The over flow lot at Salt Point SP on the north coast. Great views of the ocean and you often have it to yourself. (map)

The campground at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey. If there is NOT a race going on, this large campground is deserted. They have both W/E and dry camping. I like the dry camp sites at the top with great views to the ocean and into the Salinas Valley. (map)

Happy trails


'02 2830 Trek

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SKP Park Sierra in Coarsegold. Great Park, mostly FHU with some dry camping. Easy jump off to Yosemite. Golf in Oakhurst. And right now, you can see the smoke from the Rough Fire (largest wildfire right now).


Really, when we lived in the Bay Area, Park Sierra was our go-to getaway spot. We'd leave after work on Friday, and easily make it up. Or stop in Los Banos at WallyWorld. Their parking lot backed up to a large open field. Then to Coarsegold in the AM.

Jim  Corey

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