Outdoors: Add these campsites to the list

06/12/2012 11:35 PM

06/13/2012 12:16 AM

A few weeks ago I suggested some great camp-

grounds where you can set up your tent and hit the trail with you four-footed friends without having to get behind the wheel.

I want to add a few that didn't make the list either because you might have to drive a few miles to hike, dogs aren't welcome, or both. Nevertheless, they are some of my favorite camping spots, and they're close enough for an easy summer get-away.

Calaveras Big Trees

This state park is the closest place to home where you can camp right next to a grove of giant sequoias. North Grove campsites are adjacent to an easy 1.5-mile loop trail through the giants.

Oak Hollow sites are between the North and South Groves, an easy drive from the trees and the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. The South Grove's 5-mile loop hike is the perfect choice for a more challenging route. Four miles east of Arnold on Highway 4, the park is an easy escape from the summer heat of the Central Valley.

Day use is $8 per vehicle and campsites are $35/night. For more information, go to www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=551 or call the park at (209) 795-2334.

You can book camping reservations at www.reserveamerica.com.

Yosemite

Think it's too late to get a site in Yosemite? It might not be.

Go to www.reserveamerica.com and search the listings. A recent search turned up open sites on weekdays and weekends at Crane Flat, Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona.

Tuolumne Meadows, in my opinion, is the best place to camp in the park. It's the gateway to the park's legendary "high country." Directly from the campground you can enjoy an easy stroll around the meadows or hike to Elizabeth Lake (4.5 miles round trip).

There are many other great trails nearby -- including Lembert Dome, Cathedral Lakes and Glen Aulin. If you can't find a campsite, search for the town of Lee Vining instead. You'll likely turn up campsites outside the park's east entrance. Most campsites are $20 or less. Yosemite's entrance fee is $20 per vehicle.

Andrew Molera State Park

Located 20 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, this is my favorite campground along the Big Sur Coast because the campsites are far from the road and quiet at night. You have to be prepared to walk a third of a mile from the parking lot to the campground, so pack your gear to be easily carried. But the excellent trails that start from the campground are worth the effort.

A 1.25-mile trail along the Big Sur River to Molera Point and a small beach is easy enough for anyone who can make the walk to the campground. A longer 8-mile loop combines the shorter trail with a redwood grove and the Ridge Trail's excellent views.

While many other campsites along the Big Sur Coast are booked well in advance, you can often find a site here if you show up early. For more information go to www.parks.ca.gov /?page_id=582 or call (831) 667-2315.

Other first-come, first-served options in this area are offered by Los Padres National Forest. Kirk Creek, 55 miles south of Carmel, has a small number of nonreservable sites on a bluff above the ocean. Near Kirk Creek, narrow Ferguson-Nacimiento Road climbs the Santa Lucia Mountains to the Ponderosa, Plaskett Creek and Bottchers Gap Campgrounds.

Though primitive and 10-15 miles from the coast, they provide solitude, views and relatively easy access to one of the state's greatest stretches of coastline. Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds and at Sand Dollar Beach, 4 miles from Kirk Creek. All campsites are $25 per night or less.

Huntington Lake

Sierra National Forest has seven reservable campgrounds at this large, pine-ringed lake. It's 75 miles east of Fresno and sits at 7,000 feet. You can enjoy camping along the lakeshore and explore several trails into the mountains. An easy 2-mile round trip hike to Rancheria Falls is one of the most spectacular destinations.

You'll see a sign for the turnoff along Highway 168 before you descend to the lakeshore.

Indian Pools is a great place to swim. Park at the China Peak ski area and hike 0.7 of a mile to a large pool on Big Creek. You can also follow unofficial trails higher up the creek to other pools.

On the north side of the lake, challenging trails into the Kaiser Wilderness access beautiful sub-alpine lakes. Huntington Lake is a popular fishing and watersports destination. Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds and on the adjacent National Forest trails.

Book your campsite for $26 or less at www.reserveamerica.com.

Adam Blauert is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fishing, backpacking and exploring the western states. He can be reached at adamblauert@yahoo.com

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