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Eastern Sierra car camping
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Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Eastern Sierra car camping on 05/27/2010 15:23:38 MDT Print View

I know, I know, car camping isn't exactly UL, but I'm looking for advice on "dispersed camping." As I understand it, if you drive 2 miles down a dirt road in Forest Service or BLM land, you can primitive camp for free. Does anybody do this in the eastern Sierra, and have recommended spots?

Thanks in advance.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Eastern Sierra car camping on 05/27/2010 15:39:57 MDT Print View

I'm curious about this too.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"Eastern Sierra car camping" on 05/27/2010 16:36:40 MDT Print View

We used to do this when the kids were little around the Sonora Pass area. Lots of fun!

Just drive up a dirt road and find a spot. Depending where you are, an occasional dirt bike or truck might drive by. But it's MUCH better than developed sites, and free.

Half the fun is driving around forest service roads at midnight in a caravan looking for sites. Put the wives and kids to bed, get a fire going and crack beers until 3 or 4 .

Good times!

I don't see that buddy anymore, I lost him to his divorce (we stuck with the wife). I guess it just goes that way sometimes.

I remember being on the north side of 108 and Leavitt Lake.....

Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Re: "Eastern Sierra car camping" on 05/27/2010 16:45:15 MDT Print View

Thanks David, great advice.
I'll be looking for dirt roads around Mammoth next weekend to camp on and give me reasonably quick access to skiing the mountain.
The one place I've had success in the past, for the edification of other readers here, was in the Alabama Hills, between Lone Pine and Mount Whitney. Plenty of dirt roads for dispersed camping.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Eastern Sierra car camping on 05/27/2010 16:56:46 MDT Print View

Not UL is okay, IMO. We all have several outdoor passions, outside of strict backpacking.

Yes, many free places to camp in USFS lands.

Each district has different regulations. Sometimes camping 100 feet from a dirt road means no vehicle, other times vehicles are okay. Some jurisdictions have designated dispersed sites, that are marked and are the only ones you can use.

Also, many of the dispersed areas are not publicized, and you need to go to the local Ranger Station to get information, and maybe even a hand drawn and photocopied map.

Here are some pictures of some sites we go to. Of course I am not going to tell you where they are, because hordes of people will see them and start using them. I will tell you they are not in the eastern Sierras.

pic 1

pic 2

pic 3

Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Re: Re: Eastern Sierra car camping on 05/27/2010 17:47:13 MDT Print View

Thanks for the advice on approaching specific ranger stations Nick, that's ultimately probably the best idea.

As to your latter point, I respect your desire to keep favorites a secret, but disagree with the sentiment. Practically, I don't see generating hoards, and philosophically, I take issue with keeping public land to one's self — it strikes me as going against the point of public lands. It's something I struggle with, often pausing when asked where a certain favorite spot is, but anyway, I'm rambling.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Eastern Sierra car camping - my rant on 05/27/2010 19:01:56 MDT Print View


Don't take this personally, as it is not directed to you.

I see many people asking for information on a good place to hike. I have never asked anyone. I look at maps, and figure out what looks nice, and then go there. Sometimes it works out well, other times it does not.

I am not keeping public land to myself. It is public land, and anyone can go visit it. They just need to do their homework, in my opinion.

In the 60's and early 70's there was little published information on many, many places. What I would do is get a map, pick out a destination that looked intriguing and go there. Many of the places in the high Sierras we read about today, I "discovered" on my own, and my information source was a map. Then in the 70's people started pubslishing trail guides and Backpacker magazine would do trip reports. Poof! Those place became overwhelmed and over-used. It forced agencies to implement permit systems to protect our public lands. And now it is worse with the internet; people publishing detailed instructions with GPS waypoints and routes.

There was a time I could hike long sections of the JMT and not see a single person. Now I generally avoid the JMT, and look for adventures off the beaten path. Why would I want to divert people from the JMT to other hikes, by publishing the information? I wouldn't. But if they want to explore on their own, that is fine with me.

So I shall continue to keep my gems to myself. I am sure folks like Colin Fletcher and Edward Abbey would approve.

Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Re: Re: Eastern Sierra car camping - my rant on 05/28/2010 10:53:35 MDT Print View

Thanks Nick, and I definitely respect your thoughts. Like you, and I'm sure everybody here, I wish I could walk the JMT without seeing anybody, didn't need reservations to get into Yosemite Valley six months in advance, and the like.

So no, I don't take it personally (hope you didn't take my previous comment as a personal attack either, just a general concept I've been wrestling with).

And I think ultimately, I'm going to have to agree with you. My favorite little-known places are almost always the ones I had to work hard to find. And maybe technology is making it too easy to find some of these places, sort of like Bill Bryson opined in "A Walk in the Woods" as he talked about technology making it too easy for people to get themselves into trouble in the backcountry.

That being said, I don't want that to be the final word in this discussion, so to bring it back to dispersed camping, perhaps we can talk about best techniques in finding these places, and experiences, positive or negative, in trying dispersed camping.

Jeff K
(jeff.k) - F

Locale: New York
Re: Eastern Sierra car camping - my rant on 05/28/2010 11:00:03 MDT Print View

I would be curious if anyone would be willing to share their technique in finding good spots. When you are looking at a topo map, what do you look for? Do you look for a nice flat spot on top of a mountain facing west (to see the sunset) over a lake and mountain range?

There is always a chance of the spot you find on a map being a bust once you get there, but I didn't know if there were any techniques that worked better than others to try to increase my average.

I realize this is entirely personal in what someone is looking for in a spot either while dispersed camping or in the back country.

The Cossack
(thecossack) - F

Locale: sedona
eastern sierra on 06/02/2010 07:03:20 MDT Print View

between bishop and mammoth and turning east off 395 there are many hot springs and places to camp- i don't have any maps in front of me right now but i do remember this small church north of bishop and you take a right there and go passed a defunct swimming pool and then you come to a fork to the right there are some nice spots but to the left there are many more nice spots and hot springs- vague enough i know but reaaly an amazing area- also you can camp on some of the back roads around mono lake though i'm not sure if it is legal there or not- but beautiful-


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
@ Jeff on 06/02/2010 10:16:04 MDT Print View

Here is how I put together a trip last December in the Desert near Lake Mead, NV.

I reviewed a large scale map of the Lake Mead recreational area. Viewing the map, I picked out a 4 day route. I then bought two 7.5 quad maps to further refine my trip.

I didn't ask anyone for additional information. The result can be found in this trip report.