I went on a nice little solo trip up to the Sierra Nevada this past summer, found some great back country camp sites, and thought I’d share them with you. Keep these in mind for next summer when the snow clears.

See the map at the end of the post for exact locations.

Near Upper Pardoe’s Camp

This site, on the edge of a meadow at about 8000′ feet elevation, lies east of Bear River Reservoir (which is off Highway 88). It’s a beautiful, quiet spot. The road there though is one of the roughest I’ve driven. I’d say a 6 out of 10. Parts of it didn’t even look like a road.

If you go, you’ll need a good map. I recommend the 7.5 minute USGS map “Bear River Reservoir, Calif.” The camp site is very near the spot on the map marked “Upper Pardoe’s Camp.”

The road ends before you can get to Upper Pardoe’s Camp, but there’s a nice little clearing there where you can pitch a tent. Walk up into the meadow and you’ll see the source of a tiny spring.

Update: While making dinner one night at this site, I heard a bell ringing off in the distance. Maybe someone was ringing a dinner bell at their own camp, I thought? It kept going though, and after a while sounded like it was getting closer. It was odd. The sound got closer still until it was very close by. Then I saw what it was, a couple of cows staring at me through the trees. I think they were headed to the spring in the meadow and I think I was camped on their trail. I tried to tell them it was OK to come through but they weren’t having it. I heard their bells wander off into the distance.

Again, the road to this site is among the roughest I’ve encountered, at least for a mile or two. The rest isn’t that bad. In the difficult section though you’ll have to negotiate large boulders and pick your lines carefully.

Talbot Campground

Talbot Campground is the last in a string of campgrounds heading northeast from French Meadows Reservoir, which lies west of Lake Tahoe about halfway between highways 80 and 50. If you keep heading to the right once you’re in the campground you’ll end up at the last site, which is situated on the Middle Fork of the American River. There’s a nice swimming hole there. I’m not going to say the water isn’t cold but it is refreshing.

The roads in are mixed pavement and dirt, not difficult.

Secret House Campground

Head west from Talbot over the Red Star Ridge and you’ll end up on Foresthill Road. Near the most northern point of the road, north of Macedon Ridge, you’ll find Secret House camp. You’ll have to pay close attention to your map though, because it’s not sign posted.

Once you’re in the camp, head west and south and you’ll find what looks like a big turnaround area. There’s a nice big, quiet site there. Yes, there are spent shell casings lying around. Yes, a couple of the smaller trees have literally been mowed down by gunfire, but if you can go when there aren’t a bunch of guys tossing back beers and shooting up the forest, it’s a really nice spot. Try to hit it on a weekday.

The road to Secret House is paved.

Happy camping,


Here’s the map:

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