Amazing Uncrowded High Sierra Camping On Kaiser Pass Road — Please Don’t Tell Anyone!


Jackass Meadow, Ward Lake, Mono Hot Springs, Vermillion, and others

Date Camped: Every Summer since 2002
Open Season: June-September
Reservations: Campground Reservations through the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) @ 1-877-444-6777 or, arrange with resorts separately
Check Conditions: High Sierra Ranger District (559) 855-5355
Services: No wi-fi, VERY spotty phone service, no hook-ups; camp stores in Mono Hot Springs, Vermillion Resort, and Florence Lake.
Notes: Campfire permits for dispersed camping (check ahead for fire bans); vehicle restrictions: cars okay, trucks recommended, short trailers acceptable
  • Rates: $19 single, $38 double sites
  • Sites: Varies by campground
  • Bathrooms: Vault in campgrounds, flush in "resorts", BYOB in dispersed
  • Showers: No showers in campgrounds, but campers can pay for showers in resorts (resort guests have free showers)

My old Bakersfield High School buddies and I have gotten together for a summer camping/fishing/shooting/eating/drinking trip we call the “Hoot in the Hills” for fifteen years now, even as we have spread across the state and country.  I’ve written about the phenomenal eating we do there on our food blog, but haven’t yet discussed our secret camping location in detail until now.  The first couple of years we stayed in regular campgrounds in the Sequoia National Forest, right above Bakersfield. But after a bad experience with fellow campers and a fiery year in which campfires were banned in the entire Sequoia National Forest, we headed a bit further north into a rarely visited region on the west side of the Sierra National Forest up above Fresno, and we’ve returned to the same area ever since.

Located at the end of Kaiser Pass Road, past Shaver and Huntington Lakes, 2-3 hours into the mountains east of Fresno, the Edison/Ward/Florence Lake region we camp in is 45 miles south of Yosemite National Park, 20 miles west of Mammoth Lakes (a favorite of ours), and 35 miles north of King’s Canyon National Park, it has much of the scenery of those famous places and almost none of the crowd!

I am sure a large part of the reason for the lack of crowds is Kaiser Pass Road itself.  Shortly past China Peak Ski Resort and Huntington Lake, the road narrows to a very poorly maintained one lane road for the next 20 miles or so until you hit Edison or Florence Lake.  No, not one lane each direction, but one lane total!  It requires relatively careful driving around tight turns, often with a cliff off one side, and a rock face on the other, but there are few enough vehicles and enough wide spaces to allow one or the other of the vehicles encountering each other to pull off to the side to allow one to pass.  Furthermore, the pass (and the road itself) often does not clear of snow and open until Memorial Day, so always be sure to call ahead if you are going early in the season.  It takes about an hour to drive these 20 miles, and you must pay attention, but it really is a beautiful drive, and one of my favorite parts about staying in the area.

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A sample stretch of Kaiser Pass Road–very narrow, with just enough wide spots to pull over to let others pass.

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View from Kaiser Pass Road. That is “Devil’s Table” in the very middle of the shot.

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This was the weekend after Memorial Day a few years ago–definitely call ahead to make sure the road is open early (and late) in the season.

We generally stop at the United States Forest Service Ranger Station in Prather, at the bottom of the mountain, to get our fire permits (2014 update:  CHECK AHEAD ON FIRE PERMITS—Campfires in dispersed sites have been banned the last two years, forcing us to stay in campgrounds instead!) and check on current conditions (though we also usually call ahead at (559) 855-5355 just to be sure the road is opened and there aren’t any conditions we should be aware of).  We also usually gas up here (there is gas in Shaver Lake, but no gas on top of the mountain) and grab an early lunch (and use the flush toilets one last time!) at Velasco’s Mexican Restaurant there.  It is about an hour of mostly scenic driving from here to the beginning of Kaiser Pass Road.


Velasco’s! Our official rallying point in Prather, before heading uphill.

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Kaiser Pass. There are a couple of paths and vault toilets here.

There are three main segments of the aforementioned poorly maintained Kaiser Pass Road.  The first 7 miles from the beginning of road is a fairly consistent climb to Kaiser Pass itself, at 9,184 feet.  The temperature here is a good 20 degrees cooler than it is in Fresno, and it feels (and smells) great!  There are a couple of trailheads and a vault toilet here at the pass, but not much else.  The next seven miles to High Sierra Ranger Station are windy and beautiful, with views of sheer granite faces and a tremendous valley that allows you to see all the way to the mountain ridges that border Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes.  You will pass the Portal Forebay along the way, which we always ridicule for it’s artificiality, but this year we learned it also has a lot of fish that are relatively easy to catch and a decent campground.

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Another view from the road–That’s the south ridge of Yosemite in the distance.

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High Sierra Station sign–you’re almost to camp!

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Ranger Station. Nice, knowledgeable people here–talk to them! Plus, pit toilets!

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Sign at the ranger station.

We always stop here as well, to talk to the rangers closest to the areas we like to camp.  They have maps and a few items for sale, but it is a much smaller station than the one in Prather.  There are also pit toilets and a dumpster outside, and a bit of room for parking.  This is our other, more scenic, rally point if everyone didn’t make it to Prather and Velasco’s on time–especially if the camping area we were planning to go to isn’t accessible and we need to make a Plan B as a group.

From the High Sierra Ranger Station, it is less than a mile to a fork in the road, from which you can go to either left to Mono Hot Springs and Edison Lake, or straight to Ward Lake, Florence Lake, and Jackass Meadow.  Edison Lake and Florence Lake are both eight miles from here and both are impossible to miss, as the roads essentially dead end there.

Mono Hot Springs is about two miles from the Ranger Station, nearly all downhill, and features one of the two “resorts” in the area, the Mono Hot Springs Resort.  The resort has “rustic” cabins, some with kitchens and some without, some with showers and some without.  There is also a restaurant and a camp store, and natural hot mineral baths and massages available.  No TVs or micro-waves, but wi-fi service is available for guests.  Immediately adjacent to the resort is the Mono Hot Springs National Forest Campground, located right on the North Fork of the San Joaquin River.  There are some great campsites here, and the fishing on the river (especially by the bridge) has been very good for us.

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View of the river at the bridge adjacent to Mono Hot Springs Resort.

A great quick (roughly one mile each way) hike from here is to Doris Lake, a beautiful granite basin with water that is at least partially fed from hot springs.  This creates hot spots and cold spots in the lake, but regardless, the water is far more swimmable than any other water in the area.  The rocks surrounding the lake are also fun for jumping–if you’re the brave sort.  There are also some legitimate hot springs nearby.  “Little Eden” is a semi-secret natural hot tub along the road down to the bridge from the fork (it is on the west (left) side of the road, but a smaller hot spring is on the right side of the road), but several concrete lined hot spring tubs are along a muddy and wet trail just off the road just  west of the bridge on the south side of the San Joaquin River, just across from the campground and resort.  We have enjoyed both.

Hoot 2009 135

Hot spring-fed Doris Lake is by far the best swimming lake in the region. Warmer than average, beautiful, and you can jump from the rocks!

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The other end of Doris Lake. Such a peaceful place.

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Little Eden natural hot tub! Muddy bottom, and sulfur smells, but so nice!

If you chose to keep driving past Mono Hot Springs, the road literally dead ends at Edison Lake.  There you will find Vermillion Valley Resort (again, it is a great option, but “resort” in the name should not conjure up visions of Cabo or Tahoe here…), where you can rent rooms in a motel-looking building, stay in yurt cabins, or trailers.   There is also a small restaurant and a fairly well-equipped camp store.  You can rent kayaks or motorized fishing boats to take out on the beautiful lake for as little as $45 for a half day.  They also have guided horse riding, and are a major stop for hikers along the nearby John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails, providing showers, laundry, and re-supply barrels, as well as internet access and phones, and even a ferry to and from the resort to the JMT and PCT on the far side of the lake.  If you’d rather camp, Vermillion Campground and Mono Creek Campground (both operated by the Sierra National Forest) are right before and after the “resort”.  From this area, you can hike to Devil’s Bathtub, Devil’s Table, the aforementioned Doris Lake, or to the Twin Falls on Bear Creek.

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Fishing at Edison Lake.

As uncrowded as this area is, if you want an even more uncrowded experience, continue past that fork to the left just past the ranger station and head on towards Ward Lake, Florence Lake, and Jackass Meadow.  There is a camp store with boat rentals and horse riding at the lake, and a pretty cool historic guest ranch across the lake that requires a ferry ride and hike to get to. That ferry (and the store) also serves many JMT/PCT hikers, who use this as a way to the mid-point of their trail.

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Camp store adjacent to the boat launch at Florence Lake.

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View across Florence Lake from the camp store.

But the main lodging on this end of the road is either Ward Lake Campground or Jackass Meadows Campground, both operated by the National Forest.  Ward Lake is a very small, incredibly beautiful lake right off the road, with a handful of campsites right on the lake’s edge.  We have never stayed there, but always see families enjoying the fishing and kayaking on the lake.


Beautiful and tiny Ward Lake, adjacent to the road and campground.

Jackass Meadows is a much larger campground below Florence Lake Dam at the end of the road.  It is a very nice looking campground with vault toilets, dumpsters, a camp host, and picnic tables, fire rings, and bear boxes in each camp site.  The bear boxes are quite necessary, as I gather they are VERY frequent visitors to the campground (2014 update:  Camp host says they haven’t seen bears in a few years–but you should use the bear box anyways).  Scary if you’re easily scared, cool if you are not.  There is also very good fishing near the campground, in the flows beneath the dam, which are stocked fairly regularly by the California Department of Fish and Game.  (Important 2013 Update:  Fires were banned outside of campgrounds this year, so we stayed here for the first time this year, and it was as nice as any USFS campground we have stayed at, but be aware–while the USFS website says no reservations, they are actually required in order to keep a campsite for more than a night, so visit the website in advance (no data signal up there) and reserve your campsites, so you don’t have the fiasco that we ran into when we got up there without reservations.  Not sure why USFS hasn’t fixed their website yet.  2014 update:  Stayed there again–website still falsely claims reservations are unnecessary, campground still is very nice, and camp host Russ is awesome).

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Typical campsite at Jackass Meadows Campground–note the bear box!

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Fishing immediately below Florence Lake Dam, adjacent to campground.

We have always camped in the “dispersed camping” areas, which is to say anywhere in the forest you can find a flat piece of land big enough to park and put up a tent.  We’ve camped between Mono Lake and Edison Lake a couple of times, and along the dirt road below the Florence Lake dam every other time.  You need to obtain a fire permit at one of the Ranger Stations (NOTE AGAIN–check ahead, because fires in dispersed camping areas were banned entirely for most of 2013 and 2014, forcing us to stay in USFS campgrounds, where fires were still legal), and be able to provide your own water, “hygiene facilities”, bear protection, and need no supervision whatsoever, but if you want to avoid the potentially annoying camp neighbor next door (or being the annoying camp neighbor next door), this is the way to go.  One great dispersed camping area is on the left side of the dirt road on the other side of the San Joaquin River crossing (see below) in a large dirt area that usually has several other campers right where a cable crosses the river from a small tower.  An added benefit of this stop is that it is right where we have had the most luck fishing of anywhere in this area.

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View from our “dispersed” campsite, South Fork of the San Joaquin River.

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View up the South Fork of the San Joaquin River from camp.

Some of the “hardships” to prepare for in dispersed camping:

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To get to dispersed camping near Jackass Meadow, you need to cross the river here. In high water years, the gate to the road here is closed–call ahead!

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One year, this tree fell across the road between our camp and civilization, and USFS would not help until Monday at the earliest!

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Fortunately, we had our own tools.

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And handled the problem like the men we are!

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Better bring your own toilet facilities, too!

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Our lame, makeshift, totally inadequate bear alarm, to protect ice chests in the pick-up bed after getting raided one year. Usually we are less bothered by bears than the campgrounds (only one problem ever), but be alert.

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Oh–and no phone service. This guy from our group climbed this mountain (camp is in the valley below) to make a call home.

Bring shelter from the rain! We’ve gotten hail, rain, and thunderstorms regularly while camping here.

Hoot XV, June 2012

And you have to make your own fire ring…

Hoot XV, June 2012

And cook your own primitive camp meals!

There are not many (any?) improved trails here, but if you are so inclined, you can find your own path to the top of Jackass Dike (a great viewpoint), Infant Buttes, to Hellhole Meadow (a trail exists near Ward Lake), or up and back to the Pacific Crest Trail (if you take a boat across Florence Lake).  But mostly we just hike up and down the San Joaquin River, fishing (largely successfully) as we go.

Random beautiful pictures of the region:

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View of Florence Lake, Jackass Meadow, and San Joaquin River from the top of Jackass Dike (the tall cliff above our camp).

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Jackass Dike from the mountain across the valley. Our campsite is below.

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San Joaquin River from the far side of Florence Lake.

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Another view of Jackass Dike from the river.

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Upper Mono Creek on the far side of Edison Lake.

This really is my favorite place to be.  While some of it is undoubtedly just getting to see my buddies that I only see once a year, it is really such an incredibly beautiful place, where there are so few other people that we can simultaneously avoid being annoyed by others and annoying others ourselves.  If you want a place almost as beautiful as Yosemite and King’s Canyon, but hate crowds, this is absolutely the place to go.

But we really do love how secluded this area is, and we worry every year that people are going to find out about this place and they’ll improve the road, and we’ll suddenly be surrounded by Crocs-wearing tourists and people with no back-country etiquette, so if you do go and fall in love with the area like I have–please don’t tell anyone!

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  1. ADKinLA says

    Awesome, awesome stuff! Considering what it takes to get to that area (narrow mountain roads, river crossings, etc. etc.) I don’t think you have to worry too much about the place being overrun. Really great post!

      • Irene Nielsen says

        Jeff, I read your blog about 4 years ago… thank you so much…I live in Fresno and drove on up with my “older” Dodge grand caraVan.. that has room for air mattress, food, t.v. trays, chair, ice chest with margaritas and more food… I have never camped out (tent) and just 5 years ago I found out I can camp in my van….. LOVED IT.. I have gone back many times to the dispersed area (now at 75 yrs young and still going often- mid week only {as soon as the river is passable and it gets over 100 in Fresno}. And i catch fish for dinner really fast.. I also love highway 395 and the Eastern Sierras with Ancient Bristlecone my favorite! My best friend of 70 years (yes, we knew each other before kindergarten in Delano) and I were lucky and did 7 continents in 7 years (started at age 66). Just letting you know you are never too old. Thanks again. I just love Jackass Ridge and the dispersed area.. I also found near the meadow, an old outhouse and one year someone brought up an old toilet seat.. so it is really super. I just finished a great book: “Stranger in the Woods”. you might enjoy it. Maybe see you up at Jackass!! Irene

  2. says

    Very cool picture of the mushroom-shaped thunder head.  Too far off pavement for me to consider, though.  I like the eastern Sierra, but it’s been a few years since I’ve had a chance to visit.  Rivers look nice, though the near-total lack of snow is weird, considering it’s still June.

    • says

      Thanks–that’s one of my all-time favorite pictures from up there.  Technically this is the mid-Sierra?  Access is from the west side, and there is a pretty high ridge between us and Bishop/Mammoth on the east side.  As for snow, we only  had a lot of snow at the pass one year in early June.  Otherwise, it is only visible in the higher peaks.  The pictures above were taken in various years in various parts of the summer (as late as September), but even though we camp at about the 7,000 foot level, the snow is usually all gone by late June.

  3. Kevin McMahon says

    very nicely done. You did a great job capturing the essence of the area. The Western Sierra and the John Muir Wilderness Rocks!

  4. Guest says

    This is provided an AWESOME virtual tour of the area! The description and photos really capture the atmosphere of the area! Good thinking to emphasize the road size issues, many first time visitors don’t know to expect the narrow single-lane adventure.

    • says

      It is indeed an adventure!  I enjoy it, but many may not.  I’m sure that is why more people don’t visit, and I wanted to be sure people understood that before they tried to drive their 45 foot luxury RV up there!

  5. Vickie Clement says

    Thanks, Jeff, for letting us share this blog post on our FB page – great photos and a really nice write-up of the area. We don’t think we’ll be overrun with people unless the road gets widened… and chances of that seem to be slim for now anyway!

    • says

      Thank you for the re-post!  We always appreciate having the store there when something suddenly turns up missing in camp!  And we’ve really enjoyed renting the boats there on occasion as well.

  6. Marcia says

    The first time I went to Jackass Meadows was about 30 years ago when there was no room at Mono Hot Springs. There were no campsites or facilities. There were wild jackass running through the meadows. We fell in love with this place a took our 2 boys back there for several years during which time they did put in the campsites. I was interested in returning, but was afraid it might have become too civilized. Enjoyed reading your blog and am glad to hear that it remains the pristine wilderness that I love.

    • jtgoirish says

      Glad you liked it! A lot of people use this area as a rest stop or a stopping place or beginning place for the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trail, so I’m sure your customers/fans/followers could use this as inspiration.

  7. PinkShield says

    We love this entire area too and have backed packed on several trips out of both Florence & Edison. I was curious if anyone has fished Hooper Creek out of Jack Ass Meadows though and how the hike is to get there from Jackass Meadows to Hooper Creek????

    • jtgoirish says

      We do almost all our fishing along Hooper Creek, from right under the dam at the back of the campground all the way to the gauging station at the end of the dirt road. The best fishing appears to be in the pools below the dam, the pools at the gauging station at the very end of the dirt road, and then separately the creek stretch from where the road crosses through the creek (not the bridge) downstream from the campground, all the way to the cable crossing near the primitive camping area right below Jackass Dike (the sheer granite wall over the creek). If you stay on the right side of the bank headed downstream from the road crossing, it is easily walkable and fishable all the way to that camp area. The left bank is a much more difficult walk. We have not had as much luck between the pools at the dam and along the campground, but we see a lot of people fish there. Good luck!

      • PinkShield says

        Thanks so much!!!!! Heading up Sunday for Father’s Day, taking Dad fishing again! But Might just do a much shorter simpler quick fishing trip since we are going only for the day.. hit the little natives out of Upper Big Creek then BQB them up at Shaver Park then head back home to the coast! Really want to catch a Golden though but usually only have a day or two to do it, so maybe Hooper Creek and around them parts or even Island Lake of the Dinkey Loop. Thanks again! Oh, Corbett Lake off Bilsollo campground… worth the hike? Fishing along the SJ there from JackAss to Mono looked inviting too though… but gotta get up much higher for goldies! LOL

        • jtgoirish says

          Yeah, we’ve caught a bunch of brooks and rainbows, but very few browns, as I recall. We tried last year to hike/fish all the way from Hooper to the bridge at Mono Hot Springs, and ended up having to turn back about half way there. We have done well there by the bridge at Mono, though. Have fun–can’t wait to get back up there myself with my buddies later this summer!

          • PinkShield says

            I remember catching a booger of a German Brown up Edison area! So fun! Also remember getting caught in a lightening storm and getting indirectly hit! We were up at Graveyard lakes area up on a peak to see the sight when the weather rolled in fast… as it always does up there!
            Thanks again!

  8. Stickfighter says

    Summer of 1978, I volunteered with my Forestry college friend who at the time was working with the USFS-Sierra Nat’l Forest maintaining and extending the John Muir trails! We had to take the Edison Lake Ferry and got dropped off on some trail (unknown to me) for a very gruesome hike! In 1979, I worked for the Sequoia NF- Pinehurst Ranger Station. We cleared and built the first campground with the help of the summer youth program. It’s rare that a woman at the time would be an employee at the high country. Last summer – 2013 another forester who worked the Shaver Lake District in our 20’s finally spent two weeks at Edison Lake (Vermillion Valley Resort) and did day hikes. The three of us women are planning to go horse backpacking for our 60th birthday bash with another Reedley forester who has done 40 years of High Sierra back packing. I cannot wait…hope I’m not wheelchair bound by then.

  9. says

    I am extremely inspired with your writing talents and also with the layout
    in your blog. Is that this a paid subject matter or did you customize it your self?

    Anyway stay up the nice high quality writing, it is uncommon to look a great blog like this one nowadays..

  10. Tony says

    Great site; a gold mine of information. Planning a first trip but I have a mini Toyota truck and will be towing a small (5 1/2′ wide x 12′ hitch to end) teardrop trailer. Everything I’ve read discourages trailers but I’m wondering if something this size would be a problem?
    Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.

    • enby says

      I’ve seen an 18′ camper in the mono hot springs camp ground. It is doable but expect scratches and precise menuvering.

    • says

      We’ve towed boat trailers up there about that size without too much difficulty, and I’ve seen utility trailers up there as well. Just makes others squeezing by you a bit more difficult.

  11. mark says

    Thanks for the blog. I am a huge high sierra fan and constantly day dream about being up in the mountains soaking up the beauty, wildlife, and air. I am looking forward to exploring Sierra National Forest in late August by foot and ATV. I wish I had a good core of friends that congregate the way your group does. Can I join the group?

    • Jeff Greene says

      It is an amazing place, and I highly encourage getting up there, but this is a group that has mostly been together since high school, so adding new members has been largely frowned upon!

  12. Cole says

    What a great post. I worked for the past 3 years as a backcountry Ranger in Yellowstone and this will be my first trip to the Sierra with my wife. We’re attending a fellow rangers wedding in Oakhurst then taking the week off to explore the Sierra. We’re going to plan on parking and hiking in for a few days. This post helped me understand where to go, so thanks a bunch. I have a quick question: You said at one point to reserve the camping ahead of time, but if we’re doing the dispersed camping, we probably wont need to reserve anything besides a fire permit, right? Again, thanks for sharing and for you peace of mind, know that we’ll leave the area better than how we found it, hauling out any trash I find is standard for me!

  13. Vizen Ultralax says

    seems like the best way to preserve such a fine spot would be to not post it on the internet for douchbags to come and graffitize, litter, etc., and just plain old overcrowd the place. Looks awesome and rewarding, but I reckon you have nothing to complain about when you find this place overrun.

    • says

      Generally the difficulty of the road, the inability to bring a big RV, and the sparseness of the facilities do a good job at keeping the crowds down. People that welcome that part of the area and come for that reason are generally pretty cool.

  14. LK says

    Thanks for the great post! I am a frequent Yosemite visitor but was looking for something where I could build a fire and some other bushcraft activities and the national forrest rules are more flexible than those of the park. I was trying to find a nice place and if I visit your spot I too will leave it nicer than when I got there. Thanks again!

      • says

        So we’re thinking of doung bsckpacking around either 1) florence lake or our usual 2) mono creek on far side of edison lake, in August. It’s been difficult getting info but do u know what water levels will be in those lakes and creeks come mid august? Also any update on back country fires in those areas? Any info appreciated. Thx!


        • Jeff Greene says

          I was just there last weekend. Edison Lake and Florence Lake were both higher than we anticipated (which was an admittedly low bar). We were told that they were drawing down Florence Lake to fill Hooper Creek/San Joaquin River, but the rain was coming down so frequently the last few weeks, that it should probably be pretty stable. Edison Lake was also higher than it was in March and April, due to the recent rains. Mono Creek and the San Joaquin River should both be flowing pretty regularly. No fires in the region as of today, and there weren’t even any campfire or wood gathering restrictions, unlike the past two years. But those could be implemented any day, so check back regularly here:

          • says

            great post!! thanks so much for the information. I was planning on camping here in a few weeks and would definitely prefer being able to have a campfire at night. To error on the safe side we will probably need to be a campsite since we all anticipate that fire restrictions will go into place soon. Do you recommend one campground over an other. We would prefer privacy and easy access to water. I have been researching online and its difficult to say which camp ground would be best for the week heading into 4th of july. any thoughts???? also would be nice to make reservations since it runs into the holiday weekend. thanks again for sharing this amazing place, so excited for our trip

          • Jeff Greene says

            Fire restrictions still aren’t in place, but the Ranger wouldn’t even guarantee me a week in advance that they wouldn’t be imposed by the time we got there, so campground is definitely safest. The most popular campground is the one at Mono Creek, which is right on the River and right across from the bricked in natural hot tubs (and near the totally natural tubs just up the hill from there). It is also next to the camp store and restaurant and facilities (showers, hot tubs, massage, etc) at Mono Hot Springs Resort. It is also close to Doris Lake, described in my post. If you like a little more peace and quiet, we’ve stayed the last three years (including first weekend of June this year) at Jackass Meadow Campground below Florence Lake. There are a lot fewer people there, and the camp host Russ is cool (tell him one of the Hoot guys said hi…). There is good fishing in the creek that runs right past the campground, but not really any wading or swimming in this area. You can also rent boats or catch the ferry at Florence Lake to go to the other side to the Upper River. Ward Lake is a ridiculously scenic lake and campground in between the other two, and people do float around in it, or just lounge around on the rocks. Biggest downside there is it is right off the “main” road and I would guess any loud neighbors would echo right off the lake and granite walls behind it. All campgrounds have non-potable water faucets for camp clean-up, but not for drinking. Have fun–I’m already looking forward to getting back again next year!

  15. Erica says

    Hey there– thank you so much for your eloquently written and detailed essay on the Eastern Sierras. I need help! I am taking my husband and 10 yr old daughter along with another couple and their two kids up there camping in about a week. Sort of a last minute decision. I’ve spent hours researching where we can go. Obviously, with such short notice, most campgrounds are booked. We’d like to be near a creek/river so the kids can play. We’d also prefer not to be in a totally congested area and need a campground where we can make reservations. We are driving up from LA. I’m concerned about the drive up to this area with the kids in tow. Maybe you have some other ideas as it seems like you know the area very well!

    • Jeff Greene says

      Helga–believe it or not, that was just fish filet cubes and Creole/Cajun seasoning in the bag, which he then just fried up in butter on the cast iron pan. It was ridiculously good for how simple it was, but the setting and extra fresh fish makes everything taste better!

      • Jennifer De Jesus says

        Jeff, thank you so much for posting this. One photo caught my attention with the caption “Upper Mono Creek on the far side of far side of Edison Lake” and want to know you mean the upper side of the Edison Lake along Mono Creek. Also, I have a campfire permit, would I need to get any other permits to do the dispersed camping in this area? Please advise, thank you! I just started discovering the Sierras since I started working at Big Creek for SCE.


        • Jeff Greene says

          Howdy! Thanks for the note–I just got back from my annual trip there on Sunday, and it was beautiful as always! Edison Lake and Florence Lake (and Huntington and Shaver) were essentially full, which we hadn’t seen in years. I have several friends who work (or worked) with SCE, and used to go up to their facility there regularly.

          If you have a Sierra National Forest fire permit, you don’t need anything else for dispersed camping, but there is a very real possibility that they will implement fire restrictions at any time. The previous two years we’ve had to stay in one of the campgrounds (Jackass Meadow, which is really nice and not nearly as crowded as Mono Creek or Vermillion) because fires were only permitted in campgrounds. Definitely check their “notices” page before you leave: Sierra National Forest – Alerts & Notices

          The picture you are referring to is where Mono Creek comes into Edison Lake at the northeast end of the lake. You can rent boats there at Vermillion Valley Resort, ride the water taxi, or hike around the (long) perimeter of the lake to get there.

          Have fun!

  16. Jeb says

    Bears are very aggressive in this region due to the fact that the most dangerous bears from Yosemite are relocated to this area by the forest service. This information comes from a relative who has been a NFS ranger for 20+ years. Also fire restrictions in this area are quite strict, and in dry years rattle snakes are more prevalent near camp sights. Also in emergencies this is an extremely remote location for any medical services to access and at least two hours from the nearest clinic.

    That said it is a beautiful place. However it will not remain such if people blog about it so thoroughly. Seriously, this is a top post in certain google searches. That’s great for Jeff the writer, but not for families who rely on peace and quiet (what’s left of it) in the California wilderness.

    Thanks for all the great information Jeff. Glad you love this area. Any chance you’d be willing to remove the post?


  17. Randall G Shaw says

    My first experience at Jackass meadows required me to extend my stay. I had planned on 7 days but extended it to 10 days. The whole experience getting there, the beauty on the way, Ward Lake like a post card, the rugged granite hills as you drive to the lake, the huge granite rise that dead ends into the campsite. The fantastic views, good fishing, and best of all, the remoteness that usually discourages large numbers from coming here. One time we were 1 of 3 campers in the whole loop. It was like our little private camping area. I hope is stays that way. I am tempted to try the Lake Edison area as well. And if you are there for a long stay at Jackass, a trip to Mono hot springs is well worth a bath or shower. Also some beautiful little natural lakes near mono are worth exploring and are also stocked by fish and game just off the Ansel Adams wilderness trail.

    • Jeff Greene says

      Great, isn’t it? Just got back on Sunday from my annual trip, and all the lakes up there were full for the first time in years!

  18. says

    I purely love camping in the Hooper Diversion area, right below Jabba the Hutt. The goatpath from the regular campground road has a few iffy spots, depending on what I’m driving, but once there, you’re there! A lovely playground. Abundant fishing, hiking, backpacking, climbing, in a huge variety of places. There’s a good chance that the Kaiser Pass road may not be improved (so the riffraff will stay away!), because the Hooper Diversion Dam and gaging stations are mostly served by helicopter anymore. Maybe just wishful thinking, but at least there’s hope. Can’t wait to go back! My favorite campsite had two big Jeffrey pines in a V, but they’ve both fallen now, it’s still nice but not quite the same. Usually, campstoves are ok even when there are fire restrictions, so ya can get by. That way you even don’t have to clean out the fire ring that was trashed by the last idiots that were there. By the way, there was some mention of fishing Hooper Creek. That looks like a mistake, since Hooper Creek is really tiny and brushy. It looked like they were really describing the South Fork San Juaquin, which goes on past Jackass Dike and continues to Mono Hot Springs and beyond. A nice hike, that, and good fishing. Most of the South Fork goes into the huge hole in the cliff just above the dam, but they have to leave a minimum flow in the actual river, which is adequate.

  19. Rob says

    Great Write up Jeff! I have been visiting this area since I was a little kid going on trips with my parents. I now try to visit the area at least once a year but on good years like this, I visit twice. It does seem like each year it is becoming more and more popular among campers but if you know where to look the secluded spots are still out there!

    • Jeff Greene says

      I’m sure your camp beanies and weenies or freeze dried REI meals are awesome, but we do like to push ourselves to make tasty meals in relatively primitive conditions. It is all part of the fun, and after 20+ years, and it has become a friendly competition between us each night. If you want to stop on by, we’ll be there July 24-28th this year, and we’d be happy to show you a fabulous meal and pour you a top shelf whiskey in the great outdoors. And the “tool” is one of my buddies, and one of the best guys you’d ever meet.

      • John says

        Hi Jeff, do you think Kaiser Pass Rd will open Memorial Day? It seems like we’ve had a very wet winter…


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