Itching to spend a night outdoors? Here’s five can’t miss motorcycle camping destinations in California. All you’ll need is a bike and a spirit of adventure.
Big Sur: Prewitt Ridge
This is probably my favorite easy-to-reach campsite in the entire state. The campsite is located five miles down an easy dirt road; enough to keep the tourist hoards at bay, but you could literally get any bike — even a Panigale — down it. Last time I was there, we took the girlfriend’s Jetta.
To find it, ascend Naciemento-Fergusson road (itself one of the most scenic riding roads in the country) from either PCH or inland from Fort Hunter Liggett. At the road’s summit, turn south down the dirt road and continue for approximately 4.5 miles. At that mileage you’ll encounter the first fork of any kind, take the uphill right (it’s signposted too) and go a half mile further and you’ll suddenly be greeted by an expansive view of the Pacific from 1,000 feet above the clouds. There’s fire rings, but gathering wood is illegal and there’s no water available in any form, so you’ll need to pack both in and your trash out. Worth it though, the sunsets are incredible (that’s me and Wiley making some noise) and it’s way off the beaten path.
Bike Needed: Any.
Don’t Miss: Call the Esalen Institute the morning before you want to attend the public bathing hours (1-3am nightly, $25). Phones open at 8am and spots are gone by 8:15. The Institute is a 45-minute ride from the campsite, and totally worth it.
Best Time To Go: All year round.
Death Valley: Saline Valley Hot Springs
Want to reconnect with your inner flower child or just soak in the nicest hot springs around after a long day in the dirt? This place is an absolutely incredibly experience. Located 50 miles or so from the nearest paved roads, you have two choices to get in — the north and south passes into Saline Valley. Saline Valley Road is officially closed in order to absolve the Parks Department of any liability caused by travelling this treacherous route, but the North Pass was just graded. The South remains grueling and is a true test of the full abilities of any ADV bike. Remember that you’re a long way from help should anything go wrong.
Bike Needed: A Dual-Sport or serious ADV bike on dirt tires.
Don’t Miss: The Springs! The road to them is unmarked and splits off Saline Valley Road to the east just north of the sand dunes. If you see a bat on a pole a mile or so after turning, you’re headed in the right direction. Good luck and bring water.
Best Time To Go: Winter.
Joshua Tree: Hidden Valley
Want to do some climbing or just have a transcendent experience in the desert? Joshua Tree’s the place to go. Hidden Valley is named after the fold at its entrance that obscures its existence and is where rustlers used to hide stolen cattle. The campsite there is one of the more remote and picturesque in the park and is closest to the best climbing. But really, you can’t go wrong anywhere in the park. Watch out for rattlesnakes!
Bike Needed: Any
Don’t Miss: Ride the entire way through the park from I-10 to 29 Palms and take it all in. The diverse scenery is stunning, but don’t touch the Chollo Cacti!
Best Time To Go: Winter
Monterey: Laguna Seca
Have you ever wanted to wake up to the sound of race bikes doing hot laps? Want to drink beers and roast weenies while watching a race? The campsites at Laguna Seca have a great view and staying at them gets rid of the need to make the hellish commute into and out of the track over race weekend. Bring earplugs, you won’t sleep without them.
Bike Needed: Any
Don’t Miss: You can’t see most of the race from the Corkscrew, but it’s worth walking over there during a practice or qualifying session. I was there when Marquez passed Rossi through the dirt last year.
Best Time To Go: Ever-greedy Dorna pulled the GP this year, but SBK is visiting July 11-13, 2014.
Western Sierras: Nelder Grove Campground
Want to see some really big trees? This campsite is located down a remote forest service road and is littered with stumps from 19th century logging. You sleep around those stumps and can walk into the Sequoia grove from the campsite. There’s water and clean toilets, too.
Bike Needed: Any
Don’t Miss: Take the Shadow of the Giants Trail from the campsite. The short walk takes you around some of the largest trees in the world.
Best Time To Go: Summer
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