Camping and Hiking in the Sierra National Forest

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Before the devastating Creek Fire took over the area early this month, we had a lovely time camping and hiking in the Sierra National Forest. I’ve never been up in this area, so I was very much looking forward to exploring it.

We set up our camp at one of the established campgrounds near Huntington Lake called Lower Billy Creek. I was looking for a small campground by a lake, and this was a perfect low key little place for us for a few days. I hope to visit again next year.

Even though it was just three of us, I reserved a double site, and I was glad I did. There was plenty of distance between us and other campers.

The camp host Steve was friendly and helpful. He was also on top of his daily duties. He sure kept the campground in tiptop shape!

My favorite part of camping is the early morning. I get to welcome each day with a sunrise. And when it’s by a lake, that’s even better. Most of the time, Xena likes to stay back in the tent and sleep in until breakfast, but on this day, she joined me.

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Hiking to Rancheria Falls

When we woke up on Day Two, the temperature was in the 50’s. I forgot how refreshing that feels! We quickly made coffee, and light breakfast then headed to the trailhead before the warmth caught up to us.

This hike is close to the campground and only 4 miles in a round-trip, so I chose this one. It would be in the mid-80’s again, so I wanted to finish the hike before 11 AM at the latest.

If you start this hike from the actual trailhead, it’s even shorter – only two miles in RT. So I made us park at the beginning of the fire road and hiked one mile up to the trailhead. There is a sign posted for Rancheria Falls Trail on CA-168 that’s pretty visible from the highway.

If you are driving to the trailhead, you don’t need a high clearance vehicle, but I recommend driving slowly so you can spot dips ahead.

There are several parking spaces at the trailhead as well as a vault toilet. This bridge is at the beginning of the Rancheria Falls trail.

Easy terrain, not much elevation gain, and short distance make this hike family-friendly.

We were the first ones to be on the trail that morning. The scent of pine trees filled the crisp morning air. It felt great to be back in the forest. We stopped for the three deer so they can cross over to the other side. They gracefully ran up the hills after studying us for a while.

Although Rancheria Falls wasn’t massive at the end of summer, this multi-tiered waterfall was still lovely and picturesque.

At the last minute, we decided to check out Black Butte nearby via car. It was getting warm, and I didn’t want to take a chance.

Unless you like off-roading, I recommend skipping this part. For this portion of the exploration, you will need a high clearance vehicle. We went as far as the trail led us.

The rock formation on top of the hill is Black Butte. I wasn’t interested enough to bushwhack up the steep slope. Maybe…if it was cooler…maybe. After I took this photo, we returned to the camp.

We were back at the camp around 10:30 AM. It was warm by then. After the hearty post-hike breakfast, we stayed cool by playing in the lake. As I shared in my last post, Xena learned to swim during this trip. It was very exciting for all of us!

Bear-proof and dog-friendly, 😂 I don’t ask her ‘why’ anymore.

We had another camping trip planned earlier this month but it was cancelled due to multiple wildfires that are still active. We hope these fires are contained soon so we can do this again.

Good to Know:

  • Hike Date:  8.20.20
  • Distance:  4 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain:  680 ft.
  • Maximum Altitude:  7,785 ft.
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • Trailhead/Parking: 37.2481,-119.15985
  • Fee/Permit: None
  • Notable: Vault toilet at the trailhead, forest, waterfalls, kid-friendly

4 comments on “Camping and Hiking in the Sierra National Forest”

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