Dispersed Camping in Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest is located in the Southern Sierra and is absolutely MASSIVE. The National Forest covers 1,193,315 acres. There is no shortage of areas to explore in Sequoia National Forest – it has over 2,500 miles of road, 850 miles of trail, and ranges in elevation from 2,000 feet all the way up to 12,000 feet. Sequoia National Forest and the Southern Sierra was an area that I had been wanting to check out for so, so long, but had just never made it out there – who knew it would take a global pandemic to get me to visit it for the first time!

I went dispersed camping in Sequoia National Forest during Memorial Day Weekend 2020. After two months of quarantining, I was absolutely desperate to go camping, and since all of the campgrounds were closed, we had no option but to go dispersed camping! Although I say that we had no option, we were totally fine with it – dispersed camping is free and (usually) offers much more solitude than staying in a campground.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with dispersed camping, the US Forest Service defines it as, “camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground.” Dispersed camping is completely FREE, and if you know where to look, is much easier finding room to camp than in established campgrounds. Because you aren’t in a campground, there are no services – for the most part, you’ll be camping without water and without a toilet. The Leave No Trace principles are EXTREMELY important while dispersed camping – no one is going to clean up after you when you leave! ALWAYS pack out your trash, camp in established campsites, and bury your waste at least 6 inches down!

In the week leading up to our trip, I did a TON of research to try and find us a good, legal spot. I truly don’t know if they were enforcing it, but the Forest Service was implementing a $5,000 fee for individuals and a $10,000 fee for groups who were caught using developed campsites/recreational facilities. A good reminder to ALWAYS (not just during the time of a global pandemic!) check out the rules and regulations of an forest service/BLM area before you go.

As is usually the case with dispersed camping, it took us a little while to find our campsite. I had spent quite some time online the week before to find information on dispersed sites in the area and forest service roads to check out. Google Maps was, as per usual, a godsend to helping us find a good spot, and we knew that we wanted to check out some forest service roads off of Sherman Pass Road.

After traveling down Sherman Pass Road for 8 – 9 miles past Kennedy Meadows and trying out a few forest service roads that didn’t necessarily pan out, we ended up in the Fish Creek Overflow area on Forest Route 21S33. Once we turned onto Forest Route 21S33 (really easy to spot – it’s on the other side of the road from Fish Creek Campground and even had its own sign!), we traveled for a little over a mile to get to the dispersed camping area. There were plenty of established sites, all spaced out from each other. Even though it was Memorial Day Weekend and was probably more crowded than any other weekend in the summer (except maybe July 4th), we didn’t feel like we were on top of any other campers. There were plenty of established, legal fire rings, and the area was a really cool area to explore by foot. I suspect that somewhere around here is the jeep trail to Monache Meadows, but I’m not entirely sure.

We had a lovely night out of the apartment (for literally the first time in months), ate delicious camp food, played games, and enjoyed Coors Lights over the fire. A great time was had by all, and I’m really excited to go back!

As always with dispersed camping, if you are going to camp here, please please PLEASE adhere to the Leave No Trace principles! Leave it better than you found it to ensure that we can all enjoy our public lands in the future.

Leave-No-Trace-Seven-Principles-Infographic.jpg
The seven Leave No Trace principles, courtesy of a quick google search and Earth River SUP!

If you have any questions about camping in this area of Sequoia National Forest, please comment here or email me at meghikes1@gmail.com!  More than happy to help!

Happy Trails!

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