Camping is a time-honored summer tradition in Northern California, and more than that – it’s a blast. Whether you’re hiking deep into the wilderness, are equipped with a full service RV or have rented out a comfortable campsite at one of the many great national parks around, camping is one of the best ways relax with friends and family.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is a gorgeous outdoor playground with great hiking trails, waterfalls, the crystal clear waters of Wiskeytown Lake and, of course, camping. Here is everything you need to know to go camping in Whiskeytown.
With all campgrounds, make sure every vehicle you and your group bring has a day or annual pass, and that you’ve reserved your site and paid all appropriate fees.
Oak Bottom – Lakeside campsites at Oak Bottom are situated adjacent to the crystal clear water of Whiskeytown Lake, and non-lakeside sites in this area provide close access. Campers can bring their boats along, and park them right next to the campsite. This area also has fire grates for each campsite, and nearby hot showers and restrooms. Some sites are a bit dusty, which can be annoying. Be sure to make a reservation some time before you plan on camping. Fee is between $20 and $22 per day.
Primitive Campsites – These spaces are offered on a first-come-first-served basis, and cost $10 per night. Primitive sites are a ways from the lake, and are accessible by dirt road. Campground features include restrooms, fire rings, food storage lockers and tables.
Peltier Bridge – 7 sites, each with fire pit, tent pad, picnic table, bear-proof storage locker. Vault toilets. Sites # 1, 2, and 3 are a short walk from the parking lot and your gear will have to be carried in. Located below the dam, right on Clear Creek; good opportunities for catch-and-release fishing.
Sheep Camp – 4 sites, each with fire pit, tent pad, picnic table, bear-proof storage locker. Vault toilets. View of Brandy Creek from cliff-top location.
Crystal Creek – 2 sites, each with fire pit, tent pad, picnic table, bear-proof storage locker. Vault toilets. Cool, shady location right on the creek.
Brandy Creek – 2 sites, each with fire pit, tent pad, picnic table, bear-proof storage locker. Vault toilets. Located well above the creek, but within walking distance on the lower part of Brandy Creek Trail.
Coggins Park – 1 site with fire ring, tent pad, picnic table, small bear-proof storage locker; no toilet. Remote location, 4-wheel-drive vehicle recommended.
Horse Camp – 2 sites, each with picnic table, fire pit, 2 bear-proof storage lockers. Vault toilet. Spigot with potable water (shut off in winter). It is the only location where horse camping is allowed, although other campers can use it as well.
Dry Creek Group Campground – These two sites can accommodate between 20 and 50 people each, and are located just beyond the Brandy Creek day use area. Amenities include numerous picnic tables, a large charcoal barbeque grill, a fire pit area, vault toilets, food storage lockers and drinking water. The fee is $75 a night.
There are too many activities available at Whiskeytown to contain in a sort list, but we’ll try to cover a few good ones.
Hiking – whether you just want to take a leisurely stroll with your kids, or conquer a grueling six-hour trek uphill (in both directions), Whiskeytown has trails for novice and expert hikers alike. Stop at the visitor’s center, and ask a helpful ranger what trails might interest you. Also, check out our guide to Hiking the Falls of Whiskeytown trails here.
Shasta Bally – Climbing Shasta Bally is a bit harder than climbing Lassen Peak, but not nearly as tough as climbing Mt. Shasta. People in reasonably good shape who are up for a challenge should give it a try. At the summit, you will get magnificent views of the entire Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Read about summiting Shasta Bally here.
Out for a leisurely camping experience? You can paddleboard, kayak and swim in the crisp, crystal clear water of the lake. As long as your friends are there, just hanging out in the shallow water along the shore and chatting can make for a great time. Or, take your boat out, and try to find some awesome cliff jumps. Be very careful, and ensure that the water below the cliff is deep enough to land safely. If you have the right boat, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, water skiing and tubing can make your otherwise average day extraordinary.
It’s hard to fully capture the camping experience at Whiskeytown in a few hundred words, but just taking in the fresh scent of the pines and the lake, enjoying all sorts of activities with your friends and family, and warming up in front of the fire pit after a long day spent on the lake will make you fall for Whiskeytown.
For more information about camping Whiskeytown, go here.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine