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Camping Getaway Guide: Modoc National Forest, California
Health & Fitness

Camping Getaway Guide: Modoc National Forest, California

The perfect itinerary for a camping getaway to Modoc National Forest, full of all the activities and sights to enjoy.

Natasha Kouyoumjian

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6 min read

November 07, 2022

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

Escape the bustling city life for a relaxing getaway in a place filled with contrasts and pristine scenery at Modoc National Forest. Nestled in the deep ends of northeastern California, the forest boasts scenic views of craggy mountains and adventurous settings, ranging from lava caves and craters to tranquil lakes and streams. Derived from its historic records, the name of the landmark is taken from the Native American tribe that formerly occupied the land. 

Modoc National Forest is extremely large, to say the least, spanning nearly 1.7 million acres across Californian land. So needless to say, the possibilities of things to do and places to see are endless. While you can spend multiple weekends in this century old forest (established in 1904) and still not explore every inch, we’ve put together the ideal guide for your Modoc Forest getaway.

Head down the dirt road path through Modoc National Forest and begin preparing for an off-the-grid getaway to remember.

Day 1

Road Trip and Arrival

Start your engine early from Sacramento and embark on a journey of a lifetime to one of the state’s Native American Landmarks. With your fireside feast neatly packed, and your guitar and camping gear in the trunk, there’s not much left to do but roll down your windows and start your weekend right.

Five hours can feel as short as a blink of an eye if you journey with your heart and on the proper routes. Owing to California’s endless compelling sights, the possibility of going wrong with any road is little to none. But for a fun-packed trip, we recommend heading northeast to take the westside highway. Grab a coffee and a bagel on the go, and get ready for a weekend in Modoc National Forest, California. Enjoy a trip down history lane as you pass through the State’s Gold Rush cities on your expedition, and make your way to the Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark.

Arguably one of the best camping spots in California, a day trip to Lake Shasta National Monument is a perfect stop on your road trip to Modoc.

Morning

Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark

With approximately three hours down, take a detour to explore the region of Shasta Cascade. With over 800-plus caverns forged from the volcanic nature of the region, the area summons uncanny masses of tourists seeking adventure, relaxation, and history. Pose for a picture on your boat trip in the fresh waters to make the most of the scenic volcano backdrop. Be sure to check out Shasta’s limestone caverns to grab a sense of their vibration of vitality and mystery. In the wake of a morning well spent, carry on the road trip to your destination!

Afternoon

Get settled in

Soak in views of mountain meadows, snow-capped peaks, and springtime carpets of vibrant wildflowers as you ride the freeway to this remote area. While you enjoy the cooling breeze, it feels like a good time to open the snack bag and devour some well-selected goodies to sustain you until the evening’s bonfire. Whether you’re traveling in a car, an RV, or by trailer, parking spots are available for easy and trouble-free camping in Modoc National Forest. Take a pick from an endless array of lodging campsites, including Willow Creek, Payne Springs, Howard's Gulch, and Blue Lake Campgrounds, to get settled in for an incredible evening. No matter which campground you choose to camp in, the amenities offer just the right touch of flare to make it a memorable weekend.

The Blue Lake Campgrounds

As you arrive at your chosen destination, it’s time to start the fun activities. Although the site is weather-dependent, you have a high chance of finding the Blue Lake Campgrounds open in mid-May or late October. Park your RV or trailer at the designated spot, and enjoy the most spectacular location offering all comforting niceties, together with a camp host. As you set up your tent and your camping gear, jump on the boat ramp available near the lake. Tether the boat to the back of the rig and sail the fresh waters for a nice calming afternoon fishing on the lake.

Evening

With the day’s catches in hand, it's time to gather some dead and down wood and head to the firepits to prepare for the evening’s bites. Unload the sandwiches, sausages, and skewered vegetables and throw them on the portable BBQ tray to grill them nicely. With the belly full of the best camping combos, take a nice evening stroll to breathe in the crisp wilderness of the region, and then head back to your campsite. Cuddle with your furry friends under the fuzzy blanket and enjoy the unique Modoc National Forest camping stargazing and playing music while the fire gently sputters and dances to your tune.

Modoc National Forest Things To Do

Mill Creek Falls usually runs year round, but the waterfall is especially lively in the spring.

Day 2

Morning

Open your eyes to the colors of the Modoc National Forest as your ears balance to the song of the chirping birds. Brew your morning coffee and head over to Blue Lake to start the day’s activities. Bath in the swathing blues of the lake for a lovely morning swim, and take in the mesmerizing setting of otherworldly nature.  Carry on with your quirky morning activities as you take out the binoculars to do some birdwatching. Treasure the rare sight of Mountain Bluebird and the Northern Goshawk as an array of migrating birds cover your sky. If you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of the rare Bald Eagle.

After a relaxing morning, it's time to pack up your camping set and head out to continue the weekend adventures at this magnetic NorCal national forest. A trip to Modoc is not complete without a stop at the mesmerizing Mill Creek Falls, a beautiful waterfall that runs nearly all year round.

Modoc Forest Attractions

Afternoon

As you begin to head out of the campgrounds and dive deeper into other parts of this vast forest, you remember that you cannot leave the Modoc National Forest without visiting its landmarks. Head northwest from the Blue Lake Campgrounds, up to the Lava Beds National Monument. Before reaching the designated destination, make a stop at the Señor Tequila for a hearty Mexican breakfast. For a filling breakfast, we recommend ordering the greasy omelet deeply blended with cultural spices served with tomatoes on the side. And top off this sizeable breakfast with a cup of Mexican coffee for an extra vitalizing touch. 

The extraordinary nature and versatile blend of activities are what make this area so popular. Hounding basaltic lava flows, horseback riding, and hiking are just a few of the myriad of activities that you can participate in the forest. While its exciting ventures are unbeatable, off-season activities can be even more enticing. Ranging from cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to snowmobiling, you can’t spare a second of fun at this quintessential national park. You can even enjoy the extras of Modoc National Forest, hunting in accordance with seasonal laws.

Explore the stunning lava caves of Lava Beds National Monument as you cross off one more natural wonder from your bucket list!

But for this trip, you might want to head down to the Lava Beds National Monument in Tulelake. Tucked away in the northern corners of the state, this majestic spot governs caverns made of molded lava beds with supernatural sights that will spark the caving blaze in you. Explore the rugged landscape and the bizarre formations, and remember to keep your hands off the bats. 

Modoc National Forest has much to offer to quench your appetite for both adventure and culture.

Evening

Dinner in Shasta

As the evening slowly approaches, it's time to climb back into the car and head home. Since the journey is long, it insists on a proper dinner to keep you energized for the journey ahead. As you reach Shasta Cascades, make a stop at the Three Shastas Bar & Grill restaurant for a hearty dinner. Start with the beer-battered onion rings and the arancini Italian rice balls mixed with fontina and provolone. And continue the flavorsome journey with the 12 oz grilled ribeye topped with garlic butter and melted gorgonzola – served with spinach-mushroom risotto on the side. Seal the evening on a sweet note with the Dessert Nachos – set out with fried wonton chips tossed in cinnamon and sugar and topped with apple pie compote. When you're satiated with your dinner, step outside for a breath of fresh air. With the sweetness of the dessert on your tastebuds and the calmness of the weekend in your heart, mount back into the car as you bid adieu to an unforgettable weekend in Modoc National Forest.

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