The Hidden Sierra Lakeside Camping: Highland Lakes

There were three things I wanted to do on this camping trip: relax, hike on the Pacific Crest Trail and run nine miles at high elevation. I accomplished none of them but I still had a wonderful time in a beautiful place.

I was slightly sick with a cold and it got worse including lots of sinus pressure, body aches, chest and lymph node pain. Not to mention my toddler son also had the same symptoms but a day later than myself, so I didn't know he was really sick until we got to our campsite. Either way, my son and I were feeling pretty sick our first night plus the altitude was affecting us more than my husband and my daughter.

Highland Lakes Campground

Location: Stanislaus National Forest, off of Highway 4. Google Map to Highland Lakes


Reservations: First Come First Serve - No Reservations. Camped in August, campgrounds normally open in July due to high Sierra snow.

Daily Price: $12/night (as of 2016, check National Forrest website)

Facilities: Hand-Pumped well for water,  Restrooms (Non-Flushable Toilets).  No Showers.

Campsite Visited: Campsite No. 7

Activities Permitted: Camping, Hiking, Swimming, Fishing, Non-motorized boating

This is a pretty remote campground in the High Sierra of California, off of Highway 4 in Stanislaus National Forrest. As our friend said, "This is where I would come to hide if the we were invaded!". The 4-6 hour (4 hours if you have no kids and don't stop) drive from the San Francisco Bay Area is worth the time for the beauty of this campground.

It has many trail heads such as to the Pacific Crest Trail, Highland Lakes Trail, and trails to Folger Peak and others. Sadly, I was too sick to go on any trail and only hiked around lower Highland Lake a two-mile hike but it's scenery made up for its shortness in distance.

Camping with small children (babies/toddlers) is different than older children.  Babies and some toddlers still take naps and in this case a camping with a sick toddler, naps were definitely required.  Napping not the only issue at hand but what to do with a crawling baby that wants to crawl in the dirt and a sick 30 lb toddler who wants to be held. Well you do the following:

Thankfully my husband is a strong man to carry our toddler almost the entire camping trip and I have gotten over the fact that dirt does not kill babies.  I also carried my 11 month old daughter in a kid carrier, but she always falls asleep within 15 minutes of being in there.

This was our campsite, number 7 and our mansion of a tent.  Looks huge but with all our our "camping stuff" it gets a little cramped for two adults and two children.  I really need to reduce the amount of things I take, something I'm working on.

Highland Lakes Campground had non-flushable toilets, but they are not port-o-potties, a water pump, no showers, and a fire pit at every campsite.

The one thing that did throw us for a loop was the weather.  We had rain, thunder, lighting, and hail storms and a few days of sunshine.  Not 30 second hail storm from the Bay Area, but a real hail storm.  Friday night I think I felt a river going under our tent, only small water leakage in our tent.  It never got too hot during the day, but a few nights it was cold.  I was sick so everything felt colder anyways.

Being sick and having a sick child during camping was not fun, but we made the best out of it.  First two nights were really bad sleeping nights for our kids, so I nor my husband slept either.  I think the altitude affected myself and my son the most because we were sick, so much that my son threw up the first night we were there.  I really wanted to go hiking but I just had no energy and my son was not himself either.  So we opted out for hiking around upper and lower Highland Lakes and searching for more firewood. Our friends went on their own hikes and hiked up Folger Peak and a portion on the Highland Lakes Trail.

Camping is fun, what I will remember most about this camping trip to Highland Lakes is the following:

  • Another camper, who owned a painting company, playing his guitar and singing his heart out on a rainy day as I laid in my tent with my sick son and my napping daughter.
  • My husband and friends spent most of the camping trip trying to get a fire started or chopping wood down.  Our friend blew on the dwindling fire and looked like a fire breathing dragon when the firewood finally caught on fire.
  • How still the lake was in the morning or if the wind died down, very mirror-like.
  • My children.  My daughter was a completely different baby, she was so happy being outdoors.  My son, even though he was sick, loved throwing rocks in the lake.

I leave you with some of my favorite pictures of the beautiful campground with some of my most cherished family memories...

In conclusion, Highland Lakes was awesome.  God's creation is magnificent. Hasta la proxima.

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