I’m sharing a comprehensive guide to RVing along California Highway 395, with places we love and places we’ve been wanting to explore when we’re not just driving through. This is the final of four posts, for now. There is still so much more to see along this exceptional route!
- Intro, Victorville to Lone Pine
- Lone Pine to Bishop
- Bishop to Bridgeport
- Bridgeport to Reno, and beyond
Our journey ends with a trip through Nevada and then back into northeast California, through some of the least populated and most ruggedly beautiful areas of the state.
4. Bridgeport to Reno
The drive from Bridgeport to Reno is just as scenic in its own way as the better known sections of 395. The route winds through forests, along rivers, above beautiful Topaz Lake, and into the wide open Carson and Washoe Valleys, framed again by the Sierra Nevada range.
We’ve only driven through this portion on our way home, but if you’d like to break up the stay I suggest the following:
Coleville/Walker KOA: Every time we pass this spot I say we should stay here. This KOA campground with RV sites, a lodge, and cabins in the town of Coleville is dramatically situated right up against the granite Centennial Bluffs. Nearby Walker is home to classic roadside motor inns and Walker Burger, sought out by road trippers. Both towns are ideal bases for exploring the “Wild and Scenic” designated West Walker River, and outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking, hiking, and horseback riding.
Topaz Lake Recreation Area: Enjoy waterfront camping with stunning views of Topaz Lake framed by the Sierra Nevada range. This is a popular spot during the summer, but off season and midweek you may have the shore and views all to yourself. This county park is located on the eastern side of the lake, a two mile drive from 395.
Topaz Lodge: You won’t miss the first sign of accommodations once you cross into Nevada. Topaz Lodge is right on 395, overlooking Topaz Lake. With full hookup RV sites, the Lodge can be a fun contrast to days of rustic camping. Enjoy amenities including a casino, pool, coffee shop, steakhouse, and general store, as well as the natural beauty and recreational activities at Topaz Lake.
There are several options for RV camping in the Reno area, from casino resorts to city RV parks. Where I would stay if we were visiting…
Washoe Lake State Park: This gem of a state park is located in beautiful Washoe Valley, between Reno and the state capital of Carson City. The campground is open year round, with partial hookup RV sites. Expansive views of the lake, valley, and mountains make it feel like the middle of nowhere, yet you’re just a few minutes drive from city amenities.
One day I’ll have to create a guide to Reno, a city that’s growing in popularity but still underrated. We love the combination of natural beauty and outdoors access, paired with a vibrant arts and dining scene. Look no further than my Instagram account for evidence. (Until I do have that guide ready, please email or comment for recommendations!)
I could also write extensively about some of the great RV itineraries that originate from Reno: to nearby Lake Tahoe; into California’s Gold Country and to the Pacific coast; east along Highway 50, the Loneliest Highway in America, to Great Basin National Park.
But for this post, I’ll conclude the journey north along 395 to one of our first and favorite RV destinations.
5. Reno to Alturas
Once you’re outside the cities of Reno and neighboring Sparks, the land quickly opens up to expansive desert scrubland to the east and evergreen covered mountains to the west. There’s not much in terms of amenities along the rest of the route, so it’s best to stock up on groceries, gas, and a packed lunch before leaving town.
Lassen Volcanic National Park: In a state with nine National Parks, Lassen is easily overshadowed by better known California destinations like Yosemite, Sequoia, and Joshua Tree. You’ll need to plan at least one additional day, but it’s well worth the time. Lassen is home to all four types of volcanos, bubbling hydrothermal wonders, plus pristine alpine lakes, meadows, and forests. This NPS guide has tips for visiting the park in a few hours or a day. (Note: park access is very limited in the winter.)
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park: We need to make the effort to visit here one day. As beautiful as Burney Falls is in photos, it’s something else entirely to experience in person (according to all the reviews I’ve read). Another 40+ miles from Lassen, the falls can be seen from an overlook close to the parking lot for a quick stop. With a little more time, the paved 1.2 mile Falls Loop Trail takes you to the base of the falls, around the backside, and through lush forest.
Susanville RV Park: Just west of 395, Susanville is a convenient base to overnight. It’s still a 60+ mile drive to Lassen, but you’ll make better time leaving the RV behind and driving your tow car for a day trip. Susanville is a small, scenic gateway town with a variety of shops and restaurants.
Manzanita Lake Campground: This campground just inside the northwest entrance to Lassen is a good option for staying overnight in the park. Sites are either dry camping or electric hookups only, but several can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet. Located next to a visitor center and scenic Manzanita Lake, with its iconic view of Lassen Peak, you can quickly immerse yourself in this underrated National Park. (Note: the campground is only open seasonally.)
Rancheria RV Park: If you’d like to visit both Lassen and Burney Falls, Rancheria RV park is conveniently located between both parks along Route 89, and about 70 miles from Susanville. The campground provides full hookup sites, a store, laundry, and restaurant for a comfortable stay nestled in the forest.
Likely: Back on 395, you may have the highway all to yourself for the rest of the drive to the blink-or-you’ll miss it town of Likely. Park the RV on the side of the road and visit the General Store for provisions and a step back in time. The Likely General Store is a real small town gem, with local meats, ranching equipment, outdoor gear, and gifts all for sale in addition to the standard groceries.
Likely Place Golf & RV Resort: In the first month of our full time travels we spent a few days here as we made our way north into Oregon and Washington. It’s still one of the most remote places we’ve stayed, and also one of the nicest RV parks. Spacious pull-through sites, full hookups, nice restrooms and laundry, a well-stocked store, breakfast and lunch counter, playground, fire pits, oh yeah and a golf course, are all available. But the best thing about Likely Place is the surroundings: wide open land and views for miles.
I wrote an article with more details about our time in Likely. The highlights:
Alturas: The county seat of sparsely populated Modoc County, Alturas is a lively and historical town with a variety of stores, restaurants, accommodations, including the reportedly haunted Niles Hotel. The beautiful 20 minute drive between Likely and Alturas passes through ranches and the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge.
Mill Creek Falls: An incredibly scenic half hour drive from Likely, Mill Creek Falls’ densely forested hiking trails are a refreshing contrast to the surrounding open scrub and ranch land – especially in the summer. A beautiful waterfall and lake complete the experience.
Lava Beds National Monument: Our very first National Park Service site after we started RVing, where the kids earned their first junior ranger badge, Lava Beds will always be a special place to our family. The park provides a surprisingly diverse experience, from exploring underground lava tubes, hiking through lava fields to a fire station lookout with panoramic views, getting up close to one of the largest panels of Native American petroglyphs, and learning the history of the Modoc War.
Are you ready for a Highway 395 RV trip? Comment below with any questions or feedback, I’d love to help plan a trip this unforgettable route!