Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest boasts big sequoias, plenty of activities, and four campgrounds that are suitable for smaller rigs. Located 21 miles northeast of Porterville, California, the almost 5,000-acre state forest contains four of the largest 20 giant sequoia trees in the world. The state forest was created in 1946 after nearly 60 years of intensive logging of the giant sequoias in the area. The state forest has features numerous ancient Indian archaeological sites, a historic saw mill, and hundreds of giant sequoia tree stumps left from the days of logging.
Today, the state forest is a nature lover’s and outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with numerous activities including fishing, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There are plenty of historical items to help you learn about the Native Americans who occupied the land. There are seven campgrounds, but only four are suitable for RVs, trailers, and campervans. The Balch Park Campground is the best for rigs under 40 feet and the Frazier Mill Campground is best for rigs under 20 feet.
The weather at Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest is fabulous during the summer months with temperatures in the mid-80s at lower elevations. Wintertime temperatures bring temperatures in the mid-40s with plenty of rain.
The best place for RVs to access Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest is along Balch Park Road which enters into the state forest in the southern portion. Bigger rigs will not travel well along highway 190 as the two-lane road winds northward from Porterville into the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains. The highway is packed with numerous turns through steep terrain that will prohibit your speed. You are advised to use pull-outs to permit traffic flow. Once you pass Springville you begin driving northeast in similar terrain but along Balch Park Road. You will encounter plenty of curves and a steep incline until you reach the state forest boundary. Once inside the state forest the driving becomes even harder.
There are four main roads within state forest which are Camp Lena, Summit, Balch Park, Summit, and River. These roads are steep, windy, and have many switchbacks to navigate. Congestion within the state forest is expected with tourists viewing the sequoias from their car, truck, or rig. There will be congestion around the campgrounds, visitor center and museum, historical sites along roads, and there will be people traveling with smaller camping and horse trailers. If you are pulling a trailer it is best to setup camp and set out without your trailer. While driving within the state forest you will be sharing the roads with bicyclists, pedestrians, horseback riders, and you need to lookout for children playing near their campground. Please adhere to all posted speed limits for your safety.
The Shake Camp Campground has 11 campsites suitable for RVs with a maximum length of 20 feet. There are no hookup services available. The campground is well-shaded and located in the northern section of the state forest. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table, bear boxes, and a gravel parking pad which may require leveling. The campground offers vault toilets, water spigots, and horse corrals adjacent to campground. Generators may be used from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Pets must be restrained at all times. The campground is open from mid-May through October.
Balch Park Campground has 71 campsites for RVs with a maximum length of 40 feet. There are no hookup services available. The campground features two fishing ponds that were built in 1956 which resemble a mill pond. The area surrounding the campground was never logged and there are numerous giant sequoias for shade and privacy. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table, and a gravel parking pad which may require leveling. The campground has flush toilets, water spigots, and showers. Generators may be used from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Pets must be restrained at all times. The campground is open from mid-May through October.
Frasier Mill Campground has 46 campsites with 14 campsites suitable for RVs and trailers with a maximum length of 35 feet. There are no hookup services available. The campground is a former sawmill site and there are no giant sequoias in the campground. Each campsite features a fire ring, picnic table, bear boxes, and a gravel parking pad which may require leveling. The campground has water spigots and vault toilets. Generators may be used from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Pets must be restrained at all times. The campground is open from mid-May through October.
Hedrick Pond Campground with 14 campsites suitable for RVs with a maximum length of 20 feet. There are no hookup services available. The area surrounding the campground had never been logged, and there are giant sequoias that offer shade and privacy. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table, bear boxes, and a gravel parking pad which may require leveling. The campground has vault toilets and water spigots. Generators may be used from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Pets must be restrained at all times. The campground is open from mid-May through October.
One of the more popular things to do in Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest is hiking. Once you get your hiking boots from your rig, you will be treated with miles of superb hiking trails. Families will enjoy the short one-mile Forestry Information Loop Trail that features interpretive signs. More advanced hikers can try the Balch Park Trail and the Griswold Trail that extends for more than three miles. Another moderate trail for you to try is the two-mile Loop Trail where you can take a short trip to one of the interesting Indian Bathtubs carved out of granite and a view the Adam Tree.
One of the best things to do in Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest is to gaze the giant Sequoia trees that naturalist John Muir once called the “finest block of sequoia" in the belt Sierra Nevada. The Mountain Home Grove is home to four of the world’s largest giant sequoia trees which are the Genesis Tree, Summit Road Tree, Euclid Tree, and the Adam Tree. Some of the giant sequoias in Mountain Home Grove tower more than 273 feet into the sky. The only place with more giant sequoias on the planet is neighboring Sequoia National Park.
The Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest is home to numerous historical sites that include logging sites and sawmills; painted pictographs, and unique Indian bathtubs. The Enterprise Mill site has the remnants of a saw mill used from 1897-1901. Sunset Point Archaeological Interpretive Site is home to numerous Indian rock shelters and the Exeter Rocky Hill Site is home to some of the best southern Sierra rock art. Scattered throughout the state forest are Indian bathtubs which were carved from the granite. Stop in at the museum located in Balch Park area for more information.
Although there is no place to camp with your horse there are numerous areas within Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest where you can park your trailer near horse corrals including near the Shake Camp Campground. There is an unbelievable amount of old logging roads open for horseback riding. One of the best rides is the 2.5-mile Needles Lookout Trail. Other great places to horseback ride are Tub Flats Road, Bogus Meadow Road, and Dogwood Meadow Road.
Fishing is a great thing to do in Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest. Once you pull you rod and reel from your rig, there are three ponds for you to fish. Two ponds are located in the Balch Park area and the third is Hedrick Pond. The ponds were created in 1958 to provide fishing opportunities for visitors. The ponds are stocked each year with catchable trout and you can find nice trout in Bear Creek and Rancheria Creek. Please check the California fishing regulations for bag and size limits.
Bringing your climbing gear with you in your campervan is a great idea when visiting Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest. You will need to mountain bike or hike the 2.5-mile Needles Lookout Trail, but when you arrive you are rewarded with excellent climbing options along the Needles granite rock faces that jettison into the sky. Once on the rock face you will also have great views of the surrounding area including Mount Whitney.