If you’re looking to get away from it all and have some peace and quiet near a lake, this is a nice place to go. It’s out in the middle of the black buttes of Northern California about 20 minutes west of Orland, CA off of Interstate 5. Orland is between Williams and Red Bluff
Total Score: 15
Driving distance from Sacramento: (Rating 3) The total distance by car is about 2 hrs. If towing a trailer or driving an RV, it can be upwards to 2.5-3 hrs
Weather: (Rating 3) It’s HOT. You are in the valley so the heat can be stifling in the summer with 90-100 degree temperatures. There is also a chance for high winds and depending on your campsite location, you could get the brunt of it, or you could be completely blocked. This can be good and bad because getting the brunt of it means you can’t DO anything but try and hide from the wind. If you are blocked, then you just sit in camp and sweat unless you are fortunate to have a waterfront site.
If you are a hardcore wakeboarder, this may not be the lake for you as it has a tendancy to get blown out and finding smooth water can be hard to do.
Peacefulness: (Rating 4) It’s pretty quiet here. There isn’t a freeway for 20 minutes and the main road is at least a mile away. You can sit and listen to the wind in the trees, the water tumbling against the shore and the birds chirp around you. If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of birds nesting in the trees in your site and lizards doing the mating dance.
Walking Trails: (Rating 3) I didn’t really explore much outside the campround area but even those are nice to walk through with hills here and there to work off that tri-tip dinner. The foothills are abundant and I spoke to a guy who was planning a naturehike to the top of one of the nearby buttes. I’m sure there are lots of walking trails around, I just didn’t venture out to find them.
Water Access: (Rating 4) There are a lot of waterfront campsites that will accomodate tents as well as RV’s. This lake has a tendancy to drop water levels later in the season so your walk to the water may be a short distance, but it’s still there. This year (2010) has the water level as high as it’s been in a very long time with water practically lapping at your tent.
Water & Power: (Rating 1) There is a few water spiggots around the area to get water from but can’t stay hooked up to them. There is no power in the campground and very little cell service. This is great if you really want to get away from it all, but not so great if you need to stay somewhat connected with the world.
WiFi: (Rating 0) no wifi.
Other Notes: Black Butte Lake is run by the Army Corps of Engineers and campsites run a VERY reasonable $15 per night. You can book your site through Recreation.gov. They have received some sort of grant for improvements to the grounds and so far have done a really nice job upgrading the facilities. They have added new bathrooms, upgraded playgrounds for the kids, leveled some campsites and installed a railing around the waterfront sites to help keep the kids from wandering into the water unnoticed. They have completely updated the group campsite with new bathrooms/showers, playground etc…
Overall, it’s a nice camground on a nice little lake if you don’t mind looking at the dry hills and black buttes. If you prefer the pines instead of the oaks, head to higher ground.