San Rafael Wilderness
Unsanctioned camp above the switchbacks from Manzana Narrows. A very nice spot to camp under the edge of one of the prominent Deck ledges and stay out of the rain.
Elevation: 3,750' (585' climb from Manzana Creek to the top of the switchbacks)
Facilities: Metal grate. Note: this is not an approved Forest Service Campsite but it is one of the best camps anywhere in the Forest.
When I first started doing longer trips in the San Rafael Wilderness with Dave Weaver — often a 5-6 day trip between Christmas and New Years, we always made our first night in a small meadow area near the creek crossing atop the switchbacks leading up to the Deck from Manzana Narrows. It was a nice place to camp, there was water and the shade of a tall oak tree to provide ambiance. Plus, once up on the Deck our next day's hike would be mostly a downhill cruise.
Many years ago the tree oak tree toppled and more or less obliterated the camp by the creek. On the next trip up the switchbacks and looked for a different place to camp. We noticed a small creek coming in from the west that happened to be running, with a series of ledges and rock cliffs above it. We hiked up to the bottom of the first cliff and not only discovered a number of places in the rocks and oak trees that would be great for pitching a tent as well as one place right under the cliff with soft sand that was totally sheltered from the rain.
The camp became known as "The Alcove" after that and has served many a friend over the eyars. My friend Bard swears by it and not a year passes by without him spending a night under the cliff.
There is a new table that was packed in as part of an Eagle Scout Project. The old table remains but it is unsafe for sitting; makes for a great structure to use as a table for sorting gear and preparing a meal standing up. There is shovel and one fire ring with grate. Across the trail is another campsite with fire ring and grate.