Looking for a site to pitch your tent? California is an excellent place to take in the great outdoors. The Golden State offers diverse landscapes, exotic wildlife and an abundance of outdoor activities to keep you entertained while you sleep under the stars. Browse through the 12 spots we recommend for the best camping in California, and find one that suits your needs and interests.
1. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park offers 13 different campgrounds for tent pitchers to enjoy. The park is 95% wilderness, meaning no cars, no structures, no buildings and no electricity. Yosemite also offers an abundance of hiking trails for the nature lover. Take a hike on the Four Mile Trail from Yosemite Valley to the top of Glacier Point or if you’re looking for something a bit more difficult, the Panorama Trail offers 8 miles of adventure. Beware of the black bears!
2. Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park offers a unique camping experience because it’s situated in the middle of two deserts. The low-lying Colorado Desert lies to the east, while to the west you will find the slightly higher, cooler and wetter Mojave Desert. The park also features ten mountain peaks higher than 5,000 feet in elevation. Are you an adrenaline junkie? Joshua Tree is a popular rock-climbing destination. Watch out for the coyotes and ravens while camping out here.
3. Red Meadow Valley – Mammoth Lakes
Red Meadow Valley is located in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The valley offers six campgrounds that are open only in the summer months. The valley provides endless miles of hiking trails in a wilderness area lined with tall mountains, pine trees and wildflowers. Don’t miss hikes to Devils Postpile National Monument, the Minarets and Ritter Range and Rainbow Falls.
4. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley offers campers a variety of conditions throughout the year. Due to its location below sea level the basin experiences record high temperatures during the summer months, snowy peaks in the winter, mild spring conditions and a cool and colorful autumn season. Don’t be discouraged by the national park’s morbid name – it’s a beautiful back country destination, but watch out for the rattlesnakes. It’s one of the best winter camping spots in California, but if you can take the heat, visit during the summer.
5. Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is not only home to giant sequoia trees, but it also houses the General Sherman tree, the worlds largest tree and arguably the largest living organism on earth. The park offers seven different areas for travelers to set up camp. Take a hike to Hume Lake or visit the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
6. Redwood National Park
Home to the world’s tallest trees, Redwood National Park offers an expansive canopy that keeps campers cool in the California sunshine. Redwood is a large park in both size and diversity. Walk amongst the 2,000 year-old giants, watch for whales from the Klamath River Overlook or white-water raft down the wild and scenic Smith River. Look out for the Roosevelt elk, the largest subspecies of North American elk.
7. Big Sur
Take a road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway and make a stop along the rugged coastline of Big Sur. Camping in Big Sur is as varied as the accommodation. Pitch a tent in one the area’s State Parks or privately owned campgrounds. Stream-side camping is available in the Big Sur Valley and oceanview bluff camping is available in the southern end of Big Sur. Rent an inner tube and float along the Big Sur River or hike the 4-mile trail to Sand Dollar Beach. The picturesque and diverse landscape of Big Sur will not disappoint the adventurous camper.
8. Shasta Cascade Region
The Shasta Cascade region offers a breathtaking landscape of lakes, rivers and towering mountain peaks. The region offers exceptional outdoor adventure activities year-round. Try the free kayak tours offered by the National Park Service at Whiskeytown Lake during the summer. In the winter go snowshoeing in Lassen Volcanic National Park. The fall boasts spectacular autumn colors, while the spring comes alive with swaying wildflowers and adventurous river rafting. If the outdoor sports do not excite you, visit one of the local casinos or heritage museums. You will not be short of attractions in the Shasta Cascade region.
9. Napa Valley – Wine Country Camping
Wine connoisseurs can experience Napa Valley on a budget. There are two campgrounds offered on either end of the valley, Bothe Napa and Skyline Wilderness Park. Camping in the country’s most popular wine region offers opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, cycling, fishing and bird watching. You can also take a culinary tour, visit historic sites and imbibe at affordable wineries.
10. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park offers eight campgrounds for visitors to chose from. We recommend the Summit Lake South Campground which lies in the middle of the park. This campground is bordered by Summit Lake, a small but breathtaking body of water. Hike the Cluster Lake loop trail from the Summit Lake Ranger Station and enjoy swimming, kayaking and fishing once you’ve reached the lake.
11. Crystal Cove State Park
One of the most picturesque camping sites in southern California is Crystal Cove. This state park offers 2,400 acres of wilderness and 3.2 miles of coastal beachfront. It’s located in the Newport Beach area between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach in Orange County. There are currently 24 beachfront cottages available for rent and there’s also tent, RV, family and bluff camping available at El Moro Canyon.
12. Lake Tahoe Basin
Some of the best camping in California can be found in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The basin, located in the northern Sierra Nevada, is home to the largest alpine lake in North America, covering 150,000 acres of wilderness, beaches, hiking trails, historic estates and just over 20 campgrounds.