30 Best Camping Spots In California For Every Adventurer

July 3, 2020

by Ashley Phillips

A tent pitched beside a Joshua tree in California
©Photo by Mondlicht10 from Pixabay

Home to 18 national forests, choosing the best camping in California should be the least of your worries. There are thousands of campgrounds in California, and there should be one for every adventurer. From the sweeping landscapes to ocean views, the Western state has endless scenic camping spots to offer. Whether you’re in for a modern-day camping or the primitive type, you can’t go wrong in California. 

 

Here are 30 of the best camping spots in California. 

 

1.

North Pines Campground 

Part of the campground of North Pines near a creek

Photo by calamity_sal from Flickr

 

Are you planning on Yosemite camping? Better head to North Pines Campground. Located in Central California’s rugged Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, North Pines campground is ideal if you enjoy being surrounded by the stunningly beautiful valley of Yosemite National Park.

 

Serenity is a real deal here as camp the night here within the deep valleys, high granite cliffs, and waterfalls. This campground is considered one of the best that not only comes with all of the basic facilities you’ve ever need, but you’ll also be greeted by the majestic view of the starry night when its dark. To get there is easy, there are paved roads that will lead you directly to the campground.

 

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

 

Camping price: $26/night

 

Tip: The recommended height for RVs is up to 40 feet. For trailers, the maximum height is 35 feet.

 

2.

Tahoe National Forest

The lush view of Barker Pass Road on Tahoe National Forest

Photo by Jonathan Cook-Fisher from Flickr

 

Nestled north of Sierra Nevada, Tahoe National Forest boasts over 75 campgrounds. The national forest has vast lands, scenic views, and numerous hiking and biking trails that make it one of the best camping sites in California. Tahoe National Forest is also home to several vacation spots you can explore. These include Downieville, Sierra City, Goodyears Bar, the Lakes Basin Area, and Yuba River. 

 

If you’re camping during winter, you can play some winter sports there to keep you active. Meanwhile, in the summer, add mountain biking, hiking, and horse riding to your planned activities. All these activities and more secure Tahoe National Forest on the list of best camping sites in California.

 

Camping price: $20/night

 

Tip: There are no showers or electrical outlets at the campgrounds, so it’s best to pack your power banks and other essentials.

 

3.

White Tank Campground

The giant granite boulders in White Tank Campground

Photo by Joshua Tree National Park from Flickr

 

If desert camping is on your list, you need to visit White Tank Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Located among huge granite boulders surrounded by Joshua trees, the White Tank Campground is an excellent spot for some desert camping. 

 

While this best camping location in California is open year-round, camping there can be very hot during the summer. It’s best to visit during spring. There are also only 15 campsites in Joshua Tree National Park, and all the sites are on a first-come, first-served basis.  

 

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

 

Camping price: $15/night 

 

Tip: There is no water available, so you better bring your own supply. You should also bring other essentials to the Joshua Tree National Park since there are pretty much no amenities in the campground.

 

4.

Redwood National And State Parks

Camper in one of Redwood Parks' 300 Camping Spots

Photo by ilya_ktsn from Flickr

 

Another best camping spot in California is the Redwood National and State Parks. Redwood Parks are a collection of forests, towering redwoods, grasslands, and beaches. These parks are home to more than 300 campgrounds for every adventurer. You can also find four developed campgrounds here, namely Jedediah Smith, Mill Creek, Elk Prairie, and Gold Bluffs Beach. So, if you’re dreaming of camping on California beaches, this is the perfect spot for you. 

 

Camping price: $35 fee is required for camping at the four developed campgrounds in Redwood Parks.

 

Tip: The campgrounds in Redwood Parks are more rustic. For the campsite in Gold Bluffs Beach, bring a beach tent and other necessities to make your beach camping experience more memorable.

 

5.

Mendocino Grove

One of the posh tents in Mendocino Grove in California

Photo from Mendocino Grove’s official Facebook page

 

There are a lot of camping options these days, especially for those who want to enjoy a little glamour. One of the excellent options is Mendocino Grove, an excellent choice if you long for the outdoors, but can’t do away with a 5-star hotel’s comforts. 

 

Mendocino Grove offers comfortable and modern tents complete with amenities. Aside from that, the natural beauty surrounding the site makes it one of California’s best camping spots.

 

Opening hours: Check-in after 3 PM, check-out at 11 AM 

 

Camping price: $35 to $125 

 

Tip: The campsite doesn’t make a refund due to inclement weather, so make sure to plan for any weather. There is a 2-night minimum stay for Mendocino Grove.

 

6.

Crystal Cove State Park

Gorgeous sunset at Crystal Cove State Park

Photo by Jonathan Cook-Fisher from Flickr

 

Pitch your tents in the wildlife away from the city at Crystal Cove State Park. Aside from the vast campground, the park is home to sandy beaches and tide pools. If you fancy hitting up California beaches during camping, Laguna Beach is just close by. Bring a pop-up tent for some picnic by the beach. Crystal Cove State Park’s proximity to California’s famous beaches makes it hard to deny why many tag Crystal Cove as the best camping spot in California.

 

Opening hours: 6 AM

 

Camping price: $75/night

 

Tip: The beach is popular with swimmers and surfers. Make sure to pack your swimming outfits and gear! 

 

7.

Sequoia National Forest

Giant Sequoia trees surround the vast Sequoia National Forest

Photo by Matthew Dillon from Flickr

 

The Sequoia National Forest boasts over a million acres of land covered in gigantic sequoia trees. It is home to the largest tree on Earth, and it also has the highest number of giant sequoia groves in the world. With the Kings Canyon National Park in the north, both parks have 14 national campgrounds between them.

 

Camping in Sequoia National Forest is fuss and stress-free. Simply set up a tent or lounge in a camping chair, all while enjoying the beauty of nature. 

 

Opening hours: 9 AM-5 PM during summer

 

Camping price: Starts at $18

 

Tip: Most campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis. Plan accordingly to avoid any hassle.  

 

8.

Crescent City Redwoods

A glimpse of the giant redwoods around Crescent City Redwoods in California

Photo by Robert Ashworth from Flickr

 

Crescent City is one of the best Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campgrounds that are worth the visit. It’s hard to resist pitching a tent here and stay for the night among the giant redwood trees. The park also has access to hiking trails, nearby beaches, a golf course, and casinos.

 

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

 

Camping price: There’s a $5 fee for day use of the three state parks: Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods.

 

Tip: Visit nearby highlight areas such as SeaQuake Brewery, Jedediah Smith National Park, and Battery Point Lighthouse. There are frequent local campground events. Check the website if you want to time your stay at Crescent City Redwoods with a campsite event.

 

9.

Chino Hills State Park

Landscape shot of Chino Hills State Park

Photo by Person-with-No Name from Flickr

 

Chino Hills State Park is among the most inviting campgrounds in California. The natural open space is surrounded by grassy hills, sycamores, and oak trees. The campsite is also home to endemic flora and fauna. Exploring them will surely make your visit to the park more worthwhile.

 

Camping price: Vehicle entrance is $5/day. Overnight tent and RV camping are $30/night.

 

Opening hours: 8 AM

 

Tip: Don’t feel bad about paying the vehicle fee. It’s a long walk to the park entrance and the nearest toilet. Also, as the name suggests, there are hills. Wear comfortable footwear.

 

10.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek surrounded by some of the tallest trees in the world

Photo by joe_s. from Flickr

 

Imagine walking along a narrow cove where lush ferns and giant trees close in. This is the unique setting found in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The primeval vibe gives the park a natural charm. It’s perhaps the same reason that it landed as a backdrop for the movie “Jurassic Park.”  

 

Aside from camping, there are hiking trails and deserted beaches to explore. 

 

Camping price: $35/night

 

Tip: Bring or rent a bike and enjoy the trails around the park. The park is home to elks. Feel free to take pictures of them at a safe distance. 

 

11.

Cold Springs Campground

Campers setting up on Cold Springs Campground

Photo by Virginia Hill from Flickr

 

Another spot recommended for the best camping experience in California is Cold Springs Campground. However, it’s a tent-camping-only site, perfect for those who do not mind limited amenities while enjoying nature. Located near the Kaweah River, the sound of the river makes for the ideal background music.  

 

Cold Springs Campground is home to 40 campsites, but all sites but are on a first-come, first-served basis. 

 

Camping price: $12/night

 

Tip: There are bears and marmots in the park. Be prepared to store your food properly, and don’t forget to cover your vehicles. 

 

12.

Sonoma Coast State Park

The long sandy beach and rugged headlands of Sonoma Coast State Park

Photo by Nikita from Flickr

 

Boasting many scenic coves and beaches, Sonoma Coast State Park offers one of California’s best camping grounds. This state park is home to three campsites, one of which is located near the beach. Activities such as camping, hiking, and catching the sunset make Sonoma is an excellent spot to escape the city life.

 

Opening hours: 6 AM

 

Camping price: $35/night

 

Tip: Summer months can get busy, so we recommend reserving your slot before your scheduled camping trip.

 

13.

Yosemite National Park

The magnificent Yosemite Tunnel View with El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil falls in the background

Photo by Johan Viirok from Wikimedia Commons

 

Yosemite National Park is the most revisited park in the United States, and for many good reasons. From the magical waterfalls, slabs of granite, and towering trees, the park can indeed be overwhelming. UNESCO also declared Yosemite National Park as a World Heritage Site because of its exceptional natural beauty and geologic features that are unique in the world. With these glowing appraisals of Yosemite National Park, it’s no wonder why every adventurer dreams of Yosemite camping.

 

Home to 13 campgrounds, the park accommodates tents, camping trailers, and recreational vehicles.  

 

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

 

Camping price: $6 – $18 

 

Tip: Arrive earlier than 10 am to secure a camping spot. It can get cold in the Yosemite National Park, so you should make sure you have enough clothes to bundle up. 

 

14.

Whiskey Falls Campground

The impressive mountain scenery of Sierra National Forest

Photo by Wizz4prep from Wikimedia Commons

 

Some of the best camping sites in California are free, and these free camping grounds include the one on Whiskey Falls. The Whiskey Falls Campground may be a small campsite, but it’s free and exudes natural beauty. Its remote and secluded location is also a plus for hardcore campers.

 

Whiskey Falls Campground is located at the Sierra National Forest. Towering trees and mountains will greet you upon reaching the camping grounds, while the stunning Whiskey Falls adds to the charm of this 14-site camping site.

 

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

 

Camping price: Free

 

Tip: To enjoy solitude and the remoteness of the campgrounds, visit during the off-season. Not a lot of people visit Whiskey Falls during weekdays and non-summer months.  

 

15.

Nevada Beach Campground

Tourists line up the long stretch of Nevada Beach shoreline

Photo by Sergey Yarmolyuk from Wikimedia Commons

 

Being minutes away from the gorgeous Lake Tahoe, the Nevada Beach Campground is labeled as the best camping area in California by many. Camping here means being surrounded by lush pine trees, shrubs, and Lake Tahoe’s sandy shores.

 

Aside from camping, the Nevada Beach Campground is a great spot to enjoy a variety of sports.  

 

Camping price: $35/night

 

Tip: Securing a spot here can get tough, so it’s best to book your stay in advance.  

 

16.

Green Cabin Flat Campground

Giant sequoias in Giant Sequoia National Monument

Photo by Alexey Komarov from Wikimedia Commons

 

Located in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, the Green Cabin Flat is among the undeveloped campgrounds in California. While it only includes basic amenities, it’s quite the perfect spot for old-school campers who enjoy a bare site. 

 

Surrounded by giant sequoia trees and biking and hiking trails all around, the Green Cabin Flat still makes for one of California’s best camping experience.

 

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

 

Tip: The campground is along the Kings River. If you’re in for some water activities, pack the appropriate water shoes and clothing. 

 

17.

Butte Lake Campground

Butte Lake, a walking distance to the campsites

Photo by Vlad Butsky from Wikimedia Commons

 

Campers who prefer some privacy find Butte Lake Campground the best camping venue in California. Tucked away from the bigger campgrounds, Butte Lake offers peace and quiet. The camping area is also a short walking distance from Butte Lake, where you can swim or ride a boat.   

 

Opening hours: Check-in and check-out at 1 PM

 

Camping price: $22

 

Tip: RVs are allowed, but there are no hookups. Water and flush toilets are only available during the summer, so you should bring your own supply.

 

18.

California’s Big Sur

The long stretch and blue waters of Big Sur California

Photo by Joseph Plotz from Wikimedia Commons

 

Surrounded by the gorgeous California coastline, the Big Sur makes for the best camping spot in California. Campers have numerous options from both state parks and private campgrounds. If you want an unimpeded view of the ocean, camp in Big Sur Valley. Meanwhile, bluff camping is available in Big Sur’s southern end. 

 

Opening hours: 1/2 hour before sunrise 

 

Camping price: $10 for day use 

 

Tip: Big Sur weather can be very unpredictable. It’s best to bring all-weather gear.

 

19.

Volcanic Tablelands

Hikers exploring the grounds and boulders of Volcanic Tablelands

Photo by Bureau of Land Management California from Flickr

 

Volcanic Tablelands is among the great campgrounds in California because of its wide and open spaces. Known as a place favored by rock-climbing enthusiasts, it’s also an excellent spot for a DIY campsite. There are not a lot of shaded areas, but the open space is perfect for pitching a tent. The boulders and wall arts are also worth exploring.

 

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

 

Camping price: Free, but with a 14-day stay limit

 

Tip: There is no water and facilities like trash sites and RV dumps, so you should come prepared.

 

20.

Santa Barbara County

Sunset over at Santa Barbara County

Photo by torbakhopper from Flickr

 

What makes Santa Barbara County the best camping in California Souther is the numerous beachfront options for camping. From Refugio State Beach and Carpinteria State Beach to Jalama Beach, camping by the shore is always a great idea in Santa Barbara County.

 

If you want something glamorous, try the luxury tents and cabins at El Capitan Canyon Resort. 

 

Opening hours: 6 AM

 

Camping price: $30/night for most campgrounds 

 

Tip: Among the campgrounds here, Carpinteria State Beach Campground is the crowd favorite.  

 

21.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Beach waves on the rocky shore of Big Sur State Park

Photo by Harold Litwiler from Flickr

 

Near Big Sur is Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Nestled on the western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains, its peaks towers above the Big Sur River Gorge. Visitors to these camping grounds are treated to lush redwood trees and rich riverside views.

 

Besides camping, you can enjoy biking, hiking, or riding RVs on the state park’s roads and trails.

 

Opening hours: 8 AM

 

Camping price: $35 – $50/night 

 

Tip: Weather is unpredictable, and nights can get cold. It’s advised to bring layered clothing.

 

22.

Breckenridge Campground

A calm lake across Breckenridge Mountain where Breckenridge Campground is located

Photo by Brian from Flickr

 

Camping in the mountains? Yes, please! Going up the Breckenridge Campground allows you to enjoy the scenic mountain and pine tree views. The site offers only the basic amenities, but the view and isolation make up for what it lacks in terms of facilities.  

 

Camping price: Free

 

Tip: Bring water and trash bags. If you’re planning to barbecue, host campfires, or bring camp stoves, you should first secure the necessary permits.

 

23.

Twin Lakes Campground

The snowcapped Mammoth Mountains

Photo by Jane S. Richardson from Wikimedia Commons

 

Sitting near the Mammoth Lakes, Twin Lakes Campground lets you experience the best camping in California. Surround yourself with the gentle lap of lake water and the breathtaking mountain scenery.  

 

Opening hours: 8 AM

 

Camping price: Starts at $24

 

Tip: Bears occasionally show up in the campground, so store your food and dispose of your trash properly. Make a trip to the waterfall base and enjoy the fantastic view. 

 

24.

North Shore Campground

Homey entrance to North Shore Campground

Official photo of North Shore Campground

 

North Shore is an RV park and campground that offers premium camping experience. Stretching for over a mile on the gorgeous Lake Almanor shoreline, the campground is home to a relaxing camping site with plenty of facilities for various activities.

 

Camping price: Starts at $39

 

Tip: Take time to hike to Shasta, Plumas, and Lassen National Parks for some of the best views. 

 

25.

Lake Francis Resort

A shot of the serene lake for all the water activities at Lake Francis Resort

Official photo of Lake Francis Resort

 

Sitting perfectly at Tahoe National Forest’s edge, Lake Francis Resort promises only the best camping experience in California. Whether you fancy camping in a tent, cabin, or RV, the resort’s tranquil grounds are set to accommodate every type of adventurer.

 

Opening hours: 9 AM

 

Camping price: Starts at $5 for day use

 

Tip: While pets are allowed and free of charge, there’s a $5 per pet fee in the cabins. Family activities are welcome at Lake Francis Resort. Be sure to pack up your must-have family camping gear for the wholesome activities in this resort.

 

26.

Silver Strand State Beach

Beautiful curved shot of the sandy and rocky shores of Silver Strand Beach

Photo by Niceley from Wikimedia Commons

 

It’s hard to say no to RV camping when your campsite has impressive views of the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The relaxing and peaceful ambiance at Silver Strand State Beach makes it among the best campgrounds in California. 

 

Opening hours: 7 AM

 

Camping price: $10-$12

 

Tip: There are many water activities in the Silver Strand State Beach, so pack accordingly. It also gets icy during windy days.

 

27.

Furnace Creek Campground

RVs parked in the vast campground of Furnace Creek

Photo by runarut from Flickr

 

Some like it hot — camping, that is. Sitting 196 feet below sea level on the Mojave Desert, Furnace Creek offers a hot and dry climate for camping. A favorite spot for group and RV camping, there are also biking and hiking trails around. 

 

Opening hours: Check-in at 1 PM

 

Camping price: Starts at $16

 

Tip: Some big motor houses with generators can be noisy. Be smart when picking a location for your RV or tent.  

 

28.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The rugged landscape of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Photo by RightCowLeftCoast from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Another desert state park in California is Anza-Borrego Park. Spanning 600,000 acres of land, Anza-Borrego Park is among the state parks to enjoy primitive camping in California. From the warm weather and vast terrain to the rugged landscape, Anza-Borrego Park offers a unique way of dispersed camping.

 

Opening hours: Before sunrise

 

Camping price: $10

 

Tip: The best time to visit is in March and April, where temperatures are favorable. 

 

29.

Hearst San Simeon State Park

Blue ocean waters at Hearst San Simeon State Park

Photo by Peter D. Tillman from Flickr

 

With 113 camping sites, the Hearst San Simeon State Park offers unobstructed views of the ocean and its shorelines. This historic park is also home to elephant seals, birds, bobcats, and other wildlife. 

 

Opening hours: 8 AM

 

Camping price: Starts at $20

 

Tip: Roads in the Hearst San Simeon State Park are narrow, so big trailers are not advisable.  

 

30.

San Elijo State Beach

Gorgeous cliffs over at San Diego coastline

Photo by chrisinphilly5448 from Flickr

 

For some, the best camping in California involves the beach. San Elijo State Beach is known not only for snorkeling and scuba diving, but also for fantastic camping experiences. The blue waters and gorgeous cliffs make for a scenic camping background.

 

Opening hours: Open 24 hours, Check-in at 2PM

 

Camping price: Starts at $35

 

Tip: If you intend to fish, early spring is the best time for a good catch.

 

When Do I Go Camping In California?

 

June, July and August are the best months to go camping in California, as these months give you excellent weather. Campgrounds in California during this time can get crowded. April, May, and October are also good months to go camping for spring or late fall.  

 

What Are The 10 Essentials For Camping?

 

What you pack can make or break your camping experience. To help you pack, here are the ten essentials for camping

 

1. Sleeping bag or blanket

2. Extra clothing

3. Water and food

4. Firestarter

5. First aid kit

6. Pocket knife

7. Sunscreen

8. Flashlight

9.Sunscreen

10. Map or compass

 

What To Take Note When Camping In California?

 

To make your experience more memorable, here are a few more tips when camping in California. 

 

  • Not all campsites at higher elevations are available year-round.
  • Before you pick a campsite, decide your preferred camping style. While most campgrounds offer the same amenities, some campsites are more primitive and may not be fully equipped. 
  • There’s a “June Gloom” expression in Southern California. This refers to the gloomy and cooler temperatures toward the end of spring. You may want to either avoid this period or prepare for it. 
  • Layered clothing is recommended to enjoy the best camping in California. Temperatures in this state are unpredictable, especially on the coast.   
  • Campgrounds in California accept reservations up to six months in advance. 

 

Time To Pitch Your Tent — The Cali Way!

 

It’s easy to experience the best camping in California because of its diverse terrains that can suit the needs of different campers. With vast deserts, towering mountains, and sandy beaches, there’s a perfect campsite for every adventurer. However, there are many factors to consider when camping in California, such as the season and type of campground. With careful planning, though, California campgrounds can offer unique and best camping experiences.