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Camping California: Best Locations And Pro Tips


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Genevra Krajewski



Welcome to the land of outdoor adventure and magnificent natural beauty – California! Renowned for its stunning landscapes and diverse ecosystems, this golden state offers an unparalleled experience for camping enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor adventurer or a beginner looking to embark on a thrilling camping escapade, California has something to offer for everyone.


With its vast array of national parks, coastal wonders, and awe-inspiring mountains, camping in California guarantees unforgettable memories and breathtaking vistas. From the iconic Joshua Tree National Park in the desert to the majestic redwoods of Northern California, there’s no shortage of stunning locations to choose from.


California’s unique geography provides a diverse range of camping experiences. Whether you prefer the solitude of remote wilderness or the comfort of well-equipped campgrounds, there’s an option to suit your desires. So pack your camping gear, grab your sense of adventure, and let’s explore the best camping locations the Golden State has to offer!


In this guide, we’ll take you through a journey to discover some of the most remarkable camping destinations in California. From the stunning coastal cliffs of Big Sur to the towering granite walls of Yosemite National Park, these locations will leave you in awe.


But before we dive into the specific locations, let’s take a moment to talk about some essential pro tips to make your camping experience in California even more enjoyable. These tips will help you navigate the unique challenges and maximize your adventure amidst the breathtaking wilderness of the state.


Joshua Tree National Park

Located in the deserts of Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park offers a unique and mesmerizing camping experience. This surreal landscape is named after the distinctive Joshua Trees that dot the rugged terrain, creating a truly otherworldly atmosphere.


Joshua Tree National Park boasts a variety of camping options, from backcountry sites to developed campgrounds with ample amenities. Hidden Valley and White Tank campgrounds are popular choices, offering stunning views and easy access to hiking trails. Keep in mind that reservations are highly recommended, especially during peak seasons.


While camping at Joshua Tree, be sure to explore the park’s numerous hiking trails. The Hidden Valley Trail is a great option for both beginners and experienced hikers, showcasing the park’s iconic rock formations and diverse flora. For a more challenging adventure, the Ryan Mountain Trail rewards you with panoramic views of the surrounding desert.


One of the highlights of camping in Joshua Tree National Park is stargazing. The park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park, meaning it offers excellent opportunities for viewing the night sky in all its splendor. Be prepared to witness a breathtaking celestial show as you gaze at the myriad of stars twinkling above.


When visiting Joshua Tree, it’s important to pack plenty of water and sun protection, as temperatures can soar during the day and drop significantly at night. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, and even coyotes.


Exploring Joshua Tree National Park is like stepping into another realm, with its striking geological formations, unique flora, and mesmerizing sunsets. Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll through the Cholla Cactus Garden or embarking on a rock climbing adventure at Hidden Valley, camping in Joshua Tree promises an unforgettable experience in the heart of the desert.


Big Sur

Nestled along the rugged coastline of central California, Big Sur is a breathtaking camping destination that will leave you in awe of its natural beauty. This iconic stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway offers stunning views of towering cliffs, pristine beaches, and majestic redwood forests.


Camping in Big Sur allows you to immerse yourself in the tranquility and serenity of nature. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a popular camping spot, offering a range of campsites nestled among the giant redwoods. Wake up to the invigorating scent of the forest and enjoy the peaceful ambiance as you explore the nearby hiking trails.


One of the highlights of camping in Big Sur is the opportunity to witness breathtaking sunsets over the ocean. Take a short hike to the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge and enjoy the panoramic views as the sun dips below the horizon, casting vibrant hues across the sky.


For those seeking adventure, Big Sur is a paradise for outdoor activities. Explore the coastal trails that lead to hidden coves and picturesque beaches. Pfeiffer Beach is a must-visit, with its distinctive purple sand and stunning rock formations.


If you’re up for a challenge, don’t miss the opportunity to hike the legendary Big Sur Wilderness. With its rugged terrain and panoramic vistas, this trail offers an unforgettable backpacking experience for experienced hikers.


When camping in Big Sur, respect the natural surroundings and practice Leave No Trace principles. Take care to properly dispose of your garbage and avoid disturbing the delicate ecosystems that thrive in this pristine wilderness.


Whether you’re seeking solitude in the wilderness or craving the ocean breeze, camping in Big Sur offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Immerse yourself in the enchanting landscapes, listen to the sound of crashing waves, and let Big Sur captivate your soul.


Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, is a true marvel of nature. With its towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and pristine wilderness, Yosemite is a camping destination that will take your breath away.


When it comes to camping in Yosemite, there are several options to choose from. The park offers 13 campgrounds, with a mix of reservable and first-come, first-served sites. Some of the most popular campgrounds include Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines, all located in Yosemite Valley and offering easy access to the park’s iconic attractions.


While camping in Yosemite, be sure to explore the park’s famous landmarks. Witness the majestic beauty of Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, or hike to the top of Half Dome for awe-inspiring panoramic views. For a more tranquil experience, explore the serene meadows and pristine lakes of Tuolumne Meadows.


Yosemite National Park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Embark on breathtaking hikes along the Mist Trail, leading to the enchanting Vernal and Nevada Falls. Or challenge yourself with a multi-day backpacking adventure on the John Muir Trail, traversing through some of the most stunning landscapes in the park.


No camping experience in Yosemite would be complete without stargazing. The park’s remote location and strict lighting regulations make it an ideal spot to observe the night sky. Marvel at the countless stars twinkling above and let the beauty of the cosmos leave you in awe.


When camping in Yosemite, it’s important to be prepared and respect the wilderness. Follow all park regulations, stay on designated trails, and properly store your food to avoid interactions with wildlife. Yosemite is not only a breathtaking destination but also a fragile ecosystem that we must protect.


Camping in Yosemite National Park offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the Sierra Nevada mountains. From the iconic granite cliffs to the vibrant meadows and pristine lakes, Yosemite will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.


Lake Tahoe

Nestled amidst the stunning Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe is a glittering gem of California. Known for its crystal-clear blue waters and picturesque landscapes, it’s no wonder that camping at Lake Tahoe is a dream come true for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.


Lake Tahoe offers a wide range of camping options to suit every preference. From rustic campgrounds to more developed sites with amenities, there’s something for everyone. Some popular camping areas include D.L. Bliss State Park, Emerald Bay State Park, and Meeks Bay Resort. Be sure to make reservations in advance, especially during the peak summer months.


One of the main attractions of camping at Lake Tahoe is the abundance of recreational activities. Spend your days hiking through the lush forests, swimming in the pristine waters, or simply relaxing on the sandy beaches. The lake is also perfect for water sports such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing.


For those seeking adventure, Lake Tahoe offers an extensive network of hiking and biking trails. The Tahoe Rim Trail provides breathtaking views of the lake from various vantage points, while the Rubicon Trail takes you through scenic forested areas and along the shoreline.


In the winter months, Lake Tahoe transforms into a winter wonderland. Several ski resorts surround the lake, offering excellent opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Experience the thrill of gliding down the slopes and marvel at the snow-covered landscapes.


One of the unique features of Lake Tahoe is its remarkably clear water, allowing for excellent visibility below the surface. Scuba diving or snorkeling in the lake unveils a hidden world of underwater forests and rocky formations, a truly mesmerizing experience for those who venture beneath the surface.


When camping at Lake Tahoe, be sure to pack layers of clothing, as temperatures can vary throughout the day and night. Additionally, practice responsible camping by properly disposing of your waste and always following fire regulations to prevent wildfires.


Camping at Lake Tahoe offers the perfect blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Whether you’re seeking relaxation on the sandy shores or excitement on the hiking trails, Lake Tahoe will capture your heart and leave you longing to return.


Mendocino Coast

The Mendocino Coast is a hidden gem along California’s rugged northern shoreline. With its dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and charming coastal towns, camping along the Mendocino Coast offers a serene and unforgettable experience.


There are several campsites and campgrounds to choose from along the Mendocino Coast. Jug Handle Creek Farm and Nature Center is a unique camping destination, offering beautiful forested sites and access to hiking trails. MacKerricher State Park is another popular option, with beachside campsites and stunning ocean views.


Exploring the Mendocino Coast is a nature enthusiast’s dream. Take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline, breathe in the crisp ocean air, and listen to the soothing sound of crashing waves. Discover hidden coves and tide pools teeming with fascinating marine life, offering a glimpse into the region’s diverse ecosystem.


For those seeking a more challenging adventure, hiking trails such as the Mendocino Headlands Trail and Russian Gulch State Park Trail provide stunning panoramic views of the rugged coastline. Capture the perfect Instagram-worthy photo with the iconic Point Cabrillo Lighthouse as your backdrop.


Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the charming coastal towns that dot the Mendocino Coast. Visit the historic village of Mendocino, known for its Victorian architecture, art galleries, and cozy cafes. Indulge in fresh local seafood or browse the unique boutiques and antique shops.


Whale watching is a popular activity along the Mendocino Coast. From December to April, migrating gray whales can be spotted from the shoreline, offering an awe-inspiring spectacle. Keep your eyes peeled for their majestic spouts and impressive breaches.


When camping along the Mendocino Coast, be mindful of the fragile ecosystem and follow Leave No Trace principles. Respect the wildlife, pack out your trash, and help preserve the natural beauty of this pristine coastal paradise.


Camping along the Mendocino Coast provides a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and charming coastal towns that make this region so unique.


Death Valley National Park

Prepare for an adventure like no other as you venture into the depths of Death Valley National Park. Located in the heart of the Mojave Desert, this remarkable park is known for its extreme landscapes, breathtaking vistas, and mesmerizing natural wonders.


Death Valley offers a variety of camping options, from developed campgrounds to more primitive backcountry sites. Furnace Creek Campground and Stovepipe Wells Campground are popular choices, providing amenities such as picnic tables, fire pits, and access to hiking trails.


Exploring Death Valley is a surreal experience. Marvel at the dazzling salt flats of Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, or witness the vibrant colors of the Artist’s Palette as the sun sets over the desert. Be sure to visit Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, where the wind sculpts the sand into intricate patterns, providing a stunning backdrop for a desert adventure.


For the more adventurous, hiking opportunities abound in Death Valley. The Golden Canyon Trail leads you through narrow canyons and towering rock formations, while the challenging Telescope Peak Trail rewards intrepid hikers with breathtaking views from the park’s highest summit.


Death Valley is also home to unique desert wildlife and plant species, adapted to thrive in the harsh desert environment. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep and roadrunners as you explore the park. Remember to bring plenty of water, as temperatures can soar to extreme levels.


When camping in Death Valley, proper preparation is crucial. Bring ample water, sunscreen, and protective clothing to combat the scorching desert heat. Be aware of potential flash floods during monsoon season and follow all safety guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


Immerse yourself in the stark, rugged beauty of Death Valley National Park, where the desert landscape reveals its secrets and stories. From the awe-inspiring vistas to the captivating silence of the desert, camping in Death Valley promises an unforgettable adventure amidst the extreme beauty of nature.


Redwood National and State Parks

Prepare to be dwarfed by giants as you enter the enchanting realm of Redwood National and State Parks. Located along the northern California coastline, these parks are home to some of the tallest and oldest trees on Earth, offering a truly magical camping experience.


Camping options in Redwood National and State Parks range from car-accessible campsites to backcountry sites for the more adventurous. Jedediah Smith Campground, located in the heart of ancient redwoods, and Prairie Creek Campground, nestled within a fern-filled canyon, are popular choices for camping amidst these majestic giants.


Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the giant redwoods as you explore the network of hiking trails that wind through the parks. The Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail is a must-visit, taking you through a cathedral-like grove of towering redwoods. For a more challenging experience, venture into the Tall Trees Grove, where you’ll encounter some of the tallest trees in the world.


As you wander through the ancient forests, take a moment to appreciate the tranquility and serenity that surrounds you. The towering redwoods, with their immense trunks and towering canopies, create an ethereal atmosphere that invites contemplation and a deep connection with nature.


Beyond the majestic redwoods, Redwood National and State Parks offer a diverse range of ecosystems. Explore pristine beaches, secluded coastal trails, and wild rivers teeming with wildlife. Keep an eye out for Roosevelt elk grazing in the meadows or river otters frolicking in the gentle waves.


When camping in Redwood National and State Parks, practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the delicate ecosystem. Take care not to damage the sensitive forest floor and adhere to all park regulations to ensure these ancient trees remain protected for future generations to enjoy.


Camping amidst the towering redwoods of Redwood National and State Parks is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. Let the beauty and grandeur of these ancient giants transport you to a place of tranquility and wonder, where nature’s majesty reigns supreme.


Point Reyes National Seashore

Escape to a coastal paradise at Point Reyes National Seashore, where rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and diverse wildlife await. Located just an hour’s drive from San Francisco, this stunning destination offers a unique camping experience surrounded by the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.


Camping at Point Reyes National Seashore allows you to immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature. There are four campgrounds within the park: Sky Camp, Coast Camp, Glen Camp, and Wildcat Camp. Each offers a different experience, from panoramic ocean views to secluded forested sites.


One of the main attractions of Point Reyes is its extraordinary wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for gray whales as they migrate off the coast, or visit during the winter and witness the incredible elephant seals that come ashore to breed. The park is also a haven for birdwatchers, with hundreds of species to spot throughout the year.


Exploring the park’s diverse landscapes is a true delight. Hike along the Point Reyes National Seashore Trail, which spans over 150 miles and offers breathtaking views of the coastline. Don’t miss the chance to visit the iconic Point Reyes Lighthouse, perched on a dramatic cliff and providing sweeping views of the ocean.


The beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore offer endless opportunities for relaxation and adventure. Whether you’re sunbathing, picnicking, or exploring tide pools, the pristine sandy shores provide a perfect backdrop for a day of beachcombing and rejuvenation.


When camping at Point Reyes, respect the delicate coastal ecosystem by following Leave No Trace principles. Pack out your trash, stay on designated trails, and avoid disturbing the wildlife. It’s essential to protect the fragile habitats and ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of Point Reyes.


Point Reyes National Seashore is a coastal escape like no other. From the rugged cliffs to the expansive sandy beaches, this picturesque destination offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Let the soothing sound of the crashing waves and the crisp coastal breeze rejuvenate your spirit as you camp amidst the enchanting landscapes of Point Reyes.


Lassen Volcanic National Park

Discover a land of volcanic wonders and breathtaking landscapes at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Tucked away in the northern part of California, this geologically diverse park is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, offering unique camping experiences amidst its volcanic peaks and hydrothermal features.


Camping within Lassen Volcanic National Park allows you to fully immerse yourself in its natural beauty. There are several campgrounds to choose from, including Manzanita Lake Campground, which offers stunning views of Lassen Peak, and Butte Lake Campground, nestled near the Cinder Cone volcano. Each campground provides a different experience, from serene lakeside settings to forested sites.


Explore the park’s remarkable volcanic features as you hike through a variety of exciting trails. Bumpass Hell Trail takes you into a mesmerizing geothermal area, where you can witness steaming fumaroles and boiling mud pots. For a more challenging adventure, hike to the summit of Lassen Peak and be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding volcanic landscape.


Waterfalls are another highlight of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Marvel at the majestic sight of Kings Creek Falls as it tumbles down a lava rock cliff, or hike to Mill Creek Falls and experience the power of cascading water. These natural wonders provide a refreshing escape and stunning photo opportunities.


When camping in Lassen Volcanic National Park, be prepared for changing weather conditions. The park’s high elevation can bring cool temperatures, even during the summer months. Additionally, familiarize yourself with park regulations regarding food storage, as bears are present in the area.


For stargazing enthusiasts, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers excellent opportunities to observe the night sky. The park’s remote location and minimal light pollution create optimal conditions for stargazing. Be sure to bring a blanket and enjoy the mesmerizing display of stars above.


Lassen Volcanic National Park offers a unique camping experience, immersing you in the wonders of a volcanic landscape. From exploring geothermal features to hiking to magnificent waterfalls, this park will leave you in awe of nature’s raw power and beauty.


Pro Tips for Camping in California

Camping in California offers endless opportunities for adventure, but it’s important to come prepared and make the most of your outdoor experience. Here are some pro tips to help you make the most of your camping trip in the Golden State:

  1. Plan and Reserve in Advance: California’s popular camping destinations can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. Make sure to plan your trip well in advance and reserve your campsite early to secure your spot.
  2. Check the Weather: California’s diverse geography means weather conditions can vary greatly depending on your location. Be sure to check the weather forecast for your camping destination and pack accordingly. Layered clothing is always a good idea, as temperatures can change throughout the day and night.
  3. Stay Hydrated: California’s climate can be hot and dry, especially in desert regions. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout your camping trip, and always carry a reusable water bottle with you.
  4. Practice Leave No Trace: Respect the natural environment by following Leave No Trace principles. Pack out your trash, stay on designated trails, and be mindful of your impact on the ecosystem. Leave the campsite as pristine as you found it.
  5. Prepare for Wildlife: California is home to a diverse array of wildlife, from bears to mountain lions. Familiarize yourself with any wildlife threats in your camping area and take necessary precautions, such as storing food properly and keeping a safe distance from wildlife.
  6. Bring Essential Gear: Ensure you have all the necessary camping gear for your trip, including a tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, and a flashlight. Don’t forget extra batteries, a first aid kit, and insect repellent.
  7. Be Fire Safe: California is prone to wildfires, so it’s important to follow fire safety guidelines. Check if there are any fire restrictions in your camping area and always practice responsible fire management. Keep a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby, and never leave a fire unattended.
  8. Respect Quiet Hours: Many campgrounds in California have designated quiet hours to ensure a peaceful camping experience for everyone. Respect these hours and be considerate of your fellow campers by keeping noise levels to a minimum during designated quiet times.
  9. Explore Beyond the Beaten Path: While popular camping destinations in California are undoubtedly beautiful, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path. Discover lesser-known spots and hidden gems that offer solitude and a chance to connect with nature on a deeper level.
  10. Take Advantage of Nearby Activities: California offers a wide range of outdoor activities beyond camping. Research the area surrounding your camping destination and take advantage of nearby hiking trails, water sports, wildlife viewing, or cultural attractions to enhance your overall experience.

By following these pro camping tips, you can ensure a safe and memorable adventure while exploring the diverse landscapes and natural wonders of California.



Camping in California is an experience like no other. From the towering redwoods of Redwood National and State Parks to the rugged cliffs of Point Reyes, the golden beaches of Big Sur, and the geothermal wonders of Lassen Volcanic National Park, the Golden State offers a plethora of stunning camping destinations.


As you embark on your camping adventure, keep in mind the pro tips to enhance your experience. Plan and reserve early, check the weather, and stay hydrated in California’s diverse landscapes. Practice Leave No Trace principles to protect the environment and respect the wildlife you encounter. Be prepared with essential camping gear and follow fire safety guidelines.


Immerse yourself in nature’s wonders as you hike through breathtaking trails, witness mesmerizing sunsets, and stargaze under the pristine skies. Whether you’re camping in the deserts of Joshua Tree, along the rugged Mendocino Coast, or near the crystal-clear waters of Lake Tahoe, California offers an abundance of outdoor activities and breathtaking landscapes to explore.


Remember, California’s beauty comes with a responsibility to preserve and protect it for future generations. Respect the natural surroundings, follow park regulations, and leave the campsite as you found it. By doing so, you contribute to the sustainability of these remarkable destinations.


So, grab your camping gear, embrace your sense of adventure, and embark on a journey to discover the natural wonders of California. Whether you’re seeking solitude, thrilling outdoor activities, or simply a chance to reconnect with nature, the Golden State has something to offer for every camping enthusiast.


Get ready to create unforgettable memories and immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes that make camping in California so special. Let the golden sunsets, towering trees, rugged coastlines, and star-filled skies leave you with a sense of wonder and a longing to return to the great outdoors.