Top Camping Destinations in California (2023) – An Ordinary Traveler’s Guide

Looking for the best camping spots in California? Find the top locations for camping, essential packing tips, and must-know advice for planning your trip!

Best Camping Spots in California

As a California native, I’ve explored The Golden State extensively and have had some incredible camping experiences. In this article, I’ll share my favorite camping spots in California that you won’t want to miss.

Joshua Tree National Park

If you’re looking for a unique camping experience, Joshua Tree National Park is a must-visit. With its iconic Joshua trees and stunning desert landscapes, this park offers incredible camping opportunities.

The best time to visit Joshua Tree is during the spring when the weather is mild. There are several campgrounds in the park that offer car camping options and basic amenities. Make sure to come prepared with plenty of water, as potable water is limited in the park.

Best Camping Spots in California

The Best Camping Spots in Joshua Tree Include:

  • Jumbo Rocks Campground
  • Indian Cove Campground
  • Ryan Campground
  • Black Rock Campground

If you’re looking to escape the crowds, I recommend Indian Cove Campground or Hidden Valley or White Tank Campgrounds, which are first-come, first-served. Be prepared for hot temperatures and potential thunderstorms, especially in the summer months.

Big Sur

For a stunning coastal camping experience, head to Big Sur. This area offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and an opportunity to camp among the towering Redwoods.

The Best Camping Spots in Big Sur Include:

  • Kirk Creek Campground
  • Fernwood Resort Campground
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground
  • Limekiln State Park Campground

Make sure to book your campsite in advance, as these campgrounds are very popular.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of old-growth coast redwoods at Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This park is located in Northern California and offers a unique camping experience surrounded by towering trees.

The Best Camping Spots in Humboldt Redwoods State Park include:

The sites at Albee Creek, Burlington, and Hidden Springs campgrounds can be reserved in advance, while first-come, first-served sites are available for one-night stays. Visit the park’s website for more information.

Palomar Mountain

Escape to Palomar Mountain for a peaceful camping getaway. Located in Southern California, this hidden gem offers miles of trails and stunning forested landscapes.

The Best Camping Spots in Palomar Mountain:

The Palomar Observatory Campground is a hidden gem that offers secluded campsites. Make sure to arrive early to secure the best spots!

Catalina Island

For a unique island camping experience, head to Catalina Island. This island is just a short ferry ride away from the mainland and offers stunning coastal campsites.

The Best Camping Spots on Catalina Island:

Little Harbor Campground is a highly recommended spot, especially for hikers looking to explore the island. If you don’t have camping gear, rentals are available on the island.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a must-visit for any camping enthusiast. With its towering granite cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and breathtaking valleys, this park offers a truly unforgettable camping experience.

The Best Camping Spots in Yosemite National Park:

  • Upper Pines Campground
  • Wawona Campground
  • Lower Pines Campground
  • North Pines Campground
  • Summerdale Campground
  • Indian Flat RV Park (for RV camping)

Make sure to explore the park’s iconic landmarks, such as Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, and take advantage of the many recreational activities available.

Death Valley National Park

For a unique desert camping experience, head to Death Valley National Park. This park offers stark desert landscapes, vast salt flats, and dramatic rock formations.

The Best Camping Spots in Death Valley National Park:

  • Furnace Creek Campground
  • Texas Springs Campground

Experience the park’s otherworldly beauty and stunning night skies, perfect for stargazing.

Lake Tahoe

Embrace the beauty of Lake Tahoe with its crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain landscapes. This destination offers a variety of campgrounds where you can immerse yourself in nature.

The Best Camping Spots in Lake Tahoe:

Emerald Bay State Park is a highly recommended campground that offers stunning views and access to hiking trails.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Located just outside of San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore is a coastal paradise. With its dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches, it’s a perfect camping destination.

The Best Camping Spot in Point Reyes:

Point Reyes National Seashore Campground is a great spot to enjoy the park’s beauty and explore its many trails.

Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park

If you’re in search of giant sequoia trees and stunning mountain scenery, look no further than Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These parks offer a truly unique camping experience.

The Best Camping Spots in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:

Both Lodgepole Campground and Dorst Creek Campground are highly recommended for their convenient access to the parks’ highlights.

Crystal Cove State Park

For a coastal camping experience, don’t miss Crystal Cove State Park. Located in Laguna Beach, this park offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and a chance to camp on the coastal bluffs.

The Best Camping Spot in Crystal Cove State Park:

Moro Campground is a great spot to enjoy beachside camping and breathtaking sunsets.

Packing Essentials for Camping in California

When camping in California, it’s important to come prepared with the right gear. Here are some essential items to pack for your camping trip:

  • Camping stove
  • Cookware
  • Sleeping bags
  • Tent
  • Sleeping pads
  • Backpacks
  • Portable charger

Make sure to pack appropriate clothing, food, and water for your trip.

FAQs: Best Places to Go Camping in California

Where can I camp in California in the summer?

Popular camping destinations in California for the summer include Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, Joshua Tree National Park, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Coastal areas like Santa Barbara, Mendocino, and Pismo Beach also offer scenic campgrounds. Make sure to research and reserve campsites in advance, as availability can be limited.

Is it free to camp in California?

Most campgrounds in California require a fee for camping. Fees vary depending on the location and amenities provided. On average, campground fees range from $20 to $40 per night for a basic site. Campgrounds with additional amenities may charge higher fees, typically ranging from $30 to $60 per night.

What is the best state park for camping?

While there are many great state parks for camping in California, Yosemite National Park is often considered the best. With its iconic landscapes and multiple campgrounds, Yosemite offers a remarkable camping experience.

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