Top 15 Best Places to Camp in California

Top 15 Best Places to Camp in California
Pavlo Lysyy January 10, 2023 11 mins read time


What is a campground?

A campground is a properly designed place to go camping in California or elsewhere. Here, you can pitch a tent or use a campervan and spend several days away from home.

Campgrounds include campsites – pieces of land where campers can set up a tent and/or to which they can drive a van and enjoy their outdoor stay. Today, campgrounds provide high-quality services that cater to travelers’ needs. You can choose what you think is the best place to go camping in California and enjoy basic amenities like water supply, electricity, bathrooms, etc. while staying away from the city and office.

Types of campgrounds

Campgrounds differ in types and may cater to campers’ specific desires and interests. For instance, there are family (front-country) campgrounds, which provide large campsites for families with various types of hook-ups, with or without (tent-only) RV parking areas. Glampers can find good things to go for as well, as the campground offers a broad spectrum of services, including Wi-Fi.

Equestrian campgrounds offer facilities to accommodate horse-riding campers. Apart from the amenities mentioned above, they provide parking lots for horse-driven trailers, horse shelters, tie-outs, and horse washing stations, as well as facilities for activities like racing, roping, etc. Most such areas are located in the vicinity of popular riding trails.

Most campgrounds are situated in beautiful areas – beaches, mountain ranges, near lakes and rivers, etc. Particularly, there are tons of places to go camping in California, so you can feel free to decide where to go regardless of your experience.

Sonoma Coast State Park

Sonoma Coast State Park is a brilliant mix of the rage of the Pacific Ocean and diverse views of coastal cliffs and rocky islands, beaches, woodlands, and the boundless expanse of water. The park extends for 17 miles along the coast, and you can contemplate and evaluate every part of it as you move along Highway 1. There is a good number of parking lots and campsites, so you can come around and put up at any time. It takes more than one day to estimate the beauty of the landscape, as just one location looks different at a particular time of the day and in a particular type of weather. Sonoma Coast State Park is a paradise for hikers, backpackers, tent-, car-, van campers, glampers, fishermen, wildlife lovers, and anyone who would like to spend a while in harmony with nature. There are plenty of hiking trails – Bodega Head, Kortum Trail, and Vista Point – with well-equipped parking and picnic areas where you can enjoy a memorable trip across this divine spot. Bodega Dunes Campground provides all the basic blessings of civilization, with campsites worth $35 a night and hiker/biker sites worth $5 a night.

Sonoma Coast State Park

Cold Springs Campground

It is part of Sequoia National Park – another place to go camping in California for hikers and campers. It offers a brilliant palette of options for campers who appreciate various outdoor activities. The area abounds in lakes and rivers and boasts a diverse flora and fauna. There are tons of opportunities for fishermen, who can bring a tent and spend several days on the bank of a river (e.g., the Kaweah River) or lake and cook whatever meal they can handle with the use of fish. Located in Mineral King (part of Sequoia National Park), the campground offers 31 campsites, nine of which are walk-in sites. They are hidden amidst beautiful sequoia, aspen, and other trees and are located close to the most famous and scenic trails.

It should be noted that Cold Springs is a tents-only campground, so it is not for RVs and trailers. Generators are not allowed, so please check the regulations and be sure it is the best place to go camping in California for you. Store your food in bear lockers which are available at the campground and take steps to protect your vehicle against marmots, as they often crawl into vehicles and damage wiring and hoses.

Cold Springs Campground

Ventana Campground

Ventana is located in the Big Sir community. It is a wonderful destination to go to in California, as it combines the natural beauty of the Redwood Canyon and the proximity of basic amenities. You can come around and camp with comfort, as the campground offers bathhouses, picnic tables, fire rings, and convenient campsites. Besides, there are numerous dining options. Being a tent-only campground, Ventana does not permit RVs, trailers, trucks, or other vehicles.

The area boasts a scenic landscape with an abundance of gullies and canyons overgrown with very tall redwood trees. Also, it is home to the California condor – the largest land bird in North America that nests in large trees and rocks. There are exciting hiking trails across the area, which leave life-long memories in visitors. Last but not least, it is an attraction for archaeologists, who have found numerous pieces of evidence signifying a rich history and depicting the life and habits of old-time Native Americans’ life.

Ventana Campground

North Grove Campground

Located in the middle of Calaveras Big Trees State Park, the campground is renowned for its lush coniferous forests with beautiful meadows. It includes 58 campsites, some of them tent-only, but there are ones that allow RVs and trailers. Some campsites are located near Highway 4 and therefore are easy to get to. This campground has tons of features that make it an ideal camping place in California. Flush toilets and hot shower cabins are available.

There are small groups (for up to 16 people and four vehicles) and large group campsites (for up to 60 people and 20 vehicles). The location offers a variety of sights. There are picturesque hiking trails meandering amidst beautiful sequoia trees and reaching the park’s remote corners. There are services that organize nature walks for visitors and programs for children.

The administration does its utmost to preserve the park’s divinity, so wood collection is not permitted. Also, they advise you to be cautious and store food in bear-proof lockers, as the park is home to a good population of bears.

North Grove Campground

Lake Casitas Campground

This one is among the biggest camping places in California in terms of the number of campsites (400) concentrated on the north shore of Lake Casitas. The facility is divided into 13 camping areas. Most of them have flush or chemical toilets, electricity, water faucets, dirt pads for tents and/or RVs, and other amenities. The complex offers boundless opportunities for fishing, hunting, recreation, hiking, etc. Here, you can enjoy tons of things like surfing, pier fishing, hang gliding, volleyball, golf, and other activities. Boat rentals are available. However, bodily contact with water is not permitted, so Lake Casitas Campground is not the right place to go bathing or water skiing.

Lake Casitas Campground

Wawona Campground

It is located in Southern Yosemite National Park near Highway 41 and includes a large number of regular camping areas, including the Wawona Group Camp and the Wawona Horse Camp. The latter offers two campsites, each accommodating two vehicles/stock trailers, six persons, and six horses. There is a year-round non-equestrian camp as well, with a parking lot for up to five vehicles. It can accommodate up to 30 persons.

Located close to some unique historic sights (the historic Wawona Hotel, Pioneer History Center, etc.), the Group Wawona Campground can be a great place to go for history lovers. You can go hiking, ride a bus to the renowned Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, or enjoy a 45-minute drive to Yosemite Valley.

Wawona Campground

Big Sur

Big Sur in California is a fabulous camping area. It is located along Highway 1 and is famous for its picturesque cliffs, dense redwood forests, and incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. All outdoor enthusiasts will find this campsite a perfect place for the best hiking trails and campfire evenings.

Big Sur

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a must-visit while camping in Big Sur. Also, make sure to visit McWay Falls, which is a stunning waterfall cascading onto the beach. If you want to lose your breath a little bit, make sure to visit the famous Bixby Creek Bridge.

When speaking about parking options, Big Sur offers a range of choices. There is enough space for campers. Moreover, there are day-use parking areas near popular trailheads and attractions. There are also picnic tables, fire pits, and restrooms in different campgrounds. Overall, if you want to distract from the hustle and bustle of the city, you definitely need to choose Big Sur cozy sites.


The park is popular for its towering waterfalls, majestic cliffs, and rich biodiversity. Here, you will definitely find a wide range of camping options to meet every camper's preferences. There are public sites, backcountry adventures, and campgrounds with all the necessary amenities.


El Capitan is a famous spot for camping in Yosemite, and it attracts rock climbers and spectators alike. Yosemite Falls, which is North America's tallest waterfall, is a must-visit place! If you want to see a panoramic view of the valley, attend Glacier Point. If you are the one who likes swimming while camping, the Merced River should be in your route! The park also has numerous lakes, including Tenaya Lake and Mirror Lake.

There are parking facilities both near attractions and at campgrounds. This park has a shuttle system, so it is easy to access by car. There are amenities like picnic areas, fire rings, and WCs. Moreover, there are RV camping options for those traveling by large vehicles.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Park offers a special outdoor experience, providing both tent sites and campers. The nature of this place is absolutely amazing, from desert-like landscapes to rock formations. 

One of the most popular attractions in Joshua Tree National Park is the Joshua tree’s beauty itself. Other key areas include Jumbo Rocks and Skull Rock, where you can explore those known rock formations and boulders.

The water there is not a constant presence. However, you can be lucky to see Barker Dam when filled and enjoy a picturesque and reflective view. The Little San Bernardino Mountains and the Coxcomb Mountains offer great hikes and climbs for adventure enthusiasts.

Joshua Tree National Park

The park has a convenient access and parking facilities. There are also campgrounds with parking spots for campers. The park is also called a Dark Sky Park, as you can observe a stunning view of stars and constellations.

Fallen Leaf Campground, South Lake Tahoe

Fallen Leaf Campground is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains. That is why it is especially great for those looking for peace and natural beauty. You can find everything there: recreation options, hiking, fishing, water sports, etc. 

Fallen Leaf Campground is in close proximity to rivers and streams, with amazing spots for camping. The great place to attend is South Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake, where you can try kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing. 

The campground provides various facilities, including restrooms, picnic areas, fire rings, parking spots, campsites, restrooms, and the like.

South Lake Tahoe

Already ready to visit this paradise?

Crystal Cove State Park

Camping at Crystal Cove State Park in California is a great adventure near the Pacific Ocean. Camping here can be very different. You can spend your days exploring water, scenic hiking and biking trails, or just relaxing on the beach. 

The park boasts three and a half miles of trails along the coastline, inviting visitors to relax on the beach. There are also hiking opportunities with canyons and ridges. When speaking about parking options, there is nothing to worry about. You will also find there restrooms, showers, picnic areas, and fire rings.

Crystal Cove State Park

This campsite is really special due to the breath of ocean air, the stunning ocean views and an unforgettable sunset.

Death Valley

The park is known for its impressive temperatures and unique and stunning landscapes that have no analogs. Camping in Death Valley is a special experience where you can enjoy starry nights and velvety dark skies. 

The park is home to several interesting places, like the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, and Zabriskie Point. Exploring the various canyons and rock formations is a must for hiking enthusiasts here!

Death Valley is primarily known for its desert terrain. Even though there are no waters here, visitors can experience the unique beauty of salt flats, sand dunes, and even occasional desert blooms after a rainy season.

Should you worry about parking there? Of course not! There is everything you need: parking spots, campgrounds, restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits.

Death Valley

Have you already imagined falling asleep in the desert and waking up to the first rays of the sun?

Los Padres National Forest

Ready to discover another great camping location? Los Padres is a real paradise for nature lovers! From green pine forests to coastal areas, everyone will find their ideal place for a tent or camper. Want 360-degree views of the mountains? Or looking for water adventures? Here you will get everything! Camping in Los Padres is not just a vacation but a real union with the world of nature.

What to explore there? Of course, don’t miss out on the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Sierra Madre Mountains. You can try exciting hiking expeditions. 

If you need to drive to various trailheads and camping sites, be sure to find enough parking spots. The forest's campgrounds also provide essential facilities (restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits).

Los Padres National Forest

Camping here is a real reunion with nature. Listen to the forest and enjoy fantastic views of starlit nights.

Point Reyes National Seashore

This popular camping place offers numerous campsites in the coastal area. The nature there is breathtaking, providing you with a combination of cliffs, beaches, and lagoons. 

Point Reyes is a perfect location when you want to escape busy city life and unite with nature. Enjoy sunset views over the ocean and the melodies of the surf in this tranquil area. Also, no need to think about how to get there and park your vehicle. There are plenty of parking options and tracks to go there. Moreover, this campground provides campsites, restrooms, tables, etc.

You will experience unforgettable moments and a deep connection with nature when camping.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

When planning a camping trip to San Francisco and California, consider this marvelous spot with beautiful views! Lassen Park is famous for its volcanic phenomena and diverse landscapes. Here, you can choose between various camping options:

  • in a quiet forest,
  • next to hot springs,
  • or on the shores of crystal lakes.

Additionally, the park provides very well-equipped campsites, modern facilities, parking options, and guided tours. There is everything to make visitors feel comfortable and experience this wonderful camping adventure.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

This place gives peace and allows you to discover harmony with nature. Ready for an adventure?

Essential tips for safe camping in California

While you’re considering these camping destinations we have just provided you with, take some time to get to know camping tips to make sure your camping or day trips go smoothly, whether you plan months in advance or on the spot.

Check fire regulations at your campsite

Before you start a campfire, make sure to get acquainted with local fire regulations. California is an area of high fire risk. So, it is important to know and follow all the rules for safe and enjoyable camping trips.

Keep California's wilderness pristine - no trace left

No matter where you go in nature, pay proper respect to its flora and fauna by leaving no trace of your visit. It means that you have to pack out all trash, leave no environmental impact, and take care of the beauty of California's landscapes.

Efficient camping: be aware of check-out times

Even before going on a camping trip, make sure you know the campsite's check-out time. It is done not only for your safety and comfortable stay but also to provide a seamless stay for all visitors.

Navigate confidently: download offline maps 

Wilderness can be tricky. So, we do recommend downloading offline maps of the camping area you are visiting. They will work even without a network connection, so you can always orient well and be on the right trail.

Bear safety 101: store your food in a secure bear box

They are specially designed bear boxes that help prevent unwanted visitors from the wildlife. You have to keep your campsite free of any attractants for your safety and the conservation of California's nature.


🏕  What is the duration of staying at a campsite in California?

The answer to this question depends on the specific campground and its regulations. If to speak on average, most campgrounds have a maximum stay limit ranging from 14 to 30 days.

📦  Can you consider camping in California safe?

Yes, camping in California is safe. But you are also responsible for making it safer: be well-prepared and properly equipped, follow safety guidelines, and be aware of potential risks. Make sure you learn more about the area, weather conditions, and wildlife.

💡   Are you charged for camping in California?

There are different camping options: free, low-cost, and those with fees. Usually, national parks charge you for camping in their campsites. Later on, they use that money for maintaining and improving facilities. You can learn about it while choosing the preferable camping ground for your hike.

🔦   Are there lots of campgrounds in California?

Yes, there are. Here, campgrounds are excellent places to go, as they are rich in beautiful trees (e.g., sequoias), stunning views, near rivers and lakes, as well as entertainment and recreation facilities.


Anish Bruce

Anish Bruce said:

California is very beautiful

Axel Campbell

Axel Campbell said:

I’ve only been to Lake Casitas , it’s a wonderful place

Phoenix Bonilla

Phoenix Bonilla said:

These suggestions are very helpful

Kiran Hardin

Kiran Hardin said:

Ventana campground has all the amentities you need for an enjoyable camping experience, highly recommend

Kacper Gilbert

Kacper Gilbert said:

Camping in other states can be fun too! Try looking into Virginia!

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