The 5 Best Camping Sites in California

California is one of the best places to travel around for anyone who loves the great outdoors.

You can find more than enough campsites from the Redwood National Park right up in Northern California, right down to forests and State Parks around San Diego in the south.

To make the most of an extended trip, you can fit in the best camping California has to offer and follow a logical route that shows a diverse landscape and covers every kind of camping you can imagine.

Best Places for Camping in California

Here we have 5 of the best places to visit, although you can adapt your path with other National Parks, which can be in the vicinity or you pass by on the way to your next.

Read our Camping Beginner’s guide)

Best California Camping Sites

1. Lake Tahoe

This is a great starting point from San Francisco. Lake Tahoe is an alpine lake located deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Such is the expanse of the Nevada Mountains; they cover California and Nevada.

Once here, you have the option of forested campsites or close to the edge of the lake. With over 20 camping spots, there are plenty that can cover all amenities such as picnic tables and anything to make your stay in the Sierra Nevada comfortable.

2. Yosemite

When you are looking for the best camping in California, you can’t leave Yosemite National Park. You will find some of the best campgrounds in California. While it sees millions of visitors each year, there are over 1,100 miles of different terrain to explore.

The National Park is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it is well cared for. While you may not be able to have a fire pit in some camping sites, this is a small price to pay.

There are many waterfalls, sequoia trees, and every other kind of wilderness you can imagine.

You can wander at the Vernal trailhead, Nevada Falls, and the Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds.

If lakes are your thing for some kayaking, then you have Elizabeth Lakes and Cathedral lakes, to name but a few.

It is possible to book a place in the High Sierra camps that are strewn a decent distance from each other. On offer are tent cabins and family meals.

3. Death Valley National Park

It was a toss-up between adding Death Valley to the best California campgrounds or the Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon.

Both have lots to offer, but Sequoia is much the same as the others, and the Valley offers your first diverse landscape glimpse. It is also easier to access on a road trip after leaving Yosemite.

Instead of being above sea level. The valley takes you down into the below sea level basin. While it can be hot during the summer, there are lots to see and experience in the cooler weather.

You have lots of choices for camping sites, and three of the best are Furnace Creek, Wildrose, and Mesquite Spring.

You can find these cater for washrooms, bare-bones camping, and primitive campground with no fee.

Big Bear Lake Camping Sites in California

4. Big Bear Lake

Once you head further down toward Southern California, it can be easy to swing toward Los Angles and the ocean. However, you have a couple of the best camping spots in California to choose between.

Joshua Tree National Park, or Big Bear Lake.
Joshua Tree is iconic in its own right; it was heading away from a suitable route. Big Bear won out as it was back, delivering green and lush environment and relaxed in the summer.

Bear Lake is popular and is home to Oktoberfest, the German-styled beer festival. National Forest surrounds it, so there is no end to hiking trails to explore. Some of the best camping areas include Big Bear Shores RV Resort, Holloways Marina RV Park, Serrano, and Pineknot campgrounds.

5. Big Sur

For your last stop on this camping expedition, you can cut the trip short and head out of LA and head up to Los Padres National Forest, or you can head to Big Sur, which sits north of Santa Barbara and south of Santa Cruz.

Being the home of Hearst Castle, you can take in the ocean views as you climb up the rocks and cliffs. The bluffs overlook the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean, so there will be plenty of breezes and fresh air in your face.

There are plenty of areas among the redwoods to hang your hammock while offering up beach camping if that is more your thing.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park can get busy, so checking out the close-by Ventana Campground can offer a host of amenities and be one of the best camping in California that offers beaches and forests in equal amounts. (Read Best Hiking Trails in San Diego)

All of the above are worthy of having a place in the top five camping areas in the state. While all these have lots to offer, there are countless others you can string together to make an unforgettable trip.

If you are into hiking, kayaking, or any other outdoor activities, you can find any of these resorts to make camping in California accessible for a weekend from the most significant locations.

All of the above offer rich experiences and something very different from each other. While easily accessible in the warmer months, they can be very different at the colder times of the year, and you may find some even have skiing or snowboarding on their roster of activities.

You can hit the trails and go backpacking or head off for family time away to any location around California. You will quickly find a campsite that offers all you need.

Before you go camping, get prepared with the essentials:

The 5 Best Camping Sites in California

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