Get Gone: 18 Best Camping Sites in California

You could spend your entire life in the state of California and still not see all it has to offer. Pretty much every geographic feature you could imagine; beaches, mountains, deserts, heavily wooded forests and precarious peaks, are all within its borders. As result, one would think that this glut of resources would inspire a kind of wanderlust or fuel a drive to get out and see as much as one can. In reality, though, all of these options can have a kind of paralyzing quality to it. If you have literally hundreds of places to go camping within a day’s drive – which do you choose?

The best answer to that question, in our minds, is to try and narrow the focus a bit. So to help you enjoy the best of what the Golden State has to offer, whether you live in it or are just visiting, we put together a list of what we think are some of the best camping spots in California. From the deserts in the east of the state to the beaches in the west and everything in between, we’ve put together a representative sample of California’s best camping grounds for those who prefer either tent or car camping. Take a scroll through and see if anything catches your eye.

Culp Valley Primitive Campground

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

If you are looking to rough it in the desert, this spot is for you. Located a bit above the desert floor at 3,375 feet, this campground features not a whole lot more than some vault toilets and dirt. Ideal for tent campers or those who prefer to sleep out under the stars.

Picnic Tables: No
Fire Pit: No
Toilets: Yes
Water: No

Learn More: Here

Pine Knot Campground

Big Bear Lake

Just steps from Big Bear Lake, Pine Knot Campground serves as an ideal base camp from which to head out for long days on the water or the trail. Thanks to generous pine tree coverage the campsite also offers up plenty of shade and protection from the summer sun.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

Ventana Campground

Big Sur

Set in a 40-acre redwood canyon between Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean, this stunning campground puts you right in the middle of some of California’s most beautiful sites. Campers are just as close to trails of all varieties as they are to local restaurants, cafes, and taverns.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

Two Harbors Campground

Catalina Island

When it comes to island camping in California, Catalina’s Two Harbors Campground is among the most well known. Set on a hill a quarter mile out from the main village, campers get a brilliant view out over the Pacific along with access to hikes that are often punctuated with the island’s famous Buffalo.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

Scorpion Canyon Campground

Channel Islands National Park

Lesser known but just as stunning, Santa Cruz Island’s Scorpion Canyon Campground offers up a really unique experience. One of the least visited national parks, the Channel Islands has a remoteness to it that you can’t get anywhere else. The island offers up more hiking than you can accomplish in a weekend – and boasts over 100 species of plants and animals that are totally unique to the island.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: No
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

Manzanita Group Camp

Henry W Coe State Park

Located inland from Santa Cruz and south of San Jose, this large 87,000-acre park boasts a number of camping sites – the more remote of which is Manzanita Group Camp. A little less dense than others in Henry Coe, it offers up more privacy and great access to trails.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Conditional

Learn More: Here

Big Pine Creek

Inyo National Forest

This is a striking campground set within viewing distance of the largest glaciers in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains and surrounded by meadows and stunning trees. Firewood is also sold nearby through the local groundskeeper.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

Jalama Beach

Jalama State Beach

This RV-friendly campground complete with electrical hookups is located on a quiet strip of beach in Santa Barbara County. The gorgeous location hasn’t gone unnoticed, so if you can, try and take advantage of the ability to make a reservation 6 months in advance.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

White Tank Campground

Joshua Tree National Park

It is hard not to include Joshua Tree on a list of best camping sites in California. The stunning desert landscape is too unique to miss out on and White Tank Campground puts you right in the middle of it with only 15 campsites. Do yourself a favor and come here during the Fall or Spring.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: No

Learn More: Here

Dorst Campground

Kings Canyon National Park

At an elevation of 6,700 feet, this camping site located right next to a creek running at its brim with snowmelt may quite possibly be the best place to enjoy all of what Kings Canyon National Park has to offer.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

Tolkan Campground

King Range National Conservation Area

While most everyone only pays attention to California’s Southern Coast, it’s Northern ‘Lost’ Coast is just as stunning. While you won’t find yourself sun-tanning up in King Range National Conservation Area, you most definitely will enjoy the dramatic views out onto the Pacific.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: No

Learn More: Here

General Creek Campground

Lake Tahoe

Shared by both California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is among the most impressive parts of the large state. General Creek Campground boasts hiking, mountain bike trails, large campsites for families and RV friendly setups. A great place for a family getaway in the northern part of the state.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

Kirk Creek Campground

Los Padres National Forest

Located not far from Big Sur, Kirk Creek campground offers unparalleled views of the coastline and access to some of the best hiking along the coast. Ideal for people looking to just get away for the weekend, or those trying to get out and enjoy serious kayaking, hiking, and cycling. Just be sure to keep an eye out for the raccoons. They are tenacious.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: No

Learn More: Here

Prairie Creek Campground

Redwoods National Park

You can’t really get more Northern California than this. Surrounded by some of the largest tree species on planet earth, the Coastal Redwood, this campsite offers up a truly special part of the Golden State. The campsite features easy access to 75 miles of hiking trails for the day hiker in your group and bike trails for the two-wheeled fiend.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

South Fork Foothills Area

Sequoia National Forest

A primitive campground for those who are looking to rough it in California’s stunning Sequoia National Park. The campground offers access to multiple trails for taking extended day hikes but is only available on a first come first serve basis.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: No
Toilets: Yes
Water: Seasonally

Learn More: Here

Mary Smith Campground

Shasta Trinity National Forest

This campground located inland from Eureka puts campers right by the fingers of Lewiston lake, making it an ideal spot for fishermen and kayakers. To top it all off the site’s amenities are a cut above the rest, with dedicated ‘glamping sites’ with ample privacy.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

Pacific Valley Campground

Stanislaus National Forest

If you are looking to head into Stanislaus National Forest but hope to avoid most of the crowds, this is the place to go. Set in an alpine meadow next to a running river, the campsite offers little more than access to stunning trails and an escape from the daily grind.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: No

Learn More: Here

Upper Pines Campground

Yosemite National Park

We have to be honest – it was difficult to pick the campsite for Yosemite. Do you go for the more popular one? Or you do you try and find a site that is more off the beaten path but offers fewer amenities. We went with the former. Very populist of us, we know. But folks haven’t made this spot popular for no reason. The campground offers up stunning views of some of Yosemite’s most popular landmarks.

Picnic Tables: Yes
Fire Pit: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Water: Yes

Learn More: Here

20 Best Day Hikes In America

If your idea of fun is hiking out into the woods, getting dirty, and then coming home in time for dinner – then day hiking is likely your thing. Take a look at our list of the best day hikes in the U.S.

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