The Golden State is home to some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in North America. With over fifteen thousand miles in the scenic coastline, the presence of several national forests, and a large number of national parks, California has countless places to go camping.
Whether you’re looking to rough it on a beach near San Francisco or experience the quiet beauty of the desert at Joshua Tree National Park, there is a place for you to camp in California.
Here are our favorite places for the best camping in California. We’ve also included some useful tips to help you plan your next family getaway, whether you’re looking for RV or car camping sites along with sites that allow pets.
Best Places For Camping in California
Beautiful Burney Falls at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
1. McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is located on the edge of Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Northern part of California. There are some magnificent waterfalls that are beautiful year-round but are absolutely spectacular in April and May when the wildflowers are in bloom. The park offers camping, fishing, hiking, watersports, and horseback riding.
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is part of the California Camping in State Parks program. There are 103 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no designated campsites so you can set up camp where you want to.
The park has two separate camping areas with separate parking. The North Area has 30 sites and the South Area is home to 70 sites plus flush toilets. There are no showers at this park but they have a coin-operated laundry facility. They also have firewood for sale and a dump station is also available.
A nice little beach at Salt Point State Park
2. Salt Point State Park
Salt Point State Park is located in the coastal area of Sonoma County. The park has very nice, clean campsites both in the woods and right on the coast. It’s definitely worth the visit especially when you see how gorgeous it is once you arrive at your site.
Salt Point State Park is part of the California Camping in State Parks program. There are two campgrounds available. Woodside Campground has a total of 109 campsites equipped with fire rings and picnic tables and food lockers. Gerstle Cove Campground is located five miles north of the Woodside Campground with a total of 30 campsites. All the sites are primitive but most have tables and fire rings.
Both campgrounds have drinking water and restrooms but no showers or dump stations. Dogs are permitted but you can’t bring them on trails or the beach.
Admiring the giant trees at Redwoods State Park
3. Redwoods State Park
Redwoods State Park is located in Humboldt County. This park has some of the largest redwood trees in California and is a designated state and national historic landmark. It’s a nice park with a lot to offer and has some amazing coastline views right outside your door.
There are four developed campgrounds managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The Mill Creek Campground has 145 sites for tents and RVs (no hook-ups), Elk Prairie has 75 sites for tents and RVs (no hook-ups), Golf Bluff Beach Campground has 20 sites for tents and RVs without hook-ups, Jedediah Smith Campground has 86 sites for tents and RVs (no hook-ups).
All campgrounds have restrooms, hot showers, picnic tables, fire pits or rings and some have a food locker.
4. Sonoma Coast State Park
Sonoma Coast State Park is a very popular park since it’s located along the Sonoma Coast which is considered to be some of the most beautiful rugged coastlines in all of California. The scenery is amazing and offers a great place to camp, hike, fish, kayak, and explore.
There are three separate camping areas managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. They are as follows: Bodega Dunes has 99 sites for tents and RVs (no hook-ups), Wright’s Beach Campground has 27 sites for tents and RVs (no hook-ups), and Willow Creek Environmental Campground has 21 walk-in sites.
All campgrounds have restrooms, hot showers, picnic tables, fire rings, or pits and a dump station is also available in the Bodega Dunes Campground. Dogs are permitted in Bodega Dunes and Wrights Beach campground.
5. Van Damme State Park
Van Damme State Park is located just north of Mendocino which is about 90 miles north of San Francisco. This campground is located right along the beautiful Mendocino Coast which has some very unique scenery.
It’s a great park and one that you’ll really enjoy especially when you see how beautiful it is if you go during the spring. There are several trails to explore and they allow dogs so you can definitely take your four-legged friend with you on your camping trip.
The park has easy access to other attractions in the area including Point Cabrillo Light Station, Russian Gulch State Park, and Casper Beach County Park.
There are a total of 74 drive-in and hike-in campsites equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and food storage. Dogs are permitted in the campgrounds as long as they’re leashed at all times.
Standing under the Russian Gulch State Park Bridge
6. Russian Gulch State Park
Russian Gulch State Park is located along the coastline of Mendocino County about 10 miles south of Fort Bragg. The park offers a number of different things to see and do such as fishing, swimming, scuba diving, hiking, bird watching, horseback riding, and sightseeing… There is a lot to do here.
There are 30 campsites available tents, trailers, and RVs up to 24ft which are equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and food lockers. There are also some hike/bike and equestrian campsites equipped with tables and fire rings. There are food lockers, flush toilets, and showers available. Dogs are permitted but you must have them on a leash at all times.
Looking at the waterfall while floating down the river at Yosemite National Park
7. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is in my opinion the best park in the entire state. There are too many things to see and do here which makes it a very difficult destination for hikers, campers, sightseers, photographers… The list goes on.
There are 13 campgrounds available within the park. Some of them are first-come, first-served but most accept reservations. The campgrounds include Upper Pines, Wawona, Lower Pines, North Pines, Camp 4, Bridalveil Creek, Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, Tamarack Flat, White Wolf, Porcupine Flat Tuolumne Meadows, and Yosemite Creek.
All campsites can accommodate tents and RVs but there are hookups available. Some of the campgrounds have flush toilets but some only have vault (non-flush) toilets.
8. Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is located about 3 hours south of Yosemite National Park. It’s home to the biggest trees in the entire world and you should definitely visit if you’re ever nearby.
There are 14 campgrounds available within Sequoia National Park. They include Buckeye Flat, Potwisha, Moraine, Wolverton, Lodgepole, Cold Springs, Atwell Mill, Round Meadow, Dorst Creek, Grant Grove Horseman’s Campground, Sunset, Crystal Spring, Sheep Creek, and Canyon View.
All campgrounds except for Grant Grove Horseman’s Campground and Canyon View have restrooms with flush toilets and showers. Some of the campgrounds have running water and some have bear lockers to store your food. Dogs are allowed in all campgrounds with a 6ft maximum leash length.
There are no hookups available at any of those parks and dump stations are only available at Dorst Creek, Potwisha, and Lodgepole campgrounds.
9. Morro Bay State Park
Morro Bay State Park is located on the Central Coast of California and is about 5 hours south of Yosemite National Park. It’s home to Morro Rock, some beautiful beaches, and a lot more. Popular activities include camping, hiking, surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, bird watching and there is even an 18-hole public golf course so there is something for everyone.
There are 140 campsites available with picnic tables and fire rings. Some sites are equipped with water and electrical hook-ups. And yes, you can bring your dog here!
Beautiful secluded beach in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
10. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park stretches from the Big Sur coastline into nearby 3,000-foot ridges. It’s a very scenic park with a lot to offer including hiking, biking, fishing… There are also two short trails that lead you up close and personal to McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach.
There may only be 2 sites at the Pfeiffer Burns State Park and they book out months in advance but if you manage to get one, you are in for a treat! The park is very scenic and the beaches are even more beautiful. There’s a picnic table, fire ring, trash cans as well as pit toilets.
Some of the beautiful rock formations in Joshua Tree
11. Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is located about an hour east of Palm Springs. It’s such a beautiful park with amazing rock formations, desert wildlife, and great hiking options. There’s something truly special about this place.
There are 8 campgrounds in total available in Joshua Tree. The following campgrounds need reservations – Black Rock, Cottonwood, Indian Cove, Jumbo Rocks, and Ryan. All of these campsites have picnic tables and fire grates. Some of them provide access to water, restrooms with flush toilets and showers, dump stations, and firewood.
There are also some primitive sites available with no facilities provided – Hidden Valley, Belle, White Tank are first-come-first-serve campsites. These sites have a picnic table, fire grate, and pit toilets available.
12. Anza Borrego State Park
Camping at Anza Borrego State Park is a great way to explore the southwestern part of California. You can see a lot of wildlife like bighorn sheep, coyotes, golden eagles, bobcats, mule deer, and more… One of the most popular camping spots in Anza Borrego State Park is at Ocotillo Wells where you can explore miles of dunes and trails if you want to venture off-road.
There are over 500 campsites available in Anza Borrego State Park and most of them have picnic tables, fire rings, access to flush toilets and showers, food lockers…
There are 12 campgrounds in total available in Anza Borrego State Park. There are 4 developed campgrounds which are Borrego Palm Canyon, Tamarisk Grove, Vern Whitaker Horse Camp, and Bow Willow Campground.
There are 8 primitive campgrounds available. Blair Valley, Fish Creek, Aroyo Salado, Sheep Canyon, Culp Valley, Yaqui Pass, Yaqui Well, and Mountain Palm. These are all first-come first serve free camping sites which all have fire rings. There are no other amenities apart from pit toilets.
Great beach in Crystal Cove State Park
13. Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park is located in Orange County, California on the Pacific Coast Highway, about two miles north of Laguna Beach and south of Newport Beach. The park has two separate beach areas connected by a grassy parkland with many trails.
It’s right on the Pacific Ocean and it’s a great place to relax, unwind, and spend some time at the beach.
There are 143 campsites available in Crystal Cove State Park.
We particularly liked the Moro Campground where there are 57 large campsites with picnic tables which accept both tents and RVs. There are 27 sites with hookups specifically for RVs and trailers and the rest of the campsites are for vans, tents, and some pop-up campers. There are restrooms and token-operated showers. You can bring your dog too!
There are also 29 primitive hike-in sites that are accessible from the parking lots but be prepared for a decent hike to get to your campsite. Once you get there though, you will see that the campsites in the park are quiet and really peaceful.
There are picnic tables and a pit toilet. There’s no water on-site so you have to bring your own. You can’t bring your pet to this location. Find out more about backcountry camping at Crystal Cove State Park here.
14. South Carlsbad State Beach Campground
South Carlsbad State Beach Campground is located in San Diego County, California. It’s located right on the Pacific Ocean and it has amazing views for miles around with the most beautiful sunsets.
It’s a great place to go and relax and enjoy the beach… but this isn’t your ordinary run-of-the-mill site – there is so much more!
It is one of the bigger campgrounds in California, with over 223 sites for tents and RVs available including 13 with full hookups.
Camping is great here. The campground has incredible amenities – like showers, restrooms with flush toilets, BBQ grills, an amphitheater, camp store, visitor center, snack bar, and lifeguards for safe swimming in the ocean.
This campground has something for everyone. It does get busy in summer so make sure you book well in advance.
Also Read: Our top tips to plan the best beach camping trip
Camping in California – FAQs
When is the best time of the year to camp in California?
While camping in California can be enjoyed year-round, some parts of the state receive more visitors during certain seasons. For instance, Morro Bay and Big Sur are most popular during spring and summer when wildflowers and sun-warmed sands make for a picturesque backdrop.
The most crowded period is over the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend followed by Spring Break weeks in March and April. We recommend you make your reservations months in advance for these periods.
What are some important tips to remember while camping in California?
First, always secure your tent and awnings before turning in for the night or going out exploring.
Second, please be sure that you check with the local ranger station about any fire restrictions that may be in effect due to the dry season.
Third, respect wildlife by keeping your distance from all animals and never approaching or feeding them.
Fourth, try your best to avoid driving off-road on fragile desert soils so as not to disturb any native plants in the area.
Fifth, always dispose of waste properly by taking trash bags with you when you leave.
Camping in California is a great way to explore some of the most beautiful areas this state has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax, get away from it all, or go on an adventure… there’s something for everyone!
I hope our list brought you some inspiration for your next camping trip. What are your favorite spots for camping in California? Let us know in the comments below!
If you would like more information about camping in California, check out the California Department of Parks and Recreation website. Happy Camping!
Looking for the best camping spots in other areas? Check out other campgrounds that we love here!