Where to Camp in the Golden State
When most people think of California, they think of Hollywood and Disneyland. But there's plenty of natural beauty in the Golden State for those who prefer to venture outside the big city.
California is such a diverse state, you're sure to find scenery that's to your liking. Whether it's the beaches of SoCal, the forests of Northern California or the valleys that run through Central California, there's something for everyone.
Here are our favorite camping spots in California.
1. Yosemite National Park – Mariposa
Perhaps the greatest charm that Yosemite National Park has is the uniqueness of its geologic features. There is no other place on earth where you can see so many gigantic granite rock formations carved into dramatic shapes by glaciation. And right in the middle of it all is a beautiful valley where numerous waterfalls flow into two rivers. The park is definitely a must-see. Learn more.
2. Lake Tahoe Basin – South Lake Tahoe
And when you come to Lake Tahoe to play, you will be able to find a number of people who are experts at any activity that you are wanting to enjoy. Many business owners will tell you that they have been skiing or fishing or whatever for all of their life. They love what they do and they are good at it. They look at each day as another opportunity to do what they are passionate about while making new friends. Out-of-doors or indoors, work is play for many folks in Tahoe! Learn more.
3. Big Sur – Between Carmel and San Simeon
Starting in the Monterey/Carmel area of Northern California and ending at Central California’s San Simeon near Hearst Castle, there’s more magnificent coastline camping on California's Big Sur where 3 tribes of Native Americans — the Ohlone, Esselen and Salinan — were first to inhabit the areas and where 3 million tourists visit per year. Camp streamside in the Big Sur Valley or camp ocean view bluff-side in the southern end of Big Sur. It is a stretch of California camping that you won’t want to miss. Learn more.
4. Sequoia National Forest – Sierra Nevada
The Sequoia National Forest, named for the world’s largest trees, celebrates the greatest concentration of giant sequoia groves in the world. Protected within the Giant Sequoia National Monument, these groves and the areas around them are managed by the U.S. Forest Service for today and for future generations. Learn more.
5. Leo Carrillo State Park – Malibu
Covering a two and a half miles of rugged shore and beach, this park has opportunities for swimming, surfing, windsurfing, and surf fishing. Beachgoers will enjoy exploring the tidal pools and coastal caves for varieties of sea stars, anemones, mussels, crabs and other tidepool creatures. The popular surrounding camp sites are shaded by region-specific Sycamore trees. Learn more.
6. Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park – Weott
Fifteen miles east of Highway 101, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park is off the beaten tourist track. It's small—less than one square mile, with only five miles of trails. those who come earn big rewards: a sublime redwood forest full of big trees and few people. Learn more.
7. Morro Bay State Park – San Luis Obispo
The seaside village of Morro Bay is a picture-perfect getaway for travelers seeking outdoor adventures and a gorgeous natural setting. Located along scenic Highway 1 midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Morro Bay is easy to reach and hard to leave. Once you experience the beauty and charm – not to mention the fun you’ll have kayaking, biking, fishing, beachcombing on Morro Beach at the Morro Beach State park or walking on the sandspit. With the magnificent views of Morro Rock you can lose yourself and just plain relax – you’ll wonder why you’d ever go anyplace else. Learn more.
8. Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree is one of the most popular and beautiful national parks in the US. Located just a few hours from San Diego, LA, Las Vegas and Phoenix, the fall weather is particularly perfect for camping in Joshua Tree’s 792,510 acres. Best of all, with its unique terrain and sometimes extreme weather patterns, Joshua Tree is a great place to put your survival skills to the test. Learn more.
9. Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park's rolling surf, sandy beaches, tidepools, gently sloping hills, and deeply wooded canyons and ridges provide a delightful contrast to its urban surroundings. Located off busy Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove is one of Orange County's largest remaining examples of open space and natural seashore. Learn more.
10. Red's Meadow Valley – Mammoth
With crystal-clear streams, sparkling lakes and majestic forests, Reds Meadow Valley is an ideal place to camp during the summer and enjoy fishing, hiking or riding a horse through this pristine setting. Located on the other side of Mammoth Mountain, there are seven campgrounds in the area: Agnew Meadows, Minaret Falls, Reds Meadow, Pumice Flat, Upper Soda Springs, Pumice Flat Group and Devils Postpile. Learn more.