8 Great Places to Camp in California

Camping in California is something everyone should experience in their life. With it’s sprawling mountains, vast deserts and beautiful lakes, California has everything you could need to make that camping trip something you will never forget. We have put our heads together and come up with list of places we think are the best of the best;

1)  Whitney Portal Campground, Inyo National Forest

Whitney Portal Campground is in a prime location within the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains – at the base of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. With hiking trails to Mt. Whitney and the John Muir Wilderness less than a mile away, the campground is a popular home base for hikers, as well as family, RV and tent campers who wish to explore the area’s activities and enjoy unparalleled scenery.

The facility is situated in a thick pine forest at an elevation of 8,000 ft. Campers can see striking views of the rugged granite peaks surrounding it. The area is home to abundant wildlife, including black bear, mountain lions, mule deer, pine martin, pika and many species of fish and birds.

2)  Idyllwild Park, San Jacinto mountains

Located on the perimeter of the eclectic mountain village of Idyllwild, boasts 202 acres of beautiful open space, mature forest, breathtaking hiking trails, and a fascinating Nature Center (additional fee required). Recognized as one of America’s cleanest forests, Idyllwild is a perfect venue for reconnecting with family, friends, nature, and the slower pace of small town mountain life.

The park’s rustic but well-tended campground has 88 lovely forested campsites, each with fire ring and picnic table as well as close proximity to restrooms and showers.

3)  Kirby Cove Campground, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

No beach in the world has a view like this. From its sandy shore just west of the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, look east to a stunning panorama of the city. The steep, mile-long trail to the cove begins at the parking area above Battery Spencer on Conzelman Road—eye-level with the bridge’s towers—and descends through a grove of cypress, eucalyptus, and pine.

Kirby Cove’s campground features four campsites, each accommodating up to 10 people (parking restricted to three vehicles per site). Pit toilets, barbecue pits, picnic tables, and fire rings are available, but there’s no water for drinking or showers.

4)  Jumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is world renowned. Campgrounds usually fill on weekends October through May. From mid-February to mid-May (and during holidays) campgrounds usually fill throughout the week. To improve your chances of getting a campsite and avoid disappointment, visit during the off-season (June-September), reserve a site, and/or have alternate overnight plans ready. During the quieter summer months, all campsites are first-come, first-served. No reservations are needed for summertime camping.

Located only a couple of hours from LA it easily made our list of must-see places while visiting LA and San Diego. The park isn’t very big in comparison to Death Valley or Yosemite. But for those who like hiking, rock climbing, camping, or stargazing, you’ll never tire of this place.

5)  Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Arnold

Calaveras has two main campsites, Oak Hollow and North Grove. The North Grove campground is located close to the park entrance on Highway 4. The campground is relatively flat and offers a good mix of sunshine and shade. A wet meadow adjacent to the campground displays wildflowers in the spring and makes a great place for stargazing.

Oak Hollow Campground is located 4 miles from the park entrance. Nestled amongst pines, cedars, fir and Dogwoods, Oak Hollow campground feels a little more secluded from the activities at the hub of the park than the North Grove Campground. One thing to note about Oak Hollow Campground is where it’s situated on the side of a hill. Although not steep, it does make North Grove a more appealing place to pitch your tent.

6)  D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay state parks, South Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe provide the most amazing backdrop to these campsites. Campers can enjoy a multitude of activities in and around the park, from scuba diving in the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe, picnicking, relaxing on the warm sand of Lester Beach or Calawee Cove, to hiking the Rubicon Trail, Lighthouse Trail, and Balancing Rock Trail. Lester Beach is a popular location to launch your kayak, paddleboard, or canoe, but keep in mind that trailers are not allowed in the day use parking lots.

We highly recommend Rubicon Point in D.L. Bliss State Park where you can see over one hundred feet into the depths of Lake Tahoe.

7)  Jalama Beach County Park, Lompoc

Jalama Beach is a respite from typically bustling seaside parks, yet offers many conveniences. Groceries, personal care sundries, firewood, fishing bait and tackle, ice, beer and wine may be purchased at the Jalama Store. Other services include mailing, facsimile, and video rentals. The store and its popular Grill are open daily from 8:00 am. Jalama Beach is approximately an hour drive from Santa Barbara and a 45-minute drive from Lompoc.  A sign 4.5 miles south of Lompoc off Highway 1 will direct you onto Jalama Road. Follow this scenic 14.5 mile road to the coast.

8)  El Capitán Canyon, Santa Barbara

If you are looking for a something different then El Capitan Canyon might be exactly what you need. Catering to “luxury campers” in the Santa Barbara area with an assortment of the same comfortable accommodations any Santa Barbara hotel can provide. This beautiful privately owned campsite is nestled in the heart historic groves of oak and sycamore trees along seasonal El Capitan Creek. Cedar cabins and safari tents are grouped in villages called “Stone Pine,” “Peace Tree,” “Lone Stone” and “Shaded Creek.” We recommend grabbing your Sakari sleeping bag and booking one of their canvas tents for a more authentic nature lodging experience.

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