California: A Camper’s Paradise

If you’re currently staying in California or planning on visiting soon, this blog post is for you… are you ready to find out the best campsite in California? 

Because of my unconditional love of the United States, I consider myself besides being Swiss also a Californian girl. In fact, back in 2014, I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and camping in some of California’s most unbeatable campsites. There is nothing better than a night bungled up by a campfire under millions of stars!

To make your camping experience easier, I’ve put together a list of some of the best campgrounds in California. Why California? Well, California is not called the Golden State for no reason… whether you prefer bumming it on the beach, dwelling in the desert, or frolicking in the forest, California is a dream come true for any wanderer! Campsites full-field with their different preferences and levels and in all seasons as well. Not forget to mention the brim with beautiful and diverse sceneries this magical State has to offer!

Best campgrounds in California – Here are my top picks campsites in California for you! 

Best campgrounds in California - Here are my top picks campsites in California for you! 

NOTICE: The information here is updated as best we can in light of COVID-19 and for the different fires around the State. Note that many places have been modified, so some facilities and services may be limited or might have different regulations than before. Please check before you go anywhere what modifications have taken place to avoid any inconvenience!

Well, I’d say I convinced you? Everybody, strap yourselves in because Giorgy is about to share the top-picks campsites in California for you!

Yosemite National Park

Not only a great valley but a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, ha the tranquillity of the High Sierra: Yosemite National Park. Finding myself in front of this beauty took me back to an exact place that I visited in Switzerland (Interlaken) a long time ago.

Yosemite is yet considered one of the most popular and most visited parks in the United States of America. Because of its popularity, scoring a Yosemite campsite is equal to winning the state lottery, therefore Giorgy is here for giving you the right tricks and tools for securing your spot from the many campsites available in the Yosemite National Park

I mean, you definitely cannot say you visit California without being in Yosemite! 

Located in the western Sierra Nevada of Central California, Yosemite National Park is a gigantic park that covers around 1189 square miles of hiking trails, wilderness, streams, lakes, and sequoias. It’s also home to mesmerizing wonders like the Yosemite Falls, the tallest falls in the world, the granite monolith known as El Capitan, the Tuolumne Meadows which sit at 8,619 feet elevation overlooking the most beautiful scenery, and the awe-inspiring Half Dome.

Yosemite is an overall versatile park with amazing attractions and campsites that will take your breath away whether you’re a beginner or seasoned camper! Few spots are camp-free, but be sure to get a permit beforehand for camping. A lot of campsites have restrooms, fire rings, and picnic tables.

Keep in mind that is recommended to book well in advance (approximately 6 months) and between the months of April through September is the peak season, so most campgrounds require reservations.

I let you scroll through a list of mine with recommendations of differents campsites in Yosemite:

  • Upper Pines Campground: located within walking or shuttle distance to big-ticket attractions, this location is well recommended for a beginner and for the one looking for absolute solitude in an enviable location into the valley;
  • Tuolumne Meadows Campground: at an elevation of 8,600 feet and a bit outside the valley in the approximate of the scenic Tioga Road (nearby the Tioga Pass Entrance Station) is located Tuolumne Meadows Campground. This is going to remind you of “The Sound of Music” scenery by transporting you to Elizabeth lake and the Cathedral Lakes trails. 
  • Wawona: along the Merced River with easy access to the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove, at the end of the park is located the Wawona.
  • High Sierra Camps: For the more adventurous enthusiastic backpackers I suggest experiencing the five High Sierra camps (they are strewn roughly from 5 to 10 miles apart) nestled high in the wilderness and surrounded by nothing but nature! Moreover, you need to carry only a day pack as you head out each day and every campground provides you already with everything you need. 
  • Saddlebag Lake Campground: located at Inyo National Forest on the east of Yosemite, this little gem is named “camping in high gear” because it basically brings you to the highest drive-to campground in California.

Big Sur

Who heard of the famous Highway One frequently praised for its dramatic scenery of the Central Coast of California?

Yup, approximately 150 miles south of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles is where lays Big Sur. This is another ideal destination for anyone who wants to experience the refreshing nature of California and it’s considered one of the most beautiful sections of the California coast between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean.

The Big Sur has been compared by many to natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon and the section of Highway 1 that runs through it is definitely one of the most beautiful driving routes in the US!
Depart from San Francisco instead of Los Angeles for the simple reasons you are just driving next to the coast and have the best view of it!

Today, Big Sur is not only known for its incomparable scenery but also for its charming sandy beaches, redwood forests, hiking trails, and the view of the rocky Pacific Coast on one side and the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains from the other side. All together makes it a perfect place to set camp in.

Speaking of camping, you should check the Julia Pfeiffer Burns Campground which is completed by two camping spots in Big Sur Area. Both are walk-in, meaning you will need to bring in all of your water and firewood but the rest such as fire rings, picnic tables, and restrooms are available.

Sequoia National Park

You can’t miss another of California’s spectacular gems, Sequoia National Park which includes at least 40 distinct groves of redwoods located in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Visalia, California. From the name, you can already tell you’re going to see some magnificent sequoia trees with the most popular being the Giant Forest, home to the world’s largest 275-foot high tree in the world among other breathtaking giant and ancient sequoias such as the 36-foot wide General Sherman.

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

If you enjoy being active, Sequoia National Park is perfect for hiking with its scenic attractions like the Tokipah Falls, Moro Rock, and Cresent Meadow which is called the “Gem of the Sierra” because of how incredible it simply is and the variety of plant and animal life it hosts.

If you are looking for a campsite, the seasonal riverfront Lodgepole Campground is provided with restrooms, fire rings, and picnic tables. But, lo and behold, pet allowed too! Moreover, this campsite is just three miles away, a very short hike to the visitor center with free shuttles, bringing you to the center of Nature.  

Not really an extreme wildness naturalist and are willing to stay in something cozier? You can check out the Wuksachi Lodge and Restaurant which is also located nearby the access to park attractions such as the Fiant Forest.

Joshua Tree National Park

Found in southeastern California, near Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park’s 800,000-acres include a surprising diversity of landscapes and campgrounds. It’s also called “Rock climbers’ paradise” due to its stony terrains and its rugged mountains.

The park is also where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts come together combining two unique ecosystems and making it home to an interesting variety of animals and plants including the iconic Joshua Tree which gave the park its name. The park is also graced with moderate temperatures which makes it an all-year-round destination.

Just close your eyes and concentrate… can you imagine this amazing place that I just described? Wonderful, isn’t it?

As a camper, you’ll get to enjoy the park’s beautifully clear and starry night skies as well as several hiking trails such as the Ryan Mountain Trail which offers some of the best views and landscapes you’ll ever witness!
  • Jumbo Rocks: This is the largest campground in the park, at an elevation of 4,380 feet, home to the massive steep rock formation for which Joshua Tree National Park is known. It’s also ideal for exploring the park’s otherworldly desert landscape of staggering rock formations such as the nearby Skull Rock.
  • White Tank: located in the northern end of the park, the 15-site White Tank Campground is the smallest campground surrounded by immense granite boulders. Because of its location offers the greatest solitude and darkest skies offering an excellent night sky viewing. Oh.. enjoy the stargazing for me too!

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Now an unexplored location in the North of California is missed, alas, by a lot of tourists while visiting California State: Lassen Volcanic National Park. Located in northern California, this national park allows you to discover its volcanic terrain.  

I mean, who doesn’t want to be surrounded by stunning crystal clear lakes, numerous volcanoes, and more?

Set up camp at one of seven seasonal campgrounds, and go out exploring. Don’t miss the 2.3-mile roundtrip trek to Kings Creek Falls leading you to an amazing 30-foot waterfall, or enjoying the picturesque views and access at the southern edge of Summit Lake.

  • Manzanita Lake: one of the popular campsites which allows you to choose between two ways of camping (tent sites and spiffy camping cabins);
  • Butte Lake: if you are looking for some loneliness and definitely just dealing with the nature and wildlife surroundings;
  • Summit Lake South Campgrounds: located in the middle of the park by giving you picturesque views and access over the southern edge of Summit Lake.

Minaret Falls Campgrounds

With about 27-site the Minaret Falls Campground is situated in the Red’s Meadow Valley in the Sierra Nevada along the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River. It got its name from its proximity to the nearby cascade of Minaret Creek that cascades into the river.

Although the Mammoth Lakes region is a popular ski destination that’s arguably more stunning in the summer; these campgrounds offer a diverse variety of activities like fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and stargazing.

The mesmerizing Devils Postpile National Monument is a rare geologic wonder formation that’s not to be missed in Minaret Falls; it protects the Devils Postpile formation as well as the 101-foot high impressive Rainbow Falls. The Devils Postpile formation is a unique geologic formation that is considered to be one of the world’s best examples of columnar basalt.

Crystal Cove State Park

One of California’s state parks, Crystal Cove is located in Newport Beach between the Pacific Coast Highway and the Pacific Ocean.

The park offers about 17 hiking trails that can be used for cycling and horseback riding and it offers several recreational opportunities. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, Crystal Cove has 180 different species of birds that can be seen throughout the entire year as well as almost 26 registered reptile species!

Set on a coastal terrace overlooking the Pacific, Moro Campground is a water baby’s paradise – it’s a popular destination among surfers, swimmers for riding waves at the park’s golden sand beach, and scuba divers because of its breezy weather and the spectacular beaches and tide pools it encompasses. This Laguna is also famous for providing a refreshing cool down after hiking the inland trails into Moro Canyon’s undisturbed woodlands. 

This Campsite has 57 coastal terrace sites for both tents and RVs including restrooms and picnic tables, and Pets are allowed too!

I pinch myself just to make sure I am not dreaming!

Lake Tahoe

Last but not least, one of California’s most serene beauties, Lake Tahoe. Known as the largest Alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe caters to both adventurers and easy-going travelers as it offers a wide variety of activities and beautiful scenery to enjoy. A good campsite would be the seasonal Eagle Point Campground offering forested ridges overlooking over the crystal Emerald Bay!

Have you ever imagined yourself kayaking into a remote campground? You can even cycle, ski, hike, climb mountains or even sit back and enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of the place!

In the summer, Tahoe’s sandy beaches and beautiful weather are a breath of fresh air and in the winter, the awe-inspiring sight of the snow is nothing like you’ve ever seen.

Summer or winter, Lake Tahoe will have something for you!

In case you are a newbie into the camping lifestyle and have absolutely no clue where to start, I put together a complete guide for backpacker’s beginners where I gave a few pointers on some camping essentials, especially for beginners, from the gear you need to pack to how to choose the perfect campsite. 

As you could see California is a hub for adventurers and those who love the outdoors with wonderful landscapes and natural wonders and camping is a great way to experience its beauty. I hope you enjoyed my top picks for the best camping spots that can help you for your next adventure out there in California while you visit! 

Now I want to hear from you! Which campsites are you going to visit the next time traveling through California? Are you going to adventure in the watery surrounding of Big Sur or hide in the darkness of Joshua Tree National Park immersing yourself in the stargazing?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment!

Hey Goofball! If you are more a city lover than a camper, here is a complete guide on how you can plan your perfect weekend getaway.