Best Campsites in California

by Emily Morgan

Whether you want high desert or ocean views, California presents some of the best camping possible. With 110 state parks and nine iconic national parks, the state is a gold mine for all who consider themselves lovers of the great outdoors. There’s really no better way to experience the awe of California than by camping underneath the massive redwood trees or near the crashing waves at one of its many stunning beaches. Below are the best campsites in California.

In addition to the parks, all along the length of the Golden State, you’ll also find 19 national forests, each with its own set of natural wonders and different ecosystems. From vibrantly green forests to incredible desert-scapes, you can pitch a tent in another climate every day of the week in California.

When it comes to the state’s raw, natural beauty and ecological diversity, there’s really no other state that competes with California. So if you’re planning on camping out in the Golden State, we’ve handpicked some of our favorite spots perfect for your next trip.

North Pines Campground

For those who want to camp inside Yosemite

Location: Set inside Yosemite National Park
Campground Contact: (209) 372-8502
Park Hours: Open seasonally from April to early November
Campground Website

With a backdrop of soaring pines, granite cliff faces, and next to a rushing river, North Pines Campground is a fantastic choice for camping if you want to stay inside Yosemite National Park.

Nestled at the far end of the Yosemite Valley, near Curry Village, you can walk right from this campground to some nearby hiking trails. The campground is located directly inside the park in Central California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range at an elevation of 4000 feet. Sitting in the heart of Yosemite Valley, the astonishing landscape contains many breathtaking features for which the National Park is known.

Inside Yosemite, you can spend time hunting for waterfalls, gazing at sheer granite cliffs, exploring deep valleys, and seeing the majestic grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, and other vast wilderness areas.

The park’s trails, cliffs, roads, and rivers provide visitors with endless recreational activities. Enjoy hiking, biking, rock climbing, fishing, horseback riding, and rafting in the park. In addition, its hiking trails range from easy two-mile hikes to Mirror Lake to the more strenuous 16-mile trek to Half Dome. In addition, rafting the Merced River is also a thrilling way to spend a summer day. It’s also important to note that this is an extremely busy campground, so securing a reservation in advance is essential.

Campground Breakdown
• 81 Sites: $36 per night
• RVs up to 40 feet and trailers up to 35 feet welcome

North Pines Amenities: Potable water, picnic tables, fire rings, Wi-Fi available, shuttle bus service, leashed pets allowed, flush toilets, food storage lockers

Reserve a North Pines Campsite Here

 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

For those who want to camp next to picturesque Big Sur

Location: Situated inside Monterey County, California, near the area of Big Sur on the state’s Central Coast
Campground Contact:  (831) 667-1112
Park Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset
 Campground Website

There’s no better way to experience the grandeur of California’s Big Sur than by camping next to the sheer mountain cliffs and dramatic ocean on the Central California coast. If you choose to camp in the Pfeiffer State Park campground, you’ll be greeted by Redwood forests, babbling creeks, and ocean bluffs.

Every year, Big Sur attracts millions of tourists, many of whom are looking to pitch a tent or park an RV. As a result, any campground in Big Sur is always in high demand. However, with proper planning, camping at a campsite like Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park will be worth it since it offers once-in-a-lifetime views of the sprawling, stunning landscape.

The campground encompasses over 1,000 acres at the heart of the Big Sur coast. This region includes redwood forests, scenic rivers, and jaw-dropping viewpoints of the picturesque coastline.

The state park also includes nearly 200 campsites along the rushing Big Sur River, which flows through the park, with sites to accommodate both tents and RVs. In addition, if camping isn’t for you, you can also reserve a cabin for rent at Pfeiffer Big Sur.

Camp at Big Sur at Pfeiffer State Park

You can also spend your days exploring, such as the half-mile River Trail that follows along the riverbank as it flows to a redwood grove. The River Trail also connects to the Pfeifer Falls Trail, continuing through a lush forest. If you want a longer trek, Buzzard’s Roost Trail is a three-mile loop that rewards you with great ocean views.

Camping reservations at Pfeiffer State Park can be made online or by phone but often fill up six months in advance, even during the wintertime. In addition, keep in mind that these campsites cannot be reserved online or by phone within 48 hours of your arrival.

Campground Breakdown:
• 189 RV and Tent Sites
• Standard Sites: $35 per night
• Riverfront Sites: $50 per night
• One cabin available: $75 per night, sleeps four people
• Two groups campsites available: $150 per night, sleeps up to 35 people
• Sites accommodate two vehicles and up to six people

 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Amenities: On-site market, fire rings, picnic tables, showers, leashed pets allowed, drinking water, Wi-Fi available, ADA accessible, firewood available, electric hookups

Reserve a Pfeiffer Big Sur Campsite Here

Hidden Valley Campground

For those who want the complete desert camping experience

Location: Located approximately 14 miles from Joshua Tree
Campground Contact: (760) 367-5554
Park Hours: Open 24 hours
Campground Website

Located inside Joshua Tree National Park, Hidden Valley Campground is considered the most popular campground in the park. It’s nestled in a convenient location for many of the day hikes. In addition, it’s also close to some of the best climbing sites in the park.

However, it’s also important to note that the campground is generally very busy in the high season, and since it is first-come, first-served, it’s best to get there early in the week if you want to secure a spot.

With nearly 50 places to pitch a tent, each campsite gives you views of enormous rock formations and mature Joshua trees. In addition, Hidden Valley is the closest campground to the West Entrance Station, on the west side of the park, which is considered the most scenic portion of Joshua Tree. There are also quite a few large sites that offer excellent privacy. Also, almost all sites have spectacular large boulders that give you a magical, rock formation wonderland to explore.

Campground Breakdown
• 44 Tent/RV Sites: $15 per night
• Each site can accommodate six people, three tents, and two cars
• RVs up to 24 feet allowed

Hidden Valley Amenities: Pit toilets, ADA accessible, picnic tables, leashed pets allowed

Learn more about the Hidden Valley Campsite here

Elk Prairie Campground

For those who to sleep amongst giants

Location: Humboldt County, located 50 miles north of Eureka
Campground Contact: (707) 488-2039
Park Hours: Open Year-Round
Campground Website

Elk Prairie is your best bet if you want to experience the splendor and magic of California’s towering Redwoods. Pitch your tent underneath the beautiful, ancient trees and access a plethora of hiking trails during your stay. While camping, keep your eyes peeled for nearby elk wandering in the fields. Watch as the sky lights up at night with an unobstructed view of the stars.

The campground also protects sandy beaches and open meadows grazed by the herds of Roosevelt elk. While on your hikes, gaze upon the cascading ferns and some of the world’s tallest living tree species. 

With 75 miles of hiking trails, a 19-mile bike loop, self-guided nature trails, and the Redwood Access Trail, perfect for those with physical limitations, the campground will keep you pleasantly busy. In addition, the campground’s Fern Canyon was used as a backdrop for the blockbuster hit movie Jurassic Park

Campground Breakdown
• 75 Tent and RV Sites: $36 per night
• Accommodates RVs up to 27 feet long and trailers up to 24 feet long
• 4 Cabins: $100 per night, accommodates up to six people

Elk Prairie Amenities: Toilets, showers, potable water, ADA accessible, picnic tables, leashed pets allowed

Reserve an Elk Prairie Campground Here

Lodgepole Campground

For those who want to camp in two of California’s breathtaking national parks

Location:  Located in the breathtaking Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in central California’s rugged Sierra Nevada range
Campground Contact:  (559) 565-3341
Park Hours: Open seasonally from May 25 to Nov. 30
Campground Website

Camp in a picturesque portion of the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River, inside the Sequoia National Park campground. This boulder-strewn campground is arguable the best location in the park to stay overnight. The Giant Forest area, where you can see some of the largest sequoias, is also just two miles from the campground. The campground also provides a free shuttle to and from the park sites and trailheads.

Spend time with the majestic Sequoias at Lodgepole

In addition, the campground has a mix of sites in several loops on both sides of the river. However, the most sought-after sites are those farthest from the visitor center. On the site’s last loop, a waterfall pours over smooth rocks and huge boulders and flows past several campsites.

In addition, visitors can see mountain tops off in the distance from the campground. Most sites are also easy to access, with boulders acting as your own partition for privacy. In addition, large pine trees provide plenty of shade and a forest-like setting, making it a tranquil refuge from the hustle and bustle of your daily life.

It’s also important to note that this campground is located at an elevation of 6,700 feet and is open from mid-April to the end of November but can vary depending on snow conditions. Campground reservations are available a month before your visit during the summer months, from late May through late September. Outside of these dates, sites are first-come, first-served.

Campground Breakdown:
• 76 Tent-only Campsites: $22 per night
• 16 Walk-To/Bike-To Sites: $22 per night
• Each site accommodates up to six people
• RVs allowed up to 40 feet in length

Lodgepole Amenities: Food storage lockers, staff on site, camp store, ice and firewood for sale, potable water, amphitheater, flush toilets

Reserve a Lodgepole Campsite here

D.L. Bliss State Park Campsite

For those who want crystal blue waters

Location: Located on the western shore of Lake Tahoe just north of Emerald Bay State Park
Campground Contact: (530) 525-7277
• Park Hours: Open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
• Campground Website

See Lake Tahoe’s iconic spots

The astonishingly beautiful D.L. Bliss State Park is on the western shore of California’s Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, just 17 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89 and a few miles north of Emerald Bay and encompasses 1,830 acres.

The campground also includes access to beaches and gorgeous hiking trails such as the Lighthouse Trail and the Balancing Rock Nature Trail. You can also overlook one of the lake’s deepest spots and see into the depths of Lake Tahoe.

At the same time, camping inside D.L. Bliss State Park offers campers a secluded, one-of-a-kind experience in one of the most beautiful, natural settings known to man. While camping, you can enjoy swimming, fishing, and kayaking along the picturesque shores of Lake Tahoe.

In addition, the State Park encompasses one of Tahoe’s most beautiful stretches of shoreline. The campground is also within a half-mile walk to several popular beaches, Rubicon Point and the Rubicon Trailhead.

In addition, the 20 lakeside campsites get booked well in advance, and they are slightly more expensive, so it’s best to plan if you are hoping to secure a spot near the lake. The remainder of the campsites is also split among loops uphill from Beach Camp within the pine forest. Additionally, all campsites are within a mile of the family-friendly beaches of Lester Beach and Calawee Cove.

Campground Breakdown:
• 142 Total Sites
• $45 per night for beach camping
• $35 per night for all other camping
• Each site accommodates eight people and two cars

D.L. Bliss Amenities: ADA accessible, flushing toilets, showers, potable water, picnic tables, leashed pets allowed

Reserve a D.L. Bliss Campsite Here

Butte Lake Campground

For those who want to camp next to Volcanos

Location: Located in the northeast corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park
Campground Contact: Open seasonally from June 2 to Oct. 18
Park Hours: (530) 595-6121
Campground Website

Butte Lake Campground sits at an elevation of over 6,000 feet and is located in the northeastern part of the Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. However, this campground is in a relatively remote area, so you’ll need to prepare properly ahead of your trip.

However, once you make it, you’ll be within walking distance of Butte Lake, famous for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming. In addition, you can spend time hiking and backpacking on nearby trails.

The campground also has a pleasant setting, thanks partly to the surrounding Ponderosa pines. The site is perched on soft volcanic soils and has a large black lava flow running into it, creating rocky shores and also boasts unique views for visitors in kayaks and canoes to explore.

For science and history buffs, this site will also keep you interested as it’s inside a national park known for its volcanic history and diversity of plants and wildlife. It’s home to 300 active volcanic domes and many hydrothermal features, such as mud pots and steam vents.

Campground Breakdown:
• 101 Tent and RV Sites: $22 per night
• Each site accommodates six people and two cars
• Max RV length is 45 feet

Butte Lake Campground Amenities: Picnic tables, flush toilets, food lockers, fire pits, amphitheater, vault toilets, leashed pets allowed

Reserve a Butte Lake Campsite Here