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California Camping: The Top 10 Spots to Pitch a Tent in California

The Best Spots for Camping in the Golden State

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From its sandy beaches, to tall mountains and desserts, California has a wide variety of camping and a number of top spots to pitch a tent. If you love to surf and camp, there are beachfront campgrounds, and if wine tasting is your pastime, the Napa Valley and Central Coast are great places to camp. There are mountains to climb and rivers to fish in the golden state.

Just about anywhere you go in California there are campgrounds or RV parks, but these are our favorite places to pitch a tent. The following is a list of the best places for camping in California.

1. Big Sur Camping - California's Central Coast

© Monica Prelle

A road trip along the Pacific Coast highway through California’s Central Coast is an unparalleled camping experience. From the sandy beaches in Santa Barbara to the rugged coastline in Big Sur, there are many scenic spots to pitch a tent. Big Sur is a favorite location in the Central Coast for its stunning views, quiet beaches and hiking in the Los Padres National Forest. There are a variety of state park campgrounds and private RV parks for campers.

More: Central Coast Camping | Big Sur | Top 20 Things to Do in the Central Coast

2. Lake Tahoe - California (and Nevada)

© Monica Prelle

The country’s largest alpine lake is a stunning backdrop for camping. Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in both California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe offers lots of camping options from beachfront campgrounds to forested campsites. There are campgrounds around the entire lake and nestled in the mountains. Lake Tahoe is also a favorite outdoor recreation destination and is a top spot for boating, kayaking, hiking and bicycling.

More: Lake Tahoe Camping | Boating, Sailing and Kayaking Lake Tahoe | Bicycling Lake Tahoe

3. Napa Valley - Wine Country Camping

© Monica Prelle

The Napa Valley isn't just for luxury travelers and wine enthusiasts. With two campgrounds at either end of the valley -- Bothe Napa is one of our favorite campgrounds in California --wine country is accessible for campers on a budget. A camping trip to America's most famous wine region can produce opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, cycling, fishing, bird watching and nature loving! And there are culinary tours, historic sites and affordable wineries for campers.

More: Napa Valley Camping | Casual Wine Tasting in Napa | Top Things to Do in Napa Valley

4. San Diego Beach Camping - Southern California

© Monica Prelle

There are plenty of beachfront campgrounds to pitch a tent in Southern California, but San Diego is a favorite destination for its sunshine and warm weather. Top spots include Carlsbad, Cardiff, La Jolla and Coronado and campgrounds range from bluffs with ocean views to sandy oceanfront campsites.

More: Southern California Beach Camping | Los Angeles Beach Camping | Orange County Beach Campgrounds | San Diego Beach Camping

5. Reds Meadow Valley - Mammoth Lakes

© Monica Prelle

Located in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Red’s Meadow has six campgrounds that are open only in the summer months. The valley provides multiple trailheads and endless miles of hiking trails in a wilderness area lined with tall mountains, pine trees and wildflowers. Highlights include hikes to Devils Postpile National Monument, the Minarets and Ritter Range, and Rainbow Falls.

More: Camping Red’s Meadow | Fly fishing, hiking and sightseeing

6. Yosemite National Park

© National Park Service

Voted as one of the top 5 favorite national parks for camping by the readers, Yosemite National Park is a geological wonder. With Half Dome and El Capitan looming over the valley, Yosemite Valley is not only picturesque for camping, but it’s also a great destination for hiking, climbing and sightseeing. Tuolumne Meadows in the Yosemite high country has spectacular views of the glacial carved valley and is a great portal to the backpacking.

More: Yosemite National Park Information | Yosemite NP Guide Book | Half Dome Hiking Permits | Yosemite Campgrounds

7. Death Valley National Park

© Getty Images | Don Smith for the Image Bank

Death Valley is a national park of extremes. The below sea level basin is a land of record summer heat, snowy winter peaks, spring wildflowers and a diverse wildlife. Despite it's morbid name, the national park is a top destination for outdoor recreation and seasonal camping. It’s one of the best winter camping spots in California, but if you want to feel the heat, check out Death Valley in the summer!

More: Death Valley National Park Getaway | Death Valley Guide Book | Death Valley Campgrounds

8. Shasta Cascade Region

© Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association

From lakes to rivers and mountains, the Shasta Cascade region is nothing short of outdoor adventure. And with California’s fifth highest mountain, Mount Shasta, looming in the distance, the area is scenic for camping road trips and sightseeing.

More: RV Parks and Camping in Shasta County | Mount Shasta Facts

9. Sequoia National Park

© NPS

Known for its giant sequoia trees, Sequoia National Park is home to the General Sherman tree, which is considered the worlds largest tree and arguably the largest living organism on earth. The national park is located in the southern Sierra Nevada on the west side of the crest. There are many popular campground located within the park and numerous trailheads for endless miles of backcountry camping.

More: Sequoia National Park Campgrounds | Sequoia Park Info

10. Redwood National Park, Northern California

© National Park Service
Home to the tallest trees on earth, Redwood National Park is our favorite camping and outdoors destination in northern California. With the towering Redwood trees and foggy ocean climate, the area is excellent for exploring trails and the coast. Park rangers tell us their favorite things to do in this top top 10 ways to explore Redwood National Park.

More: Redwood National Park Campgrounds | Redwood National Park Info

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