The 5 Best Places to Camp in California this Summer

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: June 10, 2022
Image Credit Osprey Creative/Shutterstock.com
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When it comes to variety, California really does have it all. If you are looking to camp in the mountains or fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean waves, California is the place to go. There are National Parks, State Parks and private campgrounds that offer everything from riverside campsites to hike-in only sites overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. In reality there are hundreds of fabulous places to camp in California but here are 5 of the best places to camp in California this summer.

1. Yosemite National Park

yosemite falls
Yosemite National Park is one of the best places to camp in California this summer!

A.Hornung/Shutterstock.com

Yosemite National Park is visited by more than 3 million visitors a year. They come to see the beauty of Yosemite Falls, El Captain and Half Dome. Some come just to enjoy the views while others come to hike, bike and climb, a little something for everyone. Staying right in the park at one of the many campgrounds is a wonderful way to enjoy the park. There are 13 different campgrounds including some that have large RV sites and others with smaller tent pads. A few of the Campgrounds are closed due to the Covid closures, but there are still plenty to choose from. Visit the Yosemite National Park Campground website for all the details about each campground. Here are the basics:

CampgroundSeason/OpenNumber of Sites
Upper PinesAll year238
Lower PinesApr. 14 – Oct. 1260
North PinesApr. 11 – Oct. 1181
Camp 4All year61
WawonaAll year93
Bridalveil CreekClosed until 2023110
Hodgdon MeadowAll year105
Crane FlatClosed until 2023166
Tamarack FlatJune – Oct. 1552
White WolfJuly – Sept. 2574
Yosemite CreekJune –Sep. 1575
Porcupine FlatClosed until 202352
Tuolumne MeadowsClosed until 2024/25104

2. Lake Tahoe: Nevada Beach Campground

Lake Tahoe
Nevada Beach Campground sits on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe so you can enjoy amazing sunsets from the campground.

topseller/Shutterstock.com

The beautiful Lake Tahoe is a favorite vacation spot for many. There are several campgrounds on the shores of the lake, but Nevada Beach Campground is one of the best places to camp in California this summer. Sitting on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, you know you can enjoy some of the most beautiful sunsets over the lake, right from the campground. You might even get to see a bald eagle fly over your site. Some of the sites have lake views while others are nestled in the woods for more privacy. The campground is a National Forest Service campground so you know the hiking and wildlife will be amazing.

bald eagle just caught a fish
If you are lucky you may see one of the majestic bald eagles hunting for their dinner.

FloridaStock/Shutterstock.com

Nevada Beach Campground
LocationEast Shore of Lake Tahoe
Nearest CityStateline, Nevada
RV Sites54 RV or tent sites
Tent Sites54 RV or tent sites
Picnic Tables at each siteYes
Fire Pit at each siteYes
AmenitiesRestrooms, Nevada Beach Pavillion
Pet FriendlyYes
ReservationsYes
What makes it one of the bestThe amazing sunsets over Lake Tahoe!

3. Redwood National Forrest and Park

Redwood National Forest - Trail
Hiking through the Redwood National Forest is an amazing experience. The Redwoods are some of the tallest trees in the world!

Ryan Kelehar/Shutterstock.com

You can look at photos of the Redwood National Forest, but until you stand next to an enormous redwood you can’t fathom their actual size. If you want to camp among the redwoods there are four different campgrounds at the Redwood National Forest and Park. Each campground has sites with picnic tables and fire rings as well as restrooms and showers. The Jedediah Smith Campground is right on the banks of the Smith River and the Gold Bluffs Beach one has access to a secluded beach. They all have amazing hiking trails, but be sure to make a trip to the “Big Tree” an area with several of the tallest, biggest trees in the park. It is located in the Prairie Creek State Park.

Redwood National Forest
Nearest CityFar NW corner of California, Klamath, CA
Jedediah Smith Campground86 RV or Tent, no hookups, on the banks of the Smith River,
some hike/bike-in sites, 4 cabins
Mill Creek Campground145 RV or Tent, no hookups, access to Mill Creek, some
hike/bike-in sites
Elk Prairie Campground75 RV or Tent, no hookups, some hike/bike-in sites
Gold Bluffs Beach Campground26 RV or Tent, no hookups, access to secluded beach
AmenitiesRestrooms, showers
Pet FriendlyYes
ReservationsYes
What makes it one of the bestCamping amongst the biggest trees in the world!

4. Golden Gate National Recreation Campgrounds

Kirby Cove at Golden Gate National Recreation Area
This is the view from Kirby Cove Beach at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area!

iStock.com/greta6

Do you want to sleep under the Golden Gate Bridge? The Golden Gate National Recreation area is right next to the Golden Gate Bridge just outside of San Francisco. There are four different campgrounds located in the Marin Headlands along the coast on the north side of the bridge. The Kirby Cove Campground has access to Kirby Beach overlooking the bridge. All of the campgrounds are small and some require a hike to get to so plan ahead. You also need to bring in your own water, but the seclusion and the views are worth it.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Nearest CitySan Francisco
Bicentennial Campsite3 Tent only sites, short hike down a hill to reach it
Hawk Campground3 Tent only sites, amazing views but there is a 3 mile
hike to get to the campsite
Haypress Campground5 Tent only sites, .7 mile hike to the site,
can also hike to Tennessee Beach
Kirby Cove Campground5 Tent only, 2 are ADA accessible
AmenitiesVault toilets, picnic tables
Pet FriendlyNo pets allowed except service animals
ReservationsYes
What makes it one of the bestCamping with views of the Golden Gate Bridge!

5. Big Sur: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

The coastline along Big Sur has amazing views. One of the best places to camp in California this summer is at the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Osprey Creative/Shutterstock.com

Big Sur is about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, right on the coast. The Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has hiking, biking, fishing and swimming. There are multiple riverside campsites for RV’s and tent camping. Make this your homebase so you can enjoy hiking to the Pfeiffer Falls or take a short drive down to Pfeiffer beach to swim and see the arched rock formations. You can drive up the coast to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to see the Elephant Seals when they come ashore between late November to mid-February. You may also be able to spot dolphins, sea otters and killer whales!

Two Elephant seals at Point Piedras Blancas, California
The Elephant seals come ashore during late November for mating season. You could see some of the impressive mating rituals including the males that slam in to each other to show dominance.

Candied Woman Ire / Creative Commons

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Nearest CityMonterey, between San Francisco and Los Angeles
RV Sites and Tent Sites189 RV or Tent sites, no hookups, picnic table and fire ring at each site
AmenitiesRestrooms, showers, water
Pet FriendlyYes
ReservationsYes
What makes it one of the bestCamp right along the Big Sur River. Short drive to amazing Atlantic beaches!

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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