17 of the Best Camping Sites in California

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California is known as the Golden State, but it may as well be called the Gorgeous State. And there’s no better way to experience all that splendor than by hitting the road, sleeping under the stars and polishing up your s’mores skills. Did you know that all nine of California's national and state parks have camping facilities? Not to mention the many other beautiful campsites around the state catering to every type of traveler. But which one to hit first? We broke it down for you here, with our pick of the best camping in California whether you want to go more rustic or romantic. Just remember to please plan ahead: Many of the parks and campsites reach peak capacity in the summer months (and some close for fire season). From Joshua Tree National Park near Palm Springs to Point Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco, here are the 17 best camping sites in all of California.

The Best Camping in California at a Glance:


best camping in california joshua tree
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Best for Hiking Amid Desert Flora

1. Joshua Tree National Park

About 140 miles East of Los Angeles and neighbor to Palm Springs, Joshua Tree has an out-of-this-world (as in you could have just landed on Mars) charm and wild desert flora landscape. The Joshua Tree National Park is home to one of the most popular hiking trails, 49 Palms Canyon Trail, which is considered moderate and diverse with rock formations for climbing and cactus gardens for gazing. There are plenty of campgrounds to choose from including Indian Cove near 29 Palms where you can nestle up to a bolder for a night of stargazing.

best camping in california: point reyes national seashore lighthouse
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Located in ritzy Marin County (not far from Napa wineries), Point Reyes National Seashore is where you will spot elephant seals rolling on the beach. Something about the salty air, crashing breaking waves and shoreline pastel sunsets also makes this a perfect romantic park to visit with someone special. If you decide to make a night of it, cozy Coast Campground is a perfect place to pitch a tent nestled in a grassy hillside.

best camping in california pinnacles national park
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Best for Bird Watching

3. Pinnacles National Park

Be sure to pack your high-speed binoculars! Pinnacles National Park is an ideal spot to see endangered California condors along with red-legged frogs, canyon wrens, prairie falcons, golden eagles and more from the mountain vistas. The campground offers pet-friendly camping, along with RV sites with picnic tables and fire rings.

best camping in california channel islands national park
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Best for Island Escaping

4. Channel Islands National Park

Book a boat to one of the five islands of Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara and San Miguel, through the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center, located near Ventura Harbor Village. There is also a viewing tower where you can spot 445 species of birds or delve deeper into world-class diving, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and sea cave exploration around the isles. It’s no wonder the islands are known as “The American Galapagos.” Camping is also available in this preservation haven on all the islands, but you must book your boat transportation for an overnight visit first.

best camping in california kings canyon
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Best for Family Adventure

5. Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park

For larger-than-life trees, (they don’t call this ‘the land of the giants’ for nothing) and a rugged adventure near the soaring redwoods of the Sierra Nevada foothills, Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park, is a great spot for whitewater rafting, cave exploration, and waterfall hikes. You can also rock climb, horseback ride and cross-country ski in the winter. Campsites are available but when you’ve had enough ‘roughing it’ be sure to stop by the little town of Three Rivers for artisanal shops, cafes and craft brew.

best camping in california: redwood national and state parks
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Best for Tree Huggers

6. Redwood National And State Parks

If you didn’t catch enough of those tall timbers in Sequoia, Redwood National Park is home to the tallest trees on earth. You can bring your pets and make it a family affair with backcountry camping, though you just might need to apply for a few permits before you venture out. Before you visit, check for air quality conditions as this can be affected by seasonal fall fires in the region.

best camping in california lassen volcanic national park
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Best for Glamping and Stargazing

7. Lassen Volcanic National Park

While there might be four types of volcanos at this site near the Shasta Cascade region, Lassen Volcanic National Park also holds pristine lakes, biking trails, beautiful wildflowers and crystal-clear stargazing. Manzanita Lake offers a large campground, plus cabins for glamping and a museum. Plus, you can hike around the lake on an easy one-and-a-half-mile loop where you will have a perfect view of Lassen Peak. You can also rent stand-up paddleboard or kayak equipment for from the Manzanita Lake Camper Store.

best camping in california death valley
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Don’t let the name fool you. Death Valley might not sound too appealing, but there is an otherworldly charm amid the hottest and one of the largest parks. One of the places to find a mirage is at The Oasis at Death Valley—a miraculous desert contrast with date palm trees, gardens, pools and golfing where legends such as Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Ernest Hemingway and Diane Keaton have stayed and played. When you’re ready to turn-in, head to the nearby Furnace Tree Campground with plenty of shady spots, or if you’re feeling lucky, it’s only a two-hour drive to Las Vegas.

best camping in california yosemite
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Best for Dramatic Scenery

9. Yosemite National Park

If you’re an Ansel Adams photography fan, then seeing Yosemite National Park in person should be number one on your park bucket list, plus there are so many unforgettable vistas. Yes, it’s a World Heritage site with dramatic waterfalls, river-rafting past El Capitan granite monoliths for rock-climbers and world-class hiking at Summit, but don’t get too comfortable—there is a 14-day limit on camping in the area but there is also public transit that lets you roam car-free.

best camping in california: seagulls flock to leo carrillo state park beach
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Best for Coastal Caves

10. Leo Carrillo State Beach

For 1.5 miles of beach for roaming coastal caves, tidepool and reef exploring, not to mention surf fishing and windsurfing, head to Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu with back-country hiking and sycamore-shaded campgrounds. The popular park is close to the L.A. and Ventura county-line, plus the famous seafood eatery Neptune’s Net where they filmed scenes from the film Point Break with Keanu Reeves. When you tire of the beach views (never!), the upscale shops and restaurants of Malibu are just down the coast.

best camping in california crystal cove state park
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Best for Beach Views

11. Crystal Cove State Park

Dotted with cozy coves off of the Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, Crystal Cove is a state beach park that lies between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. As one of the best open spaces on the seashore, this is the spot for beachcombing, scuba and skin diving, along with swimming and surfing. Go inland if you want to try the mountain bike trails with the same stunning ocean views. Camping options are primitive along the hillside canyon, but you will also be close the historic Crystal Cove district with cute white cottages and some rentals available.

best camping in california: san elijo state beach - sunset on the cliffs
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Best for Surfing

12. San Elijo State Beach

We are in California after all, so grab your long-board and head south to San Elijo State Beach close to the San Diego seaside towns of Encinitas, Solana Beach and Cardiff by the Sea. This is one of the most popular surf spots in the Golden State and the campground allows for easy access during dawn patrol. There are also volleyball courts, picnic facilities, showers and a nearby camp store where you can buy firewood, boogie boards and other necessities. You may never return to civilization again.

best camping in california sue meg state park
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Best Rock Formations

13. Sue-meg State Park

This quaint location along California’s coastal redwood country in Humboldt County used to be known as Patrick’s Point State Park. It now bears the name of an indigenous village re-created by members of the Yurok tribe. The network of trails and tide pools lead to a dramatic shoreline, dotted with massive rock formations. Discover tide pools, lush forests, migrating whales and a native plant garden. Sue-meg is also within an hour’s drive of Eureka, an old, coastal Victorian town that’s a convenient base for exploring Humboldt Bay.

best camping in california refugio state beach
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Best Views of Santa Ynez Mountains

14. Refugio State Beach

In Goleta, about twenty miles outside of downtown Santa Barbara, follow the crescent-shaped sandy curve to Refugio State Beach. From here you can soak up the mind-blowing views of the Pacific Ocean with Channel Islands in the distance, while the Santa Ynez Mountains offer a hypnotic refuge from the traffic on State Street. Just steps from the sand, the 67 campsites include picnic tables and fire pits, plus a small camp store nearby in case you run out of any essentials while you are fishing, scuba diving, surfing and kayaking.

best camping in california lopez lake recreation area
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Best Central Coast Lake Location

15. Lopez Lake Recreation Area

This recreational area nestled in the trees overlooking Lopez Lake in the Arroyo Grande region is one of the top camping destinations thanks to perfect temperatures around 70°F. Add in 22 miles of shoreline and proximity to the Edna Valley and Paso Robles wine countries and you can see why those 350 campsites fill up quickly, not just in the summer, but all year long. The campgrounds also feature creature comforts, including electrical and full hook-ups, along with hot shower facilities at several campgrounds.

best camping in california: anza borrego desert
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Best for Roaming Amid Wildflowers

16. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

As one of the best state parks, Anza-Borrego’s claim to fame lies in its massive, 600,000-acre footprint. The springtime wildflower gardens are a top draw as are the multi-colored sunsets at Font’s Point. You might want to map out your trip starting in the northwest of the Borrego Springs area at the Anza Borrego visitor center, which was cleverly built underground for cooling efficiency in the hot summer months. Here you can get up to speed on the best roads, trails and tips on where to venture out.

best camping in california: malibu creek state park
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Best for Celeb Sighting (Maybe)

17. Malibu Creek State Park

OK, we all know that the Kardashian clan lives in Calabasas, but the chances of them camping—even with their kids in tow—are pretty slim. Still, you can find this beachy park haven through a six-mile drive on Malibu Canyon Road from the Pacific Coast Highway nestled within the Santa Monica Mountains. The campground has 63 campsites spread out along a large loop where you can pitch a tent or load up the RV. Beware that no electrical hookups are available but you will find restrooms, hot showers, and your own picnic table with a fire ring. While you might not stop a celebrity, you can hike around the areas where Planet of the Apes and M*A*S*H were filmed.

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