Top 10 Spots to Pitch a Tent in California

The Best Spots for Camping in the Golden State

If you are planning on camping in California, you most likely want to know where the best places are to pitch a tent in the Golden State. From its sandy beaches to tall mountains and desserts, California has a wide variety of campgrounds and a number of spots to go camping.

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.

  • 01 of 10
    ••• Surfers at South Carlsbad State Beach in San Diego. © 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.

  • 02 of 10
    ••• Sand Dollar Beach near Plaskett Creek Campground in Big Sur. © 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 on the Central Coast for its stunning views, outdoor adventures, sightseeing and hiking in the Los Padres National Forest. There are a variety of state park campgrounds and private RV parks for campers.

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    ••• Beachfront campsites and water recreation are refreshing at Meeks Bay. © 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.

  • 04 of 10
    ••• A vineyard in the Napa Valley. © 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.

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  • 05 of 10
    ••• Eric Lo/Getty Images

    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. It's a popular destination for not only camping but also fly-fishing, hiking, and sightseeing.

  • 06 of 10
    ••• Half Dome, a granite monolith, looms over Yosmeite Valley. © 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.

  • 07 of 10

    Death Valley National Park

    ••• Dried mud cakes in low portion of Mesquite Dunes at dawn, Death Valley National Park, California, USA. © 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 ​its 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!

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    ••• Mount Shasta is the 5th tallest peak in California. © Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association

    From lakes to rivers and mountains, the Shasta Cascade region is nothing short of an 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.

     

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  • 09 of 10
    ••• Park visitors look at the giant sequoia trees. © 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 campgrounds located within the park and numerous trailheads for endless miles of backcountry camping.

     

  • 10 of 10

    Redwood National Park, Northern California

    ••• Paul Giamou/Getty Images

    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.