Yosemite. The redwoods. Big Sur. World-famous outdoor destinations abound in California. There are so many that you couldn’t possibly explore all the richness the state offers in one lifetime. The trick when camping in California is managing so many possibilities. Once you've visited the famous sites, try some creative approaches to camping in California.
When you think Napa Valley, you think of wine, not camping. But you can plan a wine vacation from behind the flap of your tent. Set up in one of the valley’s campgrounds then visit the many casual tasting rooms that won't mind dirt under your fingernails. When you tire of drinking wine, hike Mt. St Helena, a dormant volcano. Or walk through the Petrified Forest, a forest that was turned to stone by the last eruption of the volcano. Or visit California’s Old Faithful, a nearby geyser.
Once you have found camping in California’s Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, center yourself in Tuolumne Meadows, a more remote section of the park with its own collection of charming granite domes. Here's a secret: Instead of joining the crowds of day hikers on the meadow's most popular trails, follow the backpackers north on the famed John Muir Trail. The trail meanders through meadows, along a river below alpine peaks. And best of all, the first 8 miles of this trail out of Tuolumne are flat. Hike until you find a spot to watch the marmots, then return to your campsite. For more, backpack another 23 miles to Reds Meadow where you can catch a shuttle back up to Tuolumne.
With a little effort, you can spend the rest of your life camping in California and have a new adventure every time.
Camped in the group camp site:
- Pit Toilets
- Plenty of parking
- Running water
- Picnic Benches
- Fire Pit, although fire was banned do to the season and the conditions.
- plenty of room for tents
- Great hikes, although not great maps of the hikes
- Super nice campground managers, very helpful
This is a great dispersed camping area at the base of the E. Sierras. Camping can be along any one of several dirt roads, explore a bit til you find just the right spot (existing sites are easy to pick out)! The town of Lone Pine is nearby but make sure you bring plenty of food and water. Pack in/Pack out. With Mt. Whitney as your back drop you really can't go wrong here.
This is a great open camping area, you can camp near others or find a secluded spot of your own. There are fire rings, picnic tables, toilets and even showers. The days can get pretty warm but the evenings are beautiful and star filled! If you are not into 4 wheeling there are nice hiking trails in the area. Bring plenty of water and food (there is a store but things are pricey).
This campsite fills up fast. My friends had reservations for the weekend and we had a great time. When everyone left on Sunday afternoon the site just about emptied out. I decided to stay since the reservation was through Monday. I was able to back my back my suv up in another empty site and enjoy the sounds of the ocean all night!
We got in and checking in was very thorough! We headed to the pull through 30amp sites which are all to the left. Parked in end spot of the first row after the pool in tight spot( palm trees are close) and electric wasn’t working. This side is only one way streets so pulled out and headed to the right side of property which is all 50amp spots that are back in only. After two rounds around outer two lanes we found a good spot close restrooms. Bathroom are very clean, there’s great activities and Veterans Day event near city were awesome. We spent a lot time at pool which was awesome for us Northerners as that never happens in November. We love Palm Springs!
Corte Madera Mountain in Cleveland National Forest, just east of San Diego. You will need a permit, but you can get a free permit emailed to you if you call the rangers station. The Trail is a 7.5 mile out and back trail near Morena Village. There are great views over
the Lake Morena area and the desert as you climb. At 4,657 feet, it is a continuous climb, so don’t forget to take plenty of water! Overall, great hike. Campsites, at the summit, are just off trail surrounded by large granite boulders and great views.
If you’re looking for a nice hike, in the wild, with few people around, this is the one. Corte Madera Mountain in Cleveland National Forest, just east of San Diego. You will need a permit to camp at the summit, but you can get a free permit emailed to you if you call the rangers station.
The Trail is a 7.5 mile out and back trail near Morena Village. There are great views over the Lake Morena area and the desert as you climb. At 4,657 feet, it is a continuous climb, so don’t forget to take plenty of water! Overall, great hike. Camping was just off trail, at the summit, surrounded by large granite boulders,
Rolled into this campground with no reservations The campground was pretty much empty. Park ranger Lynsey was great to work with after a long drive. The camp spots were pretty clean despite people being disrespectful to the park. I stayed in lot 44 which backed up to the beautiful forest. Great place to stay
Rolled in with no reservations and not a clue as to camp for the night in my van. All campgrounds were closed but I found a little spot to park for the night right on the lake. Set up camp, did some fishing and cooked up dinner. My best friend and I fished this lake 30 years ago…Good memories
[ PROS ]
- Camping in a National Park! This is the only campground in Pinnacles National Park so you’re options are limited, but this campground is centrally located.
- Wonderful Camp Store with gear, supplies, and anything you might need for camping. They even have snacks, ice cream, and candy.
- Visitor Center where you can get lots of helpful information about the park and souvenirs to take home.
- Each sites comes with a picnic table, fire ring + grill, 2 parking spots, and bear box.
- Clean restrooms but it is shared with a lot of campers. I wish they had a few more.
- So close to wildlife! We saw 6-8 deers both days just grazing inside the campground. Site #20 is where they hung out the entire weekend. Also, lots of rabbits, owls, magpies, quail, and turkey vultures.
- Great night sky with lots of stars!
- Lot’s of hiking trails at Pinnacles National Park. We started on the East Entrance and took the Bear Gulch Cave Trail to Moses Spring Trail, to the High Peaks Trail. It was spectacular and pure magic! One of my favorite day hikes that I’ve done. The caves were so cool to see and the Bear Gulch Reservoir is gorgeous.
- Really clean and well maintained park. I normally carry a bag to pick up trash on hikes, but this time I barely saw litter.
[ CONS ]
- The only showers are by the Visitor Center which is a long walk or drive from the main camping area.
- Sites are super close together and very small. Some sites barely looked like you could put 2 small tents. Be prepared to be close to neighbors.
- Very touristy and crowded, it is a National Park afterall so that is to be expected.
- No fires were allowed when I was there.
Note: Site #45 where we stayed was great! It had a water spigot right next to us which was really convenient, and it was a perfect distance from the restroom. Not directly next to it, but one site away.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. This weekend I had the opportunity to test out Beef Stew by Mountain House on a camping trip to Pinnacles Campground. As far as the product goes, I can eat this ALL DAY. It’s so good, filling, and hearty just as it is. This is as good as it gets for a quick, hot meal at the drop of a dime. It tastes just as good as a home cooked meal. Overall, just perfect comfort food -- chunky pieces of potato, peas, and carrots, the beef has great texture and generous portions, and the sauce is savory, flavorful and thick. I decided to elevate this meal and make Mountain House Campfire Beef Hand Pies! All you need is ready-to-bake biscuits and a Mountain House #10 Beef Stew Can and you have the best campfire hand pies ever! One package of Mountain House can make 16-20 hand pies. That’s 2.5 cans of ready-to-bake biscuits.
- 1 package of ready-to-bake biscuits
- 1 Mountain House #10 Beef Stew Can
- Also needed: cast iron pan vegetable oil and paper towels
- Follow instructions for making Mountain House #10 Beef Stew and set aside.
- Open the can of ready-to-bake biscuits and roll out each biscuit until they are about 4 inches in width. Make sure to work fast with the dough so that it still stays cool.
- Place 1 tbsp of Mountain House Beef Stew into the center of each circle, fold them over (like a taco) and seal the edges by using the tines of a fork, press the edges together all the way around. Try to avoid getting any of the stew sauce around the edges or else it will be more difficult to seal.
- Place 1-2 inches of oil in a cast iron pan and place on the fire over coals (or camp stove), not direct flames. Test to see if the oil is ready by dropping a couple droplets of water into the pan. If it sizzles, it’s ready to go!
- Cook the pies until the first side is well browned then flip over and repeat.
- Let the pies set on paper towels for 1 minute to drain out any excess oil.
Optional: Enjoy with salsa, sour cream, and cilantros
Considerations: If you want to prevent leaks in your hand pie, take an additional step when sealing your pies by flipping the pie over to the other side, and sealing it again with your fork. It’s a little more work, but the payoff is worth it!
This campground was beautiful.
There was a wild rabbit that enjoyed our campsite as well as a great horned owl that hovered on the boulders overhead at dawn and dusk.
This campground was packed. If you're looking for solitude, this is not the place. However, friendly neighbors.
This is an RV Park so the spaces are smaller, but they have great kids parks near by and two pools! It is very hilly if you like to walk, and it is a good place to bring your bikes with the kids. The laundry facility is nice.
This campground has small sites like most RV parks do, but there was a lot of fun things to do with the kids. They had a movie on the beach when we were there, and fun water toys out. It was rather expensive though.
Lake Hemet campground has really gone downhill. We used to spend summers there with many family members in multiple campers, catching lots of trout. We went this spring, I didn't recognize the place, it was run down, over grown, it was like it no body was caring for the place. They hadn't stocked trout in over a year. We paid $200 for 10 days. NOT worth it. Find another campground
Great campsite! Right on the bluffs with the ocean beating on the rocks below you. Four large group sites with 70+ first come first serve sites. Boat access and cleaning station for fishermen. Absolutely no cell reception which is fantastic!
Great little place in the redwoods in beautiful majestic wine country. Campsites are clean, bathrooms are being renovated at the moment but the ones completed are nice. You need reservations but there are a few walk in campsites up at the end that go on first come first serve basis. Great hiking in the redwoods along a nice creek. Close to Calistoga and St Helena for all your needs.
This place is good for giving non-campers a little taste of living in a canvas tent. It's not great if you are into camping and want to spend time in nature. The tent cabins are really close together so you def hear your neighbors domestic disputes, snoring etc. Walking around the area in the evening it is pretty magical feeling. +1 to whoever said to bring earplugs. Overall it does feel like a special place, and if I didn't love camping this would seem pretty sweet. Pizza place is always slammed do good for people watching. Support your local dirtbags and offer the climbers your leftovers :)
All sites are first come first served. Beautiful expansive sites. Not too much tree cover so you get a fair amount of sun during the day (which is nice when temps are low). They have vault toilets, which totally did the job. Bring your own water. They’re only open for the summer--fall forest service road definitely not maintained when it snows. A good jumping off point for lots of hiking.
Rough road in. Please leave it cleaner than you found it. I’ve seen people complaining that the price is high for such rough camping, but you can have pretty large groups (covered by the 20-something dollar camp fee) and it is a cool spot! They’re only open for the summer-fall forest service road definitely not maintained when it snows. Overall way more developed than Little Sandy down the road- toilets and everything! A fine option if you can't find a spot in Yosemite.
It is more of a trek to get there than you would think looknig at the minimal distance on the road. The road in is rough. It looks short on the map but you have to go slowly. Please pack your trash and leave no trace. They’re only open for the summer-fall - forest service road definitely not maintained when it snows. Pretty little spot and mostly undeveloped. Although there are firepits I think there is a burn ban still in effect- please respect the burn bans to protect the epic old growth forests!