California’s world-famous public lands offer it all: mountains, deserts and beaches. Camping in California lets you experience some of these classic campgrounds in California up close, whether in redwood groves, granite peaks or sandy dunes.
The Dyrt Campers Share Their Favorite Campgrounds in California
Local reviewers on The Dyrt share some of the state’s most famous sites and hidden gems to get you started choosing your next California adventures.
You can’t get much more iconic than this campground. For a long time, this site was the base camp for climbers attempting the toughest walls in Yosemite National Park. Now, it’s the only walk-up campground in Yosemite – but get there early, as it’s first come, first served and fills fast. Wake up and see Yosemite Falls and El Capitan from your tent, and roll out and start hiking. Park rangers nearby offer interpretive tours and tips for protecting bears from human food.
“It is so historic that it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places! While the campground is no longer home strictly to climbers, you’ll still see many of them walking through, whether to find partners, or to project many of the classic boulders within the campground limits. It is the absolute best campground to stay in if you’re climbing in the valley.” – The Dyrt camper Leslie R.Camp Here
There are four campgrounds in California’s Joshua Tree National Park, known for its quintessential trees and rocks, and Jumbo Rocks tops them all. Around a 45-minute drive from the entrance, campers set up among smooth giants of volcanic rock perfect for bouldering, climbing or just scrambling; a playground for kids and adults alike. There are also short hiking trails around the campsite. Sunsets give everything a warm, pastel glow. At night, the star-gazing is extraordinary.
“We’ve now stayed here 3 times, and each time was amazing! The best sunsets and sunrises. It’s a huge campground! Even when it’s full you still have plenty of space! The rocks are huge – fun and easy to climb on! We’ve seen coyotes near by, an owl in the rocks near one of the campsites, and we’ve heard bobcats in the middle of the night (they don’t sound anything like you think they would, look it up!).” – The Dyrt camper David C.Camp Here
Big Sur camping along the Central California coast is an underrated gem compared to the state’s more famous national parks. At Pfeiffer, campsites are nestled among several-hundred-year-old giant coastal redwoods, cousins to the mountain sequoias. A cool stream runs through this California campground, offering some splashing around in the summer. Nearby is a beach where you can spot wildlife, and hiking trails present vistas around the Pacific.
“Our favorite place to camp – period. It has it all. Beautiful campsites, creek to explore or cool, short drive to perfect beach and safe lagoon! We’ve been there escaping the summer heat and winter doldrums. perfect. Shhh…don’t tell anyone 😊” – The Dyrt camper Lisa R.Camp Here
You might recognize some of the landscapes of this campground; that’s because of the countless films that have used this park as a filming location, from old Westerns to today’s blockbuster superhero movies. For good reason: the views on Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States, and the Eastern Sierras are other-worldly. Be ready for pretty rugged dispersed camping. Since it’s on Bureau of Land Management land, there are no fees, but you will need a campfire permit.
“Camping here is a great experience, no designated sites just open land and so much open space. The view of the mountains and rock formations are a must see. This should be on everyone’s bucket list.” – The Dyrt camper Chad F.Camp Here
If you’re looking for quintessential beach camping, Point Mugu State Park is one of California’s best bets. Located right off the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California, the park offers RV and tent camping options, including spots right on the sand, feet from the waves. Campers can spot whales in the winter and dolphins, sea lions and California quails year round. An extensive hiking and biking trail network brings you to fantastic viewpoints in the hills.
“Camping at Point Mugu was the highlight of our PCH roadtrip. It is a beach that you literally pitch your tent on the sand, there are port-a-johns for the restrooms, and it can get pretty windy, but the views over the Pacific? Unbeatable. The sound of the surf lulled us to sleep and we woke up to dolphins playing a few yards from shore.” – The Dyrt camper Kat P.Camp Here
A squick jaunt from Los Angeles, these campsites offers a welcome change from the traffic and bustle of the city. This campground is near enough to the quaint, artsy mountain community of Idyllwild to grab a refreshing beer in town. It acts as a good base camp to hike the south ridge of Tahquitz and other trails in the San Jacinto Mountains, including parts of the Pacific Crest Trail.
“Idyllwild has been my respite for some years now. I am very picky with campsites and will give negative reviews to be honest. This is a site worthy of my young grand daughters who still explore and believe that there are trolls and fairies and hidden gems in the forest. Yes dear, this is one of them.” – The Dyrt camper Bill H.Camp Here
7. Loon Lake
This is one of the best campgrounds in California’s Lake Tahoe area – partly due to its obscurity. Camping here, you’ll find yourself surrounded by glaciated valleys, granite peaks and pine trees. You can head into the gorgeous Desolate Wilderness from a trailhead in the campground. Plus, of course, there’s the lake: a large reservoir of crystalline water for fishing and swimming. It’s also a great place for big groups, as some of the sites can accommodate up to 50 people.
“Okay, I have been coming to Loon Lake since I was a kid, still love the area at 40. I have been to a lot of beautiful places but this is still my favorite. I love this lake… it’s clean, clear and with not a ton of motor boats . . . it is dry camping so be prepared. There is water faucets, pit toilets, camp fire rings, picnic tables, bear boxes and you can by wood from the hosts. ” – The Dyrt camper Maggie T.Camp Here
Out of the many campgrounds among Northern California’s redwoods, this one is one of the most fairytale-like, complete with dense old-growth forests and lush ferns. Once you make it down the twisty road coming in, you’ll have your pick of sites in the woods, next to the mountain or along the creek. Kids like to play on the towering stumps left over from the logging days. It’s twenty minutes to the beaches near Crescent City.
“If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the Redwoods, this is the campground for you. I’ve been camping here for more than half my life and I just can’t get enough!” – The Dyrt camper Heather B.Camp Here
- Silverwood Lake Camping, San Bernardino, CA
- San Simeon Camping, Cambria, CA
- San Onofre Camping, San Clemente, CA
- Jedediah Smith Campground, Crescent City, California
- Frenchman Lake Camping, Chilcoot, CA
- Sunset Campground, Mendocino National Forest, CA
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park camping, Big Sur, CA
- Bodega Bay RV Park, Bodega Bay, CA
- San Clemente Beach Camping, San Clemente State Beach, CA
- Bucks Lake Camping, Bucks Lake, CA
- Morro Bay State Park Campground, Morro Bay, CA
- Patricks Point State Park, Trinidad, CA
- Lake Chabot Camping, CA
- Lake Del Valle Camping, CA
- San Simeon Creek Campground, CA
- Hermit Gulch Campground, Avalon, Catalina Island, CA