Updated: November 27, 2023 | Has affiliate links

6 Iconic Spots For Camping in California

Big Sur is a favorite camping spot

California is filled with scenic beauty and is home to some of the most diverse natural wonders. Being the third-largest state in the US and with almost half of the land surface covered with forest, the Golden State of California has a thriving $3 billion industry, the highest compared to any other state. Besides, it is also called the land of extremes being home to several snow-capped mountains, as well as hot dry desserts, breath-taking rugged coastal lines, and thousand-year-old trees. Let’s explore some of the iconic places for camping in California.

Offering more than a hundred state parks and quite a handful of forests, California is a haven for adventurers, hikers, campers, and nature enthusiasts. This also covers a wide range of recreational activities than can include skiing, hiking, off-roading, kayaking, canoeing, surfing, water sporting to traditional and modern camping, California has at the least, something for everybody!

So here are top 6 iconic spots for camping in California that are filled with picturesque natural beauty that can make sure you get lost in that wanderlust.

1. Big Sur

McWay Falls trail is easily accessible from Big Sur camping spots
McWay Falls trail is easily accessible from Big Sur camping spots
See my photos from Big Sur

Surrounded by diverse geography that includes Santa Lucia Mountains at the east, while being covered by the vast Pacific on the west, California’s Big Sur is that place that assures you a one of a kind camping experience. From amazing road trips across the rugged coastal lines to camping in nature among trees and rivers, this place has quite a lot of offers for both hikers and beach goers alike!

With 20+ campgrounds that include everything among-the-woods campgrounds to RV campsites cabins near the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, you can enjoy several activities.

So whether it is a hike to the McWay Falls or a scenic sight-seeing of the sunset at Pfeiffer Beach, your camping at Big Sur is going to be second to none.

If you reserve your camping spot way in advance at Pfeiffer Beach State Park you can simply enjoy this beautiful area. You can also check out my guide to visiting Big Sur.

2. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

The Sierra mountains seen to the east of Moro Rock
The Sierra mountains seen to the east of Moro Rock
See my photos from Sequoia National Park

Spread over more than four hundred thousand acres of land, and home to the largest known organism on Earth – General Sherman Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park host almost 14 campgrounds and is located at the southern region of Sierra Nevada range in California. With elevations ranging from as low as 1360ft near the Kaweah River to the humongous 14,464ft of Mt. Whitney, this area is a hikers haven with almost 850 miles of hike trails webbing the giant groves as well as the riverside trails along the Kaweah River.

Apart from discovering General Sherman among the tall groves, you can also visit the magnificent marble caves or spend your time in a DIY camp at the volcanic tablelands while coming across the historic petroglyphs and spending time stargazing.

In  Sequoia National Park you can camp at the large Lodgepole Campground. This is a great spot for kids as it features a beautiful river with many swimming holes. We love camping however, in between Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks at the beautiful Hume Lake or Princess campgrounds.

When planning to visit these parks check out my guide to Sequoia and also my guide to Kings Canyon.

3. Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay State Park

Fannette Island and Emerald Bay seen from the trail leading to Vikingsholm
Lake Tahoe, California – Fannette Island and Emerald Bay seen from the trail leading to Vikingsholm
See my photos from Lake Tahoe

Considered as the Jewel of the Sierra and the only province in the world to host both Summer and Winter Olympics, Lake Tahoe and Tahoe National Parks have ample outdoor experiences to offers and assures that the experience is going to be nothing short of amazing. The place is filled with plenty of camping sites and campgrounds for tents, RV and trailer spots as well as car camping.

The picturesque natural beauty that surrounds this area also offers a wide range of recreational activities from hiking, snow skiing, and mountain biking to the wide range of non-motor water sports activities at the largest Alpine Lake in North America.

When planning a camping trip to the Lake Tahoe area checkout the Emerald Bay State Park website. Surrounding Emerald Bay you will find a few iconic California camping spots like: Bayview Campground and Eagle Point Campground.

4. Redwoods National and State Parks

The Boyscout Tree trail winds its way through a dense redwood forest
Redwoods National Park – The Boyscout Tree trail winds its way through a dense redwood forest
See my photos from Redwoods National Park

Comprised with Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, Redwoods National and State Parks is one of the 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites that have some of the largest, and among the oldest species of trees living on the planet Earth. This area is filled with a wide variety of flora and fauna with a diverse environment that includes miles of the pristine coastal line as well as the foggy climate among the forest-of-the-tallest trees.

The amazing ecosystem that this international biosphere reserve provides sufficient scope for involving in recreational activities during camping, which can include hiking, primitive and modern camping, whale watching, biking, swimming, surfing, alongside paying a visit to some historic places of 20th century such as Prairie Creek Fish Hatchery Museum.

Redwoods National Park is a very large park and it can be difficult to access all the areas where you can see the beautiful and impressive Redwood trees. To plan your trip to this area read my guide to 7 easy places where you can see the California Redwoods.

5. Yosemite National Parks

Beautiful summer panorama of Yosemite Valley from the top of Yosemite Falls
Beautiful summer panorama of Yosemite Valley from the top of Yosemite Falls
See my photos from Yosemite National Park

Known for its vast and vivid ecosystem with an abundance of wilderness, Yosemite National Park, located at Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges, adjacent to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, is one of the most visited areas in California and a popular campsite with an average of 4 million annual visitors.

This 1169 sq. miles of the area is another UNESCO Heritage Site recognized for its amazing geography that involves sky-high cliffs, amazing waterfalls, giant groves, and snow capped mountains while offering more than 13 campgrounds. Yosemite is another great destination for hikers and climbers and offers some of the amazing and breath-taking scenic beauties for its visitors and is worth the trip for camping and recreational activities.

Yosemite is the quintessential California camping spot, so it gets very busy. When you plan visiting Yosemite make sure you read 5 Gorgeous Day Hikes in Yosemite in order to maximize your time here.

6. Mt. Shasta Region

Snow covered Mount Shasta is the most imposing landmark seen from Interstate 5
Snow covered Mount Shasta is the most imposing landmark seen from Interstate 5
See my photos from Mt Shasta

This place is another camping haven located in Northern California and is well known for its volcanic landscape and exuberating rivers, waterfalls, and lakes. All these are well connected via roads and hike trails, thus offering some of the most spectacular sight-seeing during the visits. Mt. Shasta offers some of the greatest campsites for hikers, swimmers, and also have a couple of pet-friendly campgrounds and RV resorts to enjoy full-on camping with your whole family.

For more information about camping in the Mt. Shasta region you can Mt. Shasta camping website.

Camping in California is Awesome

With the state offering almost 49 million acres of public recreational land, California is one of the best places in the US to escape your way to nature and is filled with endless spots for tents, RV resorts, as well as plenty of campgrounds. All you need to look for is the right season, weather, equipment, and accessories, and you are sure to have an unforgettable camping experience while visiting any of these 6 hand-picked camp spots in California.

About the author: Kim Williams is a content writer and currently working with Outdooren, a travel and outdoor related product provider company. He loves to write-on Travel, Outdoor activities, Gardening, Adventure and such other topics.

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