From the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the lowlands of the Colorado Desert, California has some of the most diverse natural beauty making it the perfect place to plan a camping trip.
We’ve compiled our favorite camping destinations to inspire your next trip in the west.
1. Yosemite National Park
The crown jewel of California camping is Yosemite National Park. With awe inspiring granite monoliths like El Capitan and Half Dome, jaw dropping waterfalls like Vernal Falls and Yosemite Falls, and plenty of spectacular hiking trails, people from around the world flock to camp in Yosemite. For that reason, it’s imperative to make a reservation for your campsite well in advance of your trip. There are first come, first served spots available, but they get taken up pretty quick.
If you’d like to make the most of your time in Yosemite, we highly recommend checking out our Yosemite Guide.
2. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Another spectacular spot for camping in California is Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (or just Big Sur for short!). The ocean meets the mountains here in all of the right ways. Towering redwood trees stand as a stark contrast against the rocky ocean shores below, offering campers phenomenal views. Reservations at Big Sur are required at all times, so plan ahead when camping here so you don’t miss out on your spot.
3. Sequoia National Park
South of Yosemite National Park is another hidden gem for camping in California! Sequoia National Park is the home of some of the largest concentrations of giant sequoia trees that are world famous. Many of the trees have been named after larger-than-life historical figures like King Arthur, Franklin, and Monroe to name a few. The most famous of all of the trees in Sequoia National Park is General Sherman. Standing at 275’ tall, this behemoth of a tree is one of the largest sequoias in the world. These trees draw crowds from all over, so be sure to reserve your spot before coming out here. If all the reservations are taken before you go, don’t fret! There are first come, first served spots available, but leave early to snag yours before they’re all taken.
4. Kings Canyon National Park
Sharing its southern border with the northern border of Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park offers more spectacular camping opportunities. Just like with Yosemite and Sequoia, be sure to reserve a spot ahead of time as this area is also incredibly popular. Kings Canyon is home to more groves of giant sequoia trees which are accessible through one of many hiking trails. One of the most famous trails that goes through many of the national parks in California, including Kings Canyon, is the Pacific Crest Trail. It stretches from the Mexican border near San Diego and meanders 2,650 miles north to Canada. Some of the most scenic miles can be hiked through Kings Canyon National Park.
5. Channel Islands National Park
One of the most unique camping opportunities in California lies about 45 miles off of the Ventura coast. Channel Islands National Park is accessible by a ferry that shuttles you across the ocean to these beautiful islands. Camping is available on all 5 of the islands at Channel Islands National Park, but reservations are required in order to get a spot due to the logistics of moving people and gear across the water. Packing light is always in your best interest, but it is extra important here because some of the camping spots can be a decent walk.
6. Redwoods National and State Parks
The tallest trees in the world call Redwoods National and State Parks home. This draws crowds from all over, but once you get on one of the many trails out there, you’ll feel like you’ve entered another planet all by yourself! If hiking isn’t your favorite thing to do, no worries. There are plenty of scenic drives to take that will expose you to not only towering trees, but rugged coastline, gorgeous wildflowers, and plenty of wildlife like Roosevelt elk!
7. Joshua Tree National Park
One of the great things about California camping is that you can do it practically year-round. The reason why is that when it's winter and places in the mountains are snowed in and cold, the desert becomes the go to spot for many campers. Joshua Tree National Park is best to camp at during the winter months as temperatures are cool enough to be comfortable at night and gorgeous during the day! Rock climbing and bouldering draw crowds from all over to Joshua Tree. And if you’re smart (and a bit lucky) you should try to camp here after a big rainstorm as the desert springs to life with brilliant wildflowers after plenty of precipitation falls!
8. Santa Barbara Coast
If you’ve never laid your head to rest to the sound of waves breaking against the beach, you absolutely have to go camping at one of the many campgrounds along the Santa Barbara Coast! There are plenty of places to book a spot along the coast, including Arroyo Burro County Park, Los Prietos Campground, and Leadbetter Beach.
Many of the destinations above can draw in a lot of people because they’re that amazing, so make sure you know how to avoid crowds while traveling.
One of the toughest parts about going camping is just picking a place to go. With so many amazing options, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one place. Hopefully, with these 8 amazing places in California to camp, you’ll have a good list to go off of for your next camping adventure! Where will you go first? Let us know in the comments below.