Thanks to California’s magnificent ecological diversity, the options for camping are endless. Whether you’re in need of a pristine getaway in the mountains, a camping trip by the coast, or respite in the redwoods, California’s 110 state parks are a treasure trove for camping, hiking, and exploring.
I’ve put together a list of some of the best camping sites that the Golden State has to offer, ranging across forests, deserts, and the coastline. Grab your gelatin free marshmallows and get going!
Redwood National and State Parks
Redwood’s claim to fame is its majestic forests, home to the tallest trees on Earth (casual flex, right?). But banana slugs, gray whales, Douglas-fir, black bears, and sea anemones also call the park home, making it a truly amazing and biodiverse camping destination. Beyond the forests, you can traverse prairie lands, two major rivers, and 37 miles of California coastline at the park.
Big Sur is one of the most popular spots to camp in California, given its pristine location on the coast and dozens of campsites. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is by far the most popular campground, so plan ahead if you want to book there. Thanks to the sprawling grounds and the 60-foot waterfall hike, you’ll typically need to book at Pfeiffer six months in advance.
A California camping list wouldn’t be complete without Yosemite. This impressive national park attracts nearly four million visitors per year, offering up some of the state’s best hiking, fishing, climbing, gold panning, and stargazing opportunities. There are 13 campgrounds in the park, but again, it’s a super popular destination, so be sure to book in advance!
There’s almost no better place to sleep under the stars than in Joshua Tree, a national park in Southern California’s beautiful and rugged desert. With over 300 campsites to choose from, you’ll be able to appreciate California’s vast expanse right at the heart of the desert — and, if you’re lucky, you’ll even hear coyotes howling in the distance as you settle in for the night.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon
These two parks lie together in the southern Sierra Nevada, east of the San Joaquin Valley. Breathtaking forests, huge mountains, canyons, and caverns are just some of the many natural wonders that attract campers to these national parks.
Montaña de Oro State Park
Camping right along the Central Coast, you’ll have spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean — plus, you’ll get to explore the region’s tasty wineries. What makes this park even more amazing is the geologic features on display along the coastal cliffs, such as tilted and folded rock outcrops, that indicate the sequential depositing of sediment over time.
Sonoma Coast State Park
Just a few hours north of San Francisco, Sonoma Coast State Park is composed of several beaches separated by rocky bluffs and headlands. There are three campgrounds in the park, and it’s a great place to explore the sandy coves, tidepools, and cliffs for observing migrating gray whales.