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20 Best Campgrounds in California

best campgrounds California
Whether you like beachfront sites, high bluffs, sunset views, forests, desert skies, or mountain peaks, these top 20 best California campgrounds are some of the best in the US.

No other state has quite the diversity of campgrounds as California. Whether you like sandy beachfront sites where you can hear the waves crash, high bluffs with perfect sunset views, forests with trails right out your front door, desert skies with more stars than you can imagine, or mountain peaks begging to be climbed, California has some of the best campgrounds in the US.

For the first three years of RV living, we spent a lot of our time on the road, exploring the best campgrounds in California. While I’m sure there are many we haven’t made it to yet (and you’re welcome to mention them in the comments), these are the campgrounds that we felt had a nice balance of nature with amenities.

Also, a lot of these are more geared for RV camping since that is what we travel in.

If you want to save this for later, pin this so you can easily find it when it’s time to plan your California Camping trip.

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You also might want to check out our related blogs California Coast Road Trip Itinerary or West Coast Road Trips for ideas on what to do near many of these campgrounds.

Want to make it a road trip? Check these awesome RV rentals on Outdoorsy in a city near you:

Best National Park Campgrounds in California

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a national park and not loved the campground but staying at these four national park campgrounds in California was exceptionally great.

1 | Tuolumne Meadows (Yosemite NP)

Cost of Sites: $26
Number of Sites: 304
Max RV Length: 35 feet
Hot Showers: No (closest showers are in Lee Vining or Yosemite Valley)
Reserve Tuolumne Meadows here

How often do you get to camp under granite domes? Tuolumne Meadows is on the east side of Yosemite National Park and is way less crowded than Yosemite Valley. This campground sits at the trail head for part of the John Muir Trail as well as a lot of great hikes to domes and lakes.

During the summer, there is also a free shuttle that runs from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows so you still have access to the Valley for more hikes and adventures.

Related: Best Day Hike in Yosemite (And It Doesn’t Require a Permit)

2 | Jumbo Rocks (Joshua Tree NP)

Cost of Sites: $15
Number of Sites: 125
Max RV Length: 35 feet
Hot Showers: No
Reserve Joshua Tree here

Jumbo Rocks is a great campground for families with kids because of all the large boulders to play on and it sits on the trailhead for the Skull Rock Nature Trail. None of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree have electricity or water so come prepared.

The main reason I liked this campground was that it was the only one in Joshua Tree NP that could accommodate RVs up to 35 feet. However, if you don’t need an RV spot, there are plenty of other awesome campgrounds inside Joshua Tree. Getting a campsite here is challenging though and if you can, reserve it ahead of time.

3 | Lodgepole (Sequoia NP)

Sequoias, best campgrounds California
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Cost of Sites: $22
Number of Sites: 214
Max RV Length: 40 feet
Hot Showers: Yes at Lodgepole Village (coin-operated)
Reserve Lodgepole here

This is the very first national park campground we ever stayed at (way back in 2009 when we were RV newbies) and I was instantly hooked on camping inside the national parks after our wonderful experience here.

From Lodgepole Campground, it’s easy to participate in the ranger programs, hop on the free shuttle to see the General Sherman Tree and the Giant Forest. It’s also close to the Lodgepole Village for food, showers, and laundry.

The only negative is that it is only open from mid-March to mid-October. If you want to camp in the Sequoias in the winter, you need to camp at Potwisha (RV camping) or South Fork (tent camping). In the winter, be sure to check out the Wolverton Snowplay Area.

4 | Jedediah Smith Redwoods

The above photos are credited to

Cost of Sites: $35
Cost of Cabins: $80-100/night
Number of Sites: 106
Max RV Length: 25-foot RV or 21-foot trailer
Hot Showers: Yes
Reserve Jedediah Smith here

Technically this is a California State Campground but it is where you will want to camp if you are exploring Redwood National Park. Camping beneath the tall redwoods is amazing, and the Jedediah Smith Campground is located adjacent to the Stout Memorial Grove as well as other great trails. Plus, there’s a visitor center right inside the campground. Besides relaxing in the old-growth forest, in summer, it’s fun to play in the Smith River that runs next to the campground.

There are also cabins available to rent here. Each cabin sleeps 6 and has 2 bunk beds, each with a twin over a double in size, but no mattress pads, and guests need to bring their bedding. There is also room for a small tent outside the cabin.

State Park Campgrounds

There are close to 300 California State Parks spread out in the forest, desert, mountains, and beaches, many of which are in the most epic locations. We’ve camped at a lot of them so it was hard to narrow it down, but these are my 10 favorite California State Parks campgrounds.

All the California State Park Campgrounds can be reserved here. Also, it’s good to note that a lot of California state campgrounds have companies they work with that will deliver trailers to your campsite so if you don’t own an RV but still want to camp, this is a good option.

And if you want to make this into a road trip, you should look at the amazing fleet of RV’s for rent here.

5 | Silver Strand State Beach

Cost of Sites: $50-75
Number of Sites: 136
Max RV Length: 40 feet
Hot Showers: Yes (coin-operated)
Reserve Silver Strand here

We used to camp here so often that it eventually inspired us to become full-time RVers!

While the campground itself is just a big parking lot with electricity, it’s one of the best beach camping spots in California.

I love how the dolphins swim by here almost every morning. If you pay for beachfront sites, you’ll get to hear the waves crash on the shore all night long.

Go walking at low tide, especially early in the morning, and you’ll probably score some sand dollars. On a full tide and a moderate south swell, the surf here is awesome and there are never crowds. You’re also right on the Bayshore Bikeway, a car-free bike path that runs along the San Diego Bay and is a quick 4-mile ride up to Coronado.

The only bummer is that this California campground doesn’t allow tents. Also, note that the gates close at 8 p.m. each night (9 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day) and you can’t go in or out until 7 a.m. the next morning.

Related: Outdoor Adventure Guide to San Diego

6 | San Elijo State Beach

Cost of Sites: $35-60
Number of Sites: 171
Max RV Length: 35 feet
Hot Showers: Yes (coin-operated)
Reserve San Elijo here

This California campground sits on one of the best surf breaks in the world. Most of the sites are on a bluff overlooking the ocean and as long as the tide isn’t too full, there’s a nice stretch of beach to play or run on.

What makes San Elijo such a highly coveted campground though is that it’s right in the middle of the rad surf town of Cardiff, which has some great food choices like Zumbar for coffee, VG’s for donuts, Pipes for breakfast, Seaside Market with organic foods, Lost Abbey brewery, and so much more.

7 | Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria state beach, best campgrounds california

Cost of Sites: $45-70
Number of Sites: 190
Max RV Length: 35 feet
Hot Showers: Yes (coin-operated)
Reserve Carpinteria here

Carpinteria State Beach sits right on a white sandy beach and it’s a very short walk or bike ride to town where you can find a lot of great food options like Island Brewing Co for beers, Lucky Llama Coffee for coffee, and Chocolats Du Calibressan for chocolate lovers.

Carpinteria is made up of 4 campgrounds- Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Miguel, and Santa Rosa. They are all right next to each other and close to the beach. I prefer the campsites in the Santa Cruz section but they do not have any hookups.

8 | Pismo

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Cost of Sites: $10 for Oceano Dunes SVRA, $25 for dry camping at Oceano or North, and $40 for hookups at Oceano
Number of Sites: 42 at Oceano and 113 at North Beach
Max RV Length: 31′ trailer/36′ motorhome at Oceano,
Hot Showers: Yes at North and Oceano (coin-operated)
Reserve Pismo Camping here

Pismo has 3 different options for camping.

Oceano Dunes SVRA is a rad experience because you camp right on the sand. This one puts you in the perfect location for riding the dunes, but you want to have 4WD if you camp here.

Oceano Campground is close to the dunes but is more of a traditional-style campground.

North Beach is where we like to camp if we aren’t going to be playing in the dunes. I like that it’s still right on the beach but protected from the wind and there’s a nature trail to explore where part of the year you can see monarch butterflies.

Related: Best Sleep Pads For Each Adventure

9 | San Simeon Creek

Photo on right above credit to

Cost of Sites: $35
Number of Sites: 134
Max RV Length: 35 feet
Hot Showers: Yes (coin-operated)
Reserve San Simeon here

This campground is a great jumping-off point for exploring Hearst Castle, Elephant Seals, and Cambria. It’s also a great place to stay the night if you are on a road trip up Highway 1 towards Big Sur since there aren’t many campgrounds between Cambria and Monterey.

Note that between San Simeon and Pfeiffer Big Sur is Limekiln State Park which looks awesome but it only takes RV’s up to 24 feet so we have never stayed here.

10 | Pfeiffer Big Sur

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Cost of Sites: $35
Number of Sites: 218
Max RV Length: 27-foot trailer and 32-foot motorhome
Hot Showers: Yes (coin-operated)
Reserve Big Sur here

There are only a few campground options in Big Sur and this is the most affordable one. I like that this campground puts you right at the trailhead for a few nice hikes like Buzzards Roost. It’s also a great jumping-off point to exploring all of the Big Sur area.

Related: San Diego to Big Sur Road Trip

11 | New Brighton (or Seacliff)

The photo above right credits and the photo above left credits

Cost of Sites: $35-50
Number of Sites: 102 sites at New Brighton and 50 sites at Sea Cliff
Max RV Length: 36 feet, although Sea Cliff will also take 40-foot motorhomes
Hot Showers: Yes (coin-operated)
Reserve New Brighton here or Sea Cliff here

Santa Cruz has two California State Park campgrounds, New Brighton and Sea Cliff, both of which are great.

I prefer New Brighton for its forested setting and more private campsites. I also like that it’s within biking distance of Capitola. Seacliff though might be preferable for you since it is oceanfront and can take RVs up to 40 feet long, however, the campground is more of a parking lot and feels similar to that of Silver Strand SB.

Note that these campgrounds often close in the winter.

12 | Half Moon Bay

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Cost of Sites: $35-50
Number of Sites: 52
Max RV Length: 40 feet
Hot Showers: Yes (coin-operated)
Reserve Half Moon Bay here

The picturesque campground of Half Moon Bay State Park is one of our favorites because the sites are spacious and surrounded by large grassy areas. On one side of the campground, you have 4 miles of gorgeous white sand beaches and on the other a 3-mile tree-lined bike path.

13 | Sonoma Coast: Bodega Dunes

Cost of Sites: $35
Number of Sites: 98
Max RV Length: 31 feet
Hot Showers: Yes (coin-operated)
Reserve Sonoma Coast here

When we first stumbled upon Sonoma Coast campground I wish we had had more time to stay there. It’s gorgeous and feels so secluded! I loved how many of these sites back up right to the sand dunes, providing hours of entertainment for my youngest kids. From your site you can walk to the beach or explore the many nearby trails.

14 | Van Damme

Cost of Sites: $40
Number of Sites: 74
Max RV Length: 35-foot
Hot Showers: Yes (coin-operated)
Reserve Van Damme here

We loved camping at Van Damme because there were beautiful hikes right from the campground. If you are in a smaller RV you could also camp at Russian Gulch which also has great hikes like the one to the waterfall pictured above.

15 | McArthur-Burney Falls

Cost of Sites: $35
Number of Sites: 128
Max RV Length: 32 foot
Hot Showers: Yes (and they’re free)
Reserve Burney Falls here

This is a great summer destination especially if you have a boat. The campground is right next to the gorgeous Burney Falls and it’s about a mile hike to get down to the lake (many choose to drive since it’s a hard hike back up). I liked how spacious the campsites were and that my kids could ride their bikes around the campground. There are also cabins here to rent if you prefer.

Related: 3 Epic Waterfalls in Northern California

Best Privately Owned Campgrounds in California

16 | Campland on the Bay, San Diego

Cost of Sites: $90-130
Number of Sites: 570
Max RV Length: 40 foot
Hot Showers: Yes included in the price
Reserve Campland on the Bay here

This is the perfect campground for a San Diego vacation. It’s located in Pacific Beach which is close to Sea World, Gaslamp District, Little Italy, Mission Beach, Old Town, and the Zoo. The campground itself has activities for the kids, a pool and spa, a restaurant/bar, and in the summer, often has concerts on the weekends. It’s a fun and lively place to stay.

Now, if you want a quieter experience, just across the bay is Mission Bay RV resort, where we prefer to stay. It’s also a great home base for exploring San Diego but doesn’t have much to the campground.

17 | San Francisco RV Resort

Cost of Sites: $81-103
Number of Sites: 182
Max RV Length: 45 foot
Hot Showers: Yes included in the price
Reserve San Francisco RV Resort here

You don’t have many choices for RV camping in San Francisco. The nice thing about staying here is that there is a shuttle that takes you into San Francisco (for a fee I believe) and it’s very centrally located to exploring both San Francisco, Pacifica, and Half Moon Bay. There’s a nice pool and spa here and the views overlooking the ocean are amazing for whale watching.

18 | Mammoth Mountain RV Resort

Cost of Sites: $35-70 (cabins $80)
Number of Sites: 170
Max RV Length: 45 foot
Hot Showers: Yes included in the price
Reserve Mammoth RV Resort here

This is a great campground for all times of the year. We’ve stayed here in winter and loved how easy and affordable it was to hit the slopes from the campground.

We stayed in the cabins and loved how cozy they were. There are RV sites with electricity in the winter and full hookups in the summer. You can tent camp here year-round too!

There’s a bus line that picks up right in front of the campground every hour or you can walk ten minutes to grab the bus that comes by more frequently. Both buses are free!

Other Camping in California

19 | Imperial Sand Dunes

I had to throw this one in the list because it’s not something you would know to look for especially if you aren’t from San Diego, but it’s one of my favorite places to camp.

The Imperial dunes near the Arizona/California border provide many great spots to camp. We love camping on the north side of the I-8 just off the Ogilby exit because it’s a little quieter.

Technically most of it isn’t free anymore, however, if you are just passing through and looking for a place to crash for the night you’ll probably be fine. If you want to make a weekend out of it, click here to buy your camping permit online.

Did we miss your favorite campground? Let us know in the comments and we’ll be sure to add it to this list!


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