The Best Places to Camp In California

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Written By LoydMartin

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Are you looking for the best places in California to camp? Learn where to camp, what you need to pack, and how to plan your trip.

California is where I was born and raised. My favorite memories are of camping at some of the most beautiful campgrounds in the world.

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Joshua Tree National Park

In the last three years, we’ve camped there at least five times. It definitely deserves a place on this list. Joshua Tree is best visited in spring, when it’s still warm but not too hot.

It’s impossible to predict the weather so we have been on a few camping trips that were 100 degrees.

Shade can be a great option if you are visiting in the summer. Just returned from a trip, and it was already 90 degrees by 6 AM. You won’t need a sweatshirt if you visit this time of the year.

The majority of campgrounds are first-come-first-served. Black Rock and Indian Cove are open during October to May. Although we prefer Indian Cove to Black Rock, if you are able to get there during the week (or on weekends), consider Jumbo Rocks and Hidden Valley Campgrounds.

Big Sur

There are many campgrounds in Big Sur that you can choose from. Either you’ll be surrounded with Redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or watching the sunset from Kirk Creek.

It is highly recommended to book in advance as these campgrounds are extremely popular.

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McWay Falls is only a short drive from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This means that you can avoid the crowds and visit McWay Falls at sunrise. For more information on camping in Big Sur, please see the following post.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Although you may not be able to see the stars from your tent at night, you will be camping among some world’s largest trees. This park is located along the Avenue of the Giants. It has more than 17,000 acres of coast redwoods.

It is an incredible feeling to be surrounded by towering trees.

You can book sites at any of the three campgrounds, Albee Creek, Burlington and Hidden Springs, in advance. Reservations are only possible for one night.

Palomar Mountain

This hidden gem may be a secret to you if you don’t reside in Southern California.

Palomar Mountain State Park covers over 1,800 acres of forest, which is ideal for camping and hiking. Although it is located less than two hours from San Diego, and three hours from Los Angeles, it feels like an entirely separate world.

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Palomar Mountain in Southern California is one of few places that reminds me of California’s northern half. It has oak trees and forested pine trees, and it offers a perfect night sky for stargazing. The Palomar Observatory Campground is a hidden gem that offers the ideal campsite. Get there early for the best spots

Catalina Island

Catalina Island can be reached by ferry from San Pedro, Long Beach or Newport Beach. If you don’t have any backpacking gear, it is a bit more difficult to pack for this type camping trip.

If you don’t want all your gear to be lugged around, you can rent camping equipment, or haul it for a fee. There are also cabins available for rent at Two Harbors Campground.

Little Harbor Campground is seven miles from Two Harbors. It’s a great place to go if you like hiking. If you prefer the easier route, there is a Safari Bus that takes campers to Little Harbor. We are definitely considering it for our next trip Catalina.

What to Pack for Camping in California

We believe in packing light for camping. This kit is perfect for those who fly and have limited space. Check out our Ultimate Packing Checklist For Campers for more packing tips.

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Camping Stove: We’ve done extensive research to find the best backpacking gear. This backpacking stove weighs almost nothing and is small.

Cookware: This tiny set of cookware is our favorite because it’s so compact.

Sleeping Bags: This sleeping bag has received excellent reviews.

Tent: This Marmot 2-person tent is lightweight and very popular.

Backpacks: The Teton Scout is a lightweight, durable backpack that’s also light and affordable.

Portable Charger: This portable charger is what we use to charge our phones.