Finding A Great California Beach Campground
Beach campgrounds aren’t always what you expect them to be. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting camper, some places add the word “beach” to a campground name in an attempt to get attention. Sadly, they may be so far away from the ocean that you might need to take a photograph back to your campsite just to remember what the beach looked like.
If you’re looking for beach camping in California, you want your campsite to be right on the beach or next to it. A place on the cliff above the ocean, across a busy road from the beach, or so far away you’d need binoculars to see the sand doesn’t qualify for this guide.
To help you find the best places for beach camping in California, use the lists of beach campgrounds below to plan your trip. Every place on the lists below meets strict requirements. They are all next to the ocean, or just a short walk away and you won’t have to brave traffic when you make that walk. In addition, all the campgrounds in the guides below have been visited and checked, just to be sure they are what they claim to be.
Buttercup Group Campground San Bernardino
Buttercup Group Campground is located at an altitude of 7,000 feet in the heart of the San Bernardino National Forest. The location is ideal for nature lovers who want to visit Big Bear Lake or enjoy a variety of other forest activities, including extensive hiking, mountain biking, and climbing. Buttercup Campground enjoys a beautiful shady location and you can get back to nature without sacrificing all your home comforts tables, grills, toilets, and drinking water are provided and there is space for all your friends to join you. The campground is open for the summer season from late April, and you can book your site up to one year in advance.
Buttercup Group Campground, San Bernardino National Forest, San Bernardino, CA 92408-2607, Phone: 909-382-2600
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Lake Alpine Recreation Are
Lake Alpine Recreation, located in Bear Valley, California, runs close to State Highway 4. Here you will find the natural attraction pointing to Lake Alpine, covering 180 acres.
Summer is the best time to plan your visit camping if you prefer swimming, boating, hiking, camping, fishing, picnicking, and biking. In addition, you will also find some interpretive programs!
The winter season on the lake becomes part of the Lake Alpine SNO-PARK. Its here that you can enjoy snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing
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Indian Well Campground Lava Beds National Monument
Lava Beds National Monument is in far northern California, less than 15 miles south of the Oregon border. It encompasses a scarred landscape filled with eruptive history and lava tubes. Whether you’re interested in unique geology or not, Lava Beds offers adventure experiences found in few other places in the state.
The national monument has a single campground, Indian Well Campground, with 43 sites available. The sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis and accommodate primarily tents, SUVs, and small camper vehicles. A few sites can accommodate motorhomes up to 30 feet in length.
Each campsite offers a stark landscape to appreciate. A big appeal of visiting is also nearby, found mostly on Cave Loop Road. Here, visitors can take self-guided tours of underground lava tubes. Interested cavers must check in with the visitor center before venturing underground.
Address: Lava Beds Campground Road, Tulelake, California
Jumbo Rocks Campground Joshua Tree National Park
It’s easy to see why Joshua Tree is a special place when spend a few nights camping here. Jumbo Rocks Campground is the largest campground in the park and gives you the best chance of securing a site.
It’s surrounded by namesake boulders and rock formations, make for easy exploration of the surreal desert landscape. And staying the night enables visitors to experience the magical sunsets of this boulder-rich region, as well as the incredibly dark night skies.
The 124 sites at Jumbo Rocks cater to both tents and RVs, although no electric hookups are available. Visitors have access to vault toilets but need to bring their own water. The campground is centrally located in the park and near prominent features, including Skull Rock.
Jumbo Rocks is one of several campgrounds within the park. And it’s one of five that offers reservations during the peak season between October and May. Other reservable campgrounds include Black Rock, Cottonwood, Indian Cove, and Ryan Campground. Jumbo Rocks is the largest, and Indian Cove is the next largest, with over 100 sites also surrounded by monolithic rock formations.
The park also has three developed, first-come, first-served campgrounds. The largest, Hidden Valley Campground, has 44 sites available and is incredibly competitive on winter weekends and holidays. Numerous primitive camping opportunities also abound in Joshua Tree National Park.
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Clear Lake State Park Camping
Next, in Kelseyville, California, Clear Lake State Park is an attractive water sport and recreation location. This state park offers 149 developed campsites, four campgrounds, and two camping sites.
Clear Lake provides a swimming beach complete with showers and a marina with available boat launches for activities. This lake has a comprehensive no wake zone along the Cole Creek area and the nearby shorelines. Its an excellent lake to go kayaking and canoeing on as this lake covers 590 acres.
Another amazing spot for California lake camping is Shasta Lake.
In Redding, California, Shasta Lake offers a few popular campground locations.
Antlers Campground and Lakeshore East Campground run along the Sacramento River section of Shasta Lake in Lakehead, California.
You can check out Bailey Cove Campground if you want to make reservations. This small campground is near Holiday Harbor Resort and is another excellent choice to explore.
Southern California’s Most Popular Camping Regions
- Lakes, mountains, and beaches – Southern California campgrounds offer a spectacular array of camping choices to match everyone’s interests.
- Choose a region to narrow your choices and we’ll guide you to the best Southern California campgrounds. Discover the adventures that await you.
Note: To enhance continuity between maps, we have included some overlap with our central California map.
A number of wonderful country regional parks highlight the camping opportunities in Orange County and in western Riverside County. With easy access from urban areas, the campgrounds make great weekend retreats.
- Lake Skinner – 1,400 surface acres – fishing and boating. Splash Pad play area, movies and concerts. Featuring 257 campsites, most with full hook-ups.
- Rancho Jurupa Park – West of Riverside along the Santa Ana River. Features lakes, rock climbing playground, disc and miniature golf, many full hook-up sites, and WiFi.
- Lake Perris – Bring your boat and enjoy days on the water. RV sites have partial hook-ups.
- Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park – Located only a short drive east from San Juan Capistrano, Caspers Wilderness Park offers RV and tent camping along with group and equestrian campsites.
With the Angeles National Forest and a number of great lakes, residents of the greater LA area have a wide range of camping choices close at hand.
Yucaipa Regional Park
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Camping In California: San Elijo State Beach Encinitas
Campers looking for a great oceanside campground should book their spot at San Elijo State Beach Campground near Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The large campground can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long as well as tents, and the most sought-after sites are right on the edge of the beach front bluff, offering wonderful sunset views. You can buy just about everything you need at the convenience store and each of the campsites has the usual picnic table and fire ring with grill. There are clean flush toilets and coin-operated showers. Besides enjoying all the beach activities you can also explore on two wheels along the cycling trials. Some visitors may find the inevitable highway and train sounds annoying, particularly if your site is close to the railway tracks.
San Elijo State Beach, 2050 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007, Phone: 760-753-5091
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Emma Wood State Beach Campground
The Emma Wood State Beach Campground has 86 campsites, ideal for weekend family camps. If you want to be close to the ocean, you arent going to find a better option than this.
The campground is open all year-round, and reservations allow eight people per site and up to three vehicles as long as they fit in the designated campsite. There is a maximum vehicle length of 45 feet at Emma Wood State Beach Campground. Pets are permitted but must be attended to and kept on a leash.
Reservations cost $40 per night for the North Beach sites, $10 per night for hike and bike sites, and en route sites are $30. The standard check-in time of 2 pm and check-out of noon apply here.
In terms of amenities, you are pretty much left to your own devices at Emma Wood State Beach Campground with no showers, hook-ups, or potable water. Portable toilets are available during the day, and some sites have stone fire rings.
You will struggle to find easier beach access than this ocean-front location. This makes it great for families that love the beach, swimming, and surfing. Nearby hiking and bike trails make this an excellent location for active families.
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Where To Find Free Camping In California
As a general rule of thumb, finding free camping on the coastor any coast, reallyis difficult. There are exceptions to this rule, but if youre watching your budget, the coast is a tricky place to do it.
Luckily, the interior of California is full of public lands, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Forest, and National Park Service lands, where you can settle in for a week of adventure and relaxation in a beautiful place.
Camping In California: Camp Williams Resort Azusa
Camp Williams Resort is located right along the banks of the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, making it a particularly attractive getaway option for Los Angeles residents. You can get back to nature amidst beautiful mountain and river scenery by pitching your tent directly alongside the river or by parking your RV under the shade of the towering oak trees. The campground offers full hook-up for your RV in addition to private hot showers and every site has a picnic table. You can spend your days exploring the beautiful surroundings on foot along a network of hiking trails or do some birdwatching, fishing, or swimming. Children will love panning for gold in the river.
Camp Williams Resort, 24210 East Fork Rd, Azusa, CA 91702, Phone: 626-910-1126
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Camping In Socal: Palomar Observatory Campground Palomar Mountain
The Palomar Observatory Campground is located just 2 miles from the excellent Palomar Observatory in the heart of Palomar Mountain State Park, giving visitors the chance to combine a number of outdoor activities with some of the best stargazing in California. The individual campsites can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 32 feet long, and many sites have specially leveled areas where you can set up a telescope to observe the clean night skies. The campsites offer all the usual amenities, like picnic tables and fire rings with grills. Day-time activities include hiking, biking, picnicking, and scenic drives, and when the sun sets all eyes turn to the skies.
Palomar Observatory Campground, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060, Phone: 760-788-0250
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Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort
Last, but not least for some California lake camping, you can camp along Lake Siskiyou at the Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort located in California.
This resort is located on the southwest side of Lake Siskiyou and is complete with panoramic views of Mount Shasta and the Shasta Trinity National Forest.
When you camp here, you can look forward to relaxing, fishing off the docks, time with your family on the lake, or enjoying the views of your cabin deck.
Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort is a fantastic way to take a break, step away, and enjoy the great outdoors!
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Gold Bluffs Beach Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Gold Bluffs Beach is a special place on the Northern California coastline, part of the larger Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. And while big trees are around, the postcard landscapes are of a different nature. Alongside a stunning ocean scene, Gold Bluffs Beach is also an access point to the mystical Fern Canyon, one of the best hikes in Redwood National and State Parks.
At the far north end of the beach, Fern Canyon presents 50-foot walls draped with fernery. This natural hanging garden is explored via a creek bed littered with logs, where water shoes come in handy. Plan for plenty of stops to take pictures of this mystical environment.
The access road to Gold Bluff Beach and Campground is muddy and narrow, with sudden changes of elevation. Larger vehicles are not advised. Upon making it to the campground after six miles of slow travel, 26 sites are available. All are within easy earshot of the ocean.
Best Beach Camping In Southern California
One of the best camping experiences to be had in Southern California is on the beach. As you can guess these sites are very popular and sell out 6 months in advance. Dont give up though, as there are often cancellations, so keep checking in if you have missed the 6 month opening date . Below are some of our favorites to check out.
Point Mugu State Park
Port Mugu State Park Malibu experienced in the best way with beachside hiking trails, ocean views and great waves for swimming / surfing. The best campsites here are Sycamore Canyon& Thornhill Broome. Thornhill Broome is located between Malibu and Point Mugu. The beach is rocky, but sites are ON the beach.
Refugio Bay Camping
Refugio Bay Camping Beautiful beach camping with palm trees planted near Refugio Creek give a distinctive look to the beach and camping area.
Jalama Beach County Park
Jalama Beach County Park Just south of Santa Maria is Lompocs pristine beach with spots for tents and RVs.
Morro Bay State Campground
Morro Bay State Campground Morro Bay State Park campground consists of 135 sites shaded by a mixed forest. This is a popular site without much privacy or shade.
Pismo State Beach & Pismo Dunes
Carpinteria State Beach
Located twelve miles south of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria State Beach offers a mile of beach for swimming, surf fishing, tidepool exploring and camping. Trailers may be rented from 101 RV Rental Concessions.
Leo Carrillo State Park
More Beach Sites to Visit
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Bubble Tent Glamping With A Resort
Location: Valley Center, California
Unique, modern, and super cool, this bubble glamping dome is a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. Equipped with a queen-sized canopy bed and curtains to draw right before bed for a bit of privacy, the bubble is a glamping option at the rear of a Southern California home. Surrounded by palms, use the on-site pool to cool off, take some Insta-worthy shots of your bubble home, or explore the area. Valley Center is just a short drive from Escondido, youll be 30 minutes from the beach, and San Diego is 45 minutes away.
Free Beach Camping In California
You don’t get much for free these days, and California beach camping is no exception. Every single place that offers proper beachfront campsites charges a fee, even the ones with porta-potties and no running water.
Sadly, you may also find incorrect information in some guides. Too many writers copy and paste from one list to another without doing their research. If you see a list that includes a free beach campground near Orick in Northern California, near the freshwater lagoon, it doesn’t exist. A State Park Ranger has confirmed that there are no free campgrounds in the Orick area.
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Beal’s Point Campground Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
The scenic Folsom Lake has three campgrounds available, 30 miles west of Sacramento. The most popular campground, Beal’s Point Campground, is just north of the Folsom Lake Dam on the western shoreline. It offers year-round spots to tent or RV camp close to the water.
Reservations are recommended in the summer for the 69 sites available at Beale’s Point. During the winter, the campground converts to first-come, first-served and doesn’t fill up as fast. Every overnight guest has access to potable water and hot showers, as well as proximity to a swimming beach.
North of the campground, the Granite Bay area of the park has several public boat ramps that access the water. For additional camping, the Peninsula Campground has over 80 sites available on the north end of the lake, accessible with a 10-mile slow and winding drive. Peninsula Campground is also a popular place to visit on a boat.
Address: Beals Point, Granite Bay, California