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Camping Near Rivers In California

Camping Along The Russian River

Russian River Santa Rosa California RV Resort and Campground
Courtesy of AutoCamp | Aubrie Pick

The Russian River is a favorite Northern California stop for those vacationing as well as staycationing. Located a short drive from the city of San Francisco, the river winds scenically through Wine Country before flowing out into the Pacific Ocean. Prepare for a different type of Wine Country experience, by exploring the majestic redwoods, scenic coastline campgrounds, river adventures, and the incredible dining and wineries alongside the Russian River.

Eagle Point Campground Emerald Bay State Park South Lake Tahoe Campground

Lake Tahoe is a stunning body of water and a shimmering destination in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It entices millions of visitors each year with sandy beaches, luxurious resorts, and crisp air at an elevation of over 6,200 feet. And this world-class vacation destination is less than a two-hour drive from Sacramento.

Numerous campgrounds surround the southeast side of the lake. One such campground, the Eagle Point Campground, is within one of the best state parks in California Emerald Bay State Park. This stunning state park showcases the splendor of this Sierra Nevada hot spot.

Eagle Point Campground features nearly 100 sites able to accommodate tents and RVs. It also features access to a unique underwater preserve and shipwreck, fabulous hiking trails, as well as the historic Vikingsholm vacation home. All overnight users have access to flushing toilets and coin-operated showers.

Directly north of Emerald Bay, D.L. Bliss State Park offers over 160 similar spots to spend the night. Other campgrounds at South Lake Tahoe include the nearby Fallen Leaf Campground and Meeks Bay Resort and Marina.

Address: 138 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe, California

Big Bear Lake Campgrounds

Big Bear Lake is one of the most popular mountain destinations in Southern California, with great camping and recreation.

  • Serrano Campground – The only campground right on the shore of Big Bear Lake is Serrano. Campers there are close to the Discovery Center and to marinas and other attractions.
  • Group Campgrounds – Groups headed for Big Bear have plenty of sites from which to choose, some close to the lake, others tucked back in the forest.
  • Green Spot Equestrian Group Camp – Although it has no potable water, the campground is close to many fine riding trails and can accommodate groups up to 25.

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Merced River & Tuolumne River

Everybody loves Yosemite! This is the most popular park in the whole state maybe the whole nation.

The majority of campers want to stay right on the river when they visit Yosemite NP, but that is just plain old impossible, since reservations go fast and there is only so much room for everyone in this enclosed, narrow, precious valley.

This particular park has some major floods that wiped out bridges, road ways all the old wooden cabins are gone and only half of the campgrounds are still available. Yosemite has had 11 winter floods since 1916 that have caused substantial damage to property. That number is expected to increase, as winter precipitation is getting less predictable.

Reservations are taken for camping and cabins far in advance like one year. No joke!

Liberty Glen Campground At Lake Sonoma

Browns Campground  Bishop, California RV and tent camping

With more than 2,700 acres and 50 miles of shoreline, this popular recreational area is nestled in the beautiful coastal foothills of wine country. There is plenty of hiking, swimming, boating, and fishing. The drive-in campground is available for tents and RVs, but there are no electrical or water hook-ups. Boat-in and hike-in primitive campsites are also available. Pet friendly. Advance reservations required.

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Of The Best Places To Go Camping In California

Its no surprise that California offers some of the best camping in the entire US. With 110 state parks, 8 national parks, 6 state forests, 9 national forests and much more, camping in California is sure to be some of the most scenic views you can find.

Weve rounded up what we believe to be the best tent camping, free camping, RV camping, lake camping and even beach camping destinations from all around the state. If youre looking to camp near LA, San Francisco or San Diego, there are places for you too.

Know of an amazing camping destination in California that we missed? Make sure to let us know in the comments!

Palomar Mountain Area Campgrounds

Camping in the shadow of famous Palomar Mountain is a unique experience. Many area campgrounds have star gazing programs.

  • Palomar Mountain State Park – Palomar Mountain State Park is at 5,000 feet, several miles west of the observatory. Hike the Doane Valley Nature Trail and fish in Doane Pond.
  • Observatory Campground – Only 2½ miles from the observatory. Participate in the Explore the Stars – Sky Parties offered from spring through fall.
  • Dripping Springs Campground – Gateway to the Agua Tibia Wilderness, a favorite staging area for equestrians.

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Lakes Basin Campground Plumas National Forest

Glacier lakes surround this wooded campground in Plumas National Forest, next to the meandering banks of Gray Eagle Creek. At least 20 lakes connect via an intertwining trail system stemming from the campground, including the impressive Gold Lake only a short walk away.

The 22 sites at Lakes Basin are often occupied by trail hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders. Half the sites are reservable, while the other half are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Trailers up to 26 feet in length find room at the campground, though no hookups are available. Every overnight guest has access to vault toilets and potable water.

A public boat ramp on Gold Lake is popular with watercraft owners and day-use visitors. Anglers often aim for the flourishing brown and rainbow trout that populate the waters.

Address: Elwell Lodge Road, Blairsden-Graeagle, California

Mendocino National Forest Off

Turtle Beach San Joaquin River California RV Resort and Campground

Everything you need to elevate your California off-road camping experience is found in Mendocino National Forest. Dirt roads, hiking trails, lakes, equestrian trails, creeks, forests, wildlifeyou name it, Mendocino has it.

The southern end of the Grindstone Ranger District has some of the most challenging OHV routes in the state. Fouts Springs offers amazing camping facilities for off-roaders. Do we hear an off-road camping getaway in the making?

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Sonoma Coast State Park

Explore 17 miles of beaches for camping in California. The Bodega Harbor rests at the northern point perfect for whale watching and crabbing. Farther south lies Goat Rock, a sandy shore, where seals love to gather. Learn about marine life at Shell Beach where seashells and tide pools keep you occupied. Try surf fishing at Portuguese Beach & Schoolhouse Beach or tackle the waves at Salmon Creek Beach, a surfers haven.

Camp On California History At These Yuba River Camping Destinations

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The Yuba River is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful stretches of water in the United States. This northern California river is central to the lives of Nevada County residents, and with good reasonits glorious swimming holes, surrounding forests, and sweeping waters render it fitting for all sorts of rejuvenating outdoor activities.

The area undoubtedly draws campers to the area for a peek at its native history and importance during the Gold Rush, as well as for the natural beauty of the northern California Sierras. Luckily, theres plenty of campgrounds in the area for visitors to enjoy.

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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

Ice House Campground Eldorado National Forest

Camping along the Kern River, CA : camping

The Ice House Campground is a popular campground 80 miles northeast of Sacramento within Eldorado National Forest. It’s on the banks of the scenic Ice House Reservoir and is great for activities like fishing, paddle sports, and swimming. And the ponderosa pine forest surrounding the campground is nothing but postcard perfect.

Ice House Campground accommodates tents and RVs with over 80 sites available. Potable water and pit toilets are available at the campground, and the neighboring Ice House Resort features a general store and café. The campground generally operates between Memorial Day and mid-October.

The national forest also operates the Northwind Campground and Strawberry Campground on the Ice House Reservoir, east of Ice House Campground. Both feature primitive campsites and less expensive camping rates. A scenic hiking trail connects all three campgrounds in the area.

Other great hiking trails are a short drive from the campground, including the tumbling Bassi Falls trail less than 10 miles away.

Address: Ice House Reservoir, Wrights Lake Road, Pollock Pines, California

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Madrone Huckleberry And Dawn Redwood

Region: Redwood EmpireSwimming: swimming holes

On the highway right through Richardson Grove State Park, everyone slows to gawk at the tallest trees in the world, one of the most impressive groves of redwoods you can drive through in California. There are several campgrounds available at the park, as well as a network of outstanding hiking trails. The Eel River runs through the park, providing excellent summer swimming holes and thus making reservations a necessity from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.

Hampshire Rocks Tahoe National Forest

Tahoe National Forest provides a welcome respite from the heat and low elevations of Sacramento with a 70-mile drive northeast of the city. Numerous places to camp are spread throughout the 850,000-acre national forest, including many opportunities to primitive camp for free.

For developed camping opportunities and access to drinking water and vault toilets, the Hampshire Rocks Campground is a popular place to pitch a tent. It’s easily accessible via Interstate 80 and adjacent to the swimmer-friendly South Yuba River. All 31 sites at Hampshire Rocks can be reserved ahead of time, and many are busy during summer weekends.

Alongside enjoying the banks of the South Yuba River, other popular activities at the campground include day hiking and backpacking on the nearby Pacific Crest Trail. Other Forest Service campgrounds like Woodchuck Campground and Indian Springs Campground are found within a 10-minute drive of Hampshire Rocks.

Address: 15924 CA-49, Camptonville, California

Official site:

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Northwind Campground Eldorado National Forest

This primitive campground is on the Ice House Reservoir within the Eldorado National Forest and offers more affordable campsites than the neighboring Ice House Campground. Campers from Sacramento can reach Northwind Campground in 90 minutes by car, making this scenic spot great for casual or extended weekend camping,

The nine spacious sites at Northwind Campground lend to a feeling of solitude. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are sometimes completely full during weekends throughout the summer. Vault toilets are available, and visitors need to bring their own drinking water.

Lake Siskiyou Resort And Camp

Kern River’s Edge Campground Retreat – Kernville, CA

Region: Shasta and TrinitySwimming: lake

This is a true gem of a lake, a jewel set at the foot of Mount Shasta at 3,181 feet, the prettiest lake on the I-5 corridor in California. The lake level is almost always full and offers a variety of quality recreation options, with great swimming, low-speed boating, and fishing. The campground complexes are huge, yet they are tucked into the forest so visitors dont get their styles cramped. The water in this 435-acre lake is clean and fresh. There is an excellent beach and swimming area, the latter protected by a buoy line. A good boat ramp and boat rentals are available, and a 10-mph speed limit is strictly enforced, keeping the lake pristine and quiet. The campgrounds often fill on weekends and summer holidays.

There are also cabins available, along with other amenities such as restrooms with flush toilets and showers, boat rentals, volleyball, a playground, gift shop, and coin laundryputting Siskiyou in the list of Top 10 Campsites for Families. A free movie also plays every night in the summer, so parents can get some personal time.

Note: If you cant get a spot here, Kangaroo Lake and Toad Lake Walk-In are nearby backup campsites.

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Northern California Rv Campgrounds On The Beach

Consider Kirk Creek Campground on scenic Highway 1 in Big Sur if your camping trip is focused on nature rather than on RV resort amenities. The campground, named by Reserve America as one of the best beach campgrounds in California, has 32 sites, none with hookups, on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Spacious sites with a picnic table and fire ring offer views of the coastline and provide perfect spots to watch sunsets. A rocky beach is a short walk away, and the largest sandy beach in Big Sur is just five miles away.

The Manchester Beach KOA earned rankings of 9 and 9.5 out of 10 from Good Sam Club for restrooms and appeal. An access trail leads to the Pacific Ocean, and wineries, redwood forests and two lighthouses are nearby. The campground includes a swimming pool, hot tub and a disc golf course. Back-in and pull-through sites for RVs have full hookups. Whale-watching season on the coast begins in late November and peaks in January.

Rancho Seco Recreation Area

Rancho Seco Recreation Area is centered around the 160-acre Rancho Seco Lake, less than an hour southeast of Sacramento. It’s popular for water activities like boating, fishing, and swimming. The recreation area offers boat rentals throughout the summer, and several hiking trails near the shore.

The campground at Rancho Seco Lake has 32 tent campsites and 18 spots to park an RV, with electric hookups available. It’s a popular family destination throughout the year, and reservations are available online.

Address: 14960 Twin Cities Road, Herald, California

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Manzanita Lake Campground Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park encompasses over 100,000 dynamic acres on the southern end of the Cascade Range, 130 miles north of Sacramento. It’s a striking environment at the park, filled with unique eruptive features like fumaroles, mud pits, and active volcanoes.

Lassen Volcanic National Park has seven campgrounds. The spaces to sleep vary in size and accommodations and have seasons varying between May and October. The Southwest Campground, with 20 sites available, is the only campground open year-round. During the winter, campers must dig themselves out a place to stay.

Manzanita Lake is one of the most popular campgrounds and is the largest with 175-plus sites available. Its easy access and proximity to the shore of Manzanita Lake cause the campground to fill up during the summer season. The campground supports RV and tent camping, though no hookups are available.

Other campgrounds at Lassen Volcanic National Park include Butte Lake Campground and Warner Valley Campground. Each campground offers access to unique areas of the park, such as Bumpass Hell and Lassen Peak.

Address: Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mineral, California

How To Book A Campsite

Kern River campsite Daytime  Telepathic Stuntman

Reserve a campsite for Two Harbors Campground or Parsons Landing on Parsons Landing costs $21$27 per adult and $12$18 per child per night. Two Harbors costs $28$31 per night for a tent site and $65$85 for a tent cabin. There are direct ferries available from San Pedro to Two Harbors via Catalina Express.

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Great Northern California Campgrounds With Swimming

Northern California has some of the most beautiful campsites in the country, but the summer heat can make campers lose their cool. Whether its a swimming hole carved by granite or in a lake directly outside your tent, these ten campgrounds with swimming options are sure to provide some of the best aquatic adventures in the region.

Note: Each site in this list has a scenic rating of eight or above. Want more suggestions for campsites with swimming? Check out the latest edition of Moon California Camping or Moon Northern California Camping to find your perfect spot.

Los Padres National Forest Off

Los Padres National Forest may have the most 4×4 accessible campsites out of all the off-road camping spots in California. Quatal Canyon takes you to the red high deserts, whereas the northern portion of the park provides plenty of dirt roads and primitive campsites. If you have the time and means, check out Blue Ridge, Cuyama Peak, and Ballinger Canyon for chills and thrills.

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Socal Beaches: Los Angeles To San Diego

The golden beaches of Southern California are the stuff of lazy days and pop songs. And fantastic camping for those inclined. The best campsites line-up beside the coast between Newport Beach and Dana Point in Orange County, with a few more perched on coastal bluffs north of San Diego. Not surprisingly, these oceanfront sites fill fast, so book early.

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