Epic Winter Camping Spots In California
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One of the best things about camping in California? Its a year-round activity. That is, if you know where to look.
With an incredible number of different landscapes, climates, and biotic zones to explore in California, theres no reason to stop exploring the great outdoors, even when the days begin to shorten.
Even though Cali is home to some of the best weather in the world, snow and ice can still be an issue when traveling during winter months, even in a high-desert locale like Joshua Tree.
Be sure to call the nearest ranger station before you head out to check road and weather conditions, and winterize your car with solid all-terrain tires, as well as a set of snow chains, just in case.
To help stave off the evening cold, be sure to bring a bundle of locally-bought firewood, to minimize the potential for harmful bugs and contaminants, which can hitch a ride and damage living trees.
youd like to hike before heading out and losing cell signal, and, lastly, save money by purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass for quick, affordable access to every national park and national forest in the country.
Heres a look at our favorite wintertime camping escapes in California, whether youre looking to warm up in the desert sunshine or bed down under a grove of ancient trees.
Mount Tamalpais State Park
Mount Tamalpais State Park is a 6,300-acre state park in Northern California. It features the notable 2,571 foot Mount Tamalpais and fun activities like wildlife watching, picnicking, and hiking.
If youre seeking scenic hikes and nature outings for wildlife viewing, we recommend heading to the Mount Tamalpais Middle Peak Loop. It is a moderate, 5.3-mile hiking trail that is accessible year-round.
You can enjoy awe-inspiring views of the Farallon Islands, Marin County hills, Mount Diablo, the East Bay, San Francisco Bay and the city. Fog is common in winter, so it is always best to be extra careful during outdoor activities for a safe camping experience.
The park is open year-round with several campsites and lodging options. The reserved areas include Alice Eastwood Group Camp and Steep Ravine Environmental Campground .
You can book these rustic cabins and seaside campsites up to six months in advance. If youre heading on a last-minute trip, the Pantoll and Bootjack campground do not require reservations. There is a $25 nightly fee for both camps.
Note:At Mount Tamalpais State Park, you are not allowed to fly drones. But, dont forget to bring your camera to capture the breathtaking vistas and memorable moments.
Moabi Regional Park Colorado River Valley
This is one of the California desert’s hidden gems, passed by millions of people a year crossing the Colorado River on I-40. A regional park operated by San Bernardino County, Moabi Regional Park aka Park Moabi sits on an old channel of the Colorado River at 450 feet above sea level, 12 miles east of Needles. At first glance, this park may seem dispiritingly oriented toward the motorized recreation crowd: it’s got a ramp for launching power boats, it’s got a designated ORV area and it’s got an almost completely paved campground for RV enthusiasts. But head out along the park road toward the river, then check out the 24 tent camping sites up and down “Peninsula Way.”
Many of the sandy sites are screened from their neighbors , and most sites have their own little bit of beach frontage right on the river. And with the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge’s square miles of marshes right there across the river, temperatures are often incredibly pleasant even in the depths of winter. I’ve sat in my campsite there at night in late January with only a t-shirt as I watched the stars wheel overhead. A great spot for considering your proper place in the universe, especially with the transcontinental traffic on I-40 just a couple of miles away.
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Fresh Storm Hits California As It Mops Up And Shovels Out
LOS ANGELES California emerged largely unscathed Wednesday from a massive storm that brought drenching rainfall and heavy mountain snow, as it prepared for another weather system likely to bring much needed relief to the drought-stricken state.
Parts of the state were mopping up from small mudslides and restoring power that was knocked out. But the heavy rainfall record-setting in some areas didn’t cause widespread flooding or unleash larger landslides in areas scarred by massive wildfires as feared.
It was still too early to tell what impact the multiday atmospheric river a long plume of moisture from the Pacific Ocean that delivered remarkable precipitation as far inland as Nevada will have on the state’s water supply.
The storm that began over the weekend and whats predicted to come this month will deliver about average precipitation, but that’s far better than the past few years, he said.
Its not a great situation for anybody, Smith said. The city is doing its best to support them in this time.
Rancho Sedona Rv Park Sedona Az
Sedona is a truly magical place, with gorgeous red rocks and bright evergreens strewn across its landscape. Rancho Sedona RV Park is nestled in a tranquil setting close to endless hiking opportunities and just a short distance from shopping, dining, and the art galleries youll find in Oak Creek and Sedona proper. Sycamore and Cottonwood trees shade its beautifully maintained and spacious sites. Dont miss the stunning views youll see in a hot air balloon or helicopter tour, where you can spot ancient Native American ruins amongst the cliffs.
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Santa Fe Park Rv Resort
Location: 5707 Santa Fe Street, San Diego
Amenities: Picnic tables, playground, heated swimming pool, spa, clubhouse, fitness center, laundry facilities, shower and restroom facilities, billiard table, ping-pong table
Pets allowed: Yes
Experience the best winter RV camping in San Diego at Santa Fe Park RV Resort. Designed for your comfort and convenience, this California RV park has all of the amenities you need to enjoy your weekend to the fullest. Guests have access to the heated swimming pool year-rounda dip in the pool might be just what you need after driving your RV all winter. With many of the citys attractions nearby, your plate will always be full of fun things to do.
Sonoma Coast State Park
Rugged rocky bluffs, scenic coastal coves and tidepools with marine life all attract visitors to Sonoma Coast State Park. Located only a few hours north of the San Francisco Bay area, it offers the perfect escape from the heat of summer for families or beginning campers. Enjoy the sunset from camp, or explore the beach, but do not swim, as there are unpredictable ocean currents. The park offers three campgrounds, with Bodega Dunes Campground offering the most amenities, like showers and dump stations. Camp sites are $35 a night, and hiker and biker sites are $5 a night. Reservations are recommended, especially during the busy summer months.
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Chuckwalla Valley East Of Joshua Tree National Park
One of the chief joys of camping at any season in the California desert is the prevalence of open areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Generally, if camping isn’t specifically banned on a bit of BLM land, you can usually set up there as long as you stay 300 yards from water sources and don’t block roads. In general, it’s best to use places that look like people have camped on them before.
There’s a lot of qualifying desert east of Joshua Tree that stays fairly warm in winter. If it’s colder than you’d like at Corn Springs and you’re set for a bit of primitive camping, you might consider heading slightly downhill into the Chuckwalla Valley to get under a bit more of the atmosphere. Chuckwalla Valley is a bit less camping-friendly than it once was, what with industrial-scale solar projects slated for some of the best open-desert campsites in Riverside County, but there are still a few places left in the neighborhood that haven’t been fenced off and bulldozed. West of Desert Center between that small town and the edges of Joshua Tree National Park, for instance, you can find a wide spot on a dirt road and pull up among the ironwoods, set up camp, and enjoy a long weekend without seeing another person.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Why you should camp here: Californias oldest state park is filled with ancient coast redwoods.
- Reservations accepted: Yes
- Best season: Spring, summer, fall
- Campsite types: Tent, RV, trailer, car camping, tent cabins
- RV hookups: No
Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California. Encompassing more than 1,800 acres, Big Basin Redwoods is home to ancient coast redwoods, cascading waterfalls, riparian habitats, and an array of species.
Campers can stay at either the standard campsites, group camps, horse camp, or tent cabins. Some campsites are suited for RVs, but you wont find any hookups in this state park.
As for the standard campsites, there are four to choose from: Upper and Lower Blooms Creek Campground, Sempervirens Campground, Huckleberry Campground, and Wastahi Campground. All are equally tent-worthy and include campfire rings, picnic tables, and food lockers.
Dont forget to bring your hiking shoes. With over 80-miles worth of trail, theres lots to explore around here.
Why you should camp here: A popular campground conveniently located off Highway-1 in scenic Big Sur.
- Reservations accepted: Yes
- Best season: Spring, summer, fall
- Campsite types: Tent, RV, trailers, car camping
- RV hookups: Yes
The sites right by the river are amazing, but you cant go wrong with any of the sites, says Arvind Menon on .
While you wont find beach access here, the ocean is only a few miles away.
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Sugar Pine Point State Park
Sugar Pine Point State Park is located on Lake Tahoes west shore, ten miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89.
At 6,229 feet above sea level, Lake Tahoe is known for its great depth and clear, exquisitely beautiful blue waters. The Ehrman Mansion, or the historic pine lodge, is a definite sight to see and a must-stop tourist spot to not miss!
The park offers cross country skiing biathlons, snowshoe through history , snow trails groomed for cross country skiing, Full Moon tours, hiking, and camping.
Bear Valley Adventure Co
The cross-country ski resort at the central Sierra’s Bear Valley operates groomed sledding and tubing hills for families with children ages 3 and older. Two-hour sessions cost $15 per person for sledding and $20 per person for tubing . There’s $5 access fee per non-sledders/tubers . No outside sleds or tubes allowed. Picnic tables, park benches, are available, and hot food and drinks are available nearby at the Meadow Cafe. No lifts: sledders must hike up the hill. Projected opening day: Thursday, November 25 . Hours: 9 am4 pm daily. Location: 1 Bear Valley Road, off Highway 4, Bear Valley, 95223. More info: 753-2834 or www.bvadventures.com.
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Camping In California: Best Places To Camp In Fall And Winter
Leland High Sierra Snow Play Pinecrest
Located in Tuolumne Country east of the Gold Country town of Sonora, Leland Snow Play offers 12 acres of groomed runs and tow-up lifts for tubing and sledding. There’s a kiddie hill for especially for little ones, mini snowmobiles for kids ages 512, and a 4,000-square-foot day lodge with snack bar and game room. Advance tickets required for Winter Break . 34033 Leland Meadow Road, Strawberry, 95375. More info: www.snowplay.com or 965-4719.
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Why Northern California Is Such A Great Place To Rv
California Americas most popular state houses some of the best attractions in the country. Throughout the year, flocks of people rush into the state for the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hollywood sign, or Yosemite National Park. But Northern California also offers terrific RV parks to unleash your adventurous side. So switch things up this time and go explore nature.
Fort Wilderness Resort Orlando Fl
No top list would be complete without including an Orlando resort. Popular with all ages, Orlando is an ideal destination for adventure-lovers. A bonus is that your kids and/or grandkids will want to join you! Nestled in 750 acres of pine and cypress forest, Disneys on-site campground, Fort Wilderness Resort, is beautiful and full of amenities. Shuttle and ferry services will take you to Disneys parks, making it ultra convenient for those who want to explore the magic. The resort offers plenty to do on-site as well. You can enjoy delicious dining, relax at the pool, and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like horseback riding and canoeing. A bonus is that you can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from your backyard, so skip the crowd on Main Street, USA.
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Where To Find Camping In Northern California During The Crowded Season
Image from The Dyrt camper Asher K.
There are a few strategies to landing a campsite in the peak season if you werent thinking about it six months ago.
The first step is to figure out which places have walk-in campsites. The Dyrt offers a search filter for walk-in campgrounds, meaning campgrounds that are available only on a first-come, first-served basis. For a lot of these campgrounds, youll have to be hyper-prepared in the peak seasoncamping in northern California can be pretty competitive, to say the least. Youll want to show up as early as possible in the morning and stake a claim to sites where previous occupants are leaving.
Another strategy is to find less well-known northern California camping options, which might mean avoiding the national parks, or making a couple-hours drive. Many counties or cities have campgrounds where you can get a last-minute reservation, like at Sonoma Countys Stillwater Cove Regional Park. Others you can just walk up, like at like Santa Clara Countys Joseph D. Grant County Park. There are also dozens of campgrounds in the national forest system where you can be guaranteed to find a spot, even during the busy summer weekends. The campgrounds in Sierra National Forest, Eldorado National Forest, and Inyo National Forest tend to have less amenities, but are also farther away from highways or urban areas.
Historic Camp Richardson Resort
Scenic Rating: 7/10
Region: Tahoe and the Northern Sierra
Camp Richardson Resort is within minutes of boating, biking, gambling, and, in the winter, skiing and snowboarding. Its a take-your-pick deal. Its a legendary spot, often called Camp Rich. With cabins, a restaurant, and live music also on the property, this is a place that offers one big package. The campsites are set in the woods, not on the lake itself, but are within a short walking distance of the lake. From here you can gain access to an excellent bike route that runs for three miles, then loops around by the lake for another three miles, most of it flat and easy, all of it beautiful. You can also make the easy, beautiful ride to Fallen Leaf Lake. A marina for boating, waterskiing lessons , an ice cream parlor, and year-round recreation make Camp Rich a popular winner. The elevation is 6,300 feet.
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Twentynine Palms Rv Resort Twentynine Palms Ca
Twentynine Palms provides the perfect access for the otherworldly Joshua Tree National Park, which showcases stunning scenery and perfect night sky views. The Twentynine Palms RV Resort has 168 full-hookup RV sites as well as a Clubhouse that hosts live music, a sauna, hot tub, and a pool. The resort is located an hour away from Palm Springs if you want to fit in a game of golf or go horseback riding.