In a state as large and diverse as California, it is hard to choose the best campgrounds. We’ve been traveling around the state for several months now and still haven’t seen it all, so we asked our friends for their top picks too.
This list represents some of the best national, state, and county parks as well as privately owned resorts, KOA franchises, Thousand Trails membership camping resorts, and a few military campgrounds. Our hope is that it will include something for everyone to put on their bucket list.
Crescent City / Redwoods KOA
This KOA in Crescent City, California near Redwoods National Park was our favorite of the year! With pull thru full hook-up sites as well as cabins and tent sites nestled among 10 acres of redwood forest, there was something for everyone. It was the perfect balance between the amenities you’d expect from a commercial campground with the natural beauty of a state or national park.
Mt. Lassen / Shingletown KOA
Like the one mentioned above, this is also a small KOA with around 60 sites, but it was so pretty. The entrance is lined with beautiful pine trees and a split rail fence with manicured lawns, flower pots and artisan wood carvings to greet guests. It definitely has a campground feel with a large wooded area on the southern half of the property that features a walking trail, bike path (complete with graded hills and jumps), benches scattered throughout and a large tire/rope swing.
Hendy Woods State Park
Our friends at Travel Small Live Big have visited some of the best best state and local parks without the state of Florida that I just had to ask them to share a couple of favorites and Hendy Woods was on the list.
Check out their YouTube channel for more recommendations across the state.
Yosemite National Park
You can’t talk about camping in California with out mentioning Yosemite. In fact, it is so popular that getting a spot can be tricky. In the video below, Park Ranger Marea Ortiz gives an overview of what camping is like in Yosemite, and advice on how to get a campsite.
San Benito RV & Camping Resort
Our friends Brian and Julie of the Wandering Gants recommended the San Benito RV & Camping Resort, a Thousand Trails Membership Campground in Paicines, California. They said, “This campground has abundant wildlife, is surrounded by rolling hills, and is a short drive from Pinnacles National Park. The resort itself has two pools, a lounge and camp store, tons of space to walk, and wonderful views of the night sky. It’s a fantastic place to stay if you want to get away from it all!”
See more campground reviews on the Wandering Gants YouTube Channel.
Yank’s RV Resort
Yanks RV Resort is a perfect place to stop in Monterrey Wine Country. This resort is beautifully landscaped with large paved pull-thru sites with full hook-ups, cable tv and wifi. They also have one row of back-in sites and 100′ pull-thru premiere sites. All roads throughout the park are paved.
While staying at the park we enjoyed the heated swimming pool, hot tub, and fitness center every day.
We choose it for the convenient location off of Hwy 101 close to the west entrance of Pinnacles National Park and a little over an hour’s drive to the stunning coastline of Big Sur.
Sequoia National Park
James Ian at Travel Collecting shared his experience with the Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park. He said, “There are several reasons to love this campground. First, it has the best location in the park. It’s just a short distance to the Giant Forest which has the best hikes in Sequoia National Park like the Congress Trail, General Sherman Trail and the Big Trees Trail, as well as the Giant Forest Museum.”
“In addition, the campsites are lovely, surrounded by a lot of trees and with a little space between sites. National Park campsites can sometimes seem overcrowded, but the site I stayed at was under trees and near a drop off, so it was really lovely. There’s also a fire pit to make a campfire, which makes a great spot to hang out after dark.”
Wine Country RV Resort
Located on the Salinas River in Central California halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Wine Country RV Resort in Paso Robles is a great destination for RVers. As the name suggests, this first class RV resort is in a terrific location to enjoy all that the Paso Robles Wine Region has to offer. The resort offers tours from their property to 3 different local wineries. This 4 hour journey through the Paso Robles Wine Region allows you to enjoy the area (and wines) without worrying about who will do the driving.
Flying Flags RV Resort
Our friends, Kyle & Olivia Drivin’ and Vibin’ recommended Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton, California. They said, “It is one of the most amazing RV parks we’ve ever visited. The list of amenities is endless and has something for all ages.” Some of those amenities include a café, general store, dog park, soccer field, basketball court, fitness room, and multiple pools & hot tubs.
No RV? No worries? This resort has vintage trailer and cottages for rent too!
Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort
Our friends Lauren and Aaron of the Wanderpreneurs recently visited this Thousand Trails campground near Santa Barbara. They said, “Rancho Oso is an RV park that is also a working ranch. It is situated on 310 gorgeous acres, and offers tons of activities including horseback riding. You can stay in a cabin, tent, RV, cottage or even a teepee!
If you’re looking for a place to disconnect and enjoy nature, this place is perfect for you. You could easily spend weeks just exploring the ranch and surrounding areas.”
Joshua Tree National Park
Michelle, The Wandering Queen, said “One of the best campgrounds in California is the Hidden Valley Campground located in Joshua Tree National Park. This campground is first come first serve and is in constant high demand. I recommend trying to obtain a campsite on Thursday or early Friday Morning.”
What makes this campsite so special is that it is a climbing epicenter. The campground is surrounded by huge boulders and natural towers where climbers can easily hop on the crag and climb. Even non-climbers can enjoy the campsite by hiking up to the tall standing boulders for sunrise and sunset is always a fun activity. The Hidden Valley campsite is one of the most unique and beautiful campgrounds in California, and it shouldn’t be missed.
Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve is less than 20 miles from La Jolla beaches and the San Diego Zoo but feels like it is in a world of its own.Even better, you don’t have to worry about traffic. You can leave the car or truck at the campsite and ride your bike to the trolley for a trip into the city. The park itself is huge, with mature trees, and water everywhere. Owned and operated by Padre Dam Municipal Water District, it is a popular fishing and kayaking spot.
Nathan Jones said, “We are loving everything about this place. Even though its considered an urban campground, it doesn’t feel that way. It has all the resort amenities, a pool, multiple playgrounds for the kids, club house, lakes for fishing and paddle boating and in driving range to all your favorite restaurants and theaters and amazing places to have fun or just relax. If you’re in the area check it out.”
There are several terrific campgrounds in California. Below we’ll share a few recommendations. If you’re wondering about the eligibility requirements, check out our Guide to Using Military Campgrounds.
Sea Breeze RV Park on Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station
This is a beautiful little campground on a navy station just south of Long Beach, California. We stayed here a month and it was a great central location to visit several area beaches, Hollywood, Disneyland, and Universal Studios.
2 Campgrounds at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
This military base has two campgrounds, San Onofre and Del Mar. Our friends, Nick and Julie recently stayed at both. Both are right on the ocean, but at San Onofre your site is on the pavement and at Del Mar your site is right on the sand.
Adjacent to a state park, they loved watching the surfers every day at San Onofre.
And here’s their windshield view from Del Mar.
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