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14 Best Campgrounds in Northern California

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Feb 15, 2022

The best campgrounds in Northern California highlight the vast array of environments found in this adventurous half of the state. Places to pitch a tent span from redwood groves to volcanically active areas steaming with attraction. Other landscapes encountered while camping in Northern California include sandy beaches, fern canyons, and great views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Some of the best camping in Northern California takes place in either state or national parks. This includes the stunning Redwoods National and State Parks, preserving some of the last remaining old-growth coastal forests in the world. Redwoods National and State Parks also encompass miles of stunning, wild coastline with campsites by the ocean.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Tahoe, and Mount Shasta are a few other signature areas to aim an RV toward, and campsites at places like the Mendocino coastline never disappoint. For lake camping, head to one of several natural and artificial reservoirs on the north side of the state.

Plan your next outdoor adventure with our list of the top campgrounds in Northern California.

1. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground, Redwoods National and State Parks

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Jedediah Smith is one of three state parks jointly operated with Redwoods National Park. Together, these parks comprise the northern portion of California's Redwood Country surrounding Highway 101. Jedediah Smith is the farthest north of the three state parks and less than 10 miles from Crescent City.

Jedediah Smith State Park has 89 campsites that accommodate tents and RVs. The campground is popular throughout the year thanks to its proximity to numerous groves of very tall trees. The campground is also near the historic Howland Hill Road, offering a stunning one-lane drive through the big forest.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

For anglers and photographers, the Wild and Scenic Smith River is also within hearing distance of all the campsites. Flushing water and coin-operated showers are available to all overnight guests. A few sites accommodate RVs up to 36 feet long.

There are a total of four developed campgrounds in Redwoods National and State Parks. The Gold Bluffs Beach Campground at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park offers tent camping on a secluded coastline, and the Mill Creek Campground at Del Norte Coast features plenty of space to RV camp next to some big trees.

Howland Hill Road, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Howland Hill Road, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Redwoods National and State Parks also offer backcountry campsites for those wanting some solitude among the redwoods.

Address: 1461 US-199, Crescent City, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=413

2. D.L. Bliss State Park Campground, South Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe from D.L. Bliss State Park
Lake Tahoe from D.L. Bliss State Park

This lakeside campground is on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe. It's a popular spot for activities like fishing, swimming, hiking, and SCUBA diving in the nearby underwater preserve. It's a favorite for more casual outings, too, including taking some time to peer out from the nearby Inspiration Point.

D.L. Bliss is a top pick for camping near South Lake Tahoe. It's a 13-minute drive from the city of South Lake Tahoe, and less than 20 miles south of Tahoe City. This ideal location makes D.L. Bliss a popular spot, but with other great areas like Emerald Bay State Park and Meeks Bay Resort nearby, there's plenty of space to explore.

D.L. Bliss itself has over 250 family campsites, and they are often booked throughout the summer. Generally, campsites have enough space for one vehicle. Fire rings and picnic tables are at each campsite, as well as access to water and coin-operated showers.

Address: Lester Beach Road, Tahoma, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=505

3. Manzanita Lake Campground, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Peak seen from Manzanita Lake
Lassen Peak seen from Manzanita Lake

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.

Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park

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

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/lavo/index.htm

4. Burlington Campground, Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Burlington Campground, Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Burlington Campground, Humboldt Redwoods State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Humboldt Redwoods State Park is a defining natural space in California's Redwood Country, 30 miles south of Eureka. It's a place of big proportions, and among the lofty redwood trees that reach over 350 feet in length, the park also features over 100 miles of hiking trails and 250 standard campsites spread throughout three different campgrounds.

The Burlington Campground is the only year-round spot to pitch a tent or park an RV at Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It has 57 sites surrounded by big trees with a mystical forest appeal. Flushing toilets and coin-operated showers are available throughout the year.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Humboldt Redwoods State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The campground is accessible via the 32-mile Avenue of the Giants. This slow speed-limit road connects to other signature areas of the park including the Founders Grove and the Women's Federation Grove. And across the Avenue of the Giants from the campground, a scattering of hiking paths lead to the South Fork of the Eel River.

Other seasonal campgrounds at Humboldt Redwoods include the southern Hidden Springs Campground and the Albee Creek Campground with less traffic driving by.

Address: Avenue of the Giants, Weott, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=425

5. Russian Gulch State Park Campground, Mendocino Coast

Russian Gulch State Park
Russian Gulch State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Just two miles north of the village of Mendocino–one of the best small towns in Californiathe Russian River makes quite a splash at Russian Gulch State Park. Alongside unique trail-lined bluffs and tidal features like the Devil's Punchbowl, this coastal state park also has 26 standard sites near the Russian River before it hits the ocean.

The sites are on the other side of Highway 1 from the ocean. RVs and tent campers share the sites, although no hookups are available. The notable Fern Canyon Trail extends from the campground at Russian Gulch, enabling a six-mile round trip to a 36-foot waterfall and back.

The entire Mendocino Coast is lined with natural attractions and other places to camp. Surrounding the village itself, Mendocino Headlands State Park features plenty of bluff-side ocean views but is day-use only. Less than two miles south of the village, Van Damme State Park offers more camping on the Northern California coast with over 70 sites available.

Address: CA-1, Mendocino, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=432

6. Indian Well Campground, Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument
Lava Beds National Monument | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

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.

Exploring the lava tubes near Indian Well Campground
Exploring the lava tubes near Indian Well Campground

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

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/labe/index.htm

7. Castle Crags State Park Campground, Castle Crags State Park

Rocky landscape of Castle Crags State Park
Rocky landscape of Castle Crags State Park

Surrounded by the Shasta-Trinity National Forest near the city of Mount Shasta, Castle Crags State Park is named after the millions-year-old granite spires within its borders. Popular activities at the park include hiking, camping, and fishing in the Sacramento River.

The campground at Castle Crags features over 60 standard sites with access to running water and showers. Reservations are available for all 60 of these standard sites, and all but required throughout the summer months. The park also has an extra dozen sites at the first-come, first-served Riverside Campground, on the south side of the Sacramento River and Interstate-5.

An hour east of Castle Crags, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is another popular state park adjacent to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Alongside a fanning waterfall feature, the park offers a similar camping appeal. The campground has over 100 family sites available for tents or RVs.

Both state parks and their campgrounds have hiker/biker sites that are most commonly used by hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Address: 20022 Castle Creek Road, Castella, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=454

8. MacKerricher State Park

MacKerricher State Park
MacKerricher State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

MacKerricher is a beautiful coastal park just north of Fort Bragg. It encompasses approximately nine miles of Mendocino coastline, offering a variety of habitats to explore. Alongside this seaside splendor, the state park has over 140 campsites to spend the night.

The sites at MacKerricher are separated between different campgrounds, all located near the Pacific Ocean and Lake Cleone. It's a short walk from every site to the Main Beach of the park, where the sunsets tend to amaze each evening. Alongside RV and tent camping, the campground also supports walk-in campers and large group reservations.

Glass Beach and the Pudding Creek Trestle anchor the southern end of the park. To the north, Inglenook Fen - Ten Mile Dune Natural Preserve offers a changing landscape to explore. The MacKerricher Coastal Trail, also known as Old Haul Road, connects these two scenic park areas.

Read More: Top Things to Do in Fort Bragg, California

9. Gold Bluffs Beach, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Fern Canyon, Gold Bluffs Beach
Fern Canyon, Gold Bluffs Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

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.

10. Lakes Basin Campground, Plumas National Forest

Gold Lake near Lakes Basin Campground, Plumas National Forest
Gold Lake near 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

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/plumas/recreation/recarea/?recid=11199

11. Graham Hill Campground, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Graham Hill Campground at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is one of the best campgrounds near Santa Cruz. Its 100-plus campsites are five miles from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and surrounded by a lush forest and towering trees. And these big surroundings lend to the feeling of spending the night in a forested wonderland.

RVs and tents all find sites at Graham Hill. No hookups are available, and RVs are limited to a maximum length of 31 feet. Overnight guests have access to potable water and coin-operated showers, as well as a bicycle path that navigates near all the sites. Campers can also hop on the nearby Eagle Creek Trail to hike to the park's signature Redwood Grove Loop Trail.

Less than 20 miles northwest of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, more redwood camping can be found at Big Basin Redwoods State Park - the oldest state park in California. Big Basin has nearly 150 standard campsites spread across four different campgrounds. Backcountry camping is also popular in Big Basin, and many hikers utilize these primitive spots while trekking the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.

Address: 2591 Graham Hill Road, Scotts Valley, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=546

12. Beal's Point Campground, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area

Purple lupine on the bank of Folsom Lake
Purple lupine on the bank of Folsom Lake

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

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=500

13. Kirby Cove Campground, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

A swing on the beach at Kirby Cove Campground
A swing on the beach at Kirby Cove Campground

Kirby Cove Campground is on the north side of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area within the Marin Headlands. The five available sites are a bit of a secret spot for those looking to get away from San Francisco without traveling too far.

The campsites at Kirby Cove are available by reservation only and are often reserved months in advance. Each site is tucked into the forest landscape and only a short walk from views of the Golden Gate Bridge, The reservable day-use picnic area at Kirby Cove also tends to fill up fast.

Address: 948 Fort Barry, Sausalito, California

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/kirby.htm

14. Antlers Campground, Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Sacramento Arm of Lake Shasta
Sacramento Arm of Lake Shasta

Accommodating both tent and RV camping, the Antlers Campground is atop a bluff overlooking the Sacramento Arm of Shasta Lake. Surrounded by an aromatic and shade-producing oak and pine forest, the campground incorporates many great views of the water.

For those interested in getting on the water, the Antler public boat ramp is adjacent to the campground. The Antlers Amphitheater is also adjacent to the campground, and tours of the nearby Lake Shasta Caverns offer a popular day trip nearby.

The surrounding Shasta-Trinity National Forest is the largest in California and offers numerous places to camp. Alongside available dispersed camping, another popular place to spend the night is the Hayward Flat Campground at Trinity Lake. Southwest of Shasta and Trinity Lakes, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area provides scenic lakeside camping spots nearby.

Address: 20682 Antlers Road, Lakehead, California

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/stnf/recarea/?recid=6421

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