As soon as the snow begins to melt and the temperatures reach a comfortable number on the thermostat, there’s a boatload of us who begin daydreaming about our summer camping trip. Who should we invite along? When should we go away? How long should we be gone?
But the most important question is, “Where should we go?” If you’re tired of the same old spot year after year, how about stepping out of your comfort zone and checking out a few new campsites this year?
If camping is in your wheelhouse then you’re going to love this list of amazing Northern California campgrounds. You’re welcome.
1. Crater Lake, Lassen National Forest
There are only 17 campsites here, so book your dates ASAP. Each site has its own fire pit ring. Fly fishing, canoeing, and float tubing are all favorite activities at Crater Lake. In the fall season, check out the colorful aspen stands that contribute to the tranquility of the area. No gas motors are allowed on the lake, which makes this a serene trip.
2. Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park
With over 1.2 million acres in this gorgeous national forest, there are A LOT of campsites that are rockin’ awesome.
3. Rocky Point Campground, Lake Almanor
Rocky Point Campground has 131 first-come-first-served sites, each with a picnic table and fire ring and some that are handicap accessible. No electric hookups are available, but there is a sewage dump station in the campground. There are also two group sites available for reservation. Extra points for being able to moor your boat right at your campsite.
4. Cisco Grove Campgrounds, Soda Springs
This spot consists of 355 forested acres on South Yuba River. All size groups are welcome. There are many hiking, biking and OHV trails, along with volleyball, horseshoes, basketball, and shuffleboard. There are six motel rooms on site. In winter you’ll have the opportunity to go snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, tubing, and sledding. Cisco Grove is close to major ski resorts, and pets are welcome. Guess what? It’s open year round!
5. Collins Lake Campground, Browns Valley
Collins Lake, previously known as Virginia Ranch Reservoir during its construction, is a freshwater man-made lake with 1,009 acres located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains north of Sacramento. If you love to support small businesses you’ll love to know that the concession at the campground has been family owned and run since 1972. There are 109 RV hookups and lots of campsites, too!
6. Anchor Bay Campground, Gualala
A small, six-acre, privately-owned campground located along Mendocino County’s scenic Highway One, fronting right on the Pacific Ocean. It lies in a narrow gulch filled with native redwood trees, ferns, and other coastal flora, and opens onto 1/2-mile-long Anchor Bay Beach. With 27 overnight camping spots (four in the redwoods and 23 at or on the beach), we think this one has your name all over it.
7. Manchester Beach KOA, Mendocino
This area features the best of California in one spectacular location: two local lighthouses, Anderson Valley wineries, the picturesque village of Mendocino and magnificent redwoods. Anglers can also fish nearby. At camp, enjoy hayrides, ice cream socials, family activities, wine tastings and holiday events. This KOA offers bocce courts, a disc golf course, large interactive dog park, community campfire area and year-round hot tub. Yes. Please.
8. Fernwood Resort & Campgrounds, Big Sur
Fernwood Resort is happy to share their forest, Big Sur River, and meadow view campground with you. These campsites are located near the Big Sur River bordering Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This gives you direct access to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and all the conveniences of Fernwood Resort. Even better is that their campground has two bath houses with hot showers to add a camping-cherry on top.
9. Coloma Campgrounds, Coloma
Far from the distractions of the city, in the midst of tranquil surroundings, Coloma Resort offers the perfect setting to connect with the abundant beauty of nature. Whether you’re eager for whitewater adventure or are seeking the opportunity to simply relax by the river, come pitch your tent by the American River. They’d love to have you!
10. Glory Hole Campgrounds, Lake Melones
Glory Hole Recreation Area is located at New Melones Lake on the Stanislaus River. The 12,500 surface-acre lake is the fifth largest lake in California and is situated along the edge of the Mother Lode, the rich gold vein that prompted the California Gold Rush of 1849. Here’s what they offer: fishing, boating, water skiing, wake boarding, jet skiing, sailing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, wildlife viewing, rock climbing, hiking, biking, horseback riding and picknicking. Whew!
11. Gerle Creek Campground, El Dorado County
Gerle Creek Campground sits at an elevation of 5,300 feet, upstream of Gerle Creek Divide Reservoir. It is on the Georgetown Divide within the Eldorado National Forest. Gerle Creek was named for two brothers who were early settlers and farmers in the region. Swimming, canoeing, kayaking and fishing are some of the fun things to do on the creek. Common fish species include brown and rainbow trout. An accessible fishing dock is located onsite.
12. Caples Lake, Kirkwood
Sitting at about 7,800 feet in elevation, Caples Lake Campground is located adjacent to Caples Lake on Highway 88 and has 34 sites available. The campground offers tent units with a spur length of 25 to 40 feet. Tent, trailer or R.V. sites are available with spur lengths of 25 to 40 feet. There are seven walk-in campsites, and one double family site.
13. Donner Memorial State Park & Campground, Truckee
Located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada, Donner Memorial State Park offers the summer vacationer opportunities for camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, water-skiing, and hiking. In winter, visitors can cross-country ski and snowshoe on trails and enjoy the season’s beauty. The Visitor Center features compelling new exhibits that tell the stories of the Emigrant Experience, the Donner Party, the Land of the Washoe, Chinese construction of the railroad, and early motoring adventures over Donner Pass.
14. Bowman Lake Campground, Truckee
Here’s the checklist for your weekend overnight adventure: Gorgeous destination? Great day hikes? Mountain biking? Backpacking option with lakeside tent sites? Bring your dog? Swimming? Fishing? Ideal for SUV? Lodging options? Not too many people? There aren’t many places that earn check marks right down the list. One of the few anywhere that does is the Bowman Lake Recreation Area. FYI: The road to access the campground is very rough, rocky, and narrow. A high clearance vehicle is needed, and towing boats or trailers is very difficult and dangerous.
15. Calaveras Big Trees Campground, Arnold
Calaveras became a State Park in 1931 to preserve the North Grove of giant sequoias. This grove includes the “Discovery Tree,” also known as the “Big Stump,” the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. Pick from two main campgrounds with a total of 129 campsites, six picnic areas and several miles of established trails.
During the summer, enjoy evening ranger talks, numerous interpretive programs, environmental educational programs, junior ranger programs, hiking, mountain biking, birdwatching, and activities for schoolchildren.
Which ones have you been to? Better yet, share your absolute all-time favorite Northern California campground in the comments!