Thursday, May 23,2024 1:49 pm EDT

RV Camping in California – 7 Free Tips on why this is a Must-See Destination

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majestic national parks california
Yosemite National Park

California has some of the nation’s most diverse landscapes and breathtaking natural beauty. So it follows that it has a lot of great camping opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Among the many ways to explore the Golden State, RV camping is a great choice. Camping with an RV in California offers a cost-effective vacation where you can build cherished memories with your family and friends. California provides a combination of modern RV campgrounds, stunning national parks, scenic coastal routes, and charming mountain ranges.

7 Reasons to Visit California in an RV

Majestic National Parks In California

sierra nevada mountains
Sierra Madres In Yosemite National Park

California has some of the nation’s most diverse landscapes and breathtaking natural beauty.

California is home to some of the most renowned national recreation areas and parks in the United States, making it a paradise for nature lovers. RV camping allows visitors to immerse themselves in the wonders of these protected areas. From the towering granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park to the ancient giant sequoias of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the state offers breathtaking landscapes that are easily accessible by RV. There are hiking trails, wildlife spotting, and awe-inspiring vistas while camping in the heart of nature.

If you are a serious hiker, you’ll find challenging hiking trails across the state. There are varying difficulties of such trails which allow visitors to venture deep into the heart of these natural wonders. Whether it’s the challenging Half Dome hike in Yosemite, the scenic Rim Trail in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, or the diverse trails in Redwood National and Redwoods State Parks, there are options for every skill level and interest.

california state park - redwoods
Hiking In Redwoods National Park

Some of the best lake camping in California can be found in the northern part of the state. If you are more of an adventurous traveler, try Death Valley National Park, known for its extreme landscapes, showcases vast salt flats, sand dunes, and the lowest point in North America.

california state parks - lake with boaters
Lake Vista In A California State Park

California camping allows you to explore the unique beauty and harsh environment of Death Valley, providing an unforgettable experience. Imagine waking up to the sun rising over the vast salt flats, with nothing but the sound of silence surrounding you. As you step outside your RV, you can feel the dry desert air on your skin, reminding you of the incredible resilience of life in such extreme conditions.

But it’s not just the national parks administered by the NPS that make California RV camping special. The state’s coastal routes offer a whole new level of scenic beauty. Imagine driving along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, with the sparkling blue ocean on one side and rugged cliffs on the other. You can stop at charming coastal towns, soak up the sun on pristine beaches, and indulge in delicious seafood along the way.

sierra nevada map
Map Of The Sierra Madre Mountain Range – California

For those who prefer the tranquility of mountains, California’s mountain ranges provide a perfect escape. Whether it’s the majestic Sierra Nevada or the stunningly beautiful Shasta Cascade region, RV camping allows you to immerse yourself in the peacefulness of nature. You can hike through lush forests, fish in crystal-clear lakes, and breathe in the fresh mountain air.

For those who prefer the tranquility of mountains, California’s mountain ranges provide a perfect escape.

So, if you’re looking for an unforgettable vacation that combines stunning landscapes, outdoor adventures, and the freedom to explore at your own pace, RV Travel is the perfect choice. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or simply someone who wants to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, California offers a world of possibilities waiting to be discovered. Pack your bags, hit the open road, and let the wonders of RV camping in California unfold before your eyes.

Coastal Beauty

california coastline state beaches
State Park Along California Coast

The California coastline is a treasure trove of scenic beauty and coastal charm. RV camping along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) is a bucket-list experience, allowing travelers to witness the crashing waves, rugged cliffs, and golden beaches. Iconic destinations like Big Sur, with its dramatic vistas, and Pismo Beach, known for its sand dunes and vibrant sunsets, are among the best camping spots in California for RV camping. California’s coastal campgrounds offer a unique opportunity to wake up to the sound of the ocean and savor incredible sunrises and sunsets.

point dume sunset california
Point Dume Sunset

The California coastline is a treasure trove of scenic beauty and coastal charm.

RV Camping in the coastal beauty of California also provides photographers and adventurers alike with the utmost beautiful scenery. If you have been trying to capture that perfect sunset photo, escape to Point Dume for the evening and watch as the sky transforms into a palette of vibrant oranges, pinks, and purples. The rugged cliffs and crashing waves create an awe-inspiring backdrop, making it a photographer’s dream come true.

For those seeking a more active adventure, RV camping along the coast offers a plethora of water activities. You can try your hand at surfing in popular spots like Malibu or Santa Cruz, feeling the rush as you ride the waves. If you prefer a more relaxing experience, grab a paddleboard and explore the calm waters of Monterey Bay, where you might even spot playful dolphins or majestic sea otters. Also, check out Channel Islands National Park, a nature enclave close to Los Angeles. The US Forest Service operates Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara

There are also some beautiful state beaches operated by the California government for you to spend quality time. Two of the most popular are Refugio State Beach and San Elijo State Beach.

RV camping in California’s coastal beauty also means indulging in delicious seafood delicacies. Along the coast, you’ll find charming fishing villages and seafood shacks serving up fresh catches of the day. Treat yourself to succulent Dungeness crab in San Francisco or sample mouthwatering clam chowder in Monterey. With every bite, you’ll taste the ocean’s bounty and savor the flavors of the sea.

So whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an avid photographer, a water sports lover, or a seafood connoisseur, RV camping along the picturesque California coastline is an adventure you won’t want to miss. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery, embrace the coastal charm, and create memories that will last a lifetime. The beauty of California’s coast awaits your exploration, so pack your camera, fishing rod, and appetite for adventure, and let the coastal wonders unfold before your eyes.

Enchanting Mountain Ranges

sierra nevada mountains california
Sierra Madre Mountains

California’s diverse terrain is also adorned with majestic mountain ranges that provide a haven for RV campers seeking serenity and adventure. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, with their snow-capped peaks and glacial valleys, offer countless camping options. Whether it’s the scenic shores of Lake Tahoe or the alpine meadows of Mammoth Lakes, RV travelers can indulge in hiking, fishing, and water activities while surrounded by stunning vistas. Additionally, the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs provide a desert oasis for RV enthusiasts, with their unique landscapes and year-round outdoor recreation opportunities.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains, in particular, are a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking trails weave through dense forests, leading to hidden waterfalls and stunning viewpoints. You can challenge yourself with a summit hike to conquer iconic peaks like Mount Whitney or simply take a leisurely stroll along the shores of crystal-clear alpine lakes. Fishing enthusiasts will also find their slice of heaven in the numerous rivers and streams that are teeming with trout.

For those who prefer a more adrenaline-pumping adventure, the mountain ranges offer thrilling activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, and zip-lining. Imagine the rush of scaling vertical cliffs, navigating rugged trails on two wheels, or soaring through the air with breathtaking views below. The possibilities for excitement are endless.

rock climbing in california
Rock Climbing In California

RV camping in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs offers some the best camping in southern California, a unique experience where you can enjoy the stark beauty of the desert. As the sun sets behind the mountains, casting a warm glow over the landscape, you can relax under the starry night sky, feeling the gentle desert breeze on your skin. Wake up early to catch a mesmerizing sunrise, illuminating the desert floor with vibrant colors. The desert flora and fauna, including Joshua trees and elusive desert wildlife, add to the enchantment of the surroundings.

Whether you seek tranquility in the snow-capped peaks or an adrenaline rush in the rugged wilderness, California’s enchanting mountain ranges cater to all types of adventurers. For a lesser known experience in this area, check out Lassen Volcanic National Park and stay at Manzanita Lake Campground. From thrilling outdoor activities to peaceful moments of reflection, California’s mountain ranges promises an unforgettable experience that offer some of the best camping in California

Charming RV Campgrounds

california campgrounds
Southern California Desert Camping

California boasts an extensive network of public and private RV campgrounds, catering to a wide range of preferences. From rustic state parks to luxurious private resorts, there are places to camp for everyone. Campgrounds such as Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Point Mugu State Park offer spacious RV sites amidst natural beauty, providing a perfect blend of tranquility and convenience. Many campgrounds feature essential amenities like water, electricity, and dump stations, ensuring a comfortable stay for RV travelers. If you are sold on the idea that RV Camping is the best way to explore California, check out some tips and tricks to RV hacks this travel method for an even more enjoyable experience.

rv in joshua tree national park campground
Joshua Tree National Park

In addition to the federal and state government recreation areas and parks, some counties also operate their own county recreation areas. An example of this is Lopez Lake Recreation Area, operated by San Luis Obisbo County.

Freedom and Flexibility

One of the greatest advantages of RVing in California is the freedom and flexibility it offers. RVers can create their itineraries, explore at their own pace, and change plans spontaneously. With an RV, you have the luxury of carrying your accommodation with you, eliminating the need to book hotels or worry about finding accommodation in remote areas. You can discover hidden gems, embark on scenic detours, and truly immerse yourself in the beauty of California’s landscapes. RV camping allows families and friends to bond while enjoying the great outdoors, creating unforgettable memories along the way.

Cost-Effective Travel

RV travel is also a cost-effective way to explore the state. By combining transportation and accommodation into one, travelers can save money on hotel stays and restaurant meals. RVs provide cooking facilities, allowing you to prepare your own meals, which can significantly reduce food expenses. Additionally, many campgrounds offer affordable rates for RV sites, particularly state and NPS parks. With careful planning and budgeting, RV camping allows you to experience the beauty of California without breaking the bank.

Whether you are an RV owner or rent an RV for a California camping trip, you’ll find that an RV vacation can be very a very economical family vacation.

Family Bonding and Community

familty time - games in travel trailer
Family Game Time In An Rv

RV camping in California offers a unique chance for families and friends to bond and create lasting memories. Close living in an RV encourages shared experiences, whether it’s cooking together, playing games, or simply enjoying the campfire under the starry night sky. RV parks often have a strong sense of community, where fellow campers share stories, tips, help, and camaraderie. This social aspect of RV camping allows for connections with like-minded individuals and the opportunity to make new friends from different backgrounds and regions, enhancing the overall camping experience.

California camping in an RV is an extraordinary way to explore the state’s wonders. From the awe-inspiring NPS parks to the captivating coastlines and enchanting mountain ranges, the Golden State offers endless opportunities for RV travelers to experience nature at its best. 

California State Parks – Reservation Information

california state parks - sign
California State Park Welcome Sign

To book and stay at a campsite in a California State Recreational Area or Park, there are a few steps you can follow to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. First, it’s important to do some research and decide which Park you would like to visit. California is home to a wide range of State Parks, each offering unique landscapes and recreational activities.

Once you have chosen your desired State Park, you can visit the official California State Parks website or call their reservation hotline to check availability and make a reservation. It’s recommended to book your campsite well in advance and pay your campsite fee up front to reserve your spot, especially during peak seasons, as popular parks tend to fill up quickly. If you or anyone in your party has a disability, check whether to park you are visiting has accessible campsites.

When making a reservation, you will need to provide some basic information such as the dates of your stay, the number of people in your party, and the type of camping equipment you will be using (tent, RV, etc.). Some State Recreational Ares and Parks may also offer amenities such as electrical hookups or water access, so be sure to inquire about any specific requirements or preferences you may have.

Staying at California Parks

california state parks - lake vista
California State Parks

Once your reservation is confirmed, it’s time to prepare for your camping trip. Make sure to pack all the necessary camping gear, including tents, sleeping bags, cooking equipment, and any outdoor recreational gear you may need. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the State Park you will be visiting, as they may have specific guidelines regarding campfires, pets, and quiet hours.

On the day of your arrival, check-in at the park’s entrance or visitor center, where you will receive any additional information or permits you may need. The park staff will guide you to your designated campsite, where you can set up camp and start enjoying all that the State Park has to offer.

What to do While You’re There

desert rv camping california
Desert Camping In Southern California Desert

During your stay, take advantage of the recreational opportunities available within the park. Whether it’s hiking through scenic trails, swimming in pristine lakes, or simply relaxing in the tranquility of nature, California Parks offer a wide range of activities for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.

Remember to respect the environment and follow Leave No Trace principles by properly disposing of trash and minimizing your impact on the natural surroundings. By doing so, you can help preserve the beauty of California’s State Parks for future generations to enjoy.

In conclusion, booking and staying at a campsite in a California State Recreation Area or Park is a straightforward process that can lead to incredible outdoor adventures and unforgettable memories. Whether you prefer tent camping, RV camping, or alternative camping, California’s Parks provide the perfect backdrop for immersing yourself in nature and experiencing the wonders of the Golden State.

Summary – Camping in California

california state parks - san diego
Beach Camping Near San Diego
  • RV camping is an excellent way to enjoy the state’s beautiful landscapes and wildlife.
  • The vast network of campgrounds, coupled with the state’s varied attractions, make for a perfect vacation.
  • Camping in California is a unique experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.
  • The state has many iconic coastal destinations that are perfect for RV camping, such as Big Sur and Pismo Beach.
  • Campgrounds in California are known for their friendly atmosphere and welcoming nature, which makes it a great place to meet new people and bonds over a shared love of adventure and exploration.
  • California coastal RV camping offers breathtaking scenery, opportunities for adventure, and peace and tranquility.
  • RV campers can find serenity and relaxation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, explore the desert oasis of the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs, or enjoy thrilling activities like rock climbing and mountain biking in the Mountain Ranges.
  • California’s mountain ranges are an excellent way to experience the natural beauty of the state.
  • Many campgrounds have camping spots that feature essential amenities like water, electricity, and dump stations, making them perfect for a relaxing stay.

Travelling California outdoors in an RV is an unforgettable journey that you’ll remember for years to come. With its diverse landscapes and stunning natural beauty, California is a must-visit destination for any outdoor enthusiast. From the stunning national NPS parks to the coastal routes and charming mountain ranges, California offers something for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Pack up your RV and hit the open road for a journey of a lifetime!


How much does it cost to camp in an RV in California?

There will be a big range in prices depending on the location and amenities. Dispersed camping in some national forests or BLM land is Free or you could pay $100 per night or more to rent a cabin or for a glamping experiencel. The average price, though, is between $20 to $50 per night (2023) for a basic RV or tent camping site in a national or state park campground.

Is there free beach camping in California?

Not any more, unfortunately. Most beach campgrounds are under the control of the state or county. They charge fees for usage.

Is free camping still allowed in California?

According to the Bureau of Land Management, Camping is allowed on Public Lands in California, but for no more than a period of 14 days within any period of 28 consecutive days, unless otherwise identified. Dispersed camping is allowed on Public Lands in California for no more than a period of 14 days within any period of 28 consecutive days.

Where is the most beautiful place to camp in California?

Travel and Leisure lists three California camping destinations in their list of the 24 most beautiful places to camp: Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

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