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The 6 Best Places to Camp in Northern California

Obviously, Northern California can provide many amazing camping experiences. From rugged hiking destinations to family friendly resorts, there's something for everyone in our area

It’s that time of the year again. It’s time to pop-up your tents, put on your mosquito repellent and sleep under the stars – that’s right, it’s camping season.

Obviously, Northern California can provide many amazing camping experiences. From rugged hiking destinations to family friendly resorts, there’s something for everyone in our area. So we’ve compiled our six favorite places to camp. Have fun out there!

1. Desolation Wilderness

Type of Camping: Rugged hiking and camping for the expert adventurers.

The Desolation is a 64,000-acre playground just west of Lake Tahoe crisscrossed by hiking trails, running water and a generous number of alpine lakes of all sizes. Access is easy even if the hiking isn’t necessarily. There are trail heads on all four sides of the Desolation so picking the best access might take some research depending on where you’d like to go. Once you’ve hiked up onto the plateau (which runs between 6,500 and almost 10,000 feet elevation), the landscape is vast as trails weave between dense ancient forests and huge expanses of granite sheets. Numerous trails cross smooth, granite expanses, but if you’re worried about losing the trail, fear not. People have been kind enough to build trail borders out of loose rocks to mark the trail. The famous Pacific Crest Trail winds for a good 17-miles through the Desolation connecting to various other shorter paths.

The weather in the Desolation during summer can be delightful to the point that you might choose to sleep out under the stars a night or two. But when you need a tent as shelter from mosquitoes, torrential rains, thunder, lightning and all hell breaking loose, there is no substitute for a dry, cozy shelter.

Here is a great video to give you an idea what it’s like in the Desolation Wilderness:

Read all about camping at the Desolation Wilderness. For information on permits to camp, click here.




2. Lake Siskiyou

Type of Camping: Family friendly. Great place for the kids.

The unadulterated splendor of Lake Siskiyou compares pretty well with just about anywhere. Looking out from the beach, Mount Shasta seems so close that you can touch it (making you realize why the water is so darn clear).

While I could probably write several articles describing every detail of the lake and its backdrop, I mustn’t forget to mention all the great activities available close by. In terms of the actual lake, there are opportunities for motor boating, windsurfing, sun bathing (although don’t forget your sunscreen), fishing, pedal boating, rock climbing, paddle boarding and of course, swimming. The resort offers inexpensive rentals of canoes, life jackets, double and single kayaks and paddleboards, so there’s no need buy or lug expensive equipment out to the resort.

Lake Siskiyou Resort’s large camping area and affordably priced campsites and amenities make it a great place for a weekend getaway or a family vacation. Tent sites are only $20 per night. A full RV hook up is only $29 daily, you can rent small or big cabins for less than $200 a night. The resort also offers spacious three-bedroom mobile homes for rent at $250 per day. Because of its size and the endless list of things to do, Lake Siskiyou should be experienced over the course of a couple days. Camping is a terrific way to properly explore the area.

Read about Lake Siskiyou – One of Northern California’s Best Destinations.




3. Trinity Alps Wilderness

Type of Camping: Rugged hiking and camping for the expert adventurers.

For campers and backpackers looking for an introduction to the Trinity Alps Range, Caribou Lakes Trail is the perfect route! Along the trail, hikers run into enormous Caribou Lake (72 acres), Lower Caribou Lake, as well as stunning Snowslide Lake and a series of other smaller pools.

Check out the Caribou Lakes Trail:

We also recommend taking the difficult hike to Grizzly Falls. Considering its length (14 miles) and altitude change (5,400 feet), Grizzly Creek trail doesn’t exactly fit into the category of “casual hikes”. Following the motto: “nothing worth doing is easy” though, Grizzly Creek Trail’s grueling hike leads to one of the best if not THE best payoffs in Northern California.

“For my money, Grizzly Falls, Grizzly Lake might be the most spectacular place in Northern California,” said Bubba Seuss, author of several NorCal trail guides.

Check out this Grizzly Lake adventure:

Learn about hiking the Trinity Alps Wilderness.



4. Whiskeytown Lake

Type of Camping: Family friendly. Great place for the kids.

It’s hard to fully capture the camping experience at Whiskeytown in a few hundred words, but just taking in the fresh scent of the pines and the lake, enjoying all sorts of activities with your friends and family, and warming up in front of the fire pit after a long day spent on the lake will make you fall for Whiskeytown.

Out for a leisurely camping experience? You can paddleboard, kayak and swim in the crisp, crystal clear water of the lake. As long as your friends are there, just hanging out in the shallow water along the shore and chatting can make for a great time. Or, take your boat out, and try to find some awesome cliff jumps. Be very careful, and ensure that the water below the cliff is deep enough to land safely. If you have the right boat, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, water skiing and tubing can make your otherwise average day extraordinary. There is just so much to do!

Here is our Guide to Camping Whiskeytown.

Not sold yet? Check out this epic day on Whiskeytown:




5. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Type of camping: You can find a family experience or a rugged camping adventure.

Between eight different campgrounds in the park, there are almost 500 campsites available for any kind of experience you want to have. Some have flush toilets and others vault toilets. Others have pay showers and laundry facilities close by. The entire park is gorgeous, but more than most other campground offerings, Lassen has elevation. The campgrounds are found between 5,700 and 6,800 feet, meaning they open later than others in the area. When camping anywhere in the park, be prepared for chilly conditions after the sun goes down. Many campers have been unprepared for 30-degree nighttime weather during the summer.

Lassen Volcanic National Park along with its central feature Lassen Peak occupy a special place in the hearts of North State residents. The often overlooked (nationally) landmark has played an important role in the cultural and geological history of the area. Depending on the time of day, season or area of the park, Lassen can represent many things to many people.

The best part of Lassen camping is the unending activities at your fingertips! You can hike to the summit of Lassen Peak. You can make the grueling hike to the top of Brokeoff Mountain. You can go check out Kings Creek Falls. Or see the Painted Dunes at the top of Cinder Cone.

Here’s a video to get you pumped about camping Lassen:





6. Humboldt Coast

Type of Camping: Family friendly. Great place for the kids.

Patrick’s Point State Park has some of the most beautiful campgrounds and beaches for my money. Wedding Rock offers grand views of the ocean, and Agate Beach and the trail to get there can occasionally provide glimpses of faint, bioluminescent insects if observers are keen and the timing is right.

Camp at Patrick’s Point right off of 101 and stay either deep in the forest or on cliffs overlooking the ocean. As far as seaside camping, Gold Bluffs Beach in Redwood National Park provides about 25 campsites directly on the beach where you can gather around the fire pit with friends and take in awesome ocean vistas.

For an all-around camping experience, set off to Prairie Creek State Park. The campsites run along a large meadow where elk frequently roam, and campers are near most of the best and biggest Redwood grove trails. Adventurer types may want to stay at a different spot each night as they make their ways down Humboldt’s forgotten coast.

Learn about everything you can do on the “Lost Coast” of Humboldt County.

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