It is hard to appreciate the diversity in California’s campgrounds until you research and see some pictures. In this list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California, we take you all over the state and look at some of the best off-season camping you can experience.
Why Camp in the Winter?
The serenity of winter camping is real. What you find when you are camping in the winter is you have true silence. The sounds of spring, summer, and early fall nights are dominated by species like crickets, frogs, and other noisy nighttime insects.
Of course, the sounds of nature can be gratifying and are much better than the buzz and blaring light of falling asleep with your television on, but nothing is like a winter evening in the wild.
Particularly in high elevations, you can be struck by the sound of nothing. The silence can be a little intimidating.
Winter camping is also less crowded, giving you more space and opportunity.
This is why we put our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California together for you.
Helpful Winter Camping Gear
15 Amazing Places to go Winter Camping in California
1. Death Valley National Park: Mahogany Flat
Look, who doesn’t want to add Death Valley to the list of places they have camped? The beauty of Mahogany flat is that you can camp in Death Valley and access shade and trees, which is pretty rare. Given the name and the reputation, you should not be surprised that summer camping in Death Valley would mostly be a tough time with high temperatures.
For this reason, we added this Death Valley location to our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California.
You will be able to enjoy views of the Death Valley basin along with plenty of opportunities for hiking and backpacking. Fall and winter will give you cold nights. So, prepare for that.
It is important to note that the ten campsites here are only accessible to off-road vehicles. There are fire rings, pit toilets, and tables at the campsites. You will not have any amenities for your RV and no running water.
2. Jumbo Rocks at Joshua Tree National Park
There are 124 sites at the Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree. These sites had to make it on our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California. A campsite will cost you $20 and will be very close to Skull Rock. There are pit toilets in the vicinity. You can bring RVs, but there are no hookups.
The site is named after the massive rocks in the park. These rocks can be scrambled up to enjoy the views.
There is no running water at this site, so be sure you bring your own.
Jumbo Rocks is one of the most unique sites on our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California.
3. Andrew Molera Campground
We put this campground on our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California for its uniqueness. Your experience at Andrew Molera begins with the fact that you have to hike to this campsite, and right off the bat, you get to have the adventure of finding your site.
It is only about a 1/4 mile trip to the 22 sites available for tents, and there are also two hike and bike campsites. Your hike will start at Trail Camp, which has running water, restrooms, and flush toilets.
Each campsite has a fire pit, picnic table, and food storage container.
4. Napa Valley State Park: Bothe Campground
Bothe Napa Valley campsite is another opportunity to enjoy the majestic redwoods up close. The trails will take you through all kinds of coastal redwoods. There are also large picnicking areas that you can enjoy. In the winter, it will be cool, but you will have these large picnic areas to yourself.
This campsite in the picturesque Napa Valley is perfect if you need space to stretch out. It earns its home on our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California.
Snow is infrequent, and temperatures rarely go below freezing in this region, but you should still be prepared for cold nights.
5. Agua Caliente County Park
Nestled in the Anzo Borrego Desert Park, the Agua Caliente Campgrounds are surrounded by amenities. The name should clue you into the fact that there are several geothermally warmed bodies of water, which is an exceptional perk in the winter.
Agua Caliente is a very popular place to camp in the winter. All the hookups and partial hookups are available for RVs, and even seven camping cabins are available for rent.
If you do not mind the crowd, this campground could be well worth the time. It is a geothermally heated campground that deserves a spot on this list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California.
6. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Do you want to spend some winter nights in the oldest state park in California? This is an old-growth redwood location that spans 18,000 acres. This is the location if you are interested in camping in a legitimate redwood forest.
Big Basin Redwoods state park features an incredible range of habitats from the humid coastal regions up to 2000ft above sea level in the sunny ridges; if you are camping only and hiking paved roads, you can even bring your dog.
There is a wide range of camping options, from group camps to tent cabins and trail camps; because it is the oldest state park in CA, we had to put it on the list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California.
7. Angel Island
Angel Island campground is another one of those adventures to campsite opportunities. You must take a ferry from pier 41 in San Francisco to the island. Once you arrive, you will be walking 2 miles to your campsite.
There are 16 campsites spread across the island, and rather than catching glimpses of some incredible landscape; you will get picturesque views of the city of San Francisco. You are just off the coast of one of America’s great cities.
Be advised that Angel Island can be a windy camp as you are off the bay. It would be best if you considered this when packing for tie-down and tarp-related things. You rarely get the sprawling cityscape view from your campsite. For this reason, we decided Angel Island deserved a spot on the list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California.
8. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
This incredible Big Sur campground is among the best in the state. The campgrounds are hike-in only. This campground has some of the most stunning views of the California coast.
It is rare to be in such a secluded location yet still hear the crashing waves of the coast. These campsites will give you that option, and it is pure serenity watching the waves roll in from the doorway of your tent.
The ocean wildlife can be part of your trip, too; if you keep an eye on the ocean, you can see things like sea lions and dolphins doing their things.
The one site of our 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California that dominates the coastal experience is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
9. Mount Tamplais State Park
The Marin County campsite has miles of trails to hike. The campground is mainly two separate small campgrounds. Both campsites are walk-in and tent-only options, and there is no option if you want to bring the RV.
Each of these sites has 15 campsites for a total of 30. They are all first come, first serve, but you will not have to worry about that; if you are winter camping, there will be plenty of space. There are nine rustic cabins available, too.
You can even visit the long-forgotten scenic railway that was used to bring visitors to the top of the mountain at 2571ft of elevation.
10. San Elito State Beach
How does winter camping at the beach sound? There is a stretch of beach in San Diego County, one of the 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California. Southern California beaches are around 60 degrees in the winter months. Plenty warm for surfing and, of course, fishing!
This prominent beach camping location has 156 sites that allow a max of 8 people at each site. If you want one of the oceanfront sites, you will pay for it. Oceanfront campsites cost $50, and sites with hookups run $75.
The campgrounds have all the amenities, from fire rings to tables. They all feature running water, hot showers, and flush toilets.
11. The Springs at Borrego RV Site
This unique RV site is open year-round and might be better for you if you aren’t looking to camp out amongst the redwoods or on the beaches. This RV campsite is adjacent to a golf course.
There are 163 spacious full hookup RV sites. The 9-hole championship golf course is open to everyone at the park. Unlike most of the options on our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California, this site has a place to get a massage, a pool, and some mineral baths.
12. Hearst San Simeon
Featuring 115 different campsites, Hearst San Simeon features a unique topography. The scenery is wetlands, riparian forests, and mima mound formations. Hearst San Simeon is also home to a large population of migrating monarch butterflies.
The Paso Robles section of this campground is an ideal location for RV camping. It’s pet friendly with the necessary hookups and even a swimming pool for $55 a night.
There are a ton of hiking opportunities, and most of them lead to the beach. At the beach, you will have lots of recreation opportunities, but one of the best will be to take some time fishing. You can catch incredibly tasty fish like sole, croaker, and halibut.
Hearst San Simeon is a unique campsite, which is why we placed it on our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California.
13. Upper Pines Campground
Mountain camping in the winter can be a little unpredictable. Upper Pines is the largest campground in the Yosemite Valley. You are way up there at 4,000ft of elevation, which means breathtaking views will surround you.
Here you get to feast your eyes on a variety of wilderness scenes. Not the least of which is the massive sequoias that stud the park. Thanks to the varying landscapes, you also take advantage of a slew of recreational activities at this campground. We are talking about things like fishing, climbing, kayaking, nature exhibits, biking, backpacking, and hiking
Upper Pines is easily the best high-elevation campsite on our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California.
14. Tahoe Valley Campground
Here is another unique California camping opportunity that puts pines and snow-capped mountains in your view while also giving you the sunny coast of Lake Tahoe to enjoy.
This is a tent campsite and RV site; they also offer cabins and cottages for rent! We are talking about a true camping resort in the Tahoe Valley Campground. The amenities here are similar to The Springs, which is further up our list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California.
If you like a little wild but also have luxury, this is a great way to spend your winter camping adventure with beautiful views, Lake Tahoe access with plenty of things to do, and creature comforts.
15. Big Sur
I saved Big Sur as the last option on the list because it offers so much. It is massive, and some of the smaller campsites further up the list are inside Big Sur. It is an excellent place to camp in the winter because it is less crowded.
With a massive expanse of land and tremendous activities, you will love Big Sur as your winter camping escape, even in the winter months. It is hard to think of another location that offers so much, and it has a library! The Henry Miller Library is a great place to rest after a long day exploring Big Sur.
The best way to plan your stay at Big Sur is to build your camping adventure around the things you want to do while you are there.
There could be no list of 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California without Big Sur.
Wrapping Up 15 Amazing Places to go Winter Camping in California
From hiking into a campsite with only what is on your back to driving an RV to a camping resort, we have it all here. Our list of the 15 amazing places to go winter camping in California gives you all the options.
Plan your winter adventure today. Avoid the crowds and enjoy the breathtaking views of these incredible California campsites.
Want to experience a new level of camping? The Complete Guide to Boondocking in California can be found right here!
- About the Author
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James Walton grew up fishing for trout in Southeastern, Pennsylvania. He married his southern wife and moved to Virginia where he immersed himself in survival skills and the prepper community. In 2016 He started writing for survival and outdoor publications and websites. His work has been published in magazines like Virginia Wildlife Magazine and BackdoorSurvival.com
In 2018 he took over at The Prepper Broadcasting Network and has developed a listening base all over the world. This opened up new opportunities to meet people in the survival, prepping and outdoor communities.
These days James is writing for publications like AskaPrepper.com, UrbanSurvivalSite.com, and publishing his own books.