Amazing Places To Go Winter Camping in California?

Alex Ortiz
By Alex Ortiz 18 Min Read
18 Min Read
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Hey there, reader! 🏕️

Ever wonder just how many cool camping spots there are in California? Trust me; it’s a lot! But until you dive deep and take a look at some awesome pictures, you might not really get it. So, I’m here to give you a mini-tour! Let’s explore 15 super cool places where you can pitch a tent during the winter in California. And guess what? They’re perfect even in the off-season. So, grab your favorite blanket, and let’s get started!

Why Camp in the Winter?

Have you ever experienced the pure, undisturbed silence of winter? It’s kind of magical. When you camp during winter, the world seems to pause. No more chirping crickets, no croaking frogs, just… silence. Now, don’t get me wrong; listening to nature’s sounds during spring, summer, and early fall can be really soothing. It’s way better than falling asleep with the loud TV in the background, right?

But a winter night in the wild? It’s a whole new level of peace. If you camp at high elevations, the silence is so deep; it might even surprise you. But that’s the beauty of it. And guess what? You won’t be bumping into too many fellow campers, so you get more space to yourself.

That’s why we’ve made a list of 15 super cool winter camping spots in California. Because everyone should experience this magic!

Helpful Winter Camping Gear

Planning a winter camp? Here’s a quick heads-up on some gear that can make your experience even better:

  • Cozy Sleep Time: Check out the Coleman Zero Degree Sleeping Bag. It’s like a warm hug on cold nights.
  • Stay Sheltered: GeerTop 4 Season Tent is great. It’s sturdy and perfect for all kinds of weather.
  • Warmth on the Go: The Mr Heater is both safe and perfect for keeping you warm, whether you’re inside the tent or out enjoying the stars.

15 Amazing Places to go Winter Camping in California

1. Death Valley National Park: Mahogany Flat

Ever thought of camping at Death Valley? Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. It’s called “Death Valley” for a reason, right? But hear me out. There’s a spot there called Mahogany Flat that’s a bit different from the rest.

You see, in most of Death Valley, you’re surrounded by vast stretches of hot and barren land. But at Mahogany Flat, you get a taste of shade and even some trees. That’s a rare treat in a place like this!

Now, camping in the summer in Death Valley can be super hot. Like, “frying-an-egg-on-the-hood-of-your-car” hot. But that’s why winter is the perfect time to experience its magic without the scorching heat.

From this awesome spot, you’ll get breathtaking views of the Death Valley basin. And if you’re the hiking type, you’re in for a treat. Loads of trails to explore!

But a little heads up: it can get chilly at night during fall and winter. So, pack some warm clothes and gear.

And a couple of things you should know before you head out:

  • The camp has only ten spots and they’re only reachable if you have an off-road vehicle. So, make sure your ride is up for the challenge!
  • The campsites have basic stuff like fire rings, pit toilets, and tables. But don’t expect any fancy amenities for your RV or running water. It’s all about the raw experience here!

2. Jumbo Rocks at Joshua Tree National Park

Have you ever heard of the Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park? If not, it’s high time you did! With a whopping 124 sites, this spot had to be on our must-visit list. For just $20, you can pitch your tent pretty close to the famous Skull Rock. And don’t worry about facilities; they’ve got pit toilets around.

Now, the name “Jumbo Rocks” isn’t just for fun. There are gigantic rocks all around. Guess what? You can climb and scramble up these rocks. Once you’re up there, the views are spectacular! But here’s a friendly tip: bring your water because there’s no running tap in the area.

It’s unique, fun, and one of a kind, making Jumbo Rocks an absolute must-visit during your winter camping adventure in California.

3. Andrew Molera Campground

Alright, if you’re looking for something a bit different, the Andrew Molera Campground is where it’s at. 🌲🏕️

Why is it so special, you ask? Well, your adventure starts before you even set up camp. That’s because you need to hike to get to your campsite. Yep, it’s like a mini-adventure within your camping trip! But don’t fret; it’s just a short 1/4 mile hike to the main 22 tent sites. Plus, there are two additional sites for those who love hike-and-bike camping.

Your starting point? The Trail Camp. It’s got some comforts like running water and proper restrooms with flush toilets. Once you’re at your chosen campsite, you’ll find all the basics like a fire pit, a table for those delicious camping meals, and a container to store your food safely.

So, if you’re up for a little pre-camp hike and want a unique camping experience, Andrew Molera should be on your list!

4. Napa Valley State Park: Bothe Campground

Ever dreamt of waking up amidst the towering redwoods? Bothe Napa Valley Campground offers you just that. Wander through the trails, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by these majestic coastal redwoods. Plus, there are spacious picnic areas, perfect for some relaxing outdoor lunch. And guess what? In winter, you pretty much get these spaces all to yourself!

Situated in the heart of the scenic Napa Valley, this campsite offers plenty of space and serenity. Sure, snow is rare here, and temperatures usually stay above freezing, but still, remember to pack something warm for the chilly nights.

So, if a peaceful escape amidst nature is your jam, this campground is calling your name!

5. Agua Caliente County Park

Meet Agua Caliente County Park, nestled snugly in the Anzo Borrego Desert Park. The name “Agua Caliente” itself translates to “hot water”, hinting at the park’s coolest feature – geothermally warmed pools! Yep, imagine taking a dip in warm waters in the middle of the desert during winter. Sounds like a dream, right?

It’s quite the hotspot during winter, and for good reason. Whether you’re in an RV (with all the needed hookups available) or fancy a cozy camping cabin (they’ve got seven!), they’ve got you covered.

Sure, it might be a bit crowded, but the experience? Absolutely worth it. Dive into the warm waters of this desert wonderland, and you’ll know why it’s on our list of top winter camping spots in California.

6. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Have you ever wanted to take a step back in time and marvel at some of nature’s most incredible creations? Well, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is where you need to be. It’s not just any park – it’s the oldest state park in California, boasting a vast expanse of 18,000 acres filled with ancient redwoods.

Imagine setting up camp amidst a lush, old-growth redwood forest. Sounds magical, right? The park’s diverse habitats range from misty coastal areas to sunlit ridges soaring up to 2,000 feet. And if you’re thinking of bringing along your furry friend for some paved road hikes, go right ahead!

With a variety of camping choices – be it group camps, tent cabins, or trail camps – this timeless forest beauty had to make it onto our must-visit winter camping list in California.

7. Angel Island

Angel Island offers a unique camping experience that’s a blend of adventure and stunning city views. First things first, your journey starts with a ferry ride from Pier 41 in San Francisco. Once you land on the island, gear up for a 2-mile walk to your campsite.

Spread out over the island are 16 cozy campsites. But here’s the catch – instead of being surrounded by typical natural landscapes, you’re treated to jaw-dropping views of San Francisco’s skyline. That’s right, you’re just a stone’s throw away from one of America’s iconic cities, all while being nestled in nature.

A word to the wise, though: Angel Island can get quite breezy since it’s off the bay. So, pack some tie-downs and tarps to make sure your camp stays put. With its unique blend of city and natural views, Angel Island truly deserves its spot on our winter camping list. Don’t miss out!

8. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Fancy waking up to the rhythmic sound of crashing waves? Head to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur. This spot is a hiker’s dream because you’ve got to hike in to reach the campgrounds. But once you’re there, the vistas are worth every step. Picture this: you’re in a secluded spot, and right from your tent, you can watch the mighty waves kiss the shores.

But there’s more. Keep your eyes peeled, and you might just catch a glimpse of sea lions frolicking in the water or dolphins gracefully swimming by. Talk about a coastal experience! Of all our camping recommendations, this one surely dominates in offering the quintessential California coastal vibe.

9. Mount Tamplais State Park

Adventure seekers, assemble! 🏔️

Situated in Marin County, Mount Tamalpais State Park is a haven for those who love to hike. The park boasts two separate walk-in tent-only campgrounds, making it an exclusive tent camper’s paradise. No RVs allowed here, but that just means more peace and quiet.

With 30 campsites in total, it’s a first-come, first-serve kind of deal. But in winter, there’s ample space, so no stress! Fancy staying in a rustic cabin? They’ve got nine up for grabs.

Fun fact: There’s an old scenic railway trail that once ushered visitors up the mountain, reaching a heady elevation of 2,571 ft. Definitely worth checking out!

10. San Elito State Beach

Beach bums, this one’s for you! 🏖️

How does pitching your tent right next to the ocean sound? At San Elijo State Beach in San Diego County, winter beach camping is the real deal. With temperatures hovering around 60°F, it’s warm enough for a surf session or a day of fishing.

With a total of 156 camp spots that can accommodate up to 8 beach lovers each, you’re in for a treat. If you’re looking to sleep with the ocean as your front yard, be ready to pay a premium – oceanfront spots cost $50, while sites with hookups are $75.

But it’s not all about the ocean. The campgrounds come loaded with conveniences like fire rings, tables, running water, and hot showers. And yes, proper toilets that flush!

So, whether you’re chasing waves or just want to relax by the shore, this beachfront beauty has got you covered.

11. The Springs at Borrego RV Site

Ever imagined golfing during your camping trip? 🏌️

Set foot in The Springs at Borrego RV Site, where camping meets luxury. Apart from offering 163 spacious full hookup RV sites, this unique location boasts a 9-hole championship golf course that is open to all guests. And if golf isn’t your thing, why not unwind in mineral baths or get a therapeutic massage? Oh, and there’s a pool too! A stark contrast to most other sites on this list, it’s all about upscale relaxation and comfort.

12. Hearst San Simeon

Who wouldn’t love to camp amidst butterflies? 🦋

Known for its diverse topography, Hearst San Simeon offers a blend of wetlands, riparian forests, and fascinating mima mound formations. Moreover, come winter, witness a spectacle – the migration of thousands of monarch butterflies. Don’t forget to explore the plethora of hiking trails leading to beaches and indulging in recreational fishing.

13. Upper Pines Campground

For those who love to be on top! 🏞️

Upper Pines Campground in the Yosemite Valley boasts an altitude of 4,000ft, offering panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness. The sheer beauty of this elevated campground – with massive sequoias and diverse landscapes – will take your breath away. Engage in an array of activities from fishing to hiking and everything in between.

14. Tahoe Valley Campground

Where the water meets the woods! 🏞️🏖️

Tahoe Valley Campground is a mix of pristine pine forests and the picturesque Lake Tahoe. Whether you’re looking to set up a tent, park your RV, or rent a cozy cabin, it has got you covered. With luxury at your fingertips and nature’s beauty all around, it’s a unique camping experience.

15. Big Sur

A library in a campsite? Only at Big Sur! 📚

Big Sur is not just a campsite but a universe in itself. From serene beaches to towering redwoods, it offers an immersive experience. If you’re an avid reader, the Henry Miller Library is a must-visit, offering solace after a day of adventure.

The sheer diversity and magnitude of activities make Big Sur an irreplaceable entry in our list. And indeed, no list of winter camping sites in California would be complete without the majestic Big Sur.

So, pack your bags, set the course, and embark on a Californian winter adventure like no other!

Wrapping Up 15 Amazing Places to go Winter Camping in California

In the vast, diverse landscapes of California, winter camping presents an experience unlike any other. Whether it’s the humbling grandeur of ancient redwoods, the soothing rhythm of Pacific waves, or the serenity of a snow-capped mountain, every site on this list has a unique story to tell.

Not everyone can brave the chill of winter nights, but those who do are rewarded with unmatched tranquility, awe-inspiring views, and the opportunity to connect with nature on a deeper level. Moreover, with the array of options available, from minimalist backpacking to luxury RV resorts, there’s something for every kind of adventurer.

So, if you’ve been yearning to embrace nature without the summer rush, winter camping in California is your answer. And if you’re in for an even wilder experience, don’t forget to dive into the world of boondocking with our comprehensive guide. The Golden State awaits your footprints, so gear up and set forth into the wintry embrace of its vast wilderness.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the best places for winter camping in California?

Some of the best places for winter camping in California include Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Joshua Tree National Park, Big Sur, Sequoia National Park, and Mammoth Lakes.

2. Is winter camping in California safe?

Winter camping in California can be safe if you are well-prepared and follow safety guidelines. It is crucial to have proper winter gear, check weather conditions, and inform someone about your trip plans. Additionally, it is advisable to camp in designated campgrounds and avoid remote or hazardous areas.

3. What should I pack for winter camping in California?

When packing for winter camping in California, consider essentials such as a warm sleeping bag, layered clothing, waterproof boots, insulated tent, camping stove, food, water, first aid kit, flashlight, and extra batteries. Also, don't forget to bring snowshoes, skis, or other winter recreational equipment if desired.

4. Are campfires allowed during winter camping in California?

The allowance of campfires during winter camping in California depends on the specific location and current fire regulations. It is essential to check with the park or campground authorities for any fire restrictions in advance. Always practice proper fire safety measures and follow any guidelines provided.

5. Can I go winter camping in California with an RV or camper?

Yes, many winter campgrounds in California can accommodate RVs and campers. However, it is crucial to ensure that the campground you choose has the necessary facilities and appropriate conditions for RV camping during the winter season. Some campgrounds may have limited amenities or restrictions, so it is advisable to research and plan accordingly.

6. Are there any permits or fees required for winter camping in California?

Yes, certain winter campgrounds in California may require permits or fees. National parks and some state parks have entrance fees, which usually cover camping as well. Additionally, wilderness permits might be required for backcountry camping in certain areas. It is important to check the specific campground or park's regulations and fees before planning your trip.

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