Camping is one of my favorite things to do with my kids. But not every campground is suited for kids. So if you want to head west, where is the best camping in Northern California for families?
The great thing about California is that there are so many state parks that you can explore.
You can go hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, and do tons of other activities. Below, I get into not one or two, but the 27 best camping spots for families with kids.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the camping destinations.
Amongst the giants of Sequoia National Park 🌲 pic.twitter.com/ma9KulKT9r
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1. Sequoia National Park
This national park is home to one of the largest trees in the world – the General Sherman tree. If you are the kind of person that wants to get blown away by nature, this is the perfect place to be. Sequoia National Park is one of the best places for hikers and nature enthusiasts.
Sequoia National Park is also home to Mineral King, with is a glacial valley in the park. This is a popular place for campers and hikers. However, the road through Mineral King is not open all year round. So check the website at the time of planning your trip to avoid disappointment.
Speaking of hiking, also make sure to get some good hiking shoes for your kids.
2. Lassen Volcanic National Park
That’s right, there are volcanoes here. Lassen Volcanic National Park is a popular spot for scientists who want to explore volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes here are dormant, so they are not going to explode and destroy you!
At this national park, campfires are only allowed in the designated fire rings. So, if you are going to be doing some outdoor cooking, keep that in mind.
There are not many sites in the world where you can explore volcanic activity like here. The other places to explore volcanoes are all the way to Europe and other continents. So if you are from the USA, Canada, or Mexico, we are so lucky to have this amazing site so close by!
3. Gerstle Cove Campground
This is a popular campground and has easy access to the North Pacific Ocean. So, if you like ocean views and beach horseback riding, this is the place to go. The sandy beaches do get super-hot during the day, so remember your sunscreen!
At Gerstle Cove, you may see people doing rock-climbing activities. You could see abseilers, rock climbers, and other people.
Even if you are not participating in the activities yourself, your heart will be in your mouth when you see a brave human being scale cliffs!
4. Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes is another coastal camping place in northern California. It is one of the best campgrounds there, close to the beach. You can go and explore the tide pools or simply play games on the sandy beaches.
Another popular activity at Point Reyes national seashore is fishing. There is tons of marine wildlife for you to explore here. If you don’t want to catch the animals, you can just go to the rock pools. You are bound to find small crabs, starfish, and other creatures there.
This is an excellent place for young explorers to become more confident and inquisitive!
I once ice skated on a lake in South Lake Tahoe ⛸️💙 pic.twitter.com/tOUkIw3Puh
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5. South Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe is a mesmerizing place. It is a short drive from the Sierra Nevada mountains. This makes it a great place for hikers and mountaineering enthusiasts. This is a great spot for water sports. You will frequently see people on jet skis and other watercraft.
Kayaking is the main activity here. The lakes are nice and clear and wide. There are some parts where you can even see into the water; it is that clear. (You may need polarized sunglasses to see into the water though).
In the summer, when the lakes are calm, paddleboarding can be incredibly fun! Some people have paddleboards and do acrobatic jumps and other stunts!
6. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
This state park is full of old-growth redwoods and nature trails. There are also some RV parks nearby. So, if you are like me and enjoy RV camping and exploring miles of trails, this is the place for you!
The great thing about RV camping is that you can camp at all times of the year. You are not at the mercy of the weather like you are in a thin, flimsy tent. This is one of the best group sites, and they can accommodate large groups of people.
7. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
This is one of the best camping spots if you like beautiful places with massive trees. There are also some RV sites nearby for those with motorhomes. You can go there and have long-distance hikes, or enjoy relaxing, and go for short walks in the evening.
8. Redwoods National Park
This is a perfect spot for those who want both challenging and easy hikes. There are so many routes to choose from in this national forest. It is one of the best camping sites in the USA, let alone Northern California. It is a must-go for a camping trip!
At the Redwood national park, you are not only going to see the most ginormous trees in the world. There are also many large animals there. Perhaps the most breathtaking of them all is the Roosevelt elk. They are humongous!
View from the Valley Floor in Yosemite National Park, CA pic.twitter.com/rWTftvN8jS
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9. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite has it all. Mountains, rivers, lakes, animals. You will not be disappointed. My favorite thing about Yosemite are the pine trees. They are so large! Short hikes around here are a popular activity and a great way to spend some quality family time.
10. Crescent City
Crescent city is one of the best private campgrounds. It is one of the most popular tent sites in the area. Tent camping is one of the most authentic camping experiences. This is a great campground for tent campers, and there is plenty to explore.
Again, this campsite is situated in a forest full of redwoods. You can also visit other places, such as the beaches and lighthouses in the area. At Crescent City harbor, you will also see many sea lions. So if you are an animal lover, this is a great place to visit.
11. Kirk Creek Campground
Kirk Creek is one of the most beautiful beaches on the California coast. There is no need to find a swimming pool here! You have easy beach access, and there is a visitor center in the area too. Beach and water sports are the main attraction at this popular campground.
At Kirk Creek, you can go hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. They do have some marine conservation areas though, where fishing of all kinds is not allowed.
There is also sea kayaking, bike trails, scuba diving, and wildlife viewing in the area.
12. Salt Point State Park
This camping spot is near Stump beach. It is a great place if you want to do some watersports. There are also numerous tourist attractions nearby for you and your family to explore. This is an expansive place. You will find picnic tables and a general store nearby.
Fern Canyon, Humboldt County, California [OC][4608x2184] pic.twitter.com/4EL5BVCWan
— Earth_On_Fleek (@earth_on_fleek) July 24, 2019
13. Fern Canyon
Fern Canyon is an amazing place to visit. There is so much wildlife there. Perhaps this place is not great for younger kids. There are rattlesnakes, mountain animals, and even mountain lions in this area. It gets super warm during the summer too, so make sure you are hydrated!
Near Fern Canyon, there are the mighty gold dust falls – huge waterfalls. There is also Gold Bluffs Beach and Prairie Creek Visitor center. You can also go and hike in the meadows, where they are elks and other large animals.
Fern Canyon has everything really and is a great place to visit with the whole family.
14. Casini Ranch Family Campground
Personally, I love ranches. There is something about staying on private land that is run by a family that I really like. The staff at Casini ranch are super kind and helpful. They also have lots of knowledge of the local area. They have flush toilets, hot showers, and a parking lot.
What more do you need?
15. Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley is superb. You get all kinds of rivers flowing through this area, including the mighty Russian river. This river is over 150 km long! You will often see people fishing on their boats. Sometimes you can even get boat tours of the area, and you will find bears at the riverbanks!
Yosemite is a super popular tourist destination. As a result, the staff at Yosemite run tours all the time. You can have a guided tour all over the national park on foot or in vehicles. You can book a tour to suit your needs. They have some tours that last a single day and others that last a few days or more.
16. Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta is an active volcano in northern California. It is a must-go place for geography enthusiasts. There is dense vegetation around the area, and it is a perfect place to be for exploring wildlife.
Aside from the mighty volcanoes, you can also visit lake Siskiyou and Castle Lake. These are not the kind of lakes you want to do watersports in though. After all, they are close to volcanoes, so they can contain toxic chemicals from the eruptions.
Nevertheless, it is a picturesque location, and somewhere you will really enjoy. Mount Shasta is more suitable for mature adults. Children and teenagers won’t enjoy it as much unless they really love the outdoors.
Reservations may be made for all campsites at Manzanita and Summit Lake Campgrounds for 7/1 through campground closure. These sites are normally first-come, first-served: Manzanita Lake Loop B and D (tents only), Summit Lake North Loop A & Summit Lake South Loop E (tents only). pic.twitter.com/B2G0J38fNN
— Lassen Volcanic NP (@LassenNPS) June 16, 2020
17. Summit Lake South Campground
This campground will have tent cabins, a camp store, and potable water. So, if you are looking for a more comfortable and convenient camping trip, this is a good place. It is well-suited for new campers that are just starting their outdoor journey.
At Summit Lake South Campground, there is the Kohn Yah Mah Nee visitor center. Here you can learn all about the park and get help from the staff on how to plan your trip. These guys will have excellent local knowledge, so it is definitely worth popping down!
18. Inyo National Forest
Inyo National Forest is an amazing place. They have hot springs there that produce boiling hot water! Definitely not the same as a hot tub, you wouldn’t want to be in there! Nevertheless, when these springs spit water into the air, it is truly breathtaking!
Inyo National Forest is a popular place for mountain bikers. They have loads of mountain trails and they have roads where the scenes are beautiful. They have many different trails for all ages and skill levels. So don’t worry if you are inexperienced, you will love it!
19. Russian Gulch State Park
At this state park, you can go swimming at the beach, or you can do fishing. If you are planning to be a regular visitor, you can even apply for a fishing license. This will allow you to catch and cook seafood when you are on your fishing trips.
20. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
This is another coastal state park. The main attractions here are jet skiing and other watersports. This area of the Californian Coast has faster tides than elsewhere. Since it is a little windy, you may be able to fly kites and other kids’ toys.
This state park is a popular destination for RV owners. So if you want to travel during the winter or autumn when the weather might not permit regular camping, this is a great place to go.
Smith River, Del Norte County CA pic.twitter.com/6POL2Bhjnw
— Mr. Completely (@Mr_Completely) March 29, 2018
21. Del Norte County
Del Norte County is right up North of California and is very close to the Oregon border. Through this county runs the Smith River, which is perhaps one of the most interesting rivers in the United States. It is over 40 kilometers long!
It also runs through over 1800 square kilometers of densely vegetated forests. If you like hiking in the wild – no trails, then this is an awesome place to visit.
Remember your bear spray though. If you spend enough time there, you are bound to encounter a large, furry beast!
22. Gold Bluffs Beach Campground
At this camping spot, you will be able to partake in different activities. Of course, you have your normal beach activities, but you can also ride horses. At Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, there is a horse camp, and they regularly have guided tours of the beach on horseback.
This is a must-go place if you have animal lovers in your family! The beaches here are very nice, and they have a snack bar and vault toilets.
23. Samuel p. Taylor State Park
This is a nice, remote state park and is actually one of the main sites of the American gold rush. This place is located north of San Francisco, so you will be able to travel there too. You can get the best of both worlds – explore the outdoors at the state park, then go to the city.
You will be able to see famous landmarks there. Such as the golden gate bridge and Alcatraz. There are many other free things you can do in San Francisco. For example, you can visit Fisherman’s wharf or pier 39 – where there are sea lions!
That’s right, you may be able to see wild sea lions bathing on the beaches! This is, therefore, a must-go place for any animal lover.
24. Santa Cruz Mountains
I love mountains. The hikes up there are incredible, and the views are breathtaking. When you are up in the mountains, you may see people base jumping and paragliding. There is also a recent trend of paramotoring too.
If you are not up for airborne activities, you can still enjoy regular hiking. Perhaps that is a safer and better way to enjoy your time!
In the mountains, there are other activities you can do too. They have a steam train that rides through the gargantuan redwood trees. You can also just head to the beach and watch the surfers work their skills!
View of majestic Mount Shasta, an active volcano in the United States located in Siskiyou County pic.twitter.com/qe0c1DIy7S
— Sebastian (@Sebastian023456) May 8, 2021
25. Siskiyou County
This is an amazing place to visit. There is volcanic activity in this region. Perhaps the most famous mountain in this area is mount Shasta, a potentially active volcano! Places like this attract scientists from all over the world who want to learn more about the planet.
In Siskiyou County, there is also a national monument! The Lava bed there attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is really interesting to see how volcanic activity influences the landscape.
Near mount Shasta, there is also a fish hatchery. So, you can go there and watch how fish are farmed commercially. It is quite interesting but is more suited to older people. Young kids won’t enjoy it as much.
26. The Pacific Crest Trail
This is a very well-maintained trail in Northern California and goes all the way down to southern California. It is open year-round; however, there are trail closures at some times of the year. This is because they get crazy weather like deep snow and sometimes wildfires.
The great thing about this camping spot is that the trail allows dogs. You can check out their website for the rules on hiking with dogs.
There are some amazing things to see along the Pacific Crest Trail. For example, there is Mount Laguna, Mount San Jacinto, Mount Baden Powell, and Bishop Pass. There is so much to explore here for all hikers!
27. Patrick’s Point State Park
Patrick’s Point State Park is a coastal state park. This state park has many beaches that are rocky. The only sandy beach at this state park is Agate Beach. It is a lovely place. The best thing about this state park is the rocks. The beaches are full of rare and unique rocks that you probably never have seen before.
So, if you are interested in exploring and discovering rare artifacts of geology, this is the place to go. This state park is also near Moonstone Beach, and Big Lagoon County Park, so there are plenty of other tourist areas in the region.
There are countless family-friendly campgrounds in Northern California. If you are with younger children and teenagers, you may want to go to a county park or a beach. This is because there will be more activities for them to do, rather than if they were out in the wilderness.
Young adults will enjoy places where they have watersports, mountain biking, and rock-climbing activities.
If, however, you are like me and love hiking and being out in nature, a more secluded place like a state park would be great. Before you go, you can always check the website of the campground to see what activities they have on offer.
At different times of the year, they will have different activities. This article was all about giving you some suggestions as to where you can travel and explore!