Camping, Comparisons, Family, Top Lists

Top 5 Family Campgrounds California

California is a fantastic state for lovers of the outdoors. Knowing which family campgrounds in California to visit can be tough. Since it is such a large state there are literally hundreds of different camping options. Do you know what comes with these options? Well, you have the ability to select any type of camping that you want. In southern California, there are deserts and oceanside retreats. Want to head to the mountains? Well, California has plenty of those to camp around. What about heading to the forest? Head to the northern part of the state where you can find the Redwoods.

With such a diversity selecting only the five top family campgrounds in California was no easy task. I have tried to focus on one in each type of area. However, with southern California being relatively temperate throughout the year and northern California having four true seasons, you may want to explore all across the great state of California to see which is your favorite of these top five!


Did you know that traveling from Northern California to Southern California can take over 12 hours! Here is how to keep your passengers occupied!


Since the focus here is on different regions, experiences and climates, this Top 5 is not in any particular order.

5. Tuolumne Meadows Campground

TUOLUMNE MEADOWS Lembert Dome
View of the Toulumne Meadows and Lembert Dome. Credit: National Park Service

Yosemite National Park is one of the many crowning jewels of the National Park Service. When many people think of National Parks they envision the soaring peaks in Yosemite including El Capitan. You are made to feel small with the giant slabs of granite. You can walk through ancient meadows and view wildlife from the trail. In many cases, these views have not changed since the days when John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt wandered them. It is truly a stunning example of what maintaining our natural resources means. For this reason, the most popular activities within the park are hiking, camping, and even climbing. However, this does make it quite a popular park. Not to worry though because the campground is actually a distance away from the busy Yosemite Valley where most tourists will be heading. So you can experience the backcountry of Yosemite in its true wildness.

I should note here that the Park Service is conducting rehabilitation on this campground and it will be closed during the 2022 and 2023 seasons. In the interim, there are many other campgrounds to choose from within the park. If you can wait to go though I would!

Here is why you should wait! The campground itself is at an elevation of 8,600 feet and has 304 sites for camping. While this is a popular campground and fills up fast on the first day of reservations, it is the most accessible for families. There is water available and includes flush toilets. It has direct access to trails that lead to mountain lakes and streams. Even one called Unicorn Lake trail! I know my kids are always on the hunt for a Unicorn. In addition, to the hiking options right from the campground, there are other trails that can be accessed by a shuttle. There is also a small store and grill nearby as well. All of these items combined make this a fantastic place as one of the top-five family campgrounds in California.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground Details

Number of Sites: 304 RV/Tent Sites (148 reservable/156 first come first serve)

Season: May – September (Currently Closed for Rehabilitation)

Cost*: $36 per night Campsites

Reservations: Recreation.gov

Features: Some Cell Reception / No Internet Connection / Picnic Tables / Trash and Recycling Collection / Staff on-site / Food Storage Boxes / Potable Water / Fire Rings / Flushing Toilets

Regulations: Quiet Hours 10pm – 6am / Pet’s Welcome / Fires in provided fire grate only / No fresh wood collection / Generator use during specific times

Activities: Hiking / Wildlife viewing / Fishing / Climbing / Nature Photography / Stargazing / Ranger Programs

4. Camgrounds at Joshua Tree National Park

family campgrounds California skull rock
Hike to Skull Rock right from the campground! Credit: National Park Service

The next campground on my family campgrounds in California is Jumbo Rocks at Joshua Tree National Park. This is the largest campground in the park. The sites at this campground are interspersed with the large boulders from which the campground takes its name. The campgrounds 124 sites act as a fantastic starting point for any desert exploration or bouldering that you are looking to complete. The good news is that you can explore this park’s 800,000 acres year-round! You will want to make sure to check out the weather before you head out though. Temperatures can range from snow-making to heatstroke territory! So plan ahead to make sure you have what you need!

There are no electrical hookups at this campground so don’t plan on using that RV air conditioning! Additionally, there is no potable water so you will need to bring all the water you need with you.

This campground is a fantastic place for families to get away in the cool of the winter. The desert stays fairly mild but you can still experience some snow in the higher terrain. Additionally, the campground has many trails leading from it so that you can explore the park. One of the most recognizable trails that people enjoy taking is the Skull Rock Trail. There is plenty of bouldering and desert wildlife to view as well.

While it may seem like the lack of amenities would be a drawback for a family it isn’t really. The proximity of the park to Palm Springs makes for an easy trip to grab what you forgot. Additionally, the campground is close in proximity to both LA and San Diego. This makes it a wonderful weekend spot for families trying to escape the city!

Joshua Tree National Park Campground Details

Number of Sites: 124 RV/Tent Sites

Season: Year-Round

Cost*: $20 per night

Reservations: Recreation.gov

Features: No Cell Reception / No Wifi / Picnic Tables / No Staff on-site / No Potable Water / Fire Rings / Trash Pickup

Regulations: Quiet Hours 10pm – 6am / Pet’s Welcome / Fires in provided fire grate only (Use extreme caution) / No wood collection / Generator use during specific times

Activities: Hiking / Bouldering / Ranger Programs / Rock Climbing / Stargazing / Wildlife Viewing / Nature Photography / Horseback Riding

3. Point Reyes National Seashore Campground

Family Campgrounds California Four white-sided, red-roofed structures sit on a rocky headland above the Pacific Ocean.
Visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Credit: National Park Service

Point Reyes National Seashore is next on my list of top family campgrounds in California. We have seen the Yosemite valley and the desert. Now it is time to hit the seashore. While this coastline is in Northern California you will not be disappointed. You will be able to hear the waves crashing on the rocks right from your campground. Not to mention watching the sunset over the Pacific is spectacular in its own right. The campground can act as a basecamp for exploring the natural surroundings of the seashore. You can take in whale watching, seal watching, tide pooling, seeing elk, or even kayaking right from the seashore. With so many different options your family may not want to leave. However, the sites are also close to San Francisco if you wanted to drive a bit and also experience city life.

This is a small campground and for good reason. Privacy makes this one of the best intimate family campgrounds in California. Additionally, the campground is not open to RVs. Honestly though with so many wonderful things you likely wouldn’t want to be in an RV anyways. Cuddling up with your family in the tent and listening to the waves crash only 220 yards away is something to remember. The campground is nestled within a small coastal valley at the end of a 1.8-mile trail. You will need to pack your gear in so remember to pack light! The sites open up 14 days in advance for reservations so keep your eye open. Your family will make some wonderful memories looking out over the Pacific while tide pooling and whale watching!

Don’t think I forgot about that lighthouse either! You can and should see the Point Reyes Lighthouse while you are camping in the area!

Gamliel Campground Details

Number of Sites: 12 Tent Sites

Season: Year-Round

Cost*: $30 per night

Reservations: Recreation.gov 3 months to the day in advance: 1, 4, 6, 8 / Recreation.gov 14 days in advance: 2, 3, 5, 7, & 11 / Site 9 is same day reservation through Recreation.gov

Features: No Cell Reception / No Internet Connection / Picnic Tables / Trash and Recycling Collection / No Staff on-site / Potable Water / Vault Toilets / Food Storage Lockers

Regulations: Quiet Hours Sundown – Sunrise / No Pets / No Drones / Food stored in storage lockers / No Fires

Activities: Hiking / Wildlife viewing / Swimming / Kayaking / Lighthouse / Ranger Programs / Tide Pooling / Horseback Riding / Proximty to cities / Wineries

2. Mystic Forest RV Park

Top family campgrounds in Arkansas
Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park. Credit: Arkansas State Parks

The next on my list of family campgrounds in California that I am going to highlight is amongst the towering redwoods. The Mystic Forest RV Park is about midway through the park system. The campground has easy access to Klamath and Redwood National Park. Both of these areas offer ample opportunities for outdoor excursions and activities. The campground itself is well maintained with 30 RV sites and 14 tent sites. This is the first campground on my list that offers full hookups including cable. Though I am not sure why you would need a cable with the towering trees around you. This RVers paradise is great for families because the campground has numerous amenities including a playground. The sites are not the most level, and they can be a little tight.

While the campground is nice and has lots to do for families, the main attraction is Redwood National Park. Getting into and out of the park is easy from this campground. With only a short 30 minute drive down US101, you will get there fresh and early in the morning. Then you can experience all of the Redwoods on the numerous hiking trails. Additionally, you can explore the coastline very easily from this campground. Or even head north towards the state parks which also offer outdoor activities. If you are looking for a unique experience you could even try out The Tress of Mystery attraction which includes a gondola!

Mystic Forest RV Park Details

Number of Sites: 30 RV / 14 Tent Sites

Season: May – October

Cost*: Call for prices

Reservations: For a reservation Call: 1-707-482-4901 Or Email

Features: Limited Cell Reception / Picnic Tables / Trash and Recycling Collection / Staff on-site / Potable Water / Fire Rings / Play Area / Electricity / Dump Station / Putt-Putt Golf / Gift Shop / Groceries / Rec Room / Laundry

Regulations: Request additional information on potential regulations at the time of reservation

Activities: Hiking / Minature Golf / Proximity to National and State Parks / Trees of Mystery

1. Tahoe Valley Campground

The blue jewel of the Sierra. You will be astonished by the clarity and shades of blue the water takes on.

The final spot on my list for the top family campgrounds in California is the Tahoe Valley Campground. No trip to California would be complete without seeing the Lake of the Sky. I feel as though when you stand on the edge of the crystal waters you can see no less than 50 shades of blue. While chilly year round, Lake Tahoe is an incredible place to at least go ankle deep and connect to nature. The Lake itself can get quite crowded in the summer time. However, there are many outdoor opportunities throughout the basin. You could hike in the Desolation Wilderness, take a boat ride to Emerald Bay, or even Mountain Bike on some of the regions best trails. In the winter, take in snowshoeing or hit the slopes. Whatever you do though don’t miss out on breakfast at The Getaway Cafe in Meyers!

The Campground

The campground itself may draw you in and keep you there! It is located centrally at what locals call “The Y”. You will have all the amenities South Shore has to offer within a few minutes of walking or driving. Grocery stores, restaurants, shopping are all within a short walk. A little further away you can find Camp Richardson or the Casinos at Stateline, NV. The campground though has everything you need. It also has a plethora of site options including cabins!

Let’s start with the amazing play areas for children, the pool, move and game nights, crafts, a club house. I mean I could go on and on! There are so many activities and amenities to list. It truly is a family camping paradise! The sites are a little close together but you are surrounded by the wonderful smell of the pines. Not to mention that if you can pull yourself away from the campground you have a the entire Tahoe Basin to explore! Trust me on this, you will want to come back time and again, because there is no way to even capture all of the beauty of Lake Tahoe by only visiting once or in one season.

Tahoe Valley Campground Details

Number of Sites: 439 RV/Tent Sites

Season: Year-Round

Cost*: Prices vary by site type and season. See reservation for the most accurate cost. ($75-200/per night)

Reservations: Encore RV Resorts Reservations

Features: Cell Reception / Wifi / Picnic Tables / Trash and Recycling Collection / Staff on-site / Potable Water / Fire Rings / Bath Houses / Activities / Play Area / Electricity / Dump Station / Store / Swimming Pool / Laundry / Clubhouse

Regulations: Quiet Hours 10 pm – 8 am / Pet’s Welcome / Fires in provided fire grate only / No wood collection / No Generators

Activities: Playground / Pickleball / Horseshoes / Pool Table / Crafts / Pancake Breakfast / Basketball / Tennis / Tetherball / Movie and Game Nights / Candy Bingo / Volleyball / Swimming / Ping Pong / Karaoke / Nearby: Shopping / Casinos / Hiking / Kayaking / Boating / Mountain Biking / Skiing / Snoshoeing

Tell us your favorite!

What is your favorite family campground in California? Tell us in the comments below, on our Facebook, or on Reddit!

*All costs and other information shown on this page are at the time of research and are subject to change. Please check linked reservation tools or contact facilities directly for the most up-to-date prices, availability, and site regulations/information.

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