Sleeping Under the Stars

Feature photo by Luke George

When the weather is inviting, the smell of campfires and pine trees lure many of us into the woods and mountains for camping trips. At the start of summer, when the days are getting longer, or perhaps in fall when the nights are chilly and the leaves are beginning to turn, are ideal times to camp. There’s simply nothing more relaxing than camping under a canopy of stars. It will slow you down, help you recalibrate, and remind you there’s more to life than a strong WiFi signal. Best of all, there are countless ways to camp, ranging from simple tent camping to RV-based camping, to glamping, sometimes all at the same campground. Benicians are very lucky to live in close proximity to many of the state’s best camping areas.

The varied regions of northern California offer a wide range of camping opportunities, from rugged beaches to towering redwoods, from sparkling lakes to snow-capped volcanoes. Northern California is a mecca for those who love the outdoors. Our area is full of natural wonders including mountains, forests, deserts, beaches, rivers and lakes. It’s no wonder there are so many amazing places to camp.

Benicia is home to many people who love to camp and they have suggested a few favorite spots.

Lake Tahoe Campgrounds

Lake Tahoe is loaded with camping sites for camping tent and trailer spots. The Tahoe National Forest and the Lake Tahoe campgrounds have more than 20 campgrounds, plenty of hiking trails, and phenomenal fishing. Tahoe is part of the Sierra Nevada range, so it is easy to find a place to hang your camping hammock. As the largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe not only offers memorable scenery but plenty of activities, too.

L. Bliss State Park – The premier campground along western Lake Tahoe’s shore. Great campsites, many with lake views, good amenities, and sandy beaches.

Sugar Pine Point State Park – A popular campground with many campsites set back from the lake. Day use area along the shore.

Fallen Leaf – Spread between Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake. Nice campsites, close to Emerald Bay and South Lake Tahoe.

Camp Richardson – A Tahoe landmark, Camp Richardson boasts over 300 tent and RV sites, plus cabins and vacation rentals galore. Choose a site at one of two excellent campground locations; one on the lakeside of Hwy 89, and the other tucked into the forest across the road.

It’s the dream option for families that want to park the car, set up shop and not worry about traveling around. It really offers resort living in a forest setting, with more outdoor recreation than you could imagine.

Other campgrounds – Find campgrounds along the Truckee River (popular for rafting and fishing) and all the way south to a city run campground with full hook-ups in South Lake Tahoe.

North Bay Campgrounds

Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Yolo, and Marin counties – wine country, lakes, coastal mountains, and beaches – campgrounds north of the San Francisco Bay Area have a wide variety of offerings.

Sonoma Coast Beaches – Enjoy the wild and rugged Sonoma Coast. Camp right next to the sand at Wright’s Beach or close to the bay at Bodega Dunes.

Lake Berryessa – Over 18,000 acres of great fishing. Campgrounds are in transition as new management takes over, but sites like Putah Canyon, Spanish Flat, and Pleasure Cove are available.

Lake Sonoma – A smaller lake with 97 campsites at Liberty Glen.

Clear Lake – California’s largest freshwater lake entirely within the state. Camp at Clear Lake State Park.

Salt Point – North of Sonoma Coast beaches is Salt Point State Park with two great campgrounds.

Sonoma Regional Parks – Great beach camping at Gualala, Doran, and Stillwater.

Pillsbury Lake – Find adventure at more remote lakes such as Pillsbury and Letts Lake.

Mendocino Beach and Forest Campgrounds

Mendocino County is known for its spectacular coastline dotted with pocket beaches and for its magnificent forests spread across the coastal mountains.

Hendy Woods Redwood State Park – For anyone seeking a quiet redwood park with lots of streams and trails for children to explore, try Hendy Woods.

Russian Gulch and Van Damme Beach – These two coastal state parks offer camping near the ocean close to the picturesque town of Mendocino

MacKerricher State Park – Just north of Fort Bragg, MacKerricher has great coastal camping with lots of nearby attractions. 

Big Sur

Big Sur is home to the Hearst Castle as well as the relaxed areas of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. You will be able to stretch out your hiking boots on the plethora of remarkable trails and find perfect trees to support your camping hammock.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State ParkPfeiffer Big Sur State Park encompasses over 1,000 acres at the heart of the Big Sur coast. The state park features nearly 200 campsites along the meandering Big Sur River, which flows through the park, with sites to accommodate both tents and RVs.

Big Sur Campground & Cabins – At the heart of the Big Sur coast, this family-friendly campground offers nearly 100 spots next to the Big Sur River. It has space for tents and RVs and features one- and two-bedroom camping cabins with private bathrooms

Fernwood Campground & Resort – Camp surrounded by redwoods and the Big Sur River. It is centrally located along the Big Sur Coast, just north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Pfeiffer Beach. The resort has tent and RV campsites, forest cabins, and canvas tents. There’s also a motel with 12 standard rooms. A general store, restaurant, and laundry facility are also onsite. Two large bath houses are shared by camping guests.

Wherever you choose to go and whatever your camping style may be, be sure you have reservations before you hit the road. Camping has become more popular in recent years so it’s important to have a plan before heading out. Also, due to the drought and extreme fire danger conditions, there are some restrictions about campfires.

Be safe and have fun. Hope to see you out there.

“And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling.” – Shanti