Sleeping under the stars, waking up to chirping birds, roasting marshmallows by the fire—you can experience some of life’s simplest pleasures when you pitch a tent in the Golden State. With nearly 18,000 campsites in the state park system alone, there’s plenty of open space to go around. No matter your adventure pleasure, there's an awesome California campsite to match. With National Camping Month coming up in June, start planning now—most coveted sites fill up quick. 

Sharpen your photography skills

Exceptional geological diversity and wide open sky has made Alabama Hills Recreation Area a popular backdrop for dozens of movies from Lone Ranger to Ironman. Every year hundreds of professional and amateur photos flock to this spot near Lone Pine. Pack your DSLR and capture sunrise over the natural rock arches.

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Explore majestic marine life

A remote-feeling refuge right in idyllic Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove State Park offers a number of campsites with unadulterated ocean views. But the park’s most beautiful features can’t be seen from dry land. The underwater park is a playground for scuba divers and snorkelers. Look for lobsters, sea cucumbers, octopuses, a barnacle-crusted anchor, and even a World War II training plane in the deep. (Excited about beach camping? Check out other these other amazing coastal camping spots.)

Simulate your own moon landing

Fossil Falls Dry Lake Bed, just east of Sequoia National Forest, is a free campsite in the BLM system—and a total hidden gem. Thousands of years ago, water and wind sculpted lava flow to create weirdly wonderful landscape that looks eerily similar to the surface of the moon. Appropriate for all ages of earthlings.

See a meteor shower

South of Mono Lake in Inyo National Forest, Sagehen Meadows Campground is wonderfully remote and home to a herd of wild horses. Accessible only by dirt road at 8,000-feet-plus elevation, you’ll have to pack in your own water and supplies. The payoff? Daytime views of the sparkling lake; and dark sky camping after sunset. Shooting star sightings are nearly guaranteed.

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Experience wide-open desert

Feel like Lawrence of Arabia—Hole in the Wall Campground in the Mojave Natural Preserve. The site is protected by volcanic rock walls, and surrounded by miles of wide open sand dunes.

Witness life-changing sunsets

Head north to Gerstle Cove Campground in Sonoma County’s Salt Point State Park, to see the sky swirl orange and red, right from the comfort of your RV or tent. More than 30 campsites hug the rugged ocean cliffs, which provide the perfect platform to watch day turn into night.

Sleep next to an abandoned mine

In the late 19th century, gold was discovered in the mountains west of Yuma. When the good stuff ran out, the miners went home, but left their equipment behind. At the American Girl Mine Road Campground, 160 miles east of San Diego, you can sleep next to old ore shoots and boarded up tunnels. Bring your best ghost stories to share around the fire.

Surf all day

Nestled between the San Diego seaside towns of Encinitas and Solana Beach, Cardiff by the Sea is one of the most popular surf spots in Southern California. The campground at San Elijo State Beach allows for easy access during dawn patrol, or really any time of day. The campground’s close proximity to restaurants means you can refuel with huge breakfast burritos (Pipe's Cafe) and pour-over coffee (     Zumbar Coffee & Tea) instead of camp food. Fair warning: This one fills up months in advance.