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.
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.
Experience wide-open desert
Feel like Lawrence of Arabia—
Witness life-changing sunsets
Sleep next to an abandoned mine
Surf all day