A wild dime
Ten don’t-miss camping destinations in Northern California and Northern Nevada
Yuba River: The South Yuba Trail campground boasts less than two dozen spots, but they have frills (fire pits, picnic tables, pit toilets, water) and the nearby, 15-mile Yuba Trail is great for weekend adventure. Plus, rock-jumping on the Yuba is legendary.
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park: This old ghost town is probably the only reason to head out of Reno into central Nevada. Named after sea-monster fossils, the camping is cheap and it’s open year-round.
Salt Point State Park: This busy car-camping destination, about 95 miles north of San Francisco, is great for families and folks longing for a little bit of nature and a dose of the Pacific Ocean. You can sleep amid the trees, then trek along the coast during the day.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park: Just north of Santa Cruz, this don’t-miss spot is a great weekend getaway with coastal day-trip options. Waterfalls, some of the world’s tallest trees, creeks and shade—this is a good family spot as well.
Grouse Ridge Trail: If long hikes and lake-hopping are your pastimes of choice, this Tahoe National Forest, high-altitude getaway is the ultimate. This is back-country camping, so bring your pack—and pack it light.
Union Reservoir: Sneak away to this secluded water spot, about three hours south of Lake Tahoe. Campgrounds are barren—no toilets, etc.—but it’s free, and the lake has good island-hopping.
Ruck-A-Chucky Campground: If sitting around on a summer day, sipping beer and watching rafters navigate the gnarliest whitewater rapid in Northern California is your idea of fun, then Ruck-A-Chucky is your spot (Google it for videos).
Loon Lake: This spot is a secret little getaway that I like to call “Tahoe Junior.” Located off Ice House Road about an hour from South Lake, it’s so hush-hush, in fact, that I won’t divulge how to get to my favorite camping spot. OK, a one-word hint: canoe.
Rob Hill Campground: This is the only (legal) place to camp within the city of San Francisco. Atop a hill in the Presidio near the Golden Gate, it’s cheaper than a hotel or Air BnB—but there’s a curfew. Not for party animals.
Point Reyes: Camping here, just north of San Francisco on the coast, is like snagging good seats to see the Giants-Dodgers in AT&T Park: You’re going to have to pay and plan ahead with a reservation. But it’s worth it—just be certain to get one of the coastal campgrounds, such as Sky.