A wild dime
Here are 10 more don't-miss camping recommendations. Plan ahead, do your homework and look online for more details:
Yuba River: The South Yuba Trail campground consists of less than two-dozen spots, but they have all the frills (fire grills, picnic tables, toilets, water), and the nearby 15-mile trail is great for a weekend adventure. Plus, rock jumping in the Yuba is legendary.
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park: This old ghost town is probably the only reason to head out of Reno and 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. Visitors 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 is your pastime of choice, this Tahoe National Forest high-altitude getaway is the ultimate. This is backcountry camping, so bring your pack—and pack it light.
Union and Utica Resevoirs: Sneak away to this secluded water spot about three hours south of Lake Tahoe. Campgrounds are barren—no toilets—but it's only $16, and the lake has good island-hopping opportunities.
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 Bridge, it's cheaper than a hotel or Airbnb—but there's a curfew. Not for party animals.
Point Reyes National Seashore: Camping here, just north of San Francisco on the coast, is like snagging good seats at a Giants-Dodgers game 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 Camp.