Car Camping 101 – California and Nevada
Car camping—or camping next to your car at a developed campground—is an easy way to enjoy the outdoors without a whole lot of pre-planning. Car camping allows you to haul your favorite creature comforts—coolers, lawn chairs, lanterns, board games, fishing poles, toys, etc., and pitch your tent right next to your car.
Get ready for your campout by learning camping tips, campfire songs and stories, camping recipes and more courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation's Great American Backyard Campout. Also check these Outdoor Safety Camping Tips and other ideas in Camping with kids? There’s a method to this madness courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.
Search By State: California and Nevada
Crystal Lake Recreation Area offers a great beginner camping experience in the Angeles National Forest within 50 miles from downtown Los Angeles (but allow an hour and a half for the drive, due to the winding mountain road). The campground is nestled at 5,600 feet with quiet, shade, a small (seasonal) stream and a small lake that attracts wildlife. Facilities include running water, a contact station, a camp store and café, family-friendly hiking trails and longer hikes for the more adventurous. First-come, first-served camping is available in three loops, and families often bring bicycles to ride on the closed loops.
Discover Kaspian Campground on the west shore of Lake Tahoe! Just across the street from the lake, tent campers will enjoy the privacy of the sites located amongst towering pine trees, with some sites affording spectacular views of the lake. Spend your day biking on the local bike paths in the area or relax along the shore of Lake Tahoe.
Madrone and Douglas fir trees surround the secluded sites at Patrick Creek Campground in the Six Rivers National Forest. Just below the campground is the wild and scenic Smith River offering sounds of rushing water where the Smith meets Patrick Creek. Cool off with a swim during those hot summer days or cast a line on a lazy afternoon.
National Recreation Area
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a network of park sites and locations that offer camping just hours from the Los Angeles area. Groups can book Circle X Group Campground, a former Boy Scout camp.
Summerdale Campground in the Sierra National Forest is located just over one mile from Yosemite National Park and sits in a scenic wildflower-filled meadow, surrounded by fir, cottonwood and cedar trees. The campground's proximity to Yosemite, the excellent fishing at Big Creek and the cooler summer temperatures make it a very popular destination for camping veterans and newcomers. You may also enjoy our 10 Yosemite Alternatives Go List.
Escape the crowds and summer heat to New Melones Lake, located on the Stanislaus River and offering a wealth of outdoor activities including fishing, boating, sailing, swimming, wildlife viewing, rock climbing, hiking, biking, horseback riding and picnicking. From Sonora, head northwest on Highway 49 to New Melones Lake, where you’ll find more than 200 reservable campsites at Tuttletown and Glory Hole Recreation Areas.
Less than 35 miles from Las Vegas, you’ll find more than 100 palm-studded campsites near Lake Mead’s shores at Boulder Beach Campground. Try an October visit when the water is still warm enough to swim and the days are still long enough to hike. Families will enjoy the Historic Railroad Trail tunnels.
Below the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River is Lake Mojave, part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Boaters can discover secluded coves along the shoreline while hikers will want to venture out on the many trails in the area. Cottonwood Cove Campground is centrally located on the lake offering 145 RV sites with full hookups. Contact the Cottonwood Cove Resort directly at (702) 297-1464 for reservations.
Hilltop Campground is located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (NRA), just 40 miles outside of Las Vegas. The campground is situated so campers are awarded sweeping views of the Mojave Desert below and Spring Mountains above. Stands of juniper, mountain mahogany and ponderosa pine forest the site and provide some shade. Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and picnicking make the Spring Mountains NRA a great escape for recreationists!
With 37 first-come, first-served sites, Wheeler Peak Campground’s scenic backdrop of aspen groves and grassy meadows is a sure winner! Nestled at the base of Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park, the campground is the final stop along the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive which is a narrow, winding road and climbs an 8% grade in 12 miles. Single vehicles and trailers in excess of 24 feet in length are not permitted on the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive beyond the Upper Lehman Creek Campground. Don’t miss a tour of the park’s beautiful Lehman Caves to see ornate decorations of marble stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, popcorn and an unusually large concentration of cave shields.