Great wilderness campgrounds in California: Tips

William Adams
 min read

Looking for great wilderness campgrounds in California?

Great wilderness campgrounds in California: Tips

Then you are in the right place on this camping page.

Let yourself be inspired by some great possibilities to organize a fantastic and unforgettable camping trip!

Great wilderness campgrounds in California

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of east-central California.

It is one of America’s most famous and spectacular national parks.

Activities in the Yosemite National Park

Yosemite has more than 800 miles of trails for hiking and trekking.

This includes portions of the 210-mile John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails, which converge here.

The trail difficulty varies from easy to quite arduous.

The high trails are often covered with snow until July.

The trails around Yosemite Valley tend to be very busy during the hiking season.

Many trails are accessible to horses, which can be rented in Yosemite Valley.

Cross-country skiing is possible on a number of trails in winter.

Pay attention if you love mountain biking because the use of mountain bikes is limited to roads and specific bike paths.

You can practice climbing and mountaineering on the rock faces and mountains here.

Climbing and hiking courses are offered in the park.

Fishing is possible along the streams and lakes.

Hunting is not permitted.

Camping in Yosemite National Park

If you want to camp in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park, you will need a wilderness permit.

You can get permits at the Visitor Centre and at various other locations in the park.

There are quotas for each trailhead.

Advance reservations are possible and recommended, especially for popular trails and weekends.

Camping is permitted in most, but not all, areas of the park.

It is not allowed within four miles of Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne Meadows.

Selected sites should be at least 100 feet from hiking trails and water sources, and one mile from park roads.

Campfires are allowed below 9,000 feet, but only in existing fire rings which are already present.

Nature in the Yosemite National Park

The landscape here includes high rugged peaks and massive granite domes.

There are spectacular rock formations and vertical walls, ravines and deep valleys.

The beautiful and impressive Yosemite Valley is particularly famous.

This fantastic area is unfortunately overdeveloped and overused.

Happily, the park also has vast areas of wilderness that are much less visited.

There are also numerous beautiful lakes and streams, as well as spruce and fir forests.

You can see impressive giant redwoods, open meadows and pristine alpine vegetation.

Coyotes, mule deer, black bears, mountain lions and bighorn sheep live here.

Great wilderness campgrounds in California

Eldorado National Forest

This attractive national forest is in the High Sierra, west and south of Lake Tahoe in north central California.

Camping in the Eldorado National Forest

Camping is permitted in most of the area unless otherwise noted.

A fire permit is required to use a stove or light a campfire.

A wilderness permit is also required to camp in wilderness areas from May to September.

Quotas are in effect.

Nature in the Eldorado National Forest

Among the high mountains here is the 9,983-foot Pyramid Peak.

There are also canyons and a number of lakes and streams.

Vegetation in the Eldorado National Forest includes tall meadows with wildflowers and forests of lodgepole pine.

You will also encounter white spruce, and hemlock with some old growth.

Local wildlife includes mule deer, black bear, mountain lion, coyote, bobcat and fox.

Eldorado has two designated wilderness areas, namely:

  • The Desolation Wilderness, and
  • Part of the Mokelumne wilderness area

Activities to do in the Eldorado National Forest

Approximately 350 miles of trails are available for hiking and trekking.

This including portions of the Pacific Crest Trail and the new Tahoe Rim Trail.

The difficulty varies from easy to strenuous. Some trails are very busy.

On most trails horseback riding and mountain biking are allowed outside of the wilderness areas.

Cross-country skiing is possible on some trails in winter.

Fishing is possible, as well as hunting in the appropriate season.

Great wilderness campgrounds in California

Shasta-Trinity National Forest

This immense national forest is located in northern California.

It includes an exceptionally high mountain landscape with impressive high snow-capped peaks.

Feast your eyes on multiple rocky peaks, lava flows, unique glaciers and extremely deep canyons.

The highest point is the 14,162-foot Mount Shasta, the second highest volcano in the Cascades.

Camping in Shasta-Trinity National Forest

You are allowed to camp in most of the National Forest, except near public use areas or where  prohibited.

Wilderness permits are only required to camp in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness Area.

Campfires are allowed but discouraged, and should be kept small.

It is recommended to use a stove for cooking.

You must have a fire permit to light a campfire or use a stove.

Wilderness campsites should be located away from grasslands and at least 100 feet from water sources.

Nature in Shasta-Trinity National Forest

There are beautiful lakes and rivers, streams with waterfalls, mountain meadows, areas with chaparral.

You’ll find mixed forests of spruce, fir and cedar, including virgin forests.

Wildlife includes mule deer, black bear, mountain lion, coyote, bobcat and fox.

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest has five designated wilderness areas:

  • Part of the Trinity Alps wilderness area
  • Mount Shasta Wilderness Area
  • Part of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness
  • Chanchelulla Wilderness Area
  • Castle Crags Wilderness

Activities to do in Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Some 1,400 miles of trails are available for hiking and backpacking, including a 154-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The difficulty varies from easy to very demanding.

The high slopes can be covered with snow until July.

Horseback riding is permitted on most trails, and cross-country skiing is possible in winter.

Whitewater canoeing and kayaking are available on the Trinity River.

Mount Shasta and other mountains attract technical climbers.

Fishing is another possibility, and hunting is allowed in season.

Great wilderness campgrounds in California

Tahoe National Forest

This forest is located in the Sierras of north central California, northwest of Lake Tahoe.

Nature: Tahoe National Forest

This national forest features high peaks, rocky hills and foothills, and deep river canyons with very steep cliffs.

The altitude varies from 1,500 feet to 9,400 feet.

The North Fork American River, a wild and scenic national river, is one of many important waterways here.

There are also numerous streams and small but wonderful alpine lakes.

Forests include spruce, hardwood, pine and hemlock forests, some of which are virgin forests.

Mule deer, the impressive black bear, the dangerous puma, coyote and bobcat are among the wild animals.

The National Forest has a designated wilderness area: The Granite Chief Wilderness.

Activities in the Tahoe National Forest

Hiking and trekking are possible on approximately 500 miles of trails, including part of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The trails vary from easy to strenuous.

Some high-altitude trails are covered with snow until July every year.

Rafting, kayaking and canoeing are possible on various rivers.

Mountain biking is allowed on most trails, as well as horseback riding, except in wilderness areas.

Some trails are designated for Nordic skiing. Fishing is possible along the rivers, streams and lakes.

Hunting is allowed in season.

Camping in the Tahoe National Forest

You are allowed to camp in most parts of the National Forest unless otherwise noted.

Campsites should be located well away from water sources and trails.

You need a fire permit to build a campfire or use a stove from May until the fire season

This usually ends in November.

Wilderness permits are not required.

Great wilderness campgrounds in California

Death Valley National Monument

This massive national monument is located in south-central California near the Nevada border and includes the famous Death Valley.

This below-sea-level basin has the lowest elevation in the United States: – 282 feet at Badwater Basin.

Death Valley is known for its extreme summer temperatures.

In addition to the desert valley, there are also deep ravines, craters, sand dunes and high rugged peaks.

The highest of these is the 11,049-foot Telescope Peak.

At higher altitudes, you will find pine and juniper forests, as well as some bristlecone pines.

Mule deer, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, and coyote are among the wildlife of the Monument.

Camping in Death Valley National Monument

You are allowed to camp in most areas of the National Monument unless otherwise prohibited.

Camping is prohibited within one-quarter mile of a water source, within one mile of a road, or within five miles of a camping area.

While not required, it is recommended that campers complete a backcountry registration form at a ranger station or visitor center.

If you want to cook, you will need to bring a stove as campfires are not allowed.

Water is very scarce in the region, and you should take some with you.

Visits between May and October are not recommended due to the extreme heat.

Activities

There are about 80 km of trails for hiking and backpacking in the Death Valley National Monument.

The difficulty varies from easy to strenuous. Most of the paths are primitive and unmaintained.

Cross-country skiing is possible in a large part of the Monument.

Climbing and mountaineering are also possible.

Climbers must report to a ranger station before and after the activity.

Horseback riding is not recommended here, and hunting is prohibited.

Great wilderness campgrounds in California: Conclusion

If you’re looking for wilderness campgrounds in California, you’re spoiled for choice.

As always, safety is key, so make sure that you are well prepared for your intended destination.

Once you’ve chosen your destination, you can start thinking about what gear to bring. A comfortable camping bed is one of those items of gear that can really make a difference.

For more information on camping beds in particular, check our other articles:

About William Adams

I’m an engineer and a happy plus-size individual myself. I love to blog online if I can have a positive impact on the lives of others. I help other plus-size people with in-depth product guides to make shopping for products and services less stressful in their busy lives. Read More