Sure, You Can Discover Final-Minute Tenting in Northern California


Right here’s a hypothetical: it’s Memorial Day weekend and also you wish to go tenting. You’re scrolling by means of the web reservation system for tenting choices in northern California, and rising more and more pissed off as you see your high decisions are fully full. It’s a state of affairs all too acquainted when making an attempt to go tenting in California. Campgrounds in iconic places like Yosemite Nationwide Park or alongside the Central Coast usually replenish inside minutes when reservations are opened six months or extra prematurely. In the event you’re a last-minute planner like me, this may be dispiriting and troublesome. In the event you’re in a pinch you need to use the offline maps and campgrounds of The Dyrt PRO to search out the free public lands close to you.

Fortunately, there’s an abundance of tenting choices in northern California that take no advance reservations, if you understand the place to look. A few of these campgrounds have insurance policies in place to cater particularly to last-minute planners. A few of them are simply off the overwhelmed path, and all of them provide an equal, if not higher, nature expertise to the extra iconic places.

a field of short wheat with a hiking trail cutting through leading to a green forest

Picture from The Dyrt camper Asher Okay.

There are just a few methods to touchdown a campsite within the peak season when you weren’t fascinated about it six months in the past.

Step one is to determine which locations have walk-in campsites. The Dyrt presents a search filter for “walk-in” campgrounds, which means campgrounds which can be out there solely on a first-come, first-served foundation. For lots of those campgrounds, you’ll need to be hyper-prepared within the peak season—tenting in northern California may be fairly aggressive, to say the least. You’ll wish to present up as early as potential within the morning and stake a declare to websites the place earlier occupants are leaving.

One other technique is to search out much less well-known northern California tenting choices, which could imply avoiding the nationwide parks, or making a couple-hours drive. Many counties or cities have campgrounds the place you may get a last-minute reservation, like at Sonoma County’s Stillwater Cove Regional Park. Others you’ll be able to simply stroll up, like at like Santa Clara County’s Joseph D. Grant County Park. There are additionally dozens of campgrounds within the nationwide forest system the place you may be assured to discover a spot, even throughout the busy summer time weekends. The campgrounds in Sierra Nationwide Forest, Eldorado Nationwide Forest, and Inyo Nationwide Forest are inclined to have much less facilities, however are additionally farther away from highways or city areas.

Head to These Northern California Tenting Spots When Every thing Else Is Booked

The campgrounds beneath, whereas being out there last-minute, don’t sacrifice any pure magnificence for comfort. Tenting in northern California last-minute is possible at nationwide, state and native parks—when you’re ready. Right here’s eight of our campers’ favorites.

1. Tuolumne MeadowsYosemite Nationwide Park

the Tuolumne River in yosemite national park running through the meadow below mountains.

Picture from The Dyrt camper Michelle C.

If you wish to camp in Yosemite however don’t wish to face the crowds within the Valley, head an hour and a half up Tioga Go Street to Tuolumne Meadows. It’s one of many uncommon car-accessible campgrounds within the Excessive Sierras. Situated at 8,600 toes, the campground is just open throughout the summer time months due to the snow. Half of the 304 campsites are reservable on-line. Half are reserved for walk-ups. Throughout the peak weekends in July and August, there is usually a line within the morning. Early or late within the season, although, it may be fairly simple to discover a spot.

There are areas for RVs and trailers as much as 35 toes, with a dumping station however no hookups. There are six wheelchair-accessible websites reserved for these with disabilities. Every website has a fireplace ring, picnic desk, and meals locker. Restrooms have ingesting water and flushing bathrooms, however there are not any showers.

The campground is a well-liked stopping level for thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Path and the John Muir Path. There are hike-in campsites for these with a backcountry allow. There are additionally some group and equestrian campsites out there.

“This part of the park, whereas not as standard because the Valley, is arguably simply as stunning, and is far simpler to safe tenting. This campground is MASSIVE. Reservations may be made prematurely, however we didn’t have any bother discovering a walkup website in the course of June. The elevation right here implies that it will get pretty chilly at evening, even throughout the summer time” — The Dyrt camper Leslie R.


The Simple Technique to Discover Final-Minute Campsites

Do you know some campers have:

  • Pre-saved lists of hand-picked free tenting throughout the US
  • Textual content messages for last-minute openings
  • Scans arrange for Nationwide Park website openings

That is the simplest, most surefire method to discover last-minute campsites each time, and it’s all included within the #1 tenting membership referred to as The Dyrt PRO. It prices simply $35.99 per yr and is a simple method to be sure you have higher tenting journeys each time — and which you can really discover a spot final minute. 

You may test it out without cost at the moment, you’ll be able to even use it without cost for 7 days to be sure you prefer it. After the trial it’s $35.99 for a full yr — most campers discover it pays for itself after an evening or two. In the event you camp greater than 2 occasions per yr, it might be excellent for you.


2. Andrew Molera State Park

Hundreds of campers head to Large Sur each weekend to benefit from the gorgeous ocean views and plush redwood forests. If you wish to head to the area however you don’t have a reservation, your greatest guess is to attempt Andrew Molera State Park within the northern finish of Large Sur. It has 24 first-come, first-served websites. The tent-only websites are a brief ⅓-mile stroll from the parking zone. They’re in an enormous grassy subject with views on the ridges and easy accessibility to hikes and seashores. In the event you’re a surfer, be sure you carry your board and hit the waves on the close by seaside. In the event you’re not, there’s loads of mountaineering out there within the practically 5,000 acres of the park.

“It’s slightly little bit of a stroll to the campsite, however there’s plenty of large open area and a neighboring path that results in the seaside. You are feeling slightly extra secluded at this campground as a result of it’s farther from the street as much less crowded than others,” — The Dyrt camper Alexa S.

3. Mount Tamalpais State Park

Waves crashing on a rocky cliff beach on the coast of northern california

Picture type The Dyrt camper Kelly S.

Mount Tam, because it’s affectionately recognized, is essentially the most iconic landmark within the Bay Space, at 2,571 toes tall. Situated in Marin County simply north of San Francisco, the height presents sweeping views of the Bay and of the Pacific shoreline. On sunny days, it might really feel like your entire inhabitants of the Bay Space is there, mountaineering or biking the 60 miles of trails by means of redwood forests and grassy hills. The park’s 5 campgrounds, together with two group campgrounds, are among the many most in-demand tenting websites in northern California. The gorgeous Steep Ravine environmental campsites and rustic cabins replenish on-line inside minutes of opening up months prematurely. Happily, the park has some no-reservation campsites out there for these prepared to get there early and wait in line.

The 16 websites at Pantoll Campground are first come, first served. They’re a brief 100-yard stroll from the parking zone. Every website comes with a desk, rock barbecue and meals locker. There may be water and flush bathrooms close by, however no showers. There may be an enroute campground for self-contained tenting autos who wish to park in a single day.

“My greatest suggestion you probably have a half day (and hike quick) is to do the Matt Davis to Steep Ravine loop that provides you wonderful overlooks of the ocean together with stunning redwoods. The hike was strenuous and effectively price it. If I had extra time within the space I might have stayed in any respect the totally different campgrounds this park has to supply,” — The Dyrt camper Asher Okay.

4. Juniper LakeLassen Volcanic Nationwide Park

Lassen, positioned within the wilds of California’s northeast nook, is other-worldly. The park’s namesake peak final exploded greater than 100 years in the past, however geothermal exercise continues to be very current at sulphur vents, mud pots, and (very) scorching springs. Lassen is far much less crowded than different nationwide parks in California, so that you’ll have a greater likelihood of discovering a campsite anyplace right here.

The Juniper Lake campground specifically may be neglected, because it’s nestled on the finish of a 13-mile semi-paved street. Due to the steep and windy street, it’s not for RVs. The 18 tent websites on the lake’s southeastern shore are first-come, first-served. There are two group campsites and a horse campsite out there. There isn’t a working water.

Among the different last-minute campgrounds in Lassen embrace Southwest, Manzanita Lake (an excellent household choice), Summit Lake North and South; and Butte Lake, near the well-known Cinder Cone.

“In contrast to the spectacular however at all times unbelievable Yosemite, Lassen is a gem of a nationwide park rivaling Yellowstone, however with out the crowds. There are mud pots, alpine meadows, and lakes to swim and fish in,” — The Dyrt camper Brian C.

5. Auburn State Recreation Space

Rock formations in clear blue water at the mineral bar.

Picture from The Dyrt camper Jim N.

Northern California’s Gold Nation, often known as Mom Lode Nation, is an under-appreciated area loaded with a few of the greatest tenting in northern California. Situated on the Western slope of the Sierras in Northern California, the area has loads of historic mines and cities, in addition to plenty of mountaineering within the Sierra foothills and swimming, rafting or boating alongside rivers. Among the best methods to expertise the area is on the Auburn State Recreation Space, which presents campers a little bit of the whole lot.

It’s south of Interstate 80, close to the cities of Auburn and Colfax. The park covers 40 miles of the North and Center Forks of the American River. Gold panning is allowed, although you must learn up on laws if you wish to check your luck. The recreation space presents plenty of campgrounds with various ranges of entry. In the event you’re a paddle-in professional, there’s a boat-in campground on Lake Clementine, reservations are nevertheless required.

Mineral Bar has 16 first-come, first-served campsites alongside the east facet of North Fork American River. There isn’t a working water, however there are tables, fireplace pits and dry bathrooms. Ruck-a-Chucky has 5 primitive first-come, first-served campsites on the north facet of the river. There are trash cans and bathrooms, however no working water.

“As soon as on the campground, proper on the water’s edge, seize up the third website on the precise. It’s actually on the sting of the river. Take in some solar and benefit from the cool snow soften waters. (The present is far sooner than years previous attributable to glorious winter). In the event you’re fortunate and know learn the river, gold panning is a should! Carry your kayaks and rafts.” — The Dyrt camper Jason A.

6. Gold Lake Campground

Dozens of glowing alpine lakes dot the Lakes Basin Recreation Space of the Plumas Nationwide Forest, within the northern Sierras. The Gold Lake campground presents northern California tenting alongside the biggest of the world’s lakes, at an elevation of 6,400 toes. The campground is round 10 miles southwest of the city of Graeagle, off freeway 89. The roads across the campground is usually a little powerful, so it’s greatest to analysis the circumstances you probably have a small automobile or massive tenting rig. There are additionally just a few websites for tenting trailers.

All 37 websites are first come, first served. The websites have entry to bathrooms and trash cans, however no hookups or dumping stations.

“Gold Lake is a gem with spectacular views throughout you… There are nice trails to hike throughout Lakes Basin with spectacular views of many various lakes. There are additionally an off-road automobile campsites. Gold Lake itself is likely one of the largest within the Basin that enables motorized boats. I might extremely suggest this lake for kayakers and hikers, throughout off season this can be very peaceable.” —The Dyrt camper Audrey C.

7. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park

Tents on the beach at Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.

Picture from The Dyrt camper Rachel O.

The Misplaced Coast is a 60-mile stretch of wilderness alongside the ragged shoreline of Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, a part of the King Vary Conservation Space. Hikers and backpackers love the empty sandy seashores, windy bluffs and plenty of potentialities for wildlife sightings. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park lies on the southern portion of the area, and is a superbly hidden northern California tenting choice.

The campground at Usal Seaside is the biggest and most accessible campground within the park—nevertheless, RVs are usually not beneficial due to the troublesome street getting in. All 25 websites are first come, first served. There are some websites proper on the seaside, and a few slightly extra inland among the many grasses. There isn’t a contemporary working water, so carry your personal or carry a great water filter.

“I’m fortunate sufficient to stay inside an hour from this wonderful place. Granted it has no services as budgets have been hacked and slashed, however this isn’t the type of place for luxurious tenting. That is the type of place that can renew your soul, it’ll make you are feeling alive and permit the stress of the on a regular basis world to scrub away.” — The Dyrt camper Matthew G.

8. Silver Fork Campground

Many individuals are drawn to the Lake Tahoe area for its gorgeous mixture of blue alpine lakes, granite peaks and pine tree forests. In the event you increase your bucket listing to Eldorado Nationwide Forest, Shasta-Trinity Nationwide Forest and Tahoe Nationwide Forest, you’ll discover loads of near-empty tenting choices in northern California with the identical majestic mountain vibes. Many take no reservations, and don’t have any or low charges.

Silver Fork Campground is one in every of them. It’s positioned 32.5 miles east of Placerville on Freeway 50, close to the city of Kyburz. There are 35 first-come, first-served campsites—that features greater than a dozen websites for RVs, although there are not any hook-ups or dump stations. Amenities embrace working water, bathrooms and trash cans. Campers can fish or swim within the close by Silver Fork of the American River.

“Among the best locations I’ve ever camped! Lovely location proper on the river. The bogs are spotless clear and the whole lot may be very tidy. Campsites are even swept earlier than your keep.” — The Dyrt camper Alisyn G.


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