RV Camping in Northern California: What You Need to Know and the Most Popular Times to Visit

Bixby bridge in Big Sur elegantly connects the cliffs that hold Highway 1 above the Pacific ocean. A great road trip in Northern California.

There are lots of reasons that northern California is such a popular destination for RV camping. It truly has it all: in terms of stunning natural beauty, rich history, and incredible terrain diversity.

While beaches and deserts might spring to mind when you think of the sun-kissed southern half of the Golden State, the northern side of California has vastly different terrain. It’s maybe best known for its towering and majestic redwood trees, the ruggedly scenic Pacific coastline, and its enchanting wine country escapes.

Sometimes called NorCal, the region stretches from the north side of the Central Coast area (around San Luis Obispo) up to Oregon.

It includes the San Francisco Bay area and Sacramento and the tech hub Silicon Valley and the vineyards of Napa Valley and its neighbor Sonoma. Yosemite National Park is there, too, and so is Lake Tahoe – and we’re still barely scratching the surface.

RV Camping in Northern California: What You Need to Know

Northern California was partially built on the tourist trade, so it has a long history of accommodating its visitors. There’s a wide range of options for RVers, whether you tend to favor boondocking at national parks or BLM sites, rely on campgrounds with full hookups and other amenities, or lean more toward luxury resorts.

The roads are steep, narrow, and curvy in many places, so be sure and do your homework first to find the best and safest route. You might want to consider consulting a trip routing service such as RV Trip Wizard.

Also, it’s always a good idea to book your accommodations well in advance. Even if you’re going to be visiting what’s considered to be off-season.

An RV drives across famous Bixby bridge in Big Sur, CA. The cliffs in the background are green and golden with the sunset reflecting off them.

RV Camping on the Northern California Coast

The meandering rocky coastline of northern California is known for its dramatic sunset views, especially along Highway 1 north of San Francisco and in the Point Reyes National Seashore’s vicinity.

RV camping sites directly on the shore are not as abundant as they are in southern California, but they exist.

A bit off the beaten path, there are many quaint coastal towns, and small cities are worth a visit. These include San Simeon, Monterey, and Mendocino and lesser-known locales like Cayucos, Morro Bay, Eureka, and Pescadero.

This may be a bit obvious, but here’s a tip for your trip. While traveling along Highway 1, it’s a good idea to drive from north to south. That way, after you’ve stopped to enjoy the view, it’s easier to merge back into traffic. After all, you’re going with the flow.

Best Time to Go RV Camping in Northern California

When it comes to deciding when to visit northern California, it’s a good idea to let the weather be your guide.

Many of the summer tourists have gone back home in the fall, and the days are often warm enough to enjoy lots of outdoor activities. And when night falls, it should be nice around the campfire.

Spring is another great time to experience northern California because, again, it’s not too hot and not too cold.

Keep in mind that you can see extreme drops in temperature from day to night in many areas of northern California, so always be prepared. It can get surprisingly cold, especially at night. So it’s a good idea to bring not only extra layers of clothing but bedding, too.

A tan truck with a white RV camper is parked in an RV campground with green mountains in the background.

5 Best RV Campgrounds in Northern California

Lake of the Springs RV Resort

Situated on 950 acres in the Sierra Mountains’ foothills, Lake of the Springs RV Camping Resort offers an unforgettable wilderness experience. Go fishing, swimming, or boating on the 120-acre private lake. For guests without a boat, patio boats are available for rent. You can even pan for gold on the premises. Besides comforts like clean showers and laundry facilities, you can expect full hookups and extras like shuffleboard tables, mini-gold, and courts for volleyball, tennis, and pickleball.

Wright’s Beach Campground

Wright’s Beach Campground in Bodega Bay in Sonoma County is a beautiful place to land for an authentic northern California beach experience. It’s right on Highway 1, so you can enjoy incredible unobstructed ocean views and the soothing sound of crashing waves. Campfires are OK, and you can also take advantage of hiking/biking trails along the coastal cliffs.

This dog-friendly campsite is a bit on the primitive side, with bathrooms only but no showers. A free dump station is a few miles away at Bodega Dunes State Park. Sites are relatively small, and cell service is limited.

Manzanita Lake Campground 

Manzanita Lake Campground popular park can be pretty busy at times, but the setting is so beautiful it’s even been described as “magical.” It’s part of the Lassen Volcanic National Park built around an active volcano that last blew its top in 1915. The mountain is the centerpiece of a vast panorama that makes for great sightseeing activities, including waterfall hikes. Campers can also enjoy hiking, swimming, fishing, and kayaking.

Pull-through sites are preferable here because of the compact nature of the grounds. Dry camping only, but there is a dump station.

Klamath River RV Park

This stunning forest country is home to the world-famous and awe-inspiring California redwoods. Do you know those photos of the cars driving through the tunnel that’s been carved through a massive tree? That’s near here. This diverse ecosystem, close to the state’s northwestern corner, is also home to creatures as varied as banana slugs, gray whales, black bears, and sea anemones.

Klamath River RV Park itself is quiet and secluded, and right on the river. Nice and clean with full hookups, it offers grass sites that are mostly level and surrounded by a picturesque ridge.

Half Moon Bay State Beach

This popular stop along the Coastside Trail is a bit south of San Francisco, San Mateo County. In many ways, this picturesque setting provides an opportunity for a quintessential California beach experience.

Half Moon Bay State Beach is a single state park that encompasses four separate areas (Francis Beach, Venice Beach, Dunes Beach, and Roosevelt Beach). Fires are not allowed, unfortunately, and neither are dogs. There are asphalt pads that can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet. Showers are coin-operated.

Two white RVs are camped with the ocean between them in the background. They have their chairs, a BBQ, and table set up for their stay.

Plan Your RV Trip to Northern California Today

Visiting the northern parts of California is like digging for treasure because there is so much to uncover.

It’s a massive area, with so much to see. If we could offer any more advice before you start to plan your RV camping trip, it would be not to try to cover as much ground as possible to “see it all.” Instead, it might be wiser to pinpoint some specific locations and try to experience them fully.

Chances are, you’ll want to schedule some return visits so you can explore more corners of this remarkable part of the United States.

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5 comments
  1. We are in Lassen County and formally Plumas County. Love Antelope Lake, Taylorsville campground and all around Lake Almanor. There is a ton of dispersed camping too. Oh, and we can’t forget about My. Lassen.

  2. I really enjoyed waking up this morning, grabbing my coffee and reading this article. I have lived in Northern California (Redding) my whole life. I don’t have a favorite place, I have favorite geographical landscapes; the California Redwoods of Humboldt County and Shasta-Trinity, Lassen National Forests. I see Mt Shasta and Mt Lassen daily from my home (right now they are stunning, capped in show).

  3. i just pulled in to my home base,one gets lost while driving the roads of California! From the top of the state to the bottom sights that have no words to describe just how amazing they really are . You have to travel these roads yourself to view the wonders of this state, pull off the main road travel in or out you will meet some of the very best people in this world.

  4. Ok, yes, I love Northern California. It was home for me from the age of 10 to the age of 58 with about 6 years of that time being away. So with that said I will say that Yosemite, San Francisco, Half moon bay and Silicon Valley are not in Northern California. That is part of Central California.

  5. Thanks for some info. I’m heading there in april from southern California and since I haven’t been there since 1991 I’ve pretty much forgotten things!

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