The world may have been turned upside down, but there is no better way to escape the chaos and get away from it all than on a road trip. The state of California is home to dramatic coastlines, world-class wine country, family-friendly attractions, and beautiful year-round weather, making it perfect for an RV road trip.
From the foggy hills of San Francisco to the golden beaches of San Diego in the south, the Golden State of California is packed with great attractions and the best way to see them all is in a home-away-from-home RV on a California road trip.
I’ve put together a list of some of the places to visit on a California RV road trip. Head into the spectacular Yosemite National Park, drive through the baking desert of the Death Valley, visit the Los Padres Forest outside Santa Barbara, and soak up the breathtaking scenery along the Big Sur. So, rent an RV in California or pack up your RV and let’s go road-tripping California.
1. Yosemite National Park
A stop at one of the country’s most popular national parks on your California RV trip is a must! Easily accessible from San Francisco, Yosemite boasts over 1,200 square miles to explore with a wealth of things to see and do. Best known for its amazing waterfalls and giant sequoia trees, the reserve in California also features geologic wonders like the rock-climbing mecca El Capitan and the famous Half Dome.
With so much to see and do, you’ll want to base your RV at one of the 13 campgrounds dotted around the park which offers many amenities and breathtaking views. Most of the campsites offer full hookup sites and potable water and have wonderful views.
Open year-round, Upper Pines Campground is located in the heart of Yosemite Valley and is a great base for exploring all the park’s top attractions. Yosemite Lakes Public RV Camping has over 250 RV sites and a wealth of facilities including a clubhouse, sports courts, and a games room. Yosemite Westlake Campground and RV Park is 24 miles from the west entrance to the park and offers a wealth of fun things to do from fishing on three lakes and river rafting to hiking and horseback riding.
Yosemite boasts over 1,200 square miles to explore with amazing waterfalls and giant sequoia trees, with a wealth of things to see and do. Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, the USA by user:AngMoKio / WikiCommons / CC BY-SA 2.5.
2. Death Valley
Straddling the border between eastern California and Nevada, Death Valley is a land of extremes but shouldn’t be missed on your RV trip around California. Death Valley National Park is one of the most significant U.S. National Parks in the country and despite its rather macabre name, is home to a diversity of amazing landscapes.
This can be tough terrain, so before heading through the desert, make sure your RV is in good condition. From barren salt flats to spring-fed oases teeming with wildlife, there is plenty to see in the park, including famous attractions like Titus Canyon, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and the Devil’s Golf Course.
If you decide to spend a few days in this remarkable region, there are many campgrounds with excellent amenities from which to choose. Furnace Creek Campground is a popular choice for California road-trippers with hookup sites and designated group sites. It’s the only reservable campground in the park and gets busy, so book ahead.
Overnight at the Stovepipe Wells Village RV Park where you feel like you are in the middle of a moonscape. Don’t miss the out-of-this-world sunrise every morning!
3. Sequoia National Park
This magical national park is definitely one to add to your California RV trip itinerary. Home to massive, cinnamon-hued giant sequoias that are simply breathtaking in their size, visiting Sequoia National Park is an experience not to be missed. You can enjoy scenic drives around the park on well-paved roads with evocative names like the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway and the Majestic Mountain Loop.
When it comes to national parks in California, this gem offers a wealth of things to do from hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing. Hit the slopes or cross-country ski in the winter when the snow-blanketed landscapes are a white wonderland.
You can spend a few days at one of 31 RV campgrounds in the park, or dry camp along the Kaweah River. I highly recommend the Sequoia National Park RV Camping site in Three Rivers. It’s just five minutes from the Sequoia Park entrance and is a wonderful base camp for exploring the area.
4. Pacific Coast Highway
Strap in and get ready for some spectacular scenery along this world-famous autoroute. If you are traveling between San Francisco and San Diego in California, you simply must take a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to soak up some incredible coastal views.
Also known as Highway 1, this winding, cliff-hugging byway along the central California coast begins in Monterey and passes through some of the beautiful coastal towns in California. It takes about five hours to complete at a leisurely pace, but there are so many amazing places to stop and explore it might take you longer. Visit the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano, take in the stunning views of the Big Sur, and soak up some sun in the beach-chic town of Santa Barbara.
There are plenty of RV campgrounds along the coastal California route where you can stop and spend a few days exploring. The Manchester Beach KOA on California’s Mendocino Coast is where you can enjoy abalone diving, good fishing, and fantastic local wineries. Other RV camps worth mentioning are the Ocean Mesa Campground at El Capitan in Santa Barbara and San Diego’s Chula Vista RV Resort.
Also known as Highway 1, this winding, cliff-hugging byway along the central California coast begins in Monterey and passes through some of the beautiful coastal towns in California. Pacific Coast Highway – Route 1 – California by faungg’s photos / WikiCommons / CC BY-ND 2.0.
5. Joshua Tree National Park
If you love the outdoors and enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking, then Joshua Tree National Park is a must on your California RV road trip. You can reach the park from Los Angeles or San Diego with relaxing trips on well-paved roads. The park is home to over 4,500 established rock-climbing routes and natural springs for swimming.
Nicknamed ‘J-Tree’ by locals, Joshua Tree is a weirdly wonderful place in the heart of California where the high Mojave Desert meets the low Colorado Desert. Filled with amazing flora, including the odd yucca trees after which the region in California is named, you’ll want to spend a few hours discovering the delights of this landscape.
Be sure to visit the landlocked Salton Sea for some sweeping views and great photographs. Head to Jumbo Rocks Campground when you are ready to park and relax. With over 124 sites, it’s the largest in the park but can get busy in the summer so be sure to book ahead. A quieter option is Hidden Valley Campground in the middle of the park with sites tucked between the rocks or the pretty Belle Campground with peaceful spaces.
Nicknamed ‘J-Tree’ by locals, Joshua Tree is a weirdly wonderful place in the heart of California where the high Mojave Desert meets the low Colorado Desert. Joshua Tree National Park by Christopher Michel / WikiCommons / CC BY 2.0.
6. Alabama Hills
Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada just west of Lone Pine, Alabama Hills is the gateway to the jagged, snow-capped Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in California. This beautiful area is a good addition to your California RV road trip schedule as it’s well worth visiting to see the magnificent landscapes, unusual rock formations, and evocative scenery.
Head to the Mobius Arch for a perfectly framed photograph of Mt. Whitney or stop and enjoy an array of outdoor activities like hiking, trail running, cycling, horseback riding, rock climbing, and fishing. California road-trippers love this area as it’s a true wilderness adventure.
Alabama Hills is an open-desert primitive and dispersed camping area so you can stop anywhere and spend the night. This is a great area to spend a few days if you are traveling with family and it’s easy to find your own secluded spot. You will just need a California Campfire Permit for campfires, stoves, and lanterns.
California road-trippers love this area as it’s a true wilderness adventure. The southern Sierras beneath the Lathe Arch in the Alabama Hills by John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA / WikiCommons / CC BY 2.0.
7. Kings Canyon National Park
This is another one of California’s superb national parks that requires a stopover on your trip. Home to the deepest canyon in the United States, distinctive rock outcroppings, and towering trees, this state park is well worth a visit. Visit the General Grant tree in Grant Grove, also known as “the Nation’s Christmas Tree” and check out the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world in the Redwood Canyon for which California is famous.
This dramatic glaciated valley is also great for outdoor activities, and you can hike, mountain bike, and horseback ride to your heart’s content. Most of the park’s RV campgrounds are surrounded by breathtaking scenery and you will want to spend a few days exploring.
You can camp amongst the giant sequoias a short way from the famous General Grant Tree at the Azalea Campground which is the most beautiful campground in the park. Sites are well spaced and secluded and it’s a perfect base for exploring the towering forest. Riverbend RV Park is situated on Kings River and has lovely grassy sites overlooking the river. This is a great spot for fishing and relaxing by the river.
This dramatic glaciated valley is also great for outdoor activities, and you can hike, mountain bike, and horseback ride to your heart’s content. Kings Canyon National Park, CA by – Adam Reeder – / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0.
8. Lake Tahoe
The spectacular natural beauty and cobalt blue alpine lake of Lake Tahoe in California make this a perfect place to explore on your RV road trip. Dotted with small lakeside towns and offering plenty of outdoor adventures such as low-key sightseeing, hiking, camping, and boating on the lake, Lake Tahoe has something for everyone. You can even hit the slot machines at one of the casinos on the Nevada side of the lake.
You’ll have a great choice of RV campgrounds in and around Lake Tahoe on the California side, but I recommend staying at one close to the lake so you can enjoy both land and water activities. Campground By The Lake is a super-convenient park in South Lake Tahoe that has wooded sites, easy access to the lake, and allows dogs.
Tahoe Valley RV Resort is surrounded by towering pines and majestic mountain vistas and has lots of great amenities. Jump in the heated pool in the summer if you aren’t brave enough to swim in the lake, enjoy a game of tennis, or cast a fishing line and try your luck. Camp Richardson Historic Resort & Marina has lakefront sites, a full-service marina, and a huge cross-country ski resort.
The spectacular natural beauty and cobalt blue alpine lake of Lake Tahoe in California make this a perfect place to explore on your RV road trip. Lake Tahoe Colors by Romain Guy / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0.
9. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
RV trips around California should include a stop to see the tallest trees on earth. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is tucked away in the heart of the redwood forest and home to some astoundingly tall trees that are centuries old. Get on your bike or hike the 170-mile trail system within the area or enjoy a ranger-led kayak tour during the summer.
You’ll have the chance to sleep surrounded by these giants at one of the 146 campsites in the state park. Blooms Creek and Sempervirens Campgrounds are your best bet for experiencing the towering redwoods in their glory with sites nestled amongst the trees.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is tucked away in the heart of the redwood forest and home to some astoundingly tall trees that are centuries old. Coast Redwood Sequoia sempervirens forest by Allie_Caulfield / WikiCommons / CC BY 2.0.
10. Napa Valley
You simply cannot take a California RV trip without exploring the breathtaking Napa Valley and its world-class wineries. Stretching north for 35 miles from Vallejo near Oakland, California, the valley is dotted with beautiful estates, European-style castles, and famous wineries. Some of the best winemakers in the world call the region home, so there is plenty of wine tasting to be done.
There are excellent RV campgrounds around the Napa Valley, so you won’t be hard-pressed to find somewhere to stay after all that wine tasting. The Calistoga RV and Campground is nestled in the heart of Wine Country and within walking distance of the charming town of Calistoga. If you are a golf-lover, you can practice on a nine-hole public golf course and get some shots in at the driving range.
Other recommended RV campgrounds in the area include the Napa Valley Expo RV Park and Steele Canyon Campground on the beautiful Lake Berryessa. Both have full hookup sites and an array of excellent amenities, and you can enjoy boating, fishing, and swimming on the lake.
Stretching north for 35 miles from Vallejo near Oakland in California, the breathtaking Napa Valley is dotted with beautiful estates, European-style castles, and famous wineries.
Hope this guide to the top 10 best RV camping in California was helpful!