Most adventurers have their ultimate bucket list of places to explore on the west coast, some may be longer than others, but no bucket list is complete without these awesome and unique California road trip destinations. As fall settles in and the crowds thin, now is the time to go explore the wilds and an ever-changing landscape with an RV rental in California.
Top California Road Trip Destinations
Joshua Tree National Park is run by the National Park Service and offers multiple campgrounds with varying degrees of amenities, from full service to bare bones. Another great aspect of these campgrounds is they are open year-round and many don’t require a reservation. Black Rock and Hidden Valley campgrounds are both at high elevations, making them ideal spots for watching the sun go down but offer vastly different amenities. Black Rock campground offers water, a dump station, flushable toilets, and fire grates, here, reservations are required. Hidden Valley campground has bare-bones amenities, meaning pit toilets and no water, but it still has picnic tables and fire grates. This top camping spot in California operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, so no reservation is required.
This second spot is perfect for those looking at California road trip destinations in search of the best surf. Located in Encinitas in Southern California, San Elijo state beach is the perfect place to spend the night to wake up early in the morning and catch some waves. Not only will you wake up to the incredible view of the Pacific Ocean right at your window. The camping facility here has RV friendly site will full hookups and a dump station. The campground is also pet-friendly. While you’re here, join the locals at the famous Pannikin Coffee & Tea for a delicious coffee and light snack you can take with you to enjoy on the beach.
Mojave National Preserve
The Mojave National Preserve is 1.6 million acres of protected desert, meaning that there is no shortage of things to see and places to explore. There are many hiking trails you can explore, all ranging in level of difficulty from an almost completely flat Ring Loop trail to walking up the Kelso Dunes. One sight that is certainly worth the walk is the Lava Tubes, here, you can climb down, using the provided ladder, into the earth’s crust where lava used to flow. There are two developed campgrounds, Hole in the Wall and Mid Hills campground that allow RVs but neither has a hookup site and only Hole in the Wall has a dumping station. Both campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and reservations are not accepted.
One of the most unique California road trip destinations in Death Valley National Park is not to be missed! It boasts many campsites throughout the park, many open all year round. The two biggest campsites are Furnace Creek and Sunset, both of which have water, a dump station, and a small entrance fee. Furnace creek also has RV hookups, tables, and fire pits. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, Wildrose Campground is free and has water, tables, and fire pits. Only Furnace Creek requires a reservation during summer but is still open all year round. For more amenities, such as swimming pools, look to stay at one of the private campsites in Death Valley. Many are also open year-round but require a reservation.
Mammoth Mountain & Lake
Mammoth Mountain and Lake offer plenty of activities, from hiking to swimming in the summer to skiing in the winter. Located at the entrance of the town is Mammoth Mountain RV Park, open year-round and offers full RV hook-ups as well as many amenities, such as laundry facilities and even an indoor pool! Winter rates for this campground start at $35 a night. For a more bare-bones campground, Tuff campground offers RV sites but does not have any hookup capabilities, but it does allow fishing. Unfortunately, like almost all other campsites in Mammoth, this campground closes between the months of October and April. If you want to camp in Mammoth in the off-season, Mammoth Mountain RV Park is one of your only options.
Yosemite National Park has 13 campgrounds open to the public all year and is our favorite California road trip destination. The glacial valley with majestic natural beauty should be a mandatory stop if you are looking for an adventurous trip, such as this northern Californian road trip, due to the parks extensive network of hiking trails, climbing routes and scenic roads. Campsites in Yosemite that are open to RVs are situated all over the park in Yosemite Valley and both North and South of the valley. All sites that accommodate RVs also have taps for water, and some have a select number of pitches for those with reduced mobility. There are only two campsites that have showers, Curry Village and Housekeeping Camp, and the only dump station open all year round is at Upper Pines Campground; please keep these in mind when choosing where to spend the night.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has over 90 campgrounds and cabins available, along with plenty of public restrooms that are free to use for anyone visiting the park. The area around Big Sur is the perfect destination for a Pacific Coast Road Trip to explore the northern Californian coast, with lots of waterfalls and picturesque coastal views along the way. Big Sur has both private and state-run campgrounds that range widely in the amenities available, from hot showers and laundry facilities to pit toilets and picnic tables. Fernwood campground and resort offers plenty of amenities such as showers, flush toilets, a camp store, and electric hookups for RV, for $70-$100 per night, depending on the season. Another great option, that is a little more budget-friendly, is the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground. It offers showers, flush toilets, a camp store, half grill fire pits, and a dump station but does not have RV hook-ups. This campground costs between $35-$50 per night, depending on the season. Big Sur is a very popular camping destination, so we recommend booking in advance, especially in the high season of summer, as these California road trip destinations can fill up 6 months in advance.
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is most known as the home of General Sherman, the largest tree in the world! Sequoia National Park and King Canyon have many campsites, but the ones open year-round are Azalea Campground and Potwisha Campground. Azalea features a camp store while Potwisha has a dump station, but both offer potable water and flushable toilets all year. Both are $22 a night for up to six people. Even with these campsites being open year-round, it is important to check beforehand as they may close due to wildfires in the area.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Like many California road trip destinations, Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to many lakes and beautiful hiking trails with varying degrees of intensity. There are campsites at every lake offering basic amenities such as flushable toilets. Group camping sites are offered at Butte Lake, Juniper Lake, and Manzanita Lake. From meadows filled with flowers and pristine lakes to gorgeous mountains and jaw-dropping volcanoes this park is named after, Lassen is not to be overlooked.
Lake Tahoe, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, is the perfect spot for watersport lovers. Here, you can paddleboard on crystal clear waters and admire the rock formations below. This quiet lake is shared between the states of California on its west bank and Nevada on its east bank. For the adventurer, you can take a hot air balloon ride and view Lake Tahoe from the clouds. Back down on solid ground, head to the water’s edge, and go fishing for trout! There are many campgrounds all around the lake that offer full RV hookups, like the ones at Meeks Bay Resort and Marina or Campground by the Lake. But make sure you reserve well in advance as these tend to book up quickly.
Redwood National Park
Walking the trails in Redwood National Park will take you back in time as you stare up at the thousand-year-old trees. There is nothing like it. This national park is also a world heritage site and an International Biosphere and protects a majority of the redwoods in the world. These ancient redwood trees loom over you as you walk along the 200 miles trail system, in a seemingly never-ending and completely silent forest. The Lady Bird Johnson Grove trail is a particularly stunning elevated path. The climate in this area of the park causes the trees to lose some of their colors but the sun shines brighter through the leaves. Camping in an RV here is only permitted in developed campgrounds; there are many to choose from, however, they do not have hookup sites.
These top California road trip destinations are great for every type of traveler, whether you’re traveling solo, with your significant other, or as a family. Start your road trip by picking up an RV rental in Los Angeles and exploring all this state has to offer.
About the Autor
Anna has traveled to over 35 countries and is always looking for the next adventure for her and her dog.