Ultimate camping in northern California?
July 22, 2006 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for tent camping in Northern California?

One of my oldest, closest friends is getting married this fall, and so we're taking a bachelors' tent camping trip in a few weeks. We'll be meeting friends driving down from Portland, so I'm looking at places about halfway in between there and the Modesto/Stockton area (CA central valley)--which looks like it puts us around Eureka and such.

Does anyone have specific places that they love to camp in that region? Other things/places in that area you think we must do/see? Some hiking would be great, places to swim/otherwise recreate would be outstanding, but I imagine that much of the trip will be just spending time with friends in beautiful spaces (while drinking &c, of course).

(I found this thread, which offered some good, general pointers, but I'm wondering if west coast MeFites might have some more specific places to recommend. Also, any driving route suggestions would be appreciated too, as my friend is not from California and would love to see the beauty! Many thanks in advance.)
posted by LooseFilter to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The Lost Coast (in Humboldt County) is beautiful, but it's mostly backpacking.

I think there are some campgrounds near the ends, or you can backpack in a bit if you like. I've hiked a good chunk of it (several years ago, though), so feel free to email any questions.
posted by JMOZ at 3:47 PM on July 22, 2006

If you don't mind driving north of Eureka a little you can't go wrong camping in the Redwoods. I spent a couple of nights at
Gold Bluffs Beach campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (within Redwoods National Park) and it is unbelievably gorgeous with a lovely beach and nice hiking trails starting just a mile away. Redwoods National Park
posted by fieldtrip at 5:22 PM on July 22, 2006

There are usually campgrounds at or near the various reservoirs in the sierra foothills. Could look into that.

CA has a state parks page. You can search by activity (i.e. check camping and hiking), then sort by region...
posted by R343L at 6:52 PM on July 22, 2006

To help you in your quest, you need to purchase the "Northern California Atlas and Gazetteer." It's a fantastic book with good maps and info on camping. It distinguishes between public and private campgrounds, and for many campgrounds it lists available services and activities. (I like primitive campsites, so I just avoid the areas with bathrooms and RV access.) The book publishing rights have been bought by Coleman, so you can probably track it down that way.

It's been years, but I once drove through the Klamath National Forest along the Salmon River. (There's a North and a South Fork) There are a few primitive camps along the stream, you can park nearby, and it's drop-dead-gorgeous. Keep an eye (and an ear) out for Sasquatch, though. ;)

If you head a short way east from I-5 you can explore the volcanic Lassen area. I've never been there myself, but perhaps another MeFite can give a personal account. It's on my list, because of the interesting geologic features and its long distance from the Bay Area (in other words, fewer people.)

Bon voyage.
posted by shifafa at 7:14 PM on July 22, 2006

All of the above suggestions are right-on, especially the Lost Coast. I just want to add that you should not --- repeat, should not --- go wandering away from the posted camping sites to explore if you are in a particularly rural area. I was on a two-week trip a while back that involved camping in some small towns around the Klamath National Forest. The scenery was lush, green, and breathtaking, and so a friend and I began to meander off for a walk. The local-in-charge reminded us that the major cash crop in that part of the country is kinda frowned upon by the authorities, and that we would do well to stay on the paved roads and not venture too close to any property with 'no trespassing' signs, as the farmers out there were pretty quick with a shotgun if they thought you were snooping around.

This page of Northern CA camping destinations might be helpful.
posted by hsoltz at 7:42 PM on July 22, 2006

There are some amazing car-camping spots on the Lost Coast. There's this one park somewhere on the coast that has two big tent spots that are on the edges of cliffs, overlooking the ocean and crashing waves below. We were there around July 4th a few years ago and it was so deep, hidden, and hard to get to (we had to take a muddy five mile single car width road to get there) that they said they only needed reservations on that one holiday weekend, otherwise the place was almost deserted year round.

I wish I could remember the name though. It helps to have a 4x4 or SUV to get all the way back in there.
posted by mathowie at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2006

hsoltz, that's really good advice for the Klamath and Humboldt areas. Glad you thought of it.
posted by shifafa at 8:45 PM on July 22, 2006

The only website you need: California's BLM offices. More specific, the Redding field office's list of camping facilities.

Camping on BLM land is fun and either very cheap or free. There are usually no facilities, so you have to pack everything in and out. There are (usually) no nice paved campgrounds with families full of screaming kids and the 55' long Mega-RV.

It's a great way to camp, and the BLM has some excellent camping areas in Northern California.
posted by drstein at 9:55 PM on July 22, 2006

matthowie, was that Sinkyone Wilderness State Park/ Usal Beach?

There is also Kings Range National Conservation Area: Mattole, KRNC: Wailiki, KRNC: Tolkan and KRNC: Horse Mountain.
posted by fshgrl at 10:49 PM on July 22, 2006

Patrick's Point State Park. Absolutely beautiful, in range of the Redwoods attractions, Eureka, and Crescent City, and all-around fun. The Octopus Grove is amazing, and close by is Agate Beach, where one can spend hours climbing the sandy cliffs, searching for agates, and playing in the (cold!) surf. I've been there several times, starting as a very young child with my parents on camping trips, and loved it more every time. (So, uh, no, this recommendation isn't biased at -all-....)
posted by po at 11:00 PM on July 22, 2006

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