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Best Camping Spots in Northern California for Families

By Edited Dec 11, 2015 0 0

These best camping spots in Northern California offer families lots of traditional camping activities and many opportunities to explore the natural geology, wildlife, and scenery of California.

McArthur-Burney Falls State Park - the #1 Best Camping Spot in Northern California for Families

best camping in northern California
Location: Off Highway 89 near Burney, CA. About an hour east of Redding.

Burney Falls is the highlight of this campground, but certainly not the only thing to do or see. You can easily spend a week here and not do everything in the area. While here, spend the day boating or on the beach at Lake Britton (rentals available), hike to the cemetery, fish in Hat Creek, or even meet some aliens - or at least listen for aliens at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory built by the SETI Institute and run by SRI International. Ask the rangers for directions to Baum Lake for more fishing. Go in the early evening hours to watch the osprey dive and catch their fish for dinner alongside anglers.

Being a California state park, the amenities are nicer than at federal campgrounds. The bathrooms and showers are new and 100 percent private. Park Rangers offer summer junior ranger programs and group campfires. The campsites here are larger than most, and some are very large giving the kids lots of room to run around while you relax with a book or friends. 

Bears are rarely seen here, so if you are looking for bear-free camping, this is your spot. Dogs are allowed in the campground, but not on the beach or many of the trails. 

The town of Burney is only about 15 minutes away where you can find a grocery store and other shops for any forgotten necessities. 

Grover Hot Springs State Park

camping in northern California
Located about 5 miles from Markleville, CA (South of Lake Tahoe) at the end of Hot Springs Road off State Route 89.

The big draw to Grover Hot Springs campground is of course the hot springs. This natural hot spring has been turned into a pool area. Since the park established in 1959, and probably before then, thousands of visitors have come here to be healed from all that ails them. While it may not really cure all your ails, it does feel amazing to sit outdoors in a natural mineral hot spring. However, this is not the only reason to visit the area. The meadow offers an easy and beautiful walk, especially during the spring wildflower show. There’s a waterfall to hike to and a visitor center. Make sure to stop in town for some ice cream, local shops, and an update on the local bears that locals know very well.  

Amenities include showers. Bears are frequent visitors. Use the bear bins at all times or you will have bears visit your site. Dogs are allowed. Bring cash. There is a fee to use the hot springs pool.


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Fallen Leaf Campground

camping spots in northern California
Located a few minutes from the southern end of Lake Tahoe off Highway 89.

This federal campground offers South Lake Tahoe camping at its best. In the campground you can enjoy trails and the shores of Fallen Leaf Lake. On the lake you can use motorized and non-motorized boats and swim. Visit the Taylor Creek Visitor center located just across the street for more hiking and a look at the aquatic life in the area. Or take a short drive and spend the day at Lake Tahoe. Nearby you will also find local restaurants, ice cream, bike rentals, bike trails, and horseback riding.

For those without a tent or RV, rent a yurt with electricity and beds.

Bears are frequent, usually nightly, visitors. Dogs are allowed. Amenities include showers and flush toilets.

Union Valley Reservoir

Union Valley Reservoir Camping
Located along Icehouse Road off Highway 50.

Several campsites line Union Valley Reservoir off Icehouse Rd., including Sunset-Union Valley Campground, Yellowjacket, Fashoda, and others. All are federal campsites. One of the most popular, Sunset Campground, has a boat ramp and official beach area, but can be busy and reservations you may need to make reservations months in advance. The other campsites are quieter, less crowded, but without all the amenities, such as showers. Many spots will give you an amazing view of the lake and surrounding forest and put you within walking distance of a nice spot to set up for the day along the shore for swimming or to put your canoe in the water. There is also a bike trail connecting many of the campgrounds.

Bassi Falls
Be sure to take a trip to Bassi Falls while you are here. This hidden waterfall is about a mile hike from a dirt parking area. The trailhead to Bassi Falls is at the end of a long one lane rocky road.  Follow the trail for most of the way, but the last bit you will have to look for the stacked rocks marking the path. This hidden gem is beautiful and full of small crystal clear pools in the summer that you can swim in.  There are no bathrooms or amenities at the falls, so plan accordingly. Ask a local campground host for direction to the falls.

Along Icehouse Road is a restaurant and general store.

Amenities vary by campsite. All have vault toilets and some have showers and flush toilets. All have bear bins due to the large population of bears around the Lake Tahoe region. You can camp and hike with your dog here. Dogs are allowed except on the official beach areas.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen camping
Located off Highway 89, east of Redding and Red Bluff, California.

At Lassen you can camp alongside active volcanoes. Don’t worry, the volcanic activity is closely monitored by geologists. The last eruptions occured in the years 1914 to 1917. Run by the National Park Service, Lassen Volcanic National Park is about an hour away from Burney Falls.  There are several campsites, hikes, fishing areas, and a visitor center to keep you busy. Like McArthur-Burney Falls, you can easily spend a week here and not see everything. Be sure to hike to Bumpass Hell to see steam vents in the ground and the boiling pools of water. A drive through the park will also let you see the many lakes, meadows, and more boiling mud pools.

There are numerous camping areas in and around Lassen National Park. Another option is to stay at Drakesbad Guest Ranch, which offers cabins, bungalows, a lodge, restaurant, horseback riding, trials, and even a spa.

Bears have been reported in the park. Dogs are allowed in campgrounds and picnic areas. Pets are not allowed on trails.

Reservations at any of these best camping spots in Northern California can be made through ReserveAmerica.com.

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Locations of All the Best Camping Spots in Northern California for Families

1. McArthur-Burney Falls

2. Grover Hot Springs

3. Fallen Leaf

4. Union Valley Reservoir

5. Lassen Volcanic National Park

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McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, Shasta National Forest, 24898 Califor
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Grover Hot Springs, Toiyabe National Forest, Markleeville, CA, USA
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Fallen Leaf, CA 96150, USA
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Union Valley Reservoir, Eldorado National Forest, California, USA
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Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mineral, CA 96063, USA


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  1. "Lassen Volcanic." National Park Service. 17/07/2013 <Web >
  2. "Home Page." Hat Creek Observatory. 17/07/2013 <Web >
  3. "Home Page." McArthur-Burney Falls State Park. 17/07/2013 <Web >
  4. "Grover Hot Springs SP." California Department of Parks and Recreation. 17/07/2013 <Web >

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