Camping Articles

California's Best Camping

Huntington Lake

Rancheria Marina, Huntington Lake, Sierra National Forest, CA

Rancheria Marina at Huntington Lake

Roads over Sierra Mountain Passes

October 8, 2017

As snow begins to fall in the Sierra Nevada some of California's mountain highways have closed temporarily until Cal Trans crew can clear the pavement.

Both Sonora Pass and Tioga Pass have closed for a few days in recent weeks. Most likely all the highways will remain open for another month with only occasional closures. Since storms can sweep in and drop snow with little warning, it is always wise to check on mountain highway conditions before setting out.

Check the most up-to-date road conditions at
CalTrans Current Highway Conditions.

Three popular mountain highways will close for the winter sometime in the coming months - Tioga Pass in Yosemite, Sonora Pass, and Ebbetts Pass. Carson Pass, Echo Summit, and Donner Summit are kept open most of the winter with only occasional closures when conditions warrant.

Campground Closures

Most campgrounds in the Sierra, the Cascades, and in the Trinity Alps will be closing in coming weeks. Many are already closed. Some have shut down services and even closed campground gates but still allow walk-in camping. Check with your local Forest Service office for information about particular campgrounds.

Although each National Forest maintains a website page under Recreation which lists which campgrounds are open and which are closed, these pages are not always current. (Some National Forests such as Eldorado National Forest are particularly good about providing up-to-date information; some others, not so much.)

Plan a Family Camping Trip to
Lassen Volcanic National Park

June 13, 2017

Choose Lassen Volcanic National Park for a summer camping trip the whole family will remember for years to come. While all the campgrounds except Manzanita Lake are currently under snow, many should open in July. It's not too soon to make your plans.

Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

Discover amazing places throughout the park. Hike up the trail to the summit of Lassen Peak, a volcano which last erupted 100 years ago. Enjoy swimming, non-motorized boating, and fishing in many park lakes. In August, visitors will be rewarded with the annual Dark Sky Festival as well as the partial eclipse of the sun on August 21, 2017. Explore such places around the park as Chaos Crags and Jumbles, Bumpass Hell Overlook, and Sulphur Works.

Lassen is less congested than most of California's other national parks, partly because it is a little more remote. However, expect many full campgrounds in August, their busiest month. Don't let the miles by car deter you from going. The rewards of the park are worth the trip. Located east of Redding and Red Bluff, the park is only one hour from Interstate 5.

Astronomy Programs

If you can, plan your trip to coincide with one of Lassen Volcanic National Park's Astronomy Programs, highlighted this year by a partial eclipse of the sun on August 21, 1017.

  • Astronomy Programs at Bumpass Hell parking area - evening programs on stars, planets, and constellations. June 24, July 15, and September 17, 2017.
  • Lassen Dark Sky Festival - Join in nightly constellation tours and stargazing, Junior Ranger Astronomy, hands-on activities, and much more. Friday - Sunday, August 11-13, 2017
    2017 Dark Sky Festival
  • Partial Solar Eclipse - View a partial solar eclipse (86% at Lassen). Purchase eclipse viewing glasses at Loomis Museum or the Visitor Center. August 21, 2017, 10:18 AM to 11:40 AM


For families planning a visit to Lassen, two campgrounds stand out as excellent choices. Manzanita Lake Campground has the most to offer in facilities and nearby recreation. Rent kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards, and catarafts. Try fishing from shore or boat. Families will appreciate the nearby shower and laundry facilities as well as a convenient camp store.

Half of the sites at Manzanita Lake can be reserved, but the others are first-come, first served. And from July 4 through Labor Day the group camping area is converted to first-come, first-served campsites.

Summit Lake Campgrounds (North and South) are somewhat closer to the Visitor Center and other activities near the Southwest Entrance to the park. Like Manzanita Lake, a good number of campsites are kept open as first-come, first-served sites.

More Campgrounds Added to
California's Best Camping

October 8, 2017

More outstanding campgrounds have recently been added to California's Best Camping. Many are in Southern California while others are in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Orange and Riverside Counties

Orange County offers two outstanding campgrounds at county parks - Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park near San Juan Capistrano and O'Neill Park near Mission Viejo.

In western Riverside County look for a number of newly included campgrounds: Orange and Riverside Counties Map

Barton Flats

South of Big Bear Lake along Highway 38 are a string of wonderful campgrounds around Barton Flats. Among them find comfortable group camps and a pair of outstanding equestrian camps.

Mountain Home and Northern Sequoia National Forest

East of Porterville and north of Lake Isabella are clusters of wonderful campgrounds. Standing out among them are those at Mountain Home State Demostration Forest.

Other Campgrounds Recently Included

Find other campgrounds on the Southern California Camping Map in the Mojave Desert, Southern San Joaquin Valley, and even a few new ones in the greater Los Angeles area.

California State Parks Launches
a New Reservation System

August 1, 2017

Beginning August 1, 2017, California State Parks switched their campground reservation system to their newly launched ReserveCalifornia. Use the new ReserveCalifornia link for reservations for all Califorsnia State Parks and Beaches.

The new system is intended to " support field operations and enhance the experience of visitors with a modern platform." This only affects California State Parks.

Currently campsite reservations are released each month in one-month blocks. "The new reservation system will move from a block or on-sale day reservation period to a rolling window. The public will be able to reserve the highly sought-after campsites and lodging six months in advance from the current date. Camping and lodging inventory will become available each day for a period of six months in advance.

"Bookings may extend from the arrival date to the desired departure date - based on availability and the park's maximum stay rules."

Other new features of ReserveCalifornia will be phased in from August 1, 2017, through March 1, 2018.

New Features Available Beginning August 1, 2017

  • Online profiles and other additional self-serve options.
  • More campsites will be made available on ReserveCalifornia.
  • More detailed views of campsites on interactive maps
  • Features to make it easier to reserve camping and lodging sites
  • A new customer contact center

Other New Features to be Phased in Over Coming Months

  • Reservation site visitors will be able to view real-time reservation inventory.
  • Payment options will be increased for locations that currently only accept cash or checks.
  • The reservation site will offer enhanced trip information to assist in planning your visits.
  • Forty-one more state parks will be added to the reservation system.

Enhanced Payment Options at State Parks and Beaches

Beginning August 1 and continuing over the next year, "state-of-the-art, computerized point-of-sale and fee collection equipment that will allow debit and credit card payments at more locations." will be installed.

How to Make a Reservation on the New ReserveCalifornia System

Over the coming days, we at California's Best Camping will be updating our reservation links on all of our state park pages. For those who wish to make a reservatioin today, go to ReserveCalifornia.

By phone, reach the ReserveCalifornia customer contact center 7 days a week from 8 AM until 6 PM (except on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day):
(800) 444-PARK (7275).

Reservation fees are virtually unchanged, now $7.99 per reservation.

Switching over from ReserveAmerica Reservation System

The old reservation system, ReserveAmerica, will no longer be used by California State Parks. However, all reservations made through ReserveAmerica will be honored and automatically transferred to ReserveCalifornia.

California State Parks is changing the way it manages Distinguished Veteran (DVP) and Disabled Discount (DDP) pass programs. New credit card design passes will be issued at any California State Park. Read details from California State Parks at Pass Exchange.

Huntington Lake Camping
High in the Sierra Nevada

July 6, 2017

The sparkling waters of Huntington Lake are tucked away high in the Sierra Nevada east of Fresno. Thick pine forests press against the shoreline and spread up surrounding ridges and peaks. Along the shore of the lake is a series of more than a half dozen campgrounds that open each summer to eager campers.

Visitors to the 4-mile-long lake enjoy wonderful choices of outdoor recreation from boating and fishing to hiking and horseback riding. In addition to the campgrounds, Huntington Lake features a number of charming resorts and marinas that provide lodging, restaurants, and boat rentals.

Huntington Lake, Sierra National Forest, CA

Campers at Huntington Lake enjoy swimming, waterskiing, sailing, paddleboarding, and kayaking - often within steps of their campsite. Many campsites are so close to the shore that campers moor their boats within sight of their tents or RVs. At 7,000 feet in elevation, camping at Huntington Lake offers a cool relief to the hot summer days of the nearby San Joaquin Valley.

Huntington Lake Recreation

A host of wonderful recreation opportunities are available to those who are camped at Huntington Lake.

All kinds of boating are popular on Huntington Lake from waterskiing to jet skiing, from sailing to kayaking. A public boat launching ramp is located between College and Deer Creek Campgrounds. Boat rentals are available at Huntington Lake Resort, Rancheria Marina, Lakeshore Resort, and Cedar Crest Resort.

The nearby ski resort China Peak offers scenic chair lift rides, live music on Friday evenings, and a mountain biking park.

D & F Pack Station features a range of guided trail rides from 15-minute loops around the stable grounds up to all-day outings to nearby mountain lakes.

Billy Creek Guard Station Museum highlights the area's local history.

A number of picnic sites are found along the lake's edge, including Bear Cove Picnic Area, Billy Creek Picnic Area, and Dowville Picnic Site.

Nearby Places of Interest

  • Shaver Lake is only a half-hour drive back along Highway 168. There visitors enjoy boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking.
  • Mono Hot Springs are deeper in the mountains, across narrow and winding Kaiser Pass. Besides Mono Hot Springs Resort, visitors can enjoy fishing and soaking in several public hot springs.
  • Lake Thomas Edison and Florence Lake are both on the other side of Kaiser Pass. These beautiful mountain lakes offer great fishing, camping, and hiking.

Huntington Lake Campgrounds

Reservations can be made for all Huntington Lake campgrounds.

Lower and Upper Billy Creek Campgrounds are at the northwestern end of the lake. Lower Billy Creek has 12 campsites along the edge of the lake, while nearby Upper Billy Creek features 43 campsites.

Catavee Campground sits short distance inland, still within easy walking distance of the lake. Some of the 24 sites have lake views.

College Campground has 10 campsites for tents only, all of them near the lake.

Deer Creek Campground has 27 campsites near the lake. Those closest to the water are designated as premium sites and cost $2 extra per night.

Kinnikinnick Campground features 25 campsites set back a short distance from the lake. Some sites have lake views and all are within easy walking distance of the water.

Rancheria Campground, the largest of the campgrounds, has 125 campsites spread through the forest and close to shore at the eastern end of the lake. The campground also has some small group sites.

Huntington Lake, Sierra National Forest, CA

Huntington Lake

Getting to Huntington Lake

Huntington Lake is 72 miles northeast of Fresno, California. Drivers approaching Fresno via Highway 99 should watch for the Highway 180 exit east. After only a few miles Highway 168 turns off to the north. Follow Highway 168 all the way to Huntington Lake. Plan for about 1 hour and 45 minutes driving time.

From Madera and points north of Madera on Highway 99, it is about 15 minutes faster to take Highway 145 east out of Madera. After 19 miles turn south on Road 206 to Friant, then left on Millerton Road past Millerton Lake. Then left again on Auberry Road, eventually catching Highway 168 at Prather. With so many turns, confirm the route with a GPS or map before setting out.

The entire drive is about 5 hours from Los Angeles and 4½ from San Francisco.

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