Matt Johnson

The Best Lake Camping In California: 7 Hidden Gems You Have To Try

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: May 5, 2023Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Summer is right around the corner, which means it’s the perfect time for a Lake Camping adventure. If you’re looking to bask in the sun’s warmth and immerse yourself in nature’s beauty, California is the place to be! With some of the most remarkable natural lakes in the United States, California offers camping enthusiasts a destination that’s hard to beat. So why settle for crowded, noisy campsites when you can experience the peaceful and serene ambiance of California Lake Campgrounds? These hidden lake gems offer the ideal mix of solitude, adventure, and relaxation, making them the ultimate destination for any camping trip.

There are many awe-inspiring landscapes and water activities to explore in California’s lake campgrounds. Lake Almanor, Trinity Lake, Convict Lake, and Lake Perris all offer an exciting and unique experience that will satisfy the most adventurous souls. Whether you’re seeking peace and tranquility or a thrilling adventure on the water, these campgrounds have something for everyone.

You’ll witness some of California’s most breathtaking scenery at Lake Almanor as you camp alongside the lake. Trinity Lake offers an opportunity to explore the spectacular Trinity Alps and indulge in water activities like swimming, boating, and fishing. Convict Lake, while small in size, boasts an unparalleled beauty that features jaw-dropping mountain views. Lastly, Lake Perris is perfect for families looking for a fun and relaxing getaway while enjoying various water activities.

With so many hidden lake gems to choose from, California Lake Campgrounds has it all. So, grab your camping gear, pack your bags, and get ready to explore the beauty and mystery of Lake Camping in California!

Why lake camping is the best camping experience in California.

Tired of camping in crowded and noisy campsites? If so, you should consider lake camping instead. California boasts a multitude of beautiful lakes that offer a variety of activities for the whole family amidst breathtaking views.

Lake camping provides a unique and tranquil environment with many exciting activities to satisfy different age groups and interests. With the option of fishing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and water sports like wakeboarding and waterskiing, the trip will surely be unforgettable for everyone.

The sheer variety of landscapes is another reason lake camping in California is the ultimate camping experience. Enjoy the stunning backdrop of towering mountains, clear blue waters, and lush green forests as you set up camp and explore the beautiful surroundings.

Don’t forget to factor lake camping into your next camping trip’s itinerary, for experiencing peaceful and enjoyable nights under the stars and next to the water is unbeatable compared to regular camping trips. And with all of the fantastic lake camping options that California has to offer, there’s bound to be a spot near you that is worth exploring!

California lake camping essentials: What you need to bring.

When it comes to lake camping, being prepared is key. The serene environment and outdoor activities can be a fantastic experience but can swiftly become a nightmare without the right gear. Here are some essentials you should pack to ensure a smooth lake camping trip.

First things first, your tent. Choose a durable, comfortable one that can withstand any weather and is easy to set up. Don’t compromise on a good night’s sleep either – bring a sleeping bag, pillow, and sleeping pad for extra comfort.

You’ll also need to bring cooking supplies to whip up delicious meals. Along with a portable stove, ensure you include cooking utensils and a cooler to store food. Staying hydrated is vital, so don’t forget to pack ample water and water filters to ensure drinking water is safe. Oh, and don’t forget to carry plenty of snacks – munching on some trail mix while gazing at the lake is an incomparable experience. With these essentials in tow, you’re all set to relish California’s best lake camping adventure.

Seven of the best lakes with lakeside camping in California.

When you want a lakeside camping experience with breathtaking views, tranquility, and plenty of activities, California has plenty of options. With over 3,000 lakes in the Golden State, it can get overwhelming. However, we’ve compiled a list of seven incredible lakes you should consider for your next lake camping trip.

Lake Almanor: A stunning haven for water sports.

Lake Almanor in California

Lake Almanor, a picturesque lake, is nestled amid the northern Sierra Nevada mountains. The breathtaking natural background makes the place a perfect haven for those who love outdoor adventures. The widespread lake offers 52 miles of shoreline and more than 90 miles of recreational trails. It is a perfect retreat for the ones who love reconnecting with nature.

This majestic lake is a delightful treat with activities that cater to every enthusiast. It is home to an abundance of rainbow trout, brown trout, and king salmon, making it a haven for anglers. The best part – you don’t even need a boat as it is easy to fish from the shoreline.

But if you are into some adventure, you can rent a boat, kayak, or paddleboard from one of the many marinas.

The marinas also offer guided tours, a perfect opportunity for those new to water sports to indulge in the fun. If you want more exploration, head towards the nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park. It showcases some beautiful hiking trails that will reward you with incredible views of the surroundings.

Camping is yet another way to be here. Lake Almanor is undoubtedly one of California’s most prestigious lake camping spots, with its North Shore Campground being the centerpiece. When it comes to lakeside camping, there really isn’t too much that competes with North Shore Campground.

Trinity Lake: California’s largest and most versatile lake campsite.

Trinity Lake Camping in California

Trinity Lake in the Shasta Trinity National Forest is a dream destination for nature enthusiasts who love to explore the outdoors. Nestled in scenic surroundings, it boasts of being California’s largest and most versatile lake campsite. Trinity Lake’s turquoise waters and serene shorelines make it an ideal spot for a leisurely respite.

This is easily one of the most beautiful landscapes we’ve ever glamped in. There was something about brewing a pot of coffee and watching the sunrise while lakeside camping at this gorgeous park.

Whether you’re a fishing fanatic, or an adventure-seeker looking for thrilling water sports such as boating, kayaking, or paddleboarding, Trinity Lake has something for everyone. You can rent boats, jet skis, or kayaks to explore the pristine waters or take a guided fishing trip to catch some lake trout, bass, and catfish. Take a break from water activities and trek on the nearby hiking trails to immerse yourself in the wilderness. Each moment spent here will be memorable and exciting.

When it comes to camping, Trinity Lake has three enticing options to choose from. The Pine Cove Marina is ideal for RVs or larger groups, while the Trinity Lake KOA offers luxurious amenities such as cabins, swimming pools, and hot tubs. The Trinity Alps Marina provides a more rustic experience with a remote location and the chance to camp in tents with breathtaking lake views. Choose the option that suits your taste and enjoy a relaxing time amidst nature’s beauty.

Trinity Lake should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for an immersive outdoor adventure in a picturesque setting. It offers a complete package of water-based activities, camping opportunities, and scenic hikes that will keep you busy throughout your stay. Plan a trip with family or friends, or embark on a solo adventure – you will not be disappointed with what Trinity Lake offers.

Lake Pillsbury: A remote destination for off-the-grid camping.

Lake Pillsbury Camping

Nestled in the pristine Mendocino National Forest in Northern California lies Lake Pillsbury, one of the most secluded and off-the-grid camping sites in the Golden State. The views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking, and the crystal-clear waters are simply mesmerizing. Camping enthusiasts looking to disconnect from their busy lives will find plenty of opportunities to unwind and connect with nature.

The remote location of Lake Pillsbury makes it the perfect spot for people who crave isolation. The campsite doesn’t offer cell phone service or an internet connection, so you’ll have to rely on your senses to immerse yourself in the area’s natural beauty. Whether you choose to dip in the lake, fish for bass, go kayaking, hiking, or mountain biking, Lake Pillsbury is ready to offer an unforgettable outdoor experience.

If you’re looking for the ultimate off-the-grid camping experience, Lake Pillsbury has something for everyone. Its peaceful scenery, abundant fishing opportunities, and hiking trails make it an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Take advantage of the lack of internet and cellular signals, and disconnect from the world to recharge your batteries.

What are you waiting for? Plan your next camping trip to Lake Pillsbury and discover the beauty of California’s hidden gems. It’s time to break free, explore something new, and discover what nature has in store for you!

Convict Lake: A majestic setting for a quiet and peaceful getaway.

Convict Lake Camping in California

Nestled in breathtaking mountains lies Convict Lake – a tranquil escape that’s a must-visit on your next camping excursion. The area boasts something for everyone, with various outdoor activities, including fishing, swimming, and hiking.

This alpine lake sits amidst the glorious mountains, creating a captivating backdrop that offers serene and awe-inspiring views. The crystal-clear water beckons visitors to boating and swimming, letting them explore and appreciate the lake’s vastness. Furthermore, the mountains provide great hiking and rock climbing opportunities, making this spot an absolute haven for nature enthusiasts.

When the sun sets, the therapeutic sound of the nearby waterfall soothes the soul, producing an ambiance of serenity that will make you want to extend your stay forever. The lake also has a remarkable history worth exploring. You can discover the area’s past while delighting in a delightful meal at a nearby restaurant.

In conclusion, if you’re searching for a peaceful spot to unwind and disconnect from the chaos of daily life, Convict Lake is an idyllic hideaway you need to add to your bucket list. Its outstanding beauty, recreational choices, historical significance, and quiet location make it an unparalleled camping paradise.

Lake Perris: A convenient riverside getaway for anglers and boaters.

Camping Tent and Chair at Lake Perris in California

Located in Southern California’s pristine land lies Lake Perris’s breathtaking oasis. This is a destination that warmly welcomes boaters and anglers alike. No matter what kind of outdoor enthusiast you are, Lake Perris has a little something for everyone to enjoy, from captivating hiking trails to stunning beaches and serene picnic areas.

As far as fishing goes, Lake Perris boasts a variety of species, ranging from trout to bass, catfish, and carp. Anglers can either fish off the shore or rent a boat, which is perfect for finding the deeper waters that are often teeming with fish. Lake Perris is also a popular spot for personal watercraft and jet-ski lovers, with a special area designated for these activities.

If you’re feeling more mellow, nothing beats soaking up the sun on the cool waters or lounging on the sandy beaches. An abundance of hiking trails will take you on a journey through the most scenic landscapes. Regardless of the type of adventure you have in mind, Lake Perris is the perfect spot for a well-deserved camping trip. So, take a step back from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, pack your gear, and head out to one of California’s most stunning camping sites.

June Lake: An outdoor lover’s paradise.

June Lake in California - The Best Camping

June Lake is an all-season resort town in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. This picturesque spot is renowned for its crystal clear waters and breathtaking views, making it a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

Whether you’re looking to go fishing or swimming, kayaking or boating – this gorgeous area has it all. And if you’re here for some winter camping in California, you can hit the slopes at the June Mountain Ski Area. We’re not much for skiing, but everyone else loved the slopes when we stayed here a few winters ago.

You’ll love staying at the June Lake Campground, which is right on the shore. From here, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the great outdoor activities, as well as a range of amenities, including restrooms and showers, fire pits, and picnic tables.

There are a few other great campgrounds, such as the Silver Lake Campground, Hartley Springs Campground, and Oh Ridge Campground. All of these are great campgrounds, but the June Lake Campground and Silver Lake Campgrounds are the only ones to offer lakeside camping.

While in the area, you have to drive around the picturesque June Lake Loop. This loop takes you by Waugh Lake, Gem Lake, Silver Lake, and June Lake. It’s one of the prettiest drives you’ll take. And, a pro tip, if you go during the fall, typically around September through October, you can see the aspens changing colors, and it’s completely stunning.

Lake Tahoe: The epitome of California lakes.

Iconic Lake Tahoe Camping in California

The magnificent Lake Tahoe is an aquatic wonderland home to snow-capped peaks, towering trees, and sapphire-blue waters. This great lake rests at over 6200 feet above sea level in the center of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range between California and Nevada. It’s one of the most beautiful locations in the entire country and is definitely worth checking out.

Lake Tahoe is an excellent spot for camping, whether for something rustic or luxurious. There are a variety of campgrounds at Lake Tahoe that offer different amenities depending on what type of camping experience you’re after.

Some of the best lakeside campgrounds and RV parks at Lake Tahoe include Sugar Pine Point Campground, Meeks Bay Campground, Lake Forest Campground, Tahoe State Recreation Area, and William Kent Campground. All of these are on the western shore of Lake Tahoe, but that’s where all of the happenings are anyways. You can take Highway 50 and 28 on the east side if you want a beautiful drive on the Nevada side of the lake.

From world-class skiing and snowboarding to stunning hikes and bike trails, Lake Tahoe offers an array of outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy. There are also plenty of cultural events, such as music concerts and festivals, that take place throughout the year. All in all, it’s an excellent spot for camping and is something you should definitely add to your bucket list.

Other amazing lakes.

If you’re searching for more lake camping destinations in California, you’re in luck! There are numerous hidden gems for you to explore that will leave you in awe. For starters, Lake Isabella is a top choice for thrill seekers and anglers alike. Tucked away in Kern County, Southern California, this lake offers many adventures for visitors like you. Whether you’re into hiking, kayaking, or fishing, this lake is an excellent burst of excitement and beauty.

For avid mountain bikers, head straight to Mammoth Lakes, which lies in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s a perfect spot to push your limits and enjoy the beautiful trails. But if you’re craving a more relaxed and less perplexing experience, Donner Lake is the place to be. It offers scenic views and easy access to Donner Memorial State Park hiking trails. There’s no better way to spend your vacation than enveloped in nature’s tranquility.

But, if you’re looking for a unique, unforgettable, and human camping experience, you must visit Clear Lake State Park. This gem in Lake County boasts the most massive freshwater lake in California, surrounded by vineyards, wildlife, and picturesque scenery. Imagine enjoying water activities such as boating, swimming, and fishing, surrounded by breathtaking views of Mount Konocti and the beautiful landscape. Clear Lake State Park has something for everyone, whether it’s a romantic getaway or a fun-filled family vacation.

And for those that want something closer to the city in Southern California but don’t want the long drive, Big Bear Lake has everything you could imagine, and it’s about 20 minutes outside of Los Angeles. From fishing, hiking, mountain biking trails, camping, and more – Big Bear Lake is the perfect spot for a weekend of outdoor activities.

Remember to pack all your essentials and take your time to soak it all in. As the sun sets, watch the sky light up with stunning colors and relax to the gentle sound of nature. As the night progresses, gaze up at the starry night sky and appreciate the tranquil peace of camping in the great outdoors.

Go and find your camping lake.

Lake camping in California is an opportunity to connect with nature like never before. You’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the state’s breathtaking lakes, which offer a wide range of activities to keep you entertained. There’s something for everyone, from fishing to water sports, hiking to mountain biking. And what better way to soak in the picturesque scenery than camping next to the lake? The experience is just out of this world!

With its stunning views, Trinity Lake is an excellent option for those who love the wild. Lake Almanor is a versatile choice, with something for everyone. Be amazed by the seclusion of Lake Pillsbury, which promises a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of city life. And if you’re looking for peace and calm, Convict Lake is the perfect spot. Don’t forget the conveniently located Lake Perris, which offers all the essentials for a comfortable trip.

Get adventurous and try out any number of campgrounds on lakes throughout the Golden State. From Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort to Yosemite National Park, the options are endless.

So, grab your bags and head out for a camping adventure today – or tomorrow. We just recommend you do it soon. Be sure to pack all the essentials for a memorable trip. Experience the unparalleled beauty and tranquility of California’s lakes, nestled in the magnificent Sierra Nevada mountains. Whether you’re in Southern or Northern California, the perfect lake camping getaway awaits. Plan your next trip to any of these spectacular hidden gems and let nature work its magic on your soul.


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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