Matt Johnson

8 Amazing Places To Go Winter Camping In California

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Sep 4, 2022Updated: Dec 13, 2023

It’s hard to appreciate the diversity of California winter camping without researching and looking at some photos. In this list of 8 excellent California winter campgrounds, we take you across the state and introduce you to some of the best seasonal campgrounds that you can experience. These range from the colder, more northern destinations to some of the southern, warmer destinations.

Why camp in the winter?

When a camper camps in the winter, they’ll experience true silence. The sounds of spring, summer, and early fall nights are dominated by crickets, frogs, and other noisy nocturnal insects.

The sounds of nature can be enriching and far better than the buzzing and thumping of falling asleep with TV, but there’s nothing like a winter night in nature. 

Winter camps are less crowded and offer more space and opportunities. 

Death Valley National Park: Mahogany Flat

Death Valley National Park Mahogany Flat Camping

Who would not want to add Death Valley to the list of places they have camped? 

The best thing about Mahogany Flat is that you can camp in Death Valley and access shade and trees, which is rare. 

It should be no surprise that camping in Death Valley is usually a tough time when temperatures are high in the summer. 

You’ll enjoy views of the Death Valley watershed and plenty of hiking and backpacking.

Fall and winter will bring you cold nights. So be prepared for that. Please note that the ten campsites here are only accessible by ATVs. 

The campsites have fire pits, restrooms, and tables. They do not have service for your RV or running water.

Jumbo Rocks: Joshua Tree National Park

Jumbo Rocks Joshua Tree National Park Camping in the Winter

There are 124 sites at Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree. These sites had to be included in the list of 8 unique places for camping in California in the winter. 

 The site is named after the enormous boulders in the park, which can be climbed to enjoy the view. There is no running water at this site, so it should be carried. Jumbo Rocks is one of the unique sites.

Andrew Molera Campground

Andrew Molera Campground on a Chilly Day

This campground is on the list of 8 excellent California winter campgrounds because of its uniqueness.

The experience at Andrew Molera Campground starts with walking to this campground and immediately having the adventure of finding its location. It’s only a 1/4 mile drive to the 22 available campsites, and there are also two hiking and biking trails. 

The hike begins at Trail Camp, which has running water, restrooms, and flush toilets. Each campsite has a fire pit, picnic table, and food container.

Napa Valley State Park: Bothe Campground

Napa Valley State Park Bothe Campground

Bothe Napa Valley Campground is another opportunity to get up close and personal with the majestic redwoods. The trails take a person through all types of coast redwoods. 

There are also many picnic areas that you can enjoy. This campground in scenic Napa Valley is a perfect place to relax.

Napa Valley is a place to camp in California where one will find a home away from the city this winter. Snow rarely falls in this region, and temperatures dip below freezing, but one should be prepared for chilly nights.

Agua Caliente County Park

Agua Caliente County Park in the Winter

Agua Caliente campgrounds are located in Anzo Borrego Desert Park and are surrounded by numerous amenities. 

The name is meant to indicate several geothermally heated bodies of water here, a rare benefit in the winter. Agua Caliente is a trendy place for winter camping.

This campground might be worthwhile if one doesn’t mind the crowd. It’s a geothermally heated campground.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park Camping in Tent

Are you looking to spend a few winter nights in California’s oldest state park? 

This park, with its ancient redwoods, spans 18,000 acres. If a camper wants to camp in a natural redwood forest, this is the place to be. 

Big Basin Redwoods State Park offers an incredible variety of habitats, from wet coastal areas to 2,000 feet above sea level on sunny ridges; if one is camping and hiking on paved trails, one can even bring a dog. 

There is a wide range of camping options, from group camps to tent cabins to hiking camps, as it is the oldest state park in California.

Angel Island

Angel Island California

Angel Island Campground is another one of those adventurous camping options. One must take a ferry from Pier 41 in San Francisco to the island.

There are 16 campsites scattered throughout the island and a view of the city of San Francisco. The island is across the street from one of America’s greatest cities.

It can be windy on Angel Island since the island is not located in the bay. Please consider this when packing things to do with tying down and tarping. From your campsite, you rarely have a view of the cityscape.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Among our eight excellent California winter camping destinations, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is the place that dominates the coastal experience.

The campsites are for hiking only. This campground offers some of the best views of the California coast. It’s rare to be in such a remote location and still hear the sound of waves crashing on the shore. At these campgrounds, a camper has the opportunity to do just that, and it’s pure tranquility to watch the waves crash from your tent door.

The wildlife of the sea can also be part of your trip. If you keep an eye on the sea, you can watch sea lions and dolphins at work.

Tips for Winter Camping

Winter Camping Without a Sleeping Bag

Winter can be a beautiful time of the year in California, but it has its challenges. Here are a few tips to ensure you have an enjoyable winter adventure.

Satellite phone For camping: safety precautions.

Some of these campgrounds are relatively remote. Cell signal may be intermittent or even non-existent. As avid campers ourselves, we always preach safety first, and with that, you need to have a way to communicate in the event of an emergency.

A satellite phone for camping is essential for safety, and it’s so crucial that one should never go on a camping trip without it.

A sat phone can be a lifeline in emergencies, a way to call family while away, or keep the business running.

The Iridium 9555 is the ultimate satellite phone for any camper looking for a satellite phone that is only good for initial calls and text messaging.

Pack all of the essentials.

Winter weather at any of these campgrounds can change without notice. Therefore you must pack all your emergency essentials before heading out on the trip.  

Some of the things you’ll want to ensure you have included a flashlight, blankets, battery-powered radio, water, and food to last a few days. Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list, but they are some bare necessities to help you survive for a few days if you find yourself stranded.

Winter camping is truly a fantastic experience, even more so in California. There are so many incredible places to see and enjoy; just be sure you’re well-prepared for whatever mother nature throws.


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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