OK, let’s face it: the early bird gets the worm—or in some cases, the campsite. Mark your calendar six months in advance and either go online or call at one minute after midnight to snag a summer weekend reservation at these and other uber-popular coastal and lakefront campgrounds. Don’t give up if you can’t get in: cancellations happen, and if you’re flexible and determined, you’ll find an available date.
Nevada Beach, Lake Tahoe: Shhhh! This 52-site National Forest Service campground on the southeast (Nevada) side of the lake is so perfect for DogTrekkers that we almost don’t want to share. Nevada Beach is the longest and broadest beach at Tahoe, and a stretch of sand at the far end is the only non-rocky place at the lake where dogs can romp off-leash. Add to that the paved, 2.6-mile Lam Wa Tah trail taking off from the campground, plus good phone reception and close proximity to a grocery store, restaurants and entertainment venues, and you’ve got the best of Tahoe at your fingertips. While facilities include flush toilets, there’s one downside: no showers. Open May through mid-October; reserve through recreation.gov.
MacKerricher State Park, Mendocino County: This coastal park is a rarity in the California State Parks system in that it is considerably more dog-friendly than most. Dogs on leash are allowed on beaches and trails that offer a little bit of everything: forest, tide pools, lake, bike and hike trails, birdwatching, bluffs and dunes. The campground is open year-round, with sites spread over three loops. Summer reservations can be hard to come by, but persistence pays off. Bring a jacket, as the weather can turn cold fast. Campground facilities include flush toilets and hot showers.