Five Paw-tested Campgrounds in Northern California

By: DogTrekker Staff
Dogs camping in Northern California
Brynn & Tyn. Photo Credit: Mark Totten (CC)

We’re not claiming to be personally familiar with every campground in Northern California, but our experiences at these dog-friendly sites have been pawsitive enough to keep us coming back again and again.

Gerle Creek Campground, Crystal Basin Recreation Area in Eldorado County. The sites at this recently renovated campground on a reservoir controlled by the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District are big enough to build a house on—reason enough to choose it over one where people are packed in elbow-to-elbow. Sweet little Gerle Creek Reservoir (no motorboats allowed) is the main attraction and an idyllic place to paddle a kayak or canoe. There’s even an island where the kids—and Rover—can play pirate while parents watch from the shore. Drive up to gorgeous Loon Lake for access to day hikes in Desolation Wilderness , or try the hike to Bassi Falls.

Woods Lake Campground, Eldorado National Forest, Highway 88 near Carson Pass in Alpine County. This lovely campground at the end of a winding, 2-mile road operates on a first-come basis, so don’t show up on a Friday afternoon thinking you’ll get lucky enough to pitch your tent at one of only 25 sites. The piney setting and serene little lake are pretty is as pretty does, but the real attraction is the trailhead for a 3-or-6-mile loop hike to Little Round Top and/or Winnemucca lakes. The scenery is spectacular, and the wildflower show in July is considered one of the best in the Sierra. Bring a coat: at 8,200 feet elevation, it’s always chilly at night.

Kidd Lake Group Campground, Soda Springs near Donner Summit, Placer County. If you aim is to get several families (dogs included)—or maybe a pack of Cub Scouts—together for an economical mountain getaway, you’ll appreciate the privacy afforded by this PG&E group campground with just three sites, all convenient to a pretty little lake and nearby hiking trails. You’ll bump down a rough dirt road for about two miles to get here (high clearance advised), but eating a little dust is worth the effort. Your group will have access to a fire circle as well as Kidd Lake, which boasts a paddle-to island in its middle. Lovely Long Lake, a natural lake and idyllic swimming spot for dogs as well as people, is nearby. Act early to secure a site at this Sierra family favorite.

MacKerricher State Park Campground, Mendocino County. This gorgeous coastal park has a little bit of everything – forest, beach, tide pools, lake, bike and hiking trails, bluffs and dunes. Unlike at many state parks, beaches and some trails are dog-friendly, albeit with leash restrictions. MacKerricher is open year-round, but its chilly climate is especially appealing to summer campers seeking to beat the Central Valley heat.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground, Big Sur, Monterey County. This long, spread-out campground in the redwoods feels like a magical, ferny world where you wouldn’t be surprised to see elves or trolls popping up in the morning fog. Dogs aren’t allowed on trails, but there’s plenty of room for walks. Miles of dog-friendly trails in the  Ventana Wilderness as well as gorgeous, leash-free Pfeiffer Beach are nearby. Reservations for this cherished campground open six months in advance of dates booked and are often snatched up within hours. Act fast to snag a spot; it’s worth it!

Camp life can be very exciting for a dog, so long as she doesn’t eat too many marshmallows. Dogs are welcome at 90 percent of California campgrounds—it’s the rare one indeed that doesn’t allow pooches. But before you put your credit card down, you’ll want to find out where, outside of developed campsites, Daisy is allowed to hang out. Read more about rules at public and private campgrounds . . .

Photo Credits:
Pacific Crest Trail – Janet Fullwood
Bodie – Janet Fullwood
Brynn & Tyn – Mark Totten (CC)