Dog-friendly campsites in Northern California

By: DogTrekker Staff
Dog camping

While it’s impossible to personally know every campground in Northern California, the following dog-friendly sites have repeatedly proven to be exceptional based on various experiences.

Gerle Creek Campground in Crystal Basin Recreation Area, Eldorado County

This recently renovated campground is known for its spacious sites, a welcome respite from those packed elbow-to-elbow. Nestled by the Gerle Creek Reservoir, under the administration of the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, it offers plenty of room for outdoor activities. The reservoir, free from motorboat disturbance, is perfect for a peaceful kayak or canoe paddle. Nearby, there’s an island for children and dogs to indulge in some fun, all under the watchful eyes of parents from the shore. Day hikes in Desolation Wilderness are accessible via a drive up to Loon Lake or try the trail leading to Bassi Falls.

Woods Lake Campground in Eldorado National Forest, Alpine County

Located at the end of a winding, 2-mile road near Carson Pass on Highway 88, Woods Lake Campground operates on a first-come basis. The serene lake and pine-filled setting offer tranquility, but the real draw is the trailhead for a 3-or-6-mile loop hike to Little Round Top and Winnemucca lakes. The stunning scenery and the wildflower bloom in July are considered among the best in the Sierra. Remember to pack a coat, as the 8,200-feet elevation means chilly nights.

Kidd Lake Group Campground in Soda Springs, Placer County

Ideal for large gatherings including families and Cub Scouts, Kidd Lake Group Campground offers privacy with just three sites, all within proximity to a small lake and hiking trails. Access is via a rough, 2-mile dirt road (high clearance recommended) but the seclusion is worth the effort. The campground features a fire circle and Kidd Lake, complete with a paddle-to island. Nearby is Long Lake, a natural lake and perfect swimming spot for both dogs and people. Early booking is recommended for this Sierra family favorite.

MacKerricher State Park Campground, Mendocino County

This coastal park offers diverse landscapes – forest, beach, tide pools, lake, bike and hiking trails, bluffs and dunes. Unlike many state parks, MacKerricher allows dogs on beaches and some trails, though leash restrictions apply. The park is open year-round, making it an excellent summer retreat for campers seeking respite from the Central Valley heat.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground, Monterey County

Enveloped in redwoods, this long and sprawling campground seems like a magical, fern-filled world where mythical creatures might appear in the morning fog. While dogs aren’t permitted on trails, ample space for walks is available. Nearby are miles of dog-friendly trails in the Ventana Wilderness and the beautiful leash-free Pfeiffer Beach. Reservations for this sought-after campground open six months in advance and are often filled within hours. Prompt booking is advised to secure a spot.

Camping can be an exciting experience for dogs, provided they avoid overindulging in treats like marshmallows. Dogs are welcome at 90 percent of California campgrounds, with few exceptions. However, before making a reservation, it’s essential to determine the areas outside of developed campsites where your dog is permitted. Further information about rules at public and private campgrounds is recommended.


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