A couple of caveats to bear in mind before you get ahead of yourself: Most developed campgrounds in California close mid to late October, no matter how delightful the weather. Be aware, too, that with few exceptions, four-leggers are not allowed on dirt trails in national or state parks. That said, if you are flexible and determined, you’ll find a delightful spot to settle in and enjoy the great outdoors with your best friend. Here’s where to start the hunt.
- Reserve America handles reservations for 572 federal, state, private and regional park-district campgrounds in California (including those of the East Bay Regional Park District). Pet-friendly sites are identified with a dog icon.
- Recreation.gov is an umbrella site for campgrounds and activities on federal lands including those administered by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Land Management.
- Camp California spotlights select campgrounds, both public and private, throughout California and neighboring states. Be sure to check the “pets allowed” box when filtering your search. Download a free campground guide.
- Don’t think purely in terms of traditional state or national parks when it comes to camping. Many regional utility companies and water districts operate campgrounds in conjunction with their hydroelectric storage facilities. Among them: Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD), Pacific Gas & Electric Company and East Bay Municipal Utilities District.
- Many private campgrounds offer alternatives to sleeping on the ground. Some KOA Campgrounds, for example, have added dog-friendly cabins with and without private baths. Plus, all KOAs have flush toilets, hot showers, swimming pools, rec centers, playgrounds and scads of activities for kids. A few even sport their own dog parks.
- The luxury alternative: And then there’s glamping, a hybrid word referring to rustic-chic, outdoor-oriented lodging that doesn’t involve pitching your own tent. It’s a concept that’s been exploding in California for almost two decades, with new properties opening up each year. For an introduction, try the Inn Town Campground just outside the Gold Country town of Nevada City. Fifteen of its safari-style tents (with electricity) are dog-friendly, and nearby amenities include showers, a BBQ area, a lodge with kitchen and a camp store.
- Info made easy: DogTrekker.com makes it easy to identify dog-friendly campgrounds in the region you want to visit. Go the site, enter your destination in the search field, then look under “Lodging” on the left-hand side of the page to find dog-friendly public campgrounds, private campgrounds, glampgrounds RV parks and cabin properties. Dog policies are spelled out for each listing, and a direct link to the property’s website or reservations page is provided.