Top Paw-Tested Campgrounds

By: DogTrekker Staff
Two dogs in front of blue and white tent

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

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.

Gerle Creek Campground, Crystal Basin Recreation Area, El Dorado County. The sites at this recently renovated campground on a reservoir controlled by the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District are much larger than average. 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, Alpine County. This lovely campground at the end of a winding, two-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 make this a gem of a campsite, but the real attraction is the trailhead for a three-or six-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.

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!

Pismo State Beach, North Beach Campground, San Luis Obispo County. Pismo State Beach, on the edge of a vibrant town offering all manner of restaurants and entertainment, welcomes leashed dogs to the north side of the pier and in the North Beach and Oceano campgrounds. If you don’t want to cook al fresco, multiple dog-friendly restaurants are just a stroll away.

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Five Paw-Tested Campgrounds in Northern California

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Photo Credit: Cassie Elizarraraz


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