Best Places to Pitch a Tent in the North State
● By Kayla Anderson
The Mountains Are Calling
By Kayla Anderson
IT'S TIME TO BUST OUT the bug spray, hiking boots, swimsuit, firewood, flashlights and tents to gear up for camping season in Northern California. Here are some great places to take the family or get away from it all, nestled in the pines near lakes, creeks and rivers.
Hat Creek Campground
Tucked away in a conifer forest at a 4,390-ft. elevation, Hat Creek is in the heart of Lassen National Forest. Campers have access to scenic hiking trails along with some of Northern California’s best trout fishing. Explore craters, crevices and cones along the Spatter Cones Nature Trail and admire unique geologic formations created by the Hat Creek Lava Flow (all within this 1.5-mile loop). It’s also worth checking out Subway Cave – less than a half-mile hike through a lava tube. It is pretty dark in there, so bring a flashlight.
The Hat Creek campground has widely spaced individual sites with picnic tables, campfire rings and grills as well as three group campsites that can hold up to 50 people each. Hat Creek is about 12 miles east of a Lassen Volcanic National Park entrance and about a mile west of Old Station, where campers can stock up on goods.
Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park
(open end of May through mid-October)
While you’re in the Lassen area, you may want to spend a couple of days at Manzanita Lake, the largest campground in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is also an ideal place for those who like to swim, kayak and bask in Mt. Lassen’s majestic views.
Manzanita Lake offers overnighters plenty of access to explore during the daytime through its wide variety of hiking trails (150 total) that lend way to 250 species of wildlife, 700 kinds of flowering plants and Lassen Peak hydrothermal features. There are lots of short trails perfect for families and advanced trails for more experienced hikers.
Only non-motorized boats are allowed on Manzanita Lake, but this place is popular for catch-and-release fly fishing. Kayaks are available to rent, and a general store and pay showers are close by.
Antlers, Lakeshore East, and Bailey Cove at Shasta Lake
Ten miles north of Redding, Lake Shasta has 365 miles of shoreline and lots of fingers and coves to recreate in and around (perfect during those hot summer days). Set within the Shasta-Trinity Forest, Shasta Lake is one of California’s largest reservoirs with a surface area of 30,000 acres.
Popular campgrounds close to the lake include Antlers Campground, Lakeshore East and Bailey Cove. Easily accessible off I-5, these campgrounds have sites equipped with picnic tables, grills, food storage lockers and flush toilets. Antlers is close to the Sugar Loaf and Antlers public boat ramps and features several individual campsites, spots for trailers and a couple of yurts that can be rented year-round.
Bailey Cove also has a public boat ramp in its vicinity and a three-mile trekking trail that hugs the shoreline. Bird-watchers may catch ospreys nesting in the area, and it is a short jaunt to Bridge Bay and Holiday Harbor marinas via motorboat. If you have time to spare, take a guided tour through the Shasta Caverns, open during the summer.
Oak Bottom at Whiskeytown Lake
About eight miles west of Redding is another alpine reservoir and Sacramento River tributary called Whiskeytown Lake. It is a popular spot for waterskiing, swimming, sailing, fishing and more. Wildlife include blacktail deer, raccoons, mountain lions, black bears and other animals also inhabit the area.
Located close to a boat ramp, sandy beach and general store (open during the summertime), Oak Bottom Marina campground has 94 walk-in tent sites (including four ADA-accessible sites) with free beach showers, restrooms and coin-operated hot showers close by.
Enjoying the lake is the main reason people like to go to Whiskeytown, some fun hikes offer shade or lead to natural waterfalls like the 2.75-mile one-way Oak Bottom Ditch Trail and the 3-mile hike up to Brandy Creek Falls.
Lake Siskiyou Resort and Camp
About 65 miles north of Redding off Interstate 5 is one of the North State’s most picturesque campgrounds. Lake Siskiyou Resort and Camp has space for tents and RVs, as well as cabins, travel trailers and mobile homes for rent.
Guests can fish, sail or cruise the 430-acre lake. The Splash Zone is Lake Siskiyou’s own water park, where people can rent paddle boats, canoes or kayaks. The Beach Shack/Grille and Brew at the Beach is a convenient place to grab a bite to eat.
(open end of May through October)
Located 36 miles from Weaverville and a couple miles north of Coffee Creek, the Trinity River Campground is nestled in the Shasta-Trinity Forest on Highway 3. Offering plenty of tent space and trailer camping, each site has a concrete table and fireplace and reservations are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
People like this area for its quiet serenity, world-class fly fishing and miles of single-track mountain bike trails. There are more than 460 miles of trails to explore via biking, horseback riding or by foot. Along with incredible views of the Trinity Alps and pristine mountain lakes, thrill-seekers can also find guided river rafting tours on certain parts of the river.
Castle Crags State Park
The towering 6,000-foot tall granite spires are easy to spot about 48 miles north of Redding on I-5 (as you get close to Dunsmuir). This state park based in Castella features 76 campsites each, equipped with a picnic table and fire ring with flush toilets, drinking water and showers within walking distance.
This is a popular place for hikers looking to access 28 miles of hiking trails that vary from gentle shaded paths to rigorous climbs. However, the most challenging routes tend to offer the best views, like that of Castle Dome. The Sacramento River flows through the park, where people like to fish or walk across the popular suspension bridge.
You can’t go wrong camping in NorCal
Dozens of peaceful, secluded spots are close to water, mountains and forest where you can get away from it all and become one with nature. Many campgrounds in Northern California offer reasonable overnight rates (anywhere from $7-$20) and abundant outdoor recreational activities. Now get out and see what nature has to offer. •