The Best Family Camping in California

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After writing an article about the best family campgrounds in the United States, I got many recommendations for kid-friendly campgrounds in California. In fact, I got enough recommendations for the best family camping in California to create a post, just for the Golden State!

So for great camping with great kid friendly hiking through majestic redwood trees and along scenic overlooks, check out these beautiful parks.

For more great camping inspiration, check out our other family friendly campgrounds in the United States.

Alabama Hills Boondocking

  • ADDRESS: Lone Pine, California (MAP LINK)
  • Rates — NONE. Boondocking is free.

While this isn’t a typical family campground, it offers a truly unique experience for hard-core adventuring families.

Camping at Alabama Hills in southern California is guaranteed to stir the imagination and inner child at heart for both adults and kids alike! 

Alabama Hills, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is nestled at the base of the tallest mountains in California, with a handful of fun things for families to enjoy.  While it has no developed campsites, visitors can utilize dispersed camping on the land, also known as boondocking. Though, there are several developed campgrounds nearby, like Tuttle Creek and Lone Pine campgrounds, with amenities like electric hookups and bathrooms.

The advantage to boondocking at Alabama Hills is because there’s no officially designated campsites, there are no designated “boundaries”, so children have more freedom to explore, and families have more room to spread out and enjoy some seclusion!

There are several easy, family friendly trails at Alabama Hills, with fascinating rock formations like “Shark Fin”, “Mobius Arch”, and “Nightmare Rock”.

Due to the rugged nature of the area, dozens of movies have been filmed at Alabama Hills. If you’ve enjoyed watching movies like Gladiator, Star Trek, or Iron Man together as a family, you can now witness where they were filmed by touring the Alabama Hills “Movie Road.”

Remote camping in the California mountains showing a car, a campsite and rugged mountains in the background of a desert landscape

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offers great family camping in California for outdoor adventurers. Situated in one of the most beautiful areas of California, the park has breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding rugged coastline.

The park offers a wide variety of activities that families can enjoy together, such as hiking, picnicking, fishing, and swimming. 

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is home to towering redwood trees, which provide a pretty magical experience for children. Families can enjoy hiking along the many trails that wind through the redwood groves, which can be a great opportunity for children to connect with nature.

This kid-friendly campground in California offers guided tours, ranger talks, and educational programs, which can be a fun experience for children to learn about the wildlife, flora and fauna. 

The park is easily accessible from Highway 1 and there are plenty of facilities available, such as restrooms, showers, and a camp store, which can make the stay more comfortable for family camping in California.

Tree lined roadway through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pines Campground At Yosemite

  • ADDRESS: Pines Campground, 9024 Southside Drive, Yosemite, CA 
  • Rates are $36/night. Booking for some campsites is done by lottery.

Located in the heart of Yosemite National Park, the Upper and Lower Pines Campgrounds are the ideal kid friendly campgrounds in California for exploring the grandeur of Yosemite Valley.

From these campgrounds, it’s easy to get to the trailheads for some of Yosemite’s best hikes where you can explore soaring granite cliffs, stunning waterfalls, and the vast Yosemite wilderness.

Both Upper and Lower Pines offer amenities that make them one of the best places for family camping in California, including fire rings, picnic tables, and bear-proof food storage lockers. The bathrooms even have drinking water and flushing toilets, so your family can feel a little more comfortable out in nature.

Upper Pines Campground is the larger of the two campgrounds with 238 sites and is open all year long, while Lower Pines has 60 sites and is open from April to October. Plan ahead to reserve these family camping sites in California, as they book through a lottery system!

There are lots of other places to consider near Yosemite, as well, like these glamping options near Yosemite.

Vista at Yosemite National Park, easily seen on a family friendly camping trip to the park

San Elijo State Beach Campground

  • ADDRESS: San Elijo State Beach Campground, 2050 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA
  • Rates begin at $35/night, and book far in advance.

A fantastic kid-friendly campground in Southern California is San Elijo State Beach Campground.

It has over 150 different sites located along towering bluffs and each site is stocked with its own fire pit and picnic table. There are also plenty of restroom and shower facilities available for use.

But, the campground’s biggest draw is its proximity to the beach. Between every 15 sites, there’s a staircase that will lead you directly to the beach.

This is ideal family camping in California for those who want to enjoy the sweet California surf, play in the sand, or just take in the views! And, when you’re done hanging out at the beach, you can enjoy some of the delicious SoCal food that the area is known for!

sunset on the pacific ocean at san elijo family camping in California
Photo credit: Kristin of Global Travel Escapades, used with permission.

Santee Lakes Campground

Santee Lakes Campground in San Diego is one of the best family campgrounds in California. It’s one of California’s hidden gems.

Located in a serene natural setting, less than 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, this campground provides a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. 

You’ll find seven beautiful lakes where families can enjoy fishing, paddle boating, and bird watching. It’s the perfect tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

What makes Santee Lakes particularly family-friendly are its numerous amenities and activities tailored for children. The campground features playgrounds, swimming pools and a spray pad for little ones. Kids will have endless fun while parents can relax a bit.

Additionally, the well-maintained trails around the lakes are ideal for family walks or bike rides.

Moreover, Santee Lakes Campground offers various accommodation options, from traditional tent camping spots to fully-equipped cabins. Even if you don’t have an RV, you’ve got a place to stay!

Kids playing at the splash pad at Santee Lakes, one of the best campgrounds for families in California

Wawona Campground, Yosemite National Park

Wawona Campground at Yosemite National Park is a great place for families who are looking for an unforgettable, kid-friendly campground in California.

Not only is the location breathtaking, but it is also filled with a number of activities. Hiking is a popular activity, with a variety of trails for all ages and abilities. Kids will also enjoy fishing, swimming, and learning about nature conservation by participating in ranger-led programs.

This family camping in California is accessible by car with numerous parking spots. It includes several amenities such as flush toilets, fire pits, running water, picnic tables, and food storage lockers. Wawona Campground in Yosemite National Park is an excellent choice for families who want a memorable, adventurous family camping vacation in California.

Wawona Campground at Yosemite National Park is a great family campground

California’s majestic mountains, soaring redwoods and stunning ocean views provide stunning landscapes for family camping in California. Kid-friendly campgrounds in California, such as these, offer kids’ discovery programs, manageable day hikes and plenty of family relaxation around the fire pit.

We will keep adding to this list of great family camping in California as we learn of new kid-friendly campgrounds!