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The Best River Camping Destinations in California

The Best River Camping Destinations in California

By Annie A.
February 18, 2021

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe. 

While beach camping destinations offer a one-of-a-kind outdoor experience, California’s rivers provide equally memorable adventures in the heart of nature—they’re the perfect spots for camping. Spend your weekend fishing, swimming, white-water rafting, and hiking as the flowing rivers create the ideal setting for taking a break from the bustling city.

If you’re having difficulty finding awesome river camping spots in California, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. Pack your camping essentials, get in your RV, and head over to the best river camping destinations in California to embark on exciting adventures.

Incredible Spots For River Camping In Southern California

Need to get away from it all? Head to these scenic river camping spots to reconnect with nature.

1. La Jolla Indian Campground

Location: 22000 California 76, Pauma Valley

Amenities: Drinking water, electric hookups, firewood, picnic tables, dump station, restroom, and shower facilities

Activities: Tubing, wildlife viewing, hiking, biking

Fee: $40–$65 per night, depending on group size and campsite

Number of sites: 200

Dogs allowed: No, except for service animals with valid permits

Reservations required: Yes

If you thought river camping in Southern California is impossible, you’re in for a surprise. The La Jolla Indian Campground is the only campground in San Diego County that’s campfire-friendly and has river access. This river camping spot has multiple sites—group, tent-only, and even RV campgrounds. Enjoy tubing in the San Luis Rey River in the midst of the undisturbed wilderness. 

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2. Kern River Campground 

Location: 13375 Lake Ming Road, Bakersfield

Amenities: Picnic tables, firewood, firepits, drinking water, dump station, restroom, and shower facilities

Activities: Hiking, biking, nearby attractions

Fee: $12–$24 per night, depending on the season

Number of sites: 50 

Dogs allowed: On leash

Reservations required: Yes

The Kern River Campground is a dry river camping spot in California that takes you back to primitive times. Located on 28 acres of landscaped grounds, this Kern River camping destination is within close proximity to tourist attractions such as Lake Ming, California Living Museum, and Hart Memorial Park. Don’t think too much about camping near the Kern River; prep your camping playlist and just do it. 

Pitch your tent by the river and enjoy a weekend in the great outdoors with that special someone.

3. Rivernook Campground

Location: 14001 Sierra Way, Kernville

Amenities: Full and partial hookup sites, general store, picnic tables, firewood, firepits, ADA accessible, drinking water, dump station, restroom, and shower facilities

Activities: Hiking, swimming, fishing, biking, kayaking, horseshoes

Fee: $40–$60 per night, depending on campsite

Number of sites: 285 

Dogs allowed: Yes

Reservations required: Yes

One of the largest campgrounds on the Kern River is the Rivernook Campground. It doesn’t get much better than this Kernville camping destination. The 60-acre Kern camping spot provides peace and tranquility to campers seeking a digital detox. Engage in different types of watersports and enjoy your evenings by the crackling campfire as the Kern River flows through scenic canyons just a stone’s throw away. 

4. Camp Kernville

Location: 24 Sirretta Street, Kernville

Amenities: Electric hookups, general store, picnic tables, firewood, pet area, dump station, drinking water, dump station, restroom, laundry room, shower facilities

Activities: Hiking, boating, kayaking, biking, white-water rafting, horseshoes

Fee: $42–$150 per night, depending on campsite and season

Number of sites: 47

Dogs allowed: Yes

Reservations required: Yes

Head over to Camp Kernville to experience camping with modern amenities. Not only does the campground provide you with up-to-date restroom facilities and RV rentals, but it also has a 1,000-foot private beach area along the Kern River. Discover a newfound love for watersports at this SoCal river camping destination. 

5. Bonita Ranch Campground 

Location: 900 South Fork Road, Lytle Creek

Amenities: Electric hookups, picnic tables, firewood, dump station, drinking water, restroom, and shower facilities

Activities: Hiking, swimming

Fee: $30–$36 per night, depending on campsite

Number of sites: 83

Dogs allowed: On leash

Reservations required: Yes

Since river camping in Southern California is relatively limited, creeks are a great substitute. The Bonita Ranch Campground, situated next to Lytle Creek, is a family-owned and -operated camping spot that’s perfect for making memories with your friends and family. Providing both tent and RV campsites, this river camping spot is conveniently located close to Orange and Riverside Counties. Whether you want to relax by the creek or hike to Bonita Falls, this campground is your top choice. 


Where To Enjoy River Camping In Northern California

Soak up the scenery and savor the serenity of your surroundings at these top river campgrounds.

1. Fowlers Campground

Location: Fowler Public Camp Road, McCloud

Amenities: Picnic table, fire ring with grill, bear-resistant food lockers, restroom facilities

Activities: Hiking, swimming, fishing, biking, bird watching

Fee: $15 per night

Number of sites: 39

Dogs allowed: On leash

Reservations required: Yes

Experience river camping in Northern California at Fowlers Campground, which offers a number of campsites for RVs, trailers, and tents. Not only is it one of the best places for McCloud Falls camping, but it’s also a wonderful place for outdoor activities—fishing, swimming, biking, hiking, and wildlife viewing are only a few of the many recreational activities available. Enjoy a peaceful weekend here and head back to the city after getting your weekly dose of Mother Nature. 

2. Russian River RV Campground

Location: 33655 Geysers Road, Cloverdale

Amenities: Clubhouse, swimming pool, hot tub, playground, picnic tables, game room, dog park, restroom, laundry and shower facilities

Activities: Hiking, swimming, fishing, mini-golf, volleyball, shuffleboard, tennis, billiards, basketball, horseshoes

Fee: $57–$78 per night, depending on campsite

Number of sites: 125

Dogs allowed: Yes

Reservations required: Yes

Everyone needs to have a Russian River camping experience—what better place than the Russian River RV Campground to do exactly that? Forget about Guerneville camping; hop in your RV and head over to this campground for endless fun. Wine Country’s natural beauty complements the river camping spot. Whether you want to go kayaking, canoeing, swimming, or fishing, this scenic campground won’t let you down.    

Plan a future river camping trip with your closest friends for an experience you'll never forget.

3. South Yuba Campground

Location: Lower Campground Loop, Nevada City

Amenities: Picnic tables, bear-resistant food lockers, fire rings, restroom facilities

Activities: Hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking

Fee: $5 per night 

Number of sites: 16

Dogs allowed: Yes

Reservations required: No

Don’t hesitate to fully immerse yourself in the wilderness at the primitive South Yuba Campground. This Yuba River campground is accessed via the South Yuba Trail. While it doesn’t have modern amenities, the river camping destination allows you to break free from your everyday routine and become one with nature. 

4. American River Resort

Location: 6019 New River Road, Coloma

Amenities: Swimming pool, recreational hall, general store, electric hookups, firewood, dump station, restroom, shower facilities

Activities: Hiking, kayaking, biking, swimming, white-water rafting

Fee: $15–$99 per night, depending on campsite

Number of sites: 30

Dogs allowed: Yes

Reservations required: Yes

If you’ve always wanted to experience American River camping, now’s your chance. American River Resort boasts the perfect river campground where you can relax and rejuvenate your mind and body. Located on 40 acres of riverfront property, the campground is set amidst an oak forest with campsites for groups of all sizes. Enjoy scenic hikes and starlit night skies as you spend unforgettable nights at the American River Resort. 

Escape to Northern California with your other half for a romantic getaway by the river—you're bound to see sparks fly.

5. Three Rivers Hideaway 

Location: 43365 Sierra Drive, Three Rivers

Amenities: Clubhouse, full hookups, trails, restroom, laundry, and shower facilities

Activities: Hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, horseback riding, white-water rafting, mountain biking

Fee: $30–$59 per night, depending on campsite

Number of sites: 43

Dogs allowed: Yes

Reservations required: Yes

Situated a short distance from Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers Hideaway is a picturesque place to get in touch with nature. The campground has all of the basic amenities to make your stay comfortable: Hiking trails, clean facilities, and a clubhouse will keep you entertained. This Three Rivers, CA camping destination is also close to Lake Kaweah—if you’ve always wanted to try white-water rafting, this is a prime place to do it.  

6. Riverside Campground And Cabins

Location: 47020 Highway 1, Big Sur

Amenities: Electric hookups, picnic tables, firewood, dump station, ADA accessible, restroom, laundry, and shower facilities

Activities: Boating, hiking, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, biking, tubing

Fee: $75–$80 per night depending on campsite

Number of sites: 34

Dogs allowed: Yes

Reservations required: Yes

Leave it to Riverside Campground and Cabins to give you the best camping experience ever. This Big Sur River campground is located on 16 acres of an old-growth redwood forest and offers plenty of outdoor activities. If camping in an RV or tent is too rustic for your taste, upgrade to a cabin for a comfortable stay. Spend your day biking, tubing, hiking, and making the most of your retreat. 


Annie A.

Annie A.

Annie has written about pretty much everything at this point, but her favorite topics are traveling, food, or basically anything that can become a future bucket list. She loves reading sci-fi novels,…

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