The Best Glamping in California

Who says camping has to mean roughing it? Explore California's natural beauty in style and comfort at top campgrounds across the state.

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About Glamping in California

Want to experience the outdoors without all the inconveniences of sleeping outside? Glamping might be the answer for you. From dozing under the redwoods along the northern shores to resting beneath the stars in the southern desert, the opportunities for glamping in California are limitless. While some travelers insist on rustic and dry camping, does that mean the rest of us can’t sleep in comfort and enjoy California in luxury and glamor? Heck no! Say sayonara to sleeping on the ground, lugging heavy packs, and swatting away gross bugs and HELLO to the luxurious world of glamping! Whether it is a weekend tailgate party or a weeklong adventure through one of the state’s many national parks, glamping in California is an exciting way to enjoy the outdoors with some of the comforts of home.

FAQs About Glamping in California

How is Glamping Different From Other Types of Camping? 

The biggest difference between camping and glamping in California lies in the comfort preference of the individual camper. Traditional camping typically requires the basic supplies necessary to survive the night. This traveler desires the escape from civilization and revels in the simplicity and freedom of the outdoors; an absence of distractions and embracing life in the wilderness.

Glamping is exactly what it sounds like—glamorous camping. Glampers can come in many forms, fully-equipped RVs, decked out cabins, or even luxury yurts. The glamper prefers camping in comfort, choosing to get into nature without disconnecting from regular life. 

As glamping in California gets more popular, campgrounds are taking notice and building yurts to accommodate this growing trend. A yurt can be as modest as a twin bed under the shelter of thin cloth-lined walls, or they could be extravagant, larger than some houses, equipped with a full kitchen and private bathrooms. 

Although campers and glampers in California experience the outdoors in a very different fashion, the end of the night usually remains the same—laughing and sharing stories around the hot embers of a roaring campfire.

Do I Need Anything in Order to Go Glamping? 

Yes! Amenities and comforts are at the heart of the glamping experience. To get the most out of glamping, there are certain items and necessities to take your trip to the next level. Whether you’re using your own hotspot or it is provided by the campground, the number one thing you need to go glamping in California is Wi-Fi. With internet capabilities, you can access all your favorite music and television streaming services. For a unique glamping experience, bring a projector screen and create your own outdoor movie theater around the fire and watch your favorite films in nature. Try viewing “Friday the 13th” in the woods, we dare you.

Although some high-end yurts are temperature controlled, you will want to bring proper attire for all activities and weather changes. While glamping in California, summer days can be especially warm and best suited to be spent at the lake or on the coast, so bring comfortable swimwear in addition to all regular skincare items you would normally pack for a beach trip. During the evening, the temperature will drop significantly, and you will certainly want to have at least a hooded sweatshirt to keep you warm and cozy.

Lastly, you’ll want to bring games to keep your company entertained. After enjoying a long day of hiking or hanging by the lake, a chance to come together with your pals or family and play some UNO before the grill gets fired up is an element of glamping that ties the entire experience together. If card games are not your thing, throwing a ball, a frisbee, or bags of cornhole work just the same.

Remember to always pack your toiletries and a safety kit as well. 

When is the Best Time of Year to Go Glamping in California? 

With the diversity of the climate, glamping in California can be enjoyed all year long. Here is a breakdown of each season and which region is best suited for your glamping adventure.

As the winter months wind down, California transforms into a beautiful landscape of blooming wildflowers, lush forests, and cascading waters that make springtime awe-inspiring throughout the state. With the changing climate, California’s outdoors tempts the allure of travelers and adventurers-making a visit to one of the many national parks in spring the ideal time to visit.

Arguably the most popular national park in the United States, Yosemite National Park is best visited in spring. With the winter snowpack melting and flowing down the mountains, the waterfalls in Yosemite Valley are roaring and the temperatures are mild.

During the summer months, the heat in California’s valleys and deserts can make glamping sticky and unpleasant. Fortunately for visitors, California is a large state with various options to escape the heat. With towering mountains to the east and the cooling Pacific Ocean air to the west, California has many excellent places to escape the heat and enjoy a memorable glamping experience. 

In the summer months, the best places to visit are coastal and mountainous. Along the coasts of Big Sur is a wonderful place to spend your summer vacation, taking in the cool sea breeze while watching the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean against the tall and rocky cliffs from the comforts of your glamp site. From the east, the Eastern Sierra Mountain Range is an outdoor adventure paradise. The hikes lead to beautiful alpine lakes surrounded by beautiful granite rock faces at altitudes 10,000 feet above sea level. 

During the autumn months, California begins to transform once again. Across the state, sycamore trees, marigolds, and glistening aspens change from lush greens to burnt oranges to a fiery red, making all of California a popular destination for leaf-chasers. You can find extraordinary views of the changing, vibrant colors across the state, but the ultimate glamping experience in the fall takes place in Northern California.

When the fog rolls in from the coast, glamping in Northern California is the ideal choice. Camping among the coastal redwood, some of the tallest trees on the planet, glampers can enjoy the shade that these massive trees provide along the Avenue of the Giants. As the sun sets, the redwoods trap the fog, creating beautifully eerie nights. But keep your eyes peeled-this is the birthplace and rumored home of the elusive Bigfoot!

As the colors fade and the bitter air of winter arrives, don’t expect glampers to hibernate. California is a year-round glamping paradise. From the coasts to the mountains, beachside villas and mountain cabins are open all season long without the heavy crowds of summer. Yosemite and Redwood National Park clear out, producing a quiet and natural winter wonderland.

As temperatures drop, glampers' best option is to head for the desert. Unbearably hot during the summer months, Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks become a welcome destination for glampers desiring a unique adventure in the winter. The evenings will still be frigid, so try to prepare accordingly.

What are the Top Outdoor Activities for Northern California? 

While glamping in Northern California, there are several excellent outdoor activities for you and your friends to enjoy.

Arguably, the most popular outdoor activity is hiking. Northern California has thousands of hiking trails from walking the Lost Coast, climbing the rim of Mount Shasta, to wandering the Redwood Forest. The diversity of hiking trails in northern California allows you to hike along cliffs, climb through forests, and wander the foggy beaches along the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

For anglers, Northern California allows for unique fishing opportunities both inshore and off. There are dozens of fishing charters that will take you out to the deep waters of the Pacific where you can hook yourself a prized halibut or a striped salmon. If lucky, you can get up close to migrating blue, gray, and humpback whales.

Some of the most luxurious glamping in Northern California is in wine country. Spend your afternoon sipping through Napa and Sonoma Valley, tasting a variety of wines in some of the most elegant wineries in the country. After touring these vineyards, take a bottle home and stop by Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant to gather artisan cheeses before returning to your glamp site.

Along the coastline of Northern California are several short hiking trails that lead you down lush, forest paths culminating in hidden, private beaches. Most notably, along the coasts north of Eureka, you can find the beautifully secluded beaches near Trinidad and Patrick’s Point that are beautifully picturesque and equally peaceful. 

What are the Top Outdoor Activities for Southern California?   

The prototypical activity to enjoy while glamping in Southern California is to wax down your board, zip into a wetsuit, and ride the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. The coasts of San Diego and Venice Beach are iconic surf spots where brave adrenaline junkies can challenge the powerful rolling sea waters. The visual of witnessing dozens of surfers navigate through the large swells of whitewater is a sight that will leave you in a state of stoked speechlessness.

Road cycling and mountain biking are also wonderful activities to enjoy while glamping in California. From the border of Mexico, the Pacific Coast Bike Trail runs along the luxurious and celebrity-lined coasts of Malibu, Santa Monica, and Laguna Beach before entering the remote coastlines towards Santa Barbara. If off-road is more your speed, there are an abundant number of mountain biking trails throughout Southern California. Some of the better trails to be found are centered around the charming cabin town of Big Bear Lake.

Always one of the top outdoor activities while glamping in California is its world-class hiking opportunities and Southern California is no different. Just north of Pasadena, there are hundreds of hiking trails outside of the crowded and busy streets of Los Angeles. Around the Griffith Observatory are plenty of well-graded trails that give you excellent views of the city with some trails even taking you behind the Hollywood sign. For some truly unique hiking experiences, explore one of the many oasis trails around luxurious Palm Springs.

How Many National Parks Does California Have? 

California is home to nine different National Parks, more than any other state in the United States. The interesting thing about the national parks in California is that they are extraordinarily different from one another.

Yosemite National Park

The most iconic national park in California is Yosemite National Park. Once described by John Muir, “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter”, Yosemite welcomes you through Tunnel View-a majestic view that showcases El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls.

Depending on the time of year, visiting Yosemite can be a vastly different experience. During the peak season between Memorial Day, you can spend your days in Yosemite Valley discovering the natural and geological wonders that make Yosemite one of the most popular parks in the entire United States. Between the sloping granite rock walls, Yosemite is home to the country’s largest and most powerful waterfalls, including the world’s 5th-tallest waterfall, Yosemite Falls.

In the winter, Yosemite is home to the incendiary natural phenomenon, the famous Yosemite Firefall. If the atmospheric conditions line up, for a few weeks in February, the tall and majestic Horsetail Falls cascades from the eastern edge of El Capitan are illuminated by the setting sun with bold and vibrant shades of red and orange, resembling a real-life lava waterfall. 

Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands are a series of remote islands far off the shores of Southern California and are a healthy cultural and environmental habitat for many creatures and species of island wildlife.

The Channel Islands are composed of five islands: San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, and Anacapa Islands. The park is nearly 250,000 acres, more than half of which are underwater. For six nautical miles, the park is a sanctuary for protected marine life, including forms of microscopic plankton unique to the park and the endangered blue whale. On land, the islands are home to 145 different species that are exclusive to the Channel Islands, including island foxes.

Camping is available on all five islands in the park. To access the Channel Islands, be sure to book a ferry and a campsite well in advance. Each island requires you to stay in designated campgrounds. It is a very rustic camping experience without the benefit of general stores, bathrooms, or trash cans. Please keep the park clean and the wildlife by packing out everything you bring, including food and waste.  

Death Valley National Park

Home to the lowest elevation point in all North America (282 feet below sea level) and recorded as the hottest place in the United States, Death Valley National Park is a beautiful desert mountain region with painted deserts and flawless sand dunes.

It would take a lifetime to explore the 3.3 million acres of Death Valley and all its wonders. Best visited in the winter months, Death Valley is an otherworldly landscape that rests at the border of California and Nevada that only sees about two inches of rainfall per year. Death Valley is an ever-changing organism. With its desert climate, the sands continually shift, canyons expand and the valley itself deepens slowly by the day.

While visiting Death Valley, you can tour the history of nature in its unique landscape. Hike along the rim of Ubehebe Crater and get a bird's eye view of the remnants of a volcanic eruption over 2,100 years ago. Serpentine through Golden Canyon at Zabriskie Point and witness the vibrant orange and yellow colors of a rock formation continually eroding. Upon sunset, photographers will want to make their way to Mesquite Flat Dunes to capture frame-worthy shots of the sandy, 90-foot towering peak.

Lassen National Park

Located on a now-dormant volcano, Lassen National Park is a geological wonder. Last erupting in 1914, the effects of the explosion are still felt today, with hydrothermal events creating steam vents, bubbling mud pools, and boiling hot springs.

On the surface, Lassen National is a beautiful and dense forested area with deep alpine lakes with hiking trails for hundreds of miles in the heart of Northern California. Beneath the surface, all four types of volcanoes are present, including plug domes, cinder cones, shield volcanoes, and composite volcanoes. The lasting effects of the eruption in 1914 are still seen today as the geothermal activity literally bubbles and hisses from below your feet.

To get the full experience of Lassen National Park, make your way to the 3-mile Bumpass Hell Trail, a trail named after Kendall Bumpass-a man who burned his leg after unintentionally breaking through the crust and into boiling hot waters under the surface. Upon reaching the end of the hike, you will be up-close with radiant turquoise pools and scalding mud pots.

Redwood National Park

Redwood trees are some of the tallest trees in the world and live to be nearly 2,000 years old. These old-growth trees can rise to over 300 feet tall. Fallen redwoods remain along the forest and develop a natural habitat for native species.

Along the coastline of Northern California is home to some of the oldest redwood groves in the entire world. For a 40-mile stretch on the historic Highway 101, California’s landscape transforms into the land of the giants. On a hike in the national park, it is perfectly normal to be unable to see the tops of these trees and appear to extend upward for miles.

The hikes in the park are truly unique and have attracted film producers from around the world to create hits such as Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Because of the unique landscape and cover the massive forest provides, images beneath the shade of these giants create an atmosphere that can make the tallest of individuals feel small. 

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua trees are an unusual tree species that can only grow in this unique desert climate. In addition, Joshua Tree National Park has distinctive boulder-like rock formations that make the park a playground for rock climbers.

Joshua Tree is an eclectic and truly unique national park that is like no other. With its bizarre landscape and other-worldly rock formation, visitors will feel as if they stumbled upon an alien planet. As you travel around the 73-mile Joshua Tree loop, you will discover this park is much more than a home for these desert anomalies.

It could be argued the trees are not the main attraction of the park. As you continue around the loop, you will encounter several unique rock formations that are popular bouldering rocks for climbers as well picturesque boulders such as Arch Rock and Skull Rock. Towards the end of the loop, there is a spectacular cholla cactus garden that you can hike through-but careful, the spines are incredibly painful when contacted by exposed skin.

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks

Home of the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest tree by volume, Sequoia National Park has a concentrated collection of these massive sequoia trees, leading to Kings Canyon. It’s also known for having some of the most exciting hiking trails of the Western Sierra Nevada range.

Technically separate national parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon are connected by a single loop but are completely different experiences. 

Sequoia National Park is best known for the sheer size of these Sierra redwoods. In the same grove as the General Sherman Tree, there are nearly a dozen giant redwoods that are not that much smaller than the largest tree in the world. If you look closely, you can see burn scars along the bark symbolizing the endurance and survival of these durable trees during seasonal fires throughout the Sierra Nevada.

Kings Canyon has giant redwood groves as well but is better known as a playground for adventure seekers. Along these hiking trails are deep alpine lakes and majestic views of the jagged peaks of the highest mountains in the Western Sierra. In addition to wonderful views, Kings Canyon is a sanctuary for black bears, beavers, and mountain lions.

Pinnacles National Park

A park known for its unusual dome geology; Pinnacles National Park is a small park with deep caves to explore. The park is also a natural habitat for the endangered California Condor.

Located inland from the central coast of California, adjacent to Big Sur, Pinnacle National Park is unique in its geology and history. The pinnacle rock formation was formed by a massive volcanic eruption, creating a landscape of monoliths and canyons that have created a unique landscape that is a safe habitat for a diverse set of wildlife and flora.

Pinnacles National Park is most popular for advanced rock climbers. The rock formations establish some of the most difficult but rewarding climbing problems you can find. There are only 30 miles of hiking trails within the park and backpacking is prohibited. With the smaller size of the park, it is not difficult to glamp just outside the gates of this underrated park. 

Why is San Bernardino an Especially Great Place to Go Glamping?

It may come as a surprise that some of the best glamping in California is near the city of San Bernardino. However, the proximity of state forests, expansive deserts, towering mountains, and the abundance of yurts make the areas surrounding San Bernardino a sanctuary for unforgettable glamping in southern California.

The San Bernardino National Forest is home to 37 different campgrounds and is only minutes away from the city lights of San Bernardino. These campgrounds are set in beautiful and lush forests set against the background of the San Bernardino and San Gorgonio Mountains. The hills north of town have campgrounds that accommodate all your glamping needs; luxury cabins, plus-sized RV sites, and artful and architecturally unique yurts.