Picture alpine wonderlands, sprawling cities, and endless seas of sand. Spanning 900 miles of the beautiful Western coastline, every inch is teeming with dog-friendly camping California wonders for you and your dog to explore.
When it comes to camping with your dog in California, the big question isn’t whether you should go. It’s “Where do you even start?”.
We’ve collated a list of the ten most exciting dog-friendly camping Northern California spots as well as in the South. From remote HipCamp escapes to popular favorites, these spots promise adventure and some beautiful moments with your dog.
1. Gualala Point Regional Park, Gualala
The rugged coastline and breathtaking turquoise river make Gualala Point Regional Park a must-visit for any water lovers, human or canine. This is dog-friendly beach camping California at its premium.
If hiking is more to your preference, however, you and your dog will still find plenty to do here! There is such a variety of trails, in both length and landscape, that not attempting just one during your visit would be a wasted trip. Take your pick of rugged cliff paths, whale-watching lookouts, or cypress groves.
Gualala Point campground has nineteen different sites, with spaces for everything from RVs to tents. There are also walk-in sites available to those feeling a little more adventurous. All can be booked online through Sonoma County Regional Parks.
Campers are able to view images of each site before booking, which I know is always an added bonus for me. It’s so nice to know what to expect when you’re traveling with dogs and will help you plan whether you’ll need to provide your own shade or leash tie points.
Dogs are more than welcome throughout the park and campgrounds, although they must remain on a leash no longer than six feet long. Again, leashed campgrounds are a personal preference for me. Not having to worry about unleashed dogs around my reactive dogs is such a relief and allows me to completely relax.
2. Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley
Looking for something further away from the coastline? Furnace Creek Campground is one of the most popular dog-friendly campgrounds in California located in the magical Death Valley.
With your dog at your side, you’ll have front-row seats to observe the thriving ecosystems, awe-inspiring sand dunes, and breathtaking sunsets that call this unique location home.
The Furnace Creek Campground operates year-round and is the only reservable campground within the park. The reservation window runs from October 15th to April 15th. This is the coolest part of the year, and the most recommended time to travel to the desert location with a dog in tow.
Staff is also present at the on-site kiosk during this time.
As warned on the website, please be mindful of your pets when camping remotely. Be sure to take plenty of water, as Death Valley is known to be one of the driest places in the USA, and remain aware of coyotes.
3. Big Sur Riverside Campground & Cabins, Big Sur
This campground is an amazing base location if you’re looking to get out and explore. I will preface by saying, however, that it might not be suited to every camper.
While it is one of the top dog-friendly campgrounds in California, Big Sur Riverside Campground does charge an extra $5 per night per dog. There is also a maximum limit of two pets per site.
If your camping party is simply you and your dog taking on the West coast solo, though, I would not miss these campgrounds. Their location is absolutely breathtaking, with direct river access for seasonal fishing, swimming, and tubing. You really cannot beat sleeping underneath the Redwoods and Oak trees with the sound of the river bubbling nearby.
Big Sur Riverside Campground has 34 campsites available and is located off Highway 1, making it a great gateway to the surrounding area.
Again, pets must remain leashed at all times.
4. Lodgepole Campground, Sequoia National Park
Lodgepole is a very popular campground, with that popularity being incredibly well deserved. This dog-friendly spot is located within walking distance of the local Lodgepole Village and has great facilities if you aren’t wanting to head too far off of the grid.
This campground, located in Sequoia National Park, rests alongside the Kaweah River and is surrounded by towering Lodgepole pines. Quite a fitting name, don’t you think?
The downside is that dogs are not permitted on the local trails. If you are an adventurous camper hoping to spend time away from base camp, this may not be the location for you. Be aware also that bears are active in this area, so remain conscious of how you store your food and keep your pet with you at all times.
If you’re looking for dog-friendly campgrounds in California, where the kids can play and you can get a taste of the outdoors without needing to stray too far from your base camp, then Lodgepole is a great choice. I would highly recommend this for families and those who love a more slow-paced, mountainous location without being completely remote.
5. Clam Beach County Park, McKinleyville
If you’re looking for a dog-friendly beach camping California spot, then Clam Beach County Park is worth checking out.
The campgrounds provide direct access to Clam Beach. This is an expansive stretch of shoreline that allows dogs to run off-leash and play safely in the shallow waves, though waters can be rough.
Clam Beach County Park operates on a first-come, first-served basis and has thirteen sites available. It’s a pretty exposed bit of the coastline and often quite windswept, so be sure to pack appropriate equipment that can withstand the weather and won’t leave your dog too exposed. A dog-friendly wind or spray jacket would be great to have on hand.
6. Kidd Lake Group Campground, Donner Summit
Everyone loves a warm summer’s day by the lake, and Kidd Lake Group Campground provides that classic lakeside experience that Californian dog owners dream about.
While dogs must remain on leash at all times, there are still plenty of pooch-appropriate adventures to be had. Kidd Lake is a beautiful location for kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming.
Be sure to explore the surrounding areas during your stay. Kidd Lake Group Campground is only half an hour from Donner Lake, as well as being surrounded by some amazing dog-friendly hiking trails.
This campground is best suited to those in tents, with RV campers needing to park up in a nearby lot. They operate from mid-June through to September, depending on snow conditions thanks to the location’s high altitude.
7. Circle X Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains
Tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains, Circle X Ranch is a former boy scout camp, now perfect for dog owners who love to camp and explore the trails. The national park service boasts that these grounds are a great place to hike, picnic, mountain bike ride, dog walk, and have wildlife view – and we couldn’t agree more!
While in the area with your pet, why not try out the beautiful Sandstone Peak Trail? The trailhead is only one mile north of the grounds and leads you to the highest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains. Pets are more than welcome to join you on your adventures, so long as they remain on lead.
The best part of this camp, however, might be the fact that it is less than an hour from Santa Monica itself. If you’re looking for a local, no hassle, dog-friendly camping Southern California spot, then Circle X Ranch is a fantastic place to start!
8. Twin Lakes Campground, Mammoth Lakes
The Twin Lakes Campground is nestled along the shores of Twin Lakes, just beside Mammoth Mountain, and has to be one of the most beautiful spots on this list.
This dog-friendly camping California site has 92 campsites on offer and is great for families and solo adventures alike. It winds through the beautiful Lodgepole forest and provides the perfect place to reconnect with nature. It also has all the modern amenities you could possibly need.
Outside of working showers and toilets, the campgrounds are also a close stroll to the general store and Lakefront Restaurant.
If you enjoy spending time on the water with your dog, hiking, or mountainside adventures, then I cannot recommend Twin Lakes highly enough.
9. Girard Ridge Lookout, Shasta-Trinity National Forest
This ‘camping’ experience is far from traditional. If you book this spot, you’ll find you and your dog cuddled up inside an original 1931 state forest lookout with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Does it get any dreamier?
From your base in the lookout, you’ll have access to the surrounding forest and views of Mount Shasta. If you can pull yourself away from the windows long enough, there are multiple opportunities to head outside with your dog and immerse yourselves in the local hiking and fishing opportunities.
Keep in mind that the lookout has no cooking facilities, water, or electricity, so you will need to be fairly self-sufficient and confident in your camping abilities. Pack more water and food than you assume you will need, both for you and your dog.
The lookout operates on a rolling basis. Options to book open in late March for the June to September season. Due to its unique nature, this dog-friendly camping California spot does book out quickly, so we recommend getting in early!
10. Plaskett Creek Campground, Big Sur
Last, but certainly not least, is the ever-popular Plaskett Creek Campground. These grounds are known for their beautiful natural surroundings and the fact that they are within walking distance of the breathtaking Sand Dollar Beach.
Both the campgrounds and the beach are open to dogs, making this one of California’s best spots for dog-friendly beachside camping. The trail leading to Sand Dollar Beach does require that dogs be leashed, as does the Plaskett Creek Campground, but it isn’t unusual to see unleashed dogs on the beach itself. As is county policy, your pooch must wear a collar with current ID tags attached at all times.
Plaskett Creek is great for bigger groups, with sites accommodating 6 to 8 people and allowing two vehicles. So pack up your friends, your dogs, and your hiking boots, and get out there!
Special Mention: Hipcamp
If you’ve somehow read this and are sitting there thinking “been there, done that” (in which case I’m wildly jealous!) you may want to give Hipcamp a try.
For those who don’t already know, Hipcamp is the AirBnB of the camping world. It allows property owners to share their unique, otherwise inaccessible spots with lucky campers venturing into the local area. It’s a great way to explore locations off the beaten track and try something different.
Many properties listed are dog-friendly campgrounds. Simply filter your search to show only pet-friendly results. Sites will vary from equipment being included, like this amazing glamping bell tent set up just outside of Sacramento, to more remote experiences, such as this intimate homestead camp located by Joshua Tree’s Northern entrance.