10 Spots We Go Lake Camping In Northern California

Lake camping cover

Are you ready for a serene getaway surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of Northern California? Look no further than these 10 incredible lake camping spots that offer breathtaking views, crystal clear waters perfect for swimming and kayaking, and memories that will last a lifetime.

From the majestic Mount Shasta to the hidden gem of Loon Lake, get ready to immerse yourself in the great outdoors and experience the best lake camping in Northern California.

French Meadows Reservoir (Tahoe National Forest) 

French Meadows Reservoir, nestled in the heart of Tahoe National Forest, is a true hidden gem for lake camping enthusiasts. This picturesque reservoir is surrounded by a lush coniferous forest, offering a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

French Meadows Reservoir

The French Meadows Campground features well-maintained sites with stunning lake views, perfect for pitching your tent and taking in the serene surroundings.

Camping Options:

  • French Meadows Campground: Reservable tent sites with lake views and clean bathrooms
  • Dispersed camping available in Tahoe National Forest

Pro Tip: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the nearby Placer County Big Trees Grove, home to a majestic grove of giant Sequoia trees – a true natural wonder.

Loon Lake (El Dorado National Forest) 

Crystal-clear water and majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains await you at Loon Lake in El Dorado National Forest. This pristine lake offers unparalleled opportunities for kayaking, with hidden coves and islands to explore. 

Loon Lake

Launch your kayak from the Rubicon Trailhead and paddle along the lake’s west side to discover secluded swimming spots and even a cave for the adventurous.

Camping Options:

  • Loon Lake Campground: Reservable sites with easy access to the lake
  • Northshore Campground: Newly renovated sites with stunning views
  • Dispersed camping available near the lake

Pro Tip: For an unforgettable hiking experience, take the Loon Lake to Spider Lake trail, a 9.4-mile round trip that rewards you with breathtaking vistas and solitude.

Union Valley Reservoir (El Dorado National Forest) 

Union Valley Reservoir boasts several campgrounds along its shores, each offering a unique experience for lake camping enthusiasts. With its sandy beaches and clear water, this reservoir is perfect for water sports, fishing, and simply soaking up the sun. 

Union Valley reservoir

Wake up to the sight of snow-capped mountains from your campsite and spend your days exploring the lake’s many wonders.

Camping Options:

  • Camino Cove, Yellow Jacket, Wench Creek, and Sunset Campgrounds: Reservable sites with access to sandy beaches and mountain views
  • Dispersed camping available on the lake’s southwest side

Pro Tip: Bring your hiking sandals or Birkenstocks for ultimate comfort while exploring the trails and relaxing around your campsite.

Bucks Lake (Plumas National Forest) 

Bucks Lake, situated at an elevation of 5,200 feet in Plumas County, offers 17 miles of sandy shoreline for your lake camping adventure. With opportunities for cliff jumping, fishing, and endless water activities, this lake is a true outdoor paradise. 

Bucks lake

Choose from several campgrounds around the lake or opt for a first-come, first-served site at Lower Bucks Lake for a more secluded experience.

Camping Options:

  • Bucks Lake Campground, Haskins Valley, and Sundew: Reservable tent sites with lake and river views
  • Lower Bucks Lake: First-come, first-served sites for a more rustic experience

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to bring your favorite floatie for the ultimate relaxation on the water, whether you prefer a group float or a solo ride.

Ruth Lake (Six Rivers National Forest) 

Nestled in the Six Rivers National Forest, Ruth Lake is a hidden treasure surrounded by the towering South Fork Mountain Range. Known for its excellent fishing (bass, crappie, and trout), this lake also offers a variety of water activities, including boating, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. 

Ruth Lake

The campsites at Boy Scout Cove Camp provide a secluded retreat beneath the trees, with stunning lake views right from your tent.

Camping Options:

  • Boy Scout Cove Camp: Spacious campsites with lake views and easy access to Hobart Creek for kayaking
  • Bailey Canyon, Ruth Rec, and Fir Cove Campgrounds: Additional options around the lake

Pro Tip: Remember to pack your hammock for those perfect moments of relaxation, gently swaying between the trees with a good book in hand.

Utica Reservoir (Stanislaus National Forest) 

Utica Reservoir, along with its sister lake, Union Reservoir, is a small but magnificent destination for lake camping in Calaveras County. The large granite rocks that line the shore create an ideal setting for jumping into the cool, clear water and spending the day splashing around. 

Utica reservoic

Kayakers will love exploring the reservoir’s islands and peaceful coves.

Camping Options:

  • Utica Reservoir Sandy Flat and Rocky Point Campgrounds: Reservable sites with access to the lake and nearby hiking trails
  • Dispersed camping available around the reservoir

Pro Tip: Capture all your water adventures with a waterproof phone case or a durable GoPro, so you can relive the memories for years to come.

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park (near Lassen National Forest) 

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is a volcanic wonderland featuring 910 acres of forest and five miles of stream and lake shore. 


The star attraction is the 129-foot Burney Falls, a breathtaking cascade that splits at the top, creating a picturesque curtain of water. Take a dip in the cool pool at the base of the falls for an invigorating experience.

Camping Options:

  • Main Campground: Pretty sites set amid large ponderosa pines
  • Headwaters Campground: Horse camp located three miles from the main campground, open to non-equestrian campers as well (tents only)
  • Camping-style cabins available for a more comfortable stay

Pro Tip: Hike the Headwaters Trail for stunning views of the waterfall and Burney Creek, as well as easy access to excellent fly-fishing on the Pit River below the dam.

Lake Siskiyou Resort and Camp (near Mount Shasta) 

Lake Siskiyou, a true gem at the foot of majestic Mount Shasta, offers a picture-perfect setting for your lake camping adventure. With its clean, fresh water and a variety of recreational activities, including swimming, low-speed boating, and fishing, this 435-acre lake is a favorite among families. 


The campgrounds are well-maintained and tucked into the forest, providing privacy and serenity.

Camping Options:

  • Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort: Large campground complexes with amenities like restrooms, showers, boat rentals, and a playground
  • Cabins available for a more luxurious camping experience

Pro Tip: Enjoy a free movie every night during the summer months, allowing parents to have some well-deserved personal time while the kids are entertained.

Seacliff State Beach (near Santa Cruz) 

Seacliff State Beach, located along the stunning Monterey Bay, is a picturesque spot for beach camping and water activities. Enjoy long walks on the sandy shore, take a dip in the refreshing ocean water, or simply relax and soak up the sun. The unique “cement ship” nearby, the SS Palo Alto, adds an interesting historical element to your camping experience.


Camping Options:

  • Seacliff State Beach Campground: Sites nestled along the coastal bluffs, with easy access to the beach

Pro Tip: Plan your visit between mid-August and early October for the best weather and fewer crowds.

Lake Oroville Boat-In and Floating Camps 

For a truly unique lake camping experience, head to Lake Oroville and discover the one-of-a-kind floating campsites. These double-decker floating camps resemble giant patio boats and can accommodate up to 15 people. 

If you prefer a more traditional setting, opt for the dispersed boat-in campsites around the lake, which are especially beautiful in the spring and early summer when the water levels are high.

Camping Options:

  • Floating Campsites: Double-decker boat-like structures that sleep up to 15 people
  • Dispersed Boat-In Camps: Secluded sites accessible only by boat, perfect for a private getaway

Pro Tip: Lake Oroville is known for its excellent bass fishing, particularly in the spring, so don’t forget to pack your fishing gear.


Northern California’s stunning array of lake camping destinations offers something for every outdoor enthusiast. 

From the serene shores of French Meadows Reservoir to the unique floating campsites of Lake Oroville, each location provides a chance to immerse yourself in nature, create lasting memories, and escape the stresses of everyday life. 

So, pack your bags, grab your camping gear, and set out on an unforgettable lake camping adventure in the beautiful wilderness of Northern California.

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