Fallen Leaf Campground, Lake Tahoe
Set between Lake Tahoe and smaller, mellower Fallen Leaf Lake, the campground makes it easy to enjoy swimming in and boating on both bodies of water. Beginners who feel iffy about sleeping on the ground can rent yurts with platforms and electric lights. You’ll find hot showers and a general store. Showers, grocery, fishing, yurts/tent cabins/cabins; from $32; open May 16–Oct 12; recreation.gov.
Howard Creek Campground, Westport–Union Landing State Beach
This blufftop campground on the Mendocino coast may be better suited for trailers than for tent camping: There’s a steady wind off the ocean and not much privacy. But the view of the King Range meeting the Pacific will wow any first-time camper: It’s as spectacular as any in California. $25; no reservations; fishing and vault toilets; parks.ca.gov.
Main Campground, Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Sun-washed meadows, regal stands of coast redwoods shading quiet Lagunitas Creek—this West Marin park showcases Northern California camping at its loveliest. And it’s a great place for beginning campers. The mostly paved Cross Marin Trail makes for easy hiking and biking, and civilization is close enough that when you realize you’ve forgotten eggs, a store is only a 15-minute drive away. Two cautions: Sites can be hard to book on weekends, and the drought may limit water use—check to see if you need to bring water. Fishing; $35; $8 park entry; parks.ca.gov.
North Beach Campground, Pismo Beach State Park
Set behind Pismo Beach’s white sand dunes, this grassy camp supplies wind protection plus hot showers. From most sites, a two-minute walk leads to the waves. The wide beach is ideal for beachcombers, while surfers, kayakers, and anglers ply their pursuits in the water. The restaurants of downtown Pismo Beach, 1 mile away, provide dinner options. In winter, thousands of monarch butterflies roost in the eucalyptus trees. Fishing; $35; slostateparks.com.
Huckleberry Tent and Breakfast, Clark Fork
Yes, this one-of-a-kind resort near Sandpoint qualifies as camping: Canvas and screen are the only materials separating you from the great outdoors, there’s no electricity, and a privy serves as your necessary room. But these three tent cabins come with quilt-covered bedsteads and wood-burning stoves. You’ll cook your own camp-style dinner over propane burners in the screened outdoor kitchen, but in the morning, campers are served a hot breakfast featuring the property’s garden-grown produce. $135; open early May–Oct 31; primitive toilets, fishing, showers, and yurts/tent cabins/cabins; huckleberrytentandbreakfast.com.