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How to Secure Your Spot Outdoors

With more people wanting to spend time in nature, it’s more important than ever for travelers to plan ahead and observe the tenets of Visit California’s Responsible Travel Code, including putting safety first and educating themselves on local guidelines before traveling. Below are some of the best ways for visitors to snag popular campsites, gain access to National Parks, and plan ahead to safely make the most of their time outdoors.

Visitors to all National Parks are encouraged to download the official National Parks app for maps, self-guided tours and park information prior to their arrival, as cell service and wifi availability  in parks may be limited. 

Yosemite National Park
While Yosemite currently requires reservations to enter the park, there are a few insider tips that will get you in when the day-pass or overnight reservations have sold out.

  • Yosemite reservations are included with all tours and classes, like the guided adventures at Rush Creek Lodge or classes offered by Ansel Adams Gallery.
  • The round-trip fare on YARTS.com includes the park entry fee. YARTS provides affordable public transportation to the park from gateway communities, reservations are recommended.
  • The Hetch Hetchy Valley entrance  in the northwest corner of the park is exempt from the Day Use Entry Ticket program, and the entrance is just one mile from Evergreen Lodge for a nearby lodging option.
  • Registration for the following month opens on the first of each month, so those looking for a weekend park pass can plan ahead. 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Home to majestic trees, deep canyons and tall peaks, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. Lodging in the park is limited in peak season, but nearby Visalia offers accommodations just outside the gates. Visitors can buy entrance passes online in advance, to save time and unnecessary contact at the gate. The park newspaper is another great resource including information on the best things to see and less congested areas. Visitors looking to avoid crowds should arrive early at popular sites like General Sherman Tree, opt for a private tour through Sequoia Parks Conservancy.

Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park is among the least visited national parks due to its remote location and is only accessible by sea. Concessionaire Island Packers has a variety of routes and excursions available, bookable online or by phone. Visitors interested in camping on the islands should plan their trip early, since reservations for camping open up six months in advance. Campers are encouraged to book their excursion to the islands first to ensure the boat has enough space.

The Presidio of San Francisco
The Presidio is a national park site featuring astonishing views of the San Francisco Bay, city skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. With open spaces, 24 miles of hiking trails, 25 miles of biking trails, beaches and forests, it’s easy to enjoy a great day outdoors while maintaining a safe social distance at this free urban park. Construction is underway for a 14-acre Presidio Tunnel Tops project that will offer residents and visitors alike an inclusive and safe space to connect with the great outdoors,  featuring scenic overlooks, paths and gardens, a Gateway Plaza with food and visitor services, and more.


Camping at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point
Located in Dana Point, Doheny State Beach is one of California’s oldest and  most popular state beaches. Doheny has a day use surfing beach at its northern end and campgrounds - with some campsites only steps away from the beach - at its southern end. From tide pools to a five-acre lawn with picnic facilities, there are plenty of options for outdoor recreation and family fun. Visitors are encouraged to plan ahead since campsites can be reserved six months in advance. To book reservations, visit www.reservecalifornia.com or call (800) 444-7275.

Glamping and Camping in Sonoma County
There are numerous campsites in Sonoma County, including new glamping accommodations at Wildhaven Sonoma by Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma Treehouse Adventures in Occidental. These glamping spots are limited and go fast, but all have online reservations to book in advance. Most campsites in Sonoma County also have a website, where visitors can reserve dates and times. Other great resources for planning a trip include Sonoma County Tourism’s quick guide to RV travel and campgrounds or the Sonoma County hub on TripAdvisor.

Camping in San Diego County
State and county campsites can be challenging to secure due to popularity, often requiring reservations six months in advance. Privately run campgrounds can be more pricey than the state parks, but are usually easier to reserve and often feature nicer amenities including full hookups, pools, and recreation areas and activities. Popular privately run campgrounds in San Diego County include Chula Vista RV Resort, San Diego KOA, Santee Lakes and Campland on the Bay. 

Glamping in Paso Robles
The Trailer Pond at Alta Colina, located in Paso Robles, offers up boutique vintage accommodations set in the middle of 130-acres of secluded estate vineyards. Visitors can rent all five of the retro trailers with friends or book one for a romantic getaway in wine country. For a more upscale stay, Cava Robles RV Resort offers new chalets, chateaus and Tuscany villas where guests can sip wine on the rooftop deck and have dinner delivered to their doorstep.

Camping in Big Sur
Stunning rocky cliffs, majestic redwoods and babbling rivers are just a few reasons travelers seek a reprieve in Big Sur, and the destination’s remote nature has made the campgrounds even more popular. To reserve a campsite at Pfeiffer Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks, visitors should plan to book up to six months in advance and check availability at 8 a.m. each day. For those without a reservation, many campsites offer a few first come, first served spots which are easier to secure on weekdays. When planning a trip to Big Sur, travelers are encouraged to visit park websites for guidance on parking, trail availability, and new safety procedures. Visitors should plan to arrive before 11 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. if they wish to find a parking spot, as spaces fill up quickly. 

Mt. Diablo’s Live Oak and Juniper Campgrounds
At Mt. Diablo’s Live Oak and Juniper Campgrounds, reservations can be taken up to 48 hours in advance, making them great for a last-minute getaway. Mount Diablo offers incredible vistas and an abundance of hiking among trees, animals and waterfalls. Live Oak has 22 sites for camping in tents, RVs or trailers, and is located near Rock City, which is popular for rock climbing and picnicking. Juniper Campgrounds is at a higher elevation and provides camping at 36 sites for tents, RVs and trailers including ADA sites. Juniper is near the summit which means even greater views in the daytime and at night under the stars.

Note: As communities re-open after COVID-19-related closures, some parks, businesses and attractions may still be closed or have new protocols in place. Please verify local guidelines and regulations for all destinations and hours and availability of individual businesses before publishing. Check out Visit California’s Responsible Travel Hub for guidance on how visitors can travel within California safely.