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10 Best Places For RIVER CAMPING In California 🏕

Do you hear that?

That’s the gentle sound of a river flowing by your campsite as you sleep under the stars.

Welcome to the list that reveals some of the best places to go riverside camping in California.

We’ve also included some example campgrounds that you could stay at to make it a bit easier to choose where to go.

We tried to include only highly rated campgrounds so you know that they are decent places to visit (e.g. at least a 4/5 rating on Google Maps Reviews.)

river camping map
The numbers on the map correspond to the order of this post.

You don’t want to miss this.

1. Smith River

Location: Crescent City, Northern California

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park offers a memorable camping experience among towering redwoods and along the scenic Smith River. 

You can fish, swim, or kayak in the crystal-clear waters. 

The park features popular hiking trails like the Boy Scout Tree Trail and the Stout Grove Trail, where you can see some of the tallest and oldest redwoods. 

The Jedediah Smith Campground provides amenities such as restrooms, showers, and picnic tables, making it suitable for both tent and RV camping. 

Watch for local wildlife like deer and river otters. 

This park is ideal for families and nature lovers, combining river fun with forest beauty. 

Remember to bring insect repellent and store food securely to avoid attracting animals.

Example Campground: 

2. Klamath River

Location: Northern California, near the Oregon border

The Klamath River is an excellent spot for camping, offering a mix of outdoor activities and beautiful scenery. 

It’s a great palace particularly for Salmon and Trout fishing.

A good spot is the Klamath Ranch Resort/Blue Heron RV Park near Hornbrook. 

It’s open all year round and you have access to full hookups on the riverfront with 70’ x 35’ concrete pads.

It’s perfect for RV’s. 

There are also laundry facilities and a dog park for big and small dogs. 

The river also offers great opportunities for rafting and kayaking. 

This location is ideal for those who love fishing, water sports, and exploring nature.

If you want a place closer to the coast, then check out some of these campgrounds instead that are near the mouth of the Klamath River.

  • Cher’ere Campground & RV Park
  • Klamath River RV Park.

From these places you’ll have proximity to places like:

  • Klamath Trees of Mystery
  • Redwood National and State Parks
  • Wilson Creek Beach
  • Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Example Campgrounds: 

3. McCloud River

Location: Northern California, near Mount Shasta

The McCloud River is a fantastic spot for camping with stunning waterfalls and excellent trout fishing. 

Upper McCloud River at Lower Falls and the McCloud Reservoir is regularly stocked with rainbow trout and you’ll see brown trout all year round.

The area is perfect for hiking, with popular trails like the McCloud River Falls Trail, which leads you to three beautiful waterfalls: Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls. 


You can swim in the clear pools or enjoy a picnic by the water. 

The Fowlers Campground is a great spot right beside Lower McCloud Falls.

This campground has 39 sites with tables, fire-rings, vault toilets, and piped drinking water.

It’s generally suitable for tents and mid-sized RV’s or trailers.

This spot is best for nature enthusiasts and families who want to experience the beauty of waterfalls and pristine river settings. 

Don’t forget to bring your fishing gear and camera to capture the amazing views.

Example Campground: 

4. Eel River

Location: Humboldt County, Northern California

Eel River offers a tranquil camping experience with lush forests and clear waters perfect for fishing, swimming, and canoeing. 

Richardson Grove State Park is a great spot along the river, providing hiking trails like the Toumey Trail and the Lookout Point Loop.

All of the campgrounds here are highly rated and they include 169 campsites within the state park.

The campgrounds here offer amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits, suitable for both tent and RV camping. 

Just keep in mind that the RV length limit is 30 feet and the trailer length limit is 24 feet.

Eel River is known for its beautiful scenery and peaceful atmosphere, making it a great destination for nature lovers and families. 

Keep an eye out for local wildlife, and enjoy the calm, clear waters of the river.

More Information:

Example Campgrounds: 

5. Russian River

Location: Sonoma County, California

The Russian River is a popular camping destination known for its scenic beauty and recreational activities. 

You can enjoy kayaking, fishing, and swimming in the calm waters. 

The Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve nearby offers excellent hiking trails like the Pioneer Nature Trail

Schoolhouse Canyon Campground is a great place to stay if you like to do things the traditional way as most sites here are for tents. 

Although there are a few sites here that can work for small RVs or a trailer.

All sites do have water either in the site or nearby and a few do have electricity. 

Don’t forget to explore the nearby wineries and local shops.

If you want to access the river it’s only a 5-minute walk, but if you want to access the river directly from your campsite then another campground in the area might be better for you. 

River Bend Resort is a place where you can camp in the area with better access to the river.

River Bend Resort is also better suited to RVs.

Example Campground: 

6. South Yuba River

Location: Nevada County, California

The Yuba River is an excellent spot for camping, especially for those who love clear waters and scenic surroundings. 

south fork yuba river

You can swim in the river’s refreshing pools, go tubing on the river or ride an ATV in the mountains nearby. 

River Rest Resort is a good choice for both RV and tent campers and it’s particularly good for families. 

Here are some of the amenities they have:

  • Kids park
  • RC car obstacle course
  • Regulation horseshoe pits
  • Volleyball/ Badminton
  • Ping Pong
  • Gazebo with BBQ’s (inquire in office about rental)

Nearby you can check out the charming Nevada City and Grass Valley for shopping or dining. 

For some history venture out to the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, home to California’s largest hydraulic gold mine.

Example Campground: 

7. South Fork American River

Location: Near Sacramento, California

The American River is a fantastic spot for camping, offering activities like whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. 

south fork american river (1)

In particular, the South Fork is the most popular place for whitewater rafting and kayaking west of the Rockies. 

The rapids offer thrilling rafting opportunities that have become famous across the whole country and people come from far and wide to give it a go.

The Coloma Resort on the banks of the South Fork of the American River provides modern amenities like restrooms, showers, and a swimming pool, catering to both tent and RV campers.

If you visit between May and September the stretch of river in front of the resort is suitable for tubing – a perfect way to relax.

Near the Coloma resort you can check out trails like the Monroe Ridge Trail or see waterfalls like Dutch Creek Falls. 

You can also explore Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park within walking distance from the campsite.

Example Campground:

8. Merced River

Location: Yosemite National Park, California

Come on now, we can’t not include this on the list, can we? 

merced river rafting

The Merced River is a beautiful place to camp within Yosemite National Park. 

It’s great for families and nature lovers who enjoy stunning scenery and outdoor activities. 

You can fish, swim, and raft in the river’s clear waters. 


Popular hiking trails nearby include the Mist Trail and Yosemite Valley Loop Trail, where you can see iconic sites like Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. 

The North Pines and Lower Pines Campgrounds are both popular and highly rated campgrounds by the banks of the Merced River.

Both campgrounds also have proximity to Yosemite’s major attractions and beautiful river views making them an ideal spot for a memorable camping trip.

Example Campgrounds: 

9. Kings River

Location: Sierra National Forest, California

kings river kings canyon (1)

Kings River and its tributaries are a top choice for camping, offering stunning views and a variety of outdoor activities. 

You can fish, boat, and hike in the beautiful surroundings depending on where you go. 

Popular trails include the Hume Lake Loop Trail and the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. 

Make sure to explore Kings Canyon National Park where there’s lots to see and explore.

The Kirch Flat Campground is a campground right on the river’s edge of the Kings River with views of the Sierra Nevada. 

It’s best to go in the spring and fall months when the summer heat has subsided. 

This area is popular for fishing and whitewater rafting. 

Just keep in mind there’s no running water or trash service at this campground and in general the campground is more basic. 

For more amenities choose to camp out at Hume Lake which is formed from a tributary of the Kings River.

Example Campgrounds: 

10. Kern River

Location: Southern Sierra Nevada, California

kern river near kernville

The Kern River is a fantastic camping destination known for its thrilling whitewater rafting, excellent fishing, and scenic views. 

Activities include hiking on trails like the Cannell Trail and enjoying the river’s rapids.

Kern Rivers Edge Campground is a highly rated campground that is suitable for both tents and RV’s.

You’ll have access to restrooms, hot showers, drinking water, picnic tables and fire rings.

And you can also bring a dog along. 

This spot is ideal for families and groups looking for both adventure and relaxation by the water. 

For more options, check out the Halfway Campground or the Hospital Flat Campground.

Example Campground: 

We hope you found this useful.

If you did, make sure you share it with someone else who would find it useful.

Remember there are LOTS of campgrounds along all of these rivers so don’t just rely on the ones we’ve mentioned in this post.

Get out there and explore!

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Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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