Best Tent Camping: Northern California: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

Best Tent Camping: Northern California: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

by Wendy Speicher

Paperback(New, user-friendly format lets you plan your trip based on interests and/or location *Reservation calendar makes trip planning seamless *Five new campgrounds explore more of Northern California's beauty & recreation *Updated pricing, amenities, and)

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Perfect Camping for You in Northern California!

The Golden State provides a spectacular backdrop for some of the most scenic campgrounds in the country. But do you know which campgrounds offer the most privacy? Which are the best for first-time campers? Wendy Speicher has traversed the entire region, from coastal Santa Cruz to rugged Yosemite to the forested Oregon border, and compiled the most up-to-date research to steer you to the perfect spot!

Best Tent Camping: Northern California presents 50 private, state park, and state and national forest campgrounds, organized into five distinct regions. Selections are based on location, topography, size, and overall appeal, and every site is rated for beauty, privacy, spaciousness, safety and security, and cleanliness—so you’ll always know what to expect. The new full-color edition of this proven guidebook provides everything you need to know, with detailed maps of each campground and key information such as fees, restrictions, dates of operation, and facilities, as well as driving directions and GPS coordinates.

Whether you seek a quiet campground near a fish-filled stream or a family campground with all the amenities, grab Best Tent Camping: Northern California. It’s an escape for all who wish to find those special locales that recharge the mind, body, and spirit. This guide is a keeper.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781634040440
Publisher: Menasha Ridge Press
Publication date: 02/13/2018
Series: Best Tent Camping
Edition description: New, user-friendly format lets you plan your trip based on interests and/or location *Reservation calendar makes trip planning seamless *Five new campgrounds explore more of Northern California's beauty & recreation *Updated pricing, amenities, and
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 1,224,194
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Wendy Speicher’s love affair with the outdoors started in childhood, as she was growing up on her parents’ 10-acre farm in rural Northern Michigan. Memories of nights spent in the popup camper in the state’s sandy campgrounds and of campfire-cooked dinners of baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and sirloin steaks are still some of her fondest. Wanderlust runs deep in the family gene pool, and it drew Wendy to Northern California’s Yosemite Valley on a summer break between college semesters. After that, there was no turning back.

Wendy studied journalism at beautiful Humboldt State University and cut her teeth in the business covering sports, recreation, food, and entertainment at a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites in the Lake Tahoe–Truckee and Sacramento areas. Her first book, Day & Section Hikes: Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California, was published by Wilderness Press in 2010.

As a young mother, Wendy has temporarily retired her long-distance hiking shoes in favor of the car-camping experience, which allows her the convenience of introducing her son, Archer, to outdoor living without the burden of a fully loaded pack. Spending time outside with Archer and her husband, Greg, is the joy of her life. As a true jack-of-all-trades, when she isn’t writing, Wendy is a professional massage therapist and yoga and fitness instructor and enjoys helping people attain new levels of health and well-being. Learn more at

Read an Excerpt

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campgrounds

Beauty 5 / Privacy 3 / Spaciousness 3 / Quiet 3 / Security 5 / Cleanliness 4

The northernmost of California’s beautiful Redwoods State Parks—and the sun shines through the summer fog.

Key Information

1461 US 199, Crescent City, CA 95531

Operated by: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and National Park Service

Contact: Camping kiosk 707-458-3018; Jedediah Smith Visitor Center (closed winters) 707-458-3496; Hiouchi Visitor Center (year-round) 707-458-3294;

Open: Year-round

Sites: 86 sites for tents or RVs, 4 cabins (wheelchair accessible)

Each site has: Picnic table, fireplace, food locker

Assignment: First come, first served; reservations recommended

Registration: By entrance; reserve at 800-444-7275 or

Amenities: Water, flush toilets, showers, firewood for sale, wheelchair-accessible sites

Parking: At individual site

Fee: $35, $8 nonrefundable reservation fee

Elevation: 150'


  • Pets: Leashed dogs allowed in campground, not on trails
  • Fires: In fireplace
  • Alcohol: No restrictions
  • Vehicles: RVs and trailers up to 35 feet
  • Other: Reservations recommended on holidays and summer weekends; 15-day stay limit (3 days for hike-and-bike sites)

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is gorgeous. Not only does the Smith River run by the campground for unparalleled fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming, but the hiking is also great. The wild Smith River National Recreation Area is next door, and the summer weather is usually nice and sunny. Jedediah Smith Campground is fortuitously far enough east to escape the cool summer fog that plagues other state parks in redwood country. Hallelujah! The kids can paddle happily around in the river (old sneakers or water shoes of some sort are a must) while Dad sits in his lawn chair by the river and casts for trout. Meanwhile, the rays of sun will stream through the crowns of the high redwoods and splash on the ground.

Jedediah Smith Campground should really be named Sitragitum or Tcunsultum Campground for either of the two Tolowa villages that were in the area; namesake Jedediah Smith was here less than a day in 1828 on his way to getting most of his men killed in Oregon. The famous Bible-toting pathfinder made the mistake of humiliating an Umpqua tribesman whom he suspected of stealing an ax. Big mistake. Two days later, a hundred Umpqua warriors attacked and killed 16 of Smith’s long-haired and buckskin-fringed trappers. Only two fought their way to safety. Smith happened to be off scouting when the attack happened, and he learned the news from one of the survivors. Smith explored on—finally losing his hair a few years later to some Comanche by a water hole on the Arkansas River.

Most of the good hiking from Jedediah Smith Campground is across the Smith River. During the summer, there is a footbridge across the river to connect with the Hiouchi Trail. The footbridge is by the winter boat launch between campsites 84 and 86. The rest of the year, prepare to get your feet wet. Remember, it’s hard walking on all that river rock in your bare feet, so bring water shoes. After crossing the summer bridge or wading the river, go left for the Mill Creek Trail. The trail follows Mill Creek southeast to Howland Road and the Boy Scout Tree Road. Go right for the Simpson-Reed Discovery Trail and the Hatton Loop, which are must-see excursions. (To access them by car, exit the campground and drive 2 miles west on US 199.)

Across the highway from the Hatton Loop, the Simpson-Reed Discovery Trail is wonderfully done. Taking only about half an hour to make the loop, I learned all kinds of things about the coastal redwoods and the plants that live around them—such as how to identify the redwood sorrel, with its purple undersides and pink flowers, and why hemlock stands on its roots. Called the octopus tree, hemlock has seeds that germinate on decaying redwood logs. Its roots straddle the logs, which finally rot away, leaving the hemlock roots looking like wooden legs. I also learned that the huge redwoods come from tiny seeds—a pound of redwood seeds would start a hundred thousand trees.

Want to keep your gear to a minimum? Skip the tent and enjoy one of the park’s four newly added wheelchair-accessible tent cabins, reservable at If you tire of the bustle of Jedediah Smith Campground, head down to Big Flat Campground off South Fork Road for some real peace and quiet. Big Flat is in the Smith River National Recreation Area, an amazing 305,337-acre hunk of wilderness in the Six River National Forest. The campground has 28 sites but no potable water. Sites cost $8 per night. To reach Big Flat Campground, turn south on South Fork Road. Turn left after crossing the second bridge, and travel 12 miles on South Fork Road to French Hill Road. Turn left on French Hill Road and go 100 feet to the Big Flat Campground entrance on the left.

The drive south on South Fork Road is sublime. The Smith River, the last wild, undammed river in California, runs through granite gorges, through rapids, and down into deep pools. All along the road are parking spots where you can leave the car and hike down to the river. (This is fine bicycling.) Most of the trails from the parking spots head for the best steelhead bank fishing.

The nearest supply location from Jedediah Smith Campground is Hiouchi, a few hundred yards east. Hiouchi has a gas station, a small market, a café, and a decent RV park with a grass field to camp on if Jedediah Smith is packed in.

If you tire of camp grub, head down to Crescent City to the Harbor View Grotto restaurant on Starfish Way, or try the restaurant at the Ship Ashore Resort up in Smith River, just off US 101. Eat great seafood and look out over the Smith River estuary. Life can’t get any better.

Getting There

From US 101 in Crescent City, go 3.9 miles east to Exit 794 (US 199 toward Grants Pass). Continue on US 199 for 4.4 miles. The Jedediah Smith Campground is on your right before you get to Hiouchi.

GPS Coordinates: N41° 47.892' W124° 5.045'

Table of Contents

Overview Map

Map Legend



Best Campgrounds


The Coast

  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park Campgrounds
  • Butano State Park Campgrounds
  • Salt Point State Park Campgrounds
  • Van Damme State Park Campgrounds
  • Russian Gulch State Park Campground
  • MacKerricher State Park Campgrounds
  • Nadelos and Wailaki Campgrounds
  • Patrick’s Point State Park: Agate, Penn, and Abalone Campgrounds
  • Elk Prairie Campground
  • Mill Creek Campground
  • Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campgrounds
  • Wine Country

  • Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Campgrounds
  • Hendy Woods State Park Campgrounds
  • Albee Creek Campground
  • Shasta-Trinity and Surrounding Areas
  • Mary Smith and Cooper Gulch Campgrounds
  • Antlers Campground
  • Tish Tang Campground
  • Castle Lake and Gumboot Campgrounds
  • Dillon Creek Campground
  • Tree of Heaven Campground
  • The Cascade Range

  • Warner Valley Campground
  • Juniper Lake Campground
  • Crater Lake Campground
  • Aspen Grove and Merrill Campgrounds
  • McArthur–Burney Falls Memorial State Park Campgrounds
  • Mill Creek Falls and Blue Lake Campgrounds
  • Fowlers Campground
  • Hemlock Campground
  • Indian Well Campground
  • The Sierra Nevada

  • Oak Hollow Campground
  • Wakalu Hep Yo Campground
  • Pine Marten Campground
  • Highland Lakes Campground
  • Silver Creek Campground
  • Blue Lakes Campgrounds
  • Silver Lake East Campground
  • Woods Lake Campground
  • Grover Hot Springs State Park Campgrounds
  • Wrights Lake Campground
  • D. L. Bliss State Park Campgrounds
  • Sardine Lake and Salmon Creek Campgrounds
  • Wyandotte Campground
  • Upper Jamison Campground
  • Haskins Valley Campground
  • Yosemite

  • Twin Lakes Campground
  • Minaret Falls Campground
  • Benton Hot Springs Campground
  • White Wolf Campground
  • Saddlebag Lake Campground
  • Buckeye Campground

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