Summer is coming up fast, and that means one thing: campsites throughout California will soon start filling up like wildfire. Even if you manage to grab a spot in Big Sur or Yosemite, you’re almost guaranteed to be crowded out by fellow campers, and that kind of defeats the purpose of 'getting away' and out into nature. In the end, you'll likely find yourself camping next to a mob of frat boys — or even worse, a young family with a flock of rambunctious children.
So during these popular summer months, it may be best to ditch the high-profile locales and pick something a little more secluded. Here we've compiled six of California's best kept secrets to get you started.
Sequoia National Park
First on our list is the famed Sequoia National Park. While the campsite is certainly well-known, the sheer size of the park offers a variety of options for those looking for a quiet spot under the stars. One campground, titled Potwisha, is probably one of the best-secluded spots in the entire place. Settled right along the banks of the Kaweah River and within the tall Sequoia trees, Potwisha offers the perfect place to chill out during the sweltering summer months. As an added bonus, the park is located roughly an hour east of Bakersfield, meaning you won't actually be that far from civilization.
Mount San Jacinto
Located west of Palm Springs and east of Riverside comes Mt. San Jacinto. Offering some of the quietest camping, the park spans three different mountain peaks filled with unhindered wilderness. And at 10,000 feet, the drive offers views that, on a clear day, reach as far as the San Diego coast. There are a wide variety of campsites on Mount San Jacinto, but one spot called Stone Creek is perfect for the secluded camper, as it is set six miles outside of town. Nestled along a quiet creek, this site is empty even during the busy spring and summer months.
Samuel P. Taylor
Tucked in the forested hills just north of San Francisco, Samuel P. Taylor state park is already a surprisingly quiet spot. Don’t let the lack of traffic fool you though — there's enough gorgeous landscape to satisfy even the most experienced campers. To get there, follow winding mountain roads through red wood forests, and eventually come across Barnabe Peak, which offers one of the best viewpoints of Marin County. While some of the camp sites close to the entrance can in fact get a little busy, further in the park is the secluded Devil’s Gulch. Set underneath rolling hills of golden grass and at the banks of a red wooded creek, this spot will not disappoint.
Montana de Oro
Trying to stay at Big Sur but don’t want to deal with the crowds? Montana De Oro State Park may be exactly what you’re looking for. The seaside spot isn't far from Big Sur, and is just a short drive from San Luis Obispo. Noteworthy features include the gorgeous seaside cliffs, sandy beaches, vast coastal plains, Morro Rock, and the 1,347-foot Valencia Peak. Unlike other campsites previously featured, any spot in Montana De Oro will offer a secluded and quiet experience. Be careful though; you’ll be surprised by how hard it is to want to leave this place.
Hidden deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Castle Rock State Park is a land forged of sandstone, vast forests, and grand vistas. Located just off Highway 35, the park is somewhat easy to locate and get to, but is surprisingly absent of eager crowds. Home to over 34 miles of rugged hiking trails, the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail connects the Big Basin Redwoods State Park to the ocean. That said, the best spot for camping at Castle Rock would have to be the Castle Rock Trail Camp, which features sites perched on a ridge that overlooks the entire spectacular valley.
At the top of our list comes what's likely the most secluded camping spot in all of California. Scorpion Ranch is set on the eastern side of Santa Cruz island, meaning you’ll need a boat to get to it. Fortunately organizing transport isn’t too difficult, but we do recommend you pack enough food and supplies to last the length of your stay since civilization isn't as easy to revisit. At Scorpion Ranch, you can enjoy hiking spectacular seaside cliffs, kayaking through ocean coves, and basking in the freedom of seclusion. That's probably about as good as it gets.
Need to get even further away from it all? Check out Iceland's gorgeous landscape.