Camping in California

Apr 26th, 2019, 09:33 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 510
Camping in California

Flying in from the east coast to LA. Renting a camper van with no bathroom facilities. Thinking the first destination will be Sequoia NP.
This probably isn't the best forum for camping related questions but I'll ask anyway and feel free to direct me to the correct forum.

If the only available campsites are in a nearby National Forest, are there generally showers available. If not where do folks go to shower?
Also can someone recommend a good campground to spend 4 or 5 days sleeping in a camper van?
What's the weather like in a place like Sequoia in May?
Governator is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 10:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18,632
I am no camping expert, but it seems that most of your questions are answered on the Park's web site. Be aware that, due to the heavy snowfall, some campsites will not open until later than usual. These are listed on the web site. Details of amenities available are also provided for each campsite. Also, you may want to make a reservation.
Barbara is online now  
Apr 26th, 2019, 11:07 AM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 12,661
The amenities in National Forest campgrounds vary by campground, but they are generally pretty limited. Some don't even have running water. it really depends on the particular campground, so you have to check the national forest service web site. Here's a link to the directory of NFS campgrounds:

For showering, some national park and state park campgrounds have showers that you can pay to use, even if you aren't camping in that campground. People staying in campgrounds without showers will sometimes use those - maybe take a shower every few days and in between just wash up a bit with a bucket or whatever. There are shower wipes that people use to freshen up without washing.

the weather at Sequoia in May can be variable. Spring comes later to the higher elevations. So around Lodgepole/Giant Forest area, expect it to be chilly at night, you might even see snow on the ground still. In the foothills area, which is only at about 2500 feet elevation, it should be warmer.
november_moon is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 11:22 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,984
>>What's the weather like in a place like Sequoia in May?<<

That is pretty early to be camping. I've seen two feet of snow and three days later it was 70įF (or vice versa)

here is another link
janisj is online now  
Apr 26th, 2019, 01:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,954
It can be pretty cold at night at elevation so consider camping in the foothills.
Patty is online now  
Apr 26th, 2019, 01:36 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 2,955
I'd worry as much or more about the lack of a flush toilet in that campervan.
jamie99 is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 06:11 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 510
Iím open to going anywhere, between LA and SF, inland or coastal, where the camping would be good and there is beautiful scenery. Would like to have toilet and shower facilities. I donít want to go to private RV parks as they look like parking lots. Any suggestions? Being as it might be too late for reservations Iím interested in first come first serve type campgrounds.

Last edited by Governator; Apr 26th, 2019 at 06:17 PM.
Governator is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 06:17 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,984
I'd go up the coast instead - but I wouldn't pooh pooh RV parks quite so quickly.

Check out places like this in Big Sur
janisj is online now  
Apr 26th, 2019, 11:10 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,715
Your best bet is to spend some time with the state campground website. State parks have more bathrooms and showers, yet are not parking lots.

​​​​​​For that matter, some Thousand Trail campgrounds are hardly parking lots.

Have a look at Rancho Oso near Santa Barbara. My in-laws knew them all and this was a favorite.
5alive is online now  
Apr 27th, 2019, 02:38 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 510
I was thinking that the state parks might have facilities; the ones in NJ do. However, so far, I've been unable to register on the 'reservecalifornia' site. It keeps telling me my address is unrecognized. I'm going to give them a call later, or use my uncle's address.

My trip starts this coming Tuesday, April 30. I'm planning to visit my uncle in the LA area, Tuesday eve after we pick up the van, before we get going Wednesday morning.

I was wanting to camp a little in Yosemite, even without showers, but it's reserved for all of May. However, I saw 2 nights open up, on '', that happen to be the second and third night of my 14 night trip, Wednesday and Thursday nights. So, instead of making my way north, slowly, I'll be immediately driving up to Yosemite's Wowona campground for the 2 nights. For the weekend following those 2 nights I'm looking at a couple of private or state campgrounds, near Yosemite, so we'll be able to shower up.

I may very well, at some point, head back down the coast to Big Sur, so the 2 recommendations thus far given are appreciated, and I may use them.

Does anyone have any campground recommendations when heading back towards Big Sur from Yosemite? I'm also wondering if I should spend any time at Death Valley. We'll also want to hit Sequoia/Kings Canyon at some point.

One nice surprise that I wasn't aware of, my national parks senior pass , in addition to giving free admission to the national parks, gives me half price at the NP campgrounds

Edit: Just noticed that the 2 recommendations are a tad expensive for camping $74 vs the $13 (senior rate) per night I'm paying at Wowona. I'm sure they have nice facilities and I may try one of them, anyway.
Edit: Just found a good search site for filtering and finding camps w showers called 'Hipcamp'.

Last edited by Governator; Apr 27th, 2019 at 03:33 AM.
Governator is offline  
Apr 27th, 2019, 04:16 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 15,794
My husband and I rented an Escape camper van out of Las Vegas last spring during the first week in April.. We went to Joshua Tree and Death Valley I know that most van rental companies have a cut-off date after which you can't take the vans to Death Valley so you should be sure to check that. It was hot even in early April. We enjoyed staying one night in the Owens Valley west of Death Valley so you might consider that area, too.

re showers: you might consider getting a solar power shower bag to supplement sponge baths on days you aren't at a campground with showers.

The escape vans website has lots of useful information including some itineraries so you might check that even if you aren't renting through them
Vttraveler is offline  
Apr 27th, 2019, 07:12 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,954
Is your campervan like a Jucy? If so, some RV only parks won't allow them anyway. I'm thinking of the manicured ones with lots of facilities but there are also some state park RV only campgrounds that don't allow them either. I would try to time your stay in Big Sur during the week. Perhaps you could get a walk up site at Pinnacles National Park for the weekend between Yosemite and Big Sur? If not, it's an hour+ further to get to the Monterey Peninsula where you can start your Big Sur drive. If it's not a race weekend (nevermind, just checked and that's a race weekend), you should be able to easily find a campsite at Laguna Seca At Veterans Memorial Park in Monterey, there's first come, first serve camping Then maybe head down the coast after the weekend. In Big Sur, try state parks like Pfeiffer Big Sur or Limekiln which are cheaper than private campgrounds. Farther south look at Kirk Creek or Plaskett Creek which are forest service campgrounds (no showers).
Patty is online now  
Apr 27th, 2019, 07:22 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 510
Thanks for the info. I'm actually renting an Escape campervan. My wife is not crazy about the gaudy colors but they offered a very good price.

On the Reserve California site, it asks if you want a 'Campsite' or a 'Tent Site'. I'm not sure of the difference. Will both accomodate a camper van?

I tried calling their customer service line, but the informational message they give before connecting you is so long I got tired of waiting and hung up.

For the weekend after leaving Yosemite, I'm thinking of using Millerton Lake SRA. Anyone familiar with that campground? What's the difference between a Park and a Recreation area?

Last edited by Governator; Apr 27th, 2019 at 07:37 AM.
Governator is offline  
Apr 27th, 2019, 07:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,954
Check the grade. Some tent sites don't have level parking.
Patty is online now  
Apr 27th, 2019, 07:55 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 15,794
The Escape vans are definitely eye-catching and a lot of people ask about them. Very clever advertising. My husband had a VW bus painted with different pix in the 1970's so we were somewhat used to the concept.
Vttraveler is offline  
Apr 27th, 2019, 08:16 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 3,655
As to "tent sites," these are likely ones that you cannot take your camper to - you would need to park in the lot and then walk in a short distance. As a (former) tent camper, I appreciated being away from the campers themselves. As Patty said, check the specifics closely.
sludick is offline  
Apr 27th, 2019, 09:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,980
A walk-in tent site means you have to park in a separate lot and haul your tent and equipment to the site. A plain tent site means you can park the van at the site and sleep inside. You don't have to pitch a tent to stay there. You are way late in your planning and need to be looking constantly for cancellations. Showers are few and far between, especially in the national forests. You have a stove so heat up some water and take a bath with a washcloth. Your hair you can just wash outside.
AustinTraveler is online now  
Apr 27th, 2019, 12:40 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 20,763
We camped in late May in Sequoia and only one campground was open. There are bathroom facilities in the campground and showers available in the village at the entrance of the campground. We were tent camping and hed no preblems with finding a space in the late afternoon. My impression is that campers were in a separate area, so I cannot vouch for the availability of space. Reservations might be in order. Also, with the abundance of snow in the Sierra this year, it is not clear that the campgrounds will be open in May.

National Forest campgrounds do not have shower; but usually there is a faucet with drinkable water and an outhouse.

Last edited by Michael; Apr 27th, 2019 at 01:27 PM.
Michael is online now  
Apr 27th, 2019, 06:50 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 510
Yes, I'm late in planning, but I have no choice as it's a last minute trip. I've actually done a fair amount of car camping back in the day, including Mount Ranier NP and Acadia NP and I can't remember ever not having a shower (unless I count the time I slept in my car near Lake Minnewaska and skinny dipped in the lake. LOL)

I'm lucky I got 2 nights in Yosemite, probably from a cancellation. That was one of my main goals of this trip, to camp in Yosemite. It's my wife's goal to run in Yosemite, she's a marathoner.

After Yosemite we'll be ready for a place with showers (and weekend availability) so we're doing 2 weekend nights in Millerton Lake State Recreation area. Got a lakeside site, looks pretty nice and gets good reviews. A good place to run, also.

I, then, have 2 open nights. Thinking of going to Buckeye Flats, a first come first serve campground in Sequoia National Park. My wife expressed a desire to go to Death Valley, so she may change that plan, I hope not because it's a big detour (she's off running a marathon tomorrow while I'm making these reservations.) I read that there's a place to take a shower in the town near Buckeye.

My next 3 nights are reserved in Pfeiffer Big Sur (yay showers.)

I still have to figure out what to do with my last 4 nights, the first 2 of which fall on a weekend, the last of which should be near Heyward to drop the van off on the last day.

Seems to be working out. One sight that helped me in my planning was ''. It shows pictures of each campsite in the campground.

Last edited by Governator; Apr 27th, 2019 at 07:05 PM.
Governator is offline  
Apr 28th, 2019, 04:40 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 3,655
You should be able to shower at Half Dome Village in Yosemite. Growing up, we used to spend our summer vacation there. I recall with fondness waiting in line for that shower..
sludick is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:02 PM.