California Camping
Book Review

Pacific Coast Highway Travel's California Camping book review rates the 20th anniversary edition of Moon's complete guide to over 1400 tent and RV campgrounds.

One of the most viewed book reviews on our website is the Moon Guide to West Coast RV Camping by Tom Stienstra. The same author has also written Moon's guide to California Camping, and although this one covers the whole state and not just the west coast, it will be incredibly useful to anyone planning a west coast camping trip.

Over 1400 tent and RV campgrounds are covered in great detail in this mammoth guide of almost 900 pages, along with a wealth of other material and advice about camping in California. It includes money-saving tips, advice on campfires, and how to keep the critters out of your food, and out of your hair.

Best California Campgrounds

The author opens the book by listing his best California campgrounds, using different criteria. Among the ones along or close to the west coast are:

Best Scenic California Campgrounds

Best California Campgrounds for Families

Best California Campground Island Retreats

  • Catalina Island Boat-In
  • Santa Cruz Island
  • Two Harbors, near Los Angeles
  • Santa Rosa Island, near Santa Barbara
  • Angel Island State Park, near San Francisco
  • Anacapa Island, near Santa Barbara
  • San Miguel Island, near Santa Barbara
  • Little Harbor Hike-In, near Los Angeles
  • Parsons Landing Hike-In, near Los Angeles

California Camping Tips

There are then over 50 pages of camping tips, most of them general and a few applicable to camping in California. After these comes the main section, the descriptions of campgrounds, and this runs to almost 800 pages. It's divided regionally, starting with the Redwood Empire and ending with the California Deserts.

If you're looking for info on Pacific Coast Highway campgrounds then there are sections on Mendocino and Wine Country, the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey and Big Sur, Santa Barbara and Vicinity, Los Angeles and Vicinity, and San Diego and Vicinity.

California Campground Descriptions

The biggest chunk of the book is, of course, the descriptions of the individual campgrounds. Each starts with a row of icons letting you know facilities, such as hot springs, pets permitted, swimming, fishing, or wheelchair access. Each site also gets a Scenic Rating out of 10, based purely on how beautiful the campsite and its setting are.

You're then given the rough location ('five miles north of Crescent City'), and then the page number and reference for the map that it's marked on - and there are lots of maps in the book, although they're not detailed enough to enable you to find the exact spot. You'll still need directions or GPS. Fortunately the campsite write-ups end with directions, phone numbers, websites and any other practical information you might need.

Each campsite then has a long paragraph of general introduction, to give an overview and a feel for the place ('It is two miles away from the Turtle Bay Museum and close to a movie theater.') The next section of each entry covers Campsites and Facilities, while the final section tells you about Reservations and Fees. The current rates are given in dollars, with a note of any periods of closure, and whether reservations are accepted or not.

Comprehensive California Camping!

The work the author put into this book must have been enormous. Imagine how long it would take simply to get the nightly rates for over 1400 places, let alone the other ton of information.

Oh yes, and the author is no run-of-the-mill fact-gatherer, either. Tom Stienstra has been the National Outdoor Writer of the Year twice, and California Outdoor Writer of the Year five times. So as well as being filled with facts, the book is well-written too.

If you're going to be a serious California camper, the book will more than repay the cost by saving you a huge amount of time. Essential.

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