Family vacation: Camping in Calaveras County

Best places to throw down a tent for a vacation under the stars

Maybe it’s the economic meltdown that’s prompting an affordable family vacation this year, or maybe it’s just because camping with kids is so much fun, but either way you slice it, Calaveras County has got some incredible (and surprisingly easy to snag) camping spots.  Here are some places we think are worthy of a great outdoors family vacation (sleeping under the stars style).

Big Trees State Park – There are only a few places in the world where you can sleep under giant Sequoias, so why not have a once-in-a-lifetime experience camping at Big Trees State Park?  The kids won’t be the only ones amazed beyond belief.  Camping is available in two established campgrounds March through November.   To make reservations call (800) 444-7275 or visit

Pardee Lake – For camping with all the amenities (including two swimming pools), Pardee Lake is the place for you.  An added bonus at Pardee is its lake recreation opportunities.  So if you have a boat, or want to rent a boat to add some on the water fun to your camping trip, then you can’t go wrong with camping at Pardee.  They offer two tent campgrounds, as well as one RV campground.  For more information and reservations, click here.

Sourgrass Recreation Area  – For a more off-the-beaten-path camping experience, Wa Ka Luu Hep Yoo (Wild River) Campground  alongside the North Fork of the Stanislaus River is breathtakingly beautiful and feels secluded despite being only a short drive off of Highway 4.  While the kids will love the riverside trails and the rushing water of the river, parents will want to keep in mind that swimming here can be dangerous.  However, there are plenty of safe little areas that can be discovered for quick dipping in the heat of the summer.  Camping is first-come, first-serve.  There are 49 spots with flush toilets.

Spicer Reservoir – For a high-country adventure at 6,500 feet, picturesque Spicer Lake offers ideal camping especially good for families that enjoy kayaking, canoeing and fishing.  Open June to October, Spicer Campground and Group Campground is a bit more primitive than the rest, but gives you the feeling that you’re in the backcountry without having to hike for hours to get there.  The kids will be thankful.  The campground had around 50 sites.  First come, first serve.  Sites can be tough to snag on holiday weekends.

Of course, there are too many camping opportunities to list right here, so make sure to check out the full list of camping and RV parks in Calaveras County.

Photos by Ben Davidson