1. Yosemite National Park
Scoring a Yosemite campsite is akin to winning the state lottery, both in odds and payoff. But plan ahead, and you’ll be rewarded with the best camping in the state. First timers will appreciate the year-round Upper Pines Campground which eschews solitude for an enviable locale on the valley floor, within walking or shuttle distance to big ticket attractions. Outside of the valley, the 304-site Tuolumne Meadows campground sits at 8,619 feet elevation with “The Sound of Music” scenery and trails to Elizabeth Lake and the Cathedral Lakes. At the southern end of the park, Wawona features roomy sites spread along the Merced River with easy access to the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove. For the backpack-curious, book any of the five High Sierra camps which are strewn roughly 5-10 miles apart, and provide hikers with tent cabins and family-style meals (heads up: the camps are closed until 2022). East of the national park, at Inyo National Forest, Saddlebag Lake Campground has the highest drive-to campground in California at 10,000 feet—we'd call that camping in high gear.