Family Camping in California on a Budget

Camping, once the province of scouts and other hardy outdoor folk, has become increasingly popular with families in recent years. Parents who love the idea of unplugging and enjoying nature with the kids, but who don’t relish the idea of hiking to a remote backcountry setting, can enjoy more than 85 campgrounds in Mono County, California, this summer — in locations that range from hot springs to family-friendly lakes. Best of all, some of these spots are still open well into the fall.

Mono County, situated just more than 300 miles north of Los Angeles and 280 miles east of San Francisco, accesses the east entrance to Yosemite National Park.

Chris Flat Campground on the West Walker River in the Walker River Canyon is a good choice  for campers who relish the sound of moving water in the background. Families can spend a day fishing for trout in the well-stocked river or simply relax and unwind at the site, located in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

More fishing is on the menu at June Lake, Silver Lake, Gull Lake and Grant Lake, all well-stocked with rainbow trout and easily accessed along the June Lake Loop/Highway 158. The sites offer cool shade under Aspen and Pine trees, and for those nights you don’t feel like cooking you can head into the nearby village of June Lake for casual dining — and you can pick up fishing supplies and essentials at a general store while you’re at it.

Convict Lake, Courtesy of © Mono County

Convict Lake Campground, just south of Mammoth Lakes on Convict Lake is another favorite for fishing enthusiasts and also offers dining options at the adjacent Restaurant at Convict Lake. The site, located in the Inyo National Forest, comes equipped with a pack station and marina.

Families who like mountain biking and zip lining can do both at Camp High Sierra and Mammoth Mountain RV Park in Mammoth Lakes, a perfect jumping-off point to explore the Mammoth Lakes Basin.

The kid-friendly Little Lakes Valley Trail and Rock Creek Lake are accessible from several campgrounds along Rock Creek Road, where families can tuck into a homemade breakfast at Rock Creek Lodge or enjoy kid-friendly fare at The Grill at Rock Creek Lakes Resort and at Tom’s Place Cafe.

© Mono County

Reds Meadows Campground, Devils Postpile and Agnew Meadows, located at the base of Reds Meadow Road near Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge, are all good launching-off points for high alpine adventures. The sites offer access to the John Muir Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and Shadow, Ediza and Minaret lakes, just to name a few.

If your idea of a perfect camping getaway includes a soak in a hot spring, Benton Hot Springs offers both private and shared geothermal hot tubs set in the high-desert scenery of Mono County in the shadow of the White Pine Mountains.

To find a complete listing of campgrounds in Mono County, go to monocounty.org and recreation.gov for the sites that accept reservations.