This Crystal-Clear Lake In California Is A Paradise With The Best Camping Spots

While lots of visitors head to California's beaches, there is much fun to be had inland too. One particular area of natural beauty where you will have your pick of perfect camping spots is the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Located just 8 miles from the underrated city of Redding in the Sacramento River Valley, this parkland surrounds the stunning Whiskeytown Lake.

It is the perfect place for a paddle with the Klamath Mountains in the background. There is also interesting history in the preserve as it was one of California's gold rush areas. While the lake has filled the mining camp, you can still try your hand at looking for gold here. From watching wildlife to hiking to impressive natural waterfalls, the Whiskeytown Reserve has something for everyone. Whatever fun activities you choose to do in this recreation area, it is the ideal place for a scenic California camping trip away from the coast.

Know before you go

The first thing you need to do if you're going for Whiskeytown Lake camping is to decide where in the park you want to stay. There are nine campgrounds to choose from – the Oak Bottom tent site, Oak Bottom RV site, Brandy Creek RV site, Brandy Creek tent site, Sheep Camp, Peltier Bridge, Horse Camp, Crystal Creek, and Dry Creek. They are all available to reserve at, except for the two Oak Bottom sites which are managed by Whiskeytown Marinas LLC.

The Oak Bottom tent site is by far the biggest with almost 100 spots, whereas some of the smaller campgrounds only have two so make sure you book those well in advance. Dry Creek is the closest to the lake but it is a group campsite. Many of the small sites are primitive so Oak Bottom has the most facilities available to campers, with picnic benches, fire rings, and food storage lockers. However, they are all reasonably priced, with primitive sites costing $20 per night. The two Oak Bottom sites range from $20-$35 and the group campsite is $80 per night with spaces for 50 people. Several of the campgrounds are close to trailheads which will take you on one of the recreation area's scenic hikes.

Things to do at Whiskeytown Recreation Area

Many visitors start their Whiskeytown adventure at the lake, where you can enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, or a patio boat tour. In the right conditions, you can kayak by moonlight with the park's rangers. Beyond the lake, there are 70 miles of trails to explore, with four waterfalls to discover along the way.

If you're into mountain biking, there are a range of trails here too, ranging from flat with bends to trails that are difficult and uphill. Fishing is also permitted in the park — a fishing license from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is required for people aged 16 and older, and know that regulations are in place to protect the fish and the health of the waterways. Nature lovers can look out for wildlife like black bears, bald eagles, ospreys, coyotes, mountain lions, and numerous bat species. A more unconventional park activity is panning for gold. This is something that anyone can try, however visitors aged 17 and older must obtain a Whiskeytown Gold Panning Pass prior to panning for gold. For those who love nature and want to explore more, there are plenty of national parks in California to make your journey here into a trip of a lifetime.