Best Places for Roof Top Tent Camping in California


California, The Golden State, boasts of great beaches and amazing camping sites. It’s a perfect destination if you’re a nature lover. If you plan on going camping within the state but hate the idea of setting up everything including the tent, don’t worry!  We’ll help you identify the best places for Roof Top Tent Camping within California, and much more!

beach camping -top roof tent camping

Well, Roof Top Tent camping is the in thing now. The idea came into the scene in the late thirties and since then, attaching a tent on top of your vehicle is one of the best ways to spice up your camping experience. Here are the top 6 best places for Roof Top Tent Camping in California:

  1. Half Moon Bay State Beach
  2. New Brighton
  3. Butano State
  4. Big Basin
  5. The Los Padres National Forest
  6. Monterey City Park

Above are some of the many stunning tourist attraction sites that you can pitch your tent at. The big question is: what do these campsites have to offer? Let’s check them out!

Features of The Best Roof Top Campsites In California

California is the Golden State of everything including camping. The best way to enjoy this experience is by embarking on a camping road trip or simply head on to the great outdoors.

There are more than 18 National forests and the best part is that you can choose your pick.  The only limiting factor is that forests are typically the same and that is why the sites we have explored are unique from the rest in their own special way. It’s the uniqueness that makes these places ideal places for your Roof Top Tent camping in California

#1. Half Moon Bay State Beach | California Roof Top Tent Camping

The first thing you should note if you plan to for Roof Top Tent camping in this famous California beach is that you need to make a reservation.

Get to enjoy 4 miles of nothing but white sandy beaches. This is the ideal camping spot for those who love swimming and sunbathing. Fishing too is a great activity here.

This is a great Roof Top Tent camping site in California and is home to Francis Beach which contains a 52 individual sites campground. These sites are great for ground camping, rooftop tent camping, trailers, and other vehicles.

You can choose a site that has all the amenities that you need for instance electrical, water and sewer hookups. A hot shower will only cost you a coin or two.

If you prefer outside showers and flush toilets then Venice Beach would be the place to be.

There is a trail that stretches to almost three miles. This is great for someone who wants to jog, run or just ride a bike.

#2. New Brighton | Roof Top Tent Camping in California

This California location gets its name from the well known New Brighton coastal resort in Britain. This is a great Roof Top camping site in California for families. If you are not hiking, fishing or building sandcastles then the Monterey Bay will be sweeping you off your feet.

#3. Butano State | Roof Top Tent Camping Place

The Butano State Park is home to the world’s finest redwoods. You can refer to it as a redwood conservation site. There are great canyons within and to cap it all, babbling creeks. There are 21 drive-in campsites in this park. They consist of restrooms that have running water but there are no showers. Who needs a shower in the wild? A bucket will do.

At Butano State, campers get to enjoy the peace and quiet stretching over 40 miles and winding through canyons. There are different types of ecosystems and a diverse array of both plants and wildlife.

If you are a bird watcher, you should visit here during springtime to catch a glimpse of the woodpeckers. During summer, campers get to enjoy guided nature walks and campfires during the weekend.

#4. Big Basin | Roof Top Tent Camping Site

Now if there is a campsite that has a lot to offer then it is none other than the Big Basin. This is California’s oldest park and is located in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. What makes it suitable for Top Roof Tent Camping in California? Let’s explore…

What do you want to see from the top of your car? The Pacific Ocean, waterfalls or trees that go back to centuries ago? Big Basin is called big for nothing.  You can access its coastal unit, the Rancho del Oso via the Highway 1 Davenport. This park is rich in natural vegetation and is home to birds and land animals such as Califonia woodpeckers, herons, egrets, deers, bobcats, and raccoons.

There are plenty of waterfalls and this also makes the park a riparian habitat, just another good reason to have your tent on your car roof.

18,000 acres of uninterrupted natural ecosystems. This is where you go when you cannot go anywhere else. You’ll find nature and history centers. When you are done soaking in the knowledge you can do the following:

  • Hiking
  • Ride a bike
  • Participate in various park events

#5. Los Padres National Forest | Roof Top Tent Camping Site, California

Situated in the Southern and Central California, Los Padres National Forest boasts of mountains, beaches, streams, and rivers. It has 10 wilderness designated areas that you can explore to spice up your outdoor adventures.

You’ll have a wide selection of rooftop tent camping areas ranging from low to high altitudes. You can also choose a riverside location.

Some of the activities you’ll enjoy at Los Padres Forest include but not limited to:

  • Mountain hiking
  • Outdoor/Forest Camping
  • Biking
  • Snowplay during winter
  • Cross-country skiing sport
  •  Off-way driving/ Vehicle Traveling
  • Picnicking

#6. Monterey City Park | Roof Top Tent Camping in California

Monterey City is known for its beautiful beaches and parks. Its forest, rocky shows, wetlands, and sandy beaches make it a favorite destination for your camping adventures.

With its wide space and playgrounds, it offers a perfect and affordable option for your top roof tent camping needs. Apart from its hiking trails, it offers picnic locations, a basketball court, recreation playfields, and other facilities.

Some of the activities you can enjoy in the park include:

  • Nature Walk and Tours
  • Hiking
  • Sight-Seeing
  • Vehicle Tour
  • Electric Bike Tour
  • Sea Car Tour

How You Can Find More Places For Roof Top Camping in California

roof top tent camping-california

Now that we have looked at some of the best places for rooftop tent camping in California, let’s delve into how you go about looking for such places. We have already proven that a roof- nest is way better than regular camping.

There are four types of places you can camp with a rooftop tent.

  1. Designated camping sites
  2. Private campsites
  3. Dispersed camping areas
  4. Alternative sites

1. Designated camping sites

National parks and even state parks are the best places when it comes to designated Roof Top Tent camping spots in California.

All you have to do is adhere to the rules and pay a small fee. Most of these sites are typical campsites with regular tents but who said you cannot pitch yours high up?

Most designated campsites are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. It is therefore important that you reserve your space before someone beats you to it. You can find more information for camp spots in National parks by visiting the respective park’s website.

2. Private campsites/spots

Camping is time to unplug and connect with nature but at times, you also want to unplug from the crowded city and the noise of people. You can make use of technology to find a private camping spot where it is just you and precious moments under the sun.

There is a new app that allows users to locate camping spots on private land. It is called Hipcamp and is being referred to as the Airbnb of camping. With such an app you can:

  • Book a spot in advance
  • Find out spots that fit your definition of privacy
  • You can filter by amenities
  • You can easily find what fits your budget
  • You get to see the place before going there personally

3. Dispersed camping areas

These are camping areas where you really get into the wild. There are no amenities, just you and nature. Most of the dispersed camping areas are within the National Forests and Bureau of Land Management docket.

So what happens here? You drive and park. You can search for a suitable spot like a lake, river or meadow and set up there. You have to stay on the side of the road so that you do not damage the forest.

Before heading on to such camping areas, you will need to check their respective websites for all the necessary information and permits that are required.

Alternative Spaces For Roof Top Camping, California

If you don’t have the time to get the permits and the maps then there is always an alternative camping site for you. These are not for your typical ground tent campers.

Walmart – Most of the Walmart locations allow car camping just ensure that you do not block anyone in the parking lot.

Truck stops- Look for truck stops that have overnight spots for campers. You might have to pay a small fee.

Rest areas- These are areas where overnight parking is allowed. The rules vary from one state to another.

Casinos- Do not be surprised. Yes, there are casinos that offer overnight parking for car camping, RVs and campers. A great resource for this is the CasinoCamper.Com

The Benefits of Roof Top Camping

1. They offer safety and comfort

This is the main reason why you should opt for a Roof Top Tent. Since they are placed above the ground, you get some form of security that could be threatened by some wildlife or insects. So give the animals some space. Your rooftop tent is your annex of comfort. You can gaze at the stars at night while the cool wind blows away plus it is different from the typical ground camping.

2. They offer a hard shell

The typical ground tent has a softshell. This means that their sides are made from lightweight material. This is not effective when the weather changes.

A hard shell, on the other hand, protects you during the rain and the storm since it is sturdier and heavier. It should, however, be noted that not all rooftop tents are made of a hard shell, some are soft and it all depends on your budget.

3. They fit on almost any vehicle

If you have a four-wheel-drive then your best outdoor accessory is the rooftop tent. Whether you own a truck or SUV, it works. You only need to buy a good rack so as to mount them. Just ensure that your car is well able to accommodate a tough rack.

4. You will make good use of your car space

Since you will be living on the roof of your car, the interior of your vehicle can be a great pantry or extra space just in case the pet came along.

5. You get away from the norm

Rooftop camping is a unique experience. This is the nearest you will get to the stars at night. You also get to enjoy a scenic view thanks to your raised level.

How To Choose The Best Roof Top Tent- California Camping

Man has always loved sleeping under the stars. It is a luxury that has been enjoyed for many years. The use of rooftop tents has just taken this art to another level. Before getting one for yourself, there are certain things that you will have to consider:

  • Check and see what tent will work with your vehicle. This includes checking the rack specs.
  • Find out how the tent will be attached to your vehicle. This is important because the tent floor is bolted to the rack and adequate setup is mandatory.
  • Tent durability
  • Total tent weight
  • Car and rack dynamic weight capacity
  • Static weight capacity
  • Rack compatibility
  • Annexes and awnings
  • Shipping costs
  • Type of fabric

The only thing that might hinder you from buying a rooftop tent would be the price but not to fret, you can still save up because this is one tent that will serve you for long.

In order to fit the tent on the roof rack, you should ensure that your rack can support the tent weight. You will be able to achieve this by contacting the rack manufacturer.

The process of attaching the tent to the roof rack should be a breeze after bolting. All you need to do is strictly abide by the installation instructions as provided by the manufacturer. When all is done, get someone who can handle the weight and lift the tent onto the car roof.

How to Add Comfort To Your Rooftop Tent

1. Get a new mattress

The basic rooftop tent mattress is not very comfortable. They are thin and are not breathable.

2. Make use of cooling sheets and condensation mats

You do not want to wake up in the morning to find yourself in a wet tent. A condensation mat will absorb all the condensation while you are sleeping. Cooling sheets ensure that your sleeping area always remains fresh.

3. Get a duvet instead of a sleeping bag

Now that you got a good mattress, it is about time that you ditched the sleeping bag and got a duvet. A duvet offers more warmth and comfort but this also depends on the space inside your tent.

4. Use vacuum storage bags

If you do not have enough space to store your beddings inside the tent then vacuum storage bags will do. You will actually save on 50% of the storage space.

5. Get your own pillows

You already have a good mattress and duvet. The only missing link is a good pillow. You will definitely have sweet dreams even away from your bed.

6. Have some lights inside your tent

Lights change the vicinity plus they help you see whatever you need inside your tent.

Roof Top Tent Tent vs. Recreational Vehicle

If you want to go camping with Recreational Vehicle (VR), you are simply stating that you want to go camping without leaving the luxury of your home. RVs are good if you have the budget allocated for buying one and maintaining it. This is where the rooftop tent beats the RV.

With a rooftop tent, you get much more mobility. This is because, with it, you can drive around small towns and can park anywhere. Remember, rooftop tents are placed on regular cars.

A rooftop tent does not cost much as compared to RVs. Check out prices of the best Roof Top Tents on Amazon for comparison.

Final Word

California is a beautiful state and you can never exhaust its beauty. And even with your typical camping sites, you can still have a Roof Top Tent camping in California while attending a concert or a music festival. The roof nest is great for observing from afar.

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Meshack Sewe

MESHACK IS A VERSATILE WRITER, BLOGGER, AND POET WHO ENJOYS HIKING AT HIS FREE TIME.

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