Tom Steinstra is one of the most enjoyable outdoor writers California has produced. Reading his work is simply a treat. He is at once amusing, self deprecating, and, most important, thorough and accurate. This new edition of California Camping combines the best of his writing in one volume and should be your first resource when looking to camp throughout the state.
Besides a must read introduction covering such topics as how to avoid getting blisters and getting lost, strategies for keeping camping costs down, and how to limit bear access to your precious food supply, this book covers nearly every campground in the state from the Redwoods in Northern California to the Anza Borrego Desert in San Diego County. The book is divided into chapters, each of which covers a unique geographical province of the state. (These provinces match those found in Steinstra's popular book 'California Hiking' coauthored by Ann Marie Brown.) Each campground description includes a set of icons detailing nearby activities such as fishing, hiking, hunting, mountain biking, and swimming. The description also includes a list of scenic highlights near each camp. Finally, driving directions and the fees you can expect to pay are included. (Note: fees at state parks in particular go up regularly. Some prices listed will be outdated shortly after publication.)
Some people have had a few problems with previous editions of this book. There is, for example, considerable disagreement over the "scenic" ratings Stienstra assigns to each campground. I think these are for the most part accurate, though one could always quibble with the details. (In Humbolt Redwoods State Park, for example, I would rate Burlington an 8 and Albee Creek a 7: Steinstra reverses these ratings.) As a rule of thumb, the more urban the site is, the lower the scenic rating. A KOA near a city will not get as nice a rating as a state park. Readers should be aware that noise level is not included in the scenic rating, and this can detract from the experience. To his credit, Steinstra notes locations where readers of past editions have complained about noise level.
For me, the main benefit of this book is that it lists numerous free forest service and BLM campgrounds. Camping fees have gone up exponentially in the last few years (along with the cost of gas to get to the campgrounds.) I really appreciate Steinstra's careful listing of the obscure and remote campgrounds that are still available at no charge throughout the state. Although free, they are priceless, and readers looking for a nice base camp in California's many wilderness areas will find this book very useful. But then again, if you are looking for a place to park your RV or trailer, this book is also helpful. One of the great joys of comprehensive guides is that they contain something for everyone. Unlike most such books, this one is also very readable. Be sure to get it and have fun exploring this great state.