5 Things to Do in… Northern California

California is big – in fact, it ranks number 3 in terms of square miles, measuring 163,695 square miles, falling between Texas and Montana in terms of size. And yet for as big as the Golden State is, most people tend to refer to it in terms of either Northern California or Southern California (although the residents trying make Central California a thing may disagree). Northern California is considered pretty much anything north of San Francisco. Yosemite National Park is in Northern California as is the Napa/Sonoma Wine Country and several national forest lands that are home to California’s famed giant sequoias. Northern California is also home to four great campgrounds with each offering its own bit of Northern California charm and fun rental accommodations. So, we’ll round up the campgrounds, highlight the best there is to see near each and throw in a fifth highlight for additional fun in the North!

Cabin at Ponderosa in Lotus, CA
  1. Ponderosa is in Lotus, California, on the South Fork of the American River, which means plenty of water sports including kayaking and rafting right onsite. An interesting day trip would be to visit the historic town of Folsom, which is about 20 miles away. If Folsom sounds familiar, it is the same Folsom made famous by Johnny Cash’s song “Folsom Prison Blues” written about the Folsom State Prison. Visitors can check out the Folsom Prison Museum which has exhibits and artifacts about the 100-year-old-plus facility. There is also the Johnny Cash Trail, which is a Class I bike and pedestrian trail. The town is also home to the Folsom History Museum, the Railroad History Museum and plenty of shops and restaurants. Ponderosa offers a number of cabin options, perfect for a glamping vacation.
Cabin at Tahoe Valley in South Lake Tahoe, CA
  1. Tahoe Valley is in beautiful South Lake Tahoe, which is a mix of towering pine trees, sandy beaches, and of course beautiful Lake Tahoe. Things to do include the Heavenly Ski Resort, with its non-snow summer fun that includes a gondola ride and a mountain coaster, several casinos, and the South Lake Tahoe Beer Trail. Emerald Bay State Park is great for hiking, scenic views of Eagle Falls and to see Vikingsholm Castle, a California landmark that is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture outside of the Nordic countries. Enjoy a cozy cabin surrounded by towering pine trees and nature and you’re set for a Tahoe adventure.
  1. Lake Minden has its own 41-acre lake, perfect for fishing for catfish and largemouth bass. This is a great home base camp if you want to check out California’s capital city of Sacramento. Sacramento highlights include the State Capitol building with its beautiful gardens, the Capitol Museum, and the California Automobile Museum which has over 150 vintage autos on display dating from 1885 to 2011. Don’t miss the Crocker Art Museum which is the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi and has collections that include California art and other American works dating from the Gold Rush to current times. Check out a cabin or cottage rental while at Lake Minden.
  1. Lake of the Springs is in Oregon House, California, and sits at the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. The 120-acre private lake is the jewel of the campground and is great for fishing, boating, and swimming. The area offers several wineries, the Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, and lots of outdoor fun. A great photo op would be at the historic Bridgeport Covered Bridge in South Yuba River State Park, which also has great hiking and private swimming spots! Lake of the Springs offers cabin rentals and adorable yurts!
  1. Lodi, California, is a charming town that could serve our Northern California glampers very well as a day trip adventure. There are 85 wineries in the area, plenty of bike trails, and hiking, as well as rafting and kayaking opportunities. Visitors to the town of Lodi are welcomed by the Lodi Mission Arch, which was built in 1907 and topped with a gold-leafed covered bear – which is the state’s official animal. Once you pass through the gate, the Lodi adventure begins. Check out the Lodi Murals, a serial of murals painted around town to commemorate Lodi’s centennial. Or, visit the World of Wonders Science Museum where science provides the entertainment. There are also galleries, shops, plenty of dining options, plus wines, and ciders and craft brews to sample! Add Lodi to your Northern California glamping trip for the ultimate adventure.
Yosemite National Park

Read More:

The Year of the Yurt

Interior yurt photo from Tranquil Timbers in WI.

If yurt camping has been on your travel bucket list for a while, why not make 2020 the Year of the Yurt? Luckily, Petite Retreats has more than enough yurt locations so you can choose a different spot to yurt every month of the year!

If you’re not familiar with yurts, there are a few things to keep in mind. Our yurts typically feature either two double futons and one set of bunk beds or one double futon and two sets of bunk beds. Some also have a functional kitchenette with a stovetop and microwave (no oven), upright refrigerator with small freezer, and a dining table. Kitchen amenities include an electric coffeepot, a toaster, pots and pans, as well as dishes, glasses, and utensils. Oh, and also a private restroom with shower! They also feature satellite television, a propane fireplace and gas barbeque on the outdoor deck. If you’re looking to rough it a bit more, we do also feature a few yurts that are much more rustic, without a restroom or kitchen, at Snowflower, Mt. Hood, Long Beach, Paradise, Tall Chief, Grandy Creek, and Tranquil Timbers.

Circle M
Yurt so good! Check out these cozy yurts at Circle M in PA.

California yurt options include Lake of the Springs, in Oregon House; Snowflower in Emigrant Gap and Yosemite Lakes in Groveland. Lake of the Springs is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains and nearby attractions include the New Leaf Llama Farm, home to 30 friendly llamas. Snowflower puts you near Tahoe National Forest and all its activities, including hiking, fishing, swimming, climbing and bicycling. Yosemite Lakes is of course the perfect spot to stay when exploring Yosemite National Park as the entrance to the Park is just five miles down the road. The campground itself offers fishing, swimming and panning for gold thanks to the Tuolumne River that runs right through Yosemite Lakes.

Heading north from California to Oregon, there are four yurt opportunities – two along the Oregon coast, one in beautiful Bend and one in Mt. Hood Territory in Welches.  South Jetty (Florence) and Pacific City (Cloverdale) provide great locations for coastal excursions that could include Florence’s Heceta Head Lighthouse with its beautiful coastal views or wine tours of Cloverdale’s many vineyards. Bend-Sunriver is great year-round and Bend is always full of activity, indoors and out.  Bend’s Oregon Winter Fest is set for February 16, 2020, and summer brings the Bend Summer Festival, set for July. Mt. Hood in Welches is a great place to stay when catching the area’s most famous festivals, including the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival in August and the Mount Hood Salmon and Mushroom Festival in September. Worth noting, the yurts at Mt. Hood are rustic and don’t have a restroom or a kitchen. That said, they’re conveniently located near a bathhouse. Both Bend and Welches offers skiing and sledding fun in winter and plenty of hiking, biking and fishing come summer.

Photo by @three_amigos_x from the yurts at Yosemite Lakes in CA.

On to Washington State, where five locations offers yurt accommodations.  Starting in southern Washington, there is Long Beach, located on the scenic peninsula with its boardwalk and beaches, and the world Kite Museum (because kite flying is excellent here), which features our more rustic yurt offering. Paradise is in Silver Creek and is surrounded by the mountains, including Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. The campground has two stocked fishing lakes, too! The yurts at Paradise are rustic, and located near a restroom facility. Tall Chief is just outside Seattle and is the perfect spot to explore Seattle’s offerings, including the towering Space Needle, the lively, and historic, Pike Place Market and the offbeat Museum of Pop Culture. (The yurts at Tall Chief are also rustic.) Mt. Vernon and Grandy Creek, both located in northern Washington, complete the yurt options in Washington and each offer different opportunities. Mt. Vernon, located in Washington’s picturesque Skagit Valley, is a wooded wonderland with activities like hiking and fishing topping the list. The San Juan Islands are just a ferry ride away. Grandy Creek is in Concrete, in Mt. Baker territory, making the North Cascades National Park your playground. Plus, Baker Lake is great for fishing and swimming.

Tranquil Timbers is located on the beautiful Door County Peninsula of Wisconsin in Sturgeon Bay, which was voted one of the Top 10 Happiest Seaside Towns in the U.S. by Coastal Living magazine. Summer is the best time to enjoy yurt camping here as well as the world-famous bass fishing for which the bay is known. The charming towns dotting Door County are another plus to summer in Wisconsin.

Make 2020 the year of the yurt at Yosemite Lakes in CA.
Make 2020 the year of the yurt at Yosemite Lakes in CA.

Finally, the rolling hills of Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County are home to Circle M and their yurt accommodations. Lancaster County offers plenty of Pennsylvania Dutch hospitality from authentic Amish dining experiences and buggy rides to interesting museums (check out the York Barbell Weightlifting Museum and Hall of Fame or the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania). All kinds of family fun, including loads of chocolate, are available at nearby Hershey Park.