Photo Essay: Camping in Northern California

One thing that I love about family is that they have lots of fun ideas. My mom is no exception. A few years ago, she and her husband bought a vintage 1950s Airstream and have taken it to some of the most picturesque camping spots in California and Oregon.

Because she loves to spend time with my two kids, she started an annual tradition of going (pseudo) camping in Northern California in May, with them staying in the Airstream and us staying in a lodge about 75 feet away.

airstream camping

The Airstream and one of the lodges where we stay in the background

What’s so cool to me about this new tradition is that staying at a campground in California is a whole lot more than a campground. This one, which is a KOA, by the way, is on a hill overlooking gorgeous Alexander Valley, in the middle of one of California’s finest wine countries. This is very rural, but it’s also very chic.

alexander valley image

The sun setting on Alexander Valley

It’s also a way for me to experience one of the things I love most about life: being in nature. For my kids, just being there, with family and outdoors all around, is endless fun.

kids camping California

A walk at sunset

These are photos of our second trip to Cloverdale, California, from late May.

California oak trees

There are some insane old oak trees in this part of Northern California. The ground and grasses are always brown in the summer because it very rarely rains at this time of year.

rural California

Crossing the beautiful Russian River as we approach the campgrounds

Alexander Valley

Sunset at the campground is interesting–strong sunlight comes in sideways, blocked by hills in some spots so there’s a contrast between light and dark then.

deer in California

There are lots of deer around. We saw fawns, too, but my favorite time was watching 3 adults eat at dusk.

Alexander valley sunset

Sunset on a small vineyard overlooking the campground

California camping

An evening fire and roasting marshmallows, of course!

kids camping

Apparently, feeding ducks is the funniest thing ever.

California hikes

The campground has a long nature trail that takes us down to a canyon. It’s gorgeous. I love the twisting oak trees.

Northern California hikes

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the best view of all– the night sky, so full of stars that my husband and I stood outside in the cold, heads cocked back in amazement. However, there’s much more to this area of California than camping and hiking. You can find out about a local sustainable winery here and my favorite restaurant in the area here.

What are your favorite places to get away from daily life and experience nature?


  • lance says:

    That’s so beautiful. My wife is not a camping girl, even though she grew up camping in RVs with her parents. She would love this version: Our son stay in the RV with her parents while she and I stay in a nearby lodge. And the duck photo, yes, nothing is funnier than feeding ducks. That’s one of the great things about traveling with children. They help us adults remember to enjoy the simple things we encounter.
    lance recently posted..Up for Baseball Road Trip to St. Louis?My Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks, Lance. I also am not into camping, so I can relate to your wife’s perspective. The lodge we stay in there is simple but fine for a few days. It’s convenient because there’s a small kitchen, which we use to prepare food for the kids. So true about learning to enjoy the simple things in life with kids–they really see the beauty in everything.

  • Cindy says:

    I love these trips so much & I’m so grateful that we can take them together! This location is magical, and it’s perfect that we can have the Airstream & your little lodge close to each other.

    I’ll always cherish the memories of the little boys screaming with laughter over the ducks & eating their first toasted marshmallows, hiking on that trail that begins right outside our door, and just being together in nature. Plus, it’s magical these days to get away from technology. 🙂

    Thanks for this beautiful post that is especially meaningful to me!

    • Jenna says:

      So glad you found this place! It was so fun this last time (fun the other time, too, but this time was better because of the boys’ ages). Lots of nice memories 🙂

  • Kathleen says:

    Love these pictures (and the airstream)! The tradition you and your family has is so cool. Also, I love when campgrounds have great views and that view from the KOA of the valley is really impressive 🙂
    Kathleen recently posted..Travel Fitness: Ways to stay fit while travelingMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks, Kathleen! Yeah, the Airstream is really fun. I am so glad she got it (even though I really had no idea what it was all about when she did!). This campground really has an amazing location–the views, nature trails, and animals are wonderful to experience.

  • Oma J. Jones says:

    Loved the pictures, it looks really beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing them with us.

  • Andi says:

    What lovely photos!!! And what a gorgeous spot you picked!
    Andi recently posted..Turks And Caicos: Day 4My Profile

  • Leigh says:

    What a gorgeous part of the world to camp in and visit. With so many great wineries nearby I hope you were able to toast the setting sun on numerous occasions. I think this is a great way to get kids involved with nature too.
    Leigh recently posted..A Backpacking Trip in Auyuittuq NP on Baffin Island – Part IMy Profile

  • Sky River RV says:

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures with us! Especially love the airstream ones. Look forward to reading more of your posts!

  • I am a great lover of the outdoors because nature has a way of calming me down and allowing me to slow down the frenetic pace of daily life. As such, your beautiful photos made me want to go camping as it brought back so many sweet memories.
    Simon Jenkins recently posted..What is the Best 2 Man Tent? | See Our 2 Person GuideMy Profile

  • Helen S says:

    Thanks so much for the gorgeous post! Im wondering what the name of the campsite is in the 2nd picture, entitled “The sun setting on Alexander Valley”. It looks so stunning and I would love to stay there this summer!


  • Elmer says:

    Hi guys, awesome pics and trips. I must make a plan to go the NC now. Very excited.

  • Nice camping trail it is very shining. My wife is really loved in that king of campers where did you buy it ??
    Jaddi from recently posted..What is the Best 4 Man Tent for You and Your Family?My Profile

    • Jenna says:

      My mom bought it from a couple who lived in Oregon. I’m not sure exactly how they found it, but I’m sure they searched online for vintage trailers first.

  • GearHose says:

    Hi Jenna,

    Did you take these pictures, they are beautiful.

    I loved the one with the deer in the frame and the sun setting down.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Melissa says:

    Great photos! It looks you guys had a wonderful time:)

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