7 California Airports Perfect for Fly-in Camping

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Tent next to a plane on sand

Flying cross-country is an ideal way to vacation, but it can get very expensive. The solution? Fly-in camping. Skip the hotel and rental car and go camping instead. Whether you are looking for a remote location or one with convenient amenities, California has a campsite for you and all you need to bring is camping gear. Here is a list of airports with campgrounds within walking distance:

Lighthouse by the ocean

Shelter Cove Airport

Located on the “Lost Coast” of Northern California, Shelter Cove Airport is bordered by cliffs on three sides and overlooks the ocean. Shelter Cove’s campground, less than a ten minute walk from the airport, is an ideal place to stay. From the campground, visitors can access the beach and tide pools below the bluffs. There are many hiking trails nearby for those interested in the area’s abundant wildlife. 

View across a lake
“Lake Pillsbury” by Hitchster is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original

Gravelly Valley Airport

Gravelly Valley Airport sits on the edge of Lake Pillsbury and perfect for anyone needing a secluded getaway. The two closest campgrounds, Oak Flat and Navy Camp, are equipped with all of the necessities, including grills for an evening barbecue. Visitors can hike, swim and fish, with boat rentals available for anyone who wants to spend the day on the lake. 

2 people camped by a plane
Photo by Neal Herbert 

Columbia Airport

At the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, Columbia Airport Campground is located on the field. Visitors can either use this campsite or pitch their tent by their plane. The campground includes showers, fire rings, horseshoe pits and a volleyball court among its amenities. The little town of Columbia features shops, restaurants, exhibits, stagecoach rides and other Gold Rush-themed attractions. 

Hills in the desert at sunset

Furnace Creek Airport

For those who enjoy camping in the desert, Furnace Creek Airport is the place to go. Furnace Creek Campground is a short walk from both the airport and town. Hiking, climbing, horseback riding and golfing are some of the activities guests can enjoy during the day and at night, Furnace Creek is excellent for stargazing.

Kern River

Kern Valley Airport

Kern Valley Airport, located between Sierra National Park and Lake Isabella, maintains its own campground. It has a great view of the surrounding hills and is a five minute walk from the Kern River. Pilots can pull their aircraft onto the grass and pitch their tents alongside. In addition to supplying regular campsite amenities, this one includes a rustic cafe and aircraft maintenance shop. 

Airport on a hill
“Catalina Airport” by Kyle Harmon is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped and saturated from original

Catalina Airport

Called “The Airport in the Sky,” Catalina Island’s airport sits on a plateau 1,600 feet above the ocean. Underwing camping is available and given the breathtaking surrounding scenery, it’s a must. While taxis are available to get to Avalon, there is plenty to do on the plateau, including: a restaurant, a gift shop, a Nature Center and hiking trails.

Oceano Airport by the ocean

Oceano Airport

Oceano Airport’s onsite campground is only for fly-in campers, so pilots don’t have to compete with other campers for spots. ACI Jet has a self-serve fuel station onsite for easy refueling. The airport is right next to both the beach and Oceano Dunes and within walking distance of town. Visitors can rent ATVs or horses to explore the dunes. For more area information and recommendations, contact us at sbp@acijet.com or call (805) 548-1330

Since keeping weight down in your aircraft is important, Amazon and Clever Hiker’s lightweight camping gear recommendations are a good resource. If you want to skip the tent entirely, Mosquito Hammock makes a hammock that can be set up right under the wing of your aircraft. 

Whether it’s a weekend of solitude or a chance to meet other pilots you’re looking for, fly-in camping is a great option while flying cross country. Consider trying it on your next trip. Happy camping!

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