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Best Camping Sites In Southern California

Sycamore Canyon Campground Point Mugu State Park

Best Beach Camping in Southern California

Some of the closest campgrounds to Los Angeles can actually be seen from the city within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Stretching along the coast from Santa Monica to near Oxnard, this vast public space features endless amounts of outdoor recreation and places to spend the night.

With high bluff views of the ocean and a sprawling network of canyon trails to explore, Point Mugu State Park is only one of many great camping spots in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Farther east on the coast and closer to Los Angeles, Leo Carrillo State Park offers over 150 campsites close to the ocean, as well as a large-group campsite that can accommodate up to 50 people. Also near Los Angeles, Malibu Creek State Park offers generous views from its 50-plus campsites.

Overnight guests at any state park in the Santa Monica Mountains have access to flushing toilets and coin-operated showers.

San Bernardino National Forest

There are only a handful of campsites for dispersed camping along with stringent norms. Wooden or charcoal fires are not permitted at the campgrounds, while the facilities are also limited. In case you camp here, you need to clean up the spot completely before winding up.

Time to visit Throughout the year

Optional Gear For Socal Camping

Backpacking stove: This will depend a bit on your set-up and whether or not your campsite has grills or fire pits .

No matter what, be sure to get your California campfire permit before embarking to any of these Southern California campgrounds.

If you dont want to deal with starting a fire, and youre planning on eating only freeze-dried meals, oatmeal, ramen, and other just-add-boiling-water dinners, you can get by with a lightweight Jetboil, which weighs in at less than a pound and is also great for making coffee in the morning!

If you want a more cooking-friendly set-up including pots and pans, check out this surprisingly lightweight Optimus camp stove that comes with a frying pan and cooking pot at under a pound of weight .

Note that during peak fire season, even things like the Jetboil may not be allowed please check with your local rangers regarding any fire restrictions.

Fuel: If bringing your own cooking gear, make sure you have plenty of fuel for whatever your backpacking stove set up is! And if youre doing a fire pit , research if you need to BYO firewood and kindling.

Camera: I use and love my Sony A6000! Its mirrorless, so its lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that wont weigh your daypack down while out and about on your daily adventures.

Journal and pen: For noting down all your camping thoughts!

Board games: For campsite fun my favorites are Scattergories and Cranium!

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Best Campgrounds In Southern California

Written by Brad LaneDec 2, 2019

Nothing caps off a California adventure like camping under the stars, and numerous campgrounds in Southern California deliver with big natural features and dark night skies. From beach camping in the summer to winter camping in the desert, there’s a Southern California campground to visit every month of the year.

Catering to both tent and RV camping, places like Point Mugu, Palomar Mountain, and Death Valley offer scenic campsites on the coast, in the mountains, and across the deserts of Southern California.

For the ultimate desert attraction and great spots to camp in winter, Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park offers a stunning environment to wake up to in the morning. One of the best state parks in California, and the largest, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park also delivers with desert landscapes, including Tamarisk Grove Campground.

For coastal camping and a reprieve from summer temperatures, the Southern California coast is filled with postcard spots like Souths Carlsbad State Beach and Crystal Cove State Park.

Many quintessential hikes in Southern California stem from the region’s best campgrounds. Campers looking to bag the peak of Mt. Baldy will find the Manker Flats Campground accommodatingand easy access to Mount San Jacinto can be found at the Fern Valley Campground near Idyllwild.

For lakeside camping, look no further than the banks of Big Bear Lake and 100-plus RV and tent sites at the Serrano Campground.

Final Thoughts On The Best Family Campgrounds In Southern California

11 Of The Best Camping Spots in Southern California

Family camps are the ideal vacation for families that want to cram as much fun into their time as possible.

The best family camps will offer a great range of outdoor activities and family programs that will keep the whole family entertained.

Choosing a good camp location will also make it easier for you to take a day trip to preferred attractions like Angeles Crest National Forest or Sequoia National Park for a fun-filled experience.

Summer camps are great for people who want to enjoy the water, whether thats the ocean, rivers, creeks, or lakes. But, no matter when you go, there will be year-round programs to keep you entertained.

We hope you are able to use our guide to pick out the best family camp for you, so you can create memories with your loved ones in Southern California.

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Manker Flats Campground Los Angeles National Forest

A common starting spot for one of the best hiking trails in Southern California, Manker Flats is a high-altitude campground near the peak of Mount San Antonioalso known as Mt. Baldy. The Manker Flats Campground offers rustic accommodations and easy access to the Mt. Baldy Bowl Trailhead, which offers a strenuous route to the nearby summit. All 21 sites are known to fill on the weekends at the Manker Flats Campground.

Best Winter Camping In California

Matt DavisonThis post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission but come at no extra cost to you.

Here is a list of the top camping spots for winter camping in both Northern and Southern California. From bare deserts to lush national and state parks, there is a great choice if youre looking for a winter adventure.

As temperatures begin to drop, the California wilderness provides an enchanting setting for outdoor winter adventures. Winter camping in California offers a memorable experience with peaceful environments and scenic views.

While California does not experience extreme winters like Alaska and Minnesota, youll need to prepare for the snowy mountains. For a more comfortable stay, its best to pack your favorite hiking boots and a heated pair of socks.

The Golden State is home to breathtaking beaches, woodlands, and deserts that offer ideal locations to pitch a tent. Whether youre looking to camp out on the beach or in the desert, California boasts diverse environments to fit every kind of camper.

However, camping options are more limited during the colder seasons. Wondering where to camp in the winter? Weve compiled a list of the best winter camping locations for a cozy cold adventure in California.

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    Lassen Volcanic National Park

    Beyond its volcanic terrain, Lassen’s 160,452 acres feature stunning alpine lakes and meadows dotted with gushing waterfalls. Set up camp at one of seven seasonal campgrounds, like the popular Manzanita Lake, which includes tent sites and spiffy camping cabins, or Butte Lake, which offers the most seclusion. Summit Lake South Campground sits in the middle of the park, at the southern edge of Summit Lake, with picturesque views and access to the water. Dont miss the 2.3-mile roundtrip trek to Kings Creek Fallsit traverses a lush meadow and leads to dramatic, 30-foot cascades. Currently, the park is closed due to the Dixie Fire.

    Best Desert Campgrounds In Southern California

    Best Oceanfront Campsites in Southern California

    Camping in the desert is not for all, but for those that love the dramatic landscapes filled with craggy rocks and unique plant life will enjoy these amazing desert campgrounds in Southern California.

    Joshua Tree National Park

    Joshua Tree is one of favorite destinations for day trips and overnight excursions. While we often rent an Airbnb or stay in Palm Springs, there are some great camping options in Joshua Tree National Park that are worth getting out for. These sites fill up fast either through reservations or first come first serve.

    We recommend heading out on the weekdays if possible to avoid the crowds and have the best chance of securing a great spot. The best time to camp in Joshua Tree is spring and Fall when it is not too hot and not too cold at night. Our recommended spots in Joshua Tree are Indian Cove and Jumbo Rocks. When reservations are an option, they can be made at Recreation.gov.

    Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

    Anza-Borrego Desert is located in the eastern part of northern San Diego County. Known for wildflowers and birding, it also has plenty of options for tent camping. There are developed campgrounds like Borrego Palm Campground, Tamarisk Grove and Bow Willow. Our favorite is Borrego Palm Canyon which has interpretive trails, panoramic overlooks, and native fan palms.

    There are also primitive campgrounds that are first-come, first-serve and are free. Spring is the best time to visit as the weather is nice and the flowers are blooming.

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    Lopez Lake Recreation Area

    Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
    Scenic Rating: 7/10
    Swimming: lake, there is also a nearby water park

    Lopez Lake, set amid oak woodlands southeast of San Luis Obispo, has truly gotten it right: there are specially marked areas set aside exclusively for waterskiing, personal watercraft, and sailboarding, and the rest of the lake is designated for fishing and low-speed boating. There are also full facilities for swimming, with a big beach area and two giant water slides, and a childrens wading poolmaking this the perfect spot for camping with kids.

    Another bonus is the scenic boat tours available on Saturdays, which get plenty of takers. A 25-mile trail system provides opportunities for biking, hiking, and horseback riding. The lake is just about perfect for just about everyone, and with good bass fishing to boot, its become very popular, especially on spring weekends when the bite is on. Other species include trout, bluegill, crappie, and catfish. The lake is shaped something like a horseshoe, has 940 surface acres with 22 miles of shoreline when full, and gets excellent weather most of the year. During the summer, there are ranger-led hikes and campfire shows available. Many campsites overlook the lake or are nestled among oaks. All boats must be certified mussel-free before launching.

    San Clemente State Beach

    San Clemente is another beach with sandstone bluffs and a popular surf spot. The Civilian Conservation Corps built the visitor center and the park infrastructure.

    Tent campsites start at $40 a night with premium sites for $45 a night. RV sites with utilities are $65 a night with electricity, water, and sewer. San Clemente offers three vintage travel trailers for rent with two twins, a bunk and a full for $189 a night. The RV length limit is 30 feet.

    Located at 225 W. Calafia Ave.

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    Palomar Mountain State Park San Diego County

    Located at an altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by beautiful forests and meadows, Palomar Mountain State Park in San Diego County offers campers a delightful place to set up camp and get back to nature. The park offers 31 family campsites at Doane Valley Campground, each of which has a picnic table, fire ring, and running water as well as access to flush toilets and hot showers. Trailers and RVs up to 27 feet can be accommodated. You will find plenty of activities to keep you busy during the day hiking, fishing, swimming, and wildlife watching are all good, and when the sun sets you can gather around the campfire and count the stars.

    Palomar Mountain State Park, 19952 State Park Drive, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060, Phone: 760-742-3462

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    Rural California Camping In The Mojave Desert Near Tecopa Hot Springs

    12 Best Campgrounds in Southern California

    These natural hot springs are located in a relaxed desert environment. There are gender-segregated, no-clothing-mandatory, and indoor hot pools for soaking that are open 24 hours. Tecopa Hot Springs Resort is a great stop on your way to Death Valley and has restaurants, live music, entertainment, hiking, off-road adventures, and many nearby attractions. Forget your urban life cares with the help of these geo-thermal waters as they melt all your stress away.

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    Manzanita Campground Angeles National Forest

    Looking for a mountain view as you enjoy the great outdoors? Manzanita Campground located in the Los Angeles National Forest provides ample space for each campsite while also giving you the calming view of the mountains.

    Located at 5,300 ft elevation this campsite provides two loops of campgrounds, Little Pines and Manzanita.

    Each loop offers 40+ campsites so if you are going on a busy weekend and are concerned about finding space this is your best chance.

    Campsite reservations are on a first come first serve basis. The wildlife is very active in this part of Southern California, so please be sure to place food in proper receptacles.

    Manzanita Campground is great for first-time campers. You will be surrounded by other campers in case of an emergency. Plus it only costs $12/night.

    During my first-time tent camping in Southern California, we could not set up a tent. Someone from a nearby tent graciously offered to help us put the tent up.

    It is a bit crowded. Once you have some more experience camping, it may be better to head to a more secluded campground. One with more privacy.

    Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort

    Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort is a luxurious option that offers everything you would expect from a 5-star holiday.

    Enjoy easy beach access, water sports, hydrotherapy sessions, and the largest inflatable water park in South California.

    High-quality beachfront RV camping is available at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort, with lots of sites to choose from, including full hook-ups, a picnic table, laundry facilities, and a market.

    Rates vary from $67 for small sites to $265 for supersites. Pet fees are either $2 per day or $5 for the week, and you will be able to check-in from 2 pm to 10 pm and check out at noon.

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    Camping In California: South Carlsbad State Beach Campground

    You cant get much closer to the ocean than South Carlsbad State Beach Campground, 3 miles south of Carlsbad in San Diego. Several of the campsites in this very popular campground are located right up on the edge of the ocean-front bluff, offering wonderful views and easy beach access via wooden stairs. There are several accessible sites and if you pick one close to the campground office, you will be able to access their Wi-Fi hotspot. You can bring RVs up to 35 feet long and enjoy the convenience of full hook-up. No RV? No problem there are several local outfitters who will deliver and set up a rental RV for you. The beach offers unlimited activities for the energetic as well as great relaxation for sunseekers.

    South Carlsbad State Beach Campground, 7201 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008, Phone: 800-444-7275

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    Camping In Socal: Serrano Campground San Bernardino National Forest

    The 10 Best Camping Sites In California

    Scenically located on the north shore of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, Serrano Campground is a spacious facility that can comfortably accommodate both tents and RVs on 109 campsites. Serrano is a very popular campground and you would be advised to book your place well in advance. You can expect all the usual campground amenities, such as accessible sites, picnic tables, and fire pits as well as the extra convenience of RV hook-up and hot coin-operated showers. Your days will be filled with activities, including boating and fishing on the lake as well as interpretive sites, walking, hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife watching on land.

    Serrano Campground, 40800 N Shore Dr, Fawnskin, CA 92333, Phone: 909-866-8021

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    Emerald Bay State Park

    Strewn along a forested ridge overlooking the azure Emerald Bay, the seasonal Eagle Point Campground offers 100 sites with access to beaches and trails like the scenic Rubicon Trail. During the summer, a rental vendor offers kayaks to paddle out to Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe. For more adventure and solitude, load up your kayak with camp gear and head for the intimate, lakefront boat camp set on the bays northern banks. Note that kayak rental services are temporarily closed due to ongoing wildfires.

    New Reservation Lottery For North Pines Campground In Yosemite Valley

    In order to give the public equal opportunities to reserve a campsite at popular North Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley during the high season in 2022, Yosemite is testing a new lottery system. From January 18 through February 6, 2022, applicants can enter the lottery on the reservation website Recreation.gov.

    After the application window closes, Recreation.gov will randomly select 640 applicants for campsites dates between July 21 and September 14. A $10 non-refundable fee is required to enter the lottery. Regular campground fees will apply for those selected. Details may not be available yet, but check the Recreation.gov website in coming weeks for full information.

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