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Best Lake Camping In Southern California

Your Next California Camping Adventure Starts Now

Southern California RV Camping – Big Bear Lake!

Whether you want a fun weekend or some time away from the everyday hustle-bustle, camping in California never goes wrong. With scenic forests, deep blue water, and camping sites minutes away from dashing waterbodies, anyone can fall in love with the Golden States camping adventures.

While planning your next camping adventure, make reservations in advance and look at the weather forecast to avoid any trouble. Remember to pack wisely and take care of your supplies while heading on a camping adventure. We hope the above list of best camping lakes in California gives you the much-needed clarity, and youll pick a destination wisely. Have fun at your next camping getaway!

Riverside Campground And Cabins

Location: 47020 Highway 1, Big Sur

Amenities: Electric hookups, picnic tables, firewood, dump station, ADA accessible, restroom, laundry, and shower facilitiesActivities: Boating, hiking, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, biking, tubingFee: $75$80 per night depending on campsiteNumber of sites: 34Dogs allowed: YesReservations required: Yes

Leave it to Riverside Campground and Cabins to give you the best camping experience ever. This Big Sur River campground is located on 16 acres of an old-growth redwood forest and offers plenty of outdoor activities. If camping in an RV or tent is too rustic for your taste, upgrade to a cabin for a comfortable stay. Spend your day biking, tubing, hiking, and making the most of your retreat.

Joshua Tree Dispersed Camping

Why you should camp here: Enjoy a cozy campfire under a massive canopy of stars at these free, BLM camping areas near Joshua Tree National Park.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Winter, spring, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs

The National Parks have often been called Americas Best Idea, but camping inside of one can be an expensive affair. Luckily, many of the countrys desert parks are surrounded by public land with designated camping areas for travelers on a budget.

Joshua Tree has two such spots in its vicinity: one near the west entrance and one near the southern entrance.

The legal dispersed camping area near the west entrance station is located off Sunfair Road and is little more than a dry lake bed. Sites are full of sunshine and offer the occasional makeshift fire ring but lacking in the privacy department.

On the parks south side, theres a large designated camping area just five minutes from the entrance, and many sites are bordered by mesquite trees and berms of dirt. You wont find any bathrooms or amenities here, so packing in your water and packing out your toilet paper are musts.

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Horse Flats Campground San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Horse Flats Campground is located in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument near Los Angeles. Since this particular campground does not offer any piped water, you will need to bring all your own water and also do without a shower . You can pick your site on a first-come first-served basis and enjoy sleeping under the stars in the shade of the enormous old pine trees. You are allowed to make fires in the provided fire pits and there are pit toilets available. Equestrians have the use of a horse corral and a hitching post, but also need to bring all their own water and other supplies.

Horse Flats Campground, Horse Flats Rd/Angeles Crest Hwy, Flintridge, CA 91011, Phone: 818-899-1900

+ Amazing Spots For Camping In Southern California

Your Guide to the Best California Campsites

Camping in Southern California is one of the best outdoor, social distance activities available. Lakes, mountains, and beaches a multitude of campgrounds in Southern California offer an incredible array of places to match the season and everyones interests. With vacations being cancelled and people worried about gathering in groups, camping is the in thing to do! Below is a collection of our favorite campgrounds in Southern California that we will continue to update as we come across more.

If you have some favorites that we have missed, please share them with us as we would love to check out more off the beaten path sites around the state.

Jump to a Heading Below

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Scenic Southern California Campgrounds With Swimming

There is no place like Southern California, where sun-swept beaches and inland coastal forests abound. However, the area is also known for its scorching temperaturesespecially in the late summer months. These campgrounds will keep you cool as you enjoy the outdoors: with swimming options ranging from Sierra lakes and hot springs to Malibu beaches and swimming holes, theres an aquatic adventure out there for everyone.

Lake Hemet Water Park And Campground

Located in the San Jacinto Mountains, Lake Hemet Water Park and Campground puts you in the middle of the wilderness and provides many things for the whole family to see and do.

Make the most of tent camping, RV camping, cabins, or glamping with prices starting from just $51 for an interior tent site that allows up to 2 tents, eight people, and one vehicle.

Head out on the lake with an on-site boat rental, or head over to the Splashing Eagle Swim Zone for free as part of your booking.

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Paradise By The Sea Beach Rv Resort

Location: 1537 South Coast Highway, Oceanside

Amenities: Pull-through sites, equipment rentals, fire rings, grills, pool, hot tub, store, laundry facilities, shower facilities, restrooms

Activities: Surfing, recreation hall, swimming, basketball, biking, billiards, shuffleboard, ping-pong

Fees: $75$200 per night, depending on RV site

Number of sites: 90

Dogs allowed: Yes

Reservation required: Yes

The highest-rated RV resort on the entire California coast is none other than Paradise by the Sea Beach RV Resort. Just a few steps away from the beach, the RV resort along with the warm SoCal weather make for the perfect getaway. Family-owned and -operated for over 35 years, the well-maintained facility is a lovely RV park with decent equipment and lots of space to play. The pool area is stocked with plenty of chairs and tables along with a firepit for later in the night. Offering a multitude of coastal activities, this Southern California RV camping spot entices visitors to return regularly with promises of fond memories every time.

Learn more about our selection criteria and vetting process.

Manker Flats Campground Los Angeles National Forest

Southern California Wilderness Camping | San Gorgonio Campground- Jenks Lake

Manker Flats is a high-altitude campground near the peak of Mount San Antonioalso known as Mt. Baldy. It’s a common starting spot for one of the best hiking trails in Southern California, the roughly 10-mile Baldy Loop. The campground offers rustic accommodations within Angeles National Forest. It also has easy access to the Mt. Baldy Bowl Trailhead, which offers a strenuous route to the nearby summit.

The campground sits at an elevation of over 6,000 feet. The 21 sites available are first-come, first-served, and while not often filled to capacity, they can fill up on the weekends. Potable water and pit toilets are available to every overnight user.

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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

After the application window closes, 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 website in coming weeks for full information.

Leo Carillo State Park Campground

The Leo Carrillo State Park Campground has 130 campsites within walking distance of beautiful sandy beaches. The site of Zuma Beach, Malibu, accommodates trailers, RVs, and tents and even features electric hook-up facilities in some locations.

Families will enjoy all kinds of popular beach activities, including surfing, fishing, kiteboarding, and diving, or you might want to enjoy a leisurely stroll or sunbathing.

There is a maximum of eight people permitted per site and a maximum vehicle length of 31 feet. Pets are allowed, but dogs must be attended to at all times and kept on a leash.

Standard sites will cost $45 per night, sites with electric hook-up facilities are $60 per night, and there are also budget hikes and bike sites for just $10.

Amenities at the Leo Carrillo State Park Campground include picnic tables, a fire ring, restrooms, hot showers, and a store.

As well as the nearby beaches, there is a nature trail to explore, a Junior Rangers program, campfire programs, and a visitor center where you will be able to learn about all the nearby sites and attractions.

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La Jolla Indian Campground

La Jolla Indian Campground is the only campsite in San Diego that offers tubing and river access, making it perfect for family camp weeks.

Choose from RV, trailer, or tent campsites at this beautiful, pet-friendly campground.

Set on the La Jolla Indian Reservation, you will find yourself in a pure and untainted wilderness.

Amenities include restrooms with flushing toilets and showers, campfires are permitted, and you will even be able to rent bikes on site.

RV prices start from $65 and include water and electrical hook-ups, and the tent campsite costs $40 for motorcycles, backpackers, and cyclists, $55 for a single vehicle, and $65 for a vehicle with a trailer.

Camping In Socal: Palomar Observatory Campground Palomar Mountain


The Palomar Observatory Campground is located just 2 miles from the excellent Palomar Observatory in the heart of Palomar Mountain State Park, giving visitors the chance to combine a number of outdoor activities with some of the best stargazing in California. The individual campsites can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 32 feet long, and many sites have specially leveled areas where you can set up a telescope to observe the clean night skies. The campsites offer all the usual amenities, like picnic tables and fire rings with grills. Day-time activities include hiking, biking, picnicking, and scenic drives, and when the sun sets all eyes turn to the skies.

Palomar Observatory Campground, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060, Phone: 760-788-0250

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Joshua Tree National Park

This is a busy time of year in Joshua Tree, so if you are planning on going, make sure to get a reservation or have some backup plans just in case. Campgrounds usually fill from October through May. This is an iconic camping area to see epic views of the stars and experience the desert terrain. Enjoy the vastness of the space above and below you.

Temperatures can get cold in the high-desert so be sure to bring warm clothing and a good sleeping bag.

Cant find a campsite inside the park? Learn more about Camping Outside of the Park.

Wrapping Up The Best Places For California Lake Camping

After looking at all these California lake camping locations, I bet youre ready to pack up and head out on your next adventure! But, how will you even choose with all these fantastic camping options along the lakes of California?Do you have a favorite park from this list? Tell us about it!Leave us a comment below and tell us your top options for camping on the lakes across California!Happy Trails, Campers!

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Camping Along June Lake

Check out the available camping and RV Parks along June Lake. June Lake is found in California near the Inyo National Forest in the County of Mono.

Activities change depending on the season. In the winter, its the states favorite family ski and snowboard resort with free admission for children 12 and younger! Experience ski chairlifts, equipment rentals, and even take a class in snowboarding school!

In warmer seasons, find a world-class trout fishing lake. Enjoy swimming, sailing, boating, canoeing, hiking, biking, rock climbing, and scenic drives.

Youll also find shopping, galleries, several restaurants, and a local craft brewery.

Mammoth Lake is located along the Mammoth Lake National Park and near Inyo National Forest.

Explore Mammoth Cave National Park, the most comprehensive cave system on Earth and home to cave wildlife. This cave was discovered 4,000 years ago below the Green River Valley. Unfortunately, explorers have still yet to find an end to it, even with mapping out more than 400 miles of passageways

Of The Best Family Campgrounds In Southern California

5 Easy Overlanding Areas in Southern California – Disperse camping sites in Socal

Camping is growing in popularity year by year as people seek ways to enjoy the outdoors with their family while spending quality time with one another and making memories that will last a lifetime.

You might think that summer camp is just for kids, but options are available for the whole family to enjoy with lots of great locations and activities for all ages.

If you are on the lookout for an excellent location for a family camp, Southern California has lots of great sites and a climate that suits this type of vacation.

This post will help you with all the information you need to find the perfect family camps and plan for your trip. If youre not sure about the location you want to camp in, check out our complete guide to the best family camping spots and campgrounds in California.

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El Capitn State Beach

Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 10/10
Swimming: ocean

This is one in a series of beautiful state beaches along the Santa Barbara coast. El Capitán has a sandy beach and rocky tidepools. The water is warm, the swimming excellent. A stairway descends from the bluffs to the beacha beautiful settingand sycamores and oaks line El Capitán Creek. A paved, two-mile bicycle trail is routed to Refugio State Beach, a great family trip. This is a perfect layover for Coast Highway vacationers, and reservations are usually required to ensure a spot. Refugio State Beach to the north is another option, or Gaviota State Park which includes a 0.5-mile trail to hot springs.

Los Padres National Forest

For those who didnt make it into Ventana, Kirk Creek Campground is set along a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Open to the sea and stars, the space offers the type of outdoorsy beauty only Big Sur can offer pitch a tent on a grassy lawn directly across the ocean and fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves. Feeling indulgent? Pack a cute outfit and shell out the money you saved on lodging to enjoy a prix fixe dinner at Post Ranch Inns Sierra Mar restaurant. Then saunter back to your tent for a traditional smores nightcap.

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Mendocino National Forest Dispersed Camping

One of the greatest allures of the Mendocino National Forest is the fact that no major highways or paved roads cross through the forest. So if youre looking for tranquility and seclusion, Mendocino is the place to go. Like other national forests, Mendocino offers dispersed primitive camping anywhere throughout the forest. There are also three dispersed campgrounds in Mendocino National Forest: Grizzly Flat, Lakeview, and Lower Nye.

Once youve established your free campsite, take your pick of activities, like horseback riding, swimming at Stonyford Recreation area , and hiking in the Chico Seed Orchard and Red Bluff Recreation Area.

Lakes Basin Recreation Area

Great Northern California Campgrounds with Swimming

The Lakes Basin Recreational Area is home to 20+ glacial lakes. Most of the lakes are accessed by hiking or horse riding. That tells you a lot about how pristine this area is. In a way, this is one of the Sierras best-kept secrets.

The Recreational Area is accessed through the Golden Lake Highway, a thoroughfare bearing the name of the largest and most developed lake in the region.

There are several options when it comes to camping in the area. You can choose among the Lakes Basin Campground, Gold Lake Campground,Goose Lake Campground, and Haven Lake Campground. High clearance vehicles are suggested for the last two campgrounds mentioned.

These campgrounds are equipped with vault toilets, fire rings, grills, and tables. The sites can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs . Double family and group sites are available in some campsites.

There is another developed campground on the southern end of Gold Lake but a 4 x 4 vehicle is required for access. You will find plenty of dispersed camping in the area as well.

Hiking is one of the main features here with trails located close to campsites. Some of the most popular trails include the Bear Lakes Loop, Frazier Falls, Round Lake Loop, Smith Lake, and Mt. Elwell Loop.

Visitors can partake in mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, swimming, boating, and picnicking. There are plenty of chances to encounter a variety of birds and animals in this prime natural habitat.

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How And Where To Find Free Camping In California

If youve never looked for free camping before, be patient and do your research ahead of time. The chances are high youll take a wrong turn or go a mile in the wrong directionwhen that happens, take a deep breath and enjoy the drive. Free camping exists in wild and wonderful places and the better equipped you are to enjoy the journey the more youll enjoy the destination.

Free camping in California can generally be found on BLM and USFS property, and some of the best sites are found by taking a random turn down a dirt road with a cattle guard and driving until you find a pull-out. If youre in a pinch you can use the offline maps and campgrounds of The Dyrt PRO to find the free public lands near you.

Benchmark maps make some of the best recreation-based atlases for exploring your state and region, with shaded regions denoting private and public property. They also cordon off national parks from national forests and differentiate between 4WD and paved roads. By cross-referencing your Benchmark map with Google Maps its easier than ever to identify areas with a high likelihood of free camping.

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