There are so many beautiful places to go camping in Southern California it can be hard to choose. Just a few short hours from downtown Los Angeles campers can wake up to the sounds of gentle waves or ride bikes in the cool mountain air or the climb rocks in the dry desert. Here is a list of the best camp sites that are close to (or not too far from) Los Angeles. Some of these spots are popular and reservations must be made months in advance.
Lake Casitas Recreation Area
Lake Casitas is a fun campsite for the beginning camper. It’s close to civilization and there is plenty to do. Kids can ride bikes, play on the playground, and there’s even a water park with a lazy river close by. Make sure to get tickets to the popular water park in advance of your trip. The lake doesn’t allow swimming, but you can boat, water ski, and fish. Keep in mind: because it’s close to civilization it can get crowded on the weekends.
El Capitàn State Beach
Getting a spot close to the beach requires a reservation months in advance, but all of the campsites are lovely at El Capitàn State Beach. There’s hiking, biking, and the beautiful beach. The campsites are close enough to the water that you can hear the waves as you rest. It’s a short drive to wine tasting and the historic Old Santa Barbara Mission. If pitching a tent isn’t your thing, you can go across the road to El Capitan Canyon Resort, a private campground where you can stay in a safari tent or cabin and enjoy a swimming pool and planned activities.
San Onofre State Beach
This campground has spots near the beach or inland near Camp Pendleton. There’s a 1.5 mile trail that connects the inland spot to Trestles Beach and it’s great for hiking and jogging. The beach is a popular surfing spot and families can enjoy miles of beach to play in the sand. There’s no camping at the beach, but it’s available to use all day. The campsite has beautiful views and nice bathrooms and showers.
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia is for the more seasoned campers. It’s located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and it’s a beautiful, but long drive. The campground is at 6,700 feet and it’s nestled along the Kaweah River. There is so much to see. There are 40 miles of hiking trails that include the incredible Big Trees Trail where visitors can see giant Sequoia. Visitors can also see Black Bears, wildflowers, and waterfalls. Peak camping season is June to September. Make reservations early and come prepared. All food has to be stored in bear-resistant containers and there’s no water or electricity hook ups (and spotty cell service!).
When people think of Mammoth they think skiing. But there are some amazing campgrounds around the area. New Shady Rest Campsite is close to shops in Mammoth, but nestled in the Jeffrey Pine Forest. Kids can ride bikes along a paved trail that leads to a city park with a playground. It’s close to both easy and strenuous hiking trails and a short drive away from the beautiful June Lake, waterfalls, and incredible Sierra Nevada views. If you get the chance, visit the gold rush ghost town of Bodie State Historic Park. The buildings that are left are filled with supplies as if the inhabitants thought they were coming back. Peak camping season at New Shady Rest is May through early November.