Amazing places to go camping near Los Angeles

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Discover the greatest camping alternatives nearby Los Angeles, from breathtaking coastline locations to lovely, nature-surrounded spots.

Camping in the Mountains


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Idyllwild, which gets its name from its picturesque location in the San Jacinto Mountains, is bordered by Tahquitz Peak and Suicide Rock (famous for its rock climbing). Glassy lakes, magnificent ponderosa pine forests, and charming crevices make this region ideal for setting up a tent. From there, you can go hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, fishing, or explore the towns of Idyllwild, Pine Cove, and Fern Valley. We can’t really see Dolly Parton camping, although she did previously own a house here.

Los Padres National Forest

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Although it is close enough for an overnight or weekend getaway, Los Padres National Forest feels like it is hundreds of miles away from any metropolis. Hike along switchback paths that wind through hills and valleys, then pause to cool off at one of the Forest’s many swimming holes (the ones along the Sespe Creek are most easily accessible). Trek the 18 miles (round trip) to Willett Hot Springs if you’re up for a quick hiking trip, then unwind in the mineral-rich water. The entrance to Los Padres requires an Adventure Pass, which you may purchase from a nearby gas station or sporting goods store. Reservations are first-come, first-served.

Big Bear Lake

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Don Graham

Big Bear Lake is littered with campgrounds directly on the water as well as closer to town and deeper into the woods than Lake Arrowhead, which lies a little deeper into the San Bernadino National Forest. Serrano Campground, which is close to the lake and near to the Alpine Pedal way for walks and bike rides, is the most well-liked and biggest camping facility in the region. From here, it’s simple to rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the lake. On the north side, look for the white-domed solar observatory.

Camping by beaches

Refugio State Beach

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jeremy Yoder

Refugio State Beach, a stunning expanse of sand for campers and visitors alike, lies about 20 miles west (well, technically it’s west—if that confuses you, think higher up the coast). It is lovely to wake up to views of the Channel Islands, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Anacapa, and Santa Rosa. Swimming, kayaking, surfing, and building sand castles are popular beach activities. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the state beach lifeguards offer kayak tours, or you can go on your own. Here’s a pro tip: take baby oil with you to remove the tar from your feet whether you swim or just stroll along the beach. In addition to showers and restrooms, the state beach campground provides 66 campsites that can be requested up to seven months in advance. There is a lot to discover nearby, including the state beach El Capitan, which is also a great spot to camp, and a trail leading to a painted Chumash cave. There are only a few of negatives to camping here: tent spots can often fill up quickly, and because the campsites are so close to a railroad railway, you might hear trains at night.

Leo Carillo State Park

Photograph: Courtesy Un splash /Mark Andrade

Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu, which is on the opposite side of PCH, features more than 130 campsites with unbelievably easy access to the beach, despite the fact that none of them are right on the beach. You can explore a multitude of safe tidepools, caves, and reefs by simply crossing the street to the ocean. Swim, relax on the beach (just so you know, there’s better mobile service than at the campsite), or hike along one of the backcountry trails. The sites here might fill up quickly, so choose and reserve your lot wisely to ensure you get the amount of solitude you desire.

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