25 Best Camping Spots in Southern California
When you feel the need to shake off your city shackles and head into the Great Outdoors for some family fun, you will find a wealth of wonderful places to go camping in Southern California. The San Bernardino State Forest boasts several popular campgrounds offering access to lakes, forests, and hiking trails. Dotted along the Pacific coastline you will find some brilliant spots to park your RV or pitch a tent and enjoy all the activities of a beach resort. It is always wise to check amenities before you book, particularly if you prefer not to sacrifice your home comforts – many of the listed campsites do not offer RV hook-up or showers. Photo: Gottfried Reidler/Fotolia
»Buckhorn Campground, Arcadia
Nestled in the heart of the Angeles National Forest in Arcadia, Buckhorn Campground is a great place for nature lovers to pitch their tents (or park their RV) during the summer months.
The campground lies at an elevation of 6,300 feet and has a total of 38 campsites, three of which are accessible. The campsite is an ideal choice for hikers who would like to take on the popular Burkhart Trail, which links up to a network of National Recreational Trails in the scenic forest. The campsites are available on a first-come first-served basis and are supplied with drinking water and toilets. You may bring your dog to this campground provided they are kept on a lead at all times.
Contact: Buckhorn Campground, Angeles National Forest, 701 N. Santa Anita Ave, Arcadia, CA 91006, Phone: 626-574-1613
»Buttercup Group Campground, San Bernardino
Buttercup Group Campground is located at an altitude of 7,000 feet in the heart of the San Bernardino National Forest. The location is ideal for nature lovers who want to visit Big Bear Lake (2 miles from the campground) or enjoy a variety of other forest activities, including extensive hiking, mountain biking, and climbing. Buttercup Campground enjoys a beautiful shady location and you can get back to nature without sacrificing all your home comforts – tables, grills, toilets, and drinking water are provided and there is space for all your friends to join you. The campground is open for the summer season from late April, and you can book your site up to one year in advance.
Contact: Buttercup Group Campground, San Bernardino National Forest, San Bernardino, CA 92408-2607, Phone: 909-382-2600
»Camp Williams Resort, Azusa
Camp Williams Resort is located right along the banks of the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, making it a particularly attractive getaway option for Los Angeles residents. You can get back to nature amidst beautiful mountain and river scenery by pitching your tent directly alongside the river or by parking your RV under the shade of the towering oak trees. The campground offers full hook-up for your RV in addition to private hot showers and every site has a picnic table. You can spend your days exploring the beautiful surroundings on foot along a network of hiking trails or do some birdwatching, fishing, or swimming. Children will love panning for gold in the river.
Contact: Camp Williams Resort, 24210 East Fork Rd, Azusa, CA 91702, Phone: 626-910-10126
»Moro Campground, Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park is located off the Pacific Coast Highway between Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar, giving visitors access to a brilliant 3-mile beach and 2,400 acres of backcountry wilderness. Hikers and mountain bikers can set off to enjoy a primitive camping experience in the backcountry, while those who prefer a more relaxing holiday can pitch their tent or park their RV (max. 35ft) in one of 58 scenic campsites and spend their days surfing, swimming, diving, and tide-pooling as well as joining guided hikes and tide-pool walks led by the park staff. The campground has showers and restrooms and gas barbeques are allowed.
Contact: Crystal Cove State Park, 8471 North Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, Phone: 949-494-3539
Photo: Tomasz Zajda/Fotolia
»Dogwood Campground, San Bernardino National Forest
Dogwood Campground is located just 20 miles from San Bernardino, offering 87 campsites suitable for tents, camping trailers, and RVs. Visitors will have access to extensive hiking trails and boating, fishing, and a water slide can be found 15 minutes away at Lake Gregory. All the campsites are accessible and include a picnic table and fire ring – some have electrical hook-up. If you visit on the weekend, you can enjoy interpretive programs on Friday and Saturday nights. The campground offers restrooms and hot showers, and Lake Arrowhead Village (5 minutes from the campground) has interesting shops to explore as well as fine dining restaurants. You need to book your site in advance – no first-come first-served allowed.
Contact: Dogwood Campground, 26898 Rim of the World Highway, Rimforest, CA 92378, Phone: 909-382-2790
»Dripping Springs Campground, Cleveland National Forest
Dripping Springs Campground is a rustic camping area for hikers, backpackers, and equestrians wanting to explore the scenic Cleveland National Forest. Dripping Springs is located adjacent to the Agua Tibia wilderness, which is home to a wide variety of wildlife and includes a 20-mile hiking loop. Equestrians can bring their horses – there is a horse corral and horse staging area as well as designated horse-riding trails. Your campsite includes access to toilets, drinking water, and fire rings, but there are no showers or electrical hook-ups. For a break from hiking and wildlife watching, you can visit the nearby Temecula Wine Country for a wine tasting. RVs up to 20 feet can be accommodated.
Contact: Dripping Springs Campground, 39755 Highway 79, Aguanga, CA 92536, Phone: 760-788-0250
»Emma Wood State Beach, Sacramento
Located right alongside the ocean, the Emma Wood State Beach campground is a great place to park your RV or camping trailer and enjoy a relaxing beach break. The campground is only suitable for fully self-contained motor homes and trailers (up to 45 feet long) as there are no toilets, showers, electricity, or dumpsite on the premises. You can spend your days relaxing on the beach or go cycling, swimming, surfing, fishing, and windsurfing. You can book your campsite in advance during the summer (May to October), but during the off-season the campground operates a first-come first-served policy. The Ventura River Group Camp offers four developed group campsites for tents.
Contact: Emma Wood State Beach, 1416 9th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-653-6995
»Fern Basin Campground
Conveniently located within the San Bernardino National Forest, less than 6 miles north of Idyllwild, the attractive Fern Basin Campground is a great spot to spend some time getting back to nature. Fern Basin has just 15 camp sites for your tent or RV, so you will never feel too crowded. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire ring (check in advance to find out the current fire rules) and there are toilets and an RV sanitation site. The surrounding forested area offers hiking and mountain biking trails and rock climbing, while swimming, fishing, and boating are available nearby. In case you have left something vital at home, there is a convenience shop just a few miles away.
Contact: Fern Basin Campground, Forest Rte 4502, Banning, CA 92220, Phone: 909-382-2922
»Frandy Park Campground, Kernville
Frandy Park Campground is located in the California High Desert region, occupying a very scenic position along the banks of the Kern River, surrounded by old oak forests and steep hillsides. The campground is ideal for families and groups and there are suitable sites to pitch a tent or park your RV, including pull-through sites for trailers or campers. You can spend your time relaxing or enjoy a host of activities, which include hiking, cycling, kayaking, whitewater rafting, boating or trout fishing. The nearby town of Kernville is worth exploring and boasts several golf courses, antique shops, and quaint restaurants. If you don’t have your own RV, you can rent one on-site or have some fun renting the pioneer-style covered wagon.
Contact: Frandy Park Campground, 11252 Kernville Rd, Kernville, CA 93238, Phone: 760-531-4151
»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 (unless your RV is self-contained). You can pick your site on a first-come first-served basis (no reservations) 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.
Contact: Horse Flats Campground, Horse Flats Rd/Angeles Crest Hwy, Flintridge, CA 91011, Phone: 818-899-1900
»Mesa Campground, Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area
Reserving a camp site in the Mesa Campground is one of the best ways of ensuring that you get to enjoy all the recreational activities in the very popular Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area (day trippers are often turned away on summer weekends). Your campsite at Mesa Campground is suitable for tents or RVs and includes a picnic table, grill, and fire pit and you can have a hot shower at the nearby restrooms. The recreation area offers a wide range of water activities, including boating, water-skiing, swimming, fishing, hiking, and cycling. From January to March you can join a Bald Eagle Barge Tour, and wildlife watching is a popular activity all year round.
Contact: Mesa Campground, 14651 Cedar Circle, Hesperia, CA 92345, Phone: 760-389-2303
»North Shores Campground, San Bernardino National Forest
Located just 3 miles from Lake Arrowhead Village and 20 minutes from Lake Gregory in the San Bernardino National Forest, the North Shores Campground offers campers 28 sites where you can set up camp and get back to nature. The campsites are mainly suitable for tents and do not provide hook-up for RVs. Facilities include a picnic table and fire ring for each site, and drinking water, firewood, and flush toilets are available on site. Twenty-two of the sites may be booked in advance, while six are available on a first-come first-served basis. The campground is surrounded by forest and you can easily access several hiking trails or go boating and swimming on the lake.
Contact: North Shores Campground, 29102 Hospital Rd, San Bernardino, CA 92402, Phone: 909-382-2790
»Oak Knoll Campground, New Hogan Lake
The Oak Knoll campground is picturesquely located on a hillside overlooking New Hogan Lake in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The facility offers 49 spacious primitive campsites, most of which can accommodate your RV or camping trailer. (Two sites are reserved for tents only and there are no electrical hook-ups.) You can do as much or as little as you like at Oak Knoll, such as relaxing with a book or enjoy boating, fishing, and skiing on the lake – campers may make use of the free on-site boat launching area. After a busy day of hiking, biking, or horse riding you can look forward to cleaning up at the coin-operated showers. The east campsite has a picnic table, a fire ring with grill, and a lantern post.
Contact: Oak Knoll Campground, 2321 S Petersburg Rd, Valley Springs, CA 95252, Phone: 209-772-1343
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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.
Contact: Palomar Mountain State Park, 19952 State Park Drive, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060, Phone: 760-742-3462
Photo: Andrey Armyagov/Fotolia
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»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. (Flush toilets and showers are available.) Day-time activities include hiking, biking, picnicking, and scenic drives, and when the sun sets all eyes turn to the skies.
Contact: Palomar Observatory Campground, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060, Phone: 760-788-0250
Photo: Petro Teslenko/Fotolia
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»Point Mugu State Park, Malibu
Campers in search of an ideal beachside campground should set their sights on beautiful Point Mugu State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Thornhill Broome Campground has 62 primitive campsites, which can accommodate tents or RVs and trailers up to 32 feet long. Basic facilities are provided, but there are no electrical hook-ups. The Sycamore Canyon Campground is a firm favorite (book up to seven months in advance), offering 56 campsites for tents or RVs, and there is also a primitive hike-in site for backpackers and a group campsite at La Jolla. All the campgrounds offer access to a brilliant 5-mile beach for fishing, swimming, surfing, and body-boarding as well as access to over 70 miles of hiking trails through major river canyons and wide scenic valleys.
Contact: Point Mugu State Park, 9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265, Phone: 800-444-7275
Photo: Focqus, LLC/Fotolia
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»Los Alamos Campground, Pyramid Lake
The close proximity of Los Alamos Campground to the city of Los Angeles (just 90 minutes) makes this a popular weekend escape for city dwellers. There are 90 individual family campsites dotted around the hillside above Pyramid Lake as well as three group campsites that can accommodate up to 30 people. Although there is no electrical hook-up for your RV, the campground does offer the usual picnic tables and grills as well as clean toilets and running water. Pyramid Lake is exceptionally good for fishing and a fish-cleaning area is provided. You can enjoy birdwatching, rent a boat (or launch your own), go kayaking or jet-skiing, or go for a hike or cycle along various trials.
Contact: Los Alamos Campground, Hard Luck Rd, Lebec, CA 93243, Phone: 661-248-6725
Photo: Andrii Klemenchenko/Fotolia
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»Round Valley Campground, Mount San Jacinto State Park
Round Valley Campground is a primitive hike-in campground spectacularly located at 9,750 feet above sea level, en route to the summit of Mount Jacinto. You can expect to find 28 first-come first-served campsites where you can pitch your tent to spend a wonderful evening under the stars. Basic pit toilets are available, but you will need to carry in everything you need, including drinking water. You need to apply for a Wilderness Permit and plan a meal that does not require cooking as no fires are allowed at this campground. Round Valley provides an excellent backcountry camping experience with access to great hiking and rock climbing as well as wildlife watching.
Contact: Round Valley Campground, Mount San Jacinto State Park, Idyllwild, CA 92262, Phone: 951-659-2607
Photo: Tyler Olson/Fotolia
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»San Elijo State Beach, Encinitas
Campers looking for a great oceanside campground should book their spot at San Elijo State Beach Campground near Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The large campground can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long as well as tents, and the most sought-after sites are right on the edge of the beach front bluff, offering wonderful sunset views. You can buy just about everything you need at the convenience store (which also has a taco restaurant) and each of the campsites has the usual picnic table and fire ring with grill. There are clean flush toilets and coin-operated showers. Besides enjoying all the beach activities (swimming, body-boarding, surfing, fishing, and snorkeling) you can also explore on two wheels along the cycling trials. Some visitors may find the inevitable highway and train sounds annoying, particularly if your site is close to the railway tracks.
Contact: San Elijo State Beach, 2050 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007, Phone: 760-753-5091
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»San Mateo Campground, San Onofre State Beach
You can bring along your RV and camp in style close to the 3.5-mile-long San Onofre State Beach. The large campground can accommodate both tents and RVs and there are 67 sites that include electrical hook-ups. By day you can enjoy all the activities on the main beach or take a short hike (1.5 miles) to the adjoining Trestles Beach for some great surfing. To the east of the campground you will find wetlands, where good wildlife watching is available. After a busy day of outdoor activities, you can wind down with a hot shower in the coin-operated restrooms before settling down around your camp fire to enjoy the wide California night skies.
Contact: San Mateo Campground, 830 Cristianitos Road, San Clemente, CA 92672, Phone: 949-361-2531
Photo: Tyler Olson/Fotolia
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»Serrano Campground, San Bernardino National Forest
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.
Contact: Serrano Campground, 40800 N Shore Dr, Fawnskin, CA 92333, Phone: 909-866-8021
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»Shady Cove Group Campground, San Bernardino National Forest
Shady Cove Group Campground is the ideal place to escape to with up to 30 of your buddies for a great outdoor bonding experience. The campground is open from mid-May to early October each year and can accommodate three groups of campers. The facilities are somewhat basic and include pit toilets, drinking water, fire rings, and picnic tables and the sites are only suitable for tents. The campground provides easy access to several trails, including the interpretive Trail of Phoenix, and hiking, biking, and birding are the most popular activities. If you enjoy fishing, you can catch your dinner at the trout-stocked Arrowbear Lake, which is less than 5 miles from the campground.
Contact: Shady Cove Group Campground, Keller Peak Rd, Big Bear, CA 92314, Phone: 909-382-2790
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»South Carlsbad State Beach Campground
You can’t 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.
Contact: South Carlsbad State Beach Campground, 7201 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008, Phone: 800-444-7275
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»South Fork Family Campground, San Bernardino State Forest
South Fork Family Campground is located in a beautiful high-altitude fir/pine forest near the Santa Ana River in the San Bernardino State Forest. The primitive campground is open from mid-May to mid-September and has 24 sites (suitable for tents only), each of which can accommodate up to eight people. Unfortunately, you cannot book for this campground and access is on a first-come first-served basis. Each site has a picnic table, fire pit, and parking and toilets and drinking water are available. Day time activities include fishing, hiking, climbing, swimming, boating, and horse riding, and when the sun sets you can settle in for the evening and exchange campfire stories.
Contact: South Fork Family Campground, 44698 CA-38, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305, Phone: 909-382-2790
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25 Best Camping Spots in Southern California
- Buckhorn Campground, Arcadia, Photo: Courtesy of Ewa - Fotolia.com
- Buttercup Group Campground, San Bernardino, Photo: Courtesy of nielskliim - Fotolia.com
- Camp Williams Resort, Azusa, Photo: Courtesy of brizmaker - Fotolia.com
- Moro Campground, Crystal Cove State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Tomasz Zajda - Fotolia.com
- Dogwood Campground, San Bernardino National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of Nicole - Fotolia.com
- Dripping Springs Campground, Cleveland National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of Freedomz - Fotolia.com
- Emma Wood State Beach, Sacramento, Photo: Courtesy of Cesar - Fotolia.com
- Fern Basin Campground, Photo: Courtesy of Kristina - Fotolia.com
- Frandy Park Campground, Kernville, Photo: Courtesy of Voyagerix - Fotolia.com
- Horse Flats Campground, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of Halfpoint - Fotolia.com
- Mesa Campground, Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area, Photo: Courtesy of ruslan1117 - Fotolia.com
- North Shores Campground, San Bernardino National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of brizmaker - Fotolia.com
- Oak Knoll Campground, New Hogan Lake, Photo: Courtesy of luckybusiness - Fotolia.com
- Palomar Mountain State Park, San Diego County, Photo: Courtesy of Andrey Armyagov - Fotolia.com
- Palomar Observatory Campground, Palomar Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Petro Teslenko - Fotolia.com
- Point Mugu State Park, Malibu, Photo: Courtesy of Focqus, LLC - Fotolia.com
- Los Alamos Campground, Pyramid Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Andrii Klemenchenko - Fotolia.com
- Round Valley Campground, Mount San Jacinto State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Tyler Olson - Fotolia.com
- San Elijo State Beach, Encinitas, Photo: Courtesy of woods - Fotolia.com
- San Mateo Campground, San Onofre State Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Tyler Olson - Fotolia.com
- Serrano Campground, San Bernardino National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of Mohammed - Fotolia.com
- Shady Cove Group Campground, San Bernardino National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of WavebreakMediaMicro - Fotolia.com
- South Carlsbad State Beach Campground, Photo: Courtesy of sherryvsmith - Fotolia.com
- South Fork Family Campground, San Bernardino State Forest, Photo: Courtesy of iofoto - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Gottfried Reidler - Fotolia.com
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