Top 10 Amazing Places to Go Camping Near Los Angeles

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When you think about visiting Los Angeles, camping may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But while L.A.’s main claim to fame may not be its camping, ... read more...

  1. Saddleback Butte State Park ranks 1st on the list of amazing places to go camping near Los Angeles. Set 3,651 feet above the Antelope Valley, on the western edge of the Mojave desert, this state park boasts some features that are similar to Joshua Tree NP—without the hordes. It has Joshua Tree woodlands, mountain-lined panoramas, and great high desert wildlife including the super deadly Mojave Green rattlesnake. The state park surrounding Saddleback Butte was created in 1960 to protect the butte and examples of native Joshua Tree woodlands and other plants and animals that were once common throughout this high desert area. The best time to visit is in the springtime (February through May) when wildflowers are apt to put on a beautiful display of color. Autumn (October and November) is pleasant as well, although temperatures may vary widely and change rather suddenly.

    Saddleback Butte State Park is home to many once-abundant desert species that are slowly being extinguished by hunting, agriculture, and increased population; such as coyotes and kit foxes, jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, many kinds of snakes and lizards, and the occasional badger or skunk. One special highlight of the park is the Desert Tortoise, which is often seen by those park visitors that have curiosity and patience enough to learn the quiet, unhurried ways of this age-old desert animal. If seen, however, the tortoise must be left alone as it is now listed as threatened on the Endangered Species List.

    Location: Lancaster, Lake Los Angeles, USA
    Saddleback Butte State Park

  2. Malibu Creek ranks 2nd on the list of amazing places to go camping near Los Angeles. Itis a great option for the beginner camper, or the camper who wants to escape the city, but doesn’t have the time for a long drive. However, don’t let the amenities and close proximity to Los Angeles fool you - Malibu Creek still has a lot of wilderness to explore. There are over 15 miles of trails that run along Malibu Creek, which are popular among runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. The park also caters to rock climbers with over 100 bolted sports climbs. Each campground includes a picnic table and fire pit. On-premise, there are also showers and drinking water. Despite the remote feeling of Malibu Creek camp, it’s very close to LA, which means sites can book well in advance during the busy summer season which typically runs from March to October.

    If you’re looking for a bit of classic television history you’ll find it in Malibu Creek State Park. There you will find informational signs as well as some leftover set dressing and props. Set amongst the multimillion-dollar homes and ranches of Malibu, this 4,000-acre state park boasts 15 miles of trails with a creek, rock pool, lake, chaparrals, and lots of shady oak and sycamore groves. It’s so idyllic and untouched, it’s been the setting for many films including Planet of the Apes and M*A*S*H. It’s a popular place to hike uphill for beautiful vistas or cool off in its famous volcanic swimming hole. The campground offers quintessential Santa Monica Mountains scenery. During the fire season, wood fires are not permitted—only charcoal—so keep that in mind if toasting marshmallows is part of your camping goal.

    Location: 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas, CA 91302, USA

  3. Meadow Group Campground is located off Highway 2 (the Angeles Crest Highway) near Chilao Campground in the Angeles National Forest. Visitors to the area enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. A number of trails in the area offer great opportunities for exploring the San Gabriel Mountains. Meadow Group Campground has two group campsites. One site can accommodate up to 24 people and 6 vehicles. The other site will hold up to 80 people and 20 vehicles. The gate to the campground is secured by a combination lock. Groups with reservations must call and obtain the combination prior to arrival at the campground. With a limited water supply at the campground, campers are encouraged to bring their own water.

    There are many camping places to choose from but at 5,300 feet above sea level, Meadow Group Campground is a great choice for a weekend getaway for you and your friends. Relax in the cool mountain air, grill up some s’mores, and bust out the guitar for a campfire sing-along. And if after all that revelry you need a little time with Mama Nature, the campground is located a half-mile from the Silver Moccasin Trail, a 53-miler that cuts through the center of the Angeles National Forest. Each site has picnic tables, fire pits, and a water spigot. Reservations for both sites must be made more than four days in advance. Just two miles down the road are Newcomb’s Ranch, a restaurant, bar, general store, and gas station. Grab a burger and some of their killer fries, and check out the parade of motorcycles outside. On busy weekends it’s not uncommon for hundreds of bikers to cruise through Angeles National Forest, often stopping at Newcomb’s Ranch.

    Location: Forest Service 3N21 Mt Hillyer Rd, Palmdale, CA 93550, USA

  4. One of the amazing places to go camping near Los Angeles is Buckhorn. It is a little-known gem tucked away off the Angeles Crest Highway and is known for its higher elevation and cooler temps. Buckhorn is a great jumping-off point for some of the best National Scenic Trails in Southern California. The Burkhart Trail, which leaves from camp, quickly intersects with both the Pacific Crest and Silver Moccasin trails. You can also hike up for some great views by heading to Waterman Mountain and Twin Peaks East. There is drinking water on-site, as well as pit toilets.

    Buckhorn Campground is one of those best-kept secrets people only share with close friends. This whimsical campground provides shelter for the weariest of Los Angeles travelers with its lush campsites, sheltered among the pines and fragrant cedars. Want to break in those new hiking boots? Each campground comes with a picnic table, fire pit, and bear box. Bears have been seen in the area, so please be sure to secure your food. Take the Burkhart Trail out of the camp to Cooper Canyon Falls. There you will enjoy one of the few swimming holes in the Angeles National Forest. The falls are only 2.5 miles from camp, and the trail meanders along a creek the entire time, making for a charming afternoon hike.

    Location: Buckhorn campground, Pearblossom, CA 93553, USA

  5. Crystal Lake Recreation Area is one of the amazing places to go camping near Los Angeles. If you’re looking for silence and solitude, as well as access to some spectacular hiking, then the Crystal Lake Recreation Area in Azusa is your spot. It’s one of the closest local campgrounds, and yet almost never has a crowd. There are just enough amenities to feel plush, but few enough people to feel peaceful. There are a variety of hikes that start right at the campground, but if you’re looking for a challenging day out, head up the Hawkins Trail to the ridge.

    From there you can bag south and north Mount Hawkins, as well as Mount Islip. To make it a loop, backtrack from the summit of Mount Islip, and head down the Windy Gap trail to the campground. If you’re looking for something more mellow, try the Tototngna Nature Trail. Each site has either a BBQ box or a fire pit, and about half of the sites have both. Each site also has a spigot with potable water and is within walking distance of lit flush toilets. Sites cost $12 a night without an Adventure Pass, or $10 if you have a pass. Don’t want to cook, but still want a homemade lunch? Walk down to the Crystal Lake Café near the campground’s entrance. There you’ll find the incredibly friendly owner, Adam, serving up fresh-made chili and baked goods. The café also stocks any camping essentials you might have forgotten.

    Location: San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California, USA

  6. Manker Flats Campground is the place that makes for a cool and comfortable summer get-away. Situated at the base of the 10,064-foot Mount Baldy, the highest point in the San Gabriel Mountains and in Los Angeles County, this campground is a great basecamp for some challenging hikes. One of the most popular is the 11.3-mile loop to the summit of Mount Baldy, which offers amazing 360-degree views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. There are also a handful of other challenging trails near the campground, including the 12.3-mile Bear Canyon Trail, which is one of the most strenuous climbs in the San Gabriels. The 7.2-mile Ice Canyon Trail to Ice House Saddle is shorter, but a fantastic hike as well. These sites are first-come, first-served. Amenities include piped water, flush toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables.

    Campers looking for a shorter hike near Manker Flats may enjoy the 1.4-mile round trip hike to San Antonio Fall, which starts just across the road from the campground. Another trail to consider is nearby Icehouse Canyon Trail, which provides easy hiking up a charming canyon leading to a steep climb into the mountains. In Manker Flats Campground, the trail begins right across the street from the campground and will bring you to a 75-foot, multi-tier waterfall, where you can relax and soak in the scenery. The campground sits at 6,000 feet above sea level and closes in the winter. When open, the campground provides picnic tables, fire rings, potable water, and flush toilets. The sites are first-come-first-serve and RVs up to sixteen feet in length are permitted.

    Location: 7980 Mt Baldy Rd, Mt Baldy, CA 91759, USA

  7. Giant sycamores shade the well-spaced sites at Leo Carrillo State Park Campground, a SoCal favorite located right off infamous Highway 1. That means you and your crew can splay out in the cool breeze when you’ve had enough of the sandy shoreline just a few steps to the west. Within walking distance, visitors can choose from myriad activities, including surfing, fishing, relaxing on the beach, or exploring the many tide pools and caves. The campground also backs up to the Santa Monica Mountains, which offer many options for hiking and mountain biking.

    It’s worth making reservations for your Leo Carrillo camping spot far in advance as sites tend to book up. Each site has a fire ring and picnic table, and there are showers and flush toilets on-premise. In addition, there is a small general store in the campground that stocks everything from sunscreen to firewood to ice cream. Get up early and take the Nicholas Flat Trail from camp and watch the sunrise from the ridge. The trail is a moderately difficult 5.8 miles out and back with 1800 feet of elevation gain. However, the views of the ocean and surrounding mountains make the effort worth it.

    Location: 35000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265, USA

  8. Point Mugu State Park
    is set in a quiet and secluded 14,000 acres of land. With over 60 miles of hiking trails, it's great for hikers of any experience level. The views include gorgeous rocky bluffs, sand dunes, and two major river canyons. There are two camping grounds, Thornhill Broome and Sycamore Canyon. In late winter and spring, migrating whales can be seen passing the beach.

    If you’re new to camping, looking for an easy weekend, or have a ton of hobbies and don’t want to pick between them, then this campground is for you. Sycamore is located at the mouth of a canyon in Point Mugu State Park. Just off Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), this campsite offers trails for mountain bikers, hikers, and runners and sits just across the street from the ocean. With some of the best camping in Southern California, reservations are not required, but during the summer months when the tourist season is high, they’re highly recommended. Each campsite comes with a picnic table and fire ring. There are also coin-operated showers and potable drinking water on-premises. Just a mile up the road is the PCH Sandhill, a 200-foot tall sand dune that rests at the base of a cliff. This area is popular with locals looking for an intense workout.

    Location: Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles, USA

  9. Angeles National Forest ranks 9th on the list of amazing places to go camping near Los Angeles. Located above 6,000 feet on the northern edge of the Angeles National Forest, visitors can watch the sunrise over the desert, and the sunset over the mountains, from their perch on the hill at one of the most relaxing camping places you can find. Just up the road from the cozy town of Wrightwood, Table Mountain Campground offers quiet and solitude; it’s the perfect place to relax. Bring your camp chairs and hammocks and take advantage of the shade from the pine trees, or enjoy the clean air on a nature walk on the trail around the campground.

    Instead of hopping on the freeway to get to your campsite, opt for the more scenic Highway 2, which cuts through the center of the Angeles National Forest. This drive adds about 15 extra minutes but offers drivers a meandering nature tour instead of the Vegas-bound traffic which can build on Interstate 15. The Angeles National Forest offers group campgrounds, with some accommodating up to 300 campers. These campgrounds are available on a reservation-only basis. Many of these campgrounds are at elevations that receive snow during the winter months and are subject to closures. In addition, group sites may be closed for rehabilitation at times.

    Location: 12371 Little Tujunga Canyon Rd, San Fernando, CA 91342, USA

  10. Hoegees Trail Camp ranks 10th on the list of amazing places to go camping near Los Angeles. It can be found by starting at the Chantry Flat Picnic Area and hiking along the Winter Creek Trail. The 2.2-mile shaded hike offers a wonderful view of lush pines, oaks, and other vegetation. Hoegees Camp lies along Winter Creek in the canyon adjacent to Sturtevant Falls. Both trails begin from Chantry Flats. And while the hike to Hoegees Camp does not offer a waterfall, it does offer a 4.25-mile out-and-back hike through a lush canyon with 700 feet of elevation change. You may also continue on Upper Winter Creek Trail to return to Chantry Flats for a 4.85-mile loop with 1,000 feet of elevation change.

    Make your way along Winter Creek past a few wilderness homes and concrete dams as you hike up Lower Winter Creek Trail through a lot of greenery. A small cave off the side of the trail, a quarter-mile from the junction, appears to be from an abandoned mine. Many of the more popular campgrounds in Angeles National Forest are still closed. So, if you want to spend the night in the sprawling wilderness, you’re going to have to hike your way there. Each of the 15 campsites comes with a table, fire ring, and wood-burning stove, but note there is no toilet or garbage disposal so you'll have to haul out your trash.

    Location: Winter Creek Trail, Mt Zion Trail, Sierra Madre, CA 91024, USA

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