Best Campgrounds in Southern California: Feel the warmth of a bonfire as you look at a thousand stars while sipping on your favourite drink. Sounds surreal, doesn’t it? Camping in Southern California offers endless such experiences.
Be it camping near the beach in the summer or setting up camp in a desert in winter, SoCal offers it all. You’ll find a variety of campsites here that come with all the essential amenities you need for an epic camping trip.
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Wondering where to begin?
Let’s help you narrow down your choices with our list of the 11 best campgrounds in Southern California: –
South Carlsbad State Beach Campground #1
Love water sports?
This campground may be the perfect choice.
Located close to San Diego, it offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation including beachcombing, swimming, surfing, and more. With showers and toilets available, camping is comfortable here.
Many sites also have electric hook-ups. The campsites are perched on top of a bluff and there are stairs coming down to the beach.
Camping with kids?
There are junior ranger programs available here.
RV sites are available and pets are allowed. To enjoy camping here, you’ll have to pay around $41-70 which is well worth every penny.
San Onofre Bluffs Campground #2
Listen to the rumble of the sea as you camp at this beautiful place. Located north of Camp Pendleton, this state beach campground offers easy beach access.
You can also enjoy many fun recreational activities such as geocaching and nature programs.
Love to surf?
The campground is close to the renowned surfing site Trestles. Prices start at $35 per night and it’s best to book in advance especially during summer when it fills up quickly.
If you want a clear ocean view, choose from sites 1 to 23 or 105 to 112. It is one of the most popular campgrounds in Southern California.
Green Valley Campground #3
How about camping at a height of over 4,000 feet?
Green Valley Campground’s heightened setting allows you to enjoy pleasant weather. You can explore a beautiful oak and conifer forest here and numerous streams.
This campground is popular amongst families and offers plenty of recreational activities to indulge in.
From hiking the Pine Ridge Trail to fishing to swimming in the various swimming holes of the Sweetwater River or gazing at the Milky Way at night, there is something here for everyone.
Couple that with access to coin-operated showers. Prices here start from $40 per night.
Jumbo Rocks Campground #4
The biggest campground in the national park, Jumbo Rocks campground has around 124 sites and draws families and friends alike to enjoy a camping trip.
You’ll find many boulders and fascinating rock formations that add to the charm of the desert landscape. The place is also popular for its picturesque sunsets and dark night skies.
Although you won’t find any electric hook-ups here, toilets are available. You’ll need to bring your own water.
Its proximity to many significant features of the park such as Skull Rock adds to its desirability.
You can book your spot in advance here during the peak season between October and May. With so much to offer, it is one of the best campsites in the park. Price begins from around $20 per night.
Serrano Campground #5
Love the idea of camping by a lake?
Head to Serrano Campground in San Bernardino National Forest.
Perched near Big Bear Lake, this campground is home to over 100 campsites where you’ll find both tents and RVs.
From fishing and swimming to mountain biking, there is a range of outdoor activities available here.
You can also hike the numerous trails including the popular Cougar Crest Trail nearby.
Got some more time on your hands?
Check out the exhibits at the Big Bear Discovery Centre.
Its proximity to the Lighthouse Trailer Resort and Marina enables easy access to excellent food and many other activities. Each site here has a fire ring and a picnic table.
Flush toilets, showers, drinking water, and other essential amenities are also available. Book a spot near the Lake View Loop for scenic views. Prices begin at around $40.
Sycamore Canyon Campground #6
Close to the beach and nestled in the folds of the Santa Monica Mountains, this campground offers the best of both worlds.
Located in Point Mugu State Park, Sycamore Canyon Campground features around 60 campsites for tents and RVs.
You can take in spectacular bluff views of the sea and explore the fascinating network of canyon trails.
From hiking to Mugu Peak, and enjoying mountain biking, to going bodyboarding in the Pacific, there are endless fun activities to indulge in here.
You’ll also find picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, token showers, and flush toilets here.
Make sure you book well in advance as it gets filled up fast, especially during weekends. Prices being at around $15 per night.
Idyllwild Campground #7
Set at an elevation of 5,400 feet, this campground offers picturesque views. This mountain haven draws many hikers to explore its impressive trails.
Located in Mount San Jacinto State Park, the campground offers RV hook-ups, fire rings, picnic tables, coin-operated showers, drinking water, and flush toilets.
From going on the beautiful tramway up San Jacinto from Palm Springs, rock climbing at Suicide Rock, and enjoying a family movie at the on-site amphitheatre to relaxing on a nature trail, there are plenty of recreational activities to enjoy here.
Prices begin at around $25 per night.
Malibu Creek State Park #8
A short drive from Los Angeles, this beautiful state park’s grassy foothills are sure to delight you.
There is a plethora of recreational activities to enjoy here such as horseback riding, biking, and swimming amongst others.
If you’re a hiker, explore oak, sycamore, and chaparral woodlands to rejuvenate your senses amidst nature.
You’ll have the essential amenities you need here including flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and token showers.
A spot here is spacious enough for two vehicles and eight people. Prices begin at $45.
Leo Carrillo State Park #9
Perched on the stunning Malibu coastline, this campground is perfect for beach camping. The sycamore trees and chaparral shrubs offer ample shade to the two rings of sites here.
From swimming in the ocean to hiking on the numerous trails, and soaking in stunning views from the several viewpoints along the Santa Monica Mountains, there are ample fun activities to keep you entertained.
You can enjoy plenty of amenities here such as token showers, drinking water, fire rings, picnic tables, and a dump station.
You can even bring your pet along for an unforgettable camping experience.
Visiting with a large group?
There is a large group campsite for 50 people. You can camp here for around $45 per night.
Doheny State Beach #10
Enjoy a cool ocean breeze as you indulge in your favourite snacks while camping at Doheny State Beach.
One of the most popular state beaches in SoCal, it is sprawled over 62 acres.
From playing volleyball, to surfing, fishing, and swimming, there are plenty of outdoor recreational activities to go for.
There are around 113 sites for both RVs and tents. Couple that with flushing toilets, and coin-operated hot showers.
Since the place is so popular, it’s best to book a few months in advance. Prices begin at around $50.
Manker Flats Campground #11
If you’re an avid hiker, you’ll love it here.
Perched at an altitude of around 6,000 feet in Angeles National Forest, this campground offers access to Baldy Loop, one of the best hiking trails in the region.
The peak of Mount San Antonio is close by and can be accessed via Mt. Baldy Bowl Trailhead which is easily accessible from the campground.
You’ll find pit toilets and potable water here and 21 sites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Prices here begin at around $12 per night.
So, pick the one that attracts you the most and get ready for an unforgettable camping trip.
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Q. Are there free campsites in California?
There are many free campsites in California such as Blair Valley Campground, and BLM Dispersed Camping Area for JNP, amongst others.
Q. How much do campgrounds cost in California?
Depending on the campsite, prices range from $40-90 per night.
Q. Where to camp in Southern California without reservations?
There are several campsites where you can camp without reservations such as Chula Vista Campground, Ryan Campground, Cold Springs Campground, etc.