From Yosemite National Park to Southern California beach towns, California has no shortage of places to pitch your tent or set up your RV for a stimulating and affordable overnight or weekend. Here are seven camping destinations within a day’s drive.
- Angeles National Forest
The mountains behind Los Angeles provide more than 1,000 square miles of natural recreation, including tent and RV camping, as well as cabin rentals. The region directly north of campus is the San Gabriel River Ranger District, which offers rustic tent and RV camping for $12 per night at Coldbrook Campground off San Gabriel Canyon Road. Buckhorn Campground, located at 6,460-foot elevation, is a sure escape from the summer heat offering a place to get close to nature amid shady pine trees and clean mountain air.
- Big Bear Lake
About 85 miles east of campus, the Big Bear area is a year-round alpine vacation playground, with winter skiing and snow sports, and summer heat relief and diversion. Camping opportunities here range from primitive tent camping to climate-controlled cabins. Hiking, mountain biking, swimming, watersports, stargazing and sightseeing in Big Bear Village are some of the highlights of an overnight or weekend in this area. The website of the Big Bear Visitors Bureau offers a listing of camping destinations in this area.
- Doheny State Beach
The Southern California marine ecosystem is protected at Doheny State Beach, just steps from Dana Point Harbor, site of the marine education Ocean Institute and Pilgrim tall ship. Swimming, fishing and walking on white sandy beaches are some of the highlights here. While both tent and RV camping is available, the emphasis is on recreational vehicles. Reservations must be made at least two days in advance through ReserveAmerica.
- Joshua Tree National Park
The hills north of Palm Springs offer cooler temperatures, world-class rock climbing opportunities and spectacular stargazing. Campsite fees range from $15 to $20 per night, with Black Rock and Indian Cove requiring advance reservations. Amenities vary greatly and equestrian camping is available at Black Rock and Ryan. While in the area, check out Pioneertown, a film set for mid-century western movies now welcoming the public as an eclectic mix of historic shops, restaurants and a motel.
- Mammoth Lakes
When the snow melts under the warm California sun, Mammoth Lakes is transformed into a summer resort offering hiking, mountain biking, swimming, historic sites and a vibrant alpine village. About 325 miles north of Cal State Fullerton on Highway 395, a trip to Mammoth Lakes takes the visitor through several High Desert ecosystems before reaching the High Sierra. Camping options here run the gamut from primitive sites amid mountain meadows reminiscent of the Swiss Alps to upscale cabins. For more information on camping and the region’s vast trail system, visit the website of Visit Mammoth Lakes.
- San Diego County Beaches
With so much to see and do, it often takes San Diego County residents decades to get around to beach camping at one of four sites along Southern California’s southernmost coast. Those who elect to have a tent or RV weekend are rewarded with serene nights and days filled with hiking, swimming, kayaking and a plethora of water sports.
Visitors may camp at only four locations along the 70-mile San Diego coastline: South Carlsbad State Beach, San Elijo State Beach in Encinitas, Campland by the Bay in Mission Bay (near SeaWorld) and Silver Strand State Beach on the isthmus connecting Coronado Island to Imperial Beach near the Mexican border.
- Yosemite National Park
It is more than six hours by car from Cal State Fullerton, but with some of the world’s greatest waterfalls, pristine meadows, historic sites and nature recreation to fit every skill level, Yosemite National Park is well worth the trip.
While the recent drought dried many of the waterfalls to a trickle and raised fire danger in the park, this winter’s rains and snows have brought the park back to its well-loved self.
Among the 13 campgrounds are four in Yosemite Valley, which is the center of action for those seeking a relaxing weekend. More adventurous visitors are drawn to high-altitude tent campsites at elevations of more than 8,000 feet.
During summer, even campgrounds not requiring reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to reserve your space early.
Where Do You Like to Camp?
Have a favorite campsite in California or nearby states? Share your outdoor getaway with the Mihaylo community by submitting a comment to the post or on social media.