camping areas southern california

Top 10 Best Places to Camping in Southern California

Exploring the great outdoors through camping offers a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, especially in Southern California, a region blessed with diverse landscapes and stunning natural beauty. From the majestic mountains of the Sierra Nevada to the tranquil beaches along the Pacific coast, Southern California boasts an array of camping destinations waiting to be discovered.

Whether you seek the serenity of ancient forests, the adventure of desert landscapes, or the tranquility of lakeside retreats, this region has something for every camper. 

Top 10 Best Camping Spots in Southern California

In this guide, we’ll delve into some of Southern California’s most captivating camping spots, highlighting their unique features, amenities, and attractions. So, grab your tent, pack your gear, and embark on an unforgettable outdoor adventure in Southern California!

1. Dana Point

Dana Point
Dana Point

Nestled in Dana Point, California, Doheny State Beach offers a serene getaway for camping enthusiasts. With its pristine coastline, it’s a haven for nature lovers. Campgrounds stretch along the southern end, offering beachside sites for a truly immersive experience. Besides camping, visitors can indulge in surf fishing or explore tide pools teeming with marine life. The beach boasts picnic areas and volleyball courts for daytime fun. For those seeking adventure, surfing opportunities abound. Lifeguards ensure safety, particularly during peak seasons. Doheny State Beach, a gift from Edward L. Doheny, promises a memorable outdoor escapade.

  • Location: 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA, 92629
  • Lifeguard Services: California State Parks Lifeguard Service patrols year-round.

2. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara

Nestled along the Santa Barbara South Coast, camping enthusiasts find a haven of affordable bliss. With many campgrounds and RV parks, indulging in California’s pristine shoreline becomes accessible. Over 300 days of sunshine annually and mild temperatures year-round make it a dreamy destination. From oceanside state parks to the tranquil hideaways of Los Padres National Forest, camping options cater to every taste. El Capitan Canyon and Jalama Beach County Park elevate the experience with glamping amenities like furnished cabins and safari tents. Yet, despite the luxury, the allure of nature remains ever-present, offering a serene escape just a stone’s throw from town.

Content Information:

  • Location: Santa Barbara South Coast
  • Key Features: Affordable camping, RV parks, diverse camping options (oceanside, forest), glamping amenities at El Capitan Canyon and Jalama Beach County Park
  • Climate: Over 300 days of sunshine annually, mild temperatures
  • Accessibility: Proximity to town while offering a secluded feel

3. Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree

Nestled in the rugged terrain of Joshua Tree National Park, camping enthusiasts will find various options to suit their adventure style. With over 500 campsites available, planning is critical. Reservation camping is recommended, especially during peak times from October to May. These sites can be booked up to 6 months in advance via For spontaneous trips, first-come, first-served sites like Hidden Valley and White Tank offer a thrilling challenge. Arrive early, secure your spot, and pay the $15 nightly fee within an hour. Cell service is scarce, so plan accordingly for an off-the-grid experience.

4. Borrego Springs

Discover the tranquil oasis of Borrego Springs, nestled in the heart of California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. At The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course, immerse yourself in nature with 300 days of sunshine annually and breathtaking ‘Dark Sky’ views. Our RV park boasts 200 spacious sites with full hookups and impeccable cleanliness, earning us a top ’10’ Good Sam rating. Enjoy additional amenities like fully-furnished park models and pet-friendly accommodations. Indulge in recreational activities like golfing on our scenic 9-hole course or rejuvenate in luxurious mineral baths. Experience relaxation and adventure at Borrego Springs.

Contact Information:

5. Laguna Mountains

Nestled in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, Laguna Campground offers a serene escape merely an hour away from San Diego, California. Embrace cooler climes and explore diverse natural landscapes while relishing in many outdoor activities. Set up camp amidst picturesque surroundings, perfect for fishing enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With a variety of trails to traverse, adventure awaits at every turn. Whether you seek a tranquil retreat or an active wilderness experience, the Laguna Mountains Camping site promises an unforgettable getaway in nature’s embrace.

For more information:

  • Location: Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, California
  • Activities: Camping, fishing, hiking
  • Season: Summer through early fall

6. Morro Bay

Discover the tranquil beauty of Morro Bay State Park, nestled 13 miles west of San Luis Obispo on the stunning Central Coast of California. Surrounded by lagoon and bay habitats, this park offers a haven for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike. With over 140 campsites catering to tents and RVs up to 35 feet long, enjoy a peaceful retreat with essential facilities, including fire rings, picnic tables, and nearby water spigots. Engage in many activities such as hiking, fishing, and bird watching. Take advantage of the enriching experience at the Museum of Natural History, which is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and offers interactive exhibits and breathtaking views of Morro Bay. Contact (805) 772-6101 for reservations and inquiries or visit ReserveCalifornia online.

7. Malibu

Discover the rugged beauty of Malibu’s camping sites, where nature enthusiasts can immerse themselves in outdoor adventures. With limited options, securing reservations in advance is crucial. State Park campgrounds like La Jolla Group Camp and Leo Carrillo offer pristine settings for camping and activities like fishing and hiking. Meanwhile, Circle X Ranch Group Campground, managed by the National Park Service, provides a seamless reservation process. Don’t forget Malibu Beach RV Park for a comfortable stay with quick-fill reservations. Explore the wilderness of Malibu while relishing in the tranquility of its camping sites.

8. Ventura

Discover Ventura Beach RV Resort, a comprehensive camping haven on 19 acres at 800 West Main Street. Offering over 140 RV sites and 36+ tent spots, this site is a camper’s dream. Enjoy modern conveniences like Wi-Fi, a pool, spa, hookups, and amenities like a store, laundry, and a playground. Access the nearby coastal bike trail easily. For ocean lovers, Emma Wood State Beach beckons with 90 seaside RV sites and activities like fishing, surfing, and picnicking. Explore group camping at Emma Wood Group Camp or choose Faria County Campground’s 42 sites with full hookups and waterfront views. Hobson Beach County Campground offers 31 sites with Wi-Fi and fire rings. For a unique experience, Rincon RV Parkway provides oceanside parking for self-contained RVs. Enjoy the best of Ventura’s outdoors at these scenic sites.

Contact Information:

  • Ventura Beach RV Resort: 805-643-9137; 
  • Emma Wood State Beach: 805-684-2811

9. Cuyamaca Mountains

Discover the serene beauty of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Experience camping amidst oak woodlands and pine forests, with over 100 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Choose between Green Valley and Paso Picacho campsites, each offering unique charms.

At Green Valley, enjoy creek-side camping at 4,000 feet elevation. Dive into refreshing cascades and pools on sunny days. With 81 campsites, it’s perfect for families seeking outdoor adventures.

Paso Picacho, 5 miles north at 5,000 feet elevation, is a hiker’s paradise. Embark on trails like Stonewall Peak or Cuyamaca Peak for panoramic vistas. Take advantage of fishing and boating at Lake Cuyamaca nearby.

Immerse yourself in history with CCC features scattered throughout the park. From Stone Wall Mine to rustic structures, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park offers a glimpse into the past amidst its natural wonders.

10. San Clemente

Discover the coastal charm of San Clemente State Beach campground, perched atop a bluff with panoramic Pacific Ocean views. With 159 campsites, including full hookups for RVs and cozy spots for tents and trailers, it’s an ideal retreat for outdoor enthusiasts. Enjoy beach access for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling, or explore inland trails for hiking and birdwatching. Amenities like hot showers, picnic areas, and a gift shop enhance your camping experience. For more adventure, don’t have nearby attractions like Doheny State Beach and San Mateo. Book your serene seaside getaway at San Clemente State Beach for an unforgettable escape.

Contact Information:

  • Website: San Clemente State Beach Reservations
  • Phone: 1-800-555-1234


In conclusion, Southern California offers some of the best camping experiences, and San Clemente State Beach campground stands out as a prime destination. Its stunning ocean views, range of amenities, and proximity to recreational activities embody the essence of outdoor adventure. Whether you’re lounging on the beach, hiking along coastal trails, or simply enjoying a campfire under the stars, the camping options in Southern California promise unforgettable moments amidst nature’s beauty. So pack your gear, embrace the coastal breeze, and embark on a camping journey to create lasting memories in this picturesque region.

FAQs about Camping at San Clemente State Beach:

1. How can I make a reservation for camping at San Clemente State Beach?

A: Reservations can be made online through the official website or by calling the campground’s reservation hotline.

2. Are pets allowed at the campground?

A: Pets are welcome at San Clemente State Beach campground but must always be on a leash.

3. What amenities are available at the campground?

A: The campground offers flush toilets, hot showers, picnic areas, fire pits, BBQ grills, a gift shop, and a ranger station.

4. Can I bring my RV to the campground?

A: Yes, the campground has full hookup sites for RVs and dry sites for tents, trailers, and smaller RVs.

5. Are there any restrictions on generator use?

A: Generators are permitted within designated hours from 10 am to 8 pm.

6. Is there beach access from the campground?

A: Yes, two trails lead to the beach from the campground.

7. Are there any accessible (ADA) campsites available?

A: Yes, there are several accessible campsites designated for individuals with disabilities.

8. What recreational activities can I enjoy at San Clemente State Beach?

A: Visitors can participate in swimming, surfing, hiking, fishing, snorkeling, birdwatching, and beachcombing.

9. Can I have a campfire at my campsite?

A: Each campsite has a fire ring and grill for campfires.

10. Is there overflow parking available at the campground?

A: Overflow parking is available for additional vehicles beyond the designated parking spaces at each campsite.

Evie Carrick Evie Carrick

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