Camping near Lake Elsinore

Adventuresome campers won’t have to travel far to find fun at Lake Elsinore.

92% (6055 reviews)
92% (6055 reviews)

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Camping near Lake Elsinore guide

Overview

Perched in the foothills below Los Pinos Peak, Lake Elsinore is a resort town developed around a freshwater lake popular for swimming and boating—perfect for camping enthusiasts. The wider area is even more scenic, with nearby Walker Canyon and Lake Perris also pulling their weight. Cleveland National Forest serves as a wonderland of outdoor beauty and adventure, while the Ortega Highway leads campers and RVers to San Juan Capistrano and the Southern California coast. The entire region is widely recognized for maintaining the natural beauty of its abundant open space, with campgrounds to be found all over.

Where to go

Walker Canyon

Just north of town, the Walker Canyon Trail is popular for wildflower spotting in late winter and early spring, although Lake Elsinore has closed the trail during recent superblooms to combat excessive crowding. If it’s safe to visit, the Walker Canyon hills may be covered with the California state flower, painting the hills orange, green, and tan for visitors camping nearby.

Lake Perris State Recreation Area

About 40 minutes’ drive from Lake Elsinore, Lake Perris State Recreation Area is a larger waterfront spot offering camping facilities to go along with boating, fishing, swimming, and picnicking along the shores.

Ortega Highway (State Route 74)

Ortega Highway connects Lake Elsinore to San Juan Capistrano with scenic pullouts and campgrounds along the way. The Spanish mission, established in 1776, is considered one of California’s most picturesque sights, and the area is recognized by wildlife enthusiasts for hosting “the swallows of Capistrano” on March 19 each year, when migrating swallows briefly pause on their seasonal journey. San Onofre State Beach is just an additional 15 minutes down I-5 from San Juan Capistrano, offering coastal camping with ocean views.

Palomar Mountain State Park & Cleveland National Forest

A bit over an hour’s drive southeast of Lake Elsinore via Temecula, Palomar Mountain State Park offers campgrounds surrounded by scenic views, birdwatching opportunities, and nighttime stargazing. Cleveland National Forest is right there too, with designating campsites, dispersed camping, and hiking trails. Keep going to hit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, known for its vast desert landscapes, wildflower blooms, and campsites.

Mount San Jacinto State Park

Mount San Jacinto State Park is all about hiking—the 10,834-foot peak is the second highest mountain range in Southern California, after all. This park sits about 90 minutes’ drive from Lake Elsinore and houses a number of drive-in and hike-in campsites. From Palm Springs, take the aerial tramway to reach the park's higher elevations without the hike. Otherwise, charming Idyllwild is also nearby, a mountain town full of campsites and cabins near rock climbing and area hikes.

San Bernardino National Forest

Situated about 1.5 hours northeast of Lake Elsinore, San Bernardino National Forest is another popular spot for campers thanks to a huge number of fishing spots, hiking trails, and dispersed camping opportunities.

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