Camping near Los Angeles

Get all sides of the sunny Southern California experience within a hour of LA.

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Camping near Los Angeles guide

Overview

Los Angeles has long been known for its film industry and big-city vibes, and while LA certainly does sprawl, it’s really more of a conglomeration of lots of smaller, interconnected areas. There’s a ton to do here, from taking in comedy shows to checking out major league sports games. While most visitors to the city stay in hotels, there’s a surprisingly large number of camping options in LA County, from the RV park at Dockweiler State Beach, right by the airport, to wooded tent sites up in the Malibu Hills

Frequently Asked Questions About Camping Near LA

Can you camp on the beach in Los Angeles?

You can go beach camping near LA in certain areas, but you have to head outside city limits to get to the coast and camping in the sand is rarely allowed on public land. Once you hit coastal towns like Santa Monica and Long Beach, beach camping options open up. Dockweiler State Beach is best for RV campers (no tents allowed), while Point Mugu State Park’s Thornhill Broome Beach Campground accommodates some tents in the sand and offers waterfront RV spots. RV camping with hookups is also available at Bolsa Chica State Beach. At the Leo Carrillo State Park campground in Malibu, sites are inland of Highway 1, about a five-minute walk from the waterfront. Find more beach camping near LA.

Where can I camp in my car in Los Angeles?

Although the law changes regularly, it’s best to avoid car camping on Los Angeles city streets because more often than not, it’s illegal to sleep overnight or live in a car in LA. The rules become less clear when you’re parked at least 500 feet away from residences and school zones, but sleeping in your car is still frowned upon and time limits usually apply. For the best and safest car camping experience near Los Angeles, head just outside of town to a private Hipcamp campsite.

Where can you camp for free in Los Angeles?

Most primitive BLM camping near LA is free, but some campgrounds do require a fee, and Leave No Trace principles always apply. Most Angeles National Forest campsites are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Out toward Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s, Blair Valley Campground and Fish Creek are popular primitive camping spots. Farther afield and about 4 hours’ drive north, Alabama Hills and the Sequoia National Forest both offer free dispersed camping.

Where can I buy camping gear in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles has plenty of stores selling camping supplies, backpacking gear, and RV essentials. REI is in Santa Monica, and dozens of Walmarts dot the city. Dick's Sporting Goods can be found in Glendale, El Segundo, and Torrance. Local favorite camping gear stores include Hatchet Outdoor Supply Co. and the Texino Camp Store. Other name brand shops in the area include 5.11 Tactical in Commerce and Patagonia in Santa Monica, plus Arc'teryx and Fjällräven in La Brea. Check out the best places to rent camping gear in LA.

Is camping allowed in the Angeles National Forest?

Yes, camping is allowed in Angeles National Forest, home to dozens of established campgrounds, but dispersed camping may not be allowed at any given time. Campers can stay at any one first-come, first-served site within the forest for up to 14 days at a time. A small parking fee usually applies, and campers should always stay aware of any wildfire notices from the US Forest Service. Consider purchasing a National Forest Adventure Pass when going dispersed camping in the area’s national forests.

Where to go

California's Central Coast

Extending from Ventura County up the coast to the Monterey Bay area, California's Central Coast region offers gorgeous stretches of coastline, a mix of sandy and cliff-lined beaches, and tons of great camping areas. You'll find beachfront camping galore in the southern reaches of the region, with extra options if you're camping in your RV. Head further north up to the Big Sur coast for forest camping, hot springs, and arguably the best ocean views in the state.

Coastal Southern California

While Los Angeles County offers a number of noteworthy beaches, hiking trails, and campgrounds to choose from, you’ll find plenty more in the southernmost coastal counties of the state: Orange County and San Diego County. Orange County's San Clemente State Beach is worth a visit, with separate tent and RV areas, while San Elijo State Beach in Encinitas has campsites with views right over the beach. Other camping parks in the area include South Carlsbad State Beach and the RV-only Silver Strand State Beach.

The Mojave Desert

If you’re visiting during the cooler months, you may want to make a trip inland to the Mojave Desert, home to some of the region’s most interesting natural features. This massive expanse encompasses both the otherworldly Joshua Tree National Park as well as Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve.

When to go

Los Angeles is truly a year-round destination, with pleasant, mild sweater weather in the wintertime and hot, dry summers. If you like swimming, summer is the best time to visit, when the typically cold Pacific waters make for a refreshing cool-me-down. The spring and fall shoulder seasons see fewer crowds, but there aren’t always lifeguards on duty at area beaches outside of the June-August high seasons. Note that June can be muggy and overcast, a phenomenon dubbed “June Gloom” by locals.

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