"Heaven on Earth" really exists in Southern California camping. Exploring the beautiful vast landscapes with friends, family, or a solo adventure will be an experience you won’t soon forget.
The Pacific shoreline, vast deserts, snow-capped mountains—Southern California has it all. Whether you're looking to hike or surf, the state parks, and beaches are a great starting point for your SoCal adventure.
If you want to hear the waves from your tent, stake your claim at a beach campground with epic ocean views. There are tons of state beaches in Santa Barbara and San Diego Counties. One local favorite is Carpinteria State Beach. Windsurfing, fishing, and surfing are a few ways to enjoy this sandy stretch of the ocean shore.
If you're looking for adventure, Joshua Tree National Park may be calling your name. The rocky desert landscape is a hot spot for hiking and rock climbing. For those who want to escape the crowds, there are plenty of remote places to pitch a tent across the Mojave Desert.
For spectacular mountain views, venture into San Bernardino National Forest, just outside of Los Angeles. In this sprawling wilderness, you find tons of cabins and camping spots, especially near Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake.
If you're looking for something just outside Malibu, you can't beat Malibu Creek State Park. The 8,000-acre rocky wilderness hosts 15 miles of hiking trails and a volcanic swimming hole.
While the rugged landscape lends itself to tent camping, Glamping is also a big deal in SoCal. Keep an eye out for decked-out yurts, cabins, and cottages with spectacular views.
Southern California is known for its fair weather year round. That said, it can get chilly in the winter. Remember to bring a jacket (and a wet suit if you plan on surfing). To beat the summer rush, try to plan your camping trip for late spring or early fall.
Yes, it is possible to camp on the beach in Southern California in certain areas. Camping in the sand is rarely permitted, so most designated beach campsites are set on blufftops within just a short walk of the waterfront and offer ocean views. Popular beach camping spots include Point Mugu State Park, Bolsa Chica State Beach, South Carlsbad State Beach, and San Elijo State Beach. Silver Strand State Beach and Dockweiler State Beach allow RV camping only. Find more Southern California beach campsites.
There are several locations in Southern California where you can camp for free, mostly on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and National Forest lands. Remember to follow Leave No Trace principles and check for any local restrictions or permits needed. Some popular free camping spots include:
Always check with the local land management agency for the most up-to-date information on camping regulations and availability.