The Absolute Best Camping Near Los Angeles

Written by Kathryn Dueck
Published: July 19, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/trekandshoot
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For those heading to Los Angeles, there may be nothing more exciting than seeing the giant Hollywood sign grow larger in the distance. After all, celebrities and showbiz are the main reason LA ranks in the top ten of America’s most exciting cities. But glitz and glamour aren’t the only reasons to head out to the City of Angels. Did you know that the area around LA boasts some of California’s best camping? Well, now you do! Scour the list below to find the absolute best camping near Los Angeles.

1. Malibu Creek Campground

 Malibu Creek
Malibu Creek Campground is the place to go if you want to hike, stroll along the beach, or just do some bird-watching.

The original uploader was Geographer at English Wikipedia / CC BY 2.5 – License

Malibu Creek Campground
Distance from Los Angeles35 miles (ca. 56 km)
LocationMalibu Creek State Park
Type of Camping AvailableTents, RVs
Price$45/night
ReservationsYes

Near the top of any list is Malibu Creek Campground. Located in Malibu Creek State Park, this is the place to go if you want to hike, stroll along the beach, or just do some bird-watching. Because it is so close to downtown LA, residents looking for a break from city life often use Malibu Creek. It hosts 63 sites for tents and RVs.

The 8 000 acres of parkland in Malibu Creek Campground is home to a wide array of wildlife, including predators like mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and badgers. Rabbits, deer, and chipmunks are plentiful, as well as reptiles like salamanders, newts, and toads. Bird-watchers can keep their eyes peeled for loons, hawks, eagles, falcons, and many other winged species.

Fun fact: This park was the primary location for the filming of Planet of the Apes and the hit television series M*A*S*H*! Visitors who wish to visit the sites can hike over and take them in.

2. Leo Carrillo State Park Campground

Leo Carrillo State Park Campground boasts 1.5 miles of beach within easy walking distance.

iStock.com/tupungato

Leo Carrillo State Park Campground
Distance from Los Angeles40 miles (ca. 64 km)
LocationLeo Carrillo State Park
Type of Camping AvailableTents, RVs
Price$45/night
ReservationsYes

Also ranking high on must-visit campground lists is Leo Carrillo State Park Campground. Only slightly further from Los Angeles than our first listing, this campground boasts 1.5 miles (2.41 km) of beach within easy walking distance. I recommended booking well in advance, as its 135 sites tend to fill up fast.

Campers can enjoy all kinds of activities at the Leo Carrillo State Beach, including swimming, sunbathing, beach combing, fishing, kayaking, and surfing. There are many tide pools and caves nearby for the curious. Hikers will find several trails to explore, such as the Yellow Hill Fire Trail and the Nicholas Flat Trail.

Wildlife near the beach includes marine mammals like gray whales, dolphins, sea lions, and harbor seals. Bird-watchers may spot cormorants, pelicans, seagulls, or grebes. For the fisher, there are fish such as kelp, bass, and halibut.

3. Sycamore Canyon Campground

Sycamore Canyon Campground can be found in Point Mugu State Park.

iStock.com/htrnr

Sycamore Canyon Campground
Distance from Los Angeles60 miles (ca. 97 km)
LocationPoint Mugu State Park
Type of Camping AvailableTents, RVs
Price$45/night
ReservationsYes

Sycamore Canyon Campground is the place to be in Point Mugu State Park. Beach-lovers, mountain bikers, and avid hikers will enjoy this experience with 3.6 miles (ca. 6 km) of beach and 70 miles (ca. 113 km) of hiking and mountain biking trails. Fifty-eight sites offer a comprehensive camping experience suitable for easygoing campers. For those interested in a more strenuous experience, the 200-foot-tall PCH Sandhill a mile away is a must-visit.

Local wildlife includes bears, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks. Whales and dolphins are often spotted in the water, and birds and fish abound.

4. Chilao Campground

The San Gabriel Mountains, within sight of Los Angeles, are even more stunning from the Chilao or Buckhorn campgrounds.

RichTPar/Shutterstock.com

Chilao Campground
Distance from Los Angeles40 miles (ca. 64 km)
LocationAngeles National Forest
Type of Camping AvailableTents, small RVs
Price$12/night
ReservationsNo

The Chilao Campground in Angeles National Forest is a treasure within easy driving distance of LA. It is also much cheaper than many other campgrounds at only $12/night. Don’t miss amazing views of the San Gabriel Mountains and Big Tujunga Canyon in this area. The 5 300-foot elevation allows for breathtaking vistas, making it among the best camping near Los Angeles.

Visitors can also enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. A short distance away, the Chilao Visitor Center contains 20 indoor exhibits and is a starting point for 4 self-guided interpretive trails.

Wildlife includes bobcats, mountain lions, bears, and a broad array of avian life. The Nelson bighorn sheep makes its home in the area, though it can be difficult to spot.

5. Table Mountain Campground

Trail Canyon Falls
Campgrounds in Angeles National Forest feature trails leading to waterfalls like Canyon Falls.

Kit Leong/Shutterstock.com

Table Mountain Campground
Distance from Los Angeles70 miles (ca. 113 km)
LocationAngeles National Forest
Type of Camping AvailableTents, small RVs
Price$23-$46/night
ReservationsYes

For those willing to make the drive, Table Mountain Campground is a scenic and rewarding experience. As one of the best examples of superb camping near Los Angeles, Table Mountain will give campers a truly back-to-nature experience. This site caters to those seeking the peace and quiet of nature and incredible mountain and desert views. Hikers and mountain bikers will find lovely nature trails to occupy them at this northernmost tip of the Angeles National Forest.

Those in tents will best enjoy the 39 sites at this campground. Large RVs will have a difficult time navigating the roads in and out, so smaller RVs of no more than 34 feet (ca. 10 m) in length are advised. For those needing to replenish supplies, the town of Wrightwood is close by.

Wildlife found in this region includes bobcats, mountain lions, bears, raccoons, and many species of birds.

6. Buckhorn Campground

Buckhorn Campground
Distance from Los Angeles50 miles (ca. 80 km)
LocationAngeles National Forest
Type of Camping AvailableTents, small RVs
Price$12/night
ReservationsNo

The San Gabriel Mountains feature in the stunning Buckhorn Campground in Angeles National Forest. Sitting at 6,300 feet (ca. 2 km) above sea level, this site boasts the highest elevation on our list. Hiking trails abound with views that quickly justify the effort made to see them. The Pacific Crest Trail and the Silver Moccasin Trail are well worth the trip, as well as the Burkhart Trail, which ends in the gorgeous Copper Canyon Falls.

This campground doesn’t permit reservations, so be sure to grab one of the 38 spots before they are all taken. Veterans of the campsite warn that it fills up quickly on the weekends, with city-dwellers and visitors to LA. Once again, those with tents or small RVs will fare best.

Local wildlife includes mule deer and squirrels, in addition to typical predators like mountain lions and bears.

LA is a city with seemingly endless appeal, but just as enticing are the high-quality campgrounds on its outskirts. From the Malibu Creek Campground to the Buckhorn Campground, take advantage of the very best camping near Los Angeles.

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with experience in both fiction and nonfiction. When not putting words on a page, I enjoy reading, hiking in the great outdoors, and playing with my dog.

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