10 Best Campsites in Southern California

Southern California is one of the most picturesque regions in the country. It’s no wonder there are so many amazing places to camp in Southern California. If you have an idea to wake up in a forest, in the desert, or beside a lake or beach with the sound of birds chirping, then you can find everything you are looking for in Southern California. However, searching for the best campsites in Southern California can be daunting.

Here, we’ve compiled the 10 best campgrounds in Southern California to pitch your inflatable tent or sleep under the stars. Campers will be astounded at the diversity of the Southern California camping experiences. A camping trip in this region is an experience everyone should enjoy at least once. If you are an ardent hiker, you must check our top 19 camping checklists before starting your adventure trip.

Best Campsites in Southern California


10 best campsites in Southern California

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay any extra penny, but I’ll get a small commission that encourages me to deliver more helpful content for you.

Best Beach Camping in Southern California

Starting from the north in Santa Barbara and heading all the way down south to San Diego, there is no shortage of fantastic beaches to camp in Southern California. Also, there are some fantastic places to watch the sunrise in San Diego that you should not miss while getting a one-night camping experience.

I have included the top 3 beach camping sites in this list of the ‘Best Campsites in Southern California’.


This popular beach campsite of Southern California is located at South Carlsbad Beach, 3 miles from the city of Carlsbad in San Diego. It is known for its long expanses of warm sand and many restful, sunny days. South Carlsbad State Beach campground boasts a whopping 215 campsites with stunning views and easy beach access via a wooden stair.

Visitors can do swimming, surfing, fishing or play beach volleyball. Take your family to attend the San Clemente Ocean Festival and the Carlsbad Beach Fest held in July.

In addition to all the general amenities, South Carlsbad State Beach Campground offers a small camp store, firewood, ice, picnic tables, and bathrooms equipped with showers.

best camping in southern california | SOUTH CARLSBAD STATE BEACH CAMPGROUND
South Carlsbad State Beach Campground

Nearby Attractions: Carlsbad City Beach, Carlsbad Seawall Promenade, bicycle rentals, Carlsbad Lagoon, Legoland, South Ponto Beach.

Best Campsites: Sites 36-53 right on the ocean and 156-222 are all right on the edge of the cliff, which is a pretty awesome aspect of the campground.

Address: 7201 Carlsbad Boulevard

Fees: $35-$50 per night (No hook-ups); $60-$100 (Hook-ups)

Where to Reserve: Campground reservation

#2 Best Campgrounds in Southern California: SAN ONOFRE BLUFFS CAMPGROUND

Campers who are looking for the best family campsites in Southern California can visit Bluffs Campground which is spread along Old Pacific Coast Highway. There are plenty of family-friendly activities, like nature programs and geocaching, and easy beach access down a short and steep path.

It is an amazing RV campground in Southern California. The campground has 175 campsites and each campsite also has a fire pit, grate, and table. There are 6 trails leading from the campground down to the beach. San Onofre Surf Beach is very popular with surfers, swimmers, surf fishermen, kayakers, and sunbathers. 

San Onofre Beach

Nearby Attractions: Surfing, Bluff’s Beach Trail, Panhe Nature Trail, fishing, Surfing Heritage Foundation museum in San Clemente

Best Campsites: 1-23, 99-119, and 146-174 sites have the best ocean view.

Address: 5200 Pacific Coast Highway, San Clemente, California 92672

Fees: $40 per night (Standard)

Where to Reserve: Campground reservation (Book early in the peak summer weekends)


With 165 campsites on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in northern San Diego County, San Elijo State Beach is one of the best campsites in Southern California. The campground has easy access to a large and beautiful sandy beach

READ NEXT:  9 Best San Diego Souvenirs You Want To Bring Back From California

This beach campground is equipped with a camp store, fast food restaurant, restrooms with flush toilets and hot showers. Table, fire ring and grill are available at each campsite. If you want to pitch your tent in San Elijo State Beach you must bring a durable beach tent.

Campers can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and beachcombing. It’s a popular dog beach in San Diego where your pup is allowed to play but must be on-leash. The ocean temps are warm in the summer. Budget-conscious visitors can shop for food and supplies in town, where they’re less expensive than in the camp store.

You’ll also find ample great restaurants within walking distance of the campground. Most all of San Diego’s most popular attractions are within a 45-minute drive.

San Elijo State Beach Campground |  Best Campgrounds in Southern California
San Elijo State Beach Campground

Nearby Attractions: Cardiff State Beach, bike rentals in Solana Beach, Fletcher Cove Beach Park, San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, San Diego Botanic Garden.

Best Campsites: Sites 145 to 163, on the north side next to the beach.

Address: 2050 S. Coast Highway 101 Cardiff, California 92007

Fees: $35 per night (Standard); $50 per night (Premium oceanfront no hook-ups)

Where to Reserve: Campground reservation (Book early in the peak summer weekends)

#4 Best Campsites in Southern California: PASO PICACHO CAMPGROUND

Paso Picacho Campground is located in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park an hour drive from San Diego County, near Julian. It is one of the best places for camping in Southern California who are looking for mountain camping. At an elevation of 5000 feet, there is a total of 85 campsites that offers a picnic table, fire ring but no hook-ups. You can pitch your own tent here. Check out the buying guide for large camping tents.

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a beautiful and popular park that boasts miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails right from the campground. Visitors can do fishing and boating in Lake Cuyamaca. In addition, the park offers other outdoor activities such as bird watching, picnicking, photography, horseback riding, and swimming in some of the creek’s ‘swimming holes’.

Paso Picacho Campground
Paso Picacho Campground

Nearby Attractions: Cardiff State Beach, bike rentals in Solana Beach, Fletcher Cove Beach Park, San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, San Diego Botanic Garden.

Best Campsites: 8, 22, 36, 52, 62, and 65 are the best campsites in Paso Picacho Campground.

Address: 14592 Highway 79, Julian, California 92036

Fees: $30 per night (No hook-ups)

Where to Reserve: Campground reservation (Book early in the peak summer weekends)


Indian Cove Campground is located on the north side of Joshua Tree National Park, a popular landmark in California. Campsites are nestled among large rock formations, sculpted over the centuries by wind and rain.

The campsites can accommodate 28 sites for tents, trailers, and RVs, where 63 fully tents only sites. If you are looking for a group campsite in Southern California, visit Indian Cove. Each campsite provides a table, fire ring, and grate.

Hikers can find here some of the best hiking trails of Southern California. With many excellent rock climbing routes, the campground is heaven for climbers. Non-climbers can enjoy the vibrant spring blooms, Mojave yuccas, shrubs, and desert tortoise sightings in the spring and early fall.

There is no pool or sea beach near to this campground. If you want to enjoy a pool session, you can bring an above-ground pool to enjoy in the hot summer with your kids.

Please Note: There is no drinking water facility available at Indian Cove Campground. Bring your own else you have to go 2 miles away at the ranger station. Check out our top 10 recommendations on the best water filters for travel.

Indian Cove Campground |  top campsites in southern california
Indian Cove Campground

Nearby Attractions: Hike the Boy Scout Trail, plenty of nearby rock climbing spots, Tour Oasis Visitor Center, 49 Palms Oasis, Enjoy ranger-led interpretive programs

READ NEXT:  13 Best Hidden Beaches in Santa Cruz: Secluded Beaches

Best Campsites: 3, 12, 19, 21, 43, 52, 60, 62, 79, 82, 87, 90 are the best campsites in Indian Cove Campground

Address: Joshua Tree National Park, California 92277

Fees: $20 per night

Where to Reserve: Campground reservation (Book early in the peak summer weekends)

Recommended Read: 10 Best Places to Live in Southern California


Serrano campground is located next to Big Bear Lake, one of the cheapest places in California. This is another top camping place in Southern California surrounded by tall fir and pine trees. Serrano is the largest campground in San Bernardino National Forest, with over 100 sites available. All sites are spacious and have picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, and free hot and cold shower.

Serrano Campground is one of the best lake camping in California. Fishing, kayaking on Big Bear Lake is very popular as well as mountain biking and hiking. Don’t miss the Cougar Crest Trail nearby. For a romantic California getaway adventure-minded couples can stay in this campground.

Tips: There are not much-shaded areas in this campground. It is recommended to visit this site in spring or fall when the crowd is also less.

Best Campsites in Southern California : SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST
San Bernardino National Forest

Nearby Attractions: Try fishing from shore, cruise on the lake, explore local hiking trails, enjoy evening interpretive programs, the Big Bear Discovery Center, Walk or bike along the scenic Alpine Pedal Path.

Best Campsites: 4, 12, 71, 88, 89, 90, 100, 119, 120, 121, 122, 124, 129, 131, 132

Address: 40800 N Shore Drive, Fawnskin, California

Fees: $37 per night (Standard); $47 per night(RV hook-up)

Where to Reserve: Campground reservation (Book early in the peak summer weekends)


Where to camp in Southern California with family? Book Green Valley Campground located in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in San Diego County, near Julian. It features 81 campsites with an abundance of outdoor activities that include picnicking, photography, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, and swimming.

At an elevation of 4000 feet, the campground provides restrooms with flush toilets, tap water, campfire circle, and each campsite has a picnic table and fire grill. The facilities of this campsite are nothing less than a glamping tent. There is a creek running through the campground. After a long day hike on Pine Ridge trail, enjoy the cool water in the pools of Green Valley.

Green Valley Campground
Green Valley Campground

Nearby Attractions: Enjoy scenic hiking trails, visit cascades and beautiful pools at Green Valley Day-use area, enjoy boating and fishing in Lake Cuyamaca.

Best Campsites: 28, 35, 38, and 76.

Address: 13652 Highway 79, 5 miles north of I-5, 15 miles south of Julian

Fees: $30 per night

Where to Reserve: Campground reservation https://www.reservecalifornia.com/CaliforniaWebHome/ (Book early in the peak summer weekends)

#8 Best Camping in Southern California: FERN BASIN CAMPGROUND

It is the ultimate camping spot in Southern California who likes to stay in the lap of nature far from the busy city life. Locating in a grove of mixed oaks and shrubs, Fern Basin Campground offers a quiet and peaceful atmosphere at a height of 6300 feet.

There is a beautiful RV park along with only 23 campsites for your tent which makes it a less crowded campground in Southern California. There are decent spaces to park your RV. If you are a new RV owner, you must know what to carry as essential motorhome accessories.

Visitors can enjoy hiking on the Marion Mountain Trail that leads to San Jacinto peak. The granite peaks, alpine forests, and mountain meadows offer visitors a high-country experience. Other outdoor activities include biking and fishing. Wildlife viewing is also nice here. Campers can go on a strenuous hike to Devil’s Slide and chilled out in the nearby Idyllwild town.

Tips: Lots of mosquitoes are there, so don’t forget to bring some spray.
best places for camping in southern california | Fern Basin Campground
Fern Basin Campground

Nearby Attractions: Marion Mountain Trail that leads to wilderness camps and connecting to Pacific Crest Trail, Black Mountain Scenic Area, Mount San Jacinto State Park, and its Panorama Point Trail, Lake Fulmor Picnic Area and trail, Idyllwild Nature Center, Humber Park, Indian Mountain OHV Trail

READ NEXT:  10 Best Romantic Getaways in California for Couples

Best Campsites: 12, 13, 14, 15 and 20.

Address: Marion Mountain Rd, off Azalia Trail Rd, Highway 243, 6 miles north of Idyllwild

Fees: $10 per night, perfect for those looking for cheap camping in Southern California

Where to Reserve: Campground reservation https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/231969 (Book early in the peak summer weekends)


Moro Campground is perfect for those who are looking for the best beach camping in Southern California. While traveling in LA you can visit this campground which is located at the north of Laguna Beach on Pacific Coast Highway with shimmering sunset views over the Pacific ocean. It is a huge campground that is split into three loops. Moro Campground has 57 coastal terrace sites for both RVs and tents.

This popular beach campsite boasts plenty of outdoor recreations along with 3.2 miles of sandy beach and 2400 acres of backcountry wilderness. Adventure seekers can go for scuba diving and explore the wreckage of a Corsair F4U.

Moro Campground at Crystal Cove State Park
Moro Campground at Crystal Cove State Park

Nearby Attractions: Moro Beach, historic beach cottages, offshore underwater park, tide pools, swimming, surfing, scuba diving, Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona del Mar

Best Campsites: For RV’s: 13 and 21; and for tents: 51-60.

Address: 8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Fees: $55 per night (Standard); $75 per night (Hook-ups)

Where to Reserve: Campground reservation https://www.reservecalifornia.com/CaliforniaWebHome/ (Book early in the peak summer weekends)

Camping in California can be really difficult when the temperature is too hot. You should keep a tent ac on your camping packing list. Here is our complete buying guide with the list of the best portable tent air conditioner.


South Fork Family Campground is located at a high-altitude(6400 feet) in the San Bernardino State Forest. Because of the small crowd and the natural treasures of the San Bernardino State Forest, this camping spot has become one of the best campgrounds in Southern California for families.

South Fork Family Campground is open from mid-May to late September. There is a total of 24 campsites only for RVs, trailers, and tents. Each campsite can accommodate up to 8 people and is equipped with a picnic table, fire rings with grill, toilets, and tap water.

The campground is located beside the Santa Ana River near its convergence with the South Fork River. Day time activities include fishing, hiking, swimming, boating in the nearby Santa Ana River.

Lake Jenks near South Fork Family Campground
Lake Jenks near South Fork Family Campground

Nearby AttractionsStroll along the Santa Ana River, indulge in fishing or enjoy hiking along the Santa Ana River Trail, take the Lost Creek Trail from the campground over Grinnell Ridge to South Fork Meadow, hike the 2½-mile Rio Monte Trail, hike the Jenks Lake Trail, enjoy non-motorized boating at Jenks Lake.

Address: 32 miles northeast of Redlands on Highway 38, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305

Fees: $23 per night

Where to Reserve: No reservation is available. First-come, first-served basis.



best campgrounds in southern california

Similar Posts

One Comment

  1. Kat Hibbert says:

    I love how informational this is, I don’t even have to do any other research!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *