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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

19 Of The Best Family Campgrounds In Southern California

Callum LowtherMarch 9, 2022

Camping is growing in popularity year by year as people seek ways to enjoy the outdoors with their family while spending quality time with one another and making memories that will last a lifetime.

You might think that summer camp is just for kids, but options are available for the whole family to enjoy with lots of great locations and activities for all ages.

If you are on the lookout for an excellent location for a family camp, Southern California has lots of great sites and a climate that suits this type of vacation.

This post will help you with all the information you need to find the perfect family camps and plan for your trip. If you’re not sure about the location you want to camp in, check out our complete guide to the best family camping spots and campgrounds in California.

How To Plan For The Perfect Camping Experience

Finding the right summer camps with fun family activities that make the most of the great outdoors can be difficult, and you must do your research. Take a look at the camps below for a better idea. You can also search online for pictures to ensure it is suitable for your entire family.

Selecting the right camp location is also vital. Depending on whether you want easy access to the beach, woodland, or rivers, you might be able to narrow down your search.

It would be best to consider when you want to take your vacation. A summer family camp is always the most popular option because the weather is warmest and kids are off school. Unfortunately, it does mean you may end up paying premium prices and finding the camps are crowded.

In spring or fall, you might find that prices are reduced and camps are less busy. This is ideal if you are looking for weekend family camps as the school will not be interrupted.

Many camps will close during the winter months, and cold weather conditions in North and Central California can make it a less appealing option. Thankfully, Southern California has relatively mild weather, and you might still be able to enjoy a family camp at this time.

Packing for your vacation will depend on your chosen accommodation, with traditional tents still proving popular, as well as camper vans, cabins, yurts, and tipis. Here is a list of our top 10 essentials that you might want to consider before hitting the road.

  • Bag – A good backpack that has support and waist straps.
  • Sun Protection – Protection from the sun, such as sunscreen, hats, visors, sunglasses, and lip balm.
  • Clothing – Weather-appropriate clothing. The temperature will drop at night, so you should always pack hats, gloves, and jackets. Waterproof clothing is always handy to have too.
  • Lights – Although most cell phones will have a pretty decent torch, a good quality flashlight or headlamp is excellent in emergencies. Always check the batteries before you leave and bring spares.
  • First Aid Kit –  Make sure your kit contains any prescribed medication, antihistamines, hand sanitizer, pain relief medication, tweezers, treatments for blisters, antiseptic wipes, and bandages or band-aids.
  • Fire Starting Equipment – If your camp permits fires (always check camp rules before booking), you should take a lighter, matches, and a waterproof container to store them.
  • Food – Even if there is somewhere to buy food when you get there, taking some essentials will ensure you don’t go hungry.
  • Drink – No matter the time of year you are going, staying hydrated is always important. As well as taking water and bottles, you can also think about taking a filter or other treatments in case you come across a water source on a hike.
  • Shelter – If you are camping, getting a high-quality tent to ensure you are comfortable and protected from the elements is essential. A bivy, tarp, or reflective blanket is also crucial if you are hiking and stored in your bag.
  • Tools – Taking a knife, Swiss Army knife, or other multi-tool, as well as repair kits for air mattresses, tents, or stoves, should also be a priority.

Top 19 Family Camps in Southern California

Now that you know a little more about planning your vacation, here are our top picks for South Californian camps.

1. Doheny State Beach – Campgrounds

Doheny State Beach has 118 campsites to choose from, with 16 designated RV and trailer sites. The park is open all year round and is perfect for anyone looking for locations close to the ocean.

Thirty-three campsites are directly beside the ocean, and the sites offer easy access to the visitor center and Dana Point Ocean Institute.

Amenities include restrooms, hot showers, piped water, and fire rings, and the site is always popular among swimmers, surfers, cyclists, and hikers.

Make the most of the great beaches nearby, including Del Mar, Zuma, Laguna Beach, Santa Monica, and Venice Beach.

Inland sites cost $40 per night, premium ocean-front sites are $60, and the handy hike and bike sites are just $10.

Check-ins are available from 2 pm, and check-out is at noon. There is a maximum of 8 people permitted per site booking, and pets must be kept on a leash at all times.

2. Lake Casitas Recreation Area and Campground

Set in over 2,500 acres, the Lake Casitas Campground is split into 13 camping areas with more than 400 campsites in total.

Though you are not permitted to enter the lake itself as it is a popular largemouth bass fishing spot, there is still plenty to do.

The Lake Casitas Water Adventure park has tube rides, slides, and a swimming lagoon. In addition, you can rent boats on the lake, play golf, visit the model aeroplane strip, or take a short journey to the coast.

Lake Casitas is located just 10 miles from Ventura, so surfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, beach volleyball, and pier fishing are all just a short drive away.

Lake Casitas Campground is open year-round, and basic campsites cost between $35 to $40 per night. Hook-up sites are available from $44 to $52 for basic options, $58 to $63 for deluxe sites, and Executive hook-up sites will cost $69 to $76.

There is a maximum of 6 people per site, but for an extra $5 per night, you can include additional people. You will be able to check-in from 2 pm, and your check-out time is noon.

There is an additional fee of $3 per pet with a maximum of 2 per site. Dogs must be attended to at all times and kept on a leash. There is no maximum vehicle length and set areas for RVs.

Amenities include restrooms, fire ring and grill, and showers. Bike and boat rentals are available on-site, and there is also a cafe for meals.

3. Leo Carillo State Park Campground

The Leo Carrillo State Park Campground has 130 campsites within walking distance of beautiful sandy beaches. The site of Zuma Beach, Malibu, accommodates trailers, RVs, and tents and even features electric hook-up facilities in some locations.

Families will enjoy all kinds of popular beach activities, including surfing, fishing, kiteboarding, and diving, or you might want to enjoy a leisurely stroll or sunbathing.

There is a maximum of eight people permitted per site and a maximum vehicle length of 31 feet. Pets are allowed, but dogs must be attended to at all times and kept on a leash.

Standard sites will cost $45 per night, sites with electric hook-up facilities are $60 per night, and there are also budget hikes and bike sites for just $10.

Amenities at the Leo Carrillo State Park Campground include picnic tables, a fire ring, restrooms, hot showers, and a store.

As well as the nearby beaches, there is a nature trail to explore, a Junior Rangers program, campfire programs, and a visitor center where you will be able to learn about all the nearby sites and attractions.

4. Carpinteria State Beach Campgrounds

Carpinteria State Beach Campgrounds are located near Santa Barbara and have 191 family campsites with easy access to great beaches. The site is usually open all year round, but that is dependent on the weather.

Unlike most campsites that allow just one drivable and one towable vehicle per site, Carpinteria State Beach Campgrounds allow as many as three. There is a maximum vehicle length permitted at the campground of 35 feet. Like most other sites, pets are allowed but must be kept on a leash and attended to at all times.

Carpinteria State Beach Campground amenities include picnic tables, fire rings (some with grills), electric hook-up facilities, restrooms, a store, and showers.

Costs run from just $10 per night for hike and bike sites and $35 for enroute sites, and $45 to $80 for developed campsites.

Your family will be able to enjoy the beach and ocean, with some beaches staffed by lifeguards for that extra peace of mind. There are nature walks, hiking trails, and viewpoints to discover, as well as fun play areas and lots of local sites and attractions.

5. McGrath State Beach Campgrounds

McGrath State Beach Campgrounds offer visitors 133 campsites to choose from, with trailers permitted up to 30 feet and campers or RVs up to 34 feet.

Standard campsite fees are $45 during the peak season from March 1st to November 30th. From December to February, prices are $35. Hike and bike sites cost just $10.

Amenities include restrooms and hot showers, and dogs are allowed in the campground but are not permitted on the beach.

The site is prone to flooding, so it is always worth checking weather reports prior to visiting or speaking directly with the site for further advice.

6. Malibu Creek State Park Campgrounds

Malibu Creek State Park Campground is located near Malibu Lagoon and 25 miles from Los Angeles. The campsites here are spread out around a loop, and of the 56 campsites, 30 will accommodate trailers, RVs, and tents, with the remaining 26 only suitable for tents.

The park is open all year round and offers the standard check-in time of 2 pm and check-out at noon. Prices are $45 per night, and a reservation fee may be included.

Two vehicles are permitted per site, as long as they fit – there is a maximum vehicle length of 30 feet. Up to 8 people can stay at each site, and dogs are permitted. Malibu Creek State Park Campground follows the standard rules regarding dogs in campsites as they must remain on the leash and be attended to at all times.

Amenities at the campground include a fire ring, grill, food locker, and picnic table. Restrooms, tap water, and laundry facilities are also available. Hot showers can be accessed using shower tokens that require a $1 bill.

There are excellent local hiking trails, and you will be able to visit filming locations for TV shows, including M*A*S*H.

Firewood must be purchased locally to minimize the risk of invasive species entering the area, and wood collecting is not permitted. Campers with generators will be able to run them “sparingly” between the hours of 10 am and 8 pm.

There are several great recreational activities to enjoy at Malibu Creek State Park Campground and nearby, including horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and wildlife and bird watching.

There are summer campfire programs and tours, and just a short drive away, you will be able to visit Malibu for beautiful beaches and pier fishing.

7. Campland on the Bay

With a history dating back over 50 years, Campland on the Bay is one of San Diego’s premier camping locations.

The award-winning campground offers guests excellent amenities, including restrooms, showers, WiFi, laundry facilities, and is also pet-friendly.

You will always have something to see and do with swimming pools, spas, a skate park, basketball courts, volleyball courts, a gym, cantina, bar, ice cream parlor, market, playground, kids activities, and live entertainment all available on the grounds.

There are 562 campsites at Campland on the Bay with beachfront, bay-view, and standard options. You will be able to select a primary site to pitch a tent or make use of their supersites that include a fire pit, BBQ, sink, shower, bathroom, laundry facilities, and a hot tub. Water, electric, and sewer hook-ups are also available.

Rates range from as little as $55 per night for the most basic site off-season, right up to $598 for a peak supersite. The cost of each site varies depending on the amenities the site offers.

Additional fees of $3 a day are required for pets and $10 a day per extra person or vehicle.

8. Wheeler Gorge Campground

The Wheeler Gorge Campground has 77 campsites in the beautiful Los Padres National Forest. Visitors will enjoy the hiking trails and near Matilija Creek while camping in the sycamore and oak forest.

The year-round camp allows a maximum of 8 people per site, the reservation covers the cost of 6, and additional people are charged at $10 per night. The reservation cost covers one vehicle, and you can add one other at $10 per night. The maximum vehicle length for Wheeler Gorge Campground is 35 feet.

Check-in is between 2 pm and 10 pm, check-out is at noon. The cost of a reservation is $25 per night.

Amenities at Wheeler Gorge Campground include a picnic table, fire ring and grill, and vault toilets.

It is worth noting that there are no showers or drinking water, so you will have to make alternative arrangements.

As well as the local creek and swimming holes, you will be close to Cachuma Lake for boating and fishing or enjoy the beaches along the coastline where you can fish, surf, hang glide, and much more.

9. Emma Wood State Beach Campground

The Emma Wood State Beach Campground has 86 campsites, ideal for weekend family camps. If you want to be close to the ocean, you aren’t going to find a better option than this.

The campground is open all year-round, and reservations allow eight people per site and up to three vehicles as long as they fit in the designated campsite. There is a maximum vehicle length of 45 feet at Emma Wood State Beach Campground. Pets are permitted but must be attended to and kept on a leash.

Reservations cost $40 per night for the North Beach sites, $10 per night for hike and bike sites, and en route sites are $30. The standard check-in time of 2 pm and check-out of noon apply here.

In terms of amenities, you are pretty much left to your own devices at Emma Wood State Beach Campground with no showers, hook-ups, or potable water. Portable toilets are available during the day, and some sites have stone fire rings.

You will struggle to find easier beach access than this ocean-front location. This makes it great for families that love the beach, swimming, and surfing. Nearby hiking and bike trails make this an excellent location for active families.

10. La Jolla Indian Campground

La Jolla Indian Campground

La Jolla Indian Campground is the only campsite in San Diego that offers tubing and river access, making it perfect for family camp weeks.

Choose from RV, trailer, or tent campsites at this beautiful, pet-friendly campground.

Set on the La Jolla Indian Reservation, you will find yourself in a pure and untainted wilderness.

Amenities include restrooms with flushing toilets and showers, campfires are permitted, and you will even be able to rent bikes on site.

RV prices start from $65 and include water and electrical hook-ups, and the tent campsite costs $40 for motorcycles, backpackers, and cyclists, $55 for a single vehicle, and $65 for a vehicle with a trailer.

11. Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort

Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort is a luxurious option that offers everything you would expect from a 5-star holiday.

Enjoy easy beach access, water sports, hydrotherapy sessions, and the largest inflatable water park in South California.

High-quality beachfront RV camping is available at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort, with lots of sites to choose from, including full hook-ups, a picnic table, laundry facilities, and a market.

Rates vary from $67 for small sites to $265 for supersites. Pet fees are either $2 per day or $5 for the week, and you will be able to check-in from 2 pm to 10 pm and check out at noon.

12. The Campgrounds at Lopez Lake

Explore the 20 camping areas at Lopez Lake Camping that offer visitors more than 350 campsites to suit their needs. RVs and trailers can take advantage of full hook-up sites, and all guests will be able to enjoy restrooms, piped water, and shower facilities.

Lopez Lake Camping allows families to enjoy boating, swimming, waterskiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and much more.

Open year-round, Lopez Lake Camping sites allow a maximum of 8 people and one vehicle per site. One additional vehicle is available for $13 per night if there is space. There is a maximum vehicle length of 40 feet. Pets are permitted for $3 per night, but all dogs must be kept on a leash and must never be left unattended.

Costs vary per site, with primitive sites that offer only water available from $28 per weekday, $31 on weekends, and $36 on holidays. Hook-up facilities cost from $42 up to $50.

13. Point Mugu State Park Campground

The proximity of Point Mugu State Park Campgrounds to the South Ventura County beaches makes it a popular destination among visitors that like to swim, surf, and sunbathe.

Up to 8 people can stay on each of the 112 sites, with one vehicle and one towable vehicle permitted. Additional vehicles can be added for a fee, and the maximum vehicle length is 31 feet.

Choose from either the Sycamore Canyon site for $45 per night or the Thornhill Broome site at $35. There are also hike and bike sites available at $10. Amenities include a picnic table, a fire ring, showers, and restrooms.

14. Acton – North Los Angeles KOA

The Acton – North Los Angeles KOA or Los Angeles RV Resort, as it is also known, is located in Soledad Canyon and offers easy access to incredible tourist attractions, sites, and theme parks.

The majestic scenery is just one of the reasons you might want to consider the Los Angeles RV Resort.

On-site amenities include WiFi, a swimming pool, kids’ activities, DVDs, music, and kids’ books. The site is pet-friendly, and it is the ideal location for rock climbing or hiking at the Vazquez Rocks and San Gabriel Mountains.

Prices start from just $24 for tents and $80 for an RV. Alternatively, you can rent a cabin for around $80 per night.

15. Lake Hemet Water Park and Campground

Located in the San Jacinto Mountains, Lake Hemet Water Park and Campground puts you in the middle of the wilderness and provides many things for the whole family to see and do.

Make the most of tent camping, RV camping, cabins, or glamping with prices starting from just $51 for an interior tent site that allows up to 2 tents, eight people, and one vehicle.

Head out on the lake with an on-site boat rental, or head over to the Splashing Eagle Swim Zone for free as part of your booking.

16. Green Valley Campground

Enjoy all the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has to offer when you stay at the Green Valley Campground.

The 81 campsites are open from May 1st through to October 31st, and as many as eight people are welcome per site. One motorised vehicle of up to 30 feet is permitted, and dogs must be kept on a leash and never left unattended.

Amenities include showers, flush toilets, campfire circles, tap water, and picnic tables.

There are many fun activities for younger campers to enjoy, including the Junior Rangers program and wildlife spotting.

Visitors will love hiking the trails and exploring the meadows, streams, and hills for just $30 per night.

17. Ocean Mesa Campground

North of Los Angeles, you will find the Mesa Campground at Silverwood Lake, which is great for families that are camping in tents, RVs, or trailers.

It is popular among hikers thanks to its proximity to the Pacific Crest Trail, who take advantage of the hike and bike sites.

There are 136 sites in total, and it costs $45 for standard sites and $50 for those with hook-ups. Up to 8 people are allowed per site, and the campground fee also allows one motorized vehicle and one towed.

Pets are allowed, but dogs can’t be left unattended and must be kept on a leash at all times. Check-in times start from 2 pm, and you must vacate your site by noon.

Amenities at Mesa Campground at Silverwood Lake include a picnic table, fire ring, and food locker. There are also showers, tap water, and restrooms with flush toilets.

There are lots to see and do for every age group when families stay at Mesa Campground at Silverwood Lake. You will be able to play golf, hike trails, go waterskiing, or visit the lake for boating, swimming, and fishing.

18. Calico Ghost Town

The Calico Ghost Town Campground in San Bernadino County is a unique and fun place for family camp weeks. There are 265 campsites, and the price of your site also includes admission to the Ghost Town.

Non-hook-up sites cost $30 per night, partial hook-up options are $35, and full hook-up sites cost $40. There is a maximum of 4 guests per site and a maximum of two dogs that must not be left unattended and will have to be kept on a leash at all times.

Amenities at the Calico Ghost Town Campground include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and fire rings.

There are lots to do in the Ghost Town with tours, gold panning, mule trekking, and mountain biking. It also offers easy access to the Joshua Tree National Park.

19. Idyllwild Campground

Nestled between Hemet and Palm Springs in the Mount San Jacinto State Park, you will find the Idyllwild Campground that boasts unparalleled wilderness hikes and 31 campsites.

Open all year round, and sites will cost $25 for a standard pitch, $45 for full hook-up sites, $35 for electric hook-ups, and $7 for hike and bike sites.

The maximum vehicle length permitted at the Idyllwild Campground is 24 feet, and the fee covers one vehicle. Up eight people can stay at each site, and dogs must be attended to at all times and kept on a leash.

On-site amenities include tap water, flush toilets, showers, campfire circles, fire rings, picnic tables, and food lockers.

Guests will have lots of activities, including hiking and horseback riding, the Junior Ranger program for younger campers aged from 7 to 12, and wildlife watching.

Hoping to find other family things to do during your camping trip? You should find our guide to the best family activities and fun family day trips in Southern California useful in making the most of your stay.


Does Ocean Mesa Campground offer WiFi?

Ocean Mesa does offer its guests a WiFi connection. Perfect for planning the day ahead or sharing photos of your family vacation in California.

When is the best time of the year to camp at Malibu Creek State Park?

The best time to camp at Malibu Creek State Park will be during spring or summer, so you can enjoy the good weather. That being said, if you are looking for a less crowded vacation with off-peak prices, fall and winter might suit you.

Are campfires permitted at Lake Hemet?

Fires are only permitted at Lake Hemet within designated fire rings and must be extinguished after use.

Are dogs allowed at Campland on the Bay?

Campland on the Bay does allow dogs and even has a designated dog park called Dogwood Park, and dogs are only allowed off the leash in this park.

Final Thoughts on the best family campgrounds in Southern California

Family camps are the ideal vacation for families that want to cram as much fun into their time as possible.

The best family camps will offer a great range of outdoor activities and family programs that will keep the whole family entertained.

Choosing a good camp location will also make it easier for you to take a day trip to preferred attractions like Angeles Crest National Forest or Sequoia National Park for a fun-filled experience.

Summer camps are great for people who want to enjoy the water, whether that’s the ocean, rivers, creeks, or lakes. But, no matter when you go, there will be year-round programs to keep you entertained.

We hope you are able to use our guide to pick out the best family camp for you, so you can create memories with your loved ones in Southern California. 

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