Last Updated on March 16, 2022 by Ted Mosby
Camping might not be the only thing that comes to mind while considering a trip to Los Angeles. Camping is not LA’s main reason for popularity. However, you can find several wonderful camping escapes just a few miles away from the busy metropolis.
It’s worth remembering that Los Angeles is surrounded on three sides by mountains and on one side by the ocean, providing easy access to nature and dispersed camping spots just outside the city limits.
Surprisingly, one of the best things about living in Los Angeles is how quickly you can get out of the city for a much-needed break. Locals are in luck when it comes to the best spots to go camping around Los Angeles.
Many wonderful options within driving distance will make you forget about the city, from spending a night on a sandy beach to dispersed camping in the open to stargazing in some of the top national parks in the United States.
Let’s go through the best dispersed camping sites near Los Angeles, California.
Best Dispersed Camping Near Los Angeles, California
1. Thousand Trails Soledad Canyon
A Thousand Trails Soledad Canyon, located at the bottom of the San Gabriel Mountains, is a picturesque campground with resort-type facilities. The tall trees around this area provide plenty of shade and perfect space for dispersed camping.
There is also a resort present in the proximity, having the west’s largest swimming pool and 15 acres of picnic spaces. The family lodge is huge and bustling with activities.
A separate area for adults with a private swimming pool is situated on the opposite side of Soledad Canyon RV Resort. The Thousand Trails’ Los Angeles RV campground is only 15 minutes from major retail malls and an hour from attractions like Universal Studios and Six Flags Magic Mountain, yet it feels like you’re miles away while at Soledad Canyon RV Resort.
You may enjoy both the luxury of a resort and the primitive vibes of dispersed camping in areas around the Thousand Trails Soledad Canyon.
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2. Mount Pacifico Campground
Road 3N17 and the road leading to Mount Pacifico Campground, located at the western edge of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, are allowed for both street-legal and off-road cars. However, road 3N90 (called “Roundtop Road”) is exclusively open to street-legal cars.
Spots are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Cars parked at this campground must have an Interagency or Adventure Pass. The Pacific Crest Trail runs 1/2 mile north of the campground, downslope. It is not suitable for RVs. The height of 7100′ might cause altitude sickness. It’s a 10-tent site only.
3. Upper Switzer Site
These sites are only available for day use and are ideal for hiking, picnicking, and using the grills provided. It’s also suitable for small groups. These spots will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. You will find only a few picnic tables, and this area is always busy, especially on weekends.
If you go on a hike, there are signs directing you to the waterfall, which is only a few miles away.
Upper Switzer site is also an excellent location for long hikes. Because you will come across a bear, bring some water and bear spray with you. Please pack all of your rubbish since trash is usually seen around, and it is sad to see waste in nature.
4. Bear Canyon Trail Campground
Bear Canyon Trail Campground is another great spot for dispersed camping near LA. Switzer Trail Camp is visible after crossing the short bridge toward the west terminal of Switzer Picnic Area.
You snake up the slope, taking in the amazing vistas from the canyon’s rim, then swing left down the hill and right downstream. Switzer Falls is to the left, upstream. In the spring, follow the creek, which is beautiful with waterfalls and shade. Then continue going till you reach the end.
The trail can be shaky at times, but if it disappears into the rocks or the creek, you get a sense of how it flows. You start walking upward again, and the stream changes its course, so you’re suddenly traveling upstream, and you’re there!
There are fire rings, but use them responsibly—have plenty of water at the pit to put them out, and make sure you finish before going to bed.
5. Valley Forge Trail Camp
Make your way through the Valley Forge Trail in the quest for a private night in the forest at one of the trail’s secluded sites. The path provides all of the vistas for hikers, bikers, and equestrians, and the site takes care of the comforts. Well, at least in terms of backpacking comforts.
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If your water supply is running low, go to a nearby creek, but always remember to treat before tasting. Ensure you have an Adventure Pass if you plan to leave your car at one of the developed recreation locations while hiking.
6. Mount Lowe Trail Campground
According to the Angeles National Forest official site, the Mount Lowe Trail Campground includes 5 campsites. However, this is more of a general camping area with multiple suitable locations to pitch tents than specific sites.
A group backpacking trip and dispersed camping to Mount Lowe Trail Camp would be a superb idea.
The trail camp is used sparingly and is available on a first-come, first-served basis all year. There is no cost to camp at Mount Lowe Trail Camp, and there is no need for a permit. We advise you to bring your own drinking water. However, you may collect water, for it to be filtered later, from a nearby river in the spring.
7. Los Padres National Forest
Los Padres National Forest is at a short distance, and you can plan a visit for a weekend or overnight holidays without having the feeling of being hundreds of miles away from the city. Trek across hills and valleys on trails, stopping for a bath at bathing holes, which are scattered all over the forest (the ones along the Sespe Creek are most easily accessible).
You can also hike the 11 mi path to Willett Hot Springs to get a peaceful dip if you want a brief hiking trip.
Reservations are offered only on the basis of first-come, first-serve, and you must have an Adventure Pass to get entry into Los Padres.
8. Malibu Creek Campground
Malibu Creek is an excellent choice for first-time campers or those who want to get away from the city but don’t have the time to go a long distance. But don’t be fooled by the comforts and proximity to Los Angeles; Malibu Creek still has plenty of wilderness to explore.
Along Malibu Creek, there are nearly 14 miles of trails that are famous among visitors. With over 100 bolted sports routes, the park also caters to mountain climbers.
A picnic table and a fire pit are provided at each campground. Showers and drinking water are available on-site. Despite its distant atmosphere, Malibu Creek camp is very close to Los Angeles, which means that during the peak summer season, which runs from March to October, sites can book well in advance.
The cost of a campsite is $45 per night.
9. Meadow Group Campground
There are several camping options, but Meadow Group Campground, at 5,300 feet above sea level, is an excellent choice for a weekend escape with your buddies. Relax in the cold mountain air, make some s’mores, and fire up the guitar for a sing-along around the campfire.
If you need a break from all the partying, the campground is a half-mile from the Silver Moccasin Trail, a 53-mile hike that runs through the heart of the Angeles National Forest.
Picnic tables, fire pits, and a water spigot are available at each location. You must reserve a place at Meadow Group Campground, not less than 4 days ahead of time. Site one is $36 per night, whereas site two is $120 per night.
10. Lake Arrowhead
Lake Arrowhead can be the smaller, unpopular sibling of the Big Bear in the vicinity. However, it does not stay behind on attraction and eloquence, which makes it a classic camping site.
If you are willing to camp, leave the resort and head to one of the many constructed campgrounds of Arrowhead. These campgrounds include Dogwood or North Shore which are popular for visits from May to October.
You will see yourself trapped inside a dense grove of dogwood trees at Dogwood, then trek the North Shore Recreation Trail towards neighboring Deep Creek Hot Springs at Northshore.
We’ve done our best to cover everything about the best dispersed camping near Los Angeles, California, in this article. We hope you’ve found all you need to plan for an amazing dispersed camping vacation near Los Angeles, California, and we’re confident you’ll find the right spot for your next adventure!
Where is the best dispersed camping site near Los Angeles?
Following are enlisted some of the best dispersed camping sites near Los Angeles, California:
- Thousand Trails Soledad Canyon
- Mount Pacifico Campground
- Upper Switzer Site
- Mount Lowe Trail Campground
- Malibu Creek Campground
- Lake Arrowhead
Is dispersed camping allowed in Angeles National Forest?
Visitors can camp in dispersed or open places all along the Angeles National Forest. With the dispersed camping, the San Gabriel River Ranger District manages three established temporary campgrounds.
Table of Contents
- Best Dispersed Camping Near Los Angeles, California
- 1. Thousand Trails Soledad Canyon
- 2. Mount Pacifico Campground
- 3. Upper Switzer Site
- 4. Bear Canyon Trail Campground
- 5. Valley Forge Trail Camp
- 6. Mount Lowe Trail Campground
- 7. Los Padres National Forest
- 8. Malibu Creek Campground
- 9. Meadow Group Campground
- 10. Lake Arrowhead