places/travel The Best Camping Spots in Southern California  

Ranker Travel
139 votes 93 voters 7.6k views 23 items Embed

Are you ready to leave the city and explore the great outdoors? Well you’re in luck, because Southern California has an incredibly diverse terrain, offering everything from beautiful forests and waterfalls, to sandy beaches and vast deserts. In Southern California, you can climb boulders in Joshua Tree one day and swim in the Pacific Ocean the next. 

Home to some of the best camping in the United States, Southern California has a wide array of campgrounds to which you can escape when you need a little time away from the office, and need a little more time outdoors. Whether you enjoy hiking, fishing, rock climbing, or windsurfing, all can be found just a few hours from some of Southern California’s biggest cities.  

Utah has Zion and Colorado has Aspen, but the only place you can find every outdoor sport imaginable is in California - with everything from surfing to skiing, all this and more can be done in the Golden State, and most activities can be found in Southern California. This list explores some of the best Southern California camping and while this list won’t give you any insight on how to set up a tent (see this list of helpful camping hacks for that), it will help transport you to the great outdoors. Click through the list and vote up the campgrounds that are the perfect places to set up a tent, light up a campfire, and cook some s’mores under a starry night sky. 

Idyllwild is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Camping Spots in Southern California
Photo: Roy Ubu/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
1 18 VOTES


Hidden in the San Jacinto mountains, just west of Palm Springs, lies Idyllwild. With tall pines, cedars, and huge rocks, the campgrounds are perfect for campers who enjoy rock climbing and hiking. 

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Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Camping Spots in Southern California
Photo: Freebase/GNU Free Documentation License

Borrego Palm Canyon

Located in the Colorado Desert of Southern California, Borrego Palm Canyon is situated in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This campground is one of the few in the park that offers a "developed" campground, with bathrooms, tables, and parking stalls. 

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Newport Dunes is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Camping Spots in Southern California
Photo: Picster Jimster/flickr/CC-BY-ND 2.0
3 24 VOTES

Newport Dunes

Newport Dunes offers some first class camping, California-style. The "resort" offers everything from tent camping to beach cottages. 

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Bolsa Chica State Beach is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Camping Spots in Southern California
Photo: JefferyTurner/flickr/CC-BY 2.0
4 10 VOTES

Bolsa Chica State Beach

Located in Huntington Beach, Bolsa Chica State Beach was once called "Tin Can Beach," and was adopted as a state beach in 1960. This campground is great for surfing, swimming, and volleyball. 

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