The Best Winter Camping Spots in SoCal

As the cold weather seeps in many outdoorsman will begin looking south for places to set up camp and there’s no better spot to do so than Southern California. This beautiful bastion of warm weather is a great camping destination all year round if you’re looking to avoid the snow and frigid temps. Check out these spots for the best views and opportunities to get back in touch with nature.

Leo Carillo State Park
California is one of only a couple places where the beaches stay beautiful throughout the winter even though the water might be too cool to take a dip. That certainly doesn’t stop the surfers, though! Leo Carillo has 130 campsites and access to reefs, caves and tide pools galore. Since it’s close to Malibu there’s plenty of amenities in the area though you can stick to the campground and stay satiated because there’s a small store onsite. The state park also has plenty of nature trails to explore for those who love to hike.

Idyllwild is one of the most scenic areas of SoCal and a great camping spot no matter what time of year. It’s nestled in the middle of the San Jacinto Mountains so it can get a little crisp come January, but the snowcapped vistas make for some truly epic views. The surrounding landscape is full of excellent hiking, climbing and fishing so there’s always something to keep you and the family busy. Campsites tend to be first-come, first serve and availability can depend highly on snowfall, so be sure to call ahead.

Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree is one of the most easily identifiable landscapes in all of America thanks to the striking array of boulders and namesake trees bursting out of the landscape. As a desert environment the temperatures can fluctuate, but it can still be pretty warm on a winter evening here. The park itself is large and can accommodate quite a few campers, but the best sites are nestled among Jumbo Rocks which provide plenty of privacy for those looking to escape the crowds.

Angeles National Forest
Just a short drive outside of L.A. lies one of the most serene pieces of land in all of Southern California—Angeles National Forest. The region is home to some of the tallest peaks in the state, like Mt. Baldy, but also fantastic camping opportunities in the lower portions that don’t get too cold in winter. Pyramid Lake is a great area for those who enjoy spending time on the water while Horse Flats is a popular campground in the area.

Anza-Borrego State Park
Anza-Borrego State Park is the largest desert air park in the state of California and a wonderfully scenic spot to pitch a tent. The remote region houses numerous adventures and it’s not unusual to find bighorn sheep patrolling the land near the Borrego Palm Canyon. It’s a favorite among stargazers due to the lack of air pollution and there are dozens of unique sights if you’re willing to set out on a desert trek.

Los Padres National Forest
Los Padres pushes the boundaries between Southern and Central California but is close enough to the border that you can still see some warm temps after Christmas. The area is a great place to take in fall colors for those who want to hike in November. The terrain is easy to traverse for most campers making it a great spot for families with small kids and its seemingly endless array of hiking trails makes for great exploration.

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