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Los Padres National Forest, CALIFORNIA
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Most Recent Los Padres National Forest Camping Reviews
Fair time

Have camped here many times as a kid during the summer when the Santa Barbara county fair goes on. Not as much a campsite as it is an open field with some hook ups.

Nice place

Nice place and clean place, but not really a campground as it much as it’s an rv park with cabins. Not much nature. Use to go years ago when they had tent camping. Miss those days. Some good hikes down to the river bed and bike/ running trails

Rv / camp site

Right next to some beautiful dunes. Rv / pull in sites. Have tables restrooms and fire pit relatively close to Oceano/ piano

Camp / Rv park

Right next to a boomers amusement park so it can get a little noisy. Right off the 101 freeway

Close to home

The sites are just anywhere on the beach so it’s a really nice different place than a typical site. There are no amenities but they do have bathrooms every few miles. You can dig a fire pit if needed

Backpacking

This was my first backpacking trip ever with my little brother. Was somewhere around 18 miles there and back from nira camp. The site was flat and clear but that was back in 2013. Would love to go back and check it out now. The school house is cool it’s a building in the middle of nowhere that just pops up

Fishing trip

We stayed in the primitive campsite area. Was nice and clean even sites. Had some portable toilets with in walking distance. Rented a boat at the marina and was warm all night in the summer

Quick trip

Took my Gf here for her first camping trip was really nice with clean restrooms. Sites are relatively spaced out. Easy walking distance to some beautiful beaches and Bike trails

Lopez lake weekend trip

Campsites are close to each other but was a great place to take the boat and fish all day. Weather stays relatively warm out by Lopez so it’s nice all year round. If we get more rain lake would be really nice

Busy Campground with Great Trails

A big campground in Mammoth Lakes, with 77 sites in total. It can be a pretty popular sport during the summer, so you may want to make reservations or call ahead just to make sure. But it has water and flush toilets, but the down fall is no showers. Each site has a picnic table, firepit ring, and a two-locker bear storage. The campground varies in privacy so just be aware you will see and most likely hear your neighbors. There is no electric either at this campground. It is $24 a night which isn’t bad but with no showers seems bit pricey.

This campground has some great hiking trails in it, we took the Meadows trail and it did not disappoint with beautiful scenery and rivers. It also is right down the road from Mammoth Lakes which has plenty of restaurants if you are needing some non-camping cuisine. There are trails all over this area, that it would take you while to hike all of them. This is also a very popular mountain biking area during the summer with trails everywhere. During the winter it is a booming ski/snowboard town.

So close to Yosemite

Love this campground! We were the only ones here during our stay. Many spots and group sites available. Toilets only

Lopez Lake

Lopez Lake Recreation Area is 15 minutes behind the “Village” of Arroyo Grande, CA.

Lopez is a frequently visited spot for us - We generally camp in a primitive site the back of the Squirrel Loop of the park. The Squirrel Loop is not a lakeside loop (you cannot see the lake at all from here), but we have found it to be one of the quieter, less trafficked campground in the park. The Squirrel Loop is nestled inside a canyon, surrounded by big, beautiful live oak trees.

Lopez Lake is a very large campground with many different loops, so many of which are nearby the lake. If you haven’t been to the campground before and are not worried about reserving a site ahead of time, take some time to drive around the park when you arrive to see what area you would most like to camp in - there are a lot of great spots here there and everywhere!

Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. There are clean plumbed bathrooms, and coin-operated showers. Lopez has full hook-ups for RVs, and a marina to launch boats. There is a small but well-stocked convenience store in the marina with food, ice, firewood, beer, fishing gear, etc. There is also a small cafe located in the marina store, with limited hours.

Lopez Lake is the home of the Mustang Waterpark, a small, but super fun water park. I believe the park is closed during the fall and winter months, but is open during the spring and summer. Swimming is allowed in the lake, and there are some “beach” areas that have been cleared of lake plants and rocks for safe swimming.

Hiking to Big Falls is a fun adventure if you want to leave the campground. There are certain times when the falls are not accessible without 4WD, however, we have been in severe drought conditions in Central California for the last few years, so you don’t have to worry about crossing any deep creeks, if any. A super low clearance vehicle may have a challenging time crossing the creek beds, even when dry. The drive to Big Falls trailhead from Lopez is short, but probably takes 15-20 minutes as you are driving through a curvy, narrow canyon road. The hike is through live oak trees most of the way, so most of the hike is nice and shaded. Keep and eye out for salamanders when crossing the creek beds! While it is unlikely, black bears mountain lions have been spotted on the Big Falls trail, so be aware of your surroundings. Here are directions to the Big Falls trailhead: http://www.hikeslo.com/big-falls/

WARNING : While the possibility of a black bear sighting is fairly uncommon, black bears are seen every year at Lopez Lake. You are in black bear county, and there are no bear boxes/ food lockers at Lopez Lake. I would suggest locking your food and coolers up in the car at night to avoid attracting wild animals to your campsite.

CAMPSITE SPECS

Fees: $35/night (primitive site)

Plumbed Toilets: Yes

Drinking Water: Yes

Showers: Yes (coin-operated)

Picnic Table: Yes

Firepit: Yes

Cooking Grate: Yes

Shade: Yes

Cell Service: No

Animal Bins/Food lockers: No

Trash: Yes

Figueroa Mountain

Figueroa Campground is a 33-35 site campground behind Los Olivos, CA. It is surrounded by live oaks and gorgeous manzanita trees, so there is a lot of shade available.

Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table. There are no hook ups, and only pit-toilets are available. Note that there is NO DRINKING WATER available at Figueroa Campground, so be sure to bring plenty of water, especially if you plan to hike or backpack through the area.

There is a a lot of hiking trails available in the nearby area. Both Figueroa Mountain and nearby Grass Mountain are extremely popular hiking spots, especially in early spring when the wildflowers bloom in late March or early April . During the wildflower bloom, the sides of the hills and mountains can look solid vibrant ORANGE from afar - the wild California poppies grow dense in this area. Purple mountain lupine flowers are also found during the wildflower bloom.

If you or anyone in your party does not want to/cannot hike, the top of Figueroa Mountain is completely assessable by car - all of the big lookout points for optimal wildflower viewing are accessible by car, so the wildflowers are essentially accessible to everyone, hikers or not.

The Davy Brown Creek and Manzana Creek trails are also accessible from the Figueroa Mountain area; the area is popular for cyclists and off-road cyclists.

WARNING: You ARE in black bear country! While it is unlikely that a black bear will enter the campground, I would suggest locking your food and coolers in your car at night, as there are no food lockers in the campground. When hiking be aware of your surroundings: Black bears, coyotes, mountain lions, bob cats, and coyotes have been seen on the trails.

While the campground is fairly remote in the the hills, you are only 20 minutes away from Los Olivos, and 30 minutes away from Santa Ynez. Los Olivos has a great market with groceries, a bakery/coffee shop, a deli, and beer and local wine. There are many local vineyards, wineries, and breweries nearby. The Firestone Walker brewery, taproom, and Resturant is close-by - we highly recommend their food and beers!

CAMPSITE SPECS

Fees: $20/night (+ $10/ extra vehicle)

Plumbed Toilets: No - vault

Drinking Water: No

Showers: No

Picnic Table: Yes

Firepit: Yes

Cooking Grate: Yes

Shade: Yes

Cell Service: No

Animal Bins/Food lockers: No

Trash: Yes

Scenic campground

I camped in Mustang during the last weekend of September. It was located right next to the water park but they had already closed for the season. The campsites were pretty close to each other and unfortunately we were stuck between two different groups that did not obey the quiet hours. Not a huge deal at night since they were quiet by midnight or so but one of the groups was also loud with kids early in the morning as well. This didn't make the best camping experience but we tried to make the best of it.

The lake was within walking distance but since the water level is so low, you had to walk quite a way out. There are some decent hiking trails you can go on right from the campground. We took the Escondido trail from camp that took us to the top of a ridge and had numerous switchbacks. Great views from the top.

Carpinteria State Beach Campground

Carpinteria State Beach Campground is a one of our frequently visited “staycation” spots. We live in nearby Santa Barbara, but will use Carp State Beach as a midway meeting point when friends from Southern California and Central California meet up.

The campground is pretty large, and caters mostly to RVs and trailers. There are loops within the campground that are essentially just asphalt lots with small dirt spaces for fire pits and picnic benches - these are intended for RV campers, but we have tent camped there in a pinch. Since we are tent campers we do prefer to camp in the grassy tent sites, but they are limited in number and tend fill up quickly. Because of the moderate year-round weather, Carpinteria State Beach Campground stays pretty full all year long!

The campground has full hook ups, clean plumed bathrooms, and coin-operated showers. There are grocery stores and conscience stores within short walking distance for anything you might need. Train tracks run directly behind the campground, so there is some noise pollution from the passing trains.

The campground is at the very end of downtown Carpinteria, right next to the ocean. There are no “ocean front” sites, but the beach is a quick 1-minute walk from essentially anywhere in the campground. Some small sandy dunes separate the campground from the beach, and there is an accessible paved boardwalk running along the length of the dunes. There are beautiful tide pools just south of Carpinteria State Beach Campground that are a must see. Check the tide charts on the internet to visit the tide pools at low to mid tide.

While we really enjoy camp cooking, we tend to opt to walk into town to eat when camping in Carpinteria. Linden Avenue is right next to the campground, and is the main street in downtown Carpinteria. There is a wide variety of restaurants, breweries and coffee shops downtown. Island Brewery CO is a local favorite just on the edge of the campground - while I don’t think they have food available (yet), their beer is GREAT! Their avocado beer is a must try - I know it sounds weird, but it’s delicious (and doesn’t taste like avocados)! Rincon Brewery is a few blocks up from the campground, and also has great beer, and TASTY FOOD!

CAMPSITE SPECS

Fees: $45/night (normal campsite)

Plumbed Toilets: Yes

Drinking Water: Yes

Showers: Yes (coin-operated)

Picnic Table: Yes

Firepit: Yes

Cooking Grate: Yes

Shade: No

Cell Service: Yes

Animal Bins/Food lockers: No

Trash: Yes

Nira Campground

Nira is a small, primitive campground in the San Rafael wilderness behind the Santa Ynez Valley. The campground is a bit of a haul to get back to, and is often used as a base for backpackers entering the San Rafael wilderness or the Manzana Creek trail. I myself have only tent camped at Nira, just to go somewhere different - my boyfriend and his friends have backpacked out of Nira into the San Rafael Wilderness and to the Manzana Schoolhouse on multiple occasions.

Nira is the second, smaller campground back on Sunset Valley Road - Davy Brown Campground is up the road a little ways. Nira is small, with only 12 sites in a densely wooded live oak grove. The oaks provide a lot of shade and help separate the various camp sites. The Manzana Creek runs behind the campground; the main road leading into Nira is right above the campground, however, you’re pretty far back in the hills, so there isn’t a lot of noise from traffic.

Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table. There are no hook ups and only pit-toilets are available. There is NO DRINKING WATER available at Nira Campground, so be sure to bring plenty of water, especially if you plan to backpack through the area.

WARNING: You ARE in black bear country! While it is unlikely that a black bear will enter the campground, I would suggest locking your food and coolers in your car at night, as there are no food lockers in the campground. When hiking the Manzana Trail be aware of your surroundings: Black bears, coyotes, mountain lions, bob cats, and coyotes have been seen on the trail. CAMPSITE SPECS

Fees: $20/night (+ $10/ extra vehicle)

Plumbed Toilets: No - vault

Drinking Water: No

Showers: No

Picnic Table: Yes

Firepit: Yes

Cooking Grate: Yes

Shade: Yes

Cell Service: No

Animal Bins/Food lockers: No

Trash: Yes

Wonderful RV resort at very reasonable rates

Very nice RV Park At very reasonable rates, paved roads, great amenities, bar and restaurants

CAMPSITES AREAS ARE SPACIOUS.

IT'S A BIG CAMPGROUND AND THERE ARE VERY FRIENDLY PEOPLE AROUND YOU AS WELL. MY FAVORITE SPACES ARE 68, 55, 133, AND 534. I GO 3 TO 4 TIMES A MONTH. I LIKE TO TRAVEL ALL OVER DOWN THE COAST, I WENT AS FAR AS VENTURE, CA THIS YEAR ALONE. HAPPY CAMPETS I WOULD SAY!!

Perfect campsite for stargazing!

My first visit to Chula Vista was a fantastic experience and perfect for viewing the Perseids Meteor Shower.

The campground itself is a short hike from the parking lot and is first come, first serve. Many of the campsites have fire pits, however due to the fire hazards we did not use ours. There is no trash or water, so it is necessary to pack in and pack out.

A permit is required to park in the parking lot and also if you enter the lot at night it is important to be respectful and do so with your headlights dimmed due to the area being a very popular place for stargazing.

Overall, my time at Chula Vista was fantastic. The hike to Mt. Pinos from there is short and well worth the views!

Cachuma Lake - in the heart of Los Padres National Forest

I am a native of Santa Barbara, CA, so I grew up going to Cachuma Lake. Cachuma Lake’s main recreational area is on a bluff overlooking the lake. There you can find tent sites, yurts, cabins, and full hookups for RVs. There are also smaller campgrounds at lake level - we prefer to stay in the Mohawk Shores campground, which is at lake level. The Mohawk Shores campsites are in a more densely packed oak grove, offering more shade and more privacy than the upper-level campgrounds. A few years ago they started pricing the “lakeside” sites in Mohawk more expensively than the rest of the sites in the area; ironic though, since the lake has been so empty the last few years due to the drought, and these sites are no longer lakeside.

The campsites each have their own picnic table and firepit with a grate, and water spigots are available in various places around the campground. Mohawk has its own bathroom with flushable toilets and coin-operated showers - the bathrooms and showers are kept clean. I prefer to shower in the showers located in the upper-level campgrounds, as they are in their own individual, lockable stalls, rather than the locker-room type set up in the bathroom in Mohawk. There are multiple dumpsters available for trash AND recycling around all of the campgrounds.

Caution: There is a lot of poison oak around the park!

We have rented a yurt a couple times, and hope to do so again soon. The yurts have bunk beds inside (bring your own bedding!), an overhead light, and a heater. Outside each yurt is a picnic table, charcoal barbeque, a firepit, and a water spigot.

We will often bring an easy-up to use in the day-camp areas in the upper-level of the park. There are oak trees all over the park, but if day use site with a table under a tree gets snagged, it’s nice to have the easy-up for shade - if you have one, I would recommend bringing an easy-up if you are going to camp in the upper level campgrounds, not all of the sites have shade.

A small but well-stocked general store is available, as well a small (expensive) gas station. Cachuma also has a pool (for an additional fee), gameroom, playgrounds/jungle-gyms, and disc golf courses available.

Cachuma Lake is a great place for wildlife viewing and birding. I am a photographer, and love seeing all of the birds that hang out around Cachuma - ducks, coots, Western and Clark’s grebes, loons, osprey, hawks, turkey vultures, turkeys, quail, American white pelicans, cormorants, etc. I have gotten my best birding photos at Cachuma Lake. Deer can often be viewed on the shores of the lake, and we have even seen bobcats and foxes. Pontoon boat tours to view wildlife launch every day from the marina.

Keep in mind that you CANNOT SWIM in Cachuma Lake. Silly, I know, but they justify it because Cachuma lake is Santa Barbara’s drinking water source. You are allowed to boat, kayak, and fish on the lake, but no swimming! Motor boats and pontoon boats are available to rent, and now they even have kayaks to rent hourly! My dad has a small 14 ft fishing boat, and we enjoy taking the boat out on the lake to fish and sightsee.

There are endless trails around Cachuma Lake in Los Padres National Forest. There are some mellow hikes around the perimeter of the lake itself, offering nice views of the lake and the surrounding Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountains.

Figueroa Mountain is near Los Olivos - Grass Mountain and Figueroa Mountain are both beautiful hikes, especially in the spring when the wild flowers are in bloom. Both are strenuous, steep hikes, but the views are totally worth the effort.

Cachuma lake is about a half an hour from the city of Santa Barbara, 15 minutes away from Santa Ynez (if you like to gamble check out the Chumash Casino), 20 minutes away from Solvang, and 20 minutes away from Los Olivos. There is fantastic wine tasting available in any of these small towns, and everywhere in between - you are in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country! There are endless tasting rooms available inside the towns, and countless vineyards that you can visit to wine taste. A popular wine trail is on Foxen Canyon Road - it is a lovely drive on a country road with some really beautiful and quality wineries and vineyards.

Solvang is a fun town to visit - it was originally a community full of Danish immigrants, so the Danish theme has stuck. It is very touristy, but even as a native, I still enjoy going to Solvang. There are a lot of shops, antiques, candy stores, restaurants and tasting rooms to visit. We are partial to the Solvang Restaurant, and for more than just their Danish Aebleskivers. If you don’t know what an aebleskiver is - its DELICIOUS. Aebleskivers are round Danish pancakes that are shaped like a ball - they serve them with amazing homemade raspberry jam and powdered sugar. Everything at the Solvang Restaurant is good, from their traditional breakfasts to their Scandinavian offerings to their sandwiches.

More Food Recommendations:

Cold Springs Tavern is a historic site dating back to the 1880s when it was a stagecoach stop. Cold Springs Tavern has a full bar and serves some quality meat selections, including famous Santa Barbara style tri-tip. If you are there on a Sunday, they start serving traditional tri-tip sandwiches around 11am - BEST tri-tip sandwiches around! They cook up the meat on giant barbeques outside, and serve the sandwiches hot off the grill - just tri-tip and fresh garlic bread, YUM. They have homemade salsa and homemade BBQ sauce to dress the sandwich with. Sundays at Cold Springs Tavern is a popular spot for locals to go have a beer or a drink with tri-tip, and there’s always a fun atmosphere.

If you are in the mood for some quality Mexican food, Dos Carlitos in Santa Ynez is a favorite spot.

Los Olivos Grocery has a great deli with delicious sandwiches - both hot and cold - and a good selection tasty deli side dishes. The store also has a good selection of local wines.

CAMPSITE SPECS

Fees: $30/night

**Plumbed Toilets: Yes

**Drinking Water: Yes

**Showers: Yes (coins needed)

**Picnic Table: Yes

**Firepit: Yes

**Cooking Grate: Yes

**Shade: Yes

**Cell Service: Yes - Limited

Animal Bins/Food Lockers: No

Trash: Yes

Options for Everyone

Nice place to stay with fishing, biking, hiking and a pool for families. Water toys, kayaks etc. are available to rent. Probably best to visit in spring and fall like most So CA campgrounds due to heat but the pool helps cool off. No hookups but does have a dump station.

Mammoth Lakes offers it all and then some!

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Coldwater Campground, Mammoth Lakes, CA

A beautiful 77 site campground nestled in at over 9,000 ft in the Inyo National Forest of the Eastern Sierras.

Amenities: large sites, modern restrooms spaced throughout the camp (two unisex doors, includes one sink with running cold water, a flush toilet, and metal mirror), water spigots near the latrines.

Each site has a large picnic table, a fire pit with sliding cook grate, a double door bear cabinet and small paved parking pad.

We chose site 66, as it sprawled to s mountain stream, nestled in shaded pines, had a couple flat tent spots and was relatively close to restrooms and water.

No electric, no showers (nearby Twin Lakes Campground Store rents shower time at $7.00…one person per shower.

Coldwater Campground is a short drive from Mammoth Lakes, which has all you should need or desire.

The trails from the back of Coldwater Campground go up, up, up…but offer spectacular mountain views, glacier lakes, picturesque alpine meadows, waterfalls and cascades. A short drive and bus ride away are trails to Iconic Rainbow Falls and Devil’s Postpile, among other ridiculously beautiful mountain trails!

Mountain bike trails are innumerable…and the paved multi-use trails are stellar and travel for miles. https://www.visitmammoth.com/blogs/top-5-xc-mountain-bike-trails-near-mammoth-lakes

There are rentals nearby for every sportsman. This is the active person’s Mecca! Also close-by is Mammoth Ski area that offers the downhill mountain bikers absolute Nirvana, during summer months.

https://www.mammothmountain.com/summer/bike-park-overview/mammoth-bike-park/mammoth-bike-park

At $24 a night, this seems to be the standard rate for this region…and that without showers.

Note: Even during hot summer months, it gets chilly at night. August 6, it was 50 degrees at night. A 40 degree dip from the cloudless daytime temps.

It did not take long to fall in love with the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. I would not hesitate to camp here again, and am already planning a return visit.

Lovely Campsite

Nice campsite right on the beach with a little point break surf spot just at the end of the cove. Came down here to surf Rincon and ended up surfing this little point for most of the trip.

The site was pretty nice, but boy can it get windy! In the middle of the night our tent got completely blown over with us in it! More funny than anything else, but a little maddening in the middle of the night.

Dont waste your money. Very small. Sites are basically parking lot slots.

Easy beach access, Unique beach with train tracks running above it,.Very smelly due to all the dead sea plants piled on beach. Pier closed and probably will never open since California like to use their money for welfare. All the grass is dead so lots of dust. No site privacy all crammed into a very small park. No hook-ups or dump. Water available. Bathrooms OK. Small store at park. entrance was hard to find. I missed it and had to drive a few miles up highway to turn around. Tent campers literally 5 ft from RV. Weather ok. not much shade.

Old time Favorite

This a a very nice campground nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara county. The sites for dry camping are the largest that I have every come across in 50 years. The full hookup sites are your standard size that you see at most rv parks. The lake is nice but is at an all time low water level because of the ongoing drought. The Danish town of Solvang is 12 miles away and there must be 50 places that you can go wine tasting in the area if that is your thing.

My home base Campground

This Campground belongs to the Thousand Trails network. We use it quite often as it is only 2 hours from our house. The campground is nice. There are wild turkeys that wander thru the campground and you will see an occassional deer or 2. Good & bad is that your wifi, cell service is very limited here. If you want to get away from that hectic "connected 24/7" life this is a place you can do it. If you need that constant connection you won't like it.

Windy and high, Chorma Camp is a quick stop

Chorma Camp is the first spot you will encounter on the hike south through Cherry Creek. Situated high on a bluff it gets lots of wind, and with very little shelter around to break it, if you camp here you will get the brunt of it.

There are no amenities at any of the campsites in this area, they are all primitive dispersed camp areas.

Continuing on past Chorma if you can make it to Maple it is better campsite down in the valley.

Primative campsite close to socal snow

Chula Vista is a short hike from the parking lot (1/4 mile), but it is quite a way off of the 5 up more than one windy road. Mt. Pinos stands at almost 9,000 feet, one of the highest in the area, so if you are subject to altitude sickness be aware.

The camp area itself is semi dispersed, there are fire pits and picnic tables as well as an older pit toilet.

It has been one of our favorite places to Snow Camp every January, as it is relatively close and even during the drought there was usually a little bit of snow at the top. There are many places to make snow runs down the slopes, build snow caves, etc.

A wilderness permit may be required, the area is first come first serve, and there is no water nor trash so pack it in pack it out.

If you enter the parking lot at night be aware that it is a popular place for stargazing, so enter with your headlights dimmed and be respectful and cautious.