The best camping near
Los Padres National Forest, CALIFORNIA

242 Reviews 282 Campgrounds
Camping California Los Padres National Forest
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Most Recent Los Padres National Forest Camping Reviews
Surf, Sand and Camp

If falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing sounds good to you, then El Capitan State Beach is for you. There are around 120 camp spots to choose from. The bathrooms are clean but the showers are not working. There's also a few RV spots but not many. Make sure you reserve a spot of you plan on visiting over the weekend.

There's a nice campground across the Fwy 101 and a small store and restaurant. There's a few hikes that leave from this campground. A fire recently scored the hills but the campground was untouched.

Sand Dunes for Miles

North Pismo State Beach is a good campground right on the beach and next to a Monarch park. The bathrooms are clean and have showers. The showers take tokens which you can get from the machine next to the bathrooms. The sites are all drive thru. 

The campground is about a mile from downtown Pismo and is a great place to have lunch or dinner.  To the south is Pismo state beach where you can actually drive your car on the beach for $5. Can't beat that deal.

Ranger Review: Morsel Sporks XL at Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground

[ PROS]

  • Super close to the beach! There are a couple beach trails that lead you right to the ocean.

  • Love that you can walk to the dunes and spend the entire day there.People bring the craziest beach set ups and have bonfires and cookouts here. Souped up trucks with ATVs roll through and drive right along the beach. It’s quite the sight to see.

  • Very convenient location to ATV rentals, beach/convenient stores, and a few eateries.

  • Fantastic park rangers serveiling the campgrounds every hour. The ranger presence definitely keeps the rowdy crowd here in check.

  • There looked to be a very nice Visitor Center. For some unknown reason, they were closed both days that we were there.

  • Really big and clean showers and restroom facilities. They were very well maintained considering how packed and heavily used they were. Toilets ran out of toilet paper so make sure you come prepared.

  • We saw tons of cool birds around the campsite. My favorite of the weekend were the swallows that flew around dusk. They fly like bats! We also enjoyed seeing a couple ospreys by the beach. We even saw one catch a fish!

  • Campfire is sold here for$8/bundle at the camp host.

  • Each site comes with a picnic table, fire ring, and 2 parking spot. Our neighbors had 3 cars so we let them use one of our parking spots since it was a madhouse here.

**[ CONS]
**

  • Hard to find availability. This place is usually pretty booked up.

  • Very, very crowded campsite. Sites are extremely close together so there is very little privacy. It feels like a giant parking lot

  • Sites are small so setting up two tents feels very cramped already. Luckily we just stayed in our tent trailer on a parking spot so we felt like we had a little more space.

  • Loud campground! This place attracts a party crowd so be prepared to listen to people roll in with their loud souped up trucks and blast music on speakers throughout the day. Hope you like listening to hip hop from 10am-9pm!

  • It doesn’t seem like the 8 person max/site rule was regulated. People had upwards of 12 people at a single campsite so you can imagine how crowded the place was.

  • There was constantly a long line for the showers throughout the day.

Overall, this is not my favorite place to camp by far. It feels more like a giant tailgate party than it does camping. We were looking for a nice relaxing weekend by the beach so had an unexpected weekend. This is one of the few places left in California that allow cars, trucks, RVs, and ATVs to drive right on the beach. It’s pretty weird to see. They also allow people to have bonfires right on the sand so be careful where you walk. There’s ash and coal everywhere. And sadly, also lots of trash left behind from people.

Very active campground

This campground is huge! There are so many sites, yet can still get booked up! There are some really nice sites, but the best thing about this campground is how many trails there are to walk on. Plenty of people out and about at any time!

Closed

They are no longer in business

Nice hike and camp site

Very nice hike and camp site

Great location but no privacy

I was attending a weekend Jeep event at Pismo Dunes and had booked a space in the OHV area on the beach.  When I got there the wind was so bad it was impossible to put up a tent.  So I looked up this place, which is probably 1/2 mile from the entrance to the beach.

The campground has mixture of tent and pull-through sites.  All sites have full hookups, and include a fire ring and picnic table.  The bathrooms were clean and had showers, but everything was very old.  There was also a pool and laundry rooms on the property.

The sites were flat, but there was no barrier between you and your neighbors.  The RV sites looked very cramped but the tent sites seemed adequately spaced for the most part.  I stayed in site 252 which appeared to be some kind of double site, because there were two sets of hookups in the space (one of which required a large pole in the middle of the site).

In spite of the convenience of the location, there were drawbacks.  The campground is narrow and situated directly between PCH and the railroad tracks on either side.  So traffic noise was significant, and as an added bonus, every now and then Amtrack would roll past.

Over all, it met all the basic needs, was well maintained, and was close to the beach.  And the noise was probably less than I would get sleeping in the OHV camping area.

Scenic and off the grid-ish

The drive in through BLM land is breath taking. 40 minutes of curves and turns and aw! I loved every minute. Then camped next to a creek that babbles and bounces through the campground. Is this a Laura ingles wilder book?! Tiny adorable bar and grill run by the locals, right at the foot of the camp makes for a not-so-off-the-grid trip if you choose to partake. Camp hosts - best I’ve ever encountered. I will 100% be back.

Perfect nature getaway from the city

If you are looking for gorgeous mountains, green trees, safe and comfortable camping, this place is for you. Perfect for friends, families, and dogs! It was quiet at night although our spot was right next to the road and we heard every loud car and truck drive by but that’s okay, the sound of the creek was just as loud! Very happy I chose this campground.

First to Review
Nice and lonesome

Beautiful drive down grade valley to get to this awesome site. We were looking for a more remote place to camp and this site satisfied all our needs. We were the only ones there and the scenery was pleasing. There is access to some nice hiking trails of Los Padres National Forest. There was some water still available in the nearby creek.

Tons of fun, tons of bugs!

Our first time here and just like previous reviews state, there are alot of bugs and they want to kiss you. Of course fire, candles and bug spray help but because of the nice creek nearby its kind of unavoidable. With that said, the bugs go night night at dark and a big fire helps. Pretty quiet site, the creek is easily accessible and great for photos. The restroom situation wasn't the best, but was expected from previous reviews and the website stating no running water. We brought 5 gallons of water for dishes/hand washing and 5 gallons of water for drinking. The sites are a little on the small side, however we did book two sites next to each other for two families of four. I suggest you bring wood, it's a little expensive in the campground and in town.

Across the street from the campground theres a store that has trail maps, information and little dry goods and toiletry. They also sell really neat Crystal's, arrowheads and bumper stickers. About 4 or 5 miles up the road there's a nice 15-20 min hike to a nice waterfall.

I wouldn't mind coming back especially since I know what to prepare for next time and it's so close to Los Angeles.

Eh

We didn’t like it here, no shade, the absolutely won’t let you check in until 2:00 pm, no exceptions.

Small tent site with a picnic table

It's a very nice small camp site

Great place for a quick get away

Clean site Areas are well spaced out First compound of campsites are the best end of the road are the trails to hike and only able to fit 3 trucks up there comfortably Bring your own toilet amenities and water

Quiet and relaxing

Really nice clean quiet and relaxing

Beautiful area

This campground doesn’t feel too much like you’re out in the wilderness, but it is on a cliff above the beach on California’s central coast so who’s to complain? Great amenities (had showers, which are always nice after a sweaty hike). Campsites are not very private. Great place to take kids. The beach was a bit rocky but very beautiful, good place to look for tide pool creatures, and we saw dolphins! 🐬 There is a less rocky beach within a short drive (Refugio). Great hiking in this area! We did the Wind Caves trail (see pictures). I would def go again.

Great Campground

A nice alternative to the higher campgrounds near Mt Pinos. Went on Labor Day weekend and surprisingly there were not that many other campers. Nice well separated sites with awesome views of lock wood valley and Frazier mountain. Area is a great for star gazing and ohv riding. Took a great scenic drive up to Frazier mountain lookout. Bathrooms and camp sites were clean. Great scenery all around and overall a beautiful campground.

Love it

Love the beach very nice and clean

Clean and quiet

Before you turn off for this camp, you are driving along this curvy road that is down in one of the most spectacular valleys I've ever driven through. The views are astonishing and made my 2 hour drive totally worth it. This little campsite is right off the road and not to far from a gas station, small store, and what appears to be a beautiful country club community in the middle of basically nowhere. Its is nice for if you forget something to not have to go far. The road down to the campsite itself looks daunting if you arent used to driving off road, but its short and not something that should caution you away from this campsite. In fact while I was there, a mini van made it all the way down the road, turned around, and drove right back up. As for the campsite itself, the spaces are very clean and each site has it's own picnic table and a fair amount of space. From what I could tell, they each had their own fire pit as well. There was not a lot of trash in the camp and it appeared to be taken care of often. It is a small camp though so if every spot has campers, it might get crowded. There is NO WATER at this camp that I ever found. I always pack lots of water just in case and if you stay here, you will need to bring some. All said and done, I will definitely be coming back here, its quiet and the view of the stars at night and the valley at sunset is breathtaking.

Summer Heat Getaway!

It’s a nice drive to get to the campground. Nice clean area with lots of space. Love it that’s it’s a Walk in campground so no cars or RVs. Lots of Hiking trails nearby. It’s a lot cooler up here so it’s a nice way to get away from the summer heat. Awesome area for stargazing. The bathrooms could use some cleaning but other than that it’s a beautiful area.

Great for Beginners

About a mile from the trail head the lost valley campground is a great spot for beginning backpackers to stay for a night or two. It’s right up against the creek and has two tables. Great tree placement for hammocks and space for tents.

USFS developed campground

Beautiful area. Spring and early summer water is in the 2 small lakes or hike to the Rose Valley Water falls. Hiking, biking or just hang out. Gateway to some beautiful hikes in the Los Padres National Forest. Plenty of trails to explore.

Lots of stuff to do. Great staff.

Can be hot in summer but water park is great way to cool off. Fishing, boating (rentals avail.), hiking, biking, picnic and playground areas and a model plane airport. Great burgers at the restaurant. Small store for all the stuff you usually forget or don’t have time to pack like ice, firewood, propane. Great staff!

Remote, upgraded primitive campground. Great for a full moon hike. Views.

Seasonal spring for water (Bring a filter). Locals have upgraded by making benches out of downed trees. Great views and starry nights. A favorite.

Sequoia you will love it

We be there about 2 night it nice for camping there nice toilets but don’t go on weekends your will be can’t find camping sites it full very quick we was there walk in but they have free camping ground also

Pretty but disappointing

Thorn Meadows Campground is definitely a journey to get to. You have to have a 4WD or AWD and it has to have good clearance. I also recommend someone with experience driving on rough roads. Once you get to the camp, there is a fairly nice horse corral if you have horses. There is no water at the camp, it is currently all dry and the only water I encountered was a small stream on the road a ways before you get to camp. The creek bed that is there is pretty deep and you have to jump in and out of it to even get to camp. The campsite itself is nice, although the bathroom is pretty much destroyed. It has been shot up so much by past people. If you are looking to hike to thorn point, I'd say dont waste your time. About 3/4-1 mile, the trail just ends. If you are looking for secluded camping and beautiful views on the way in and where you're camping, thorn meadows is for you.

Off The Grid

I prefer primitive or dispersed camping because I usually like as much privacy as I can get when I'm camping, but with current fire restrictions I was limited to developed campsites if I wanted a campfire (and what's the point of camping without a campfire?). I was also planning the trip on short notice, so developed, reserveable campsites were in short supply. Then I found Reyes Creek.

The campground is very isolated. It's about a 40 minute drive from the nearest town (and therefore the nearest gas station or market - plan ahead). There is no power, or water. There's no cell service in the camp, but a 5 minute drive up the mountain there's a dirt lot they call the 'phone booth' that gets decent reception. The camp hosts were super friendly and helpful. There are 2 loops for campsites - the center of the main loop seemed pretty flat, but all the sites were visible to your neighbors. Sites on the outside of the main loop offered more privacy, but most appeared to not be very level, and not necessarily well laid out. I stayed in site 11 on the outside of the loop which was large and fairly quiet, but my 6 person tent just barely fit in between some trees which offered some shade and was only on a slight angle. The one downside was the bathrooms - vault toilets that varied in condition, but none that I used were particularly good. If bathroom condition is a major sticking point with you, you may want to look elsewhere.

As an added bonus, as isolated as the place is, right outside the entrance to the campground is a bar & grill called the Camp Scheideck Lodge. They have a full bar and great food (and the customer-only bathroom is a great step up from the campground). It just changed owners last month (second time in a couple years) and the new owner, Devin, is friendly and welcoming.

The temperature varies greatly from day to night (90's to 50's when I was there) and there are bugs a plenty, so bring repellant. Firewood is available at the camp, and ice is available at the lodge.

So if you want a little isolation with privacy, a campfire, and a friendly bar within walking distance, this place is for you. I'll definitely be coming back.

Words cant describe

Beautiful lakes and fishing was awesome. Will be back for sure.

If you can make it happen, do it!

This is such a unique experience! You have to set up a boat trip here and back so do your homework because it takes some coordinating. We picked site 1 unknowingly and it turned out to be the best! It was away from others and felt private with the most spectacular mountains to our back. VERY WINDY! The water tasted icky but after a 10 mile hike we didn't care. Take advantage and hike as far as you can- it's unreal! But bring a ton of water because you'll want it! The crows are unruly so watch your belongings, and the fox are cute but sneaky. Also, there was a dead seal over by the water which was sad, but as the rangers told us, that's nature.

Love that you can park right at the beach

This place is rad. You can stay here until 11pm if you don't have a camp reservation. You can also rent ATV to ride at the dunes which is super fun