When people hear “Orange County,” they may think of downtown beaches, wide arrays of cuisine options, and the next flashy health trend. So is Orange County really a place suitable for camping? Definitely.

4 Orange County Camping Destinations For A Southern Californian Getaway

Orange tent setup at coastal campsite.

Image from The Dyrt camper Kalie I.

Not all beaches in Orange County are tucked up against buildings and houses. Some really are in natural areas that make for an authentic and immersive camping experience. Many are unaware that there’s actually a mountain range in Orange County; the Santa Ana Mountain Range.

Also, there’s another big perk of camping in Orange County, the great weather. OC does not tend to experience extreme weather conditions, hot or cold, making it “campable” year-round. But as with any camping trip, check for rain forecasts before heading out.

So whether you’re from out of town or live in the area, camping in Orange County is well worth exploring. It will prove surprisingly regenerative for a mind and body that’s been engulfed in the city for far too long.

1. San Onofre Sate Beach

San Onofre State Beach is on the border of Orange and San Diego County, 3 miles south of San Clemente. Campers are often drawn here to surf Trestles, which is a group of famous surf spots. They’re found on the stretch between San Clemente State Beach and San Onofre State Beach.

The good news for any visitor, surfer or not, is that the area and beach are absolutely beautiful. There‘s plenty of wildlife and the air seems notably fresher, especially with the scent of the local plants and herbs lining the trail.

The San Mateo Campground offers drive-in camping for those keen on exploring San Onofre State Beach. This camping in Orange County is great for getting away from city life for a bit.

San Onofre camping offers a total of 156 sites including RV, group, and tent sites. Pets and fires are allowed, and drinking water is available. Nightly fees vary depending on site type. The walk to the beach is about 2 miles, and picturesque the whole way.

“This campground is great as it gives campers easy access to all of the local areas. It’s right outside of town so there is no need to fight the traffic. It’s located right up the road from Trestles and Uppers, both world-famous surf spots.” — The Dyrt camper Reid D.

2. San Clemente State Beach

Family posing beside picnic table while the sun sets over RV campground.

Image from The Dyrt camper Steve L.

San Clemente is the southernmost city in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. It’s also the southernmost city in Orange County. Visitors are drawn here by the colonial-style Spanish architecture, the mountain views, and the oceanside living.

San Clemente camping can be found just north of the San Mateo campground. Many people choose to stay here for the same reason as the last campground—the surfing. Surfers love that it’s just an 8-minute drive south to Trestles Beach.

In true Southern California fashion, this is a convenient drive-in campground, located right on a beautiful mile-long beach. The scenic sandy beach stretches between the curling ocean surf and the foot of a steep bluff. Group camping, RV sites, and tent sites are all on offer for a total of 160 sites. Fires and pets are allowed. Drinking water is provided, too!

“San Clemente State Park is a great place to go camping and enjoy the beach. The campground is located on a bluff that offers great views up and down the coast. It’s also a great place to catch the sunset.” — The Dyrt camper Berton M.

3. Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove is pretty famous among Orange County dwellers. Many locals have enjoyed either a hike here, the awe-inspiring views of the beach from the highway, or a walk on the beach itself.

As stated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, “Crystal Cove State Park’s rolling surf, sandy beaches, tidepools, gently sloping hills, and deeply wooded canyons and ridges provide a delightful contrast to its urban surroundings. Located off busy Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove is one of Orange County’s largest remaining examples of open space and natural seashore.”

The campground therein, Moro Campground, provides an unbeatable way to experience the park. There are actually two campgrounds, an upper and a lower Moro Campground. The upper is primitive camping with 32 sites. Visitors can only get there by hiking in and tent camping. The lower, drive-in grounds are more famous and can be seen from the busy Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway).

The lower grounds offer both tent and RV sites for a total of 58 campsites. Pets are allowed and drinking water is provided. Price varies depending on what campground and type of site campers choose.

“Crystal cove campground is immaculate, clean, and amongst the best ocean views you can get in the OC without having millions to spend on a ritzy house on the water.” — The Dyrt camper Brandice S.

4. Blue Jay Campground

Tent in the back of a pick up truck in desert area.

Image from The Dyrt camper Fletcher G.

The Blue Jay Campground is a drive-in campground located in the Santa Ana Mountains and Cleveland National Forest. Many travelers are unaware that Orange County, like Los Angeles, has some local mountains and a national forest.

This place offers plenty of hiking and outdoor time for city-dwellers in need. The Blue Jay campground offers a true wilderness feel, which is rare for Orange County.

The campground costs $20 dollars per night and features 50 available campsites. These include group, RV, and tent campsites. Each site is equipped with fire rings and picnic tables. Dogs are allowed. Plus, there’s a few extra amenities like flush toilets, a sanitary dump, and water hookups.

“Feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere but so close to home! Perfect for a quick night trip.” — The Dyrt camper Dominique L.

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