in Camping / by Roofnest Team
Los Angeles is one of the most diverse and interesting cities in the world. Covering an area more than 500 square miles, it can feel impossible sometimes to escape the concrete jungle of LA. Thankfully, since a roof top tent makes quick camping trips easy and convenient, spending a few days away from LA is easier and quicker than you think.
Here are some of our favorite places to camp, all within a few hours’ drive of downtown Los Angeles. Of course, do take our drive time estimates with a grain of salt. LA will be LA, and traffic can dramatically increase your drive time over our estimates.
Malibu Creek State Park Campground
Travel distance and time: 35 Miles – 45 minutes
You don’t even need to really leave the greater Los Angeles area to find a great wilderness escape. Malibu Creek State Park is our first choice for quick trips to camping nirvana. The camp sites are well spaced, have plenty of room to stretch out, and there are full facilities with running water and hot showers. There is not a lot of tree cover, so privacy is a little lacking, but it’s a small concession to make.
Malibu Creek features several miles of hiking trails, some of the best wildlife spotting near LA, and you’re just a few miles from the beaches at Malibu if you feel like spending the day in the sun. If you are a fan of classic TV and cinema, Malibu Creek State Park is home to the filming location of M*A*S*H* and you can go check out the military medical camp for yourself. Over the last several years the site has been updated and enhanced with informational placards, a restored military ambulance and more.
Being so close to LA means that Malibu Creek is also very EV friendly. To add a little more spice to this particular road trip, we recommend you take the scenic route by coming in on Mulholland Highway.
Faria Beach Park
Travel distance and time: 75 miles – 1 hr 20 minutes
If you want to get a bit further away from LA, but don’t want to sacrifice amenities or activities, check out Faria Beach Park. Just up the Pacific Coast Highway (one of the best road trip drives on earth) on the north side of Ventura is Faria Beach Park.
You will be parked right on top of other campers, so privacy is almost non-existent, but in exchange, you get to camp right on the water. Open the windows on your Roofnest rooftop tent and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of the ocean as you drift to sleep.
If there is no space in Faria, the Rincon Parkway Campground is a series of parallel parking spaces on the PCH north of Faria providing even more camping space. All still right on the water of course.
Being a few miles up the road from Ventura means there are no compromises made when it comes to food and entertainment. When you wake up from your slumber by the ocean, head into town for breakfast and a quick shopping trip, or just go spend some time down on the pier. The proximity to Ventura also makes this another great option for all of you who want to do EV camping. There is a plentiful charging infrastructure in the region.
Joshua Tree National Park
Travel distance and time: West Entrance 130 miles – 2 hrs 20 min | South Entrance 150 miles – 2 hrs 45 min
No list of camping near Los Angeles would be complete without mentioning Joshua Tree National Park. One of the most beautiful and unique parks in the entire country, Joshua Tree is true wilderness that must be experienced. The desert plants and animals, coupled with the unique rock structures make Joshua Tree feel like visiting an alien planet.
The experience gets boosted to 11 when the sun falls. Being so far away from a major city, and tucked into a valley, Joshua Tree features some of the greatest night skies you can find without booking a trip to the space station. Expansive and clear views of the Milky Way are the perfect way to recenter yourself and remind you what makes camping so wonderful.
There is an EV charging station a few miles down I-10 from the South Entrance, but overall, Joshua Tree is one of the least EV-friendly excursions on the list. Keep that in mind when planning your camping vacation.
Horse Creek Campground at Horse Creek Recreation Area
Travel distance and time: 200 miles – 3 ½ hours
Another long drive with another worthwhile reward, check out the camping at Horse Creek Campground. Tucked up in the mountains, situated right next Lake Kaweah, Horse Creek is a great base station for a family vacation. The campground is situated on a ridge, providing stunning views, and the miles of trails and lake access means you will never run out of activities.
But the main reason we love Horse Creek so much is that it’s just a few miles away from the entrance to Sequoia National Park. Sequoia trees are some of the oldest and largest living things on the entire planet, and this one of the only places you can reliably find and see these incredible trees.
Just be careful with your rooftop tent, some of the “tree tunnels” in the state park have very strict height limits.
This is another one of those journeys that will be a little difficult for our Tesla and EV drivers out there. There is a Tesla Destination Charger between the campground at the entrance to Sequoia, but it’s just a 16kW unit, with no other chargers we can find in close proximity.
Los Padres National Forest
Travel distance and time: 90 miles – 1 hr 40 mins
The Los Padres National Forest is an incredible piece of wilderness that covers a large swath of southern California. Tucked into its borders you can find multiple hot springs, more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails, several OHV parks, and plenty of places to camp. The forest covers almost 3,000-square-miles of area, so it can be hard to pick a favorite location. For those of you looking to make a road trip from LA, one of our preferred camping areas is Wheeler Gorge. It’s on the Ojai side of the forest, so the drive isn’t too long, and it keeps you close to Ventura Beach, and Lake Casitas.
If you camp with a pet, Los Padres is one of the more dog friendly locations on this list. As long as you keep your furry companion leashed, there are very few places you can’t go in the National Forest. Most of the other camping locations on this list have pretty strict regulations on dogs, and very few places allow you to hit a hiking trail with a canine.
One big caveat with Wheeler Gorge and many of the campsites in the national forest is access to amenities. This is proper camping in a proper wilderness, so bring your own clean drinking water and bog roll.
Los Angeles may be the city that paved its river, but thanks to the wild and untamed lands across California, you are never too far from a great road trip and camping destination. With the ease and convenience of a Roofnest roof top tent, a few hours of drive time is all that’s required you need to escape.
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