Best Campgrounds in Los Padres National Forest

Find detailed reviews and photos from campers, hikers, and nature lovers about the most popular campgrounds in the Los Padres National Forest.

The Los Padres National Forest is located along the Pacific Ocean coast in southwestern California. The forest covers an area of 1,754,780 acres. Twenty-seven of the 55 developed campgrounds meet the selection criteria.

Los Padres National Forest extends from Carmel, California (north of Big Sur) to Santa Barbara, California, then across Salinas Valley.

With its varied topography, vegetation, and wildlife, the Los Padres National Forest provides visitors with a wide range of recreational opportunities.

The forest, which stretches from Ventura to Monterey and includes most of the mountainous land along California’s coast, is diverse, with everything from rivers to beaches and mountains to streams.

Los Padres National Forest, a popular recreation destination for locals and tourists, is a vast playground for hiking, backpacking, fishing, swimming, rock climbing, horseback riding, biking, and other outdoor activities.

With parts of the forest only 15 minutes from Santa Barbara, it’s an ideal spot for a day hike, an after-dinner stroll, or some spectacular photo opportunities.

Camping in Los Padres National Forest is optional if you want to spend more time connecting with nature.

The following are some of the most popular and best camping spots you can book for your next camping trip:


Mount Pinos Campground

Mount Pinos CampgroundBreathe deeply, relax, and find balance at Mt. Pinos, the Native American Chumash World centre. Chumash Indians considered the centre of the world to be “Iwihinmu,” meaning “where everything is balanced” in Chumash.

The 7,800-foot-high campground, with views of mountains and valleys, is an ideal starting point for several biking and hiking trails. In addition, the dark and clear night skies make this a picture-perfect location for stargazing.

The Mount Pinos Campground is in Ventura County, about 15 miles west of Frazier Park on Cuddy Valley Road (9N24) and about 18 miles west of Interstate 5. There are access roads to Interstate 5, Frazier Mountain Park Road, and Cuddy Valley Road (9N24).

The campground is located about two miles west of the larger McGill Campground at 7,800 feet. The surrounding vegetation is made up of old-growth Jeffrey Pine and white fir forest and a variety of smaller brush and shrub species.

Mt. Pinos Campground is primarily used for weekend camping. The majority of users are from the Los Angeles Basin and the southern San Joaquin Valley.

There are 19 family units in the campground, each with a picnic table and a fire ring. There are paved roads throughout the campground and parking spots. The site has two pit toilets with four risers.

Water is no longer available, but remnants of the old water system still exist. There is one large trash bin located in the centre of the campground for garbage collection and disposal.

The regular operating season is from May to October, but this can vary depending on the weather and snowpack.


Plaskett Creek Campground

Plaskett Creek CampgroundThe sound of the surf will lull you to sleep as you snuggle up in your tent, which is shaded by a canopy of Monterey pine and cypress trees.

There is no place like Plaskett Creek Campground in Los Padres National Forest if you’re a surfer, spearfisherman, or beach bum.

The campground is located directly across Highway 1 from Sand Dollar Beach, the longest stretch of sandy beach in the Big Sur area.

A five-minute walk with a board or two in tow will bring you to the shores of Big Sur’s crystal clear waters.

Booking one of the 40 available campsites here can be difficult, so plan ahead of time if you want to camp at Plaskett Creek in Los Padres National Forest.

There are no hookups, but there is potable water, sinks, and flush toilets, and each campsite has a picnic table and a campfire ring with a grill.


Wheeler Gorge Campground

Wheeler Gorge CampgroundThere are 69 family campsites and six double suites for larger groups at Wheeler Gorge Campground. It can fit RVs up to 35 feet long.

The campsites are shaded and close to beautiful streams and rocky mountains. Most sites require a reservation.

At Wheeler Gorge Campground, each campsite has a table, grill, and fire ring. There is, however, no potable water and no dump station.

Across the campground is the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center, which features museum-style exhibits, interpretive displays, and naturalist programs.

The Wheeler Gorge Natural Trail is a half-mile loop trail that follows a peaceful stream through the Riparian and Chaparral habitat.

You can camp in the Los Padres National Forest near towns like Ojai and Ventura and drive into town for a delicious, warm breakfast to start your day after sleeping under the stars.


Chula Vista Campground

Chula Vista Campground

The Chula Vista Campground, located in a welcoming grove of Jeffrey pine, is an excellent place to camp, relax, and stargaze.

There is plenty of hiking and mountain biking nearby, so bring some water and create some memories.

Mount Pinos is one of the best places in Southern California to view the night sky. The Chula Vista parking lot is the best place on the mountain to see the stars.

Although there is no wrong choice when choosing a campsite here, following the small spur trail on your left will lead you to one of three great spots: sites 10, 11, and 12.

Their view of the meadow is the best, and they have plenty of shade under the pine trees, where Nuttall’s woodpeckers drum on the trees.

Each site has a picnic table, a fire pit with a grill, and chipmunks to keep you company in this genuinely secluded setting.

You’ll need to bring your water, and the vault toilets are currently closed, so it’ll feel like you’re camping in the backcountry.


Kirk Creek Campground

Kirk Creek CampgroundKirk Creek Campground is one of the most popular campgrounds in Los Padres National Forest, so getting a spot may require some perseverance and ingenuity.

But as soon as you enter the campground, you’ll understand why these campsites are so challenging to find.

This picturesque, no-filter-required campground is only five miles from Sand Dollar Beach.

However, make sure you properly store all of your food and drink because raccoon gangs are rife at Kirk Creek, and they are not shy.


Reyes Peak Campground

Reyes Peak CampgroundCampground Reyes Peak has spectacular views of the Cuyama Badlands and the Channel Islands, located near Santa Barbara.

You can explore the Chorro Grande Trail, Raspberry Spring Trail, or Reyes Peak Trail after settling into the quaint camp in a grove of pines and fir.

You’ll be looking forward to that cooler full of cold beers waiting for you back at camp after all that hiking!

Ride along the stunning Santa Barbara coast, the central Monterey coast, or anywhere in this vast forest.

This campground also provides fishing in the forest’s rivers and streams, hiking in the Ventana wilderness, horseback riding in the Saint Lucia Mountains, paddling, swimming, and other activities.


Colson Canyon Camp

Colson Canyon CampColson Campground is a primitive campground about 40 miles from Santa Maria, California. There are five campsites available, each with tables and fire rings.

There is no running water or a toilet. However, because of its proximity to the Alejandro Trail, this campground is popular with hunters.

This small and charming camp is first-come, first-served, and provides a tranquil base to explore the surrounding natural beauty. Mountain biking, hiking, campfires, and endless stargazing await!

Take the Betteravia exit off Highway 101 and head east. Continue on Betteravia until you reach Tepusquet Mesa Road, then on Tepusquet until Colson Canyon Road.

After about 12 miles, turn right on Colson Canyon Road to leave Colson Campground. Again, vehicles with high clearance are recommended.


Mount Figueroa Campground

Mount Figueroa CampgroundIt’s springtime at Figueroa Mountain! Bring out your flower identification books because these hillsides are known for their abundance of wildflowers.

During their migration, birds come from all over to stop at this beautiful spot, and so do people—because it is so close to various trailheads, this campground can be used as your home base for quick access to more fun.

The grounds are vast and dispersed, with a first-come, first-served policy. So plan ahead of time for your water needs and stay hydrated throughout your stay!

The cherry on top would be picking up a growler from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company on your way.


Pine Mountain Campground

Pine Mountain CampgroundThere are seven campsites in a circle, arranged around a large open field at the centre of Pine Mountain Campground, located in a small valley near the summit of Pine Mountain.

It’s time to watch them. At the high elevation Pine Mountain Campground, California Condors soar.

You can enjoy peace, solitude (and, if you do not camp with anyone else, have a chance to connect with your wild side) at these remote and spacious locations.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, some nearby trails are great for viewing wildflowers and wildlife.

This campground has tables, BBQ grills or fire rings, and one pit toilet. Because there is no water available, please bring your own.


We hope you enjoyed our blog and that you found a suitable location for your next camping trip. We also have articles on camping equipment and the Best Camping Spots in the Upper Peninsula.

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