Tent camping along the coast of California

Tent camping along the coast of California

Los Angeles, this city can be BUSY! I mean the highways are all over the place, the traffic is packed, the drivers aren’t very friendly, lots of people are trying to “make it big” here, there’s a lot of ego and fakeness here, and so on. Sometimes you gotta go back into nature and retreat into silence. The mountain man in me definitely needs this is quality time outdoors…

So let’s go explore some of the parks around the Los Angeles area. 🙂



View Camping around Los Angeles in a larger map

Looking at the map above, there’s a few places that are marked. Starting in the southeast and moving northwestish up the coast, we have:

  1. The Venice/Santa Monica/Marina del Rey area I’ve been hanging out in in town, just for reference.
  2. Topanga State Park.
  3. Malibu Beach RV Park.
  4. Leo Carrillo State Park.
  5. The town of Ojai, a town I have recently fallen in love with and want to go spend more time in.

Camping Along the Pacific Coast Highway Near LA

So LA is right along the coast. There’s camping available if you drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (I’ve long been wanting to drive the PCH!), but most of the camping is pretty expensive. As in $35/night expensive at the state parks. Yikes! I asked a ranger if there’s any free camping along the PCH and she laughed. However, (!) if life happens to bring you opportunities to make friends with someone who lives along the coast, you just may score a free place to camp… *wink wink*

Actually, the guy I met here has also done a lot of world traveling and we’ve had lots of great discussions and sharings on experiences we’ve been blessed to have. One thing that I particularly enjoyed was our conversation on how to stay in amazing places all over the world… for FREE. We talked about some of the more universal aspects of it like having a certain mindset and vibrational alignment with the universe, as well as some more specific techniques like how to get people to eagerly invite you onto their sailboats, into lakeside mansions, and into areas that you would otherwise not be able to have access to.

Definitely useful stuff for those of us who love to travel! 🙂

Car Camping at Leo Carrillo State Park

So this was the first place that I went camping. After paying the $35 (and having my interest sparked in figuring out how to do this for less), I drove in to my campsite and laid out my sleeping bag.

Car Camping at Leo Carrillo SP

Car Camping at Leo Carrillo SP

You can see I didn’t bother to set up my tent. It’s great being able to sleep under the stars… 😉

I also didn’t stake down my groundsheet (the footprint for my tent). The ground there was way too hard to drive a stake down into and there weren’t any rocks to weigh down the corners, but fortunately it wasn’t too windy so it really wasn’t a big deal. I love easy setup and easy tear down camping! It doesn’t get much simpler than this. 🙂

I got here pretty late in the evening since I had things to do in town earlier that day and the view through Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway looked like this…

Malibu coastline

Malibu coastline

After a wonderful sleep overnight in the park, I got up in the morning, packed up my stuff, and took a little walk, wanting to see where exactly I was. When I returned to campsite, the next night’s campers had already arrived and set their stuff down on the picnic table. I didn’t have to check out until noon and since it was still technically my site and they weren’t there anyways, I sat down and relaxed.

There was a bunch of wildlife around so I grabbed my camera and started snapping away.

Crow takeoff divebomb

Crow takeoff divebomb

I also noticed that a bunch of squirrels were around. In camping you learn about this thing called bearbagging. Basically the idea is that bears can smell really well and if they smell your food, there’s a chance they’ll follow their noses and go after it. If the food is in your tent with you, uh oh… To counter this, what you do is hang a bearbag. Basically you hang a bag from a branch way up in the air, at least a good 10-12 feet up or higher. Since bears can climb, you don’t want it near the trunk of the tree. You want it out away from the trunk, down the branch a bit. Well anyways, bearbagging doesn’t help with just bears. It also helps with smaller guys like raccoons and, as seen here, squirrels!

Squirrels following their nose

Squirrels following their nose

At first when I saw the squirrels trying to get into the garbage bag, I went over to it (they scattered) and tightened the opening, figuring I’d do my part to help protect their stuff. Sitting back down, I grabbed my camera and happily observed.

(Note: This shot is actually a composite of several shots of some of my favorite moments, photoshopped together into a single shot. There were really only like 3 or 4 squirrels, but I spiced it up a bit for effect.) Can you find the fifth squirrel going for the gold? 😉

After heading out of Leo Carrillo, I went over to the beach and found some fun areas to play, in particularly this rock formation with waves rushing in and out of.

Rocky wave-filled playground

Rocky wave-filled playground

What’s around this area? There’s these rocks, waves, musses, crabs, seagulls, a cave, and more! Watch the video below for a guided tour around this area. 🙂

In this area, noticing that the waves would periodically and somewhat unpredictably go in and out of the maze of rocks, I jumped on in to play a game of “Dodge the waves.” 😀

Waves coming in through the rocks

Waves coming in through the rocks

If you’d like to play as well, watch the video below. We’ll go on a first-person view with camera in hand, as well as set down the camera and watch from a third-person position as I run around and go up and down the rocks. 🙂

Hiking and Camping in Topanga State Park

Doing a little research on cheaper places to camp, I discovered a place named Topanga State Park which offers a $7/night campsite. You have to hike in a mile to get to it, so it’s not as popular as drive-up camping. Due to budget cuts here in California, it’s only open Friday and Saturday night. However, that’s two nights to do some camping away from the city, at a low price!

You ready to go hike in and explore the Santa Monica mountains? I know I am! Let’s do it!

Trail maker at the start of the hike into Topanga

Trail maker at the start of the hike into Topanga

Pretty quickly when you start hiking in, you realize this is gonna be a pretty hike. 🙂

Hiking in

Hiking in

Most everywhere you go here, you’ll see wildflowers and mountains, the highlights of the hike here. It’s been a while since wildflowers have been featured on my hikes…

Golden flowers and mountains

Golden flowers and mountains

Now I don’t know too much about botany and the names of flowers, but I passed by this older couple shooting pictures of the wildflowers. They knew more about the names and details of some of the local plants and started sharing some cool information with me. For example, in the picture below, the orange splotches are actually parasitic plants, and if you touch them you’ll find they’re actually wet!

Hiking past orange parasitic plants

Hiking past orange parasitic plants

There were also a bunch of little dudes along the way, in particular the salamanders. They like to hang out on rocks and other warm places. (They must be cold-blooded.) When they scamper by and scatter about, the pitter patter of their feet are really loud. Although they have visual camouflage, they’re really easy to hear, both when they’re on open terrain or running through crackly bushes.

Salamander with a stubby tail portrait

Salamander with a stubby tail

This one had a stubby tail and let me get in really close to shoot this portrait. His (her?) body was only about 2 inches long or so. With tails, they look much longer.

Salamander with a tail

Salamander with a tail

The tail is longer than the body itself!

Along the salamanders you could occasionally find these horned lizards. This one was particularly cool. Moving slowly towards it to take its picture (as opposed to a predator-like quick strike) without blocking out the light of the sun (which usually causes animals to scatter as it’s like an instinctual sense of being overtaken), this lizard let me snap a few shots before trotting away.

Horned lizard

Horned lizard

His camouflage is pretty awesome, isn’t it?

Near my campsite, which offered a building with running water, a sink, and two private bathrooms (luxury!!), as well as toilet paper, picnic tables, and cleared out dirt areas for tent setup, there was this beautiful meadow…

Meadow during a sunny afternoon

Meadow during a sunny afternoon

Now one great thing that I’m quite fond of is variable weather and lighting and how those changes affect the scenery. Here’s the same location the following morning when a layer of fog had rolled in overnight.

Meadow in the fog

Meadow in the fog

Similarly, here’s a shot of the mountains in the evening as the sunbeams shine in from the side as that fog begins to roll in.

Mountains at sunset

Mountains at sunset

After camping that evening and having some wonderful conversations with fellow campers and a runner that went by, the next day I broke camp, brought my camping gear back to the car (pretty easy when it’s only a mile away), switched to my daypack, changed from boots to trailrunners, and went for a dayhike/trailrun.

Hillside wildflowers

Hillside wildflowers

Where was today’s destination? A cool lookout called Eagle Rock.

Eagle rock

Eagle Rock

There were not only hiking trails, but also horse trails and mountain biking trails. We can all play!

Mountain biking trail

Mountain biking trail

After a few miles in, we started getting close to Eagle Rock.

Wildflower trail

Wildflower trail

Finally once I got up to Eagle Rock and climbed up to the top, I shot a quick video looking around.

Cool location. After enjoying this area briefly, the journey continued and I got to jog most all the way back, which was a lot of fun downhill! It’s nice to when you can go fast enough to where you have to be totally present and yet the terrain is safe enough to where you can stop quickly and control your descent when needed. Otherwise you just maintain a sort of extended controlled fall, letting gravity pull you down as you run forward. 🙂

Malibu Beach RV Park

So on a whim one day, I pulled into a restaurant and found that they had not only your regular indoor seating, but outdoor seating on the sand, with seagulls flying all around. It was funny because every time customers would leave, a seagull would swoop in to nom on the food before someone came by to clean the table. It was common to see gulls walking on the sand next to you or sitting on an umbrella above you.

After a delicious meal of macadamia coconut jumbo shrimp and a milkshake, a nice little splurge, I took a little walk to go explore some more.

Seagull on a perch

Seagull on a perch

It’s always a treat to stumble across amusing finds like this sand wheelchair. I hopped in and tried it out. It wasn’t as bouncy as I had hoped (that’s probably a good thing actually…), but it was fun nonetheless.

Sand wheelchair

Sand wheelchair

After this meal, I hopped back in the car and felt inspired to go check out this RV/tent camping area. I’m more of a backcountry guy who likes to go off into the woods, yet for some reason I felt like checking out this area and seeing what it was like.

RVs by the coast

RVs by the coast

What a place to park your RV and relax for a while as you’re out living on the road, no? 🙂

The area for tent campers was farther up near the top of the park so I drove my rental car up to the parking area there.

Rental car overlooking the water

Rental car overlooking the water

and with views like this, what a place to stop and enjoy a tasty lunch… 🙂

Coastal picnic area

Coastal picnic area

It’s nice that this place also offered Wifi so you could hop online if necessary.

Working on the laptop by the ocean

Working on the laptop by the ocean

As for the area I’d set up camp, you’re supposed to stop and check in before you enter the park, but the sign was blocked by an RV so I passed right by the office and drove right up to the top. Having done so, I got to see the various campsites available and found my absolute favorite one, right on the corner with a killer view.

Tent camping along the coast of California

Tent camping in Malibu

One wonderful synchronistic thing that happen (as seems to keep happening) is that the people next to me were discussing consciousness, karma, and spirituality. Turns out that one of the ladies runs an ashram in Colorado. Another guy was a guru who was flown in from India. The third guy there was a student of those teachers. We had a great time talking about travel, tents and camping gear, and a little smidgen of spiritual stuff. Kinda cool to find yourself placed right next to such people…

Although the coast of California runs primarily north-south, this area of the coast actually juts out to the side so this coast is actually somewhat east-west. Thus if you stand and face the water here, you’re actually facing south, and the west where the sun sets is off to your right.

Coastal camping sunset

Coastal camping sunset

So purty…

If you notice I don’t have just my tent set up without the protective rainfly. Since there wasn’t any rain in the forecast and I wanted to be able to see the stars through the mesh of the tent, I kept the fly off and slept in just the tent itself. Worked out well actually because the lady who ran the ashram was looking at getting the same tent so it was easy enough to show her mine.

In the morning with the sun rising down the lefthand side of the coast, it lit up the righthand side quite nicely. (If you look towards the sun in the morning or evening, the land is all shadowed and ugly, but the side that’s being lit up looks very nice.)

Looking west up the coast in the morning at the RV camp

Looking west up the coast in the morning at the RV camp

Hello RV’s! While here I took some time to stroll through the park and check out the RV’s, seeing what that lifestyle is like, what options are available, how it compares to tent camping and traveling in a car, and so on. Definitely a similar and yet uniquely different lifestyle!

and finally, I mentioned in the beginning about a town called Ojai, but given that I haven’t technically been camping there yet, I’m not going to post about it in this camping post and instead give it its own post. and with that said, onward! 🙂

3 Comments

  1. Robert
    on January 26th, 2013
    1

    I’m thinking about a camper van trip to Cali and would like to be somewhere near the LA area. Living on the cheap is essential. I have a long range (50 mile) parabolic WiFi antenna because I need internet access for my work. I heard there are only two campgrounds in LA county that allow overnight stays for around $20 a night. Any other suggestions? Free or under ten would be great. Cool pics and vids. I know this is an old vlog but maybe you’ll be checking it.

  2. Ariel
    on January 26th, 2013
    2

    That sounds like a pretty awesome antenna. Have you been getting that kind of range in real life? I’m guessing terrain and weather must all be pretty important at those distances.

    LA county camping can be pretty pricey. There’s different apps you can download to your phone if you have one that give info on various campgrounds, including free options like Walmart parking lots, truck stops, and rest stops, if those count as campgrounds… If you’ve got a camper van trip. They’re great places to park. Heck, if you’ve got a camper, you can always park along the side of the road somewhere relatively safe (lots of people do that near the beaches), you can pull into a shopping center with a 24 hour fitness where it’ll be okay to be in all night, etc. Plenty of options if all you need is a safe place to park!

  3. Thersa Dalfonso
    on March 13th, 2013
    3

    Hello there, I just found your blog through Google and I’m thankful I’d click the link. Regards

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