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Best Tent Camping: Southern California: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

Best Tent Camping: Southern California: Your Car-Camping Guide to Scenic Beauty, the Sounds of Nature, and an Escape from Civilization

by Charles Patterson


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Perfect Camping for You in Southern California

The Golden State provides a spectacular backdrop for some of the most scenic and diverse campgrounds in the country, from desert camping in Death Valley to glacier camping in the Sierras. But do you know which campgrounds offer the most privacy? Which are the best for first-time campers? Charles Patterson has traversed the entire region, from the Mexican border to coastal Malibu to the rugged Sierras, and compiled the most up-to-date research to steer you to the perfect spot!

Best Tent Camping: Southern California presents 50 private, state park, and state and national forest campgrounds, organized into four distinct regions. Selections are based on location, topography, size, and overall appeal, and every site is rated for beauty, privacy, spaciousness, safety and security, and cleanliness—so you’ll always know what to expect. The new full-color edition of this proven guidebook provides everything you need to know, with detailed maps of each campground and key information such as fees, restrictions, dates of operation, and facilities, as well as driving directions and GPS coordinates.

Whether you seek a quiet campground near a fish-filled stream or a family campground with all the amenities, grab Best Tent Camping: Southern California. It’s a book for tent campers who like quiet, scenic, and serene campsites. This guide is a keeper.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781634040464
Publisher: Menasha Ridge Press
Publication date: 04/02/2018
Series: Best Tent Camping
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 732,045
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Charles Patterson, a Southern California native, daydreams about his next outdoor adventure every time he finds himself indoors, bound by some professional or otherwise mundane obligation. Naturally, he relishes the opportunity to explore further, pushing himself to greater lengths than most would tolerate. Writing Mountain Bike! Los Angeles County: A Wide-Grin Ride Guide forced Charles to spend many hours in the sticks, often alone, occasionally pondering the size of local mountain lion populations. It was a true adventure, and getting to write about it afterward and share his love for the outdoors was a blessing. Revising Best Tent Camping: Southern California is a natural progression because Charles’s banged-up body certainly can’t tolerate two-wheeled pursuits forever, and tent camping is an activity he’ll still be able to enjoy after his first walker, cane, or wheelchair purchase.

Read an Excerpt

Topanga State Park: Musch Trail Camp

Beauty 4 / Privacy 2 / Spaciousness 1 / Quiet 4 / Security 2 / Cleanliness 4

Just minutes from Los Angeles, go camping in the bohemian backwoods of Topanga Canyon.

Key Information

Trails leading to Musch Trail Camp can be found at Trippet Ranch: 20828 Entrada Road, Topanga, CA 90290

Contact: 310-455-2465,

Operated by: National Park Service

Open: Year-round

Sites: 8

Each site: Picnic table, fire ring

Assignment: First come, first served

Registration: Self-registration if park entrance station is closed

Parking: $10 per vehicle per day at Trippet Ranch

Facilities: Toilets, running water

Fee: $7

Elevation: 1,310'


  • Pets: Prohibited
  • Fires: Strictly prohibited
  • Alcohol: No restrictions

Centered in the foothills of the bohemian hipster enclave known as Topanga Canyon, Musch Trail Camp is one of the Santa Monica Mountains’ best-kept secrets. Of all the campsites detailed in this book, Musch Trail Camp is the closest, as the crow flies, to the big city of Los Angeles. Don’t let that turn you off, though; Musch Trail Camp gives you a wonderfully unfiltered dose of Topanga Canyon’s natural wonders and scenic beauty. There’s a reason people pay big bucks on Airbnb to rent yurts and humble dwellings to stay in this place. It has its own special brand of magic that anyone can appreciate, even if you don’t eat raw foods or do yoga.

For years, Musch Trail Camp has stayed off the radar. In fact, few Topanga Canyon residents even know about it, despite it being right in their backyard. This can be attributed to the campground’s small size—there are only 8 sites—and, the fact that you’ll need to hike in a short distance to reach the sites. However, these two factors don’t explain everything. Perhaps it’s simply hard to believe there could be a campsite so close to civilization. In the public psyche, camping in the Santa Monica Mountains is almost exclusively limited to Malibu Creek State Park.

Once your skepticism goes away and you start to believe this campground is a real place, pack your stuff and go camping accordingly. Once you park your vehicle at Trippet Ranch (see directions on page 48). It’s just a short walk from the parking lot via the Musch Trail. Once you’ve arrived at Musch Trail Camp you’ll find picnic tables, bathrooms, and running water. It’s one of the smallest officially sanctioned campgrounds in California, but also one of the sweetest.

Miles and miles of great trails to hike, some of Topanga’s best, are easily accessed from Musch Trail Camp. Eagle Rock shouldn’t be missed. You can get there by taking the Musch Trail northward from the camping area. After a few switchbacks, this singletrack terminates at East Topanga Fire Road, where you’ll turn left and reach Eagle Rock after a short, moderate ascent. Fortunately, all of the major trails in this area are visible on Google Maps, so navigation is simple. Or you can simply hang out and take it all in. Musch Trail Camp is situated above much of Topanga’s residential properties, so from the right vantage point, you might not see any sign of civilization as you stare out above the oak trees.

You can camp here year-round, but spring and early summer are probably best. In April and May, you’ll be greeted with mild temperatures and full-bloom flora everywhere you look. In late summer, the warm-dry Santa Ana winds start to blow, making for night temps in the low 80s. Winter has its own delights, but temperatures can drop below freezing at night, so be prepared with appropriate clothing and sleeping arrangements.

The area has a few natural hazards to be aware of. Poison oak is common in shaded areas all over the Santa Monica Mountains. Get acquainted with the appearance of this nefarious vegetation, and avoid touching it at all costs. This plant is particularly dangerous when it loses its leaves in the fall and winter. In these seasons, avoid anything that looks like a brown twig sticking out of the ground. You should also be on the lookout for western diamondback rattlesnakes, particularly in summer and fall. These docile, beautiful, yet highly poisonous creatures aren’t aggressive when unprovoked, but they can deliver a very nasty defensive bite if accidentally trampled on. If the unthinkable happens, seek medical attention immediately. There’s also a very small population of mountain lions dispersed over the Santa Monica Mountains, but they’re almost not worth mentioning. These big cats are so elusive they almost don’t exist. Unless you’re a deer or rabbit, you have nothing to worry about.

Groceries can be had at either of Topanga’s markets—Topanga Creek General Store (141 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290) or Fernwood Market (446 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290). For anything else you might need, whether it be hippie jewelry, vintage clothing, incense, yoga lessons, fine art, or fancy dinners, look no further than the Topanga town center, roughly located at 122 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290. Those apt to enjoy such attractions could easily get lost here, forgetting all notions of camping.

Topanga Canyon is a magical place, with a trippy, unique vibe that sets it apart from nearby, comparably stuffier, snobbier neighborhoods like Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills, and Brentwood. At Musch Trail Camp, you can experience all of Topanga’s charms for pennies on the dollar. Do yourself a favor and visit this place. It’s well worth it.

Getting There

From Los Angeles, drive east on I-10 until it ends and becomes CA 1 (Pacific Coast Highway). Driving west, stay on CA 1 for 5.8 miles until you reach CA 27 (Topanga Canyon Blvd.) and turn right. Drive into Topanga Canyon for 4.7 miles, then turn right on Entrada Road. After 0.7 mile continue hard left on Entrada Road at the three-way intersection. The entrance to Trippet Ranch will be on your left, 0.4 mile from the intersection. The address is 20828 Entrada Road, Topanga, CA 90290.

GPS Coordinates: N34° 06' 11" W118° 35' 02"

Table of Contents

Southern California Campground Locator Map iv

Map Legend vii

Preface viii

Best Campgrounds ix

Introduction 1

The Coast 9

1 Catalina Island: Two Harbors Campground 10

2 El Capitán State Beach Campground 13

3 Fremont Peak State Park Campgrounds 16

4 Kirk Creek and Plaskett Creek Campgrounds 19

5 La Jolla Valley Hike-In Campground 22

6 Leo Carrillo State Park Campground 25

7 Malibu Creek State Park Campground 28

8 Montana de Oro State Park: Islay Creek Campground 31

9 Pinnacles Campground 34

10 Point Mugu State Park: Sycamore Canyon Campground 37

11 Point Mugu State Park: Thomhill Broome Campground 40

12 Reyes Creek Campground 43

13 Topanga State Park: Musch Trail Camp 46

The Desert 49

14 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Arroyo Salado Primitive Campground 50

15 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Blair Valley Primitive Campground 53

16 Joshua Tree National Park: White Tank Campground 56

17 Mid Hills Campground 59

18 Red Rock Canyon State Park: Ricardo Campground 62

19 Saddleback Butte State Park Campground 65

20 Vallecito County Park Campground 68

The Northern Sierras 71

21 Atwell Mill Campground 72

22 Buckeye Campground 75

23 Cold Springs Campground 78

24 Dorst Creek Campground 81

25 East Fork Campground 84

26 Fairview Campground 87

27 Four Jeffrey and Sabrina Campgrounds 90

28 Horse Meadow Campground 94

29 Kern Plateau Dispersed Camping Area 97

30 Lower Peppermint Campground 100

31 Minaret Falls Campground 103

32 Moraine Campground 106

33 Princess Campground 109

34 Quaking Aspen Campground 112

35 Rancheria Campground 115

36 Redwood Meadow Campground 118

37 Saddlebag Lake Campground 121

38 Tillie Creek Campground 124

39 Trapper Springs Campground 127

40 Trumbull Lake Campground 130

41 Twin Lakes Campground 133

42 Vermillion Campground 136

43 White Wolf Campground 139

The Southern Sierras 142

44 Dark Canyon Campground 143

45 Hanna Flat Campground 146

46 Heart Bar Campground 149

47 Laguna Campground 152

48 Marion Mountain Campground 155

49 Palomar Mountain State Park: Doane Valley Campground 158

50 William Heise County Park Campground 161

Appendix A Camping Equipment Checklist 165

Appendix B Suggested Reading and Reference 166

Appendix C Sources of Information 167

Index 169

About the Author 175

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