Camping Guide LA 2015

Where to go. What to do. Who to bring.

By The Editors
June 17, 2015 9:00 am
Camping Guide LA 2015

The woods may be wild, but you’re still a gentleman. So act like one.

Be nice and mindful of your neighbors. You don’t know the people you encounter in the woods. And some of them carry big knives.

Respect that some people also go to bed earlier than you do.

Don’t feed the animals.

Don’t litter.

Ensure your fires are extinguished.

Pee away from campsites and always with the wind at your back. And don’t pee on trees. Some don’t handle it well.

Know that medical marijuana laws don’t apply on Federal land. I.e., National Parks. Edibles are more discreet.

Do good.

Take only pictures; leave only footprints.

And above all, have fun.


The Spot
At Wellspring Ranch, you can see the stars at night and hear the birds chip from a cloud-like bed in a private yurt. It’s located 20 minutes northeast of Cayucos, which has some peaceful beaches, and makes a baby-sized ecological footprint thanks to solar panels and gardens throughout.

Wellspring Ranch
9150 Santa Rita Rd, Cayucos, CA 93430
(805) 995-9320

The Activity
What do you do here? Recenter your qi. Their outdoor showers, regular yoga sessions and healthy meals make for a salubrious glamp.

Pro tip
The lack of city lights nearby makes this area great for stargazing. Our sources at UCLA’s astronomy department say to use a guide. Either print out a Starmap or download StarWalk (works offline). Here’s what’s happening in the summer skies.

1. The Milky Way: Locate Sagittarius and Scorpius. They both point to a thick band of stars and nebulae. That’s it.

2. In summer, Saturn’s Rings are oriented such that they’re easy to spot with binoculars.

3. The Andromeda Galaxy, the closest major galaxy to ours, is about 2.5 million light years away. It can be spotted with the naked eye, but use binoculars. Located northward, near the Andromeda and Cassiopeia constellations.

4. The Perseids are an annual meteor shower that happen when Earth passes through the debris left behind from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. It peaks on August 13th.

Miguel Vieira


The Spot
Plan to get wet. The Matilija Creek still has water in it and is one hell of an adventure (just stay on the trail). You’re hiking a 14-mile path that meanders around and through a stream that cuts the rolling Los Padre Mountains in half.

The Matilija Canyon Trail

The Activity

You could camp at the Upper Matilija Campsite, returning after a night or two. Or you could hike half the first day and stop at the Middle Matilija Campsite, leaving yourself more time to swim in the creek. The US Forest Service says that the stream is fishable, but it’s probably too warm to catch trout.

The Pro Tip
If you can eat things that grow on the ground, you might as well drink them, too. So we enlisted the help of LA-based mixologist and avid forager Matthew Biancaniello for a cocktail recipe from foraged plants near this site. If you find yourself in the City of Angels, check out his pop-ups at the Fat Dog in North Hollywood.

Found in Los Padres National Forest

Purple Sage and elderberries 
2 oz gin
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz agave syrup (1:1 ratio of agave to water)
1/4 oz fresh ginger juice or a piece of ginger 1/8 inch thick
2 buds of purple sage
Handful of elderberries 

Muddle everything except the gin. Add the gin and ice. Shake and strain into a glass over fresh ice. Garnish with purple sage flowers on top and a small bunch of wild elderberries.


The Kayaking Trip
Santa Cruz and Anacapa Island, two of the eight Channel Islands, are among the least visited parks in America. Very few tourists. More space for you. Aquasports does multi-day expeditions. You’ll be responsible for your own food and gear, as these islands are undeveloped.

The Digs
There are few rustic campsites from which you can hike the volcanic hills and kayak through sea caves, tunnels, arches, blowholes and grottos, taking in all manner of sea mammal and bird along the way.

The Pro Tip
Mother Nature is kind to the shrewd eye, but capturing its beauty presents a challenge. So we linked up with the gentlemen at Collective Quarterly — the gorgeous travel journal that explores far flung destinations one issue at a time (out now: Issue 2, Mad River) — for quick and dirty tips on how to take better photos in the wild.

1. Set Yourself Up for Gold

The “Golden Hour” is the magic time of day just before sundown or just after sunup when you can capture nature at its best. Drop your pack and don’t stop shooting. Another one of our favorite times to shoot: early dusk, when everything looks ghostly and weird.

2. Landscapes

A good landscape image is all about composition. There has to be a triangle of interest that pulls the viewer through the landscape. Without a strong focal point and visual rhythm, your landscapes will look flat — like a bunch of trees and mountains pancaked on the screen.

3. Lighting

One of the biggest struggles of photographing while hiking is the way light is constantly going from harsh to soft as you move in and out of forest shadows, cloud shade and blazing high-noon sun. Using fill flash in these situations will fill in shadows for well-balanced light.

4. Shooting Mermen at High Noon

An appendix to our tip on flash: blending shadows and highlights is crucial to well-balanced color photos. It can also salvage an image that’s backlit during the brightest hours of the day. Without a strong fill flash, I wouldn’t have been able to shoot this Budweiser-swilling merman.

5. Stop to Smell the Rhododendrons

Be flexible enough to stop and spend time shooting in unexpected environments. Remember to enjoy the journey.

Justin Meissen


The Spot
The Bluffs Campground at San Onofre State Beach bleeds the heritage California surf aesthetic you associate with roving adventurists like Foster Huntington. There are two sites: San Mateo, which is about a 1.5-mile hike above the beach, and the Bluffs campground, which sits on the beach proper. You want the Bluffs. Camping vehicles work here, as do tents.

San Onofre State Beach

The Activity
San Onofre sports one of the longest waves in Southern California. Beginners and longboarders, this is your spot. Nature enthusiasts should hike to Trestles Wetlands Preserve, 1.5 miles away.

Pro Tip
Chef and avid surfer Andrew Kirschner, of Santa Monica Yacht Club, takes his 1984 Westfalia on surf trips and preps and cooks his bites on the two propane stoves in his whip.

“Of course I also carry a little Webber grill to set up outside the van,” he says.

The meal: “I to refuel with a hardy steak supper. It’s usually accompanied with some simple, seasonal grilled veggies.”

Prep on site: simply season it with premium olive oil, coarse sea salt and pepper.