Southern California | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Wed, 22 Nov 2017 23:51:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Southern California | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Death Valley Camping for Tents and RVs https://moon.com/2017/08/death-valley-camping-for-tents-and-rvs/ https://moon.com/2017/08/death-valley-camping-for-tents-and-rvs/#respond Wed, 30 Aug 2017 17:09:50 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58471 Between the hidden springs, salt flats, and ghost towns, a whole desert is waiting to be explored. Plan your Death Valley camping trip at one of these campsites.

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There are 12 campgrounds in Death Valley National Park; with the exception of Furnace Creek Campground, all are first-come, first-served. Finding an open site is rarely a problem; however, Texas Spring Campground in Furnace Creek may fill during spring weekends. There are also primitive campgrounds and many opportunities for backcountry camping.

Campgrounds are open seasonally (either Oct.-May or May-Oct.) depending on their elevation. Check the National Park Service website for seasonal alerts prior to heading out on a Death Valley camping trip.

bathrooms and a tent in Furnace Creek

Texas Spring Campground is tucked into the hills above Furnace Creek. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Furnace Creek Campgrounds

There are four campgrounds clustered around Furnace Creek, all with their pros and cons. Furnace Creek Campground is the only campground open in summer. Texas Spring and Sunset Campgrounds are open October 15 to May 1. Furnace Creek and Sunset Campgrounds both sit at 196 feet below sea level, making them oppressively hot in summer, and Texas Spring, at sea level, is not much higher or cooler. Site passes for Sunset and Texas Spring are sold at automated kiosks that take major credit cards and cash. Passes are for general overnight admission but do not specify sites.

Summer at Furnace Creek can create its own kind of ghost town due to the excessive heat at lower elevations. If you are planning to camp in Death Valley in summer, you would be wise to camp at higher elevations in other sections of the park.

Tip: All campgrounds can get very windy at night regardless of the time of year or the temperature. If you are tent camping, make sure you have your tent properly staked, and make sure everything that could be blown away is secured (camp chairs love to catch air when you’re not watching). If you’re relying on RV electric hookups, don’t be surprised by electricity surges.

Furnace Creek RV Park and Fiddlers Campground

Located at Furnace Creek Ranch, the privately run Furnace Creek RV Park and Fiddlers Campground (760/786-2345 or 800/236-7916, $18-38) offers 36 RV sites with full hookups and 35 RV or tent sites (no hookups). While not the place for those seeking desert solitude, it does include amenities such as wireless Internet and access to Furnace Creek Ranch’s pool, showers, and sports facilities. Communal picnic tables and fire pits are available within the campground but not at individual sites. Sites can be reserved year-round through Furnace Creek Ranch.

Furnace Creek Campground

The Furnace Creek Campground (877/444-6777, year-round, $18) is an RV and tent campground with 136 sites. It’s the only public campground that takes reservations (Oct. 15-Apr. 15) in Death Valley, so for busy weekends in spring or on holidays, or for travelers who like to have a set itinerary, this is a good option. From mid-April to mid-October, sites are first-come, first-served; reservations are not accepted and the fee is reduced to $12. The campground is right next to Furnace Creek Ranch, so while it’s easy to walk to dining and amenities, it also means this is not the serene desert escape you might be looking for. The surrounding valley and hills provide a beautiful setting, but the campground itself can be crowded and disorderly. There are some walk-in tent sites, which afford slightly more serenity. Day passes ($5) are available for the Furnace Creek Ranch pool and showers. This might be a selling point if you’re staying for several days or are visiting in the hotter parts of the year.

Sunset Campground

Sunset Campground (first-come, first-served, Oct.-May, $12) is across the road from Furnace Creek Campground and conveniently located near the services at Furnace Creek Ranch. With 270 sites, it caters mainly to RVs and is peaceful but spare, meaning it is basically a very scenically located parking lot. Amenities include water, flush toilets, and a dump station. It’s useful as an overflow if Furnace Creek Campground is full or to avoid some of the congestion there.

Texas Spring Campground

Texas Spring (first-come, first-served, Oct.-May, $14) shares an entrance with Sunset Campground, but it is a little more scenic, tucked farther into the hills with tamarisks offering shade at a few of the sites. This also means that it is the most popular campground in the area, and its 92 tent and RV sites fill up quickly. Amenities include water, picnic tables, fire pits, flush toilets, and a dump station.

Backcountry Camping in Furnace Creek

Furnace Creek has the most restrictions on where backcountry camping is allowed. Camping is not allowed on the valley floor from Ashford Mill in the south to two miles north of Stovepipe Wells. Camping is also not allowed directly off the West Side Road, but it is permitted along some of the Panamint Mountain canyon roads that are accessed by the West Side Road. To camp off the canyon roads, such as Johnson and Hanaupah Canyons, you must drive at least two miles in along any of the canyon roads from the West Side Road. (Pay attention to any posted signs, as the two-mile mark is a general rule of thumb, and some canyon roads may require you to go farther from the West Side Road.)

Backcountry sites are unmarked and have no amenities; look for spots that are flat, have easy turnouts, or look like they have been camped in before. The roads in this area become increasingly rough farther toward the canyon; if you’re driving a basic, high-clearance vehicle, such as a city SUV, you might not want to venture much past the two-mile mark. If you do snag one of these canyon spots, they can be austere and quiet with views of Badwater Basin glowing in the distance; however, they can be very windy, especially at night.

Amenities sign at Stovepipe Wells

The campgrounds at Stovepipe Wells feature views of the Cottonwood Mountains. Photo © aiwells/flickr, licensed CCBY.

Stovepipe Wells Campgrounds

The campground at Stovepipe Wells (190 sites, first-come, first-served, Sept. 15-early May, $12) has tent sites and RV sites with hookups. This is a central location for exploring a big swath of Death Valley. Beyond the prime location, the campground mostly resembles a parking lot, although the surrounding desert and Cottonwood Mountains are lovely in their austerity. The campground sits right at sea level, and the sites are completely exposed, which means it can be blazingly hot, and there is no privacy. Prepare to become friends with your neighbors. Amenities include picnic tables, potable water, and flush toilets. There is access to the Stovepipe Wells Hotel pool and showers ($4 per day).

Stovepipe Wells RV Park (14 sites, year-round, $32.75) shares space with the Stovepipe Wells campground; sites are located next to the General Store. RV fees include access to the swimming pool and to Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby.

Backcountry Camping in Stovepipe Wells

If you’re adventurous and prepared, backcountry camping might be a better and certainly more scenic option than the developed campground at Stovepipe Wells.

Backcountry camping is not allowed off Titus Canyon Road, Mosaic Canyon Road, Grotto Canyon Road, the first eight miles of Cottonwood Canyon Road, or on the valley floor from two miles north of Stovepipe Wells down to Ashford Mill in the Furnace Creek region. This list limits your options since it covers most of the roads that enter the region’s mountains and scenic bypasses.

Cottonwood Canyon makes a fine camp, as long as you camp beyond the first eight miles; it is scenic and has a water source. Chloride City, in the Nevada Triangle area, offers backcountry options in a scoured landscape with the Funeral Mountains as the backdrop. You’ll have no problem finding a place all to yourself out here.

picnic table and campfire in Death Valley

Campsites at Mesquite Spring are tucked along low hills. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Scotty’s Castle and Eureka Valley Campgrounds

There are no services in the Eureka Valley region—no hotels, restaurants, or gas. The park hubs of Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek are one to three hours’ drive south, and the closest services are in Big Pine, about 50 miles (two hours) west. Scotty’s Castle offers some bottled drinks and premade sandwiches, but hours are limited, and there are no other supplies. Bring your own food and water, make sure you have enough gas, and be prepared to camp.

Mesquite Spring Campgrounds

Mesquite Spring (30 sites, first-come, first-served, year-round, $12) is the only developed campground in the region. It’s a pretty campground, dotted with mesquite bushes and set along low hills less than five miles west from Scotty’s Castle. At an elevation of 1,800 feet, the temperature is bearable most of the year, except summer. Sites are exposed, but spaced far enough apart that you get some privacy. Though reservations aren’t accepted, it’s very likely you’ll get a spot, even in the busy spring season. Stop to reserve a spot first thing in the morning; pay via an automated kiosk, which takes credit cards and cash, and put your receipt on the site marker. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and access to flush toilets and water; there are no RV hookups, but there is a dump station.

Directions

The turnoff to Mesquite Spring is located 0.6 mile south of the intersection of Scotty’s Castle Road and Highway 190; from the turnoff, continue 1.9 miles south to the campground.

Eureka Dunes Dry Camp

Eureka Dunes Dry Camp (first-come, first-served, free) is a small, primitive maintained campground. A stay here puts you within easy distance of the remote Eureka Dunes. Sites have fire pits and sturdy cement picnic tables; there is no water and no electric hookups, but there is a pit toilet. If all the sites are full, there are backcountry camping spaces just beyond the campground off Eureka Road. The only thing that distinguishes them from the official campsites is their lack of a picnic table and a fire pit.

Directions

To get here from the intersection of Scotty’s Castle Road and Highway 190, head north for 2.8 miles and continue on Big Pine-Death Valley Road for 21.8 miles. At Crankshaft Crossing, marked by a sign and rusted crankshafts, turn left (southwest) to stay on Big Pine-Death Valley Road. The turnoff to Eureka Dry Camp is 12.2 miles farther. Turn left onto the South Eureka Road and drive 9.6 miles to the campground at the base of the dunes. Big Pine-Death Valley Road, as well as Eureka Dunes Road, are graded dirt roads usually suitable for passenger cars and good enough to bring a camper or RV to this spot.

Homestake Dry Camp

In Racetrack Valley, your best bet is Homestake Dry Camp (first-come, first-served, free), a primitive maintained campground. Four camp spaces have been graded so that you can comfortably park and pitch a tent. In the highly unlikely event that these sites are full, simply set up camp nearby. The only amenity is one decrepit pit toilet, and there are no fire pits provided, so fires are not permitted. Bring your own water. Despite the lack of amenities, the campground serves as a good base to explore the surrounding area—Ubehebe Peak, the Racetrack, Lippincott Mine, Ubehebe Lead Mine, and Corridor Canyon.

Directions

To reach Homestake Dry Camp, access the Racetrack Valley Road from where it leaves paved Highway 190 and drive 19.4 miles south to Teakettle Junction. Continue south on the Racetrack Valley Road for eight miles to the southern end of the Racetrack playa. Continue two miles south beyond the playa, a total of 29.4 miles from Highway 190, to a small campground sign and the graded camping spaces that mark Homestake Dry Camp.

Backcountry Camping near Scotty’s Castle and Eureka Valley

Only a few roads traverse this region, so it’s important to know where backcountry car camping is allowed. The main dirt road, Racetrack Valley Road, is tempting, but there is no camping between Teakettle Junction and Homestake Dry Camp.

Instead, consider turning left at Teakettle Junction and heading south along Hidden Valley Road toward Hunter Mountain. The road is passable in a high-clearance vehicle for 13 miles to the area around Goldbelt Spring, at the base of Hunter Mountain. Beyond Goldbelt Spring, the road becomes 4WD-only as it climbs Hunter Mountain.

If you plan to rock-climb or explore the Cottonwood Mountain Canyons, camp in the vicinity of White Top Mountain. White Top Mountain Road is located off Hidden Valley Road; take the left turn at the junction 3.2 miles south of Teakettle Junction. The road begins as passable for high-clearance vehicles, then requires a 4WD vehicle after about five miles. There is no camping allowed at the Ubehebe Mine or the Lost Burro Mine.

tent cabin in Death Valley

Panamint Springs Resort offers tent cabins. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Panamint Springs and Saline Valley Campgrounds

Panamint Springs Resort

The Panamint Springs Resort Campground (40440 Hwy. 190, 775/482-7680, 7am-9:30pm daily year-round, $10-65) has a total of 76 accommodations, including tent cabins (1-5 people, $35-65), RV sites (30- and 50-amp hookups, $20-35), tent sites (1 tent, 1 vehicle, $10), and one group site. All sites have fire pits; most have picnic tables. Amenities include drinking water and flush toilets. Best of all, they have hot showers (free with a site, fee for nonguests), a rarity in Death Valley campgrounds (Furnace Creek, the crowded hub on the other side of the park, is the only other campground with showers). The campsites can fill quickly, so make reservations well ahead of time. There is a surcharge of $5 for pets in RV and tent sites.

Emigrant Campgrounds

Emigrant Campground (10 sites, first-come, first-serve, year-round, free) is a tiny tent-only campground located at the junction of Highway 190 and Emigrant Canyon Road. It’s a pretty spot that more closely resembles a day-use area. Sites are small, close together, and exposed to the open desert. It’s too small to serve as a base camp for several days, but it will do in a pinch. At 2,100 feet elevation and with no shade, it can be uncomfortably hot in summer, although cooler than the valley floor (but almost any place is cooler than the valley floor). Amenities include picnic tables, drinking water, and restrooms with flush toilets.

Directions

Emigrant is located directly off paved Highway 190, approximately 21 miles east of Panamint Springs, so it’s easy to access and centrally located.

Wildrose Campgrounds

Cheerful and sunny Wildrose Campground (23 sites, first-come, first-served, year-round, free) is tucked away at the lower end of Wildrose Canyon. At 4,100 feet elevation, the camp sits at a good mid-level point to avoid the scorching temperatures of the valley floor in summer and the snow of the higher elevations. Unlike the seasonal campgrounds located at the higher elevations of the canyon, Wildrose is open year-round and rarely fills up. Its level sites don’t offer privacy or shade, but it’s a peaceful campground in a quiet and lovely section of the park. It’s a great place to set up a base camp for exploring the Emigrant and Wildrose Canyon areas, with easy access to Skidoo, the Charcoal Kilns, Wildrose Peak, and Telescope Peak. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, potable water, and pit toilets; the campground is also accessible to small trailers.

Directions

To get here from the north, take Emigrant Canyon Road south toward Wildrose Canyon from Highway 190 for approximately 21 miles, to the end of Emigrant Canyon Road. From the south, Trona Wildrose Road veers past it approximately 46 miles north of Trona. Trona Wildrose Road is prone to washouts, and the road was closed for most of 2014. Pay attention to park alerts, and check for road closures before planning your route.

Thorndike Campgrounds

Rocky and remote Thorndike Campground (6 sites, first-come, first-served, Mar.-Nov., free) is perched between the canyon walls high up in Wildrose Canyon. This campground lies between Wildrose Campground, downcanyon, and Mahogany Flat, at the top of the canyon, which means it can get overlooked. Since it’s lightly visited, you should have no problem getting a spot; you might even have it all to yourself. The combination of steep canyon walls, a perch off the winding canyon road, and winds whipping downcanyon through gnarled juniper trees gives this place a wild and forgotten feel. However, the sheerness of the canyon walls cuts in on the daylight hours, so when the sun dips, it can get chilly. Bring firewood, as the nights can get surprisingly cold, even in summer. However, this can be a welcome relief when it’s too hot at lower elevations.

Almost all campsites are shaded—a rarity in Death Valley. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets; there is no drinking water available (the closest drinking water is at Wildrose Campground, about eight miles downcanyon). If you want to hike both Telescope Peak and Wildrose Peak, this is a great home base.

At 7,400 feet elevation, snow can make access impossible to vehicles from November to March.

Directions

To get here from the north, take Emigrant Canyon Road south toward Wildrose Canyon from Highway 190 for approximately 21 miles, to the end of Emigrant Canyon Road at Wildrose Campground. At Wildrose Campground, take Wildrose Canyon Road another nine miles up the canyon. The pavement ends at seven miles, at the Charcoal Kilns. The gravel road is steep and rocky from here. A high-clearance vehicle is necessary; a 4WD vehicle is preferable when navigating snow, ice, or washouts. The road is not accessible to trailers. From the south, drive Trona Wildrose Road 46 miles north of Trona to the Wildrose Campground, and then drive an additional nine miles up Wildrose Canyon Road. Keep in mind that Trona Wildrose Road is prone to washouts. If the road is closed, you might have to bypass it.

Mahogany Flat Campgrounds

Perched at the top of Wildrose Canyon, Mahogany Flat Campground (10 sites, first-come, first-served, Mar.-Nov., free) offers cool temperatures, sweeping views, and access to Telescope Peak, the highest mountain peak in the park. At 8,200 feet elevation, expect cool nights, which can be a lifesaver in the summer. Many people use this campground as a jumping-off point to hike Telescope Peak, since the trailhead starts just outside the campground. It gets some traffic because of the popularity of Telescope Peak, but you are still likely to find a spot.

Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets; there is no drinking water available (the closest water is at Wildrose Campground, about nine miles down canyon). Snow may make the campground inaccessible November through March.

Directions

To get here from the north, take Emigrant Canyon Road south toward Wildrose Canyon from Highway 190 for approximately 21 miles, to the end of Emigrant Canyon Road at Wildrose Campground. At Wildrose Campground, take Wildrose Canyon Road another 11 miles up the canyon to the end of the road at the campground. The road gets slightly steeper and rockier past Thorndike Campground. A high-clearance vehicle is necessary; a 4WD vehicle is better when navigating snow, ice, or washouts. From the south, drive Trona Wildrose Road 46 miles north of Trona to Wildrose Campground, and then drive an additional 11 miles up the Wildrose Canyon Road until it ends at the campground.

Backcountry Camping in Panamint Springs and Saline Valley

Depending on where you go, backcountry camping could be your only option—or your best option.

In the Emigrant Canyon and Wildrose Canyon areas, developed campgrounds are the best bet; the most tempting backcountry choices here are off-limits. Backcountry camping is not allowed off Skidoo Road, Wildrose Canyon Road, or Aguereberry Point Road. These are all considered day-use only roads and are some of the only roads in the area.

Western Panamint Canyons Campgrounds

When exploring the western Panamint Canyons, backcountry camping is the only choice, unless you commute from Panamint Springs or Wildrose Canyon for day explorations only. Of course, this limits your fun. The Western Canyons, including Surprise Canyon and Jail Canyon, are popular backpacking and 4WD trails. Many of these canyons begin on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and cross into the jurisdiction of Death Valley National Park. When camping on BLM land, or for any backcountry camping, camp in a site that has already been disturbed (sometimes called a dispersed site or dispersed camping). To locate dispersed sites, look for pullouts or spurs off the road that are hard-packed and devoid of vegetation. These are not labeled as campsites, but if you know what to look for, you can have an enjoyable backcountry experience.

If you want to set up a main base camp or give yourself a fresh start for backpacking or exploring the 4WD trails in the canyons, the ghost town of Ballarat is a good place to start. There are no supplies aside from the cold soda and beer in the caretaker’s icebox, but you will be strategically located to get your fill of old mining camps, rocky creeks, and sculpted canyon walls.

Saline Valley Campgrounds

Saline Valley Warm Springs has semideveloped camping spots. These sites are used primarily by people visiting the springs. There are well-maintained pit toilets and outdoor shower stations with water piped from the hot springs. There are no fees for camping, and drinking water is not available. From Saline Valley Road, the primitive 6.8-mile road to the camp can be sandy and hard to follow.

Maps - Death Valley National Park 1e - Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park


Planning a Death Valley camping trip? Here's a look at all 12 campgrounds in the park, including rates and reservation information.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Death Valley National Park.

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Joshua Tree National Park Campgrounds https://moon.com/2017/08/joshua-tree-national-park-campgrounds/ https://moon.com/2017/08/joshua-tree-national-park-campgrounds/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 17:51:17 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58272 Backcountry, RV, or tent—whatever your overnight preference, Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds offer a little something for every outdoor adventurer.

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Backcountry, RV, or tent—whatever your overnight preference, Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds offer a little something for every outdoor adventurer.

There are seven NPS campgrounds located within the park boundaries, two of which—Black Rock Campground and Indian Cove Campground—accept seasonal reservations October through May. The other five campgrounds are first-come, first-served year-round.

Campgrounds in Joshua Tree start to fill up on Thursday mornings most weekends October through May, beginning with the more popular and centrally located campsites like Hidden Valley, Jumbo Rocks, and Ryan Campground, which have sites tucked in among Joshua Tree’s famous boulders and Joshua trees. By Thursday evening, your options are limited. If you can’t make it into the park by Thursday afternoon, and you don’t have a reservation, better have a contingency plan. Fortunately, there is overflow camping and private camping available outside the park boundaries. In summer, all campgrounds are first-come, first-served.

Only three campgrounds—Black Rock, Indian Cove, and Cottonwood—have drinking water. Even if you are staying at one of these campgrounds, it is wise to bring at least two gallons of water (per person per day) with you into the park.

There are no RV hookups at any of the park campgrounds. Black Rock and Cottonwood Campgrounds have RV-accessible potable water and dump stations, and there are spaces that can accommodate trailers under 25 feet at Hidden Valley and White Tank Campgrounds.

camper and car at a campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Black Rock and Cottonwood Campgrounds have RV-accessible potable water and dump stations, and there are spaces that can accommodate trailers under 25 feet at Hidden Valley and White Tank Campgrounds. Photo © Steven Kriemadis/iStock.

Campgrounds Inside Joshua Tree National Park

Black Rock Canyon Campground

Black Rock Canyon Campground (99 sites, 877/444-6777, $20) is in the northwest corner of Joshua Tree, just south of the town of Yucca Valley. Black Rock Canyon has a distinct geographic feel; instead of boulder jumbles, you’ll find rolling hills dotted with Joshua trees and yuccas. This is a good campground for first-time visitors, as drinking water is available and the location offers easy access to Yucca Valley for supplies. This campground also offers limited equestrian sites (by reservation only), and trailer and RV sites with water fill-up and dump stations are also available. Campground amenities include drinking water, flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and a small visitors center with maps and guides.

The road in dead-ends at the campground, and there is no driving access into the rest of the park. A series of hiking trails, including the short Hi-View Nature Trail, the view-filled Eureka Peak, Panorama Loop, and Warren Peak trails, leave from the campground and offer access into the park by foot. The trailhead for the 35-mile California Riding and Hiking Trail also starts at the campground.

Reservations are accepted online from October through May up to six months in advance. To get there from Highway 62 in Yucca Valley, turn south on Joshua Lane and drive five miles into the park.

Hidden Valley

Central Hidden Valley (44 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $15) tends to be the most difficult campground to get a spot in. On the southern end of the Wonderland of Rocks, the campground is popular with rock climbers … and everyone else. Its sites are picturesquely set amidst Joshua Tree’s signature boulders, and you are right in the heart of the park. The campground can accommodate trailers and RVs (under 25 feet), and amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. To reach Hidden Valley from the Joshua Tree Visitors Center on Highway 62, turn south onto Park Boulevard and continue 14 miles to the intersection with Barker Dam Road. The campground will be to the left.

Ryan Campground

Ryan Campground (31 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $15) is a scenic campground centrally located between Hidden Valley and Jumbo Rocks with campsites interspersed among boulders and Joshua trees. The adjoining Ryan Horse Camp (760/367-5545, $15) offers four equestrian sites by reservation only from October through May. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. To reach Ryan Campground from the Joshua Tree Visitors Center on Highway 62, follow Park Boulevard south for 27 miles, passing the Hidden Valley Campground. Immediately past the Keys View Road turn-off, the campground will appear on the right.

Sheep Pass Group Camp

Towering rock formations and Joshua trees surround Sheep Pass Group Camp (6 sites, 877/444-6777, $35-50), a tent-only group campground centrally located off of Park Boulevard in between Ryan and Jumbo Rocks Campgrounds. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are required and can be made up to one year in advance. The campground is 18 miles south of the West Entrance and 16 miles south of the North Entrance.

campsite with large rocks surrounding it in the desert

Jumbo Rocks is the largest campground in the park. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Jumbo Rocks Campground

Jumbo Rocks (124 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $15) is the largest campground in the park. Despite its size, sites fill up quickly thanks to a convenient location along Park Boulevard and access to plentiful rock climbing opportunities, as well as the Skull Rock Nature Trail. Popular sites are scenically tucked into the large rock formations for which the campground is named, but the sheer volume of sites leaves little privacy. This lends the place the feel of a small village, which may be good for families or groups. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. To reach Jumbo Rocks from the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, follow Utah Trail south as it becomes Park Boulevard and continue southwest for eight miles. From the West Entrance in Joshua Tree, it is a drive of about 24 miles.

Belle Campground

Belle Campground (18 sites, first-come, first-served Oct.-May, $15) is a small, low-key campground with cozy sites tucked amid a pile of rock formations. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. To reach Belle from the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, follow Utah Trail south as it becomes Park Boulevard and continue about 5 miles to the junction with Pinto Basin Road. Follow Pinto Basin Road 1.5 miles south, turning left onto Belle Campground Road.

White Tank Campground

The smallest campground in the park, White Tank (15 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $15) is a laid-back campground with sites tucked in amid scattered rock formations. Sites can accommodate trailers and RVs (under 25 feet). Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. White Tank is located just south of Belle Campground along Pinto Basin Road, about 7.4 miles south of the North Entrance.

Indian Cove

Indian Cove (101 sites, first-come, first-served June-Sept., $20) is one of two campgrounds in the park that accepts reservations (877/444-6777, Oct.-May) and it has drinking water available at the ranger station just two miles away. The sites are tucked into spectacular boulder formations and offer both group and RV (under 25 feet) camping options. Indian Cove sits on the northern edge of the Wonderland of Rocks and is popular with rock climbers; the north end of the popular Boy Scout Trail also begins here. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables, and access to drinking water.

The campground is located off Highway 62, between the towns of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, and is accessed via Indian Cove Road South. The road dead-ends at the campground, so there is no vehicle access into the rest of the park. The nearest park entrance is the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms.

campsite with table and chairs in Joshua Tree

Cottonwood Campground in Pinto Basin. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Cottonwood Campground

The area around Cottonwood Campground (62 sites, first-come, first-served year-round, $20) is much more lightly visited than the Hidden Valley region, which makes finding a site here slightly less competitive. Still, you should plan to be here by Friday morning on weekends from October through May. The campsites are scattered across an open desert dotted with creosote. Though there is little to divide them, the sites are nicely spaced and offer some privacy. The nearby Cottonwood Visitors Center is a fully stocked visitors center and bookstore, while hiking trails to scenic Lost Palms Oasis and Mastodon Peak depart directly from the campground. There are also trailer and RV sites with water fill-up and a dump station. The Cottonwood Group Campground (3 sites, 877/444-6777, $35-40) provides tent-only sites by reservation. Amenities include flush toilets, fire rings, picnic tables, and drinking water.

Reservations are not accepted. Cottonwood Campground is located in the Pinto Basin at the South Entrance to the park. From I-10 south of the park, take Cottonwood Spring Road north for about 10 miles. At the Cottonwood Visitors Center, turn right onto Cottonwood Oasis Road and continue 7.5 miles to the campground on the left.

Campgrounds Outside Joshua Tree National Park

Campgrounds in the park fill quickly October through May. Outside the park, options include backcountry camping on BLM land or at a privately owned RV park in Joshua Tree.

BLM Camping

Overflow camping is available on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land both north and south of the park. Note that BLM camping includes no amenities (toilets, water, fire pits, or drinking water). Fires are allowed in self-contained metal fire pits (provide your own) in the overflow camping south of the park, but are not allowed on BLM camping north of the park. Bring your own firewood.

For camping north of the park: Drive four miles east of Park Boulevard on Highway 62 and turn left (north) on Sunfair Road. Continue two miles to Broadway, then turn right (east) on Broadway, where the pavement ends. Drive one mile to a one-lane, unmarked dirt road (Cascade) at a line of telephone poles running north and south. Turn left (north) onto Cascade, and drive 0.5-mile until you pass a single-lane, unmarked dirt road. Camping is allowed on the right (east) side of that road for 0.5-mile beginning with the unmarked dirt road.

For camping south of the park: Drive six miles south of the Cottonwood Visitors Center, passing the park boundary sign. Just beyond the aqueduct, turn right or left on the unmarked water district road. Camping is allowed south of the water district road west and east of the Cottonwood Road. South of I-10, Cottonwood Road turns into Box Canyon Road; camping is allowed south of I-10 on both the east and west sides of Box Canyon Road.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground (2601 Sunfair Rd., Joshua Tree, 760/366-1213, first-come, first-served, $10 pp tent sites, $4 children 12 and under; $20-30 RV sites) is 14 miles north of the West Entrance. The property offers tent and RV camping on exposed desert. Sites include picnic tables and fire pits, and the campground has a small fishing lake, a camp store with firewood and basic supplies, RV hookups, hot showers, flush toilets, and a playground.

Backcountry, RV, or tent—whatever your overnight preference, Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds offer a little something for every outdoor adventurer. Find your perfect sleeping spot with this guide.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Palm Springs & Joshua Tree.

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Scenic Southern California Campgrounds with Swimming https://moon.com/2017/07/scenic-southern-california-campgrounds-with-swimming/ https://moon.com/2017/07/scenic-southern-california-campgrounds-with-swimming/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 23:37:29 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58505 There is no place like Southern California, where sun-swept beaches and inland coastal forests abound. However, the area is also known for its scorching temperatures—especially in the late summer months. These campgrounds will keep you cool as you enjoy the outdoors: with swimming options ranging from Sierra lakes and hot springs to Malibu beaches and swimming holes, there’s an aquatic adventure out there for everyone.

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There is no place like Southern California, where sun-swept beaches and inland coastal forests abound. However, the area is also known for its scorching temperatures—especially in the late summer months. These campgrounds will keep you cool as you enjoy the outdoors: with swimming options ranging from Sierra lakes and hot springs to Malibu beaches and swimming holes, there’s an aquatic adventure out there for everyone.

A stream flows over rocks, forming mini waterfalls and pools on its way to Bass Lake

The north area of Bass Lake has many streams and swimming holes to explore. Photo © Dill11/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Spring Cove Campground (on Bass Lake in Sierra National Forest)

Region: Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Scenic Rating: 8/10
Swimming: lake

This is one of several camps set beside Bass Lake, a long, narrow reservoir in the Sierra foothill country. Most of the lake is bordered by wonderfully sandy shores, which makes for good swimming and sunbathing. Expect hot weather in the summer. Boats must be registered at the Bass Lake observation tower after launching. The elevation is 3,400 feet. Another nearby option, just slightly north of Spring Cove, is Wishon Point (scenic rating 9/10), the smallest (and many say prettiest) of the camps at Bass Lake.

Note: Since publication, the landscape around Bass Lake has changed dramatically due to tree thinning, and thus there may be little shade at the campgrounds. Check here for more information as available.

A creek runs through boulders and green trees, a mountain and blue sky in the background

Wonderful scenery abounds and makes for an unforgettable hotspring experience. Photo © Vlad Butsky/Wikimedia, licensed CC BY.

Mono Hot Springs (on the San Joaquin River in Sierra National Forest)

Region: Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Scenic Rating: 8/10
Swimming: river, hot springs, lakes

This campground in the Sierra sits at 7,400 feet elevation along the San Joaquin River, directly adjacent to the Mono Hot Springs Resort. The hot springs are typically 104°F, with public pools (everybody wears swimming suits) just above the river on one side and the private resort (rock cabins available) with its private baths on the other. A small convenience store and excellent restaurant are available at the lodge.

Many find the hot springs perfect, but don’t worry if they’re too hot for your liking; the best swimming lake in the Sierra Nevada, Doris Lake, is a 15-minute walk past the lodge. Doris is clear, clean, and not too cold since it too is fed by hot springs. There are walls on one side for fun jumps into deep water. Tule Lake is another spring-fed option that is great for swimming, about a 3/4-mile easy hike past Doris Lake. The one downer: the drive in to the campground is long, slow, and hellacious, with many blind corners in narrow sections. Reservations are recommended, and they also have cabins.

A section of the river as it flows through Sequoia National Forest

A magical slice of the Kern River. Photo © Christine Warner Hawks/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Camp Three (on the North Fork of the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest)

Region: Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Scenic Rating: 9/10
Swimming: river

This is the second in a series of camps along the North Fork Kern River north of Isabella Lake (in this case, five miles north). There is a nice swimming hole in the river, but be careful of currents which can be dangerous at times. If this spot isn’t for you, Hospital Flat is just two miles upriver and Headquarters is just one mile downriver. The camp elevation is 2,800 feet. Note: No glass of any kind is allowed in this campground.

Lopez Lake Recreation Area (near Arroyo Grande)

Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 7/10
Swimming: lake, there is also a nearby water park

Lopez Lake, set amid oak woodlands southeast of San Luis Obispo, has truly gotten it right: there are specially marked areas set aside exclusively for waterskiing, personal watercraft, and sailboarding, and the rest of the lake is designated for fishing and low-speed boating. There are also full facilities for swimming, with a big beach area and two giant water slides, and a children’s wading pool—making this the perfect spot for camping with kids.

Another bonus is the scenic boat tours available on Saturdays, which get plenty of takers. A 25-mile trail system provides opportunities for biking, hiking, and horseback riding. The lake is just about perfect for just about everyone, and with good bass fishing to boot, it’s become very popular, especially on spring weekends when the bite is on. Other species include trout, bluegill, crappie, and catfish. The lake is shaped something like a horseshoe, has 940 surface acres with 22 miles of shoreline when full, and gets excellent weather most of the year. During the summer, there are ranger-led hikes and campfire shows available. Many campsites overlook the lake or are nestled among oaks. All boats must be certified mussel-free before launching.

Shoreline with gentle waves at sunset

A slice of life at El Capitán Beach. Photo © NOAA/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

El Capitán State Beach (near Santa Barbara)

Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 10/10
Swimming: ocean

This is one in a series of beautiful state beaches along the Santa Barbara coast. El Capitán has a sandy beach and rocky tidepools. The water is warm, the swimming excellent. A stairway descends from the bluffs to the beach—a beautiful setting—and sycamores and oaks line El Capitán Creek. A paved, two-mile bicycle trail is routed to Refugio State Beach, a great family trip. This is a perfect layover for Coast Highway vacationers, and reservations are usually required to ensure a spot. Refugio State Beach (scenic rating 9/10) to the north is another option, or Gaviota State Park (scenic rating 10/10, though there is a train that runs next to the camp) which includes a 0.5-mile trail to hot springs.

Pink, orange, and purple sea anemones under the sea at Anacapa Island

Swimming is taken to the next level with the undersea paradise at Anacapa. Photo © Ed Bierman/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Anacapa Island (in Channel Islands National Park)

Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 10/10
Swimming: ocean

This getaway does require a ferry ride, but it is worth it as it ranks sixth for best island retreats. Little Anacapa, long and narrow, is known for its awesome caves, cliffs, and sea lion rookeries that range near huge kelp beds. After landing on the island, you face a 154-step staircase trail that leaves you perched on an ocean bluff. From there, it is a half-mile hike to the camp. Other trails venture past Inspiration Point and Cathedral Cove and provide vast views of the channel. The inshore waters are a marine preserve loaded with marine life and seabirds, and, with the remarkably clear water, this island makes a great destination for snorkeling and sea kayaking. At only 50 minutes, the boat ride here is the shortest one to the Channel Islands.

Leo Carillo State Beach shoreline at sunset

Pristine views and so much ocean to explore! Photo: NPS / Public Domain.

Leo Carrillo State Park (north of Malibu)

Region: Los Angeles and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 8/10
Swimming: ocean

If you’ve always wanted to experience Malibu beaches, here is your chance to access an unspoiled one. The camping area at this state park is in a canyon, and reservations are essential during the summer and on weekends the remainder of the year. Large sycamore trees shade the campsites. The Nicholas Flat Trail provides an excellent hike to the Willow Creek Overlook for beautiful views of the beach. In addition, a pedestrian tunnel leads to a wonderful coastal spot with sea caves, tunnels, tide pools, and patches of beach. This park features 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, and surf fishing. In the summer, lifeguards are posted at the beach. (Some of you may remember a beach camp that used to be here—unfortunately, the once-popular spot was wiped out by a storm!)

Wildflower blooms of orange poppies on the hills

There are many beautiful hiking options around Lake Elsinore. Photo © Nick Doty/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

La Laguna Resort (on Lake Elsinore)

Region: Los Angeles and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 7/10
Swimming: lake

The weather is hot and dry enough in this region to make the water in Lake Elsinore more valuable than gold. Elsinore is a huge, wide lake—the largest natural freshwater lake in Southern California—where water-skiers, personal watercraft riders, and sailboarders can find a slice of heaven. This camp is along the north shore, where there are also several trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There is a designated area near the campground for swimming and water play; a gently sloping lake bottom is a big plus.

Fishing has improved greatly in recent years and the lake is stocked with trout and striped bass. Other fish species include channel catfish, crappie, and bluegill. Night fishing is available. Anglers have a chance to fish for Whiskers, a very special catfish. It is a hybrid channel catfish that was stocked in 2000. It is a genetic cross between a blue and channel catfish, meaning that Whiskers could grow to more than 100 pounds.

If you like thrill sports, hang gliding and parachuting are also available at the lake and, as you scan across the water, you can often look up and see these daredevils soaring overhead. The recreation area covers 3,300 acres and has 15 miles of shoreline. The elevation is 1,239 feet. While the lake is huge when full, in low-rain years Elsinore’s water level can be subject to extreme and erratic fluctuations. Boaters planning to visit this lake should call first to get the latest on water levels and quality. Those familiar with this area will remember it was once named Lake Elsinore Campground and Recreation Area.

Doheny State Beach at sunset. Shallow waters come onto the sand and palm trees are visible in the distance

Book your spot early – this scene is too good to resist! Photo © Sergei Gussev/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Doheny State Beach (on Dana Point Harbor)

Region: San Diego and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 10/10
Swimming: ocean

Doheny Beach is a gorgeous (and one of the most scenic) park with a campground that requires working the reservation system the first morning campsites become available. Some campsites are within steps of the beach, yet this state beach is right in town, at the entrance to Dana Point Harbor. It is a pretty spot with easy access off the highway. A lifeguard service is available in the summer, and campfire and junior ranger programs are also offered. A day-use area has a lawn with picnic spots and volleyball courts. Bonfire rings are set up on the beach. Surfing is popular, but note that it is permitted at the north end of the beach only. San Juan Capistrano is a worth-while side trip, just three miles away.

Green manicured lawn with a footpath and picnic table under a tree on the coast of Chula Bista Bayfront Park

This carefully maintained facility offers gorgeous landscaping and parking. Photo © Port of San Diego/Flickr, licensed CC BY.

Chula Vista RV Resort (in Chula Vista)

Region: San Diego and Vicinity
Scenic Rating: 8/10
Swimming: ocean, pool

Perfect for those who prefer to camp via RV, this RV-only park is about 50 yards from San Diego Bay, a beautiful, calm piece of water where waterskiing is permitted in designated areas. Each site is landscaped to provide some privacy and there is a pool in the middle of the site. The park has its own marina with 552 slips. An excellent swimming beach is available, and conditions in the afternoon for sailboarding are also excellent. Bike paths are nearby.


Find your perfect California Campsite with swimming access!

Want even more options for camping your way in California? Pick up a copy of Moon California Camping to learn more about these sites and hundreds of others up and down the Golden State.

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Best Secluded Camping in California https://moon.com/2017/06/best-secluded-camping-in-california/ https://moon.com/2017/06/best-secluded-camping-in-california/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 23:03:04 +0000 https://moon.com?p=57503&preview=true&preview_id=57503 Outdoorsman Tom Stienstra has identified dozens of the most-rarely visited secluded campsites in California. Here are 10 of the best places to get away from it all in both Northern and Southern California.

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California has some of the most beautiful campsites in the country, but getting a reservation can be a nightmare, with the reservation system usually booked months in advance. Three of these require reservations (you shouldn’t have to fight for them, but plan ahead!) and the other seven are first-come first-served and rarely visited. All ten are great campsites that will earn you membership into what author Tom Stienstra calls the 5 Percent Club: pristine, quiet spots where less than 5% of campers camp.

Orange and purple wildflowers bloom in front of a hilly California landscape

Wildflower blooms are exceptional in spring and can be seen from many campsites. Photo © BLM, licensed CC-BY.

Secluded Camping in Northern California

Mattole (King Range National Conservation Area)

Region: Redwood Empire
Scenic rating: 8/10

The Lost Coast is often overlooked by visitors because of the difficulty in reaching it; your only access is via a slow, curvy road through the Mattole River Valley, past Petrolia, and out to a piece of coast. The experience is like being in suspended animation—your surroundings peaceful and pristine, with a striking lack of people. One of the best ways to capture the sensation is to drive out near the mouth of the Mattole, then hike south on the Coastal Trail long enough to get a feel for the area.

This is a little-known camp set at the mouth of the Mattole River, right where it pours into the Pacific Ocean. It is beautiful and isolated. An outstanding hike leads to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse. Hike from the campground to the ocean and head south. It’s a level walk, and at low tide, there’s a chance to observe tidepool life. Perch fishing is good where the Mattole flows into the ocean, best during low tides. In the winter, the Mattole often provides excellent steelhead fishing. Check the Department of Fish and Game regulations for closed areas. Be sure to have a full tank on the way out—the nearest gas station is quite distant. Leashed pets are allowed, some facilities are wheelchair-accessible.

Two campers with backpacking backpacks take in the costal view at Mattole Camp.

One of the many picturesque views at Mattole. Photo © Bob Wick, licensed CC-BY.

Martins Dairy (Little Shasta River, Klamath National Forest)

Region: Shasta and Trinity
Scenic rating: 8/10

This camp is set at 6,000 feet, where the deer get big and the country seems wide open. A large meadow is nearby, directly across the road from this remote camp, with fantastic wildflower displays in late spring. This is one of the prettiest camps around in the fall, with dramatic color from aspens, elderberries, and willows. It also makes a good base camp for hunters in the fall. Before heading into the surrounding backcountry, obtain a map of Klamath National Forest at the Goosenest Ranger Station on Highway 97, on your way in to camp. Pets allowed on leashes.

Crater Lake (Lassen National Forest)

Region: Lassen and Modoc
Scenic rating: 8/10

This hideaway near Crater Lake rests at 6,800 feet elevation in remote Lassen National Forest, just below Crater Mountain (that’s it up there to the northeast at 7,420 feet). This 27-acre lake provides trout fishing, boating (gas motors are discouraged), and, if you can stand the ice-cold water, a quick dunk on warm summer days. Leashed pets are allowed.

Sinkyone Wilderness (Sinkyone Wilderness State Park)

Region: Mendocino and Wine Country
Scenic rating: 10/10

This is a great jumping-off point for a backpacking trip in the Sinkyone Wilderness on the Lost Coast, one of the few wilderness areas where a trip can be made any month of the year. The terrain is primitive, steep, and often wet, but it provides a rare coastal wilderness experience. Starting at the northern trailhead at Orchard Camp, or the southern trailhead at the Usal Beach campground, it’s an ambitious weekend tromp of 17 miles. This is a unique 7,367-acre park that is named after the Sinkyone tribe, which once lived in this area. It is called the Lost Coast because no highways provide direct access. Regardless, it has become surprisingly popular for backpackers on the California Coastal Trail. Drinking water is available at the visitors center.

Utica and Union Reservoirs (northeast Arnold, Stanislaus National Forest)

Region: Tahoe and Northern Sierra
Scenic rating: 10/10

These twin reservoirs are set in Sierra granite at 6,850 feet. Union is a beautiful and quiet lake that is kept that way with rules that mandate a 5-mph speed limit. Utica does not allow motors of any kind. Most of the campsites provide lakeside views. Fishing is often good—trolling for kokanee salmon—but you need a boat. The setting is great, especially for canoes or other small boats. This area was once a secret, but alas the secret is out and there are now three new, small campgrounds around the water’s edge. Remember to bring pack water in with you, as there is no potable water onsite. Leashed pets are allowed.

Angel Island State Park Walk-In/Boat-In

Region: San Francisco Bay
Scenic rating: 10/10
A picnic bench overlooks a stunning vista of the Bay with the Golden Gate bridge looming in the background. Taken at Angel Island State Park campsite.

Many camping spots at Angel Island afford stunning views of the surrounding Bay Area. Photo © Ray Bouknight.

Camping at Angel Island is one of the unique adventures in the Bay Area; the only catch is that getting to the campsites requires a ferry boat ride and then a walk of 1-2 miles, or a kayak or boat trip from the mainland directly to the camp. The payoff comes at the end of the day, when all of the park’s day visitors depart for the mainland, leaving the entire island to you.

This is one campsite that it pays to be prepared; book far ahead because the sites can book up months in advance. The group camp is popular with kayakers because of beach access. From start to finish, it’s a great trip, featuring a private campsite, often with spectacular views of San Francisco Bay, the San Francisco waterfront and skyline, Marin Headlands, and Mount Tamalpais. The tromp up to 798-foot Mount Livermore includes a short, steep stretch, but in return furnishes one of the most spectacular urban lookouts in America. Be ready for cold, foggy weather at night in midsummer. The park features more than 13 miles of trails, including Perimeter Road, a must-do for all avid cyclists. Bikes are also permitted on the park’s fire road system. Angel Island has a stunning history, including being used from 1910 to 1940 to process thousands of immigrants as they entered America; historic tram tours are available.

Secluded Campgrounds in Southern California

Mono Hike-In (Mono Creek, Los Padres National Forest)

Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
Scenic rating: 7/10

Not many folks know about this spot, so if you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing weekend, this is the spot for you. The camp is small and primitive, at 1,500 feet elevation on little Mono Creek, but Little Caliente Hot Springs is only one mile northeast of the campground. Mono Creek is a feeder to Gibraltar Reservoir, a long, narrow lake with no direct access.

Remember to pack in enough water for your whole trip, as there is no potable water onsite.

Santa Rosa Island (Channel Islands National Park)

Region: Santa Barbara and Vicinity
Scenic rating: 10/10

Santa Rosa, the second-largest of the Channel Islands (the largest is Santa Cruz), is 10 miles wide and 15 miles long, and it holds many mysteries and adventures. A camping trip to Santa Rosa Island, available Friday through Sunday, will be an unforgettable experience even for those who think they’ve seen it all. The island is beautiful in the spring, when its grasslands turn emerald green and are sprinkled with wildflowers. There are many good hikes: The best is the Cherry Canyon Trail into the island’s interior. Another great one is the five-mile Torrey Pines Trail. The Lobo Canyon Trail is a personal favorite.

Because the boat ride to Santa Rosa is approximately 2.5 hours, longer than the trip to Santa Cruz, this island often receives fewer visitors, which makes it even more special. Bring warm clothes because of the chance of fog and wind. The back beaches and sand dunes between Skunk Point and East Point are closed to hiking March through mid-September to protect nesting habitat for the snowy plover. The coastline around Sandy Point is closed year-round to protect seal rookeries.

Sunset on Santa Rosa Island featuring gentle waves and a glowing orange sky

Sunset on Santa Rosa Island. Photo © Bitterman/Flickr, licensed CC-BY.

Two Harbors (Catalina Island)

Region: Los Angeles and Vicinity
Scenic rating: 10/10

This campground is only a quarter-mile hike away from the village of Two Harbors. Nearby attractions include the Two Harbors Dive Station with snorkeling equipment, paddleboard rentals, and scuba tank fills to 3,000 psi. There are guided tours of the island and a scheduled bus service between Two Harbors and Avalon; a shuttle bus stops at all the interior campgrounds. An excellent hike is the nine-mile round-trip from Two Harbors to Emerald Bay, featuring a gorgeous coast and pretty valleys. The ferry to Avalon is available from Long Beach, Dana Point, or San Pedro. The ferry to Two Harbors is available only from San Pedro. Once at Avalon, there is a Safari Bus (310/510-2800, $16-25 one-way) to Two Harbors.

Hermit Gulch (Avalon, Catalina Island)

Region: Los Angeles and Vicinity
Scenic rating: 10/10

This is the closest campground to the town of Avalon, the gateway to Catalina. Reaching the camp requires a 1.5-mile hike up Avalon Canyon. If you’re making a tourist trip, there are a ton of things to do: visit Avalon’s underwater city park, play the nine-hole golf course, rent a bicycle, or visit the famous casino. Scenic tours, glass-bottomed boat tours, and Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens are available. Fishing can be excellent, including angling for white seabass, yellowtail, and, in the fall, even marlin. The best hiking experience in the Avalon area is found by taking the shuttle bus to the Airport in the Sky and from there hiking along Empire Landing Road. The route traces the island’s curving, hilly northern shore, providing great views of secluded beaches, coves, and rock formations, and a chance to see wildlife, at times even buffalo. Note that free hiking permits are required.

Catalina Island Harbor, featuring blue water, docked boats, and hills in the background

Catalina Island Harbor. Photo © Ken Lund, licensed CC-BY.

Craving quiet solitude and outdoor adventure? These 10 hidden camping spots are the most secluded in California.


For detailed directions and descriptions of camp amenities and planning tips, check out the 20th edition of Moon California Camping.

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Plan a California Coast Road Trip (Including Detours for Big Sur) https://moon.com/2017/06/take-a-two-week-california-coast-road-trip/ https://moon.com/2017/06/take-a-two-week-california-coast-road-trip/#comments Thu, 01 Jun 2017 18:36:09 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=7027 A day-by-day California coast road trip accounting for detours and road closures along key sections of the PCH. This itinerary includes helpful travel maps and is flexible enough to start in San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Only have two to four days? Each section can also be its own quick getaway.

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The ideal way to experience the California coast is to hit the road. Following this legendary road trip will take you through California’s bustling cosmopolitan cities, small beach towns, redwood forests, and sandy beaches. This itinerary has been updated to take into account detours caused by 2016’s stormy winter, which caused road closures and mudslides in some regions.

You can switch back and forth between the two routes depending on your pace and your interests. Highway 1 is generally more scenic; U.S. 101 is usually faster.For the most part, you’ll cover this stunning 850 miles by following the legendary Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and U.S. 101. You can switch back and forth between the two routes depending on your pace and your interests. Highway 1 is generally more scenic; U.S. 101 is usually faster. A few diversions onto other routes are necessary to cover the entire coast (for example, you’ll be driving I-5 between San Diego and Los Angeles).

The day-by-day routes below begin in Southern California, but you can just as easily start in Central or Northern California, or reverse the route (from driving north to driving south) if that works better for you. Combine all three itineraries to make a 16-day tour of the coast. If you’re pressed for time, choose just one or two of the itineraries.

Northern California travel map

Northern California

Southern California travel map

Southern California

Five Days along the Southern California Coast

San Diego

Day 1

map of San Diego

San Diego

Easygoing San Diego is a great place to start any vacation. Upon arrival, orient yourself by driving to the top of Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, a small mountain that has views of the entire city. After that, head down to La Jolla Cove to go kayaking or snorkeling; or just lie on the beach.

In the afternoon, visit Balboa Park, where you’ll spend most of your time at the San Diego Zoo. End your day with a craft beer at one of San Diego’s many breweries, like the giant Stone Brewing Co., followed by a meal in the Gaslamp Quarter. Try the historic Grant Grill or the nearby Café Chloe.

Day 2

The fastest way to reach the North County beach towns of Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside is to take I-5 north out of San Diego. To cruise along the coast, opt for North Coast Highway 101 (also called Camino del Mar, San Elijo Boulevard, and Carlsbad Boulevard as it travels from Torrey Pines State Beach to Oceanside). Make sure to stop for a surf or a swim since the ocean temperatures cool as you head up the coast.

Continue north on I-5 to visit Huntington Beach before turning off towards Long Beach for a nighttime ghost tour on The Queen Mary, an ocean liner that is now home to restaurants, a hotel, shops, and a museum. If you are daring enough, book a room for the night in the haunted ship.

Torrey Pines State Reserve. Photo © Chad McDermott/The Department of Creativity.

Torrey Pines State Reserve. Photo © Chad McDermott/The Department of Creativity.

Los Angeles

Day 3

map of Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Jump on I-405 to save some time and drive about 30 miles north, exiting towards Venice Beach. Park your vehicle and take a stroll along the Venice Boardwalk to take in the local wildlife that includes bodybuilders, street performers, and alternative-culture types. Without getting back on the highway, take the local roads paralleling the beach 10 minutes north to Santa Monica. Enjoy the amusement park rides of the Santa Monica Pier or just take a break on Santa Monica Beach. For dinner, get a taste of the Caribbean at Santa Monica’s casual but popular Cha Cha Chicken or backtrack to Venice for a hearty Italian meal at C&O Trattoria.

Day 4

Consider heading inland for a day of culture (and pop culture). For aesthetic stimulation, visit the world-famous Getty Center or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Less rigorous on the mind is a walk down the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame and a stop at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, where you can find the handprints of your favorite movie stars. End the day with a cocktail at Sunset Boulevard’s Rainbow Bar & Grill. There might even be a grizzled, past-his-prime rocker sitting in the booth next to you.

Get an amazing view of Los Angeles from the Getty Center.

Get an amazing view of Los Angeles from the Getty Center. Photo © Jon Bilous/123rf.

Day 5

Take the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) out of Santa Monica west as it heads away from sprawling Los Angeles and into Malibu. Stop at Malibu’s Surfriders Beach to watch the surfers compete for its famously peeling waves (or catch one yourself). After a morning outdoors, feed your mind with ancient art at The Getty Villa in Malibu. (Admission is free, but you’ll need to reserve a ticket in advance.) Finish the day by watching the sun slide into the Pacific from the outdoor deck of Neptune’s Net, while enjoying fresh seafood.

If you want to spend more time in the Los Angeles area, you can easily fill a couple of days enjoying Disneyland Resort.


Six Days along the Central California Coast

Santa Barbara and Ventura

Day 1

map of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Wake up early and drive north on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. Thirty-five miles from Malibu, at Oxnard, merge onto U.S. 101. Head north on U.S. 101 to Ventura and take the exit toward Ventura Harbor, where you can catch a boat out to Channel Islands National Park for a day of hiking, snorkeling, or kayaking on Santa Cruz Island or Anacapa Island. (Make boat reservations in advance.) Return to Ventura and eat dinner at one of its seafood restaurants, such as Lure Fish House or Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Company. Or have an Italian meal and cocktail at hip Café Fiore.

Day 2

Take U.S. 101 north just a half hour (28 miles) to Santa Barbara. Get a history fix at the Santa Barbara Mission, which might be the most beautiful of the 21 Spanish missions in California. Then taste some of Santa Barbara’s wines on the Urban Wine Trail, six tasting rooms on lower State Street, or head north for a day at palm-lined Refugio State Beach, 20 miles west of Santa Barbara on U.S. 101.

Mission Santa Barbara on a clear day.

Mission Santa Barbara was the tenth built of the California Missions. Photo © Dreamstime

If your schedule is flexible, you might consider another full day in Santa Barbara, another day of wine-tasting in nearby Santa Maria Valley, or a day on the Gaviota Coast. Whatever you do, stop at Santa Barbara’s State Street for a fine meal or cocktail at a restaurant like the local favorite Opal. Or head off State Street for superb Mexican food at La Super-Rica Taqueria.

Big Sur and the Central Coast

Day 3

Maps - Northern California 7e - Big Sur

Big Sur

Drive 1.75 hours (92 miles) north of Santa Barbara on U.S. 101 to San Luis Obispo’s Madonna Inn, where you can take in its kitschy decor during a restroom and stretch-the-legs break.

Outdoor enthusiasts will want to head off the highway and go west on Los Osos Valley Road just 20 minutes (12 miles) to Montana de Oro State Park, one of the state’s best coastal parks. Picnic at Spooner’s Cove or hike to the top of 1,347-foot-high Valencia Peak. Then head back to U.S. 101 North, but be sure to turn onto Highway 1 north to take in sunset over Morro Rock, known as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.”

Another option is to drive an hour north (44 miles) to opulent Hearst Castle. Tours of this “ranch” built for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst offer insight into the lifestyle of the rich and infamous. However you spend your day, end it with a meal in one of the Central Coast’s unassuming beach towns: Morro Bay, Cayucos or Cambria.

Day 4

Big Sur was one of the area’s hit hardest by winter’s storms in 2016, but this stunning section of coast is worth the extra effort to visit. A massive landslide in May 2017 has made travel into Big Sur from the south impossible. But the good news is that you can still experience 30 miles of the iconic coastline and a section of Highway 1 from Carmel down to the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge closure, where one of the roadway’s bridges had to be demolished after incurring major storm damage. A new bridge is scheduled to open in September 2017.

To reach Carmel from San Luis Obispo, which is a two-and-a-half-hour drive, take U.S. 101 North 118 miles and then take the Abbott Street exit towards Spreckels. After two miles, turn onto Harris Road, which becomes Spreckels Boulevard, and continue 1.5 miles until you drive onto CA-68 West. Go 17 miles on the two-lane roadway until you hit Highway 1. Opt for Highway 1 South towards Carmel and Big Sur. Maybe pop off the highway for a snack break at Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Carmel Belle, which serves up tasty and healthy sandwiches and salads.

Refreshed, it’s now time to take in the stunning scenery of Big Sur. The open northern section has many worthwhile sights and stops including Garrapata Beach, the Bixby Bridge, and the Point Sur Light Station, which is open for tours.

Warm weather meets coastal fog on the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. Photo © Mariusz Blach/123rf.

Warm weather meets coastal fog on the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. Photo © Mariusz Blach/123rf.

While the famous Nepenthe Restaurant is past the bridge closure and therefore inaccessible, there are a handful of Big Sur Valley restaurants open to the public, including the Ripplewood Café, the Fernwood Bar & Grill, the Big Sur Roadhouse, and the Big Sur River Inn, where you can dangle your legs in the Big Sur River while sipping a beer or cocktail from the bar.

There are also a handful of places to spend the night in the open section of Big Sur, including but not limited to the Fernwood Resort, Glen Oaks, the Big Sur River Inn, and 50 campsites within the recently reopened Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Or opt to helicopter into the closed section of Big Sur for a two-night stay at the Post Ranch Inn; the “Escape Through the Skies” package rates begin at $4,291.

Monterey Bay

Day 5

Maps - Northern California 7e - Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay

After waking up in Big Sur, head up CA-1 north for 21 miles to the Carmel’s Point Lobos State Reserve for a morning walk on the Cypress Grove Trail. Then drive a few miles north into Monterey to spend the afternoon at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Dine on fresh seafood at Pacific Grove’s Passionfish, Monterey’s Fish House in Monterey, or Phil’s Fish Market up Highway 1 in Moss Landing.

If you want to spend another day in this area, wander the galleries in Carmel-by-the-Sea, golf at Pebble Beach, or head inland to Carmel Valley for wine tasting.

Day 6

Getting to Santa Cruz is an easy 50-minute drive (44 miles) up Highway 1 from the Monterey Peninsula. The eclectic beach city is an ideal place for recreation whether you are surfing, stand up paddleboarding, or hiking redwood-filled Forest of Nisene Marks State Park or the coastal bluffs of Wilder Ranch State Park. Refuel with a healthy snack at The Picnic Basket before ending the day with thrill rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

If your adrenaline is still racing from the Boardwalk rides, calm down with a drink at Red Restaurant & Bar or The Crepe Place.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a classic stop on a California coast road trip.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo © Ken Wolter/123rf.


Five Days along the Northern California Coast

San Francisco

Day 1

Maps - Northern California 7e - San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco Bay Area

Wake up early for a drive on Highway 1 from Santa Cruz less than two hours (80 miles) to San Francisco. In the city, spend a few hours in the hands-on science museum The Exploratorium. As the sun goes down, make sure to head out for dinner, whether it’s seafood at the Tadich Grill, modern Vietnamese at The Slanted Door, or pizza at Tony’s Pizza Napoletena. If you still have energy, make sure to check out some of San Francisco’s vibrant nightlife or a concert at a venue like the Great American Music Hall.

Day 2

Head out on the San Francisco Bay to take a fascinating tour of the island prison Alcatraz. Or secure passage on a ferry to Angel Island, which has hiking trails that offer up some of the finest views of the city.

In the afternoon, shop the used clothing stores of Haight-Ashbury or the department stores of Union Square. Or browse the books at City Lights in North Beach.

You’ll quickly fall in love with San Francisco; you can easily extend your romance to three or four days if you have the time.

Cable car in San Francisco.

Cable car in San Francisco. Photo © vadimsto/123rf.

The North Coast

Day 3

Maps - Northern California 7e - Sonoma and Mendocino Coasts

Sonoma and Mendocino Coasts

Your journey north begins with a drive on U.S. 101 over San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Then after five miles turn off U.S. 101 to Highway 1 at Mill Valley. On the slow, over-four-hour drive up the coast (around 160 miles), make time to stop at places like the tiny but unique Sea Ranch Chapel, which is just feet off Highway 1, and take a hike on the stunning cliffside trails in the Point Arena-Stornetta Unit of the California Coastal National Monument.

End the day in the community of Mendocino with a view of the sunset at Mendocino Headlands State Park or a pint at the lively Patterson’s Pub or at the one-of-a-kind dive bar Dick’s Place.

Day 4

Drive Highway 1 north of Fort Bragg until the road turns inland to connect with U.S. 101 after about an hour of driving. Opt for the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile drive through redwoods by the Eel River. Even though it’s only 31 miles, the drive could take a few hours if you decide to get out of your car and ponder the trees.

Get back on U.S. 101 North and head an hour north (60 miles) to Eureka. Stop to wander the city’s Old Town and Waterfront. Taste some of the delicious oysters at the Humboldt Bay Provisions.

Continue on U.S. 101 another 10 minutes or so to charming Arcata. Wander through the redwoods of the Arcata Community Forest before sundown. Dine at one of the restaurants surrounding the lively Arcata Plaza. Then catch a live band or arthouse movie at The Miniplex in Richards’ Goat Tavern.

Fern Canyon is draped in bright green ferns. Photo © Igors Rusakovs/123rf.

Fern Canyon is draped in bright green ferns. Photo © Igors Rusakovs/123rf.

Day 5

Start your morning with a tasty crepe from Arcata’s Renata’s Creperie and Espresso before hitting U.S. 101 North on your final day. About 20 minutes north (15 miles), exit to the scenic coastal city of Trinidad. Have your camera handy for photos of Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, Trinidad Head and Trinidad State Beach.

Another half hour up U.S. 101 (26 miles), turn onto Newton B. Drury Scenic Drive to explore Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. If you have the energy, drive out Davison Road to Gold Bluffs Beach, where Roosevelt elk roam the sands, and continue on the dirt drive to hike the one-mile round-trip Fern Canyon Trail, which passes through a steep canyon draped in bright green ferns.

Head back out to U.S. 101 to drive the 45 minutes (38 miles) to Crescent City, where you can get a hotel room and a full night’s sleep.


Updated from an excerpt from the Fifth Edition of Moon Coastal California.

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Seeing California Wildflowers in 2017’s Super Bloom https://moon.com/2017/03/california-wildflowers-super-bloom/ https://moon.com/2017/03/california-wildflowers-super-bloom/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 23:11:37 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=54743 After years of drought, followed by the coldest, wettest, and longest winter in over 30 years, California is finally ready for spring. And what a spring it will be. It is predicted to be a “super bloom,” a term dreamed up not by clever PR boosters, but by park rangers and biologists who know their flora.

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After years of drought, followed by the coldest, wettest, and longest winter in over 30 years, California is finally ready for spring. And what a spring it will be. It is predicted to be a “super bloom,” a term dreamed up not by clever PR boosters, but by park rangers and biologists who know their flora.

California’s wildflower season begins in mid-March on the floors of Southern California’s vast deserts, and moves north through its great valleys, coastal plains, woodland foothills, and culminates high in its mountain meadows in late July. Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the first stop on a wildflower tour. For just a few weeks, the park is awash in tufts of purple, yellow, white, and gold, when lilies, poppies, primrose, agave, and even the prickly barrel cactus, burst into color. Stretch your legs in the desert garden outside the visitor center, explore the brilliant Borrego Palm Canyon, or prepare to have your breath taken away by the Carrizo Badlands Overlook awash in lavender, lilies, and creosote.

Yellow and purple wildflowers blooming in California.

A variety of California wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego State Park. Photo © Sumikophoto/123rf.

The color continues north to nearby Joshua Tree National Park, where blooms send out their tender shoots as early as February at the lower elevations, and can keep blooming until April or even June higher up. In March, the southern Cottonwood Visitor Center is the place to go for striking displays of Arizona lupine’s purple spikes, flowering ocotillo, and the hummingbird favorite, churparosa. In the northern reaches of the park, yucca, teddy bear cholla, and Joshua trees are just beginning their bloom. Look for these near the west entrance of the park, and along the Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail.

April is when the California poppy unfurls its deep orange petals in earnest. While found in nearly every corner of the state, there is no match for the plunging slopes of Big Sur when it comes to seeing California’s most famous flower. March through May, Big Sur’s grassland becomes a lush blanket of green, gold, and lavender (thanks to another favorite, lupine). Take the Soberanes Point and Calla Lilly Canyon trails at Garrapata State Park, just seven miles south of Carmel, to soak up the scenery.

Poppies and lupine cover the hillside.

Wildflowers bloom along the California coast near Big Sur. Photo © Kan Khampanya/123rf.

If you’re visiting the north coast, the quaint village of Mendocino is the perfect backdrop to the surrounding wildflower studded bluffs. The Mendocino Headlands State Park is just steps away from the town’s wooden boardwalks, and is filled with poppies, lupine, seaside dailies, Mendocino paintbrush, and coastal buckwheat. It’s also not a bad spot to witness migrating whales.

Wildflowers in Wine Country? You bet. The bucolic fields of the Sonoma Valley become even more beautiful when filled with poppies, lupine, forget-me-nots, buttercups, fuschia, Mariposa lilies, and yarrow. Just a stroll from Sonoma’s historic plaza, the Sonoma Overlook Trail winds three miles through grass and oak woodland, and is the ideal spot for a wildflower-filled picnic. If that’s not enough, consider booking a guided tour at the Bouverie Preserve outside Glen Ellen, home to 350 species of flowering plants and 130 species of birds.

A field of lupine in Napa.

Lupine blooming in wine country. Photo © Elizabeth Linhart Veneman.

Summer travelers need not despair. As California’s grassland turns from green to gold, the wildflowers head for the hills. With its 1100-foot range in elevation, Yosemite is in bloom nearly all year round. Starting in March on the valley floor, find clover, pine violets, evening primrose, and dogwood. At higher elevations starting in May, look for snow plant, columbine, monkshood, shooting stars, and rein orchids. Up Tioga Pass around Tuolumne Meadows, the show starts in late June with lilies, paintbrush, mountain dandelion, red heather, and fireweed, and continues into July when the late bloomers of Alpine paintbrush, wallflower, and mountain monkeyflower get their chance.

Whether you plan a trip to the desert, to the coast, or to the mountains, as a first time visitor or seasoned native, this is the year to see the Golden State sparkle.

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Four-Day Best of Southern California Itinerary https://moon.com/2017/03/four-day-best-of-southern-california-itinerary/ https://moon.com/2017/03/four-day-best-of-southern-california-itinerary/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:27:01 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=51763 Perfect for out-of-state visitors, this best of Southern California itinerary plans for at least four days to spend exploring Los Angeles, nearby Santa Monica, and sunny San Diego.

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This Southern California itinerary starts in Los Angeles, explores Santa Monica and Long Beach, and ends in sunny San Diego.

Day 1

Fly into LAX and rent a car for your Southern California road trip. Walk down the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame and a stop at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, where you can find the handprints of your favorite movie stars. Or, for aesthetic stimulation, tour the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. End the day with a cocktail at Sunset Boulevard’s Rainbow Bar & Grill.

TCL Chinese Theatre. Photo © Valentin Armianu/Dreamstime.

TCL Chinese Theatre. Photo © Valentin Armianu/Dreamstime.

Day 2

Grab breakfast The Griddle Café before heading to the coast for a day of culture. Jump on U.S. 101 to I-405 south to visit the world-famous Getty Center. Admire Richard Meier’s soaring architecture before gazing at the magnificent works inside. Continue south on I-405 exiting towards Santa Monica. Enjoy the amusement park rides of the Santa Monica Pier or just take a break on Santa Monica Beach. Stroll along the Venice Boardwalk to take in the bodybuilders, street performers, and alternative-culture types of Venice Beach. After a day gazing at the sea, dine on seafood at Salt Air.

For the ultimate in SoCal kitsch, you can't miss the Santa Monica Pier.

For the ultimate in SoCal kitsch, you can’t miss the Santa Monica Pier. Photo © Stuart Thornton.

If You Have More Time

Kids (and kids at heart) might prefer to skip the L.A. beaches and spend a full day and night at Disneyland instead.

Day 3

Follow I-405 south, stopping off in Long Beach for a tour on The Queen Mary, an ocean liner now home to restaurants, a hotel, and a museum. From Long Beach, head south on Highway 1 through the North County beach towns of Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. Stop off for a surf or a swim, or soldier on to La Jolla Cove to go kayaking or snorkeling. Then satiate that appetite with lobster tacos from Puesto.

La Jolla Caves. Photo © Dollar Photo Club.

La Jolla Caves. Photo © Dollar Photo Club.

Day 4

Easygoing San Diego is a great place to end any vacation. Visit Balboa Park, where you’ll spend most of your time at the San Diego Zoo. Follow a day in the park with a meal in the Gaslamp Quarter, then end your day with a craft beer at one of San Diego’s many breweries, like the giant Stone World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station.

Balboa Park in San Diego. Photo © F11Photo/Dreamstime.

Balboa Park in San Diego. Photo © F11Photo/Dreamstime.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon California.

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Southern California Family Vacation: Alternatives to Disneyland https://moon.com/2017/03/southern-california-family-vacation-alternatives-to-disneyland/ https://moon.com/2017/03/southern-california-family-vacation-alternatives-to-disneyland/#respond Wed, 08 Mar 2017 20:58:00 +0000 http://moon.type5.co/?p=768 Many families are lured to Southern California by Disneyland, but if you're seeking something a bit different for your family vacation, try these alternatives to the mouse.

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Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo © fcarucci/Dreamstime.

Universal Studios Hollywood puts visitors into the action of their favorite movies. Photo © fcarucci/Dreamstime.

Universal Studios Hollywood

The longtime Hollywood-centric alternative to Disneyland is the Universal Studios Hollywood (100 Universal City Plaza, Los Angeles, 800/864-8377, hours vary, adults $85-95, children under 48 inches tall $72, parking $10-15) theme park. Kids adore this park, which puts them right into the action of their favorite movies. Flee the carnivorous dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or quiver in terror of an ancient curse in Revenge of the Mummy. If you’re more interested in how the movies are made than the rides made from them, take the Studio Tour. You’ll get an extreme close-up of the sets of major blockbuster films like War of the Worlds. Better yet, be part of the studio audience of TV shows currently taping by getting tickets at the Audiences Unlimited Ticket Booth. If you’re a serious movie buff, consider buying a VIP pass—you’ll get a six-hour tour that takes you onto working sound stages, into the current prop warehouse, and through a variety of working build shops that service movies and programs currently filming.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain (Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, 661/255-4100, hours vary, adults $73, children $48) provides good fun for the whole family. Magic Mountain has long been the extreme alternative to the Mouse, offering a wide array of thrill rides. You’ll need a strong stomach to deal with the g-forces of the major-league roller coasters and the death-defying drops, including the Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom, where you plummet 400 feet at speeds up to 85 mph. For the younger set, plenty of rides offer a less intense but equally fun amusement-park experience. Both littler and bigger kids enjoy interacting with the classic Warner Bros. characters, especially in Bugs Bunny World, and a kids’ show features Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, and more. Other than that, Magic Mountain has little in the way of staged entertainment—this park is all about the rides. The park is divided into areas, just like most other major theme parks; get a map at the entrance to help you maneuver around and pick your favorite rides.

Knott’s Berry Farm

For a taste of history along with some ultramodern thrill rides and plenty of cooling waterslides, head for Knott’s Berry Farm (8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 714/220-5200, hours vary, adults $38, seniors and children $34, parking $15). From the tall landmark GhostRider wooden coaster to the 30-story vertical-drop ride to the screaming Silver Bullet suspended coaster, Knott’s supplies excitement to even the most hard-core ride lover. For the younger crowd, Camp Snoopy offers an array of pint-size rides and attractions, plus Snoopy and all the characters they love from the Peanuts comics and TV shows.

In the heat of the summer, many park visitors adjourn from the coasters to Knott’s Soak City (hours vary daily Memorial Day-Labor Day, adults $28-34, seniors and children $24, parking $15-20), a full-size water park with 22 rides, a kid pool and water playground, and plenty of space to enjoy the O.C. sunshine.

Convenient to the parks, Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel (7675 Crescent Ave., Buena Park, 714/995-1111, $155-222) is a high-rise resort with a pool and spa, a fitness center, and several on-site restaurants.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon California.

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Best Craft Breweries in Southern California https://moon.com/2017/03/best-craft-breweries-in-southern-california/ https://moon.com/2017/03/best-craft-breweries-in-southern-california/#respond Wed, 08 Mar 2017 19:15:07 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=53765 In the past ten years alone, hundreds of craft breweries have sprung up in Southern California, and on any given day, you might be tasting the best beer of your life at (nearly) any one of them. But your chances of finding the best go up significantly if you know where to look–enter local expert Ian Anderson.

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In the past ten years alone, hundreds of craft breweries have sprung up in Southern California, and on any given day, you might be tasting the best beer of your life at (nearly) any one of them. But your chances of finding The One go up significantly if you know where to look.

The hip areas in and around downtown Los Angeles boast a rapidly advancing beer scene. But to find the best brews in LA County, turn westbound and down. Heading into off-the-beaten-path sections of LA’s South Bay region, the first stop sits just below the airport, in El Segundo, at its namesake El Segundo Brewing (140 Main St, El Segundo). The small, Main Street brewery specializes in a style of beer commonly associated with SoCal: the West Coast IPA. The strong hop aromas practically burst out of each crisp pint, rising to the high ceilings of the often-packed tasting room.

About ten miles south you might head to another unlikely destination: Torrance’s Monkish Brewing (20311 S Western Ave, Torrance). When the small brewery opened, it focused exclusively on Belgian-style beers—they even posted a sign proclaiming “No IPAs.” That sign came down in a big way in 2016, when Monkish joined the craze and quickly mastered the hazy Northeast style of IPA. These days, hundreds of devoted fans often lead to hours-long lines.

Beer at Beachwood. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Long Beach brewpub Beachwood BBQ offers a great variety of incredible IPAs; it’s tough to go wrong, but check out Citraholic, Amalgamator and Pride of cHops. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Only twenty minutes from Torrance, Long Beach’s Beachwood Brewing & BBQ (210 E 3rd St, Long Beach) stands in a class of its own. The brewpub has emerged as one of the best IPA producers on the entire West Coast, yet reigns as World Beer Cup champion on the strength of its excellent stouts. Both styles happen to pair extremely well with smokehouse BBQ, so good news! Beachwood’s just as adept with ribs and pulled pork as it is with malts and hops.

Orange County hasn’t long been recognized as a craft beer destination, but a spate of breweries in and around Anaheim have very much changed that. Noble Ale Works (1621 S Sinclair St B, Anaheim) also reigns as a World Beer Cup champion, even claiming gold medal in the uber-competitive American IPA category. Its hoppy beers are outstanding, and a new beer garden will make the tasting room a prime destination on warm nights.

The Bruery in Orange County. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Orange County’s highly regarded brewery, The Bruery, offers the area’s most colorful tasting flights. Photo © Ian Anderson.

The OC’s most venerable brewery is The Bruery (717 Dunn Way, Placentia), and it specializes in—well, having no particular specialty. Barrel aged, sour, and experimental beers tend to be this creative brewer’s bailiwick, but intense variety is what keeps its tasting room packed. DIY tasting menus next to the bar make for more efficient service—simply tick off five beers you’d like to try, and a beertender will set you up with a colorful flight.

Call me biased toward my hometown, but any craft enthusiast will tell you San Diego is the capital of craft beer in SoCal (and possibly the entire American Southwest). AleSmith Brewing Company (9990 AleSmith Ct, San Diego), for example, has set the bar for world-class beer since opening in 1995. It boasts the largest tasting room in town, plus a vast patio, a small museum celebrating local baseball legend Tony Gywnn, and a one-of-a-kind blending bar where you can mix and match various beers to taste, just like professional brewers do.

In San Diego’s North County, Stone Brewing is another godfather of the beer scene, often credited for introducing the region’s brashly hopped specialty—the West Coast IPA—to the world. Its Escondido restaurant and beer garden (2816 Historic Decatur Rd #116, San Diego) is a veritable Disneyland for craft beer drinkers, and you’ll find a second, Liberty Station location just behind San Diego Airport.

Lost Abbey Silo. Photo © Ian Anderson.

The Lost Abbey shares its tasting room and brewery with Port Brewing, which makes several classic San Diego beers, and The Hop Concept, devoted to new IPA trends. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Stone originally opened in San Marcos, but when it outgrew its original brewery, The Lost Abbey (155 Mata Way #104, San Marcos) moved in. Named for its devotion to the style developed by Trappist monks in Belgium, Lost Abbey made a name for itself crafting the most highly-sought sour beers on the West Coast, in addition to exquisite farmhouse ales. Since it shares brewing space (and talent) with sister brand Port Brewing, you’ll also find a few of San Diego’s most classic IPAs on draft and in bottles.

Societe in San Diego. Photo © Ian Anderson.

San Diego’s Societe Brewing serves a variety of IPAs as well as old European style beers, which is why its tap handles offers old-timey silhouettes. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Unlike every hop powerhouse on this list, you won’t find Societe Brewing‘s (8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego) IPAs in bottles. The brewers who launched the Kearny Mesa business strongly believe freshness and proper handling are crucial to enjoying their beers. Consequently, its old-timey tasting room and patio has become a local favorite and a destination coveted by beer geeks across America.

Modern Times tasting room. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Quirky design elements within Modern Times’ tasting room include a mural of Michael Jackson and his pet chimp, made using post-it notes. Photo © Ian Anderson.

Savvy marketing and quirky, stylish branding has helped Modern Times Beer (3725 Greenwood St, San Diego) grow at an unprecedented rate (open only three years, it’s expanding with breweries in both Anaheim and downtown LA within the next year). But ultimately, the fantastic flavors of Modern Times’ boundary-pushing beers have ushered in a new approach to SoCal craft that embraces hybrid styles, barrel aging experiments, and copious use of the word rad.

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Discover California https://moon.com/2017/02/discover-california/ https://moon.com/2017/02/discover-california/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 17:58:18 +0000 http://moon.type5.co/?p=781 Diverse, wacky, and unforgettable, California is larger than life. The boisterous cities seem bigger, redwood forests and snow-capped mountains loom taller, and sandy coastlines stretch longer than anywhere else.

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Diverse, wacky, and unforgettable, California is larger than life. The boisterous cities seem bigger, redwood forests and snow-capped mountains loom taller, and sandy coastlines stretch longer than anywhere else.

If you love the outdoors, remote backpacking spots, and extreme sports, you could spend a month exploring California and never once enter the city limits of San Francisco or Los Angeles. If high art, nightlife, and gourmet restaurants top your list, you can stay entirely inside those cities, soaking in their infinitely variable culture. Hot-spot clubbing, award-winning plays, experimental art exhibits and splashy gallery openings, and some of the best cuisine in the country often coexist within the same six-block street.

The Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, California.

The Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, California. Photo © Dionigi Pozzi/123rf.

There’s no one true way to describe California, just as there’s no one true way to experience it. Southern California isn’t all surfers and movie stars, while Northern California is more than just expensive real estate and radical politics. Tiny coastal towns, sweeping farmlands, and forested mountain ranges all defy stereotypes—from oases of swimming pools in the desert to remote wineries nestled within rural mountains.

The pace of life is as diverse as everything else in the state. Fast moving and fast living are hallmarks of the Los Angeles basin, yet the quiet frenzy of the San Francisco Bay Area sometimes seems just as fast. Outside the major urban areas, the hectic speed diminishes. California’s numerous wine regions invite visitors to relax and slow that pace even further. Beyond the farms and vineyards, an even more venerable and variable pace emerges—that of nature. The gushing waterfalls of Yosemite, towering redwoods of Humboldt, bone-dry deserts of Death Valley, delicate native wildflowers along the coast… even the imperceptible crawl and occasional sudden jolt of the land itself all make up the unique rhythm of California.

To best discover what California has to offer, choose something that you want to fall in love with and pursue it here—whether your passion is organic wine, Gold Country ghost towns, Hollywood movie stars, or just lying on the beach. No matter who you are or what you’re into, you can make this place your own.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon California.

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