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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TENT CAMPING

            Have you ever chosen a campground because it looked like a great spot to pitch your tent, only to discover that it was really designed for RVs?  In many RV parks the individual sites are paved-or packed as hard as cement-and are missing a real sense of nature.  If you're tent camping you want a campground where at least some of the sites, or even a whole section, are planned for tents.  Some of the best campgrounds for tent camping in Southern California are in the state park system, along with those in the U.S. National Forests.  Here you'll find RVs mixed in with tents, but without any hookups to run their lights and TVs.

Point Mugu State Park

            Point Mugu State Park is close to Los Angeles, but it feels like a world away.  Located on Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) in Ventura County, this park offers five miles of coastline, more than 70 miles of hiking trails, and beautiful scenery.  The campground is not on the beach but is nestled in Sycamore Canyon across the highway; a tunnel allows safe crossing.  Most sites are shady and spacious, and the campground gives direct access to hiking and biking trails. 

Cleveland National Forest

            Covering territory in three counties-San Diego, Orange and Riverside-the Cleveland National Forest offers 15 different campgrounds for Southern California tent camping.  Facilities vary by campground, ranging from pay showers to bring-your-own-water; some accept reservations, but others don't so always check ahead.  During the summer and fall the Observatory Campground at Palomar Mountain hosts the Explore the Stars astronomy program bringing together amateur astronomers, campers and dark night skies.

Vallecito County Park

            Vallecito County Park lies east of San Diego near Julian.  Its 71 acres surround the reconstruction of the Butterfield Stage Station, preserving the beautiful natural oasis environment.  This is a perfect spot for Southern California tent camping, as half of the park's 44 campsites are designated tent only.  There is water available, but no hookups anywhere in the park.  Springtime wild flowers are abundant, and nearby Agua Caliente Regional Park and Anza-Borrego State Park offer miles of hiking trails.

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