No one loves me- help me get out of town.
February 11, 2009 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Where can I go camping within a day's drive of L.A. this coming weekend?

I have a three day weekend, no plans for Valentine's, and I'd like to get out of town and de-stress.

I did read the other Cali camping threads, but none were quite specific for what I want. So within the following parameters:

1) I don't mind a long drive, (I kind of enjoy them actually), but would like to leave L.A. in the morning and get there before dark.
2) it should be nice this time of year. Cold at night is ok within reason, I have a 15 degree rated sleeping bag.
3) I would like to be reasonably alone. So "car camping" is out. I am in decent, not great, shape, and don't mind hiking in.
4) I just got a new camera and want to take some cool pictures, so the more scenic the better.

I really don't know where to start, and am open to all suggestions. Thanks!

(Bonus question: What are some good camp foods for a vegetarian to cook on his little stove? not a huge Ramen fan).
posted by drjimmy11 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd say Anza Borrego Desert State Park, in the eastern portion of San Diego County.

Although you can hike in to somplace you want to go if you want solitude, there's really no need to do so. The park is unique among CA state parks in that you can camp just about anywhere you want to, and there are dirt roads that criss-cross the park all over the place, so as long as there's a place for you to pull off the road and not be on vegetation, you can car camp. The only downside is that it'll be mega-primitive, with no running water.

A great spot would be somewhere in Coyote Canyon north of Borrego Springs, especially if you're adamant about hiking in. It's quite scenic, and there's actually water almost year round running in the creek, which is nice because you're mostly limited to whatever water you bring in yourself elsewhere in the park. You'll need some sort of purification method, though.
posted by LionIndex at 9:05 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How about Joshua Tree national park? Its about a 3-4 hour drive from LA, it won't get colder than 15 at night (more like 30) and will be cool during the day. Joshua Tree is very scenic and quite varied, so there's plenty to photograph. If the main campsites don't sound like they will provide the level of solitude you want, you can camp in the backcountry instead.
posted by Joh at 9:38 PM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Joshua Tree.
posted by fshgrl at 9:42 PM on February 11, 2009

Response by poster: Cool, thanks guys!

Any specific recommendations for sights to see or places to camp in the backcountry within Joshua Tree? Seems like there are a ton of choices.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:09 PM on February 11, 2009

It's not that big when you get there so wherever there aren't so many people. Watch out for the chollas!
posted by fshgrl at 11:07 PM on February 11, 2009

I don't know if you'd be interested, but San Jacinto SP is terrific. It's on the Pacific Coast Trail, and there is an aerial tramway down to Palm Springs (on the other side of the mountain), but don't let that put you off. Few who take the tramway go over to the camping side of the mountain. And this time of year, you won't find many on the trails up there as you might in the desert.

(The view from the top is fantastic, as well... second steepest vertical face in the US, after El Capitan, Mt. San Gorgonio across the valley, lovely granite outcrops)
posted by Grrlscout at 11:29 PM on February 11, 2009

How about staying on a series of uninhabited islands 20 miles off the coast - they have their own unique species and are often called the Galapogas Islands of North America...

From the boat ride out there (with whale and dolphin sightings) to the amazing sense of solitude and what California must have looked like a thousand years ago, check out the Channel Islands!!!
posted by visual mechanic at 1:13 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My bet would be for Anza Borrego over Joshua Tree. During a high-use weekend, the Joshua Tree car camping area was so packed that my group ended up driving to Anza Borrego, where we easily found plenty of space, so I feel like Joshua Tree is more used in general, though I'm not sure if this phenomenon extends to the backcountry.

Also, Anza Borrego has several places to camp at a much lower elevation than most places in Joshua Tree. I don't know how hot you sleep but with a 15 degree bag and no tent, I was cold any time it was under 39 degrees at night, so you might appreciate the possible 5 degree difference in nighttime lows (36 vs. 40, looking at the weather for Joshua Tree vs. Borrego Springs). That said, there's a big elevation range both places, so if you're like me, be careful not to end up at 3500' in Anza Borrego.

(But I've only been to each park about three times, so if somebody shows up to describe an awesome low elevation deserted backcountry hike in Joshua Tree, go with their advice.)
posted by salvia at 1:14 AM on February 12, 2009

I would like to second Anza Borrego. The landscape is outstanding and some of the overlooks above the Salton Sea are beautiful. There are a few campsites but open camping is allowed.
posted by sleepytako at 2:16 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, I am still pondering but this is all good info. I do have a tent to go with the sleeping bag btw.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:34 AM on February 12, 2009

Seconding the Channel Islands!
posted by kerfuffles at 11:36 AM on February 12, 2009

I've been car camping in Joshua Tree more times than I can count. I prefer the Indian Cove campground over the other sites, though camping there requires a reservation. It's never been "packed," and the campsites give you plenty of privacy. JTree and Anza Borrego are definitely on the cold side this time of year, though.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:09 PM on February 12, 2009

As far as food, if you feel like shelling out some $ there's plenty of vegetarian freeze-dried stuff available at your local camping store, sometimes in larger sporting goods stores like Sport Chalet or Big 5. MaryJane's Outpost makes almost exclusively vegetarian dishes, which I've found to actually be pretty good, but they run about $6 per item. But all you have to do is add boiling water to them and let them sit for a bit, and they're done.
posted by LionIndex at 12:01 PM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older Howzzat!   |   Drowning in debt Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.