Best Remote Camping Spots In Southern California 2024: Escape the Crowds

Southern California offers a treasure trove of scenic beauty and outdoor activities, from kayaking and rafting to off-road biking. Overlanding in this region opens up a world of exploration beyond the confines of major highways, offering unique spots to camp and enjoy the natural surroundings.

Whether you’re planning a leisurely trail ride or setting up base for various outdoor adventures, knowing the best places to camp is essential. Here are some top picks for your next Southern California overlanding journey.

Key Takeaway

  • Southern California offers diverse overlanding spots with both rustic and comfortable camping options.
  • Essential gear for overlanding includes off-road navigation tools, recovery gear, and solar power solutions.
  • Safety preparations should include a comprehensive first-aid kit, emergency communication devices, and fire safety equipment.
  • Dispersed camping permits allow for more adventurous, off-grid camping experiences in national forests.
  • Proper planning and equipment are crucial for a successful and safe overlanding adventure in Southern California.

Arroyo Seco: A Gateway to Los Padres National Forest

Arroyo Seco

Nestled within Los Padres National Forest, Arroyo Seco Campground serves as a perfect launchpad for exploring nearby trails. This site stands out for its shower facilities, a rare find in more secluded camping areas. It offers a blend of isolation and convenience, with shady sites and picnic amenities ideal for an overnight stay in your Jeep.

Laguna Campground: Comfort in Cleveland National Forest

Laguna Campground in Cleveland National Forest

For those who prefer a balance between rustic and comfort, Laguna Campground in Cleveland National Forest is a prime choice. Each campsite boasts stunning views, complemented by full restroom and shower facilities. It’s an ideal spot for a peaceful retreat in the woods, offering just enough comfort to ensure a restful sleep amidst nature.

Los Prietos Campground: Santa Barbara’s Hidden Gem

Los Prietos Campground

Close to the action yet secluded enough for a tranquil camping experience, Los Prietos Campground offers easy access to a 2.5-mile hiking trail and the Santa Ynez River. Vehicle-friendly and free from harsh terrain, it’s a perfect spot for rest before hitting the trails or engaging in river activities.

Paso Picacho: The Heart of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Paso Picacho

Paso Picacho Campground is a well-kept secret within Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, offering easy access to the park’s amenities. Its well-maintained facilities make it an excellent spot for testing new overlanding gear in a controlled environment before venturing into more rugged territories.

The Thrill of Dispersed Camping

For the true overlanding aficionado ready to dive deeper into wilderness exploration, obtaining a dispersed camping permit is the next step. These permits allow for more freedom in choosing campsites within national forests, offering an authentic off-the-grid experience. They’re affordably priced, supporting national conservation efforts while providing endless adventure opportunities for setting up your rooftop tent under the stars.

Southern California’s diverse landscapes offer overlanders an unparalleled opportunity to connect with nature, challenge their skills, and find peace away from the hustle and bustle. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or new to the overlanding scene, these camping spots provide the perfect backdrop for your next adventure.

Gear and Equipment Checklist

  • Off-Road Navigation Tools: Invest in reliable GPS devices and maps designed for off-road use. Apps that work offline can be lifesavers in remote areas.
  • Recovery Gear: Include essential recovery items such as a winch, recovery boards, and tow straps. These tools can help you navigate tricky situations on less-traveled paths.
  • Water and Food Storage: Ensure you have secure and ample storage for water and food. Consider portable refrigeration units and water purification systems for longer trips.
  • Solar Power Solutions: For energy needs, portable solar panels can power devices and essential equipment, reducing reliance on your vehicle’s battery.

Safety and Preparedness

  • First Aid Kit: A comprehensive first-aid kit tailored for outdoor activities is crucial. Include items for treating minor injuries and any personal medications.
  • Emergency Communication Devices: Satellite phones or personal locator beacons (PLBs) can be vital in emergencies, especially in areas with no cell service.
  • Fire Safety Equipment: Pack fire extinguishers and know the local regulations regarding campfires to prevent wildfires.


Exploring Southern California through overlanding presents an exciting opportunity to immerse oneself in the region’s natural beauty and outdoor activities. With the right preparation, gear, and awareness of safety, adventurers can enjoy everything from serene forest campsites to rugged, off-grid experiences. Embrace the journey with the essentials in tow for an unforgettable adventure.