12 Super-Cool Camp Sites For An Unforgettable Weekend Away

[UPDATE: This post was originally publish on May 1]
There’s no denying that Troop Beverly Hills’ Phyllis Neffler is a fictional goddess, and we’re all about her genius faux campgrounds at the BHH. However, we also bow down to au natural ladies who aren't afraid to get a little mud on their Birkenstocks, and kick it in the wild for days at a time.
Besides, doesn’t it sound like a real relief to leave the trendy clothes at home, have your feet relish in freedom from those heels, and forgo makeup altogether (okay maybe don’t go that far)? Well, if you're ready for a weekend that's about what counts — straight-up fun — we know where the hot windsurfers sleep under the stars (also included: working showers and the best chili), as well as the places where you can rage beachside with a gaggle of pals. Or, if you prefer to go with just your beau in tow, we've got the perfect spot for candlelit Scrabble, fine wine in plastic cups, and snuggling up in a sleeping bag meant for one. Either way, you'll want to click through and start planning your next "Wilderness Girl" adventure.
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We're hesitant to give this secret up, but Jalama is the number one spot in all of Cali, when it comes to camping. Think beachside (contained) bonfires at least 10 miles off any main road, and no cell reception (hallelujah!) for at least 15 minutes from your tent. Located near Vandenberg Air Force Base, all of the in-the-know surfers hit the shore when there's swell, and the beautiful kites from those kind of wave-riders make for picturesque playtime in the sand. Plus, the site boasts coin-fed showers, and a general store with Top Chef-style chili. You have to get your ressies on-site, so we recommend you get there at the crack of dawn to snag prime real estate.
Jalama Beach County Park, 9999 Jalama Road (near Jalama Road), Santa Barbara; 805-736-3504.

Leo Carrillo
Beachcomb, swim, surf, fish, and hike at this just-off-PCH paradise. There's tide pools galore and crazy-cool caves, all shaded by beautiful Sycamores. LCSP is about 45 minutes from L.A.'s center, so you can pitch a tent on a Friday, even after a long week's worth of work.
Leo Carrillo State Park, 35000 West Pacific Coast Highway (at Mulholland Highway), Malibu; 805-488-1827.

Photo: Via SantaBarbara.com
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With over 500 miles of dirt roads and hiking trails, this is the largest road tripper's nature respite in all of CA. Borrego means "bighorn sheep" en espanol, and a run-in with wildlife is not a rare occurrence at this outside-of-SD spot (it's a two hour drive, approximately) — there are roadrunners, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer, iguanas, chuckwallas, and red diamond rattlesnakes (beware!), all around. Not to worry though, you'll most likely just enjoy fresh air, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti, and sweeping vistas.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, 200 Palm Canyon Drive (near Hoberg Road), San Diego; 760-767-4205.

Photo: Via California State Park
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Boogie board or bike around this spot for seaside relaxation at its finest. The great thing is that it's usually pretty uncrowded because of its mum's-the-word cliffside vibe, but we recommend packing your hiking boots in addition to the ol' flops because the tide can get intense and expose rocks.
South Carlsbad State Beach, 7201 Carlsbad Boulevard (at Tamarack Avenue), Carlsbad; 760-438-3143.

Crystal Cove
Laguna has so many gems worth the 405 drive, but this sandy retreat is nothing short of majestic. Scuba divers, bikers, hikers, and first-time campers can enjoy the 3.2 miles of beach, at-sea state-deemed underwater park, and undeveloped woodlands. A backdrop for many a Vogue shoot, you better get your camping dance card in early (we're talking years in advance, folks!) for the bygone-era glam cottages dotting the beach.
Crystal Cove State Park, 8471 North Coast Highway (near Newport Coast Drive), Laguna Beach; 949-494-3539.

Photo: Via Visit Carlsbad Facebook.
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Cottonwood Spring
Joshua Tree is jam-packed with spots to set up weekend shop, but Cottonwood is our tops. One of the best-kept secrets in the National Park, it's seven miles of tripped-out territory (we always think of Val Kilmer in The Doors when we visit).The Native American Cahuilla tribe once inhabited the grounds, and left historic bedrock mortars and clay pots ("ollas"), that will send shivers up your spine. The spring is a result of earthquake activity over the years (equally chilling), and the easily accessible agua made it a hotspot for Gold Rushers, too (definitely check out the ruins). Hint: Hike the Lost Palms Oasis Trail to take in all of the vast perks this place has to offer.
Cottonwood Spring at Joshua Tree National Park, 74485 National Park Drive (near Twentynine Palms Highway), Twentynine Palms, San Bernardino; 760-367-5525.

Photo: Via ProTrails
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How freeing does this sound? Pitch a tent amidst the pines in a forest that dances around a swimmable lake. Even equestrians can get in on the action here at 4,000 feet into the heavens. There are creeks with shallow pools for steamy-day refreshment, and breathtaking hikes everywhere you turn. Put your name in early if you want to sleep here from April through October, though, as the unbelievable cost of $30 bucks per night is hard to compete with — even for a campsite!
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, 13652 Highway 79 (near Lookout Road), San Diego; 760-765-3020.

Photo: Via California State Parks
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Irvine Lake
Tucked beneath Santiago Creek, minutes from the OC, lies a low-key campground that's a fisher-woman's dream (no fishing license required!). Crack a brewsky, and cast your rod for a fly time, indeed!
Irvine Lake, 4621 Santiago Canyon Road (near Blue Diamond Haul Road), Silverado; 714-649-9111.

Photo: Via Irvine Lake
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Newport Dunes
Right at the entrance to the Back Bay Nature Preserve and the Newport Bay Conservancy sits 110 acres of sandy beachfront sleeping bag spots with your name on them! It's not exactly isolated, but you can rent a sailboat, pedal boat, or even an electric ocean cruiser. Or — just a thought — you could even BYOK (Bring Your Own Kayak).
Newport Dunes, 1131 Back Bay Drive (near Bayside Drive), Newport Beach; 800-765-7661.

Photo: Via Newport Dunes Facebook
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Palomar Mountain
Catch some trout in this coniferous forest, and bask in a Sierra Nevada-like atmosphere. This spot boasts a few "modern" amenities like flushable toilets (wowee!), and stand-up barbecues. You can snap some pics underneath a trove of azaleas, or dip your feet in the edge of a stream, while trotting along the Thunder Springs/Chimney Flats Loop. Oh, and did we mention there's an apple orchard ripe for the picking?
Palomar Mountain State Park, 19952 State Park Drive (at Bailey Meadow Road), San Diego; 760-742-3462.

Cachuma Lake
This lakeside scenery is snatched up fast, so reserve your cottage (equipped with a kitchenette) fast, especially in peak sunshine season! You can also stay in a Yurt (a teepee-meets-tent deal) with spectacular views of the adjacent glimmering waters.
Cachuma Lake, HC 59 (At Highway 154); 805-686-5054.

Photo: Via California State Parks
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Point Mugu
Five miles of oceanfront oasis await you just outside of the city at PM. Fill your weekend with sporty activities like body-surfing and hiking, or just recreational sun-worshiping in the sand. If you can't deal with camp cuisine, you always have the option of heading South to Neptune's Net for some greasy eats, too!
Point Mugu State Park, 9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway (at Sycamore Canyon Road), Malibu; 805-488-1827.

Photo: Via VisitUSA

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