Blake, a loyal Modern Hiker reader, recently wrote in asking about camping in the Angeles National Forest:
I have been following Modern Hiker for a couple of months now and have commented on some of your recommended hikes that I have ventured off to myself. Thanks for the great resource!
I have a question for you if you have the time… I was curious if there is anywhere to camp in the San Gabriels without needing to backpack it in. I will not have my pack with me here in LA until the summer when I pick it up from my dad in NM and my buddy and I want to go camping in the San Gabriels during Memorial Day Weekend. Any suggestions? Are there campgrounds in there? Do they do reservations?
The Angeles National Forest boasts over 50 campsites, the vast majority of which don’t have any sort of entrance fee beyond the always-required Adventure Pass, which is great news for campers and backpackers of all stripes. All of the campsites are first-come, first-served, which means that even on a busy weekend like Memorial Day, if you set your alarm clock early enough you’ll probably still be able to snag a choice spot for your tent. (Group sites require reservations through recreation.gov)
Additionally, the Angeles National Forest maintains a great camping resource page, which lists all of their campgrounds, how many sites are in each ground, elevation, seasons of operation, and helpful information like whether or not there are toilets or if the site’s had recent bear or mountain lion activity.
If you are looking for a drive-up and set-up type of camp, your options are a bit more limited, but there are some places:
– Chilao Flats – drive in campground in the middle of the San Gabriels. $12 / night. Some areas currently closed.
– Buckhorn – drive in campground near Waterman Mountain, Twin Peaks, and several great trails. Has streams in the spring, and
no fee required small fee required at self-pay station. As you can guess, this is a popular site.
– Monte Cristo – drive in campground on the Angeles Forest Highway. $8 / night.
– Manker Flat – drive in campground right near the base of Mount Baldy. Great location, and also near a small general store (with a very friendly and talkative owner). $12 / night – $10 if you already have an adventure pass.
If you’re coming up near Wrightwood, there is also a string of small campgrounds just past the Big Pines Ranger Station — some of them are first-come first-served, others can be reserved on recreation.gov.
And of course, I’ll open it up to comments here — anyone have a favorite drive-in campground in the Angeles?