Courtesy of Layna
Courtesy of Layna

Camping is a great way to start if you’re looking to spend more time outdoors this spring, stress-free. You don’t have to bring to these locations much more than a tent, some food and a good attitude. So celebrate Earth Day by getting out there in these top camping spots of Southern California!

Lake Arrowhead: 34.9 mi (approx. 45 minutes) from UCR

Providing fun water activities, this is the spot for those who love to splash. At Lake Arrowhead, kayaking and paddleboarding are great activities for both pros and beginners, allowing you to explore secluded coves and admire the surrounding mountain vistas from a unique perspective. Swimming in the refreshing lake is also a picture perfect activity, and perfect on a warm day, offering a chance to cool off and have fun in the water. Fishing is another beloved activity at Lake Arrowhead, with ample opportunities to catch trout, bass and catfish; although I’ve never tried, I’m sure it would be just as fun as it is in Animal Crossing. And all of these activities let you beat the heat that Riverside is unfortunately gaining, and being around the water forces you to be more present (as you have to get off your phone to avoid dropping it in the lake).

Joshua Tree: 75.5 mi (approx. 1 hour 20 minutes) from UCR

If you’re looking for a unique spot, this is the place to view the beautiful scenery that Southern California has to offer. Joshua Tree National Park is a unique and captivating place to camp due to its distinct desert landscape characterized by its namesake, Joshua trees offers towering rock formations and vast open spaces. If you’ve been captivated by Dune these past couple of weeks like I have, this is the closest you’ll get to its sandy hills in SoCal. The park’s surreal scenery offers campers an unparalleled experience of sleeping under star-filled skies against a backdrop of unusual geological formations. The park’s diverse ecosystem supports a variety of wildlife and plant species adapted to the desert environment, adding to the raw, untouched beauty of the desert landscape.

Anza Borrego: 104 mi (approx. 2 hours 15 minutes) from UCR

Offering beautiful spring blooms, this is the spot for those looking for some great hiking. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is bursting with stunning wildflower blooms in the spring and extensive hiking trails to choose from. Camping amidst the colorful fields of wildflowers arranges a unique experience, while the park’s diverse trails cater to all skill levels, showcasing breathtaking desert landscapes, hidden waterfalls and even ancient petroglyphs (aka rock carvings). And if you’re feeling in the spelunking mood, you can journey into the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves for an adventure to remember. So whether you’re seeking a leisurely stroll or a more challenging trek, Anza-Borrego has something to offer. 

Big Bear: 98.2 mi (approx. 1 hour 10 minutes) from UCR

For those wanting a traditional camping experience, this is the spot for you. Cherished for its traditional camping experience amidst picturesque alpine scenery, Big Bear Lake is a beloved spot by many Riverside residents. The campground areas around the lake offer classic camping amenities such as tent sites nestled among tall pine trees, providing a serene and rustic atmosphere. Campers can enjoy traditional campfires under starry skies, cooking meals outdoors and sleeping in the peace of nature. This mountain retreat is the perfect spot for those who want to experience the quintessential joy of college camping.

Crystal Cove: 98.2 mi (approx. 1 hour) from UCR

If you’re looking for a close beach getaway, this is the spot for people who adore being right next to the shore. Crystal Cove State Park is a fantastic destination for beach camping due to its stunning coastal location and unique camping experience. Beach campsites at Crystal Cove allow campers to wake up to the sound of waves and enjoy breathtaking ocean views right from their tents. The park offers a range of amenities, including fire pits for evening bonfires on the sand and campers can spend their days swimming, soaking up the sun on the sand and exploring tide pools along the pristine coastline. And being so close to residential areas, this is especially an easy trip to make on the weekend with friends that will make for a memorable camping experience by the sea.

Hope these spots will aid you and your fellow Highlanders in becoming happy campers!