La Jolla Valley Hike-in Campground Point Mugu

La Jolla Valley Hike-in Campground


From the issue Pitch Hits

Pack It In

Want to go wild without going too far into the wild? La Jolla Valley Hike-In Campground in Point Mugu State Park is a rarity in the Santa Monica Mountains, an easy-to-reach (and surprisingly little-used!) backcountry campground. It’s the place to go for an "Intro to Backpacking" adventure. Several trails lead to La Jolla Valley, but the most straightforward is a 2.4-mile (one-way) option on the La Jolla Canyon Trail, beginning just off PCH across from Thornhill Broome Beach Campground. Toss on your backpack and make your way to the canyon’s namesake falls just .75-mile in. The surrounding canyon walls rise impressively and close in on the La Jolla Canyon Falls (note this seasonal oasis is barely a dribble right now). Next hike a switchback along the canyon’s east side where the trail gets steeper and rockier. The unusual local plant, giant coreopsis (resembling a miniature Joshua tree sprouting sunflowers), sycamores and jagged boulders add color and a rugged edge. After a mile, the trail levels out on the final stretch to the campground, passing through a green-turning-golden meadow featuring a panorama of the surrounding valley, Sandstone Peak, and the Boney Mountains to the east. While La Jolla Valley campground doesn’t offer views, the appeal lies in its privacy. Nine sites sprawl a good distance apart beneath a canopy of oaks, providing a cool respite during hot weather. It’s quite likely you’ll have this first-come, first-serve campground all to yourself, even on a holiday weekend. Consider it your reward for that stellar backpacking effort. Jump for La Jolla!

BONUS: For ocean views on your return, hike back either on the Ray Miller or Mugu Peak trails (note: this will make the hike a bit longer and tougher).

Take Pacific Coast Hwy. to La Jolla Canyon in Point Mugu State Park (map). Sites are $8 per night. Register at the Iron Ranger in the parking lot at the bottom of La Jolla Canyon. Sites are first-come, first-serve but rarely book up (even on weekends). Hike 2 miles up La Jolla Canyon Trail, turning left at the second junction toward the campground. When the trail ends at La Jolla Valley Fire Road, turn right and make an immediate left to the campground. Campfires are prohibited. There is a vault toilet. Pack your own water. Here is a trail map. No dogs.

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