Fall Camping at El Capitan

By Rina Baraz Nehdar

fall camping los angeles

The bridge to the Nature Trail: this was to wood nymphs and fairies – Knox and Dylan lead the way PHOTO BY RINA BARAZ NEHDAR

For Angelenos, camping in the fall is an opportunity to cozy up to nature after the crowds have gone back to their grind. November is our family favorite and this year, Park Rangers Tony Annia and Rick Humphrey from El Capitan State Beach, or “El Cap” as locals refer to it, gave us some advice on how to make the most of our annual trip there.

Keep things simple during this bustling time of year by consulting GoRVing.com, where you can find RVs to rent, book camping sites nationwide and access packing lists based on your trip.

“Fall is my favorite time of the year to camp,” says Annia. “Bring light clothing as it’s typically the hottest time of the year. The temperatures frequently get into the 90s between September and November.”

Fall Camping Things To Do

  1. See the Butterflies

Monarch butterflies migrate from up north from early September through mid December. “I’ve seen them from the Chicago area and up from Canada as well,” Humphrey says. “They come during Indian summers for food, weather and to breed.”

El Cap is a popular viewing spot for the precious pollinators due to an abundance of Eucalyptus trees.

From El Capitan State Beach Campground, follow the path from the ranger shack to the park entrance to find a grove of 15 small eucalyptus trees. Bring a camera to catch the beauties resting, reproducing and enjoying the California sunshine.

  1. Visit the Elephant Seals

There is an elephant seal rookery easily accessible to visitors just off the beach. The elephant seals come throughout the year to mate and breed and during the fall, the juveniles come on land to grow new fur and skin.

From the beach, walk south from lifeguard tower #1 and to the left. You will spot the rookery. Keep a safe distance – and keep dogs on leash – while checking them out.

  1. Bring a Surfboard or Boogie Board

In the fall and winter, locals keep watch for a West swell that calls forth a set of waves coveted by surfers in the know. Unless you’re a seasoned surfer, don’t bother attending this beach party. However, most of the time the waves are calm, and my boys love to ride whatever swells happen to catch their boards long enough to take them to shore.

  1. Meet New Ocean Friends

Low tides expose an underwater world, revealing sea snails, starfish and sunburst anemone in tidepools where kids can spend many hours of discovery until the tide covers them. Check the tide report to plan the perfect time to go.

fall camping los angeles

Justin and Knox getting ready to catch some waves at El Capitan State Beach. PHOTO BY RINA BARAZ NEHDAR

  1. Hike for a Sunset Picnic

Wooden tables are set on a lush green lawn overlooking the ocean just south of the path from the campground to the beach. It is also accessible at the end of a .35 mile Nature Trail that starts just off the day-use parking lot. The trail leads you through a forest of sycamore and oak trees. It is not uncommon to see weddings in this magical realm. The path is stroller friendly and the park is wheelchair friendly in many locations.

A day-use pass is $10, but if you’re camping, your fee includes parking. Camping fees start at $35 per night. El Capitan State Beach is off the 101 freeway at the El Capitan State Beach exit. It’s about a two-hour drive north from Downtown Los Angeles.

If winter is more your thing, beginning Dec. 1, state parks stop taking reservations and move to a first-come, first-served basis.

For those who love nature but also the convenience of room service, there is El Capitan Canyon, where you will find cabins, yurts and heavy canvas tents.



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