A CPP inspired guide to California camping

By Isabella Cano; April 13, 2021

With the COVID-19 pandemic prompting massive restrictions on recreational and non-essential in-person activities, many California residents have turned to one place for their leisure: the great outdoors.

As a growing number of people ditch the couch and lace on their sneakers, the vast natural diversity native to Southern California provides impressive outdoor locations for the Cal Poly Pomona community to discover locally.

Even so, CPP offers students who are not as familiar with the outdoor experience, or simply can’t bring themselves to go outside, a virtual alternative.

Through ASI Campus Recreation’s Adventures program, Adventures Coordinator Ian Navarro, leads a team which organizes a variety of online nature-related activities meant to help prepare students for future camping trips and create a sense of unity despite the university’s current virtual format.

“We’ve been able to consistently run every single program that we ran in the BRIC, except one, with more registration numbers and we’ve had repeat participants from the very beginning, so we have definitely created a small community,” Navarro said.

The Adventures Virtual Program features multiple Zoom workshops that cover basic training of tangible outdoor skills, virtual tours of national and local parks and virtual campfires for students to share their stories, all throughout the semester.

Adventures Supervisor Marshall Fielding, who works on developing and teaching these virtual workshops, emphasized that the sessions are designed to benefit the entire CPP community.

“Online, we have had more people register that are new to recreation and the program so that’s been really cool because our only goal isn’t just to take the outdoor enthusiasts and make them even more outdoor enthusiasts,” said Fielding. “We really want to take new people that haven’t had the opportunity and say we will break down the cost barriers, the knowledge barriers, the gear barriers, to get those people the experience and the outdoor exposure that will really help them develop and grow as a student and person.”

While the program aims to equip students with the preliminary knowledge needed to successfully go camping, this list is compiled from voices in the CPP community, highlighting some of the best outdoor spots in California to sleep under the stars:

Lytle Creek

Located about 30 miles from CPP, Lytle Creek is a fairly close locale for those living in the Inland Empire. Acting as a dry river zone in the San Gabriel Mountains, the campground offers multiple trails leading up into the high desert and Mt. Baldy.

Mt. Baldy is an especially picturesque spot during the winter season. (Courtesy of Charles Ou)

Mt. Baldy

Situated next door to Lytle Creek, Mt. Baldy provides spacious campgrounds and a scenic hiking trail. About 11 miles long, the hike is known for its wildly different landscapes as well as its close proximity to the Bridge to Nowhere landmark.

For Charles Ou, a first-year computer engineering student and member of the Polylens club, it serves as an ideal photoshoot location.

“It’s a pretty long hike, but you really see a lot of different vegetation and different views as you go,” said Ou.

Crystal Cove Moro Campground

Sitting peacefully on the bluffs overlooking the ocean at Laguna Beach, the grounds are a fan favorite amongst both beachside and backcountry campers. With more sophisticated facilities and amenities than most, their 58 drive-in campsites are perfect for tent users and van-lifers alike.

Joshua Tree National Park

Considered one of the most famous camping destinations in Southern California, the park encompasses many different elements of desert beauty. Aside from its signature Joshua trees commonly seen throughout the park, the campgrounds feature panoramic desert views, unique rock formations and a clear sky for stargazing any night. Ryan Mountain and

Hidden Valley are two especially popular spots found there.

Death Valley National Park

Recognized as one of the hottest places on Earth and the driest place in North America, the Central California park and campsite has a reputation for creating a sense of solitude. Offering more than majestic canyon views, sand dunes, geology tour trails, blue skies and an abundance of wildlife, Titus Canyon is a walkable rock gorge in the park filled with indigenous petroglyphs.

Despite its dry and flat atmosphere, Death Valley National Park boasts a distinct natural sight for California residents and visitors. (Courtesy of Charles Ou)

Alabama Hills

Positioned on federal forest grounds, this eroded hill range is found close to Inyo National Forest and provides breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains’ snowy peaks. Because of its convenient location, the off-grid campgrounds are typically open for free public use year-round.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Found between the cities of Coachella and San Diego, this 105-acre park and campsite near Borrego Springs displays an array of outdoor sights from rugged badlands to spectacular

sunsets. From Coyote Canyon, one of the park’s lesser-known areas, the region’s natural vegetation can be seen and appreciated in all of its glory.

“When there’s a super bloom there in the spring, you can even drive through and see all of these desert flowers and things; it’s really cool,” said Andrew Musson, a third-year mechanical engineering student and avid camper.

Williams Hill Recreation Area

A viable option for CPP students living closer to Northern California, Williams Hill Recreation area is a hidden gem in Monterey County. Although the campgrounds contain slightly underdeveloped roads/trails and facilities compared to others, the sights are equally enjoyable. Additionally, the land’s federal ownership allows free camping access to the public for 14 days at a time.


Many campsites require prior reservations that can be done through websites like recreation.gov, hipcamp.com and reservecalifornia.com. When certain sites are unavailable, however, the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management federal campgrounds are often cheaper and more accessible solutions for an overnight wilderness stay.

PRO TIP: When trying to ensure that facilities and campsites are operating properly before arriving, the park ranger should be called in advance. Not only will they provide the needed information, but also insider tips about the location unknown to others.

If any assistance is needed in planning an outdoor trip, the ASI Adventures team encourages students to visit the Bronco Get Outdoors website or contact them with any questions. Upcoming Adventure program events can be found here.

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