CAMPING AT POINT MUGU

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CAMPING AT POINT MUGU

Are you looking for a place to get in touch with the West Coast and the Pacific Ocean? Then camping at Point Mugu State Park, in the Santa Monica Mountains, might just be for you. The park offers five miles of ocean shoreline, where you can find memorable hikes along wildflower dotted rugged steeps. While you are there, you can kick off your shoes on sandy beaches, run-down dunes, and hike upriver canyons and valleys. Point Mugu offers over 70 miles of hiking paths, great places for swimming, and body surfing.

Campgrounds

Sycamore Canyon Campground

Boasting 58 beautifully shaded campsites by sycamores in the convenience and aptly named Sycamore Canyon, proposes a variety of sites with big-hearted yards to spots sheltered amongst the flora.

The sites are slightly close together, and this campground is unquestionably remembered as one of the more social areas, but that’s what camping is, right? The site is a 3-minute walking distance from the beach.

It is not extreme in the “wilderness” sense, but it’s excellent nonetheless.

The campground is also acknowledged for the cleanliness and availability of all amenities, and the site even sells extra firewood right there if you would need it. Furthermore, the campground has direct access to the beach and hikes, so you never have to get in your car!

Because of its vicinity to beaches in Point Mugu State Park and nearby Malibu, Sycamore Canyon Campground fills up swiftly as reservations become available. Bookings can be made up to 7 months in advance. New bookings are released in one-month chunks on the first of each month, year-round.

Campsites are for up to 8 people, 1 vehicle and 1 legally towed vehicle or trailer. Additional cars will be charged an extra fee.

 

Point Mugu Thornhill Broome campground

This is beach camping at it’s best! It doesn’t feel like a campsite, you have the whole beach. You are so close to the water, and there is plenty of space between you and your neighbor. When we were there, many people had RVs, so there were only a few tents.

The beach is full, so you can stagger tents as well to get more space from your neighbor and take in the views, which are absolutely gorgeous. Book your spot early! We booked 2 months out and could only get one night on a weekday in late June.

It is pretty windy in the afternoon when you are setting up camp. Luckily there are big rocks everywhere that you can use to tie down and hold your stakes in. The weather was charming in late June, the fog rolled in in the morning, and the afternoon/evening was cold with the breeze. There were not many people on the beaches surrounding, and the brisk morning stroll watching dolphins play in the water was delightful.

You can not reserve a specific site, they are assigned when you arrive. They will let you drive through and pick the one you want if there are still some to choose from. All sites seem equal here, though it might be helpful to be further from the entrance as you would have less traffic coming in and out.

All campsites and parking are along one lane parallel to the beach and Highway 101. The last spot on the south end did seem to have less sand to work with, while we were there, as there was a ridge on that end. But overall, all sites are great. It is on Highway 101, but the road noise was not an issue at all, and the road didn’t seem to have much traffic.

For food, make sure you go to a store in town before arriving, as there are no stores around, which makes it feel more secluded. We had ceviche and clam chowder at Neptune’s Net about 3.5 miles south in Malibu that was excellent. It’s a cute restaurant right on 101 and overlooking the ocean.

 

Spots to conquer at Point Mugu State Park

1. Boney Mountain

At just over 2800 feet high, Boney Mountain overlooks over the entire Point Mugu State Park area. It serves as the towering presence visible from most areas inside Point Mugu State Park.

On a sunny day, the top of Boney Mountain offers fantastic views of La Jolla Valley and valley all the way to the ocean and Channel Islands National Park.

There are numerous ways to get to Boney Mountain. Still, the shortest trail is from the Northern end of the park at the intersection of Wendy Drive and Potrero roads. This is called the Wendy Trail Head.

From there, it takes approximately 2.5 hours of moderate to strenuous hiking to the top of Boney Mountain. Sadly, it takes just as much time coming down as the trail is very steep close to the top.

 

2. Mugu Peak

Being 1266 feet tall, Mugu Peak governs over the southern part of the park. It provides a fabulous scenic view of the shoreline and Mugu Lagoon and Oxnard plains.

There are two main routes of getting to Mugu Peak. My favorite and shortest route is to take the Chumash Trail off of the Pacific Coast Highway right after the Mugu Rock. The trail guides you to Mugu Peak and then folds back around as it presents excellent views of the Pacific Ocean for most of the course.

Taking the Chumash Trail and loop to Mugu Peak demands about 3 hours round trip with the first 30-40 minutes being exhausting.

-photo Mugu Lagoon and the Channel Islands-/ From the top of Mugu Peak you can see the Mugu Lagoon and the Channel Islands

Another way to reach Mugu Peak is from La Jolla Canyon. If you choose this route, keep left as you climb.

 

3. La Jolla Canyon

On the Southern side of the park, La Jolla Canyon gives a beautiful access point for the Point Mugu Wilderness area and La Jolla Valley. Positioned directly off the Pacific Coast Highway, La Jolla Canyon entrance is distinctly marked and provides day-use parking and restrooms. For free parking, nonetheless, you can easily find parking along Highway 1.

La Jolla Canyon

La Jolla Canyon is an excellent point of access to climbing Mugu Peak, especially if you look for a longer but easier climb.

 

4. Sycamore Canyon

Sycamore Canyon provides another beautiful entrance to the park from the southern side. It arises right after La Jolla Canyon, and it gives a comparable kind of hiking as it provides access to the Boney Mountain Wilderness.

 

5. Point Mugu State Beach

Wildlife abounds around the beach area of Point Mugu State Park. Right before (if you come south on the PCH) the Mugu Rock on the right side of the PCH, you can see a wildlife preserve area that is home to many birds. You can see pelicans, sea lions, and dolphins on any typical day around Point Mugu State Beach. 

Point Mugu State Beach

6. Mugu Rock Area

Mugu Rock is a representative of this area as the Pacific Coast crosses right in between the sharp cliffs of Mugu Peak on the east and the imposing Mugu Rock to the west. You can swiftly stop in the small parking area and explore the ocean around Mugu Rock.

Mugu Rock Area

7. Mugu Rock small beach area

Right past the immense Mugu Rock, on the ocean side, you can pull your car on the base of the road and drop to a small sandy patch. This small beach is rocky but beautiful, and it can be overwhelmed with water at high tides.

Mugu Rock small beach area


Activities

Biking

Believe it or not (but you should believe it because that’s what we are here for), mountain biking is one of the most popular pursuits among visitors to Point Mugu.

The abundance of available paths for your riding pleasure can be found here. Ideal for pretty much everyone other than experts, the gentle grades through lush woodlands are ideal if you aren’t riding with a death wish.

We deeply advise taking your bike out to good ol’ Mugu. Even the seasoned riders can appreciate the high loops that spin-off of the Sycamore Canyon trail.

Fishing

Anglers beware: while surf fishing is prevalent at Pt. Mugu, the rocks and beaches are particularly dangerous for this activity (especially during high tide).

If you stay safe, however, a variety of marine friends ranging from surf perch and sea bass to tiger sharks are ready for the pickin’.

Hiking

Point Mugu is a fabulous trekker’s getaway snuggled in the Santa Monica Mountains. It has more than 70 miles of trails crisscrossing through rugged hills, gorgeous river canyons, and grass valleys speckled with the classic California sycamores, oaks, and native walnuts.

The main tour of the park, Sycamore Canyon Trail, where visitors can travel through a mystical and magnificent wooded canyon shadowed by breathtaking sycamores. This trail offers an outstanding comprehensive insight into some of the best wilderness that the Santa Monica Mountains have to offer.

The beauty of Point Mugu’s hiking, however, is the number of singletrack trails stemming off, allowing trekkers some solitude in such a beautiful landscape. Ask a ranger for some exceptional spots to hit, as well as some inside knowledge on where the famous monarchs like to hang out.

Set off on almost any of the dozens of trails crisscrossing Point Mugu State Park and expect to be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the coast. Much of the foliage was burned in the 2013 fire, creating a desolate landscape until plants can regenerate. Still, in the meantime, it presents unfettered views of the beach, ocean, and Channel Islands.

Horseback riding

You can use some of the sweet equestrian choices right from the National Park Service entrance. Who wouldn’t want to cross these intertwining trails on one of nature’s most majestic mammals? Not only this, but it enables for a much more extensive view as you can undergo much more of the landscape than you would on foot!

Surfing

Point Mugu and surfing go together like icing and cake. Or maybe macaroni and cheese. Or whatever things go along perfectly. Because Point Mugu is known as one of the sweetest surf spots in all of America, with world-class wave quality and significant breaks.

Sincerely, we cannot recommend this beach more for those who love surfing. Either way, check out the surf report before getting in, although those waves should always be high.

This spot is also bodyboard heaven if that’s what you’re into. With more speed, long barrels, and ramps than you have seen before, this is an excellent place for high-performance bodyboarding.

Beware of the navy base, as they sometimes close the beach, but surfers also love to head south of the park to County Line Beach, where the waves are easy to access. While on the southern end, expect a fast beach break as well as an outer reef break.

One of the best surfing spots in the area is north of the state park along the coast of the Navy base. The station rarely opens its gates to the public. But when it does, surfers flock to the area to test themselves against the waves there. Surfers like the amazing right and left breaks. In good conditions, there is a fast hollow break that can keep even the most experienced surfers pushing the limits.

Many surfers head south of the park to County Line Beach, where the waves are easy to access. A mixed sand and rock bottom deserves caution. At the southern end, expect a fast beach break and an outer reef break. 

Kayaking

Experienced kayakers launch from Sycamore Cove Beach and make the 5-mile paddle up the coast to Point Mugu Beach. Challenging waves can make for an uncertain launch, and landing spots along the coast are few. Launching and landing in the churning waves are easier with someone onshore to assist.

Paddlers along the coast are likely to be greeted by dolphins and other marine life. Pelicans drop in now and then. Once past Mugu Rock, kayakers should avoid advancing so far north that they are adjacent to the Naval Air Station.

Swimming

Swimming is an option at the beach for all of you who don’t fear to take a dip in the ocean. Not only this, but there is an Olympic sized pool right at the Naval base. However, we aren’t totally sure as to the availability to the public...

Wildlife watching

Whether you find yourself on one of the beaches of Point Mugu or traversing the trails in the Sycamore Canyon, you are bound to come across some of the abundant wildlife that populates the area.

Let’s start with the marine mammals. During your stay at the beaches, if you look closely, you’ll most likely see pods of dolphins swimming along the coast, migratory whales if you time it right, and seals and sea lions as well.

Gulls, cormorants, shorebirds, and pelicans are also our natural avian animals that fly overhead.

While hiking, many visitors come across deer, coyote, wild cats, and snakes as well. That implies you watch out for rattlers, as there have been many sightings during day hikes.

Our favorite birds found here include woodpeckers, California thrashers, and songbirds. While in the Boney Mountain Wilderness section, you are also bound to find some resident mule deer, gray foxes, skunks, and mountain lions, if you’re lucky.

Now onto the most magnificent portion of the wildlife sightings at Point Mugu: the monarchs. How can you not love these great butterflies that blanket every area they come through on their migratory paths in a deep glowing orange? During the fall, millions of monarchs migrate through Point Mugu and form what entomologists call over-wintering colonies.

That’s right people, if you hit Point Mugu during the autumn, you’ll not only find beautiful colors among the plants but will also be stunned by the magnitude of orange radiated by these butterflies.

Junior Ranger Program

The Junior Ranger Program is designed for children ages 7 to 12. The program begins June 17 and ends on August 31. Participants learn about park animals, plants, and park history.

At Point Mugu State Park, the Junior Rangers meet on Fridays at 10:00 a.m. at the entrance station kiosk at the Sycamore Canyon campground.

Things to consider before planning your trip

Fees for parking or camping are due upon entry into the park. Self-register if the entrance station is unmanned. Fee amounts are posted at the entrance station. 

Camping fee covers one vehicle and one legally towed in vehicle. There are additional fees for extra vehicles.

Park vehicles only at your assigned campsite. Wheels must remain on the pavement and within the parking space or limit line—Park additional vehicles in the day-use lot. We found parking even late in the morning, and the helpful ranger proposed a short but lively hike that ended with stunning views of the ocean and PCH.

Campsite occupancy is a maximum of eight people. Tents and other equipment must be limited to the space assigned. Limit 30 days per calendar year, according to the official brochure.

Campsites have a fire ring and a picnic table.

Dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet and under adult supervision at all times. Dogs must be enclosed in a vehicle or tent at night. Dogs are not permitted on trails or dirt fire roads.

Park roads are public highways, and traffic laws apply. The speed limit is 15 mph unless otherwise posted. Use caution when pedestrians, bicyclists, and children are present and decrease speed as appropriate. Passengers should not ride in the beds of pick-up trucks (including those with camper shells) or hang on car sides.

Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. 

Generator operation hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Noise from radios and other devices must not be perceptible beyond your immediate campsite, regardless of the time of day or night. All amplified music must be off by 10 p.m.

Alcohol consumption is permitted by those 21 years of age or older. Glass containers are not allowed beyond your campsite or on the beach.

Ropes, lines, swings, or hammocks may not be fastened to any plant, fence, or park structure. Attach wires to your property only.

Bicycles are allowed only on marked trails. Bicycle riders under age 18 must wear a helmet. Bikes ridden after dark must have a light.

Firearms/weapons or hunting are not allowed. Possession of loaded firearms and air rifles is prohibited. This includes anything that shoots a projectile—including but not limited to, arrows, pellets, bbs or paintballs.

Fires are allowed only in fire rings or camp stoves and are not permitted on the beach. Do not gather firewood in the park. You may purchase wood from the camp hosts. All fireworks are prohibited.

Educational and interpretative programs are offered for the public and school groups. 

Park plants, artifacts, and animals are protected. Tidepool animals are fragile and need your help to protect them. Touch animals gently and leave them where you find them.

A Final Note About Point Mugu Camping

Camping in Point Mugu State Park is an incredible experience, no matter how you like to camp. It is a unique park with views for days and wildlife so abundant you’ll remember it for a lifetime.

This state park offers numerous camping opportunities. You can choose a spot at the family or group campground. If you’re more adventurous, pitch your tent at a primitive or hike campsites.

Bring your RV up to 31feet in length and enjoy access and a dump station. At the visitor’s center, check out the list of programs to learn more about habitat and area.

I strongly recommend calling and speaking with a ranger to get your camping trip set up. A ranger can alert you to current park conditions, help you choose the best trails and activities for your family, and get you all set with a campsite reservation. 

To camp in Point Mugu State Park is a beautiful gift. So get planning! Start your gear list or get that RV all set to hit the road. The mountains are calling, and the park is waiting for you.


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