Ventura Ranch KOA Holiday
(Ventura KOA)

No gear? No problem. Adventure awaits at these 9 ‘ready-to-camp’ experiences around L.A.

From sipping coffee among the towering cedars of Big Bear to roasting s’mores under the starry sky of Joshua Tree, camping in California is one of the best ways to experience its full beauty.

But for many, the cost of buying a tent, trailer or other gear (and the hassle of figuring out how to use all of it) is enough to keep them from ever hitting that “reserve campsite” button.

For those people, there are options — many within a short drive of L.A.

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Here are nine ways to get the “camping experience” without the prep and packing. Yurts along a lake. An Airstream oasis. A local company that will bring a fully outfitted trailer to your campsite of choice. Traditionalists may reject these ready-made offerings as not actual camping — and, yes, some can certainly be categorized as “glamping” — but they can truly be a stress-free way to spend the night in nature, especially if you’re short on time. Who’s ready for an adventure ASAP?

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A yurt along Cachuma Lake
(County of Santa Barbara)

Cachuma Lake Yurts, Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County Campground
Two hours north of Los Angeles, you’ll find Cachuma Lake nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley. Mild temperatures and excellent fishing in this lake make for a serene camping experience. (Note that there’s no swimming — it’s a domestic water supply.)

Stay in one of the seven yurts, each with its own deck offering a spectacular view of the 9,000-acre reservoir, especially during sunrise or sunset. Most of these circular tent cabins sleep about five people with bunks and 4-inch vinyl-covered mattresses, a picnic table, fire ring, heaters and outlets.

Facilities onsite include hot showers, restrooms and a general store. Just bring linens and pillows or sleeping bags, a cooler full of food, firewood and a flashlight. Rates start at $75.
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The Holidays trailer.
(The Holidays)

The Holidays San Clemente

San Clemente Campground
In these four vintage trailers that sit atop a bluff at San Clemente State Beach, you’ll get a blast from the past with the amenities of the present. Camping newbies will find everything they need for a cozy stay: beds, linens, towels, toiletries, a coffee maker (with local coffee from Revolution Roasters in Oceanside), a refrigerator, stove, pots and utensils, USB chargers and heaters for the winter. (Note: Because it’s a dry, non-hookup site, you’ll have to take a short walk to get to the bathrooms and token-operated showers.) Just outside each trailer is a bin with some fun goods inside, like boogie boards, cornhole bags and Smashball paddles and balls.

The location is terrific: The trailers are situated just 350 steps from the sand. Owner Andy Jones recommends bringing a bike as it’s a short ride to both the pier and downtown San Clemente, where you might pick up some last-minute groceries.

The Holidays also delivers retro trailers to other campsites in Orange County and San Diego.
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Camping at Two Harbors.
(Arpit Mehta / Catalina Island Company)

Two Harbors Tent Cabins, Catalina Island

Catalina Island Campground
Yes, easy-ish camping exists in Catalina. Just grab your bags, take the 40-minute Catalina Express (perhaps spotting dolphins along the way) and check into one of the 12 tent cabins at Two Harbors, a rustic village on the lesser-traveled west side of the island.

Each of these sites along the bluff has a spectacular view, and you might even spot a bison up in the hills. Be forewarned: the six-person tents are very basic with army cots, propane stoves, lanterns and fire rings with grates for heating up your food. Just bring linens or a sleeping bag, warm clothes and a flashlight.

If you’re not packing in a cooler, you can visit the local restaurant or rent a cooler to be delivered with your purchases from the nearby general store. Gear haul is available to bring your bags up the half-mile from the pier to your tent. Running water, cold outdoor showers and restrooms are on-site. Rates start at $65.
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Inside the cabin with a window.
(Joy Kim / Getaway)

Getaway Big Bear

While Getaway’s modern cabins near Big Bear may be higher on the glamp scale (amenities include cool books on the shelves, Pharmacopia toiletries and snacks like sea salt beef jerky available for purchase), their tiny size (140- to 200-square feet!) ensures that much of your time will be spent outside in nature. And there are plenty of ways to enjoy it, from lounging on camp chairs around the fire pit or hiking around nearby Lake Gregory.

Just bring some cozy layers and your own food (or grab some at the local markets, bakeries or restaurants). The campground is designed to help you unplug — each cabin comes with a cellphone lockbox so you can “disconnect to reconnect.” Rates start at $199.
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Tentrr vineyard glamping.

Tentrr Vineyard Glamping, Paso Robles

San Luis Obispo Campground
A little cabernet with your camping, perhaps? Located right above a working vineyard in Paso Robles, this modern rustic setup from ready-to-go campsite company Tentrr and outdoor brand Coleman features a safari-style canvas tent, a queen memory foam bed, a camp stove and Adirondack chairs, a fire pit with grill, tables, a camp toilet and sun shower. There’s also an extra pop-up tent in case a friend wants to join you on your adventure.

Just bring your own bedding, pot or skillet if you intend to cook and a cooler of food. Or you can pick up groceries — and maybe stop for some wine tasting — in the town of Paso Robles, located 20 minutes away. Keep an eye out for the wild turkeys wandering around the property, as well as the owner’s friendly dog Raina. Rates start at $160.
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Autocamp Joshua Tree

Autocamp Joshua Tree

If you’re prepared to pay hotel prices for the camping experience, Autocamp’s sleekly outfitted Airstream trailers in Joshua Tree are a unique (and certainly Instagrammable) option. Each of these silver beauties has a smart TV and bluetooth-enabled sound system, Tempur-Pedic beds, a spa-inspired bathroom (with plush robes to lounge in), microwave, minifridge, dishware and glassware and a private fire pit and dining area.

You can start your day with free granola and coffee or order a heartier breakfast from the campsite’s modern Quonset-style clubhouse (the October menu featured apple quinoa muffins and buttermilk biscuit sandwiches with bacon). Then you might dip in the plunge pool or try one of the paid activities such as introductory rock climbing, a cultural tour or an herbal medicine session. And of course, there’s the national park six miles away.

Later in the day, Autocamp hosts events such as live music, free yoga, stargazing and fireside chats. While you might have come to Joshua Tree to get away from it all, it’s likely you’ll end your trip having made some new friends. Rates start at $229 and can run significantly higher at peak times.
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Flying Flags in Buellton.
(Flying Flags )

Flying Flags, Buellton

Buellton Campground
Choose your outdoor adventure at this ultra-family-friendly, 44-acre property in Santa Ynez wine country. It not only has Airstreams, but also three levels of tent cabins — the least expensive jupes feature a double memory foam bed on a wood floor with solar-powered lights and a fan, while the luxe safari tents come equipped with actual furniture and an outdoor kitchen.

Kids can bike around a large, enclosed property in the fresh air, play on the playground (and in the summer, the splash pad) and check out the seasonal activities (this December, there’s a holiday event that features a hot cocoa bar, a pony ride to the North Pole and visits with Santa).

The resort itself has the amenities of a hotel, including pools and hot tubs, a casual restaurant, a general store and a bocce court. Rates start at $99 for jupes and $149 for safari tents.
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Ventura Ranch KOA.
(Ventura Ranch KOA)

Ventura Ranch KOA

Ventura County Campground
From the Sioux-replica teepees and covered wagons to cabins that feel more like hotel rooms, there’s an option for every type of camper at this popular family site, nestled at the foot of Ventura County’s highest mountain, Topa Topa.

But the real draw here are the family activities such as hiking trails, a Saturday adventure course and zipline, a jumping pillow, and climbing wall that gets kids outside and tuckered out so their parents can catch a real break post-bedtime. Bring a cooler to cook your own food. There’s an onsite camp store selling grocery items in case you forget anything.
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Agua Caliente cabins.
(San Diego County Parks)

Agua Caliente County Park cabins, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

San Diego County Campground
Ready for a soothing digital detox? Agua Caliente County Park in sprawling Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a great option if you want to get in some hiking, soak in some hot springs and gaze at the stars before retiring to the climate-controlled comfort of a rustic cabin. There are miles of hiking trails that run through this park, as well as three naturally fed pools, including a children’s wading pool and a warmer indoor therapy pool that are free for campers to use.

Cabins here are very basic with two queen wooden frames, tables and chairs, a bathroom, sink and heater (which makes them popular in the winter months), as well as a shaded patio, fire ring and outdoor seating. Bring your air mattress, bedding, food and water, and you’re all set for adventure. The cabins are available to book until the campground closes for the summer in June.
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