Yes, Angeleno—you can camp in beauty and solitude without having to leave LA County! Buckhorn Campground, high in the Angeles National Forest just 36 miles up the Angeles Crest Highway, is just over an hour’s drive from downtown LA. But what a different world. Buckhorn is perched at 6,300 feet in the San Gabriel Mountains among clusters of towering ponderosa pines and cedars.
Although the 38 first-come, first-served campsites are all stunning, try to nab site No. 5, a good-sized site next to the creek. (No. 4 will also do nicely.) From the paved parking spot, carry your gear down the small hill to find optimal privacy, a picnic table, food locker, and natural log and rock seating around the fire pit. Vault toilets and piped water stations are nearby.
After setting up the tent, head to the base of the grounds, following signs for the Burkhart Trail. On the way to the trailhead, you’ll pass a magnificent rock formation flanked by pines and the stream. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can scramble to the top for some impressive views. Then continue down the paved road to the Burkhart Trail parking area for a 3-mile round-trip out-and-back hike to Cooper Canyon Falls.
When you return to your site for the night, keep an eye out for majestic Steller’s jays and listen for the sharp, metallic chirps of foraging towhees. Breathe in the mountain air, relax, and enjoy good company around a fire under the stars.
To get to Buckhorn Campground, take the Angeles Crest Hwy. (CA-2) 36 miles north from La Cañada Flintridge, ignoring all junctions along the way. When you pass the Buckhorn Day Use Area, looked for a sign and a narrow turnoff on your left. Camping fee is $12/night. Dog-friendly!