Backpack to the La Jolla Valley Walk-In Camps

Details

Distance

10 miles

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Added by BJ Klophaus

This is a quick escape just north of Los Angeles. Easy overnight backpacking trip for beginners or if you’re looking for a chill night out.

Hello Friends! I just took a really chill overnight backpacking trip to the La Jolla Valley Backcountry campsite and I’m going to give you some details so you can have as nice of an outing as I did!

The trailhead is conveniently just off of the Pacific Coast Highway, across the street from the Thornhill Broome Campground. Drop these coordinates into Google Maps to navigate to the entrance: 34.083830, -119.035883

There is overnight parking at the trailhead and you can self-register with the machine in the parking lot. It’s $10/person/night. If there are any issues with the machine you can pick up a pass from the guard booth at the Thornhill Broome Campground across the street (currently labeled Point Mugu State Beach Campground on Google Maps).

Once you have your car situation settled, start the hike at the Ray Miller Trailhead. There’s another trailhead next to it for the La Jolla Canyon Trail, but it was closed due to storm damage when we went. So if it’s open when you go, you can return from camp via this trail (2.7 miles), but if not, just double back the way you hike in on Day 1.

The Ray Miller Trailhead is the western terminus of the Backbone Trail. You’ll follow this trail for 2.4 miles, climbing steadily into the mountains on a dusty path. The hike isn’t too steep and you’ll have some nice views out over the PCH to the ocean. We went around 3:30pm when the sun was starting to dip in the sky a bit. You’ll definitely want sunglasses, to protect your eyes against the reflection off the water. I gotta say, I wish we could have stopped to watch the sunset from up there, but we had to keep moving to make it to camp before dark (spoiler alert, we made it).

You’ll soon arrive at the intersection with the Overlook Trail (34.090821, -119.026005). It’s a fireroad that mountain bikers use, so keep an ear out for speeding cyclists coming around blind curves (speaking from experience). You’ll make a left at the intersection and it will be pretty easy going for the next 2.5 miles to camp.

Follow the Overlook Trail until you get to an intersection with the Loop Trail (34.110435, -119.028171) and hang a left. From here it’ll be .7 miles to the walk-in camp. You’ll pass by group campsites along the way, which you can ignore (unless if you’re a group).

At the walk-in camp, there is a pit toilet at the entrance and 6 campsites, each equipped with a picnic table and bear box. There are no fire rings or water available, so bring your own stove and water for cooking. The sites all felt pretty secluded and private from one another. They're first come first served, but we were the only ones there for our trip. It made for a nice, relaxing evening in the valley. Yep, it’ll be dark enough to see some stars out here!

The next morning, double back the way you came. Or if the La Jolla Canyon Trail is open, you can take that back to the parking lot. Drop your bags at the car and wander down to the beach for a dip in the ocean!

Overall, if you’re looking for a a quick and easy outing, check this one out. The views won’t take your breath away, but you’ll definitely find an escape from the bustle of the city.

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Camping
Backpacking
Hiking
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Really useful info!

Thanks for this detailed guide - it was weirdly difficult to find information on this campground. You still need to take Ray Miller Backbone trail as the La Jolla Canyon Trail is closed (permanently?) due to fire damage. On the weekends the section of the trail up to the intersection with Overlook is well-traveled. After that, you'll probably only see a few bikers and trail runners. The hike was pretty pleasant, took us about 2.5 hrs with all our gear. No one else was there the night we stayed and I imagine that's usually the case. The mid-February weather was perfect, hot and sunny during the day and a bit chilly after the sun went down. Probably super hot in the summer. If you have any trouble paying at the pay station try paying one person at a time. It wouldn't take our cards for anything over $10 for some reason. We heard some coyotes at night, so definitely take advantage of the bear boxes at each campsite. Overall a fun easy way to get out or test out your gear for a longer trip. Thanks for the information BJ!

Been looking for this!

I've found some general info on this campsite and some conflicting maps; nothing has been as helpful as hearing from your experience. Thank so much for sharing your trip - I'm headed out there tomorrow night!

Great article!

Thanks for the information. I have hiked Ray Miller many times and didn't even know about the walk in campsites. I will definitely be putting this one on the list and will make sure to write a review!

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