How to get to Chilao Campground, Los Angeles, California

Camping in Los Angeles

"The mountains are calling and we must go."  This was our first camping trip together and the excitement was intoxicating.  Camping in Los Angeles means a lot of preparation.  I'm used to just bringing my tent to the mountains or the beach with no worries at all.  However, here you have to reserve a campsite; unless it's a first-come-first-serve basis, you have to be there early as people here love camping.  Aside from that, parking permits and fire permits have to be processed and purchased.  Good thing, we did our research and were able to get everything done before the trip. Let's go!

From Valley Glen (part of the San Fernando Valley), we drove for an hour and 30 minutes to Chilao Campgrounds in Palmdale.  The campground is about 5,300 feet in elevation located in the San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles.  Set up your Google Maps ahead of time to load directions as wireless phone service gets disrupted in the mountains.

No reservations were needed for this campsite, so we got there early in the morning.  However, at 9 am the campground was already packed.  It took us a few turns before finding an empty spot.  Some campers parked their cars and did not pay their fees right away, and some didn't place their stamps on the small post to show that the campsite was taken.  Sometimes they left the stamps in the post even after they've left, so no one would know that it's available.  If you need to get out of the car to ask, just do it.  It never hurts to ask and it's way better than not having a place to stay for the night, especially after the drive to get there.

My husband and I impatiently drove in circles looking for a spot until finally, we found campsite 27 at Little Pines Loop.  It turns out that the campsite is perfectly situated where you can see the glorious sunset among the loops.  I was more than happy as we found our little paradise for the night.

Valley Glen to Palmdale: 1 hour and 30 minutes 

How to get there: 
Address: Chilao Campground, Palmdale, CA 93550

Fee: $12 per night
- No reservations, just first-come-first-serve
- 83 campsites (about 40+ each at Little Pines Loop and Manzanita Loop)
- Vault toilets
- Bear storage garbage bin near the toilets
- Dogs must have a leash

Car Parking Permit: 2 options
Day pass: $5
Annual pass: $30

Adventure Pass Walk-in Stores 

Fire Permit
Each campsite has a picnic table, a bench, and a fire ring.  You will need to get a California Campfire Permit either online or at the Forest Service Rangers' office.  The online application is free.

Survival tips: 
- Bring drinking water and spare for cleaning/washing and extinguishing your fire 
- No wifi and phone service; bring a deck of cards, a guitar, or whatever fun camp items

Trails: Horse Flats Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, High Desert Trail, and the Silver Moccasin Trail

After setting up our tent, we had lunch and played with our guitar.  We decided to hike afterward, so we drove close to the Chilao Visitor Center, parked near the trail entrance and made our way to Mt. Hillyer, making our way up the Horse Flats Trail. 

Parking: Free (Trail Entrance)
Route: Chilao to Mt. Hillyer via Horse Flats Trail 
Distance: 6.8 miles
Elevation: 1,194 feet
Duration: 3 hours (back and forth)

This trail is short and easy. It starts with an inclined path and flattens as you get closer to the Horse Flats Campground. 

Sweet as always, treating me like a pet- I mean, like a Princess.

Pine cones were huge!

The biggest pine cone ever!

“As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases." ^_^

Hiking tip: Invest in a great pair of hiking boots. We love our Columbia boots and no regrets.

The not-so-clean river along the way...

Make sure to hit the sign with love.

Snack stop at Horse Flats Campgrounds.  Then we continued hiking to Mt. Hillyer passing large boulders along the way. 

Almost got lost here...

Scenic spot found!  Those rocks on top of each other.

Searching for other life forms.  Cool as ever.

We didn't get to the summit but the view from where we stood had a great view of the San Gabriel mountains. 

Afterward, we traced our way back to Chilao Campgrounds.  We almost got lost as we headed down the mountain.  Having breaks in between the hike or taking a picture helped us remember our trail's landmarks.  Next time we'll bring some orange tape to help guide lost travelers like ourselves back to the road.

It is always advisable to hike at daylight and get back as soon as possible before sunset.  There are no lamp posts, ranger stations nor wireless phone service along the trail.  Watch out for mountain bikers, too, if you hear something scratching or any odd sounds; always stop, look and listen, most especially at the first part of the hike as the path is inclined and has a few blind spots on some turns.

The sunset at Chilao Campground was amazing. Our campsite had the best view of everything: the mountains, a clear sky, and mesmerizing sunset.  Right beside our campsite was a spot where you can have a picnic on a stone platform and enjoy the landscape.

We took timed shots using our LG phones and had the audio keyword recognition enabled. Every time we would say cheese, whiskey, or kimchi it would take a shot.  It made my day as we kept going for one shot after another.  I bet a few hikers were fascinated by how much we must've seemed to love kimchi and whiskey together. 

Estimated hike: 3 hours including breaks and snack stop, approximately 7-8 miles 

Dinner at sunset was blissful.  A good break from the world and our phones, it cleared our minds.  My husband serenaded me with his songs and charming looks, and I sang along to the tune of his guitar.  Little did I know my sweet angel voice had called upon the water particles up in the air that night, summoning the rain to greet us with a foggy wet morning.

It was quiet the following morning.  The mist added a cinematic feel with the cool wind whistling amongst the trees.  The air was cold and the ground moist.  Everyone at the campgrounds was still until 8 in the morning.

The sun never came to shine so we decided to leave camp by 9 am. The road back down the mountain was hazy with all the thick fog, but the signs and the well-paved road helped us through. 

My first camping in Los Angeles, California turned out wonderfully and now I'm craving for more!  Next time around we're going to Grand Canyon. This will surely be another epic camping adventure.

Need some nom noms? 
Try Saul's Easy Mongolian Beef Recipe

Have fun and be safe ^__^

Do you want more adventure?
If you still have one more day to spare why not go to Eaton Canyon Falls and hike with mother nature, California.

Where am I going next?

My next adventure is Camping and Hiking in Grand Canyon, Arizona.

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