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Lake Elsinore-area Camping

In the slide show, you're viewing pictures of Cleveland National Forest campgrounds along the Ortega Hwy heading to Lake Elsinore...and of Lake Elsinore itself. On this page, you can find out more about camping in these areas.

Heading from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore---

Caspers Wilderness Park camping

Native California chaparral vegetation along the Ortega Highway in Southern California

As you head towards Lake Elsinore from San Juan Capistrano, the Ortega Highway will first take you past homes. Next, you'll pass farm and ranch lands; then, finally, you'll "leave civilization" and get up into the native California chapparral.

A park which features both hiking and camping (including equestrian camping!) that you'll reach about 8 miles east of San Juan Capistrano is the Caspers Wilderness Park, an Orange County park. Caspers Wilderness Park is a natural area which has a rare trouble there with mountain lions. In fact, it's against the rules to bring pets to Caspers because of the chance of mishap; and it's also a rule that adults must accompany children at all times. But, the park remains popular, and in case you'd like to visit, here's some information about the Caspers camping grounds.

Caspers Wilderness Park has several campgrounds: the "regular" campground for RVers and tenters;  the equestrian campground for horse-lovers;  and the large-group campground which organizations such as church & scouting groups use. We'll be talking about the Live Oak Campground on this page...which is the camping area meant for the RV and tent campers who are not part of a large, organized group.

CASPERS LIVE OAK CAMPGROUND DETAILS: Within the Live Oak campground, you'll find 42 campsites. Most are level (which the RV's need), but some are only semi-level (and will be OK for tenters.) Each campsite has a picnic table, fire pit and cooking grill. Some campsites are situated in open grassland, while others are sheltered by the cover of trees. No wood gathering is permitted, but bundles of wood are sold at the park.

Amenities at the Live Oak Campground include a dump station, flush toilets and showers, and a pay phone on-site. Activities at the park include 35 miles of hiking trails, a visitor's center with interpretive exhibits, weekly nature hikes (on Sundays), and mountain biking.

CASPERS PARK PHONE NUMBER: The Caspers Park telephone number for further information is 949/923-2210.

CASPERS WILDERNESS PARK ADDRESS: The location of Caspers Park and campground is 33401 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675.

MAP TO THE CASPERS PARK AND CAMPGROUND: Here's a Google map to Caspers Wilderness Park and Campground. If you play with the map in its hybrid satellite view, you can even get an aerial view of the Caspers campground loops!

CASPERS CAMPGROUND MAP: If you'd like to see a campsite map of the Caspers Wilderness Park campgrounds, you may use the link to access the Caspers Wilderness Park PDF camping map.

CASPERS PARK CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS: Since Caspers Wilderness Park accepts reservations, like other campgrounds in the Orange County Parks chain, you'll be able to plan ahead for your visit. Once you know the dates of your campground stay, you may head to the Orange County Reservations page of the website.

CASPERS PARK CAMPING FEES: Campground fees at Caspers Wilderness Park's Live Oak Campground run $15 per night as of January, 2008. The Reserve World website does alert would-be campers that this rate may increase furing weekend and holiday periods. Tjere is a $5 extra vehicle fee if you bring more than one car to your campsite. Also, you may have to pay a $12 reservations processing fee, which will be forfeited if you cancel the reservation you make. RV's may set up one tent at their campsite as part of this fee. Tent campers may set up 2 tents per site. As mentioned earlier on this page, pets are not permitted at Casper's Wilderness Park campgrounds.

If you're looking about other activities within Caspers Park, you might enjoy looking at the Caspers Wilderness Park official web pages on the Orange County Parks website.

Ortega Highway Camping

Upper San Juan Campground

Photo of a green and shady scene at the Upper San Juan Camp Ground in Southern California

You'll find the beautiful Upper San Juan campground directly off of the Ortega Highway as you wend your way from San Juan Capistrano throught the mountains towards Lake Elsinore. The Upper San Juan camping area is a US National Forest campground in the Trabuco unit of the Cleveland National Forest. It is open from June through September every year.

You cannot make reservations for these campsites...but then, none are needed. In fact, we took these photos of the Upper San Juan camp grounds on a summer day when ALL of the Southern California beach campgrounds were completely full. Yet, as you'll notice in these National Forest campground pictures, the mountain camp sites of the Ortega Highway are virtually empty.

Photo of an individual campsite under the beautiful trees at the Upper San Juan Campground in Southern California In the picture to your right, you can see an individual campsite at the Upper San Juan campground. Each site is tree-shaded, and you get to set down your tent on a natural-looking spot of Mother Earth. RV's are welcome, as well, though there are no hook-ups available, and the RV length at the Upper San Juan campground is restricted to 32 feet long.

There are 18 spots at the Upper San Juan camp, laid out along a circular path. RVers and tenters are welcome to use any one of them. The one bad thing here is that the "easy highway access" that makes this campground attractive to family campers is also a source of noise. You might wish to consider taking a camping spot on the side of the campground away from the highway.

Registration for your site is done at a sign board as you enter the camping area (see the photo below.) Currently, the nightly fee here is a mere $18...a real budget saver for cash-strapped families...payable by cash or California check. Double spaces cost $30/night, and the extra vehicle fee is $5.

Picture of an attractive, shady campsite at the Upper San Juan campground in Southern California One other drawback to the Upper San Juan campground is that you'll find vault toilets here. Pit toilets are what you'll find not only here, but also throughout the Cleveland National Forest at campgrounds, picnic areas and trail heads.

There's water available at several areas in the campground..."pump" style. The water is safe to drink and to use for cooking, but it's recommended that you pump for several minutes before using the water you obtain.

Each campsite has a picnic table, a grill, and a fire pit. Most of the time you can actually use them, but there are times that there are no fires allowed due to high danger of forest fires. Check the Cleveland National Forest website (link below on this page) or the sign board at the campground for up-to-date information about fire danger.

Photo of a sign board at the campground entry, showing the fees and campground map; Upper San Juan Camp Ground in Southern California In the image to your right, you see the sign board at the entry to the Upper San Juan campground...and you'll find one just like it at the El Cariso camp ground (discussed below) and other National Forest campsites throughout California. As I mentioned above, after selecting your campsite, you'll pay your fee into a secured box at the sign board. You can also find out campground rules and other notices posted by the park rangers. (The National Forest rangers, by the way, do not stay at this campground full-time...but they do patrol both the Upper San Juan and the other park campgrounds on a regular basis. This area is generally recognized as being safe from thugs.)

By now, you must be getting the idea that the Upper San Juan campground is only semi-developed...and you'd be right. The amenities you WON'T find here are laundry facilities, camp stores, swimming pools and spas, playgrounds, etc. The main activity in the area is hiking, though a trail head doesn't lead directly out of the campground. (Below, you'll find the link to a map of the area, so that you can find the trailheads, if you like.) There is no store in the immediate area, but there IS a small store several miles down Calif Hwy 74 going towards the town of Lake Elsinore. And, of course, with Lake Elsinore only about 15 miles away, it's an easy thing to enjoy the lake or the stores in-town, then return in the evening to your beautiful mountainside campground.

Reservations are not accepted. For further information, here's a link to the Upper San Juan Campground page of the Cleveland National Forest website.

Ortega Highway Campgrounds

El Cariso Campground

Close-up photo of a campsite within the El Cariso Campground of Southern California, a national forest campground welcoming tents As you travel eastward from San Juan Capistrano along the Ortega Highway, you'll come to another Cleveland National Forest campground a few miles after passing the Upper San Juan camping area. This will be the El Cariso Campground, which is only a convenient 8-to-10 mile drive from the town of Lake Elsinore (depending on which part of Lake Elsinore you're talking about.) If you're a mountain campsite-lover, you can enjoy the lake's many water activities by day, and return to your campground-in-the-hills in the evening time.

Like the Upper San Juan campground, admission to the El Cariso camping area is on a first-come, first-served basis. The fee here is $15, paid at the sign board. And, also like the Upper San Juan campsites, it would be a rare instance to find all the camping spots filled here. There are 24 camping sites at El Cariso, and both tents and RV's are welcome. There is a 22 foot length limit for RV's. The campground is open from May through October each year.

Photo of a water spigot at the El Cariso campground, one of Southern California's less-developed tent camping areas In the photo to your left, you can see one of the El Cariso camp ground's attractive campsites; each site has its own picnic table, grill and fire pit.

In the photo to your right, you see one of the water spigots which are scattered around the campground at intervals. As you can see in this image, you won't be pumping water at the El Cariso campground; you'll simply turn the knob here. Toilets are the vault (pit) type...darn it!

Since the El Cariso campground access is directly off of the Ortega Highway, you'll have easy access to your camping site...but the disadvantage of road noise, particularly on campsites closest to the road.

You won't find many amenities laundries, camp stores, or restaurants. There's no swimming pool nor fishing hole. You will, however, be only a mile or less to little El Cariso Village, where you'll find a store (and candy shop!)

Photo of a beautiful, shady, mountain campsite at the El Cariso National Forest Campground in Southern CaliforniaEL CARISO CAMPGROUND INFO: Here's a link to the El Cariso Campground page of the Cleveland NF website.

CAMPGROUND PHONE NUMBERS: The Upper San Juan campground and El Cariso campground phone number to call for further information is 909/736-1811.

MAP TO UPPER SAN JUAN AND EL CARISO CAMPGROUNDS: The National Forest website contains lots of information about the Cleveland NF; a list of all Cleveland NF camping grounds in this area; a list of hiking trails around the campgrounds; and further details about still other activities you can enjoy while visiting Southern California's Cleveland National Forest. You may use the following link to view this Cleveland National Forest campground map page for the campgrounds along the Ortega Highway. Or, to view a better quality road map to this area, here's a Google map to El Cariso, California, where you'll find the El Cariso Campground directly to the side of the road (it's well marked by a sign.)

Lake Elsinore Campgrounds

Camp at the lake's edge in the Roadrunner RV Park or the Lake Elsinore Marina & RV Resort

If you choose to camp right at the edge of Lake Elsinore, you'll be in the very best spot to take advantage of all the water sports opportunities that the lake has to offer. Needless to say, at Lake Elsinore, you can go boating, fishing, water skiing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and all of the fun reasons for which you chose a lake vacation in the first place!

If you come into town over the Ortega Highway, as described on this page, you'll pass by two lakeside camping grounds directly on Highway 74 itself.

1.) One of these camping grounds is the Roadrunner RV Park. Though both of these 2 Lake Elsinore campgrounds look very similar, the big advantage of the Roadrunner RV Park is that it accepts tents. The campground's amenities include---
*Flush Toilets
*Hot-water showers
*Coin laundry
*Direct lake access and boat ramp
*Water, sewer and electric (30/50 amp) hookups
*Some RV sites with cable TV hookups
* Shady trees near most spaces
*100 total campsites

The Roadrunner RV Park address is: 32500 Riverside Drive, Lake Elsinore, CA 92530. The Roadrunner RV Park phone number is: 951/674-4900. You will need to call the park for their current camping rates because this campground does not have its own website.

Map to Lake Elsinore's Roadrunner campground: You may use the following link to view a map that will serve you for both this campground AND the one which will be discussed next (which happens to be right next door.) Here's a Google map to the Roadrunner RV Park of Lake Elsinore, California.

Photo of Lake Elsinore's blue waters LAKE ELSINORE MARINA & RV RESORT: The next lakeside campground on Hwy 74 is the Lake Elsinore Marina & RV Resort. This is an attractive RV and tent camping area. All of the almost-200-site campsites feature electrical and water hookups, and over half of the sites feature full hookups that include cable TV. Amenities at the campground include---
***Flush toilets and hot showers
***Laundry facilities
***RV dump station
***LP gas for sale
***Pay phones, internet access
***Recreation room
***Convenience store and snack bar
***Lake access, with boat dock and ramp

The Lake Elsinore Marina and RV Resort address is: 32700 Riverside Drive, Lake Elsinore, CA 92530 (just next door to the Roadrunner RV Park.) There are 2 telephone numbers. The Lake Elsinore Marina & RV Resort toll-free phone number: 800/328-6844. The local telephone number is 951/678-1300. Use the following link to view the RV park's website at



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