Ben is a husband, father and western lifestyle photographer. His passion for the American West stemmed from watching classic western films as a young boy. When Ben isn't photographing the desert landscape surrounding his Arizona home, you can find him riding his motorcycle, camping with his family and living out his own western.
A Week Long RV Trip Starting in Los Angeles
My family and I have always been big campers, and who doesn't love a good road trip? But our traveling really changed when we decided to take an RV on a week-long trip through Southern California. With so much to see—beaches, deserts, mountains, amusement parks, ghost towns, national parks—and so little time, we wanted to make sure and maximize our vacation but not totally overdo it. Having the 2020 Entegra Coach Odyssey Class C RV gave us the exact balance we were looking for and allowed us to bring everything with us (major plus if you're traveling with kids).
So, if you live in (or near) Los Angeles, and are thinking about taking an RV trip with your family, consider heading south and taking a tour through the lower half of the state. This area of the country has so much to offer and, if you're lucky, you might even have some time to drive next door and check out one of the seven natural wonders of the world... we highly recommend it. Read about some of our favorite places below, and check out the entire trip in the map at the bottom.
Here are some of our favorite stops:
It's hard not to picture Disneyland when you hear about a Southern California vacation. And while both my wife and I had been before, going with your own kids is a completely different experience. It's almost as if you're seeing the park for the first time through their eyes.
We decided to stay at the Anaheim Resort RV Park, which is just 30 miles south of Los Angeles and only a mile away from Disneyland. Not only is the campground conveniently located, but it also provides a shuttle service that takes guests directly to the main Disneyland entrance gates. However, if you don't plan on camping nearby or prefer to drive, Disneyland does have an "oversized vehicle" parking lot (look for the Toy Story Parking Area) that can easily accommodate large RVs and trailers. Just be aware, it'll cost you about $70 to park there for the day.
2. San Clemente State Beach
About 40 minutes south of Disneyland, you'll reach the city of San Clemente. A quintessential Southern California beach town, my wife and I used to live in San Clemente pre-children and we were so excited to go back as a family. Our first stop is always The Bagel Shack, a delicious local deli that makes a variety of fresh bagels and breads everyday. Truthfully, we probably ate there three times during our short visit in San Clemente—it's that good.
For some of the best beach camping, our favorite spot is the San Clemente State Beach Campground. Not only can you walk from the campground right to the beach, but the campground itself is surrounded by trees and offers some incredible views of the surrounding hills. My kids had a blast riding scooters all around the campground during the day and roasting marshmallows at night. This is also where my wife and I discovered the luxury of having an outdoor shower on the side of the RV. The San Clemente State Beach entrance gate does get locked every night, but if you call a head, the park rangers can give you a special code to access in case you arrive after dark.
3. Calico Ghost Town
I'm a huge fan of anything western. So any opportunity to visit a place that is even remotely western-themed, I'm stopping. And this was exactly the case with the Calico Ghost Town in Yermo, California. Located about halfway between Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park, Calico Ghost Town is both marvelous for its history and its beauty. And considering its location, it's also marvelously warm and sunny.
You'll know you're close when you see the massive white letters spelling out CALICO on the mountains above the town. It's worth noting that the parking lot at Calico is large and spacious, so we were able to drive the Class C right in and park it. We then spent the rest of the day roaming around the abandoned town and stunning red-striped hills. Kids will love seeing all of the old structures and pretending to be in a western movie, while adults will be blown away by the sheer beauty of the surrounding hills. We were truly mind-blown by all the colors and different rock formations (so many great photo ops!).
A lot of people stop here on the way to and from Las Vegas, and just spend a few hours exploring. We decided to take our time and fully enjoy the ghost town and the surrounding city of Yermo. We recommend booking a campsite at the Yermo Calico KOA and grabbing dinner at one of the many retro diners that line the highway.
4. Grand Canyon South Rim
The grand finale of our week-long RV trip was grand indeed. I surprised my wife and three kids by taking them to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Before this trip, I was the only one in our family who had been before, and words just can't do it justice. In my opinion, the Grand Canyon is something every American should try and see at least once in their life.
After spending the night at a KOA campground in the nearby town of Williams, Arizona, we drove our RV to the South Rim just as the clouds were breaking and the sun was beginning to shine. My three kids, who are normally talkative and full of spunk, fell silent as they gazed out over the massive canyon. In addition to providing spectacular views, the South Rim is really well maintained and great for pushing a stroller and taking family photos. We were able to park the RV in the paved parking lot at the entrance and make our way out onto Bright Angel Trail.
Camping at the Grand Canyon requires reservations made months in advance, so do like we did and stay in a neighboring town. Williams and Flagstaff are both great little historic towns, only a short drive away and you can likely find a place to camp within a few days of your trip.
Take this trip yourself:
See all the stops mentioned in the article plus a few more along the way.