why you should go camping – and how to do it {angeles national forest}

Ahh, the great outdoors. No better way to reset than spending a weekend in the forest with no cell service but instead with sun rays, hammock naps, and slow mornings. They sure can do the body good.

I’ve been pretty open about my anxiety, about evaluating the possible triggers (if any) when my nerves are high and addressing them with potential solutions. Getting outdoors and moving my body – away from the noise and the overwhelm, and into the sunshine and the fresh air and the dirt – has its ways of helping me calm down, at least a little bit. So going camping for the long (Memorial Day) weekend was just what I needed.

Sometimes people say to me, “Man, you go camping a lot!” But guys, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to enjoy a weekend escape! It’s really a no brainer when you want to take advantage of your time off from work without having to catch a flight or shell out tons of cash on hotels and restaurants. It’s such a departure from our normal day to day lives, while at the same time the closest return to how human life was made to exist. Rising and sleeping with the sun, making meals outdoors, walking to get from Point A to Point B. This is how nature intended us to live, and it’s nice to be reminded of that every once in a while.

I know a lot of people can’t get over the grime, the no showers, and the flimsy mattress pads. And trust me, I get it. I am a Grade A germophobe who loves my hot (and I mean scalding) showers and a warm bed at night. But when I’m camping, I make the decision to suspend my reality a bit. I’ll eat with my hands (dirty fingernails and all), ignore the disgusting pit that is a vault toilet, and be totally OK with using a hat to cover up that three days of grease hair situation. I once went on a camping trip where I virtually shared a spoon with ten people, and to this day I still don’t know how I did so. I do not eat or drink off anyone in my “regular” life, aside from my husband, so my only hypothesis is that I blacked out.

But sleeping outdoors does not equate to long, miserable days – at least it doesn’t have to. Come prepared. Make a list of the essentials, and invest in proper camping equipment (I just upgraded to this for car camping, and it has made my LIFE). Nothing is worse than a sleepless night spent freezing in a pathetic sleeping bag with rocks jutting into ever corner of your body. That’s no fun for anyone.

So where to start? REI is our jam. Because beyond their expertise in outdoor equipment, the customer service is unparalleled. Did you know that you can return a product, for literally any reason, for up to a year after it has been purchased? Like, you can wear hiking boots for an entire year and then realize they beat up your feet and return them. No questions asked. We’ve returned a tent after 3 years because the rain fly velcro fell off. I’ve returned a FitBit after a year and a half because it stopped working. THEY ARE SO LAX. And if you are an REI member, which only cost $20 FOR LIFE, you also get 10% back on your purchases. So at the end of the year, we always have a nice little voucher to go buy (yet another) thing. By the way, this is in no way sponsored – I just want to introduce you to the heaven that is REI if you are not yet familiar.

My friend and travel extraordinaire/insane hiker/adventure seeker (see all his awesome trips and advice here) put together this handy packing list for backpacking, and I made some modifications (in a printable PDF) for a packing list for car camping (hey, I like my comforts). Of course you should assess what kind of camping you’re doing (car camping versus backpacking), what the activities will be (you’ll need more items if you’re kayaking, for example), what the weather will be, if water is available, etc. The biggest camping revolution he introduced us to is eating Mountain House meals because all it takes is some boiled water, and you’ve pretty much got some gourmet shiz to stuff in your mouth after a long day.

Now that I’ve lectured you on the joys of camping, let me share about our trip to Angeles National Forest, shall I?

Camping with a Dog

It takes 90 minutes for us to drive from our apartment, up the mountain, to the campgrounds in Angeles National Forest. Why we had never been here before, I have no idea. The catch is you can’t reserve campsites in advance, so with it being a holiday weekend, we were a little concerned we wouldn’t find a spot. There aren’t many sites you can drive to, and they’re spread out, so it’s not easy to keep hopping from one to the next in search of a site. But worse comes to worst, we would spend the day in the mountains and drive home in the evening (since again, it’s so close).

We got lucky and snagged a spot at Horse Flats Campground right as a camper was getting in his van to leave. So with two full days ahead of us, we took it slow. Spent many a minute (or hours, I lost track of all time!) napping and reading in our hammock (seriously the best purchase we’ve ever made) and hiking a couple of trails – Mount Hillyer (which is rocky, unshaded, and less secluded with all the people bouldering, but was accessible via our campground) and Mount Waterman (which is a more forested, beautiful hike we had to drive to). If you didn’t know, you are allowed to both camp and hike on trails with your dog in national forests. It’s the national parks where taking your pets on trails is not allowed.

Kipling (our dog) was pooped. My husband read an entire book in one weekend (this is unheard of). And the only thing that bothered me was all the dang motorcyclists/car aficionados racing up and down the mountain (honestly the engine sounds really kill the whole serenity of nature thing).

Would I go back? Of course. With its close proximity to the city, it’s even a great day trip destination. I think people don’t realize how much nature actually surrounds Los Angeles (and that’s really why it’s so magical).

Above the Clouds

Always in awe being above the clouds.

Newcombs Ranch

Kammock Roo Hammock Napping

Kammok Roo Hammock

Camping Hammock

Hiking Mt. Hillyer Trail Angeles National Forest

Hiking Mt. Hillyer Trail Angeles National Forest Dog Friendly

Mt. Hillyer Trail Angeles National Forest

Bouldering Angeles National Forest

Hiking Mount Hillyer

Mt. Hiller Trail View

Take a Rest Mt. Hillyer

Horseflats Campground Angeles National Forest

Will do anything for the promise of treats.

Horse Flats Campground in Angeles National Forest


Dog Friendly Camping Los Angeles

She loves me, I swear.

Angeles National Forest Horse Flats Campground

Camping at Horse Flats Campground

Tree Canopy View

Starbucks Instant Coffee for Camping

I ain’t going without my coffee, even for a day.

Coleman Camping Tent

I feel like I have to put a disclaimer here (for my husband’s sake). The tent above is not our regular tent – we bought this as an affordable option to use when camping with our dog. Most of the time we use this one (it’s way cooler, says my husband).

Bear Country Precautions

I actually laughed out loud when I read “Never approach a bear or pick up a bear cub.” Do people pick up bear cubs? Is this a thing?

The Future is Female

Wildflowers and Butterflies

San Gabriel Mountains Hike

Mount Waterman Angeles National Forest

Kammock Roo Hammock in Angeles National Forest

Again, best purchase we’ve ever made. The hammock is so light and easy to string up, we took it on our hike!

Hiking the Mount Waterman Trail

San Gabriel Wilderness

Dog Hiking Mount Waterman

P.S. Camping in Yosemite, the Hollywood Sign hike, and Westridge Canyonback Wilderness.

-wonderland sam


Posted by

actress/texan kickin' it in los angeles. always searching for my next pizza. cia agent in another life.

18 thoughts on “why you should go camping – and how to do it {angeles national forest}

  1. Great post. I’ve always wanted to go camping but I gotta admit I’m kinda high maintance so I’ve been kinda scared to try to go. 😂 Having a guide like this might make me actually take the plunge! I deal with anxiety too so sounds like this would be good chance to loosen up a bit !

  2. I really really want to start camping more often! Beautiful pictures! Kipling is soooo cute!

    I imagine at one time someone actually did pick up a cub! Isn’t that a crazy thought? But do you remember sometime last year when people put a baby buffalo in their vehicle because they thought it was cold. It died later on!!!

    So there has to be rule for humans to leave wild animals alone. It’s honestly mind blowing to me how dumb we can be.

    1. You totally should! So easy for a quick getaway. And thank you so much!! 😀

      Oh my gosh, I completely forgot about the baby buffalo. I just…don’t understand human beings, haha.

    1. You should definitely go then! It’s a wonderful way to reboot and can be as active or relaxing as you want it to be. Our dog loved it but was exhausted! Haha.

    1. Thank you so much!! You must go, especially if you have never been! Doesn’t have to be anything crazy – even just a night away in nature can really do wonders for easing your mind. ❤

  3. Camping is such a great stress reliever because its a change of pace in our lives. We just hop in the car and go up the state park only 40 mins away and it feels like a getaway. Love how passionate you are about feeling connected to yourself and the world. Thanks for sharing these tips! The REI one is super interesting–had no idea they would do that! Excited to read more of your posts will definitely be sticking around and thanks for sharing 🙂


    1. Agreed – we’re both fortunate to have these weekend escapes so close to our home. ❤
      I'm glad you found these tips helpful! REI is the bomb. Thank you so much for your kind comments and support. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s