A Kid’s Take on Camping at Leo Carrillo State Park

Camping at Leo Carrillo - Featured

I finally did it – took The Explorers on their first real camping trip (you may remember our backyard camp out last year, but this was the real deal). I heeded the sage advice I found around the web and kept our first adventure close to home (at nearby Leo Carrillo State Park) and limited it to one night only. I even went a step further and teamed up with a camping-savvy friend, though we left the hubbies at home.

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So how did it go?!? Well, I thought you might like to hear about it from the almost 7-year-old Big Explorer himself (trust me, The Little Explorer would only echo anything big brother had to say).

What was it like to put up a tent for the first time?
It was hard. I thought putting the tent up would be quick and easy – like it would just “pop” out of the bag and be ready to go. But first we had to lay out that thing that covers the ground and put stakes in it. And then we put up the tent. It was also hard because it was really windy.

What did you think of getting to cook outside?
It was cool because we could watch while you cooked. Usually we’re playing in another room when you make dinner. But since we only brought a few games with us, it was fun to watch you cook, too.

What did you learn while you were camping?
I learned that I go to sleep too late sometimes. And I also learned that when I go near an animal I have to be quiet and walk slow so I can see it up close. If I’m loud, the animal will hear me and try to run away.

How many different kinds of animals did you see and hear?
I saw bunnies, birds and squirrels. We heard crickets and birds.

What was your favorite part about camping at Leo Carrillo?
Getting to make s’mores. The campfire kept us nice and warm.

What was your least favorite part?
Going to sleep.

Where would you like to go camping next?
I don’t know very many places that have campsites. But I’d want to go somewhere that had a lot of trees.

What advice would you give to another first-time camper?
Bring hot cocoa (oops, we forgot!). When you’re making s’mores, make sure you put the marshmallows in the fire at the perfect time, not when the fire is just starting. And make sure you bring food you like and a tent that’s easy to put up. (With all due respect to my sweet 6-year-old, we brought one of the most user-friendly tents out there. Of course, it was windy …)

Practical Matters for Camping at Leo Carrillo State Park

  • Leo Carrillo State Park is 28 miles northeast of Santa Monica on Pacific Coast Highway
  • Campgrounds are open year-round, fee is $35/night; amenities include restrooms, showers, fire rings, hiking trails, visitor center & more
  • There are 131 sites at Leo Carrillo, but they fill up quickly; reserve a spot well in advance, especially during holidays
  • For non-campers, day use parking is $12; free with a California State Parks Pass
  • In addition to the campsite, features of Leo Carrillo State Park include some 1.5 miles of beach, tide pools & coastal caves

Leo Carrillo State Park is located at:
35000 W. Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265
(818) 880-0363

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