Located less than an hour’s drive from Los Angeles up the Angeles Crest Highway, Chilao Campground is one of the closest available options for Angelenos looking to pitch a tent.
Regardless of its easy access, Chilao retains its rustic, low-key charm, making it an excellent option for a quick overnight escape into the San Gabriel Mountains.
The campground’s 84 first-come, first-served sites are spread across two loops – many of them offering panoramic views of Big Tujunga Canyon – and are suitable for both tents and RVs, although there are no hookups.
There are several great hiking and biking options in the area, including the 53-mile-long Silver Moccasin Trail, which can be accessed from the campground. The nearby Chilao Visitor Center offers an introduction to the area’s history, as well as its diverse flora and fauna, which can be explored via the center’s four short interpretive trails.
Site types: Tent, RV, Group Sites
Amenities: Potable Water, Toilets, Trash Receptacles, Fire Rings, Picnic Tables
Information number: 1-747-322-6574 or 1-626-574-1613
Campground Coordinates: 34.323785, -118.016678
Location: Angeles National Forest
Address: 19598 Angeles Crest Highway, Palmdale, CA 93550
Season: April – November
Getting to Chilao Campground
From Los Angeles, take the 210 freeway to La Cañada Flintridge and follow the Angeles Crest Highway (CA 2) northeast for 25 miles. Turn left into the campground when you see the sign — if you pass the Chilao Visitor Center, you’ve gone too far.
Chilao offers 84 first-come, first-served sites across two loops — Manzanita Loop and Little Pine Loop. The sites are sparsely dotted with pines, oaks, and fire-red manzanitas, and many boast stunning views of the surrounding wilderness.
Head to the outer edge of either loop to find a site that backs up against Big Tujunga Canyon, offering unimpeded mountain panoramas and excellent stargazing on clear nights.
The campground is open seasonally from around April to November, depending on weather and road conditions — at an elevation of 5,300 feet, the area receives a decent amount of snowfall in winter and can even be quite chilly on summer evenings. While the campground can fill up on high-season weekends, weekdays are comparatively mellow. We went on a midweek overnighter in early October and had our pick of any number of excellent sites. We chose a spacious site at the back of the Manzanita Loop that accessed a short footpath through a manzanita thicket to a small promontory overlooking the expansive canyon below.
Campsites are just $12 per night, plus $5 per extra vehicle. In the off-season when no host is on duty, payment is on the honor system. Each site features a fire ring and picnic table. Several drinking faucets and restrooms with vault toilets are also spread throughout the campground.
The Meadow Group Campground is located just south of the Manzanita Loop and offers two reservable group sites. Area 1 can accommodate up to 24 people, while Area 2 has room for up to 80.
Fires are permitted in designated fire rings; however, they must be completely extinguished each night and before leaving the area. Chilao and other campgrounds within Angeles National Forest are often subject to fire restrictions during fire season in summer and early fall — be sure to check with the Forest Service before you go.
Firewood is not available on-site, so stock up in La Cañada before making your way up the Angeles Crest Highway.
The campsites can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 40 feet in length. The campground doesn’t offer hookups, although there is a dump station on site.
Things to Do Near Chilao Campground
Chilao is a great jumping-off point for exploring the many trails of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Both the Chilao Visitor Center and Devil’s Canyon Trailhead can be found just a couple miles up Angeles Crest Highway, while a further 15-minute drive up the road will take you to Buckhorn Campground and the popular Burkhart Trail.
For those looking to make tracks immediately, the Silver Moccasin Trail can be accessed directly from the campground.
Silver Moccasin Trail
The 53-mile Silver Moccasin Trail is a hidden gem of a thru-hike that traverses the San Gabriel Mountains from the Chantry Flat Recreation Area above Arcadia to Vincent Gap near Wrightwood.
Along the way, it travels through hilly chaparral, oak-shaded canyons, and dense pine forests before summiting Mount Baden-Powell at an elevation of 9,407 feet.
A trailhead at Chilao Campground offers access to the SMT, allowing campers to hike down into Big Tujunga Canyon or north toward Horse Flats and Mount Hillyer. The Silver Moccasin Trail crosses the Chilao entrance road, just before the Little Pine Loop.
Devil’s Canyon Trail
This lightly trafficked canyon trail just south of the Chilao Visitor Center rewards adventurous hikers with secluded stands of Douglas fir, creekside sycamore groves, and sweeping views of the expansive San Gabriel Wilderness.
The 6.1-mile out-and-back trail has an elevation loss/gain of 1,486 feet, making for a strenuous trek, especially on warm summer days. Bring plenty of water and remember: The quick descent that greets you at the start of your journey will be staring you down as a steep incline on your way back up to the trailhead.
To access Devil’s Canyon, exit Chilao Campground and head east on the Angeles Crest Highway for 1.1 miles. Look for the turnout on your right-hand side, where you’ll find a small parking area and the trailhead (GPS: 34.323722, -118.003294).
Note: Some trails in the Chilao area, including the Devil’s Canyon Trail and parts of the Silver Moccasin Trail, will remain closed until April 2022 due to the Bobcat Fire.