While Malibu may be famed for its postcard-worthy beaches and idyllic coastal canyons, these days, it’s just as well-known for the endless stream of sun seekers who descend upon its serpentine shores every summer. However, located on the far western edge of the Malibu coast 15 miles south of Oxnard, Sycamore Canyon Campground offers a serene beach camping experience marked by uncrowded coves and untouched seaside hills.
One of three campgrounds at Point Mugu State Park, Sycamore Canyon Campground is tucked away in a shady ravine just north of Pacific Coast Highway, providing easy access to both secluded beaches and the sun-soaked chaparral of the Santa Monica Mountains. Remarkably similar in setup to Leo Carrillo just 5 miles down the road, the lesser-known Sycamore Canyon is an excellent option when that campground is at capacity.
However, far more than just a plan B or an also-ran among the area’s perennially popular campgrounds, Sycamore Canyon is worthy on its own merits as a quietly beautiful camping destination that harks back to a time when Malibu was still wild and unmarred by coastal development.
Site types: Tent, RV, Group Sites
Amenities: Potable Water, Coin-Operated Showers, Toilets, Trash Receptacles, Fire Rings, Picnic Tables, Camp Store
Information number: 1-805-488-1827
Reservations: Reservations accepted
Reservation number: 1-800-444-7275
Campground Coordinates: 34.072853, -119.014599
Location: Malibu, California
Address: 9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Getting to Sycamore Canyon Campground
From Malibu, head west on Pacific Coast Highway (SR 1) for approximately 20 miles. The turnout for Sycamore Canyon Campground is on the right about 3.5 miles past Neptune’s Net Seafood Restaurant.
Nestled at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains just across the Coast Highway from a lovely stretch of sand, Sycamore Canyon Campground is fairly small in size with only 58 campsites. However, many of them are quite spacious and generously shaded by the area’s namesake trees – choose a site along the outer edge for the most privacy.
While less popular than other area campgrounds like Leo Carrillo and Malibu Creek, Sycamore Canyon still reaches capacity often – especially during the summer months – so reservations are recommended.
If Sycamore Canyon is full, try Thornhill Broome Campground, which offers primitive beachfront camping just a mile and a half up the road.
Sites are $45 per night and can fit up to eight people and two vehicles. Additional cars cost $12 per night and can park overnight in the day-use lot.
Each site comes with a picnic table, fire ring and grate. Potable water, flush toilets, and token-operated hot showers are also available on-site.
Larger parties can reserve the La Jolla Group Camp, located across PCH from Thornhill Broome, for $225 per night. The site holds up to 50 people and 12 vehicles and amenities include drinking water, flush toilets, and showers.
Fires are permitted in designated fire rings, which can be found both at campsites and at several day-use picnic areas at Sycamore Cove Beach. Point Mugu State Beach is subject to fire restrictions, as brushfires have severely impacted the Malibu region in recent years. Be sure to fully extinguish fires each night and before you leave the vicinity.
RVs up to 31 feet in length and 13 feet, 6 inches in height are allowed at Sycamore Canyon Campground. The campground doesn’t offer hookups; however, there is a sanitary dump station on site.
Things to Do Near Sycamore Canyon Campground
Beach bums, mountain bikers, hikers and surf fishing enthusiasts will all find something to love at Point Mugu State Park, which boasts 5 miles of shoreline and more than 70 miles of hiking trails.
If you plan on visiting Sycamore Canyon on a Saturday, stop by the nature center near the campground entrance to learn about the variety of ways to explore the area’s diverse flora and fauna.
Sycamore Cove Beach
Just across Pacific Coast Highway from the campground, Sycamore Cove Beach is a secluded stretch of sand situated beneath the iconic Point Mugu. While the cove itself is fairly small, the crowds are much lighter than the popular Leo Carrillo and Zuma beaches to the east, meaning there is always plenty of room to stretch out on the sand.
Campers can cross under PCH to access the beach at the west end of the cove; however, if you’re planning on packing up camp for the afternoon to take advantage of the beachfront picnic area, there is a day-use lot located steps from the sand.
Several first-come, first-served picnic sites offer picnic tables, charcoal grills, and fire pits. Make sure to bring a bundle of wood to enjoy a sunset beach bonfire after a long day spent swimming in the brisk Pacific waters.
The sandy beach and typically gentle waves at Sycamore Cove make it a great option for families with young kids eager to play in the shorebreak. However, during large south swells, powerful waves pound the sand up and down the beach, attracting expert surfers and bodyboarders.
Novice surfers and inexperienced swimmers will want to take caution, as the area is prone to strong rip currents.
Scenic and Overlook Trails Loop
While the views from Sycamore Cove Beach are nothing to shake a stick at, the majesty and scope of Point Mugu State Park are best experienced from a higher perch.
The aptly named Scenic and Overlook Trails Loop is a moderate 2.7-mile hike that takes trekkers 425 feet above Sycamore Cove and the winding Highway 1, providing stellar ocean views and an up-close look at the rocky promontory for which the park is named.
The trail is easily accessed from camp – follow the Sycamore Canyon Fire Road at the north end of the campground for a few short steps before veering left onto the Scenic Trail and beginning a quick ascent up the oceanfront ridge.
For an even better view of the beach far below, take another left at the top of the Scenic Trail to follow a narrow track that leads to a lookout directly above Point Mugu.
Once you’ve had your fill of cobalt blue seascapes, head inland on the Overlook Trail to take in views of Big Sycamore Canyon and the Santa Monica Mountains on your way back to camp.
Although the hike can easily be completed in a couple of hours, be sure to bring a hat and plenty of water, as there is little in the way of shade along the loop.