Saturday, February 23, 2013

Leo Carrillo State Park

Emerging from a sea cave, this was the gorgeous view.
 This past (long) weekend, we traveled up the coast to Leo Carrillo State Park, near Malibu, California. After several weeks of lots of rain, and the kids having colds and croup, we welcomed a chance to go enjoy some sunshine and relaxation. We really lucked out, weather-wise. Tucked in-between two winter rain storms, we found a long weekend with a beautiful patch of sunny and 75 plus degree weather at the beach. It was gorgeous and one of the best trips we've been on so far. 

My sweet hubby planned this trip, and with the kids being sick, I had barely looked into where we were going. I heard "beach, rv, and leave" and I was ready to pop in the Winnie and roll. I didn't care where we were going. Seriously.

Anyway, we arrived to a beautiful campground, tucked into a valley between lush (to this desert-born girl) green hillsides. There were large trees with sprawling branches, perfect for explorers or photographers. The campsites ranged in size for the parking of your actual rig, but the area with fire pit and picnic table were surprisingly large and private for California campgrounds. Here was our spot, followed by a few other spots we took pictures of for future trips.

Lots of shady sites for the warmer summer camping at the beach.
Many of these central sites would be ideal for a group campout for friends and family. Everyone has their own space, but it's easy to congregate in the center "common" area. 
I loved this campground, because for me, it was the best of both worlds. Camping with more secluded sites, with trees (perfect for swings and hammocks) and privacy from neighbors, just a quick bike ride away from the beach. Instead of the beach campgrounds, which are mostly just parking lots next to the sand and very close neighbors, you still get that more "rustic" camping feel which is so rare in California campgrounds today. There was also a little camp store, water spigots, bathrooms (though not as many as some campgrounds) with flush toilets, and showers. There is also a dump station here.

After setting up camp, which took us about 15 minutes (Seriously, we are getting better every time we go out. It took no time at all), we wanted to get to the beach. 

We rode our bikes through the campground and under the highway (safely tunneled and fenced) and we arrived!
Such an interesting combination of desert-y looking landscape leading right up to the beautiful beach. It was gorgeous.
We relaxed at the beach for a few hours, letting the kids run around and explore, found sea anemones and tide pools, ran over to inspect a tiny live octopus a man had found in the water, and just sat in the sand and let the warm sun and crashing waves re-invigorate our "life-beaten" spirits. It's amazing how nature can calm your worries, make you forget your fears, and help you appreciate life and the beauty around you again. It's a wondrous thing.
The shore on this part of the beach was rocky...but amazing if you took the time to really look. The kids found sea anemones, mussels, little crabs, and even tiny fish. I love nature, and love that the kids get so excited about seeing all of these things too. It's fun to explore together.
Anyway, my guy and I would have stayed at the beach all evening, but with young kids who are used to a (relatively regular) food routine, we headed reluctantly back to make dinner.
A boy and his (amazing) dad. Loved this view as we were heading back to camp. 
The next morning, after breakfast (have I mentioned my kids lives revolve around their food schedule?),  we headed straight back to the beach. We stumbled upon a snowman sandcastle building event put on by the park, much to my oldest girl's delight. She immediately got to work on this portly little fella.

She and my husband decided to take a walk down the other side of the beach, while I relaxed with my littler two kids, who were hard at work.
Sand flying, waves crashing, sun shining. This is one happy boy!

About an hour later, my oldest girl returned, screeching with glee and so excited to take me to explore her finds. I rushed off with her to find out what all the excitement was about. 

Walking down the beach, we came upon some large rock formations. We had to run around the rocks to continue down the beach, timing it carefully, to avoid being soaked, as the waves were crashing up on the shore. 
Winding through each of the rock formations, the beach and the waves grew more and more beautiful, as we made our way further and further up the shore.
Some of the rocks had been eroded away by the crashing waves, which created amazing sea caves. These were beautiful to explore. 
Feeling a little like Gilligan's Island.

The kids loved crawling through the caves.

Some of them went back very far, and they were really fun to explore.

Beyond the caves, the beaches were sandy and lovely. 

We enjoyed a private picnic tucked into a little cove beyond the caves. While there were lots of people exploring the beach, there are so many little nooks and crannies in the rocks, it was easy to feel as if the beach was our own. However, we were visiting in the off-season. It will be interesting to see how this campground is in the summertime. I will keep you posted!

Climbing up on some of the rocks, we were rewarded with some beautiful, expansive views of the ocean, dolphins, blue skies and the coastline. 
Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, we discovered little tide pools all over the huge rock we were climbing on.
As the waves crashed upon the rocks, we explored the tiny pools.
The pools were teeming with wildlife. Sea Stars, Sea Anemones, Coral, Sea Snails, fish, and little crabs were just some of the wildlife we could identify. It was truly beautiful and amazing!
The kids were thrilled to (VERY gently) explore the pools.
We spent days here, and it never got boring. Each day, there were different Sea Stars, and creatures to exclaim over. It was really astounding for all of us!

While the waves were gorgeous, you do have to be careful to watch for the large ones. As the tides changed, we saw some enormous ones swamp a few people. 

Ahhh...what a relaxing weekend!
As the trip wound down, and it was time for us to leave, we all agreed this was one of our new favorite campgrounds. We loved the spacious, private camp sites, the proximity to the beach, and the amazing sea caves and tidal pools. The glorious warm weather, good health and happiness sure added to the enjoyment as well. We all had a fantastic trip, and are looking forward to returning in the near future.


  1. Thanks for the details about the campground, including the spot numbers and the photos.This is a good blog niche to get into. I am always searching the net to find decent reviews of campgrounds before we go with the kids. I found some but they are so boring and probably fake reviews. And I want to know those little details like "can the kids ride their bikes safely at the campground...can we pull the rig up easily in the spot or will our marriage end bc I can't guide hubby correctly into it....are we right next to train tracks...should the kids accidentally fill up the entire grey water tank the first night can we use the campground showers?"

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Amanda. I agree, it's so nice to find good real reviews about campgrounds. is really helpful as far as the looks of the spaces...but sometimes you want more than that, especially with kids! :)


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