Building a bonfire is usually a warm-weather activity that conjures up memories of childhood summer nights making s’mores and telling campfire stories.
Luckily, here in SoCal it feels like summer all year long. For this nostalgic adventure be sure to remember the campfire essentials including wood and charcoal, firestarter and a lighter, skewers, beach chairs and picnic blankets to sit on, sweatshirts for when it gets cold (yes, even in LA it can get chilly when the sun goes down) — and of course, plenty of graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows with all the s’mores fixins’!
From the southern sands of Huntington Beach up to the northern beaches of Malibu, here are five of the best places in the Greater LA area to safely build a bonfire.
[Editor’s Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, be sure to maintain a safe six foot distance from others outside your household and wear a mask at all times when outside of your home. It’s also a really smart idea to call ahead and make sure that the below listed fire pits and beaches are open when you’d like to visit, due to enhanced safety measures currently in LA to protect residents and visitors from infection.]
Dockweiler Beach, Playa Del Rey
Address: 12001 Vista del Mar Playa del Rey, CA 90293
Located about three miles south of Playa del Rey, Dockweiler is a sandy stretch of sand that features miles of shoreline and an enormous parking lot with ample space to leave your car and enjoy a beach day. The beach is located adjacent to LAX, so you even can watch the planes take off overhead as you enjoy the sound of the ocean’s waves crashing against the shore in between flights.
This beach offers permitted fire rings for regulated burns. There are usually between 60 – 80 fire pits open, located just north and south of where Vista del Mar intersects with Imperial Highway, but be sure to show up early to claim one because there are no reservations. The beach and all its amenities close at midnight, but this leaves plenty of time to enjoy some s’mores and campfire stories.
Sycamore Cove Beach, Point Mugu State Park, Malibu
Address: 9000 W. Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
This Malibu beach outpost is located 15 miles south of Oxnard on Highway 1 (and technically in South Ventura County if we’re being picky). Bonfires are off-limits on the sands of the beach itself — but you can reserve a campsite with a fire pit in the canyon just across the road.
Spend the daylight hours in the water swimming or body surfing, or on the land trekking the rugged hills and uplands, exploring the adjacent 70-plus miles of trails nearby — which are a part of the Santa Monica Mountains. Or of course, just relax on the beach and take it easy until the sun sinks behind the coastline.
Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu
Address: 35000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
This park was named after historic Angeleno, Leo Carrillo, who was a well-known actor, preservationist and conservationist. It’s dog friendly, but requires your pup to be kept on a leash. There’s swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing, tidepools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring, and hiking trails to trek.
Leo Carrillo served on the California Beach and Parks commission for eighteen years — and now you can honor him by toasting him with some well-made roasted campfire hotdogs! Creating a fire is allowed in the fire rings when fire level permits, and you just have to reserve a spot on the state parks website.
Cabrillo Beach, San Pedro
Address: 3720 Stephen M White Drive San Pedro, CA 90731
This beach is named after Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer who was the first to sail up the California coast. The “beach” is actually two different beaches: there’s one section outside the breakwater within the ocean surf, and another within the harbor, which is more gentle and quiet.
The sandy stretch of land is situated below a cliff facing the Newport Beach jetty, with fire fits are found adjacent to the outer beach on the “Pacific Side” or “Hill Side” of the beach. There are only about a dozen fire pits, so make sure to get there early and claim your spot.
Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington Beach
17851 Pacific Coast Hwy Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Bolsa Chica State Beach is a three mile long, wide and sandy beach in Huntington Beach which is technically in Orange County — but close enough to LA for me to consider it within the “Greater LA area.”
There’s an abundance of parking available in the huge lots that line the adjacent Pacific Coast Highway. Across the highway is Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, which offers ample birding, wildlife watching, hiking, and biking opportunities.
Fire rings are available every day of the year from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and there are over 200 rings which are open on a first come first serve basis unless they’re reserved with a picnic area (view the parks page regarding picnic reservations).
BONUS: Spire 73’s “Tableside S’mores” [Currently Closed due to COVID-19]
Atop the InterContinental hotel in Downtown Los Angeles up on the 73rd floor is Spire 73. It’s the tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere, and is usually a trendy hangout for cocktails and some of the best views of the city — but this outpost also offers a treat that’s worth the trek (and headache of trying to find parking) into DTLA.
This idyllic s’mores experience isn’t technically “bonfire” related — but comes with an ample amount of marshmallows, honey graham crackers, and squares of milk chocolate bar to roast on a tabletop fire with perfectly mini skewers. It’s an experience that’s not to be missed.
What are your favorite places to have a bonfire in the Greater Los Angeles area? Let me know, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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