So you want to camp at one of Southern California's 14 state beach campgrounds during the summer? You've got to think ahead by seven months and be prepared to spend some time on the phone.
At 8 a.m. Dec. 1, reservations open for the month of June. That seven-month lead means July campsites are available Jan. 2; August sites Feb. 1, and so on.
Reservations can also be made on the http://www.reserveamerica.com Web site, but on those three dates, it's nearly impossible to get through. Last Feb. 1, for example, 1,100 camping reservations for popular South Carlsbad State Beach were made via the telephone; only six were completed via the Internet.
There are more than a dozen state beach campgrounds in Southern California: Gaviota, Refugio and El Capitan, all north of Santa Barbara; Carpinteria, Emma Wood, Point Mugu and McGrath in Ventura; Bolsa Chica (which is closed for construction) in Huntington Beach; Doheny in Dana Point; San Clemente and San Onofre in San Clemente; South Carlsbad; San Elijo in Cardiff-by-the Sea, and Silver Strand on Coronado (which is a first-come, first-served park and holds a daily lottery in the summer, after which about half of the would-be campers leave disappointed.)
Most camp sites are priced at $11 or $12 per night.
For details on the sites and reservation system, visit http://http://cal-parks.ca.gov. The phone number for reservations: (800) 444-7275.