Central Coast Beach Camping

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Beach Camping
on the California Central Coast

Camping right on the sand is possible in California, you just need to drive far enough to find it. Campground reservations are common (year round) on this stretch of coastline, since PISMO is a premier vacation spot for most of Central California.

blue links lead to camp reservation services camp

This camping page features all beach front camping options along the Central Coast, from Santa Barbara to Big Sur. State Parks, State Beaches, bay side marinas and rugged rural coast camps. We even list private campgrounds and RV parks, just so you have more choices.

Santa Barbara Camping & State Parks

Flying Flags RV Resort, Buellton, CA

River Park RV Campground, Lompoc CA

Santa Maria Pines Campground (CLOSED)

San Luis Obispo Camping, Off Road & RV Parks

pismo beach

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

 

Pismo Beach Campgrounds

Oceano Dunes State Park (SVRA) – Pismo Dunes Off Road Area State Park

DSCN2931Pismo State Beach State Park

  • North Beach Campground

county park camping Pismo

RV camping near Pismo, CA

Pismo Coast Village RV Resort

Pacific Dunes Ranch & RV Resort

Pismo Sands RV Park

Le Sage Riviera RV Park, Grover Beach, CA

Montana de Oro

San Luis Bay & Point Conception
Avila Beach, Morro Bay Camping

Avila Beach RV Camping Sites

Avila Beach Hot Springs Camping

Montana de Oro State Park State Park

El Chorro Regional Park Campground

Morro Bay State Park Campground State Park

Morro Strand State Beach State Park

Morro Strand RV Park

Morro Dunes RV Park

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San Simeon & Big Sur Campgrounds

San Simeon State Park Campgrounds

  • San Simeon Creek Campground
  • Washburn Primitive Campground

Big Sur Campgrounds & State Parks

 

 

Los Padres National Forest

USDA National Forests lies inland along the Central Coast of California, all the way from Ventura to Monterey.  Numerous recreational lakes and back roads that lead to secluded small campgrounds. Primitive dispersed camping is allowed, but campfires are limited to local fire restrictions. The later part of the year means drier conditions and sometimes campfires are not allowed during wildfire season. Obtain a free campfire permit & check current conditions from the local ranger before venturing into the backcountry.

Central Coast Inland Lakes Camping

Launch Spot

Marin Camping Point Reyes

Marin County Camping

Point Reyes Peninsula / Pt Reyes Campgrounds

Ocean View CampsitesThe Lighthouse doesn’t have a campground! There are no camping facilities at Muir Woods National Monument, nor Muir Beach. No camping at Stinson Beach, nor Bolinas.

The Tule Elk Reserve has no camping at all. Tomales Bay State Park no longer has car camping available; hike-in or boat-in camping, maybe.

What is available for campground camping on “the Point” is listed below, with links for more info and reservations.

foggy seashore

POINT REYES, CALIFORNIA

blue links lead to camp reservation services. campgrounds

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

Point Reyes National Seashore Campground
reservations required
hike-in, bike-in, and boat-in camp sites only
415-464-5100
415-464-5137

Mount Tamalpais State Park Campground State Parks
reservations required
415-388-2070

  • Alice Eastwood Campground
  • Frank Valley Campground
  • Horse Camp Campground
  • Pantoll Campground
  • Steep Ravine Campground
  • Steep Ravine Cabins

Marin Headlands Camping
reservations required
415-331-1540

Samuel P. Taylor Redwood State Park State Parks
reservations recommended; open year round
415-488-9897

  • Devils Gulch Horse Camp
  • Historic Camp Taylor
  • Madrone Group Camp
  • Car Camping / Tent Camp
  • RV max 27′
  • Cabin Rentals @ SPT

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Cycling, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, kayaking and boating are all popular outdoor recreation activities.

Small towns located on the Point Reyes peninsula do have a few private campgrounds, some of which can accommodate motorhomes. Follow towns links for those.

RV camping

There are no RV parks, camper trailers or motorhomes allowed in campgrounds on the steep coastal region of Point Reyes. Most of the narrow, winding roads are forbidden for motorhome travels. No shoulder, no guard rails, on many curvy roads. Great viewpoints are best when you STOP to look, off the roadway.

hike NPS

Golden Gate National Recreation Area NPS

Point Reyes National Seashore

Stinson Beach Park

Tomales Bay State Park State Park

Tule Elk Reserve

dockside

nearby towns – 

Best View Camp Sites

view campsite

Great Overlooks for Camping

Best View Camp Site in California 

Overlook Camps, View Spot Camp Sites

This list is comprised of primitive camp sites and developed campgrounds with views overlooking a large area (valley, town, canyon, desert, river, ocean). Many ideal spots may require dirt road driving, and a few might need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach.

Prewitt Ridge, Big Sur Coast

This is by far the best, free coastal camping on the Central Coastline of Big Sur. Dirt roads traverse 10 miles out to vacant ridges overlooking the Pacific, with steep hills down to the highway. Camp above the fog layer and above the crowds. Explore the beaches during the day, and camp above the traffic & crowds at night.

Dry brush is abundant on the mountains of Los Padres National Forest. Camp fire restrictions should be of utmost concern in this area, since wildfires burn here often. Camp fire permits are required for camping on the back roads, and much of the time camp fires are banned in this region. Call ahead to the rangers to find out the current conditions.

Swinger

Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park
Big Sur Coastline

Two prime walk-in camp sites, on a shady point, high above a beach cove w/ scenic waterfall. Called “environmental camps” these highly desirable spots need advanced reservations w/ fees many months in advance. Tables, fire rings and a vault toilet. Bare bones basics, but the ideal location is worth it. A forested cliff on the edge of the ocean, high above a secluded cove. This location a can get windy if a storm moves in (generally October – March).

Los Padres National Forest

Kirk Creek Campground
on Highway 1 @ Nacimiento Rd
Big Sur CA

Willow Creek Road # 23S01
primitive camping on dirt road, above Hwy 1 @ Gorda, CA

sunset watch

Reyes Peak Camping
North of Ojai, CA
Pine Mountain Summit, CA Hwy 33

Off Cerro Noroeste Road, W of Pine Mountain, CA

Above Santa Maria, Highway 166
West of New Cuyama, CA

  • Miranda Pines Campground @ 4100′ elev
    Located well off hwy. on Road #32S13

San Bernardino National Forest
Toro Peak Campground

toro_campsite

Angeles National Forest

Fire Safe Spot

San Bernardino National Forest

I-8 East of San Diego, CA

  • Larkin Campground
    McCain Valley BLM OHV
  • Mar Tar Awa above Viejas Casino
  • Sweetwater Summit Co Park San Diego

I-5 North of San Diego, CA

S-22  East San Diego County

Montezuma Grade, overlooking Borrego Springs & Anza Borrego Desert

  • Culp Valley – boulders, primitive camps on dirt roads; better views off-road. No tables, no signs. Small campground at the highway is easy to find.

providence

I-40 Mojave Desert

view spot mojave

US Hwy 395 & surrounding areas

inside Death Valley National Park

  • Mahogany Flat Campground steep dirt road access. Trailhead for tallest peak in the park, Telescope Peak (11,049′ elev)
  • Tucki Mine, 4×4 route. Unmarked dirt road inside Emigrant Canyon, off Wildrose Road.

inside Inyo National Forest

  • Coyote Flat @ Pinyon Boulders – 4×4 required, one primitive camp w/ great views overlooking the Owens Valley & peaks to the east.
  • Onion Valley Campground – High Sierra @ 9200′ elevation. Trailhead to Kearsarge Pass. W of Independence, CA

4x4 Camps

Western Sierra Nevada Mts
Sierra National Forest

    • White Bark Trailhead @ Kaiser Pass,
      primitive camp site, pictured above. 4WD required @ Dusy Ershim Trail (OHV route). NE of Huntington Lake, CA

cabin rental

NFSsee also – NFS Fire Lookouts & Rental Cabins
many of which have excellent views of the wilderness areas; a hike or climb may be necessary

Colorado River Camping
Multiple riverside RV havens near Parker, AZ

coloradoriverRV

 


Driving on the Beach

beach sunset

Driving on the Beach in California

Gone are the days of ‘beach blanket bingo’ where film crews glamorized California – the beautiful people, the nice vehicles, the sport of surfing and the glorious beaches. There are very few places left on the California coast that you can actually drive a vehicle on the sand, right next to the ocean. The military bases, oil corporations and the utility companies have the front row seats to the Pacific genocide, and the rest of the population is restricted with extreme limited access.

Baja California has minimal regulations on coastal access with a car. No pavement, no signs, no cell phone signal, and no help for miles – something to consider if you get stuck south of the border in Mexico. Baja has numerous places to explore below Ensenada, but asking locals is always a favored approach. Pay attention to private property signs and always close the cattle gate (if you found it closed).

Southern California, no beaches allow vehicle traffic. San Diego offers a sliver of sand @ Silver Strand SB, which is a developed campground for motorhomes and car campers, located right on the beach south of Coronado, CA. Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, San Diego allows driving on sand and a favorite among active dogs, but not camping is allowed. In Los Angeles you can park a motorhome at a sandy, paved campground for a hefty overnight fee. Dockweiler Beach, right near the Chevron plant and LA sewage treatment facility. Sounds delightful, not.

Ventura & Santa Barbara Coastal Regions have many awesome State Beaches, but none allow vehicles on the sand.

AWD on the sand

Central Coast California:

  • Oceano SVRA – off road sand dunes and open camping on the beach. Day use or overnight camp fee required; near Pismo Beach, CA
  • Red, White and Blue Beach – nude beach w/ campground (now closed); north of Santa Cruz, CA

Northern California:
Lost Coast

  • Usal Beach Campground – redwood creeks and forests meets coast and cliffs. Camp fee for overnight use. Long dirt road access. No RVs!
  • Black Sands Beach (OHV 4×4 trail, now closed to all vehicles) near Shelter Cove, CA

chico couple

after-the-fun maintenance tip:

Salt water and sand is very corrosive to metal – which will rust your truck or car badly. Now that you’ve had fun on the beach, we remind you to clean the underneath of your vehicle ASAP. Spraying powerful hose in your wheel wells and all underneath the vehicle. You might need to lay on the ground and get wet to do this job properly. Some car wash places might be able to do this service for you, but it will cost ya.

Lobster Festival Redondo

Redondo Pier

Redondo Beach Lobster Festival

20 years running, this Redondo Beach event is a hot hit, especially for beach-goers (near LA)

3 day event held at the Seaside Lagoon next to King Harbor, just north of the Redondo Beach Pier. Live music, entertainment, lobster recipes, celebrity chefs, craft beer, kids activities and vendor booths.

“Rat Ride” – annual beach bike ride sponsored by the Rotary Club; starts in Redondo and runs on the same weekend.

Annual event; September
310-376-6911

REDONDO BEACH California

lobsterfestival.com

Cracking lobster