Tag Archives: pacific

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).

silverstrand

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.

Marin Camping Point Reyes

Marin County Camping

Point Reyes Peninsula / Pt Reyes Campgrounds

Ocean View CampsitesOne of the most visited coastlines in the world, San Francisco – where 2 peninsulas almost meet – at the mouth of the “hidden bay”.

This is the Golden Gate to California and the Wild West.

So, you wanna escape the tourist masses… and camp out, overlooking an amazing place?

(put on your hiking boots)

lighthouse
Pt Reyes Lighthouse

Nope, the 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.

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

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

foggy seashore

POINT REYES, CALIFORNIA

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
415-388-2070camp

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

Marin Headlands Camping
reservations required; no pets & no RVshiker
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

DSCN4484

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 – 


Pismo Camping

Pismo Beach Camping – Oceano Dunes SVRA (Pismo Dunes)

This might be the only place on the entire California coast where you can take your vehicle on the sand. Drive on the beach!

RV CampingOpen dispersed camping is available along Oceano Beach. Watch the high tide line and set camp well beyond that mark. A typical weekend is busy year round. Sand rails, quads, the beefy family SUV, or the ‘garage queen’ trucks. With all these motorized toys, you’re thinking either – yeah, or no way. Option B is listed below.

SAND DUNES
Off-Road playground, Oceano Park is also referred to as Pismo Dunes.

San Luis Obispo: SLO is north of Pismo a few miles. North of Avila Hot Springs. Other amazing parks include – Montana de Oro & Morro Bay.

DSCN1054

Oceano Dunes Camping open camping

Oceano State Vehicle Recreation Area has open camping on the beach, with a toilet within walking distance. No tables, no fire rings or paved anything! This is where all the big boys with the big toys like to hang out. Toy box trailers, bon fires, crowds & exhaust fumes. This crew can be seen each weekend driving Hwy 166, over to Bako.

Option B:

a large 82 site coastal campground is better suited for RVers & tourists wanting to avoid dune buggies. Horseback riding, beach, bike trails, laundry, market, shops & restaurants all close by. State Park Campground within walking distance to downtown Pismo & the Pismo pier.

Pismo State Beach State Park

Pismo State Beach Campground camp

more Pismo camp options:

Coastal Dunes RV Park RV Parks Pismo

La Sage Riviera RV Campground RV Parks Pismo
319 North Highway 1, Pismo Beach

Oceano County Campground
Oceano, CA

Pismo Coast Village RV Resort RV Parks Pismo
Pismo Beach, CA

Lake Lopez, inland
Arroyo Grande, CA

beach camps

nearby cities include:

pismo dunes

see also – Rock Front Ranch

Santa Barbara Beach Camping

Santa Barbara Beach Camping
Santa Barbara Beach Camping

Santa Barbara Campsites

Beach Campgrounds along the coast are made up mostly of State Beaches & Parks. This is a popular and busy part of the California coastline for camping, all year long. Many RVers vacationing year round and big family events are held often. Tent camping is also available – but you will be surrounded by motorhomes, and paying a premium price for a camp spot. With the major highway US 101 zooming along the cliffs at shoreline, some of these campground are located within ear distance from the freeway and the railroad track. Ocean waves may overpower the traffic noise, but we aren’t guaranteeing anything. Early summer vacations tend to be foggy.

Try also, Santa Barbara Mountains Camping

Big Sur Camping, Ojai Camping & Ventura Coast Camping

Sand Dollar Beach
Sand Dollar Beach on the South Big Sur Coast

nearby towns –

DSCN3402

Central Coast Beach Camping

DSCN0477

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 State Park pages for camp reservations  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

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
Steep Cliff Dunes @ Montana de Oro State Park

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

DSCN3175

San Simeon & Big Sur Campgrounds

San Simeon State Park Campgrounds State Park

  • San Simeon Creek Campground
  • Washburn Primitive Campground

Big Sur Camping & State Parks

Big Sur Coast

 

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
Flying high at Reyes Peak Launch Spot, Los Padres NF

San Diego Beach Camping

Coastal Cliffs San Diego

San Diego Coastal Campgrounds
Mission Bay & North County
SD Beach RV Parks & Camping

RV camps camp

San Diego’s mild climate means camping is available all year round. Winter storms can get windy and rainy, but most campgrounds are still open. From north county where the coastal cliffs overlook the ocean, to downtown bay side marinas w/ RV camping, to camping right on the sand w/ ocean crashing just feet away. Bike paths are common around downtown San Diego, so you can bring your bike or skates.

San Diego has 2 BAYS, both located along Interstate 5: The main bay downtown is called San Diego Bay (one of the deepest on the west coast) and the other a few miles north, is named Mission Bay (a man-made coastal waterway w/ green parks and paved bike trails).

Reservations are required at almost ALL coastal campgrounds, especially around holidays, any 3 day weekends, and all summer long. Tons of tourists flock to Southern California and this is a very popular coastline – with busy little cities and crowded beach towns. Beware: if you are seeking secluded camping – this would not be the place.

Best Beaches

listed from south to north

Carlsbad Cliffs

There are numerous private RV resorts, some quite large, like KOA and GoodSam parks located in and around San Diego county. Most are metro-close and not located on the beach. This list is primarily coastal camping options for the San Diego region.

camping SoCal

Seagulls at Cardiff

see also
San Diego Campground Camping

see a list of all
San Diego cities & towns

baybridge

San Diego Camping

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

Silver Peak Wilderness

Hiking the Southern Big Sur Coastline

faded public lands
Sun-bleached, wooden Los Padres sign – near Salmon Creek trailhead.

Silver Peak Wilderness, Big Sur Coast

Central California Coast

31,555 acres

8 miles South of Gorda, CA
along Pacific Coast Hwy 1
near Big Sur, CA
Los Padres National ForestBig Sur Wilderness Map

Backpacking and hiking trails on the Pacific Coast, steep terrain next to ocean. Coastal redwood canyons, oaks hills, great views. The neighboring Ventana Wilderness is located just north of Silver Peak hiking trails.

Southern Redwood Botanical Area

Silver Peak –3,590′ elevation
Alder Peak –3,744′

trailheads

  • Salmon Creek Trail #5E09
  • Hwy 1 @ connection Trail #5E10
  • Alder Creek Trail #5E09

mm

mile markers along Pacific Coast Highway 1
(Monterey County)

  • Cruickshank Trailhead – 6.5 mm
  • Soda Springs Trailhead – 3.8 mm
  • Buckeye Trailhead – 2.4 mm
  • Salmon Creek Trailhead – 2.2 mm

developed campgrounds nearby –

nearby towns –

Ocean View Hikes Big Sur


View Larger Map

Oak Foothills

Monterey Campgrounds

Monterey Bay Campgrounds

Monterey Beach Camping

The Monterey Bay of California is located south of the San Francisco peninsula, and north of the rugged Big Sur Central Coast. This is a popular region for tourism, coastal villages w/ shops and restaurants, parks and beaches, farms and farm stands.  With Santa Cruz mountains and redwoods as the backdrop, this coastline is also highly residential.

Camping along this coast is limited mostly to State Parks and few private RV park campgrounds. No primitive beach camping is allowed on State Beaches, no hike-in camp sites, no hidden cove tent sites, nor secret dirt roads with views over the Pacific. This is a very developed beach and bay, with the 4-lane freeway, main artery US Highway 101, bordering the entire shore.

If you are looking for free and a more rugged, scenic camp – head south to the Big Sur Coast, to find a dirt road camp on the ridge. The sweetest ocean view hike-in camp sites can be found to the north, in the Marin Headlands of Point Reyes, which can be found under Marin Camping.

blue links lead to State Park pages w/ camp reservations.camp

Monterey Area Campgrounds

(listed from south to north)

Monterey Pines RV Campground (Navy)

Monterey County Fairgrounds RV Park

Marina Dunes RV Park

Sunset State Beach State Parks
South Campground

Manresa State Beach State Parks
Uplands Campground

Seacliff RV Park

Seacliff State Beach Campground State Parks

New Brighton State Beach State Parks

Santa Vida RV Park, Santa Cruz, California

Costanoa Coastal Lodge & Campground, Pescadero

Pelican Point RV Park, Half Moon Bay

Half Moon State Beach State Parks
Francis Beach Campground

camping monterey

woods

seaside towns along coast at
Monterey Bay up to San Francisco –

(listed from south to north)

Partington Cove Hike in Big Sur

Big Sur – Partington Cove

DSCN3026
Go west to & visit the oceans edge or head east to explore a deep redwood canyon.big

Approx. 5 miles South of Big Sur State Park and just north of Julia Pfeiffer Burn State Park, this unmarked dirt turnout area on Highway 1 is a rare find. Rocky shorelines at the historic point, plus the scenic tree lined waterfall & cross the highway & head east for a shady Redwood canyon forest with plenty of backpacking options into the Big Sur back country of Los Padres National Forest. From bright sunny ocean view hillsides to dark shady forests.

This portion of the highway cuts into a deep bend along the coast & has no markings to the paradise that lies within. A steep dirt fire road (down to the cove) with metal gate is your only clue. Dirt parking area on both sides of the road indicate that people have parked here before.

This un-signed secluded hide-away has a variety of landscape & sites to see. You could easily kill 6-8 hours just in this canyon alone!! Definitely not a hurry through kind of place. Take your time, enjoy the view, tide pools, bring your swim suits & refresh in the creek. Carry a picnic eastbound into a shady creek-bed canyon & watch the sun dance through the towering pines above.

Driving northbound on Highway 1, look for large hair-pin turn out in canyon area – approx. 3-5 mi. North of Julia Pfeiffer State Park in wide dirt areas along roadside. Located in between Julia State Park & Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Hike down the dusty wide gated fire road in dry brush chaparral. The view of Redwood trees, the royal blue ocean in front of you, the sounds of a water falling creek. The trail forks off in 3 directions:

Right / Rock Beach – this a boulder lined cove where the clear fresh water stream meets the ocean. Small pools & waterfalls can be found just upstream .

Bridge Crossing / Point – through a wooden tunnel to a cliff area with tide pools & wooden structure (an old boat launch?)

Left / Up Stream – a forested canyon w/ a variety of trees; dead ends a few hundred yards up into the canyon

DSCN3021Another option to this canyon is the East side:

Hike up inland (away from ocean) into a densely forested creek area. Redwoods, waterfalls & boulders. Deer sightings are quite common in this area. Shady & dark this trail climbs gradually in elevation. One fork of the trail leads to an old Redwood Grove. A portion of the trail is closed 2.5 mi. up due to a landslide. But overall the is a perfect option for backpackers wanting a short hike.

  • Los Padres Maps (USDA)
  • Big Sur Map (NatGeo)
  • Ventana Wilderness Map w/ Silver Peak