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
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.
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 Campgrounds
Oceano Dunes State Park (SVRA) – Pismo Dunes Off Road Area
Pismo State Beach
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
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
El Chorro Regional Park Campground
Morro Bay State Park Campground
Morro Strand State Beach
Morro Strand RV Park
Morro Dunes RV Park
San Simeon & Big Sur Campgrounds
San Simeon State Park Campgrounds
- San Simeon Creek Campground
- Washburn Primitive Campground
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
Sonoma Coast Campgrounds
Gerstle Cove @ Salt Point SP
Sonoma Coast State Park
- Bodega Dunes Campground
- Wrights Beach Campground
Salt Point State Park Camping
- Woodside Campground
- Gerstle Cove Campground
Fort Ross State Historic Park (a Russian fur trading fort from 1812)
- Reef Campground
21 spots. no RV hookups. no reservations
Sonoma County Parks Campgrounds
private campgrounds @ Sonoma Coast –
Gualala River Redwood Park
Ocean Cove Campground
Sonoma coastal towns –
Woodside Campground @ Salt Point State Park
CA motorcycle roads
These are the roads that drivers love. More room to roam, more space, more pavement, more scenery to love and less people, less drivers and less distractions. California has endless roadways that wind through every part of the entire state. If you enjoy real driving in California, you like the curvy roads & scenery. Total Escape has dedicated numerous hours to the collection of back roads in California. Some paved, some not.
4000 RPMs or higher / Cerro Noroeste Road to Hwy 166
CALIFORNIA driving WAYS & ROADS
CALIFORNIA SCENIC HIGHWAYS & MAIN ROADS
get your free sticker
MAPS, PARKS & LINKS
California Back Roads (mostly dirt)
Some random road east of Trinity River
California Parks and Recreation
State Parks, State Forests, State Recreation Area, National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests – What is the Difference?
Forest, Park, Reserve, Monument, Recreation Area, BLM, Nature Preserve… arghh!
Don’t let all the park and forest names confuse you. It is all California and it is your public land! No bikes on trails, No gathering wood, No dogs here, No camping there; Now what?
Sequoia – which one?
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Imagine that the Southern Sierra mountains is home to 3 different public parks named Sequoia. Yep, it’s true. Sequoia National Park, Sequoia National Forest, and Giant Sequoia National Monument. Mountain Home State Forest aslso has Sequoia trees, as well as Yosemite Np.
The super scenic Big Sur coastline is home to Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park and to the similarly named Pfieffer Big Sur State Park. Leave it to the park personnel or the non-locals to create such a confusing naming system within our most-visited state.
Below is our overview graph for all California parks and forests – the basic concepts & the rules broken down for anyone to understand. Permits may be needed in certain areas. Only the government officials understand the true nature of all the ridiculous red tape.
||Back country lands very protected from roads and human impact. Off limits to vehicles & mountain bikes. Only accessible by backpacking, hiking or horseback. Endangered species; Hard to reach terrains in the High Sierra. Overnight visits may require a wilderness permit.
National Parks – NPS: National Park Service
|Federal lands are national parks, preserves & monuments; highly regarded as some of the most scenic in world & protected. Very popular places and crowds often in summer. Limited use areas for camping & recreation. No mountain biking on trails. No dogs on trails. Try off-season. Drive thru entrance fees.
|Located within the National Park System & more specific to a region. Historic buildings, geological features and deserts ruins qualify. Some National Monuments become National Parks. Many locations have entrance fees.
||NRA: National Recreation Area
||Located within the National Park System & somewhat specific to a waterways, coastlines, lakes and reservoirs. Some locations have entrance fees.
National Scenic Area National Seashore
|Located within the National Park System & is basically scenic area worth preserving. Usually no entrance fees.
CA National Forests
USDA Forest Service
|Areas of forest lands throughout state; some surround the National Parks. 18 national forests make up 20 million acres of federal land. Multiple use areas: snow skiing, mining, grazing, off-roading. OHV & SVRA Tons of small campgrounds, recreation & primitive spots for real seclusion. Best bet for finding a spot away from the crowds. Get a free fire permit & camp on back roads. No entrance fees, some parking or day use fees; SoCal requires an Adventure Pass.
California State Parks
|California Department of Parks & Recreation manages more than 260 parks. These smaller parks are located near cities with historical parks, as well as remote wild state land & coastal beaches. Entrance fees, day use, picnic and some have campgrounds. State Parks charge fees for day use, parking and overnight camping.
||California SF: California State Forest
||California Demonstration Forests, areas to be protected. Redwoods & Sequoia Groves; fragile eco-systems. Handle with care. May charge entrance fee or day use fee.
State Recreation Areas
|California Department of Parks and Recreation. Lakes, Reservoirs, Rivers. Many have boat rentals and active marina. Recreation lakes charge entrance, day use, parking or boat launch fees.
||California OHV & SVRA: Off Hwy Vehicle Area and State Vehicle Recreation Areas
||Off Roading folks and dirt bikes can have their fun wheelin. Lands set aside for OHV use,; dune buggies, quads & 4×4 enthusiasts. Most in the desert regions; Some forest lands & Central coast, but some NFS areas allow
this vehicle activity as well. Always entrance fees.
||California County Parks
||Desert hot springs, oak foothills and campgrounds, local hills w/ hikes, parks close to urban regions. Back roads & rural land protected from freeways & development. May require parking or entrance fees. Find these listed on the California A-Z town pages
||City Parks in California
||Urban Parks & Recreation, inside the city limits. Usually no entrance fees. Find these on A-Z town pages
||BLM: public lands Bureau of Land Management
||All public lands that do not fall into the above categories. Little to no fees for day use, recreation or overnight camping. Plenty of desert & off roading areas. Camp almost anywhere out here for free, with a ranger issued fire permit.
California Outdoor Recreation:
All parks, forests, preserves, monuments, public lands, lakes, rivers, wilderness, historical sites and museums can be found listed separately on our super local A-Z town pages