NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California


San Francisco to Morro Bay Campgrounds


New Brighton State Beach

The Beach at New Brighton State Park

Half Moon Bay State Beach

The first public campground on the way south. Beach access at several points. Close to the towns of Half Moon Bay, and Princeton/Pillar Point Marina. The latter is photogenic and offers party boat rentals for fishing or whale watching.

Location: South on Hwy. 1 to Kelly Avenue. Turn right to the end.

Attraction: Swimming, beach-combing.

Campsite Description: 52 sites for tents or RV's to 40 feet. 4 hike-in sites. Group site close by. Picnic tables, food lockers and fire grills.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Required. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $25   Fishing Surf
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies Nearby

Information: Half Moon Bay State Beach, 650-726-8820 or 650-726-8819. www.parks.ca.gov.

Butano State Park

Small for a state park, with limited facilities, hiking is the attraction in addition to being close to the larger Big Basin Redwoods State Park. There is no Visitor's Center. The campsites are shaded, so can be cold if the weather is cool.

Location: Hwy. 1 south. Left on Pescadero Road 3 miles. Right on Cloverdale Road 4.5 miles.

Attraction: Hiking, camping.

Campsite Description: 20 sites for tents or RV's to 24 feet. 18 walk-in and 7 hike-in sites. Picnic tables, fire grills and food lockers.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $25   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies No

Information: Butano State Park, 650-879-2040. www.parks.ca.gov.

Day Hikes in Area: Ano Nuevo Lookout, Mill Ox Loop, Butano Rim Loop- 11 mile loop.

Backpacking Hikes in Area: Butano Rim Loop- backcountry campsite with 7 sites.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

California's Oldest State Park (1902). Along with Humboldt State Park far to the north the place to commune with the redwoods. Hiking is the big attraction, with 4 waterfalls and 80 miles of trails. Lots of rain.

Location: Hwy. 1 to Santa Cruz. North on Hwy. 9 12 miles to Hwy. 236. West on Hwy. 236 9 miles.

Attraction: Hiking, camping

Campsite Description: 31 sites for tents or RV's to 27 feet. 69 tent-only sites. 38 walk-in sites. 36 tent cabins. Group sites.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $25   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies No

Information: Big Basin Redwoods State Park, 831-338-8860 or 831-338-8861.

Day Hikes in Area: Sequoia Trail to Sempervirens Falls- 1.5 miles round trip rated easy. Berry Creek Falls Loop- 12 mile loop rated moderate.

New Brighton State Beach

Probably the best overall campground in this area. The site is set on a bluff overlooking the beach, which is reached with a short hike down the hill. Campsites are generally very good, reasonably specious and adequately far apart. There are a limited number of "premium" sites set directly above the beach overlook that are outstanding, although more costly. They are worth the money as you can place a chair on the bluff and seemingly have the place to yourself. The actual beach is adjacent to Seacliff Beach, discussed next. That beach is nicer, so a short walk there is in order.

Location: Hwy. 1 to Park Ave. exit. Follow the signs a short distance to the beach.

Attraction: Swimming, beachcombing, surf fishing and relaxation.

Campsite Description: 111 sites for tents or RV's to 36 feet. Group sites. 4 hike-in sites. Some sites with 30 amp service. Picnic tables, fire rings and food lockers.

Season: Year round

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $25 +   Fishing Surf
Hook-ups Some   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies Nearby

Information: New Brighton State Beach, 831-464-6330 or 831-464-6329. www.parks.ca.gov or www.santacruzstateparks.org.

Seacliff State Beach

Seacliff State Beach

Adjacent to New Brighton State Beach sharing a common beach. But this beach is nicer, with better sand. There is a walking/fishing pier and boardwalk. There is also a nice Visitor's Center staffed with nice volunteers. The campground itself is very different from that at New Brighton. The sites are on a paved lot right on the beach. So you have no grass or vegetation but turn your RV into a cabana. There are no tent sites. Some sites have hook-ups. If camping on a concrete pad isn't to your liking, consider camping at New Brighton and simply use Seacliff as your primary hangout. An access road connects both parks without getting on Hwy. 1.

Location: Take Hwy. 1 south from Santa Cruz to State Park Drive and follow the signs.

Attraction: Beachcombing, swimming, surf fishing. Sites are right on a concrete pad at the head of the beach.

Campsite Description: 25 sites with full hook-ups (30 amp) or RV's to 40 feet and another 21 sites without hook-ups for RV's to 34 feet. Picnic tables and fire grills.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $39+   Fishing Surf
Hook-ups Yes   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies Nearby

Information: Seacliff State Beach, 831-685-6442 or 831-685-6500. www.parks.ca.gov or www.santacruzstateparks

Manresa Uplands State Beach Walk-in

A walk-in camp overlooking the ocean. Some sites have ocean views; others are situated in a grove of trees. Sites are a maximum of 150 yards from an unloading zone.

Location: South from Santa Cruz on Hwy. 1 to San Andreas Road exit. South 5 miles to Sand Dollar Drive.  Right on Sand Dollar Drive to park.

Attraction: Swimming, surfing, surf fishing, beachcombing.

Campsite Description: 64 tent sites. Picnic tables, fire grills and food lockers.

Season: April-October

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $25   Fishing Surf
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies No

Information: Manresa Uplands State Beach, 831-761-1795 or www.parks.ca.gov.

Sunset State Beach

Campsites are located close to but not on the beach. The beach itself is well above average, with dunes between the parking area and the shore. The park adjoins some large farms where lots of workers toil away during the harvest season. Si its away from any serious development.

Location: From Hwy. 1 near Watsonville take Riverside Drive exit to Beach Road, 3.5 miles to San Andreas Road then 3 miles to Sunset Beach Road. All is well marked.

Attraction: Beachcombing, swimming.

Campsite Description: 91 sites for tents or RV's to 31 feet. One hike-in site. group site. Picnic tables, fire grills and food lockers.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $25   Fishing Surf
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies Nearby

Information: Sunset State Beach, 831-763-7063. www.parks.ca.gov. www.santacruzstateparks.org.

Andrew Molera State Park Walk-in

A walk-in camp with ocean access right off Hwy. 1 in the Big Sur area. An alternative to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for those who prefer or are neutral on walk-in campsites.

Location: 21 miles south of Carmel on Hwy. 1.

Attraction: Location. Hiking to the beach and environs.

Campsite Description: 24 tent sites. Picnic tables, fire rings and food lockers.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: No

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $10   Fishing Surf
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies No

Information: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 831-667-2315 or www.parks.ca.gov.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

The major park in Big Sur. Don't confuse it with nearby Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which is about 12 miles south and offers no camping but does have some nice hikes, including one to a nice waterfall. This park offers easy access to Big Sur, surly one of the most beautiful places on earth. Even Monterey, Carmel and Salinas are within striking distance if wanderlust beckons. Do not leave the park area without stopping at the restaurant at Nepenthe for lunch or dinner, maybe more than once. The site is outstanding.

Location: 26 miles south of Carmel on Hwy. 1.

Attraction: Big Sur.

Campsite Description: 218 sites for tents or RV's to 32 feet and trailers to 27 feet. 2 hike-in sites. Group sites. Picnic tables, fire grills and food lockers. WiFi.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $35   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies Nearby

Information: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 831-667-2315 or www.parks.ca.gov.

Day Hikes in Area: Several. Check with rangers.

Limekiln State Park

A small 10 campsite park in the heart of Big Sur and an alternative to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Location: South on Hwy. 1 past Lucia. Well marked.

Attraction: Hiking, Limekiln Falls, big Sur Access.

Campsite Description: 10 sites for tents and 18 sites for tents or RV's to 24 feet or trailers to 15 feet. Picnic tables and fire grills.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $20   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies No

Information: Limekiln State Park, 831-667-2403 or www.parks.ca.gov.

Day Hikes in Area: Limekiln Falls

San Simeon State Park

Five miles south of Hearst Castle, the primary attraction here is its proximity to that spot. But the site is attractive it its own right.

Location: Two miles north of Cambria and 5 miles south of the entrance to Hearst Castle, right on Hwy. 1.

Attraction: Proximity to Hearst Castle.

Campsite Description: There are two camping areas. In the off-season one is often closed. San Simeon Creek has 115 sites for tents or RV's to 35 feet. 10 tent only sites. 2 hike-in sites. Picnic tables and fire grills. Washburn has 70 sites for tents or RV's 31 feet. Picnic tables and fire grills. Dump station.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: March 30-September 30. 800-444-7275. www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $25   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies Nearby

Information: San Simeon State Park, 805-927-2035.

Morro Strand State Beach

One of three state park options in Morro Bay.

Location: Hwy. 1 to Yerba Buena Street/ Morro Strand State Beach exit.

Attraction: Beachcombing, surf fishing, camping. Side trips to Morro Bay Wildlife Refuge, the Museum of Natural History at nearby Morro Bay State Park or party boat fishing out of Morro Bay. Not too far from Hearst Castle.

Campsite Description: 76 sites for tents or RV's to 24 feet. Picnic tables and fire grills. Outdoor showers.

Season: Year round

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $25   Fishing Surf
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Cold   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies Nearby

Information: Morro Strand State Beach, 805-772-8812 or www.parks.ca.gov.

Morro Bay State Park

Just down the street and within walking distance of the ocean side of town. Natural History Museum on site. Morro Rock is a short hike away. The campsite has a vaguely urban feel compared to the others. Morro Rock sits next to the Morro Bay Nuclear Power Plant, which contributes to that feel.

Location: Hwy. 1 to the Los Osos-Baywood Park/Morro Bay State park exit.

Attraction: Morro Rock and an attractive seaside setting on the pretty California coast.

Campsite Description: 95 sites for tents or RV's to 31 feet with no hookups. 27 sites with partial hookups (15 & 30 amp) for RV's to 35 feet. 5 hike-in sites. Group sites. Picnic tables, fire rings and food lockers.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access Yes
Fees $35   Fishing No
Hook-ups Yes   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers Yes   Elev Sea level
Toilets Flush   Supplies Nearby

Information: Morro Bay State Park, 805-772-7434.

Montana de Oro State Park

A nice campsite with a very different feel than the others. More of a traditional rural feel. The sites are on a bluff near the water but not right on it. There is far more hiking opportunities here than at the others. And it is not right in Morro Bay with easy access to same, being about 10 miles distant.

Location: Hwy. 1 south past Morro Bay to South Bay Boulevard 4 miles to the village of Los Osos. Right on Los Osos Road (becoming Pecho Valley Road) for 5 miles.

Attraction: Hiking, proximity to Morro Bay.

Campsite Description: 48 sites for tents or RV's to 27 feet. 4 walk-in sites. Equestrian sites. Group sites. Picnic tables and fire grills. Easy access to hiking trails.

Season: Year-round.

Reservations: Yes. 800-444-7275 or www.reserveamerica.com.

Public/private Public   Wheelchair Access No
Fees $15   Fishing No
Hook-ups No   Boating No
Drinking Water Yes   Lake on Site No
Showers No   Elev Sea level
Toilets Pit   Supplies Nearby

Information: Montana de Oro State Park, 805-528-0513 or www.parks.ca.gov.

Day Hikes in Area: Bluffs Trail, Valencia Peak.

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