Where should I camp on the way from Newport Beach, CA to Seattle, WA by way of PCH?
March 22, 2009 5:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning on driving from Newport Beach, CA to Seattle, WA, leaving sometime next month (mid April 2009) I plan to take PCH and drive up the coast. What are the best places to camp along that route? Also, any other useful tips.

I got laid off and decided to quit paying rent and instead travel the country and stay with friends. I'm going to sell, ship to my parents house back in Michigan, or give away everything that doesn't fit in my Saturn. I have no specific time limit, but I do need to conserve funds. I have backpacking gear and a ton of freeze dried food so I figure camping is my best option. I know State Parks are nice, and I know there are national forests / seashores where you can camp. Has anyone ever done a trip like this? Where specifically did you camp?
posted by ender6574 to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Oh man, fun. I did something similar when I moved out to Eugene, OR for graduate school. IF you're heading up the coast on 101, there are all kinds of great state park camping opportunities. A few I've had great times at in the past 8 months:

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park has a beautiful, beautiful campground in a valley with some impressive Redwoods and great elk watching opportunities. In the morning, the valley fills with eerie fog. Right down the road is Lady Bird Johnson grove, which is a 20 minute drive on a dodgy logging road to reach, but doable in your Saturn and wonderful. There is a 15 mile coastal drive accessible from the Prairie Creek camp ground that is totally worth it; great vistas, and when you get to the end, a wonderful secluded beach at the outlet of a river with waves that sound like thunder when the tide is coming in.

Sunst Bay State Park has a nice camp ground with yurts if the mood strikes you, and a short walk to a little cove where you can watch the sun rise over the hills behind you and hit the Pacific. Also in the area is Shore Acres State Park, which has some great coastal scenery and some of the most amazing tidal pools in the area. DO NOT go exploring the tidal pools until you've learned tidal pool etiquette for your own safety and that of the resident flora and fauna.

Up past Florence, OR on 101 is Cook's Chasm and the Spouting Horn, which are worth stopping at for an hour. There's a cool looking trail to a high overlook that I haven't gotten to yet. Some tidal pools, but the tide is rough so not nearly as much wildlife variety.

If you drive up on HWY 1, which is beautiful and I would recommend, keep in mind that if the sun sets before you complete the drive, you'll likely end up spending two hours driving through serpentine mountain roads in the dark (not fun). Make HWY 1 a two day trip if you do it. We saw a number of great looking camp sites, but were short on time and ended up doing the dark time vomit comet mountain drive.

Crater Lake is worth the detour if you have the time. IT would add another day at least.

San Francisco is a great city to explore, but if I didn't know people there who often leave on vacation I don't know how I'd do it on the cheap, and safely parking your car for a week while you explore is a fucking chore.

Taka's Japanese Grill and Sushi in Fort Bragg on HWY 1 has surprisingly good sushi for the price.

The Samoa Cookhouse just outside of Eureka, CA is this awesome place where you pay $12 and they bring out courses of whatever delicious food they've decided to cook for the day until you are too full to continue eating. Really, really good food. Like, amazingly good.

Keep in mind that state park camp sites on the coast will cost you at least $15, which was a lot to my Midwestern sensibilities when I moved out here.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 6:16 PM on March 22, 2009

The Samoa Cookhouse just outside of Eureka, CA is this awesome place

It is indeed 100 pounds of awesome.

Other places to hit:

Monterey/Carmel (17-Mile Drive, Cannery Row)

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Long Beach, WA
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:10 PM on March 22, 2009

When I was a kid growing up in Orange County, we used to tent camp at Carpenteria State Beach every summer for a week. It was an awesome location, just outside of Santa Barbara.
posted by mathowie at 7:22 PM on March 22, 2009

Keep in mind that state park camp sites on the coast will cost you at least $15

It probably won't be a problem for when you're going, but many of the more popular state park campgrounds will fill up pretty quickly, or even be fully booked by people booking in advance. This is generally more of an issue in the Summer and on weekends, but when I was planning a camping trip last June, most of the beach state parks were fully booked more than a month beforehand. However, I've also been told by a ranger at one park that the company that runs the reservations is all screwed up, so it might be beneficial to actually call the campground itself instead of just relying on ReserveAmerica.

Nonetheless, I reserved at Pismo Beach, which is okay for being right close to the beach, but Pismo is off-road heaven, so the campground was more set up for RVs, and it was pretty noisy with people running their generators and playing music, and the sites are really crowded together - not a very nice ambience if you're looking to get back to nature. Other State Parks I can actually recommend are Big Basin (just north of Santa Cruz), Salt Point (between Mendocino and San Francisco), and Patrick's Point (just south of Redwood NP). Patrick's Point was one of my favorite camping experiences ever.
posted by LionIndex at 9:11 PM on March 22, 2009

LionIndex is right, check ahead and get reservations for Prairie Creek. We had to make reservations last August and would not have gotten a site if we had visited on a weekend. Shoulda mentioned that.

There was this one camp ground in the redwoods in Humboldt County that had annoying feral cats running all over the fucking place. They were yowling all night, would run past you from behind in the dark, and formed this sea of glinting eyes past my headlamp light. Sorry, can't remember which one. Maybe skip all the camp grounds in Humboldt County.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:15 PM on March 22, 2009

Big Sur! There's a campground North of the larger one in the redwoods. Maybe a county park?, with about a twenty-car capacity parking lot, dropbox for fee. Walk in trail 5-10 min., takes you to a big meadow, lots of space, not many folks. A short jaunt through the coastal grove and you are on a beautiful windswept beach dotted with driftwood shelters. We hiked the rock outcroppings seen from the beach. Peaceful, beautiful spot. But it's been some years...so anyone with recent knowledge could help with an update. Happy trails!
posted by sparrowdance at 4:38 AM on March 23, 2009

Response by poster: Hey everyone, thanks for all of your help. AskMeFi rules (that's why I joined). An update on my ever evolving thoughts / plans: I may fly my brother out from CO (since he's unemployed and waiting to hear back from a union) so I have a partner. As I'm looking at the stuff that I need to shed, I think I can make room for another person, by just shedding more things.

So anyway, as it directly relates to the question I asked here, if by my have a traveling companion I'll be more willing to take extra time to stop on the way.

Also, and I ask this because this was my first question (and this my first comment) on AskMeFi, but I'm looking for greater advice on the larger trip I have planned. It's not so much a plan that I have as a guiding principle (traveling is cheaper than rent in SoCal) and a lot of friends. I have questions about the cheapest way to ship a computer, and what else is worth shipping as opposed to shedding, and how best to sell what I own (Craigslist, right?). Should I post new questions about these things? Well, I guess I'll see what comes from this thread and work from that.

Thanks a lot for the responses I've gotten here. I 'm so busy going through stuff that I haven't yet... well, done a lot more things I need to do in the next 3 weeks.

But my greatest assets are that I'm just 32, single, no pets, no wife or girlfriend, and not very attached. This mobility is what I think will take me further, I'm just trying to cover all my bases properly before I leave the grid. All advice is appreciated.
posted by ender6574 at 6:26 PM on March 23, 2009

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