Help me camp in up in CA
December 21, 2010 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to go camping for 2-3 days after New Year's on the Northern California coast (just south and/or north of the Bay Area) and would love your recommendations for sites.

We haven't planned this trip in detail, so I'm open to any and all suggestions! We'd thought about trying to find a site near Pescadero/Ano Nuevo in San Mateo Co. to see the elephant seals- any suggestions? We'd also be open to heading further south toward Santa Cruz, or then heading back up north (Bolinas? Russian River?)

Along the same lines, is there a comprehensive list of coastal campsites with seasonal opening info and reservation information? A search for "California Campsites" just turns up the CA state parks page, which doesn't seem to clarify which sites allow camping. Apologies in advance if I'm missing something obvious.

I'd greatly appreciate your suggestions and advice for places to camp and sites along the way!
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Prairie Creek State Park
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:00 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Costanoa has tent sites (as well as tent cabins, and indoor rooms) available. No idea what the rates are for that; we stayed in a tent cabin, which was very comfortable. It's near Año Nuevo and glorious elephant seals.
posted by rtha at 10:06 AM on December 21, 2010

Jug Handle Creek Farm
posted by jon1270 at 10:09 AM on December 21, 2010 can be a bit fiddly. The reservations system is ReserveAmerica.

Here's a list of reservable campsites sorted by county.

I think the three in San Mateo are all good; Butano, Portola Redwoods, and Half Moon Bay. Henry Cowell Redwoods and Big Basin in Santa Cruz are also pretty good.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:13 AM on December 21, 2010

I second the recommendation of Big Basin - close enough to Ano Nuevo to make it an easy drive, close enough to Santa Cruz for a meal, and a nice daytrip to Silicon Valley. Don't know how Big Basin will be if you run into inclement weather - it IS a basin, after all!
posted by DandyRandy at 10:20 AM on December 21, 2010

If you can't find a reserved campsite, Pomo Canyon Environmental Campground by Jenner is great. It's first-come-first-served, and can get crowded on popular weekends, but I doubt you'll have any problems at this time of year.
posted by zsazsa at 10:21 AM on December 21, 2010

The elephant seals really are cool but I don't know camp sites down there. For a couple of years we camped over New Year's at Salt Point State Park and it was awesome.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:53 AM on December 21, 2010

Butano is one of my favorite local parks but it's low lands, hillsides, and creeks. That makes it lush by bay standards but also means it'll be insanely muddy right now. Actually, given our current rain outlook everything will be muddy.
posted by chairface at 11:21 AM on December 21, 2010

Note that many state parks only take reservations for camping in certain seasons (usually summer). Outside of those times, it's first come, first served. This might not be an issue along the coast.
posted by LionIndex at 11:35 AM on December 21, 2010

There are cabins you can reserve at Mt. Tamalpias State Park -- I stayed there mid-winter, mid-week several years ago and there was no one around. The cabins are not right on the ocean, but you can see the ocean from the cabins.

There are also campgrounds up the coast at Sonoma Coast State Beach -- I've also been there mid-week, mid-winter and had the place to myself.

I imagine if you are there on a weekend, it is probably a lot busier.
posted by elmay at 12:50 PM on December 21, 2010

This year, because of State Parks cuts, Butano's closed altogether through the end of March. (For camping, that is. You can still hike there.)

So if the seals at Año Nuevo are a big draw, Costanoa's probably your closest option. Or the Pigeon Point lighthouse, if you aren't wedded to camping.
posted by tangerine at 8:29 PM on December 21, 2010

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