Specific recommendations: Car camping on the central California coast?
January 24, 2013 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Five of us from San Francisco and Los Angeles like to meet in the middle along the coast once a year and car-camp for a long weekend. The past few years we've had a blast at Limekiln State Park campground, but it's under new management now and they won't allow us to reserve a specific ('our') campsite. In case we can't get one of the spots we want there, we'd like some backups to make reservations with somewhere between the southern end of Monterey Bay and San Luis Obispo—any suggestions? Hang on, let me tell you what we liked about Limekiln.

1. Privacy. We carouse and stay up late. We get nervous with small children nearby. Limekiln was great because it has 2 or 3 campsites that are secluded from the rest of the camp, and we used to be able to reserve one of those specific spots. Everything else (and most of everything we've seen at other camps nearby) was your typical car-camping circle of fire circles.

2. Oceans to the left of me, Forests to the right. We loved being able to hike up into the redwoods in the morning, then go down to the beach to watch the sun set over the Pacific. Having accessibility to both at another campsite would be awesome. Easy access to the grandest natural beauty (be it other than ocean+forest okay) is required.

3. Fire. We like campfires.

4. Facilities. Not required, but it would be nice if we could have a shower once or twice. It is required that we not dig a pit.

So, where should we make a reservation? Specific campsite numbers sought, though if you think any would do at a particular campground that's fine too. Thanks!
posted by carsonb to Travel & Transportation around California (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
This website should prove helpful. SLO State Parks.

Morro Bay State Park sounds promising,

The park has 134 campsites, each with a table, stove and food lockers. There are designated hike & bike sites, but no en-route camping nor environmental camps. Twelve sites are ADA accessible sites. There are restrooms with hot showers within the park so bring lots of quarters. The campsites will accommodate trailers and motor homes up to 35 feet long and 27 sites have hookups for water and electricity only. There is a dump-station on site for RVs. There are two group campsites, Chorro (35 people maximum) and Osos (25 people maximum), which range in price. Fees include entry for 1 vehicle and 1 (legally towed) vehicle or trailer, additional vehicles will be charged per night at the park.

I love the Central Coast. If I had to camp, this sounds like a pretty good place to do it. I don't know about carousing, but I bet if you called they could give you the skinny.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:44 PM on January 24, 2013

I LOVE Andew Molera State Park in Big Sur. The campground's about a quarter mile down a trail from the parking lot, so no car campers. It's not really a "hike", just a short walk, but it keeps most of the crowds away. The campground's really big, quite spread out, and gorgeous. There are trails down to the beach and also up into the woods along the Big Sur river. If you're OK with walking your stuff into the campsite, I think it's exactly what you're looking for.
posted by jacobian at 1:49 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I loved Kirk Creek campground. The campsite next to us had kids but there were others, further away and secluded, where adult activities took place.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:51 PM on January 24, 2013

Short hike-ins are no problem! If we have to do 10 miles to get something from the trunk, that's not so great.
posted by carsonb at 1:54 PM on January 24, 2013

Oh, I just remembered that in a previous year someone had recommended we check out campgrounds at lakes out towards Paso Robles. I think we'd be open to something further inland too, but there would have to be water nearby.

Morro Bay and Kirk Creek are both on our list of places to check out. And I'll check into Andrew Molera SP. Keep 'em coming, thanks!
posted by carsonb at 2:06 PM on January 24, 2013

Dang, Andrew Molera SP has a strict limit of 4 campers per site.
posted by carsonb at 2:11 PM on January 24, 2013

carsonb: huh, that's either new or wasn't enforced; I've had some moderately-sized shindigs there without issues. Bummer. Sounds like there are some other options, so I guess just put Andrew Molera on the "someday" list.
posted by jacobian at 2:19 PM on January 24, 2013

Kirk Creek or Plaskett Creek would both fit *most* of your criteria, but I link to photos to show you that you might not get the privacy you want. Also, there will be children at both of them. Plaskett Creek is across the PCH from a cool beach.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:40 PM on January 24, 2013

I was looking into camping in this area recently and found this to be a helpful reference (not all Central Coast).
posted by jasbet07 at 3:53 PM on January 24, 2013

Montaña De Oro State Park, specifically the environmental campsites. Drop-dead gorgeous area, lots of interesting exploring to do on foot.

A fantastically interesting dayhike accessed from the area is Point Buchon. It crosses PGE land, recently opened to limited numbers of hikers per day. I saw whales frolicking off one of the vista points.

The nearby town of Los Osos is a throw-back to olden California beach towns. It's funky and offbeat and not at all fancified (though that may change soon). It's a quick drive from your site if you feel like taking in some of the local color, or having a hot meal after a long hike. I recommend the funky-tasty Good Tides cafe, or for a really good big ass burger and brews, Sylvester's Burgers.
posted by nacho fries at 6:37 PM on January 24, 2013

I actually drove out to (the parking spot for) an environmental campsite at Montaña De Oro last year. It was utterly breathtaking and we would have been very happy there except due to the nature of the site there's no fire allowed. Also the pit toilet was out of order (???) so there was just a big blue port-a-potty hanging out on the end of this otherwise pristine bluff overlooking the ocean.

We're not really looking for 'stuff to do' in the area. Specific campsite recommendations are appreciated. Thanks!
posted by carsonb at 7:21 PM on January 24, 2013

Have you checked out the environmental campsites at Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP in Big Sur? My tribe has caroused there in the past. Fires allowed?* Pitch your tents mere feet from cliffs overlooking crashing waves. If you want to really make it a shindig, reserve both spots, and you'll have the joint all to yourself.

* Urk, I'm reading conflicting reports on fire vs. no fire. One official gov't pub says yes, other sites say no.
posted by nacho fries at 10:00 PM on January 24, 2013

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