Where Can I Pitch My Tent AND Ride My Bike? SoCal edition
May 17, 2016 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Next month I'm strapping my big 'ol mountain bike to my car and driving up from Los Angeles to Marin County to visit friends. Where should I stop along the way to camp and ride?

A few years ago I did a very similar trip, driving up Highway 1 and stopping at
Montana de Oro
Santa Cruz
Santa Rosa

There were State Parks in/near each of these cities where I could camp and ride and it was awesome! Seriously time of my life druthers-having blast, and I'd like to do a similar trip this year but at different campsites and on different trails. I'm tentatively planning to drive up I-5 this time (as opposed to Hwy 1 last time) and detour from that.

I'm set for Marin County (Repak! Mount Tam!) and I'm planning to stop at either Montana de Oro again or Cerro Alto on the way back home. It's the trip on the way to Marin that I need help with, finding campgrounds with MTB trails nearby that aren't too far off the I-5 path. Any suggestions? I would prefer to car-camp, but am equipped to bike-pack my way to an otherwise inaccessible campground too. Great campgrounds? (Great camp sites in particular?) BLM secret spots? I don't want to poach trails that disallow bikes, but I also don't want to be dodging hikers around every corner, so take me out there.

I don't usually have trouble finding good rides, but it's proven to be more difficult finding good rides AND good camping together. For example last time in Santa Cruz I could only find camping in Henry Cowell State Park, which is not at all close to legal MTB trails. I wound up having to drive to the Forest of Nisene Marks one day and Wilder Ranch the other. On the other hand, in Santa Rosa I camped in Spring Lake Park (a county park), which was directly attached to Annadel State Park. I could unzip my tent in the morning and see the MTB trails from my sleeping bag across the lake. THAT is what I'm looking for. But, you know, elsewhere.

Clarification/TLDR: Awesome, can't-miss campgrounds along I-5 between Los Angeles and Marin County with MTB trails access.
posted by carsonb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can't help with the biking, sorry, but...

Camping/biking along I-5? You'd have better luck driving 101, and heading east into the range that separates 101 and 5.

Frankly, I'd go further east -- to the Western Sierra Foothills (so, east of 99, north along 49 or something), and even more frankly -- add a day or two and drive/camp/bike off 395. The Eastern Sierra is GLORIOUS.
posted by notyou at 5:34 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mt Pinos, off the 5. About 1.5hrs outside LA. There's a guy who ferries bikers up and down the mountain. I like the McGill campsites, there are 3 camp area on the mountain. Great camping. Lots of serious mountain bikers. Kinda empty most days, overall.
posted by jbenben at 5:47 PM on May 17, 2016

drive/camp/bike off 395. The Eastern Sierra is GLORIOUS.

YES. Which is to say, this option was considered. Given specific recommendations it might still go down that way....
posted by carsonb at 5:53 PM on May 17, 2016

Mercy Hot Springs. 10 miles west of the 5 off Shields Road. May be some good biking there also
posted by goalyeehah at 6:05 PM on May 17, 2016

I thought Esalen had camping but no, this is in the faq.

expect a video :-)
posted by sammyo at 6:19 PM on May 17, 2016

Something I've turned up in the past hour that's at the top of my list now (by dint of being the only place on my list so far): Black Mountain Backpack Camp somewhere to the west of San Jose. If I stay there it would be my last stop before SF/Marin. Other places like this sought, preferably between that point and Mt. Pinos-ish.
posted by carsonb at 8:40 PM on May 17, 2016

Go up 395. First night at Cajon Pass-Lytle Creek, second at Mammoth, then either Tahoe/ Truckee or take 88 and hit up Kirkwood. Either one puts you +/- 4 hours from the Bay Area.

Don't die of heatstroke though, it might be hot in a month up there and 101 might look more appealing!
posted by fshgrl at 9:33 PM on May 17, 2016

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