Camping suggestions - Grants Pass to Mendocino
June 6, 2022 1:16 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I got an invite on short notice which will land us in Mendocino on the 14th. We are heading down Hwy. 199 from Grants Pass starting on Sunday the 12th, then one more day of camping if we can manage it off of Hwy. 101 before Mendocino. What should we consider before heading out?

So, we're leaving early on Sunday and plan to camp around the Smith River near Darlingtonia on Sunday. Next day we head south on Hwy. 101.

What considerations might come up? Booked up campgrounds or the like? I think the Smith River shouldn't be too difficult but further south things could be quite a bit more problematic.

We're pretty self-contained so can adapt to whatever scenario seems reasonable. I've been looking for BLM land along 101 but not seeing anything along that stretch of road. Really any patch of woodsy off road would work for us, we're flexible.

We need to find a spot relatively close to Mendocino so less of a drive on the 14th, so somewhere past Ferndale to near Garberville.

A lot of times I've gone to parks and campgrounds mid-week and found camping available but given it's high season and California along 101, I'm not sure what to expect.
posted by diode to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Elk Beach This campground is at the coast, so perhaps too far out of your way, but it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable camping I have ever experienced. It's right on the beach, with lots of elk wandering by, and in a redwood forest. Very low key and relaxing. No signs, no gift shop, nothing but beauty.
posted by effluvia at 3:11 PM on June 6, 2022

Best answer: Elk Beach is great, but further north than OP is looking for.

The two options I can see are King Range National Conservation Area (BLM land) and Mendocino National Forest. Both are out of the way for you, but probably the best you're going to get close-ish to Mendocino. King Range looks like it has a few campgrounds, about 3 hrs drive to Mendocino; the national forest has a slew of campgrounds, some 2-3 hrs away, plus the opportunity for dispersed camping.

I don't have direct experience with either (I've stayed up in Redwoods before, but that's all), so YMMV, but in your shoes those are the two I'd check out.

I'll also say that I've heard some semi-scary things about danger in the King Range for people wandering upon illegal grow operations, but I don't know where that falls on the reality-vs-fear-mongering spectrum... I'd hope at least the developed campgrounds would be fine.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 3:24 PM on June 6, 2022

Best answer: Jackson Demonstration State Forest is 35 minutes from Mendocino, has lots of primitive sites, and should be fine mid-week despite Camp One being closed this summer. Try Dunlap campground (part of Camp 20.)
posted by loopsun at 3:27 PM on June 6, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips. Elk Beach sounds great, a little close to the Smith River though for night two. Maybe we'll stop there to hang out on the way down.
posted by diode at 6:24 PM on June 6, 2022

When you get a chance, we want a trip report!
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 11:09 PM on June 16, 2022

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