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Camping along coast in August - have I left it too late?

England
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Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

We’re flying into LAX on August 22 and after three nights in LA the plan is to take a slow drive up to San Francisco, camping along the way.

I’ve had a look at one or two campsites and was shocked to find them already fully booked. I’ve never booked camping this far in advance before and didn’t realise it was necessary.

I’m not saying that every single campsite is fully booked, but quite a few of them are. Is it likely that the best sites are booked up and I’ll have to accept second best? Are the most popular sites necessarily the best? Or are there some hidden gems?

How rustic is camping along the coast? Am I likely to find somewhere with hot showers?! Also, the sites seem huge! We’ll have a car, but only a tiny two person tent. Do we really have to book a spot that will accommodate 8 people?

Any recommendations for good campsites between LA and Santa Cruz that might have availability gratefully received!

Thanks a lot,

Suzanne

Christchurch
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1. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

Hi Suzanne

Have you tried the State Park network - great site - http://www.parks.ca.gov/ - I made a decission not to use commercial camp sites and stay at as many State Parks and National parks as possible. But did book a long way out. See what you can get through here.

cheers

Kiwi

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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2. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

This link will show you specific campgrounds:

www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/region_info.asp…

Most have hot showers, although there are some areas where you would be "roughing it". The info in the links provided list each parks amenities, so you'll have an idea of what to expect.

California is a very popular place with campers, so parks fill up fast, especially in August since it's the last hurrah before school starts back up.

You could also hope for a cancellation. See if a cancellation list is available. You might be able to score a campsite that way, barring that an existing list isn't a mile long already.

Oregon Coast
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for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
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3. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

You are probably far too late to find any space in a CA State Park, if they are anything similar to Oregon SP's. They book up as much as *nine* months ahead :-(

You can try this website to maybe find a private park or campground. Many RV parks will not allow tents, however:

http://www.rv-clubs.us/rv_campgrounds.html

Nearly all campgrounds have hot showers, but they may charge for them, requiring quarters.

The reason the spaces are so large is that Americans have large RV's, and prefer to have room around them when at a campsite. Usually all campsite spots are about the same size in each campground.

England
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4. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

Thank you everyone for your help. I'll keep my eyes open for cancellations but it looks like I might have to book places that are second or third choices and include non state parks, and just be thankful that somebody has a place at all.

My other option is places that don't accept reservations. How risky is it to just turn up on the day? Ideally I'd rather not book at all so I can stay longer / leave earlier as the mood takes me. That's the way I usually camp.

Also, can somebody please explain 'Hike-in' camps to me (I posted this question earlier but it's disappeared, so sorry if I end up double posting!)?

At first I though these were for people who arrive on foot / public transport - the way I camp in Europe. However reading more about it I think it might just mean that you park your car in the car park and walk maybe 1/2 a mile into the park. Is this right? Are these sites likely to be really primitive without flushing toilets or water?

Thanks for the help. I thought I was an experienced camper, but now I realise that I may know all about camping in Europe but I'm clueless when it come to the USA.

Christchurch
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652 posts
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5. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

Hi Suzanne

Yes you are right - walk-ins are you park and walk to the site - which depending the the campground can be close or some distance away - you have to check each site. As to facilities that is individual to each place - you need to check each place out.

As to your other question - going to non-reservation sites - it depends on the area - some fill really quickly and at the time of year you are going I expect that will be the case.

But there are other options - eg backpackers and hostels maybe if you can't get everything you want.

cheers

Kiwi

England
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6. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

Cheers Kiwi.

After an exhausive search last night I've decided to take my chances and try places that don't accept reservations. Although there are a few state places left they look like they accept groups of up to 8. If I've booked into a place for three nights and there are two noisey groups of 8 either side it's going to be hell! I'll just have to make sure I have a few options listed in case the first is fuly booked, and try to arrive during the week rather than at a weekend. Going up to Yosemite for a couple of days, and as it's near to Labor day I will book that one.

If anyone does know of a great site that does not accept reservations I'm still looking for ideas!

England
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7. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

Yes, it’s me again, sorry but I’m getting increasingly worried about sleeping by the roadside!

My three preferred options in the Santa Barbara area are fully booked. I’ll keep my eye open for cancellations but I don’t have much hope. The places that do have availability are not really in the location I want.

First of all, am I right in thinking that if I turn up at a fully booked campsite (Carpinteria for example) without a reservation, even with just a small tent, they will laugh in my face?!

The no reservation sites I can find are Cachuma Lake and Gaviota – unless anyone else knows of any others? If I do turn up at one of these, on a Monday in August, what are my chances of getting in? Can I turn up mid-afternoon and be pretty safe? Or should I aim to get there as early as possible in the morning?

If I can’t get a spot, how easy will it be to find a hotel at this time of year?

Cheeers guys.

Christchurch
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8. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

Hi Susanne

Have you looked at the state park website - http://www.parks.ca.gov/ - try el capitan - this is a reasonably big camp. Another one we are staying at is Morro Bay. This is another biggish camp but looks very nich - right on the lagoon area there.

Our third campsite on the way up the coast is Pfiffer Big Sur - this looks a great camp. The reviews for all these three camps on this site are good too.

Try them through the website reservations - you can look at availability around the time you are going.

cheers

Kiwi

England
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9. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

Thanks Kiwi, I have been using that site and El Capitan is fully booked unfortunately. :-(

Monterey, California
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10. Re: Camping along coast in August – have I left it too late?

Hello,

Hope this isn't too late. Consider Jalama Beach as a first come first served camping spot. It is just north of santa barbara and is beautiful. Also Lake Casitas in Ojai just over the mountains from Carpinteria (about 15 minutes drive). When you get to Big Sur if you have trouble finding a camping spot try Treebones in Gorda. It's an amazing location and they have some pretty breathtaking tent sites. It's more expensive than State Parks but worth it.

www.sbparks.org/2007/Jalama/jalamabeach.html

www.treebonesresort.com/

http://www.lakecasitas.info/index.html