Camping In Or Near Monterey
I am going on a camping trip – exploring the California coast and need some suggestions on where to camp near Monterey.
We are spening 2-3 days there and then heading to Santa Barbara after.
Is Monterey a good place to stay in that Central Coast California region? and where would be a good place to camp? – we love beaches.
Monterey itself is not good for camping, but there’s is plenty nearby. there are several state beaches with camping around Monterey Bay, New Brighton and Sunset for starters. There are beaches at these locations.
South of Monterey there’s lots of camping in the Big Sur region. Andrew Molera State Park has a walk-in campground, that is now limited to 24 groups, first come first served, so you’d have to get there early. There is a beach there, probably the longest in the area, it’s about a two mile walk from the campground.
There are several other campgrounds south of there, the largest at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 5 miles south of Andrew Molera–it’s inland a bit so no beach. I would suggest spending a night at two or three different places, as you move south through Big Sur, that will allow you to see more and not rush through the area.
Marina is only a few minutes’ drive from Monterey. It’s like driving from a hotel downtown in Vancouver to the shopping district timewise. Also, the campsite is right off the main highway, so its easy to get from place to place.
Free Ca Camping Sites
- Willow Creek Road : This is a forestry road that branches of Hwy 1 . It’s a good half hour drive up a curvy mountain road, the first mile is paved, then you hit a dirt road. The sites are scattered without notice all along the side of the slope. I recommend heading up the road a good thirty minutes and finding a spot few people have claimed. Plus, you get a better view. For me, camping is best when I don’t have to listen to my neighbors, who probably love hip hop so much they have to blast it throughout the campground for everyone else to enjoy. Pack your trash and you’ll have to dig a scat hole, or hold it until you get to Gorda. Free camping typically means little to no amenities. This is what I seek when I want good, non-parking lot style camping, or glamping. Otherwise you’re heading to Plasket, Lime Kiln Creek, etc., but those are packed and booked six months in advance.
- Another stellar set of free sites are further north from Willow Creek Rd. also off Hwy 1, about 30 minutes north of Gorda, up Nacimiento Road .
Cole Creek Free Camping
Lumsden Bridge Campground
Los Padres National Forest
Stretching along the Pacific Ocean in southern California is Los Padres National Forest. It has a range of different ecosystems, so you can spend time at the beach, climb a mountain, or fish along a river. There are also dozens of lookout spots that give you panoramic views of the forest.
There are four dispersed camping areas in the forest: Monterey, Mt. Pinos, Santa Barbara, and Santa Lucia. Dispersed camping is allowed in other areas, but acquiring a map is recommended since private land is scattered throughout.
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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parkcampground
The campground in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks is located an hour outside Monterey city but is lauded as one of the best camping sites in the entire area.
However, there are just two campsites available! Both are walk-in, tented camps. Each campsite is about 1/2 mile from the parking area so be prepared to trek to the site with your gear.
There are vaulted toilets, fire pits, and food storage lockers. The campsites dont have any water, but there are some water spigots and flushing toilets by the day-use area.
These sites are very popular and you may have to reserve a spot more than six months in advance. However what you get is a campground virtually all to yourself, in one of Californias most beautiful landscapes.
Why Youll Love Staying Here and Whats Close By
The campground is located in a park along the beautiful Big Sur and theres a multitude of activities for people to enjoy nearby, such as hiking, bird watching, biking, and scuba diving in a 1680 acre underwater reserve.
This campground may be out of the way, but it offers everything that a nature-loving camper could want in a stunning area.
Fees: From $30 per night
Monterey Veterans Memorial Park Camping Ground
The Monterey Veterans Memorial Park is a magnificent 50-acre park in Montereys forested hills. The park provides an affordable camping option in the area set amongst nature, and is perfect for those looking for a more primitive camping option with hiking trails close by.
The campsite works on a first-come, first-serve basis. Facilities include restrooms and showers, while every site has its own table and fire pit.
Why Youll Love Staying Here and Whats Close By
This campground is beside some amazing hiking trails that traverse the pine forest and give fantastic views of Monterey Bay.
The park is also situated close to the city center of Monterey and many other exciting attractions in town like the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Its also a very reasonably priced campsite and makes for a stunning alternative to beachside camping in Monterey.
Fees: From $40 per night
Address: 1200 Veterans Dr, Monterey, CA
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Resources For Finding The Perfect Free California Camping Spot
- The Dyrt makes it easy to find free camping in California . Heres how: Enter the state, then click enter. Click type under the search bar, then click dispersed. Each listing includes a rating, reviews, detailed description, list of features, images, weather report, and geographical data.
- Visit the U.S. Forest Service map of California. Check out individual national forests and other federally-protected areas in California by clicking on the map or on the links below.
- Go to the Bureau of Land Management websites visit page and sort by location and activity . Browse through the results to find your perfect free camping in California.
- Check out this list of places to camp for free in California by The Wayward Home.
- If you already know your destination, its a good idea to stop by the visitor center or ranger station and talk to a ranger. Theyre the best source of information about free, dispersed camping in the area.
- Service roads are usually lined with free campsites. On maps, U.S. Forest Service roads are indicated as NF-##, while roads running through BLM lands also tend to have free camping options alongside them.
Free Camping In Big Sur
Want to save money on a campsite? Heres the secret to free camping in Big Sur. Several national parks allow visitors to camp for free along the forest service roads, provided you follow basic guidelines. Before you head out, check out some available service roads based on where you want to go. Once you arrive all thats left to do is pitch a tent.
In Big Sur, Los Padres National Forest stretches through the entire region and has countless great spots where you can pitch a tent. The southern part of the forest has some of the best camping in Big Sur, but some of the roads we most recommend are Los Burros Road, Plaskett Ridge Road, and Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. If youre visiting on the weekends or during busy season, its best to arrive in the early afternoon. You may have to drive a little while to find an open spot, but it will be worth it.
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Free Campgrounds In California And How To Find More
If theres one thing better than camping, its free camping, especially in a wooded or beachfront area. In California, a state known for its areas of natural beauty, theres enough free camping to keep you bouncing around for months or even years.
While most national parks dont offer free camping, look for Bureau of Land Management or United States Forest Service land on the outskirts, where the perfect free camping in California site awaits you. For last-minute camping, you can use The Dyrt PROs Offline Maps and Map Layers to find free camping near you. These features will show you public lands where you can camp for free whether or not you have service or wifi!
Laguna Seca Recreation Area
The Laguna Seca Recreation Area is the perfect place for campers to stay if they want to be close to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca!
This camping area offers RV parking and tent camping close to all the action at the racetrack. Its also very close to Monterey, which lies just a few kilometers away.
Facilities include clean bathrooms, showers, a playground for kids as well as campsites with fire pits, and some with electric hook ups. The water is non-potable though, so you will have to bring your own drinking water.
Why Youll Love Staying Here and Whats Close By
This camping in Monterey option is perfect for those who want to be close to the action. Youre minutes away from Monterey itself, and the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is nearby too. Despite being so close to Monterey, the prices are very affordable.
Cycling enthusiasts can also use the Laguna Seca Area as a starting point for many bike trails. Nearby is the Laguna Seca Rifle and Pistol Range for those who want to practice their aim.
Fees: From $30 per night
Address: 1021 Monterey Salinas Hwy, Salinas
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Monterey County Fairgrounds Rv Park
Monterey County Fairgrounds RV Park is located in the center of the Monterey County Fairgrounds. Multiple events are held at these fairgrounds every year, and this RV park is close to downtown Monterey. Del Monte Beach is only a short distance away from Monterey County Fairgrounds RV Park.
Important Big Sur Dispersed Camping Info
* Please read the following before going dispersed camping in Big Sur.
Overuse along with winter storm and forest fire damage frequently cause closures in Los Padres National Forest, especially along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road .
Check here for current info on road closures and please always double check conditions by calling the Monterey Ranger District before your trip: 242-0619
Remember that roadside camping is illegal along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road . The area is regularly patrolled and you will be ticketed up to $5,000 when youre caught.
The only exception is along certain forest service roads in Los Padres National Forest. Yet, even forest roads where dispersed camping is typically allowed can be made off-limits at a moments notice. Respect all signage, avoid all restricted areas, and you wont have any problems.
Understand that private property dots the forest service roads in Los Padres National Forest, including along the Coast Ridge Trail, South Coast Ridge Road, Plaskett Ridge Road, Los Burros Road, and others.
Not only must you avoid entering private property , but you need to understand that these locals use the same unpaved roads youre on to reach their homes. Vehicles that get stuck can cause major delays, not to mention expensive road damage .
I strongly encourage 4WD and high-clearance when dispersed camping in Big Sur. Youll likely see other campers make the drive in standard passenger vehicles , but please dont attempt this yourself.
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Carmel By The River Rv Park
This lovely boutique park is a family-operated affair situated in the lush surroundings of Carmel Valley. There are various site types to suit different sizes of RVs and trailers, but unfortunately tented camping is not accommodated.
There are all the amenities that an RV park can offer, and it is close to all the areas attractions. Facilities include free wifi, a store, bathrooms, showers, a community patio, lounge and recreation room.
The site has a beautiful garden-like setting to relax in and theres even a shuttle that transports guests to nearby amenities!
Why Youll Love Staying Here and Whats Close By
If you enjoy a campsite with a wonderful cottage feel and lots of community areas to socialize and make friends, then this is a fantastic camping opportunity for you in the Monterey Bay Area.
This park is also excellent for campers who love to fish, as it is located right on the Carmel River. Its relatively small too and makes for an intimate camping experience for those who want peace and quiet while remaining close to amenities in town, which are only 10 miles away.
Fees: From $95 per night
Address: 27680 Schulte Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea
What People Are Saying About Saddle Mountain Ranch Rv And Campground
There are a lot of good reasons for choosing this location. Its quiet. The internet is good. Its got a pool. The grounds are really clean. One thing to consider when booking is that the spaces are really small. Only book if you are an expert at backing in. The road getting there is a one lane road with traffic going both directions. Daniel, Google Review
- Nature trails
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What To Do When Camping In Monterey
Monterey has many activities to do, places to see, and beaches to visit. There are whale watching tours, historical sites to visit, and so many outdoor activities to enjoy like hiking, water sports, and fishing to enjoy.
Its close to magnificent places like Lovers Point, Big Sur, Carmel, and several beaches along the California Coastline. .
Camping in Monterey also allows campers to explore the natural landscape, wildlife spot and enjoy beachfront camping. So get out there and enjoy!
Keysville Special Recreation Management Area
In central California, youll find Keysville Special Recreation Management Area . It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Free camping is allowed as long as you park in the established areas.
Kern River passes through the area, and Lake Isabella is nearby, so you can go white-water rafting, fishing, and pan for gold. Swimming in the area, however, is highly discouraged. There are over seventy miles of trails for mountain biking, horseback riding, and motorized recreation use. If you need supplies, the city of Bakersfield is less than an hour away.
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Alder Creek Dispersed Campingsequoia National Forest
Image from The Dyrt camper Raul P.
If you want to stay in Sequoia National Forest and arent interested in the OHV area, check out Alder Creek Dispersed Camping, a heavily-wooded campground with vault toilets and a creek nearby.
Campground usage is also light and operates on a first come, first served basis but bewareduring summer days when the heat rises, the area becomes dry and heavy fire restrictions are enforced. Check the USFS website before you go to assess your likelihood of marshmallow roasting.
Why Youll Love Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay Koa Holiday
Why Youll Love Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA Holiday The best thing about Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA Holiday is that its so close to the beach. KOA campgrounds are designed with families in mind, and Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA Holiday features multiple playgrounds. A fully-stocked camp store and a kitchen are also on-site.
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Camping In Carmel And Carmel Valley
Carmel by the River RV Park is located off Carmel Valley Road about 7 miles from Monterey and 4.5 miles from Carmel. They have 30 RV spots and take reservations online. They can handle RVs up to 40 feet long, but they do not allow tent camping. They are pet-friendly and have hookups, showers, cable TV, and WiFi.
Saddle Mountain Ranch is in Carmel Valley, about 5 miles west of California Highway 1 and located on 89 acres of forest land. They can accommodate vehicles up to 40 feet and have full hookups, showers, and a swimming pool. Pets are allowed with a fee. They recommend making reservations early because they fill up fast. They also have tent sites and cabins.
The Secret To Booking A Weekend Camping Reservation In Big Sur
Ever since we moved up to Northern California a year ago, weve been looking forward to a weekend in Big Sur. After all, its only about two hours away now instead of six , its got incredible beaches, surfing, hiking, and some of the most gorgeous coastline in all of California. But anytime I went to reserve a weekend spot at any of the Big Sur campgrounds, they were all booked up. Id hop on first thing in the morning when the next Friday night was supposed to open up six months in the future, but it seemed like everyone beat me to it.
Both the national forest/park reservation website and the California state park reservation website open up campsites on a six-month rolling basis. This means that every day, the day six months out becomes available to reserve. BUT, theres a little trick here that lets you reserve days before they technically become available. As long as the first day of your reservation is open, you can then book up to fourteen days after that.
In the screenshot example below of Kirk Creek Campground, say you wanted to camp on Friday, January 22nd. But, Friday night isnt open to book yet because its six months and one day way. However, if you start your reservation on an earlier day that is already open , then you can extend it through Friday night , or even two weeks after that.
My best tip for getting a weekend campsite is to plan a trip starting on a Thursday at the very least. Then you can book it Thursday through Saturday or Sunday.
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