Off Season Camping: The Secret to Visiting the California Coast (Part 1)

Off Season Camping: The Secret to Visiting the California Coast (Part 1)

This is the first in a series of posts to highlight some of our favorite places to take advantage of our beautiful California weather and go teardrop camping during the off season. (Pro-tip: take advantage of a teardrop’s portability and string together a few of these destinations for the ultimate California road trip without the worries of the crowds of the summer!)

For most of my life, camping was mainly a summer season activity. Except for the rare trip to Yosemite in February to see the once a year phenomenon of the firefall, camping was, for me, mostly something to be done during the comfortable temperatures of the late spring and summer months- that is until I built a teardrop trailer. With a cozy, insulated, dry place to sleep and a Galley kitchen relatively protected from the elements, suddenly, camping in all the other seasons became a possibility. The best part of it all? All our favorite destinations are way less crowded than usual.

We’re incredibly fortunate that our home base in Roseville, CA (just outside the Sacramento Area) puts us right in the middle of many of the best camping locations in the world! In the summer we love to take advantage of the beautiful Sierras- from the Shasta region up north, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite in northern-central, to Mammoth down in southern CA. Sadly most of these destinations are closed, or aren’t as appealing in the off season.

Luckily, California has a lot more to offer than its mountains! Our expansive coast and the Southern California deserts have plenty of destinations to keep your camping bug satiated. And while the coast is beautiful during the summer, it’s less crowded and much easier to find campsites in these beautiful destinations in the off season.

In this post, we’ll focus on the rugged section of California coast north of San Francisco- a treasure trove of natural wonders, from dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches to ancient redwood forests. North of San Francisco, you'll find a coastal paradise where camping enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the rugged beauty of the region. Here’s our favorite places to stay along the way (working our way from south to north). 

  1. Point Reyes National Seashore - A Coastal Gem

Just a short drive from San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore is a coastal gem that beckons adventurers year-round. The park boasts several campgrounds, including Coast Camp and Wildcat Camp. These campgrounds offer a unique coastal camping experience, with the soothing sound of the ocean as your backdrop. Hike along the dramatic coastline, explore tidal pools, and keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife, including tule elk and migrating whales.

  1. Bodega Dunes Campground - Beachside Bliss

Located in Sonoma County, Bodega Dunes Campground offers beachside camping at its finest. Nestled in the charming town of Bodega Bay, this campground is a nature lover's dream. The waves crashing nearby create the perfect ambiance for a coastal getaway. Explore nearby attractions like the Bodega Marine Reserve and take a stroll in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock, who filmed "The Birds" in this picturesque town.

  1. Sonoma Coast State Park - Coastal Splendor

Sonoma Coast State Park, also in Sonoma County, features a collection of campgrounds, including Wright's Beach Campground and Willow Creek Environmental Camp. Camp on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and wake up to awe-inspiring coastal views. Spend your days hiking the scenic trails and exploring the tide pools along the rugged shoreline. 

  1. Salt Point State Park - Oceanfront Camping

For a truly unforgettable camping experience, head to Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County. The park's Gerstle Cove Campground offers oceanfront campsites, providing you with the unique opportunity to fall asleep to the sound of the crashing waves. Salt Point is renowned for its redwood forests, tide pools, and magnificent views. It's a place where coastal beauty meets ancient trees.

  1. Gualala Point Regional Park - Riverside Serenity

Gualala Point Regional Park, located in Mendocino County, offers a serene camping experience. This park sits at the confluence of the Gualala River and the Pacific Ocean. Campsites are nestled among the trees, overlooking the river. Spend your days hiking, birdwatching, or simply enjoying the beach. 

5.5 Anchor Bay Campground – Anchor Bay, CA

Just 5 miles north of Gualala Point Regional Park is Anchor Bay Campground, a privately owned and run campground, with a few sites that border a private beach. While the campsites frequently have larger trailers or motorhomes, a teardrop trailer fits just fine. The beauty of this location isn’t in the campsites themselves, unless you can snag one of the beach front ones- but rather in the fact that you have access to the private beach on this rugged section of the California coast. Facilities also include clean bathrooms and showers, as well as a gift shop.  

  1. Manchester State Park - Coastal Front Row

A little further north in Mendocino County, Right by the Point Arena Lighthouse, Manchester State Park beckons with a campground offering oceanfront sites. Imagine waking up to the gentle sea breeze and panoramic ocean vistas. Visit the nearby Manchester Beach and explore the park's trails, which offer breathtaking views of the rugged coastline.

  1. Van Damme State Park - Coastal Forest Oasis

Van Damme State Park, also in Mendocino County, offers a unique camping experience in a coastal forest setting. Explore the enchanting Fern Canyon and the fascinating Pygmy Forest. With lush surroundings and proximity to the coast, this park offers the best of both worlds.

  1. Russian Gulch State Park - Coastal Forest Retreat

Russian Gulch State Park, situated on the Mendocino Coast, provides a campground amidst a coastal forest. Hike to the mesmerizing Russian Gulch Falls, explore sea caves, and take in the park's scenic coastal bluffs.

  1. MacKerricher State Park - Beachfront Bliss in Fort Bragg
The famous Skunk Train amongst the redwoods

Located in Fort Bragg, MacKerricher State Park offers beachfront camping with direct access to the ocean. Explore the famous Glass Beach, known for its sea glass, and spend your days exploring tide pools and enjoying the soothing sound of the waves. Nearby is the famous Skunk Train, where you can go for a train ride, or even better, ride the incredible rail e-bikes underneath the canopy of redwood trees.

 Camping on the California coast north of San Francisco is an experience like no other. From the tranquil beauty of Bodega Bay to the vast dunes of MacKerricher State Park, this region offers diverse coastal camping opportunities. Whether you're looking for oceanfront sites, or coastal forests, you'll find it here. So pack you bag, grab your hiking boots, rent one of our teardrop trailers, and embark on an unforgettable adventure along the stunning Northern California coast.

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