Here on the Central Coast, you don’t have to look far for the best places to camp. There are tons of options in Santa Cruz County, Monterey County, and the Bay Area – whether you seek serene coastal vistas, majestic redwood forests, or charming lakeside campgrounds. So grab your tent, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready for the Strock Team’s picks for the best places to camp.
Santa Cruz County:
New Brighton State Beach:
Located just south of Santa Cruz, New Brighton State Beach offers a slice of coastal paradise. With campsites perched on bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, campers are treated to awe-inspiring views and soothing ocean breezes. Enjoy sun-soaked days lounging on the beach, exploring tide pools, or embarking on scenic coastal hikes. New Brighton is the perfect place to unwind, breathe in the salty sea air, and fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park:
For an enchanting camping experience amidst towering ancient redwood trees, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a must-visit. As California’s oldest state park, it boasts numerous trails leading to magnificent waterfalls, hidden groves, and serene meadows. Pitch your tent in one of the park’s campgrounds and wake up to the ethereal beauty of dappled sunlight filtering through the giant trees.
Situated along the picturesque coastline between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, Costanoa offers a unique camping experience blending rugged nature with comfortable amenities. This eco-adventure resort features various accommodation options, from tent campsites to fully equipped cabins. Revel in outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, or indulge in the spa facilities and farm-to-table dining. Costanoa is an ideal destination for those seeking a balance between rugged outdoor adventures and a touch of luxury.
No camping guide of this region would be complete without mentioning the majestic Big Sur. This iconic stretch of coastline provides unparalleled camping opportunities amid dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and ancient redwoods. Campgrounds such as Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offer stunning ocean views, trails leading to mesmerizing waterfalls, and unforgettable sunsets. Immerse yourself in the raw beauty of Big Sur, and stand back as nature’s wonders leave you breathless.
Lake San Antonio:
Escape to the peaceful ambiance of Lake San Antonio, located near the border of Monterey and San Benito counties. This reservoir offers excellent camping facilities, including spacious campsites and a range of water activities like boating, fishing, and swimming. Explore the surrounding hills through hiking and mountain biking trails, simply relax on the shores, or head into nearby Paso Robles for wine tasting.
Laguna Seca Campground:
If you’re a motorsport enthusiast or simply enjoy wide-open spaces, the Laguna Seca Recreation Area is a fantastic camping destination. Home to the famous WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, this sprawling campground folded into the oak studded hills offers expansive camping options. Embrace the thrill of high-speed races, or explore the nearby Fort Ord National Monument with its scenic trails. With its unique blend of motorsports and outdoor adventure, Laguna Seca is a paradise for camping enthusiasts of all kinds.
Mt Madonna County Park:
Nestled in the hills just south of San Jose, Mt Madonna County Park is a hidden gem offering stunning vistas, lush forests, and serene campsites. Hike to the summit of Mt. Madonna for panoramic views of the surrounding valleys, or explore the park’s network of trails winding through towering redwoods. Unwind in the peacefulness of nature, and let the charm of Mt Madonna envelop you.
Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch:
Located in the rolling hills east of Gilroy, Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch boasts a picturesque setting alongside a serene lake. Campers can enjoy fishing, boating, or simply lounging on the shore, basking in the warmth of the sun. With its abundant wildlife and scenic beauty, Coyote Lake offers a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
From the breathtaking coastal landscapes of Santa Cruz and Monterey County to the tranquil forests and lakes of the Bay Area, these regions have some of the best places to camp. Have you camped at any of these campgrounds before? Which is your favorite?