Tuesday, December 27, 2011

California Campground Reservations Using County Websites.

About this time of the year, many people are starting to plan out their annual summer camping vacations.  Problem is, after looking at some of the popular reservations sites in California, things are already starting to fill-up.  Now days, trying to get a popular camping site requires the same amount of effort as getting tickets to a popular rock concert or sporting event. So how do you find a campsite when everywhere you look shows filled up campgrounds?  My advice, is to search for open campsites  in the various counties of California. .  California like the rest of the states in the United States is broken up into multiple counties and most of the county municipalities run their own websites and camping reservations systems.  Below in the this post I have posted a quick how-to for getting those allusive camping reservations.

Counties for California Camping Reservations

By looking at the map above think about were you would like to camp and find the corresponding county's name.  In this example, I want to spend some time in Morro Bay California, but Morro Bay State Park is reserved months in advance.  Using the search term “San Luis Obispo County Camping” I pull up the following results in Google.
California Camping reservations1
Clicking on the www.slocountyparks.com link brings me to a list of campgrounds located in San Luis Obispo County. Another way to search would be to use the county's name and the search phrase “parks and recreations” An example of this would be “San Diego County Parks and Recreations camping”.  The idea is to be creative with your search phrases as each county will have a different website and differences on how they handle their campgrounds and reservations.
San Luis Obisbo camping reservations
Based on a little research on this site, I found out that El Chorro Regional park campground is located about 5 miles from Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo.  The county of San Luis Obispo currently uses a phone reservation system and the majority of the sites at this campground are first-come, first-serve.  Since this campsite is not listed in the Reserve America system, the majority of the time if you arrive a few days before the weekend you can grab a spot at this great location on the central coast of California.

Searching the county websites for a campground reservation could take some work and additional time but is a great way to find those campgrounds that are not on everyone's radar during the busy summer months.  Even if the campsites are full, be sure to check back weekly as there maybe some openings and your competition for these spots will be on the low side. Who knows, you may actually find your favorite new camping spot using this method.  This is exactly what we did a few years back to find Mt. Madonna County Park in Santa Clara county.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA Campground Review

This was a hard review to write, normally my camping experience involves a location in the mountains or one of the great state beach campgrounds that dot the California coast.  We decided to change it up on our last annual Thanksgiving camping trip and give the KOA Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay a try. I’ve heard good things about this private campground located a few miles north of Watsonville on highway one.  This place is huge and has a lot of activities to keep the family happy.
Koa Santa Cruz best campsite
This private campground is packed with the following amenities some of which require a additional fees. Call in advance, before you make reservations as some of the activities are seasonal.

  • Pool Swimming Pool at KOA Santa Cruz
  • Jacuzzi
  • Video games
  • Game rec room
  • Mini market
  • Landry
  • Jumping pillow (the kids love this)   
  • Koa Santa Cruz jumping pillow 1Coffee cart
  • Small fenced dog parks
  • Basketball
  • Game room
  • Mini golf
  • Bike rentals.
  • Ping pong Mini Golf at KOA Santa Cruz
  • TV room
  • Dog wash (self-serve)
  • Kiddie train
  • Playground
  • The recreation hall can accommodate up to 150 people so a large group functions like a family reunion can be hosted here with ease.
Photos for Monterey Santa Cruz KOA

Best time to Visit
At the time of our visit (Thanksgiving weekend 2010) the park was sparsely filed. From what I hear the place get's crowded in the summer being in such a great location on the California coast.   I'm not sure if I would brave the crowds to spend time here in the summer as we camp in a tent trailer. Your best bet is during some of the slower months in the spring and fall.  In talking with  one of the employees, she recommended coming in early June if your plan to spend time here in the summer.

Best Sites
The campground has all types of sites, from simple tent sites to large 50 amp hook up sites There are several pull thru sites with large patios.

Koa Santa Cruz Best campsite 6As with most private campgrounds in California,  privacy between sites is poor. Some sites are better than other with shrubs and trees between them.  if you have a tent trailer or small RV, sites 99, 68, 67,213 214 and 215 would be worth checking out.  Please note there is a additional fee for site specific reservations.  The tent camping area is more like a group type arrangement.  Tent campers will be sharing a large grass area with multiple campers.  This might work well if you have a group of tent campers such as a scout or youth group.

Cabin Rentals
 Photo Credit: by Vicky Mougenot

Like other KOA campgrounds in California the KOA has several different variations of camping cabins.  These are a cross between camping and a motel and sleep 4 to 6 depending on the size of the unit.  Make sure to bring your bedding and some of you camping supplies.  This location also has camping lodges which are equipped with a bathroom, limited kitchen facilities, linens and bedding.
What to see if the trailer life is for you.  this location also has a airstream trailer for rent which Includes a queen bed, two singles, TV, bathroom, kitchen with utensils and microwave.

Bath facilities
The bath facilities are spread about the campground and at the time of our visit were sparkling clean.  The bathhouse included multi-stall toilet facilities and multiple wash basins.  There are also multiple private showers with plenty of hot water.  The facilities we encountered were well maintained.

I usually don’t talk about cost in my campground reviews as these vary and are normally not a budget buster when on vacation. I would consider this one of the more expensive places in California for camping.  The cost for sites varies on the type of sites and the time of the year. Prime time in the middle of summer is going to run you from $55.00 to $125.00 per night for a campsite.

There is no fishing at the campground, surf fishing is available at many of the nearby beaches.  The closest  municipal pier for fishing is Seacliff State Beach Pier north on highway one.

Since this is a private campground, I would call for the most current policy.  At the time of our visit pets were accepted on leash and must remain in the RV or tent during the evening.  Some of the camping cabins and lodges are pet friendly.

Overall Impression
Over the years I have wanted to camp here but cost was a factor with us.  We  also camp in a tent trailer so the thought of being shoehorned in between a couple of large RV was not overly appealing  I did a drive by visit back in 2009 during Thanksgiving weekend and based on the sparse number of people I decided to camp there for Thanksgiving weekend 2010.  If you look in my photo section you will see a few of the more private sites in the park.  Would I go here again? Yes I would try to stay during the off season.  Would I go here in the summer, probably not unless it was just for a overnight stop.  If you have stayed at this park please leave a comment so others can get a better overview of your stay here.
During our visit there were multiple group activities and events such as bingo and potlucks to get to know your fellow campers.

The staff at this private campground is top notch and very friendly.  While their price is at a premium, the staff goes out of their way to make your camping experience special. 

Perks such as nightly trash pickup, firewood delivery are a nice bonus Manresa State beach is located about a 1/2 mile down the road.  I personally like Rio Del Mar beach just north of the campground on highway one as it is dog friendly beach and I can find a spot to park, even on the busiest weekends .  If you have additional questions please contact me at Craig@califcamping.com, as always comments regarding this campground are always welcome and appreciated.