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Camping in Monterey County

If you and your companions haven’t had Scouting or other experiences where the importance of campfire safety is emphasized, please make up for that now; a good start is http://www.preventwildfireca.org/Campfires/ Why this reminder?  See Bicycling Monterey’s post on the summer 2016 Soberanes Fire.
Among resources in that post are lists of park closures resulting from the fire.

The post below was first published in June 2010 and has been partially updated.
Check with agencies and businesses referred to for their most current information.

Camping?  As this view shows, we have dry summers in Monterey County. Please be extra cautious with fires! This is more important than ever due to California’s severe drought conditions, which continue in summer 2016. How else does drought affect campers? Be aware that many state parks and other locations will have water restrictions affecting showers and more.

Are you a touring cyclist or

other visitor looking for

campgrounds in Monterey County?

I stopped to chat with some French Canadians biking in Monterey, and they asked me how to get to the Carmel State Beach campgrounds. When I told them “no such campgrounds,” they pulled out a well-known cycling publication that told them otherwise.  The next month, the same thing happened  with some German cyclists I met in Carmel.

Whoops! That publisher was mistaken.  I contacted the publisher immediately to provide correct info for their future editions.  Until that misinformation gets weeded out of others’ guides, please help travelers by sharing the local information found here.

So where can you actually camp in beautiful Monterey County?

East of the Salinas Valley:  Pinnacles National Park

Yes, that’s America’s newest national park, Pinnacles!  Hike, rock climb, or just sit and meditate with beautiful panoramic views.  Wildflowers in spring months are a special treat here.

You can ride your bike at Pinnacles on surface roads or in the campgrounds. The trails are only for hiking, so lock up your bike and put on your hiking boots to explore the trails.

For camping details, click here.

  • Pinnacles is just east of the Salinas Valley.
  • Camping is accessed via the east entrance, which is in San Benito County.
  • The park’s west entrance is in Monterey County.
  • Click for FAQs.

See how the Combs brothers of Salinas enjoy Pinnacles. Read Jan Austin’s 10/2/14 story in the Californian about Larry Combs and Jerry Combs reliving their youthful experience of 1955 by biking to Pinnacles National Park in 2014:Combs brothers reride historic trip.”

In the City of Monterey:  Veterans Park

If you want camping right in the City of Monterey, it’s Veterans Memorial Park.  Head up fairly early, before you’re all tuckered out, as there’s a hill to climb to reach the park.   Recently I  directed some San Luis Obispo cyclists who were looking for Veterans.  Having noted some already tired faces in their group, and being in my car with my bike rack, I decided to drive up and be sure they made it okay.  Sure enough, one cyclist was lagging way behind, with a gear problem, and they were very grateful I could give them a lift.  Glad I followed my intuition!

Wondering about bike-and-ride options to get up that hill to Veterans Park? As of July 18, 2013, closest MST bus is the Skyline and Mar Vista (MST line #3), with service 7 days a week, every 2 hrs (and no evenings).  Before planning on this MST route, confirm with MST that there haven’t been route changes.

Plan for the climb to Vets Park, and be rewarded by a lovely setting and nice facilities.   How long does it take to bike it?  Two young guys from St. Louis told me they biked up the hill (from roughly Monterey Library to the campgrounds) in about 20 minutes.  You may want to allow more time, especially if you’re tired.

Weather advisory:  If high wind conditions exist, be prepared for wind at Veterans.

Want food delivered to Veterans Park?

Got up the hill, then decided you really wanted some restaurant or other food–but were ready to stay put?

  1. Restaurants in the HER Helmet Thursdays project give discounts on Thursdays to people who bike or bike-and-ride to their location. However, it’s still nice to support these extra bike-friendly spots other days of the week, or even if you request a delivery service (in those cases, your tab won’t qualify for a discount).
  2. Schedule permitting, Green Pedal Couriers (831/920-8181) will pedal up to Veterans Park to bring you take-out food, such as Chinese from HER Helmet Thursdays spot Great Wall, or Lebanese take-out from Maha’s, both downtown.  Green Pedal is also happy to swing by Trader Joe’s, downtown or Whole Foods, Del Monte Center and pick up some groceries for you.
  3. Many other HER Helmet Thursdays  spots are among the restaurants hooked up for take-out deliveries with Doorbell Dining.  Browse the menus and you’ll find restaurants not far from Veterans Park, such as Epsilon Greek in downtown Monterey, Lalla Grille at the Del Monte Center; and others not far away, in New Monterey (Loose Noodle) and Cannery Row (El Torito).  Check their Doorbell Dining menus, and if you want to bike there yourself instead, be sure to check their HER Helmet Thursdays listings for bike-there tips.
  4. Another option is to call a nearby pizza place that delivers, such as Pizza My Heart at the Del Monte Center.
A touring cyclist from Quebec, spotted in Sand City’s Edgewater Shopping Center on October 3, 2015, was making her way along the beautiful coastal trail, headed to camp at Veterans Park in Monterey.

Touring cyclist from QuebecTouring cyclists, take note: the Class I coastal trail has a brief interruption in Sand City by the two “big box” shopping centers—Edgewater and Sand Dollar. Signage helps reconnects you to the trail, and as of October 2015, it is anticipated that new Wayfinding signage will make it easier for people to follow this route.

The three pictures below are from this vicinity. They show the brief section, behind the Sand City shopping centers, where it’s necessary to share the road with cars.  (See “Tioga” area on bike map.)

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VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Then you’re quickly back on Class I (no cars) trail.

sign - mobay coastal trail sand city

Along the Salinas-Monterey Corridor: Laguna Seca

Another popular place to camp when visiting the Monterey Peninsula is Laguna Seca Recreation Area (yes, home turf of the Sea Otter Classic). Laguna Seca is off Highway 68/the Monterey-Salinas Highway. If you’re planning to bike on  Highway 68, click here.

In the grandeur of Big Sur

For camping along the majestic Big Sur Coast, check out the California State Parks and US Forest Service campgrounds.   Links are provided on the list of popular campgrounds below.

For a few other Big Sur tips, click here and also see the Serious Cyclists section.

And there are still more campgrounds in Monterey County!

Carmel Valley and King City are among the other beautiful places to camp in Monterey County and are also included below.

Possible Closures of State Parks and Beaches

It is easy to take the access to our California State Parks and Beaches for granted–until budget cuts that end such access loom.   While efforts are being made to keep them open, if you plan to pay a visit to Garrapata, Limekiln, Moss Landing,  Zmudowski, and other CA State parks and beaches in Monterey County, check for updates via the California State Parks website.

Click here for Find a Park page. From there, enter the park or beach you want to visit, and check current hours of operation, etc.

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Shower and change locations

Maybe you’re camping in a more rustic location without showers.  Or, maybe you’re not even camping here overnight, just biking through as a day visitor and want a place to shower.   We have options! See  “Where to Shower & Change” section of Tips for Bicycling Monterey County.

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Some popular Monterey County campgrounds

This list is not a complete one showing every campground in Monterey County. However, below are some public campgrounds that are popular with many people:

Check with the individual campground director for any updates!
Big Sur:

Andrew Molera (CA State Parks) – See “All kinds of trails for all kinds of cycling–Biking in California State Parks.”

Bottchers Gap (Park Management Company)

Julia Pfeiffer Burns (CA State Parks) – Read tips from Nicole Gustas of blogmonterey.comCamping at Julia Pfeiffer Burns.  Also see Nicole’s tips in “Partington Cove: Day Hikes” (trailhead is 1.8 miles north of entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park).

Kirk Creek (US Forest Service)

Pfeiffer Big Sur (CA State Parks)

Plaskett Creek (US Forest Service)

Big Sur/South Coast/part of US Forest Service’s Monterey County Ranger District:

Courtesy of US Forest Service staff, here is info on some lesser known spots.  There is a trailhead at old Salmon Creek guard station, across the street from the Salmon Creek waterfall.  Off the Salmon Creek trail there are also Spruce Creek, Buckeye, Lion Den, Three Peaks, and Estrella campgrounds.  Salmon Creek trail runs into South Coast Ridge Road.  Other water sources nearby are Soda Spring (no campground) and Villa Creek (Villa has a campground).

Carmel Valley:

China Camp – [link was broken, so necessary to search it on their site] (US Forest Service – see note re mountain biking)

Tassajara Road is a paved road that becomes a dirt/gravel road.  Per US Forest Service staff, it passes these US Forest Service areas: Bruce Flats (trailhead), White Oaks campground, China Camp campground, and Pine Ridge trail.  It also goes down by Church Creek trail and Wildcat campground, and on to Tassajara Hot Springs.

An aside re Tassajara:  Over the years, I’ve stayed at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center many times–a favorite of my mom as well! Receiving their booklet by mail each spring always got us on the phone to make overnight reservations for their summer guest season right away, although locals could also check about availability due to cancellations.  Reservations are still required at Tassajara, and overnight reservations are booked up well in advance.  However, day use is also an option, and this would make a very special bathing and relaxation spot for avid cyclists who are camping out this way; you may also make a lunch reservation.  Day use is booked no more than two weeks in advance (still current as of 7/18/13).  Please refer to their website for details.

King City:

Escondido Camp (US Forest Service – see note re mountain biking)

Lake San Antonio (Monterey County Parks)

Memorial Park (US Forest Service – see note re mountain biking)

San Lorenzo Park (Monterey County Parks)

White Oaks Camp [link was broken, so necessary to search it on their site] (US Forest Service – see note re mountain biking)

Monterey:

Veterans Memorial Park (City of Monterey Park)

Salinas:

Laguna Seca Recreation Area–on the Monterey-Salinas Highway (Monterey County Parks)

San Juan Bautista:

Fremont Peak State Park falls in two counties of the Monterey Bay region. The majority is in San Benito County, and the northern tip is in Monterey County.  I have enjoyed star-gazing there and highly recommend it. My first good look at the rings around Saturn was courtesy of some Stanford students who brought their telescopes there one night years ago.  Head on up and make your own night-sky memories!

Fremont Peak State Park

Additional resources

Have questions?  Who to call?

Over the years, I’ve visited most—not all—of the campground locations listed here, even if I’ve not stayed overnight.  My California camping tends to be in the Sierras, i.e., Yosemite.  Here in MoCo, I usually head home for a comfy bed.  So, you may have questions about camping here that I cannot answer.

Here are some other sources of local info, in addition to the Web links provided above.  These are Monterey Bay area resources who all share a love of the outdoors:  Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Monterey Peninsula Audobon Society, Ventana Wilderness Society, Ventana Wildlife Society, Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club.

If you are have questions specific to bicycling in wilderness areas, check in with some of the folks on my Bicycle Shops, Services, Clubs, and Resources page, starting with the Monterey Off Road Cycling Association (MORCA).

Share your experience

And if you’re a local or visitor with experience in camping in Monterey County, please add a comment to this post. Thank you.

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Sometimes plans must change; here’s a low-cost alternative to camping

If you planned on camping, your budget planned on camping, and you find yourself needing a night indoors, check out the Monterey Hostel. They are definitely a cyclist friendly lodging spot, with bike lockers, a bike map on the wall alongside the registration desk, and a special exemption for cyclists from the usual check-in hours.  They even have a do-it-yourself pancake and waffle breakfast and coffee set up the night before,  a helpful amenity for cyclists who are anxious to get on the road early. And they’re in the HER Helmet Thursdays project, so you can get a discount on your Thursday night stay.

And all lodging providers in HER Helmet Thursdays–from the hostel to luxury hotels–give discounts to cyclists on their Thursday night stay.  Details here. Or, check out the post: “Lodging Providers Show Monterey County Is a Bike-Friendly Place.

Find helpful info on this site?

Donations are welcome and appreciated.

 

This post was first published in June 2010 and has been partially updated. 
Check with agencies and businesses referred to for their most current information.
  1. We are frustrated (Monterey) campers. We have camped at Marina Dunes RV park with our modest little trailer, but they charge between $70 and $80 per night. It’s the most expensive campground we have ever run across. HOWEVER, they are about 3 blocks off the bike trail and it makes a wonderful ride into Monterey and around the bend to Pebble Beach. Next visit, we will head north and try out the Castroville route. They do offer tent camping, but not sure what the charge is. There are also some good restaurants nearby. But still, $80????

  2. marilynch says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Sorry that the cost was higher than found elsewhere! Glad the proximity to the bikeways helped sweeten the visit.

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