Los Padres National Forest

Camping
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There are numerous campsites in Los Padres, in a variety of settings. Visit the Los Padres NF Recreation Areas Page for more detailed descriptions of campgrounds in recreation areas.

Cerro Alto Campground
Cerro Alto Campground is located off Highway 41 midway between Atascadero and Morro Bay. Visitors have easy access to stores, beaches, and ocean fishing at Morro Bay approximately 8 miles west on Highway 41.

There are 15 auto/trailer/tent sites and 7 park-and-walk-in sites. A few sites accommodate trailers up to 25 feet, but the forest road is narrow and winding, making turnarounds difficult. Most sites can accommodate a maximum of two vehicles per site. All 22 sites provide tables and stoves. Water and toilets are available in central locations. There are no showers or electric hook-ups. Toilets are adapted for the physically handicapped. If all sites are taken, an overflow area has been established across from the Host Cabin. Self-contained motor homes or sleeping in vehicles, only.

Visitors with Golden Age/Access Passports pay half the fee. To ensure that you have a site, please pay your fee within 30 minutes of the time you arrive. This also helps the ranger or host keep track of how many sites remain available. All sites are on a first-come, first-served basis, with a 14-day stay limitation per 30-day period. Eight people maximum per site. Check-out time is 2 p.m.

Select your site when you come in. Leave some item on a table or at the site to identify it as taken. Return to the information board by the host cabin to get a fee envelope. Pull out an envelope from the bottom of the fee box and fill in your site number, amount, dates of arrival and departure, and license plate number. Seal the envelope after depositing cash, camp stamps, or your check made out to Forest Service. Tear off the back portion of the envelope to show the Ranger making the compliancy check. Drop the envelope into the top slot. Display the stub on your car windshield.

Developed Campgrounds

Highway 1

Plaskett Creek Campground: Located approx. 40 miles south of Big Sur, 35 miles north of San Simeon. Campsite is located on east side of Highway 1. There are family units and bicycle units. Beach access is across Highway 1 at Sand Dollar. Nearby is Jade Cove, well known beach for rock-hounding and diving for jade.

Kirk Creek Campground: Located approx. 35 miles south of Big Sur, 40 miles north of San Simeon. Campsite is located on an open bluff above the ocean. This campground has been described as one of the most beautiful along the coast. There are family units and bicycle units. A steep trail will take you to the beach. Across Highway 1 is a trailhead for the Ventana Wilderness.

Bottchers Gap Campground: Located 8 miles east on Palo Colorado Road. Intersection between Highway 1 and Palo Colorado Road is approx. 15 miles north of the community of Big Sur and 11 miles south of Carmel. The campground is situated among oaks and madrone. This saddle provides an excellent view of the Ventana Double Cones in the Santa Lucia Mountains. There is trailhead parking for the Ventana Wilderness.

Carmel Valley

China and White Oaks Campgrounds: These campgrounds are along the unsurfaced Jamesburg-Tassajara Road. Access is by Cachagua Road off the Carmel Valley Road, approx. 23 miles from the junction of Carmel Valley Road and Highway 1 and approx. 28 miles from Greenfield off U.S. 101. China Campground is a departure point for the Ventana Wilderness. The road is not recommended for trailers or during inclement weather.

Arroyo Seco & Indians Area

Arroyo Seco Campground: Located 20 miles west of Greenfield off U.S. Highway 101. Located in the oaks, there are 46 units. The Arroyo Seco River runs through the campground for fishing and swimming (no lifeguards). There is also fishing and canoeing in nearby Abbott Lakes (no swimming or motorized boating). Nearby is access to the Ventana Wilderness.

Escondido Campground: Located 40 miles west of King City via the Jolon Road through Ft. Hunter Liggett, the last 3 miles are on unsurfaced road. The campground is located in oak and grassland meadow. The Arroyo Seco River is nearby. Escondido serves as a departure point for the Ventana Wilderness. Suitable for equestrian use. Closed during winter months (November-May).

Memorial Park Campground: Located 35 miles west of King City via the Jolon Road through Ft. Hunter Liggett. Good staging area for equestrian users of the Ventana Wilderness.

Nacimiento-Ferguson Road

Ponderosa Campground: Located approx. 35 miles west of King City, via Jolon Road through Ft. Hunter Liggett on the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road and approx. 13 miles east of Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd. and Highway 1 junction. The campground is near the Nacimiento River among oaks and madrone. Only 4 units open all year-round; remaining units open as needed.

Nacimiento Campground: Camp is located along Nacimiento-Ferguson Road, approx. 38 miles west of King City through Ft. Hunter Liggett or 11 miles east of Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd. and Highway 1 junction. Campsites are along the Nacimiento River.

For information and maps:
Monterey Ranger District
406 South Mildred Ave.
King City, California 93930
Phone: (408) 385-5434

Santa Barbara Ranger District
This section will introduce you to the picnicking and camping facilities located throughout the Santa Barbara Ranger District, telling you something about the natural setting of each and where it is located. If you are seeking more privacy, you can, of course, picnic beside any of the roads or trails in the district. Many have fantastic views of the backcountry or the ocean; others follow shady canyons with refreshing streams and waterfalls. For information on camping outside designated campgrounds, call the Los Prietos Ranger Station.

Picnicking: The Santa Ynez Recreation Area is a nice place to spend the day. It is adjacent to the Santa Ynez River, which is the largest stretch of free-flowing river accessible to the public in Southern California. Popular activities in the Canyon are fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain bicycling, and motorcycling (on designated roads). There are four areas in the Canyon adjacent to the river especially designated for picnickers: White Rock, Lower Oso, Falls, and Live Oak. All sites have tables, barbecues, and restrooms. They are open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and no fee is charged for their use. Although overnight camping is not permitted in these picnic areas, there are four family campgrounds that are available for overnight use.

Other popular picnic areas in the District include Big and Lower Caliente Hot Springs in the Upper Sant Ynez Recreation Area, and La Cumbre Peak on East Camino Cielo. All sites have tables and restrooms, but none have drinking water.

Camping: The nine developed family campgrounds in the Santa Barbara Ranger District are grouped in three general areas. The full-service campgrounds are in the Santa Ynez Recreation Area, the smaller, more rustic, reduced-service campgrounds are in the Upper Santa Ynez-Pendola Area, and Cachuma Camp is in Happy Canyon.

The 4 high-service campgrounds in the Santa Ynez Recreation Area have trash bins, piped water, fire pits, toilets, and paved roads. There is a picnic table and a stove at every site, and some sites have extra-long parking spurs to accommodate trailers. All the campgrounds are first-come, first-served. Paradise Campground is on the National Reservation System so any of the 15 sites can be reserved. Upper Oso Campground has 5 sites with corrals available for reservation by equestrians only. Reservations can be made by calling 800-280-2267.

The Upper Santa Ynez Recreation Area has 4 reduced-service campgrounds. All are in shady oak settings along the Santa Ynez River. Each site has a table and a stove, and accessibility to pit toilets. There is no piped water in the campgrounds and no fee is charged for overnight camping.

Cachuma Camp in Happy Canyon, 8 miles east of Figueroa Mountain, is also a reduced-service campground with toilets, trash bins, barbecues, fire pits, picnic tables and stoves. This is a pretty oak-wooded camp, located along a stream, near the Figueroa Recreation Area. There is no piped water and no fee for overnight camping.

Group Camping: The District also has a campground available for group use: the Sage Hill Campground in the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area. The campground has 5 loops, each designed to accommodate 25 to 50 people. Each has a centralized cooking and eating area, a group barbecue pit, water hydrants and a flush toilet. Reservations are required. They can be made by calling 800-280-CAMP. Reservations can be made up to 360 days in advance.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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