Some say the West Coast is the best coast. Stretching over three states - California, Oregon, and Washington, it boasts stunning beaches and perfect surf breaks.
No wonder that a road trip is one of the greatest ways to explore it - you will be able to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and take the journey at your own pace. Besides, when traveling by car, you have the opportunity to stay at the beautiful campsites that the region offers.
Read ahead to find out which car camping sites of the Pacific Coast are the most picturesque and convenient, and get inspired for your next adventure!
California has the third-longest coastline in the US, so there are plenty of campsites overlooking the ocean for you to enjoy.
Salt Point State Park
If you are wondering where to go car camping in California, Salt Point State Park should definitely be on your list. It is a gem of the Sonoma coast that features multiple sights and activities that you don’t want to miss, such as:
The Black Sands Beach is located in the southern part of the iconic Lost Coast Trail but is luckily also accessible by car. It is definitely worth a visit for its dark sand and a breathtaking view of the Pacific ocean.
Some things to consider before stopping by Black Sands Beach are:
Some areas of the Lost Coast are not accessible during high tide. Check the tide charts in advance to know which campsite to choose.
The weather conditions in this region are known for dramatic changes, so make yourself aware of the forecast.
Hike difficulty. If you plan to leave your car camp to do some hiking, keep in mind that the southern section of the Lost Coast Trail is rather challenging.
Note that camping at the Black Sands Beach trailhead is not allowed. Head north of Telegraph Creek for a good car camping spot.
Gold Bluffs Beach
Another beautiful camping site in California accessible by car is the Gold Bluffs Beach in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
It has earned the love of its visitors with the unobstructed view of the ocean and amazing sunsets. The spot is also very low in light pollution, which makes it a perfect place for night sky photography.
You can expect to have the following amenities on-site:
Public bathrooms and showers
Some nuances to take into account are:
You will have to drive through a dirt road to get to the camp spot
Paid entry (approximately $35/night)
The campground has a first come, first served policy, but reservations are also possible
The water can get really cold around here
Also, within a mile’s drive down the dirt road, you’ll find forest hiking trails with creeks and waterfalls.
Limekiln State Park
The Limekiln State Park offers car campers an incredible location by the beach in Big Sur. This area is surrounded by cliffs and features a river cascading into the Pacific ocean.
You are sure to enjoy the natural surroundings, as the area has a redwood forest, waterfalls, and multiple hiking trails.
As the name of the state park suggests, it is famous for its lime kilns, so be sure to check those out.
You will find the campground below a bridge along Route 1 of the Pacific Coast Highway. It consists of two sections, located approximately 200 yards away from each other, with bathrooms and showers between them.
Every camp spot offers the following facilities:
Space for at least one vehicle
Flat area for the tent
If you plan to go hiking, bring warm clothes with you, as the weather conditions between the beach and the redwood forest tend to be contrasting.
Montaña de Oro State Park
Do you want to enjoy a camp spot in a secluded cove? Then the camping ground of Montaña de Oro State Park is a perfect choice.
You will find the peaceful campsite just across the road from Spooner’s Cove, a renowned landmark of the area.
Oregon is well-known for its stunning scenery and natural wonders. The state is home to the deepest lake in the United States, painted hills, Smith Rock, and, of course, the Oregon Coast.
Below are our top picks of vehicle-friendly campsites overlooking the Pacific ocean:
This peninsula extends two miles into the Pacific Ocean from Oregon's coastline. Apart from sandy beaches and scenic trails, it features over 170 locations to stay overnight, including car camping sites.
Besides, you can add some extra adventure to your itinerary by doing whale watching. The peak seasons for this activity are spring and fall.
Ophir Wayside State Park
The Ophir Wayside State Park is known for its pristine and secluded beaches. Its territory has several rest areas with picnic tables and bathrooms.
If you are in search of a car campground, Honey Bear resort is a top-rated option overlooking the sea.
Washington state has a diverse climate and a spectacular landscape, with its active volcanoes, alpine scenery, rainforests, desert plains, and canyons. Thus, rest assured that your trip along its coastline will not lack natural beauty.
Some great car camping spots along the way are:
Car campers love to visit Rialto Beach for the following reasons:
Three miles away from the beach is the 94-site Mora campground. Note that it is crucial to make a reservation, as it gets busy, especially during peak season from June to September.
Pacific Beach State Park
The Pacific Beach State Park campground is extremely popular among travelers. This is due to the fact that it’s the only state park car camping spot in Washington with an ocean view.
The location’s size is only 10 acres, so it fills up really quickly - make sure you arrive in advance.
Although this place is perfect for beach walks, be prepared for strong winds in spring and early summer. Besides, rangers do not recommend swimming or body-surfing, as the riptides are very strong.
The crown jewel of Washington’s Olympic National Park, the Second Beach campground, is not accessible by car. However, it’s only 0,7 miles away from Quileute Indian Reservation, and it’s very well-worth parking your vehicle and hiking this short distance.
Apart from a place to pitch your tent, you will get a chance to experience the following:
Massive, picturesque sea stacks
Natural arch at the northern end of the beach
Tide pools during low water
Incredible sunsets and sunrises ideal for taking photos
Some campers decide not to leave their vehicle behind for the night and prefer sleeping in the car or in a rooftop tent. In this case, you can also return to the car after sunset. After all, the trail is that easy - simply take a headlamp with you, and you’re good to go.
Getting Ready for the Road Trip
Can’t resist the urge to go on a West Coast road trip? Great, because it sure will be an experience of a lifetime!
Here are our top three pieces of advice before you set out on the journey: