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Old 03-23-07, 02:31 PM   #1
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Pacific Coast Questions

Hi All,

Thanks to the folks on this board I'm putting the finishing touches on planning my Pacific Coast tour, and had some final nit picky questions.

- Can someone explain how the hiker/biker sites work (don't have em on the east coast)? Do you need reservations? What if they run out of space? Are they nice sites or is it worth it to reserve a regular site?

- How is camping at the New Brighton State Beach in Santa Cruz? It seems to be in the middle of the town, and I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to continue on to say Sunset Beach.

- I was planning on grabbing a hotel in Monterey. Any recommendations, or would I be better off staying in Veterans Memorial park.

- I'm a little more concerned with security since some of the campgrounds seem to be in more populated areas. My last tour I only took a cable lock but I'm thinking of a small u-lock for this trip. What do the locals tour with?


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Old 03-23-07, 03:31 PM   #2
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Meg or Max -

I know the stretch of coast you are talking about quite well.
The parks are O.K. You don't need reservations.
They'll always let you camp somewhere at the hiker/biker rates -
But like every other Calif state agency they are under big budget cuts.
So you never know what part of the park will be open - nor do the rangers sometimes.
I had an incident at Sunset Beach when the rangers told us to go one place
And the campground hosts got their panties in a wad.

If you encounter any trouble at a park that advertises hiker/biker campsites -
i.e. they tell you that the loop with the hiker/biekr sites is closed
Ask them what alternative locations they have at hiker/biker rates.
Be polite, but firm. If they say you have to pay full price, tell them that
Cal Parks has clearly stated that hiker/biker sites WERE available.

New Brighton is remarkably quiet for being in the city, but Sunset is better.

Don't forget about hostels.
There a four in the stretch you mention.
Montara, Pigeon Point, Santa Cruz, and Monterey.
Pigeon Point is one of the nicest places in the world.
Most of the lands nearby have been preserved, so you have the lighthouse by itself.
Reservations HIGHLY recommended.

As for Vets Park - I don't know it.
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Old 03-23-07, 07:06 PM   #3
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Be careful when visiting parks with hiker/biker sites. I've stayed in wide open campgrounds with dozens of empty spaces but not in the designated hiker/biker site and had the campground host try to get me for the full cost of the site. I pointed to the lack of openings but got ragged on pretty good (though I never did pay the full boat).

As for New Brighton State Beach, it is at the south end of Santa Cruz, in Aptos, really. It is mostly an RV park but it is in a nice area. It would be worth spending the night. Sunset Beach is another 5 miles or so down the coast and in a much less populous area.

For the most part, the more populated the area, the more "freeloaders" there are. Thus, in Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara (Carpenteria) and LA (Leo Carillo State beach) there will be people living at the beach and security could be a problem. In those places, I wouldn't leave my bike unattended. However, I only ever carry a cable lock. I am also a light sleeper and would likely wake up if someone was trying to steal my bike, which has never happened. Always lock your bike to something. I heard a sad story of a group locking their bikes together and having all of them stolen!

If you are staying in Monterey, be sure to set aside some time (1-2 hours) to visit Point Lobos State Park. It is just past Carmel and is the transition point between Carmel and the Big Sur coast. If nothing else, bring a sandwich and eat it there down by the beach. I've never stayed in Monterey. I always push onto Big Sur, about 25 miles, or so, further south.

In addition to a state beach in San Simeon, there is also a hostel in Cambria, which is 3 miles past San Simeon on the south end of the Big Sur coast.

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Old 03-23-07, 08:22 PM   #4
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Just about everything you need to know about the Oregon section is here:
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Old 03-24-07, 12:05 PM   #5
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I live on the route by San Luis Obispo. I've cycled the whole way from Seattle. I read that in Washington they have a law that they can't turn away cyclists. I haven't been able to confirm. When I was in Oregon an organized tour of teenagers pulled into a park (Humbug Mountain?) along with all the regulars. The rangers opened up a spare site for bikers, so the hiker/biker site wouldn't get too crowded. I live across the bay from Morro Bay State Park. I was planning on taking a group of kids over there in April, so I called the ranger. They said that if too many bikers showed up, they would be turned away, but that had never happened. (They have 5 hiker/biker sites.) When I bicycled to San Simeon State Park with my 8-year-old son, I offered to pay full price for a regular site. (I wanted to keep my little boy away from any odd adults who might be in the hiker/biker.) They gave me a regular site, but since we were on bikes, only charged us the hiker/biker rate.

I also noticed that, as I got further south, there seemed to be more sketchy people staying in the hiker/biker sites - either no bikes (looking like homeless people), or department store bikes with all sorts of stuff that they couldn't possibly carry (?) I started to be more protective of my stuff. I always lock my bike to a tree, picnic table, etc., as close to my tent as possible.
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Old 03-24-07, 04:16 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Megamax
- I was planning on grabbing a hotel in Monterey. Any recommendations, or would I be better off staying in Veterans Memorial park.
Veterans Memorial Park is nice considering that it is in a touristy area. It's at the top of a short STEEP hill in a well-to-do neighborhood. It's best to do your shopping before you head on up. Be sure to take time to visit the aquarium--located at the bottom of the hill. Note: This particular hiker/biker site seems to get filled up with quite a few "car" tourists trying to save a few bucks by not taking a regular car spot.

FWIW...I've been lucky when it comes to hiker/biker sites. Never been turned away or had a bad experience--one of the best reasons to tour the Pacific Coast, IMHO. It's always good to introduce yourself to the camp hosts. Once they know your story, they'll bend over backwards to help finding the best place to eat or with directions.

I actually enjoy talking to the "fringe" crowd that frequents hiker/biker sites. A lot of interesting life stories, that's for sure! Many are locals and know a lot about the area. I feel I have more in common with these guys than the average car camper. (Of course, it's always wise to keep your valuables on you, even if you go to the bathroom for a minute.) Good Luck.

PS--I tour with a cable lock and think it's enough of a deterrent. I agree with the other posters that you should always wrap it around a tree or picnic table. You can also throw a plastic sheet over your bike at night so your stuff isn't out in the open. Plus it'll keep your bike dry at night.

The bandits to really watch out for at night are the raccoons....but that's another story.

Last edited by rnagaoka; 03-24-07 at 04:37 PM.
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Old 03-24-07, 06:16 PM   #7
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Some of the hiker/biker sites are less than great, but that's to be expected.

I've camped at Bodega Bay here in California, for instance, and while it was only $5.00/day, the actual places weren't so hot. In the worst one, I had dozens of RVs right next to me and it wasn't very scenic at all. Going into it, I thought it might be a nice little trek to a remote spot, but it was basically a tiny plot of sand with a parking lot to my left with a big lavatory, and an RV lot to my right, and two enclosed beaches surrounded by man-made walls of large, roundish boulders. Add to this the amount of garbage that people tossed around, and it made me just want to stealth it in nearby state parks. At least with those you can find a nice quiet place for yourself, if that's your thing.

It wasn't terrible, mind you. Camping is almost always nice to this boy scout and it did have a number of jackrabbits running around, but I wasn't crazy about it.
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Old 03-24-07, 11:32 PM   #8
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It has always been my understanding that you need no reservation and that they are obliged to find space for you if the hike and bike is full. At any rate, I have never been turned away. I stayed in New Brighton and it was nice.
I stayed in Veterans too. I remember the hill after a long day of riding. There were homeless drunks in the campsite and there was an incident between them and a ranger. It wasn't pretty. I'm big and fit and would not be an easy victim. I remember one of them telling me that I had big guns. They were refering to my legs.
Andrew Molara is a big field with no designated sites. I would imagine that it would be a riot to stay there in the height of the season. The beach there is spectacular.
Pfeifer Big Sur State Park is spectacular. You're in the redwoods with a swimmable river running through it. There is an excellent restaurant right in the campground with wonderful architecture. Since it is a State Park the coin operated showers are well kept. All of the State Parks have nice shower facilities. The county and city parks usually don't have showers. Molera is a county park and Veterans is a city park. Molera has no showers and I can't remember if Veterans does. San Simeon State Park is nice but not very scenic, but nice beaches and the charming town of Cambria are nearby.
Refugio State Park is fantastic. There beach is lined with old palm trees. Feels like old California in the mission days. There were homeless there but not unfriendly. I remember being evaluated by the ranger.
Cachuma Lake, a county park, may not be on your route but it is a nice place to stay. They have a hike and bike. I did a tour with 10 people and they gave us a regular campsite. That worked out to be cheaper per person.
Jalama County Park may also not be on your route but it is a nice place far off the beaten track. I don't remember if it has a hike and bike but it does have showers and a store/restaurant.

I had a bike stolen that was locked with a cable lock so I don't trust them. I don't think the cable was cut, rather the lock picked. On Guard makes cable locks with some unusually thick cables and fairly light weight. When it comes right down to it, I'd rather do a u-lock.
Lock your zippers together with luggage locks on your panniers and your tent.

Last edited by GeoKrpan; 03-24-07 at 11:40 PM.
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Old 03-27-07, 06:49 PM   #9
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