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California coast Hike or Bike camping

Old 03-20-09, 12:48 PM
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California coast Hike or Bike camping

I'm planning a tour southbound along the California coast and need information about Hike or Bike (HB) camping. I've read references to Hike or Bike in "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" and web accounts of California tours but I am unable to get details from the California state park system.
My understanding is that some campgrounds have some sites designated as HB sites and if you ride into these campgrounds, a site will be found for you. You will not be turned away. This is great for the touring cyclist with a flexible schedule. I don't think I'll be able to make reservations more than a day or two in advance so the reservation system doesn't work well for me.
Phone calls to campground information services (state and local) produce bewildered responses from those that answer the phone. They are not familiar with this program.
Please share your experience with the HB system.
Are reservations required?
Do most Cali coast campgrounds support HB?
Did I make it up in a dream?

I am worried that I'll find myself dog tired, darkness approaching, getting turned away from a campground with the next campground many miles away.
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Old 03-20-09, 01:26 PM
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i did seattle to SF and there were always hiker/biker sections at the state parks and i was never turned away. i doubt any of the parks were at capacity though. i dont think they would turn you away in this situation but i cant speak from experience.
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Old 03-20-09, 02:57 PM
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We spent a night at El Capitan SB during peak season. We were the only ones camping at the hiker/biker site even though the campground was full to capacity. No calling ahead of time, just ride in...
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Old 03-20-09, 03:01 PM
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I've done a lot of touring in central-southern california. After a certain point, many campsites claim they don't have HB sites. The official line is that they are trying to "discourage transients." Bummer. I can confirm and recommend these sites if you pass them.

Moro Bay - (you're by a golf course, but it's not too bad.)
Refugio - MUCH better than El Capitan site. You're about 20 feet from the water. Easily the best HB site in Southern CA.
Carpenteria - Sort of ghetto-ish...not scenic...the times i've camped there I've had questionable neighbors
Leo Carillo - Nice. Tucked away off a trail. Pretty quiet.
San Clemente - has a HB site...nice but nothing special.
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Old 03-20-09, 03:01 PM
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Thanks roadfix and Beelzbutt. These are the anecdotes I need to hear.

Does anyone have a copy or link to any park service rules about HB camping?
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Old 03-20-09, 03:07 PM
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xcapekey, do they deny HB sites when on the phone or when you are standing at the front gate?
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Old 03-20-09, 03:21 PM
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From talking with park rangers I doubt you would ever be turned away. They told me that they will always find a place for you to squeeze into, even if it is in the day use picnic area. I usually go to the local state parks during peak season when there are no reservations available for months, and I have yet to be turned away.
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Old 03-20-09, 05:05 PM
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This thread has some useful information about hiker/biker sites on the coast: https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/453739-lodging-campsites-ca-coast.html

I've done a fair amount of biking on the California coast and have never seen a full H/B site. I'm not sure what would happen in that case, though I've always been told that they would find a place for you. It would likely depend on the campground host. You can always ask around to other campers to see if they would let you set up a tent on their site for some of the camping fee. RVers would be best for this as they don't need the tenting area of their sites.

All California State parks can be found here: https://www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/

The ones with Hiker/Biker sites have this image on their pages:



Ray
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Old 03-20-09, 05:07 PM
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If you call, sometimes the people working there don't even know what a HB site is.

At the gate, just be persistent and patient. Make a point to tell them that you're not homeless, that you have ID and that you're passing through. It helps to not look too scruffy. It's a sad state of affairs, but depending who is at the gate and how they feel about you, they can make it very easy or difficult. The ones I listed above are generally no hassle sites.

Originally Posted by elares
xcapekey, do they deny HB sites when on the phone or when you are standing at the front gate?
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Old 03-20-09, 05:28 PM
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Go here https://www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/default.asp?tab=5
Click hike/bike campsite and you will get a list of all state parks with H/B sites. Easy Peasy!
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Old 03-20-09, 06:04 PM
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For the most part, they're hassle-free and decent spots. Some gotchas:

A few of the hiker-biker sites are pretty gross-- in dirt fields right next to a restroom and under bright streetlights. Unfortunately, I can't remember which ones are bad, but if you end up at one, it's worth asking if you can move to a real site or set up in a day-use area once it gets late.

But, I'd be careful about asking other campers directly if you can piggyback on their spot. If you inadvertently come off as sketchy, or the person is uptight, they can complain to the ranger and create a headache for you.

As other posters noted, plan your itinerary so you stay at the parks listed with the "HB" icon. In my experience, if the park doesn't have a HB site and it's full, they can and will turn you away. At that point you need to be a smooth talker or a strong pedaler.
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Old 03-20-09, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by zoltani
Go here https://www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/default.asp?tab=5
Click hike/bike campsite and you will get a list of all state parks with H/B sites. Easy Peasy!

wow this is helpful to me too. good find man
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Old 03-21-09, 09:18 AM
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Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has beautiful hiker/biker sites among the redwoods. Unfortunately, the park is closed right now. (Storm damage? I don't remember.) Check here for updates.

Kirk Creek Campground has beautiful hiker/biker sites amont grees on the bluff overlooking the ocean.

San Simeon State Park has a hiker/biker site that's not very pleasant. Everyone shares the same grassy spot (very lumpy ground) and 2 tables. It's right next to Highway 1, and you're in full view of all the other campers in this loop (the least desirable loop.) The good news is that there are showers.

Morro Bay State Park has very nice hiker/biker sites among eucalyptus trees on the edge of the campground. There are showers. Each hiker/biker has its own table.

That's all I know.
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Old 03-21-09, 02:23 PM
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Hi,

we cycled along the coast last summer and found that most of the state parks have a hiker/biker section. If it is full, which is possible, they'll let you stay in another spot for the same price.
We've got a list of the hiker/biker sites on our site here

Oh and no reservations required...
have fun!
Aaldrik
Zihuatanejo, Mexico
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Old 03-21-09, 05:18 PM
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I just want to put a word in for Samuel P. Taylor SP, which is about 30 miles north of San Francisco. The H/B site is in the redwoods, with some terraced sites, and they have showers. There is a set of community picnic tables and fire ring, and one or two sites also have their own picnic table. Just be aware that the are lots of raccoons, I saw a sickening amount of them last time I was there.
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Old 03-22-09, 10:24 AM
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Did the whole coast last summer. "cycling the pacific coast" has info on every campsite that has HB camping. Basically, About 90% of the parks have HB sites. Some are awesome, some are awful. Im told they can NEVER turn you away, even if that means camping on the host spot. The only difficulty was that the park near encinitas closed down their HB site.... thus you pay for a full priced campsite.... but still not turned away.The other thing we would do is if the HB site looked bad, find 2 other cyclists and split a campsite, which sometimes are nicer. No reservations required.In a pinch, KOA's will sometimes offer hiker biker sites also for discounted rates, as one stretch didnt have a campground for 40 miles.My best experience was at some campground near Astoria, OR during Labor day weekend that was full with RVs for a civil war reenactment... hundreds of RVs, sold out weeks ahead of time. And we strolled into a peacful HB site all to ourselves with a dozen open spots!
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Old 07-19-11, 05:26 PM
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Going in the end of July

Hello all,

I was able to cull a bit of info online regarding Hike n Bike camping along the California coast, but I have yet to find a site that list all the state parks with HnB facilities in CA all on one webpage, or website. Is there anything like that out there? What is the best site that you've run across?

I'm currently in Sacramento and plan on taking the train to Gilroy, CA and starting from there. I'll be mostly riding the coast and riding all the way to LA. Any state parks that had great HnB camp grounds that you could recommend?

Thanks for any and all replies.
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Old 07-20-11, 01:36 AM
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The best site has got to be Pfeiffer Big Sur, a California State Park. The H&B site is in the redwoods. A river runs through the park, swimming is allowed.
There's coin operated showers, wifi, a camp store, and a really good restaurant right in the park. The local beaches are beautiful and there shops, hotels, and restaurants. Plan to stay more than a night!

Here's a few links to California State Parks.
Central Coast Region
https://www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/re...asp?id=6&tab=1
Los Angeles County Region
https://www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/re...asp?id=8&tab=1
Orange County Region
https://www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/re...asp?id=9&tab=1
San Diego County Region
https://www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/re...sp?id=10&tab=1

Click on a park name to get info about the park.
Look at the Park Features Icon Legend to see what the park offers.
Of course, look for the HB icon for Hike or Bike Campsites.
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Old 07-20-11, 07:48 AM
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I agree with all the above comments on individual state parks with H&B sites. Your 'Bicycling the Pacific Coast' book should list which parks have such sites. On at least one occasion I stopped at a state park without a H&B site that was full but they still found me a place to camp (they had a few sites closed for maintenance activities and let me use one of those). The official rules are that the park does not guarantee you a spot even when they have a H&B site, but I've never had a problem with them turning anyone away. Even if the H&B site is too crowded they try to find a spot in a dayuse picnic area as long as you agree to take down your tent in the morning.

Note that Pismo Beach has recently closed their H&B site - I suspect because of its use by a significant homeless population. That's also been an issue in the San Diego area with parks that offered H&B sites long ago but closed them.
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Old 07-20-11, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by User1
I'm currently in Sacramento and plan on taking the train to Gilroy, CA and starting from there. I'll be mostly riding the coast and riding all the way to LA. Any state parks that had great HnB camp grounds that you could recommend?
New Brighton State Beach in Capitola has a nice H&B site on a bluff over the ocean. A new shower building was installed just a couple years ago across from the site (bring quarters).

Veterans Park in Monterey isn't a state park, but it does have a H&B area - nothing special as far as the site, but it does have free showers near to it. Monterey is a great place to spend some time, so I usually stay there and then do the 17-mile drive in the morning. (But there is a steep hill to climb to reach the park.)

Big Sur has a great H&B site in a heavily wooded site. As mentioned above, this park has lots of services: store, restaurant (excellent, but $$), laundromat, showers, a river, lots of hiking options.

Kirk Creek has a nice H&B site - site E is best with nice ocean views. But no showers and the last time I was there they recommended treating the water.

Morro Bay is a nice park - the H&B site wasn't anything too special but there are showers and it's close to town so easy to find services.

Refugio has an excellent H&B location right near the beach but with some tree shelter - much nicer than the nearby H&B sites at Gaviota and El Cap.
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Old 07-20-11, 09:22 AM
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I have also heard many times that bikers will not be turned away from campsites. Please don't make the mistake I did and believe that rule is set in stone.

I was turned away from New Brighton State Beach in Santa Cruz because it was "at capacity". Looking back, I could have been a bigger ******* and asked for her supervisor or something but said screw it.

My point is, contrary to what you may have heard, it is very possible to be turned away from a campsite, so keep that in mind! Check in and arrive as early as you can, and always have a plan B. It seemed like the large bulk of bikers came in around 4-6. I met other bikers on the road who have been turned away, as well.


That being said,

Pfiefer Big Sur was great, as everyone has said. Couple bums there but can you blame them? Right in a redwood grove.

I bent my rear wheel somewhere up in Big Sur, so I limped it to Cambria where there is a great bike shop. The hostel there is also GREAT!!!! I highly recommend it as a break from state parks, and its only $24 (plus you get a continental breakfast!)

Oceano Dunes County Park has hiker/biker, but its $24 a night. Luckily, if another biker comes in, they LET you split it with them. I was fortunate enough to have 3 other bikers come in and we split it 4 ways, making it $6. Has free showers too. The nearby state parks, 2 of them (can't remember the names) do not have hiker/biker sites and they were very unfriendly to me.

I liked El Capitan State Park (although I've heard the nearby Refugio is better). Great view of the ocean and sunset.

Leo Castillo was kinda gross. There was a loud, drunk, crazy homeless guy there that I guess was starting a fight with a biker girl. I got there later and they told me the ranger had given them a regular campsite for the trouble. Another regular camper who saw the situation offered me a spot on his huge campsite. The actual park ranger officers where eventually called and he was kicked out. Showers cold.

Doheny State Park outside Dana Point. VERY small hiker/biker site, I'm surprised they didn't say it was "at capacity". Right next to bathrooms and highway. Very loud, didn't get any sleep. All but one shower was broken when I was there.

Last edited by tip; 07-20-11 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 07-20-11, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by User1
Hello all,

I was able to cull a bit of info online regarding Hike n Bike camping along the California coast, but I have yet to find a site that list all the state parks with HnB facilities in CA all on one webpage, or website. Is there anything like that out there? What is the best site that you've run across?
From post above...
Originally Posted by zoltani
Go here https://www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/default.asp?tab=5
Click hike/bike campsite and you will get a list of all state parks with H/B sites. Easy Peasy!
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Old 07-21-11, 12:11 PM
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+1 on Kirk Creek Campground Hiker/Biker site
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Old 07-21-11, 10:01 PM
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Got the book!

Originally Posted by prathmann
Your 'Bicycling the Pacific Coast' book should list which parks have such sites.
You must possess that very rare ability to see into the future! I didn't own this book until today. I went and took my bike for a chain cleaning and relube at the REI in Sacramento and they happen to have this book on the racks. So I bought a copy. Looks really good too! Could have gotten it a little bit cheaper from Amazon, but what the heck. I'm not complaining. I got out there spending less than $20.

I like everyone's suggestions and I'm really glad there's quite a few of them. Very helpful to have them.
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Old 07-21-11, 11:55 PM
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I don't, the only experience I have with showing up unannounced looking for a HB site is at China Camp, in Marin Co, but the couple running the reservations was living in an RV, seemed way laid back, and even though the area was booked pretty full, including another biker at the HB campsite,
they basically told me, camp in the HB site if he will let you, find another spot if he won't, anything without people in it right now (it was a small campsite), but either way, we will get you a nice comfortable spot.
Dude was a dick, I camped in a nice spot right next to a nice family that the couple running the campground discussed with the couple before they pulled in. I was a good 40 feet away from the family, but it ended up being a fun night, playing with the kids and drinking beer with the parents.
Moral of the story is...no red blooded American is going to put you back on the the highway when you need a place to bed down for the night. There will always be a place to pitch a tent, and some can be serendipitous experiences.
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