Santa Cruz Travel Guide

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Santa Cruz Campgrounds and Tent Camping

Santa Cruz campgrounds, camping, and campsites

To s’more, or not to s’more in Santa Cruz Campgrounds, that is the question…

Getting back to the basics can truly bring a family together. Unplugging from all of the electronic devices and taking the time to experience nature can help turn screen time into actual face time. 

To help with thy unpluggin', we have created a list of what we think are some of the top public campgrounds.  These State owned campgrounds tend to focus on the art of camping — generally catering to smaller trailers and tent camping.  Although many do have designated RV sites, they tend to be a little more rustic than privately owned RV Parks.

To review a list of public campgrounds located along the Santa Cruz Coast  or nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, please click or scroll down the page.

To refine your search and focus on another vacation location, please select it from our Destination Explorer and search away!

Santa Cruz Campgrounds
Along the Coast
 

Big Basin Redwoods State ParkBig Basin / Rancho Del Oso — campgrounds

The ocean end of Big Basin, Hwy 1   831-338-8860

Located 20 miles north of Santa Cruz on Hwy. 1, the park has miles of trails, which serves hikers and equestrians, links Big Basin to Castle Rock State Park and the eastern reaches of the Santa Cruz range. Maps

Butano State Park — Campgrounds

1500 Cloverdale Rd., Pescadero, CA  (650) 879-2040

A 2,200-acre redwood park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, featuring excellent hiking through the redwood groves. Only three miles from the Pacific coast, the park's trails offer views of the Pacific Ocean and the Año Nuevo islands.

Santa Cruz Rustic Resorts - CostanoaCostanoa Tents, Cabins and Lodge  

2001 Rossi Road – Pescadero, CA 

Although this isn't a state owned property, we listed here because it's really a cool facility that's connected to four State Parks – 30,000 acres of hiking trails – and a vibrant wildlife reserve. Costanoa offers the unique opportunity to experience outdoor living in comfortable stylish surroundings.  Accommodations include canvas cabins – Douglas Fir Cabins – and a forty-room Lodge. Special features include on-site spa services – horseback riding – mountain bike rentals – children's activities – and a general store and cafe.

 Forest of Nisene MarksThe Forest of Nisene Marks State Park— Remote Camps

Aptos Creek Rd. & Soquel Dr., Aptos, CA  (831) 763-7062

The park has 10,000 acres of rugged semi-wilderness, rising from sea level to steep coastal mountains of more than 2,600 feet.

Manresa State Beach – Family camp sites

205 Manresa Beach Rd.,  La Selva Beach, CA 95076 (831) 763-7063

The beach features a beautiful expanse of sea and sand, with surf fishing, and recreation.

New Brighton State BeachNew Brighton State Beach — Campgrounds

201 State Park Drive.,  Aptos, CA  (831) 464-6330

The park features picnic areas, swimming, fishing and a nearby forest of Monterey pine. The camping area's campsites are located on a bluff overlooking northern Monterey Bay.

Portola Redwoods State ParkPortola Redwoods State Park

650-948-9098

The park has a rugged, natural basin forested with coast redwoods, Douglas fir and live oak. Eighteen miles of trails crisscross the canyon and its two streams, Peters Creek and Pescadero Creek.

Pigeon Point Light StationPigeon Point Light Station — Hostel

210 Pigeon Point Rd. Hwy 1, Pescadero  (650) 879-0633

On California Highway 1, 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay and 27 miles north of Santa Cruz

Seacliff State BeachSeacliff State Beach

201 State Park Drive.,  Aptos, CA  (831) 429-2850

The park is known for its fishing pier and concrete freighter, the Palo Alto. The beach is also a popular swimming spot. There is a long stretch of sand backed by bluffs.

Sunset State BeachSunset State Beach — Campgrounds

201 Sunset Beach Rd., Watsonville, CA  (831) 763-7062

The park features pine trees, mountainous sand dunes, and Pacific Ocean side picnic spots. Bordered by large agricultural fields between the cities of Santa Cruz and Monterey, the beach is a year-round destination for thousands of visitors.


 
Santa Cruz Mountains

Camping, Campsites, and Hiking
Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, and Felton

Big BasinBig Basin Redwoods State Park — Campgrounds

21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA   831-338-8860

The park has miles of trails that link Big Basin to Castle Rock State Park and the eastern reaches of the Santa Cruz range.  The trails are utilized by both hikers and equestrians.

Big Basin Tent Cabins — Open Year Round

21600 Big Basin Hwy, Boulder Creek  (800) 874-8368

Butano State Park — Campgrounds

1500 Cloverdale Rd., Pescadero, CA  (650) 879-2040

A 2,200-acre redwood park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, featuring excellent hiking through the redwood groves. Only three miles from the Pacific coast, the park's trails offer views of the Pacific Ocean and the Año Nuevo islands.

Castle RockCastle Rock State Park — Backpacker campgrounds

15000 Skyline Blvd., Los Gatos, CA   (408) 867-2952

Along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Castle Rock State Park contains 3,600 acres of coast redwood, Douglas-fir, and madrone forest. Steep canyons are sprinkled with unusual rock formations that are popular with rock climbers, and hikers can enjoy the 32 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State ParkHenry Cowell Redwoods State Park

101 North Big Trees Park Rd., Felton, CA   (831) 438-2396

The park features 15 miles of hiking and riding trails through a forest that looks much the same as it did 200 years ago. The park is the home of the Redwood grove, with a self-guided nature path, and Douglas fir, madrone, oak and the most unusual feature of the park, a stand of Ponderosa pine.

Portola Redwoods State ParkPortola Redwoods State Park

650-948-9098

The park has a rugged, natural basin forested with coast redwoods, Douglas fir and live oak. Eighteen miles of trails crisscross the canyon and its two streams, Peters Creek and Pescadero Creek.

Are you looking for a centrally located RV Park with plenty of creature comforts? Visit our Santa Cruz RV Parks page for more options.

 

What's on Tap
This Winter

Events

Santa Cruz Festivals & Events:

Santa Cruz Baroque Festival 

UCSC Music Center Recital Hall, 1156 High St. Santa Cruz (831) 457-9693

Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook Off – Sat., Feb. 20, 2016

Santa Cruz  (831) 423-5590

Kayak Surf Festival – March 18-20, 2016

This is the largest kayak surfing competition.

Cowells Classic – March 19-20, 2016

This is a friendly surfing competition.

SCPF Paddleboard Race – March 19, 2016

Whale Watching – Dec. through May  

Elephant Seal Watching – December is breeding season. Año Nuevo State Reserve has a large colony of northern elephant seals that assemble there each winter.    

For more event information, click on our Festivals & Events page for Santa Cruz.
  
  

Attractions

Top Fall Attractions:

 

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Fun for all ages.  

Santa Cruz Fishing 

Fall is fishing and crabbing season in Santa Cruz!

Santa Cruz Surfing

With 11 world-class surf breaks such as Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point, it is easy to understand why the greatest surfers in the world call Santa Cruz home!  

Whale Watching – Whale Watching December through May

 

For more information on local attractions, click on the Attractions or Recreational Activities.
  
  

 

Advisories

The Region's Fall Advisories:
  

Traffic Conditions. Rush hour traffic can be extremely challenging – especially along Mission Street and Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Capitols. It's a good idea to plan ahead and arrive early and leave late. Go to www.caltrans.com to learn about road conditions. 

Yes, it's still water, water, water! California is undergoing an extreme drought. If you are planning a lake vacation be sure to check about water levels. That rafting trip, fishing, or skiing can be impacted.

EXTREME fire danger. The drought has created a very dangerous combination of dry vegetation and no moisture in the air to help contain any fire. Please use extreme caution during your trip.