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Old 01-01-2014, 09:15 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Camping the PCH: Dos, Don'ts and Need to Knows.

Army retirement is right around the corner and my wife and I are taking a motorcycle trip to celebrate in June. The plan is to camp off the bikes most of the time, with the occasional hotel to wash clothes and such. Right now, we would be taking the 2-lanes along the border from El Paso to San Diego, with a couple stretches on I-8 when there is no choice. We would then turn North and head up the PCH to Santa Monica, spend a couple days visiting family, then head north on the 1 and 101 along the coast, all the way to Canada and back. The timeline is very open, with my estimated time being one week North and one week South, give or take a couple days, plus 2-3 days each way to Ca and back from El Paso. Our return trip would be on a more Northern route, as we would like to visit my Great Aunt in Parker, AZ, before heading home.

Anyway, with this trip laid out, what are the caveats of Camping in CA, OR and WA (primarily CA)? Fees? Restrictions? Dumb ass rules against fires?

Also anything for which we should ensure we make the time? We already plan on a day exploring the Lost Coast, Hearst Castle in San Simeon is on the list, as well as finding the rock/cave structures in OR where they filmed The Goonies. We will both have GoPros mounted and be generally well-equipped since we will be on separate bikes.

I have not been on the PCH North of the Bay Area since I am old enough to remember, so this will be the trip of a lifetime.

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Old 01-01-2014, 09:51 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 01-01-2014, 10:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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In N CA south of Eureka take the Avenue of the Giants, its the old 101 but way more scenic and slow. Watch out for stopped cars etc. North of Eureka take the Newton B Drury parkway, again its the old 101. Ferndale is a pretty cool Victorian town just south of Eureka you should stop at, you will get to cross a really cool old concrete bridge to get there. Fortuna is just south of Eureka and has a pretty nice campground/hotels just off the highway at Riverwalk exit. I don't really care much for Eureka, lots of druggies/crazy/homeless people wandering about. North of Eureka you have Trinidad and some really neat lagoons to see. Watch out for critters like elk and dear.

Cape Perpetua area in OR is a really cool place to camp and sight see, awesome scenery. Oregon state campgrounds are pretty nice, lots of them have showers/flush toilets, are pretty clean, and relatively inexpensive. You can buy firewood at most of them for your evening campfire.

Riding on the North Coast anytime of year means be prepared for wet but shouldn't be torrential at that time of year. Bring some light raingear and be prepared for damp/foggy/drizzly conditions at the very least in the mornings and evenings. Dress in layers and it does get chilly at night. I always like having a sweatshirt, thermal undershirt, windbreaker, and beanie. Watch out for slick spots on shady curves, some places the pavement is actually green with moss/algae because the pavement never dries out. I grew up and have lived in Humboldt for quite a bit of my life. My moms husband rides a Harley and they live 40 miles east of Eureka on 299 if you happen to break down pm me.
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Old 01-01-2014, 10:27 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Now that's the info we need. Things off the beaten path.

We will be packing light rain gear and we have various layers to wear. I do remember that, even in June, the highs will likely be 50-60 once I cross the Golden Gate and it will be pretty damp. If our gear gets too damp we will hit a hotel for the dryer, otherwise we will be tenting it. Having lived in Germany and Korea, I am pretty good at keeping my gear usable.
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Old 01-01-2014, 11:53 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Check your temps for the times you will be going through AZ... Parker gets pretty warm in the summer...Havasu is only 15-20 mins from there as well.
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Old 01-02-2014, 12:22 AM   #6 (permalink)
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When you get close to Monterey Bay – 1) Between Big Sur and Carmel, relax, take in the views and have lunch at Rocky Point Restaurant. Rocky Point Restaurant - Fine Dining, Private Parties, Special Events 2) Monterey Bay Aquarium Monterey Bay Aquarium 3) Good food in Moss Landing at Phils’ Fish Market Phil's Fish Market 4) Dinner at Gilda’s on the wharf in Santa Cruz. The Friday daily special, Cioppino, is great Gilda's Restaurant (831) 423-2010 5) It’s always nice to dry-out for a night in a nice warm bed. Between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay check out Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel. You will need to book early. Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel | Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel
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Old 01-02-2014, 02:11 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Old 01-02-2014, 06:51 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Check your temps for the times you will be going through AZ... Parker gets pretty warm in the summer...Havasu is only 15-20 mins from there as well.
Yes, we are well aware how hot it can be in Parker. This is actually the sticking point of the trip. If its above 100*, we may skip it altogether and come back in the fall when its decent out. Depending on the forecast, we might hit Parker on the way in and then San Diego on the way out in order to visit my Aunt when its not deathly hot outside.

Riders understand... Air-cooled = try not to ride when its above 100*.
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Old 01-02-2014, 06:57 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I know there is camping along PCH, I've stayed. But it was a while ago.
Shouldn't be too hard to find on the net though.

PCH from San Diego to San Louis Obispo will be crowded, mostly through towns. But there will be things to see along the way. Not sure what kind of time you want to make on that stretch

Hearst Castle, just north of San Louis Obispo is worth a look, I hadn't seen that mentioned yet.

Lots of great scenery, plenty to see. Don't plan on too many miles a day if you really want to take it in.
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Old 01-02-2014, 07:21 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I know there is camping along PCH, I've stayed. But it was a while ago.
Shouldn't be too hard to find on the net though.

PCH from San Diego to San Louis Obispo will be crowded, mostly through towns. But there will be things to see along the way. Not sure what kind of time you want to make on that stretch

Hearst Castle, just north of San Louis Obispo is worth a look, I hadn't seen that mentioned yet.

Lots of great scenery, plenty to see. Don't plan on too many miles a day if you really want to take it in.
The first stretch will be just that; a stretch. My father lives in Santa Monica, so we see that part as often as we like. Once we get past SLO, the adventure begins.

I mentioned Hearst Castle in the OP. We have been to San Simeon before, but never went up to the castle itself.

How many miles per day will it be, riding the coast and taking a week in each direction? I figure its about 1500 miles, so that's just over 200 miles in a day. If it takes longer on the way up, so be it... There is no true end date to the trip yet (its all dependent on the start date of whatever job I land). We could take up to a month to complete the ride, giving us 12 days in each direction. This is, as I said, the trip of a lifetime. Why would I want to ruin it by rushing through?
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:04 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I have lived in CA most of my life, covered the entire PCH a time to two. As mentioned Herst Castle was something that I never got to see as a child (honestly it would be lost on a child). The wife and I got stuck in Paso Robles for a week and went twice, it's worth it. Other CA POI are the Avenue of the Giants and Fern Canyon. Aside from these stops, get out of CA as quickly as you can. The campgrounds are more expensive, in worse condition and more restrictive than the balance of your trip. We drove the highway from the Northern tip of WA south three years ago. There are a lot of very nice campgrounds. The Oregon coast has several awesome areas, I would have to consult our list, but cannon beach was one. We had no set goals each day, stopped anywhere that looked neat and tried to only spend 3-4 hrs on the road each day. In WA, many campgrounds are run/ managed by the tribes whose land they are on. The quileutes (sp) have a really nice campground and cabins on Le Push beach (same one from the Twilight movies). We Chose not to spend the money to see the actual entrance to the sound, permit fees were $30 or so IIRC. Spend a night in SEattle, then take a ferry to BC.

We spent 4 days/ nights driving down the WA, OR, CA coast to hwy 36 in Ca. We spent one night in CA and as I said earlier it was a bitter sweet homecoming. The beach was closed, BS dog rules, the most expensive camping fees and the first place we stayed without any hookups (we took our cab over), rude over-zealous camp hosts, and the only operating toilet broke while we were there. Our trip was in the off season (January) yours will be peak. You will need reservations for most of the campgrounds. Reserveamerica.com should cover all of the CA campgrounds, not sure on OR as most were run by the counties and as I said, many if WA were privately owned.
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:13 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Are there any areas for primitive camping on public lands?
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:26 AM   #13 (permalink)
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What is your definition of primitive? Most of the CA campgrounds have tent sites, some are more primitive than others. Years ago I would have recommended a stay at Usal Beach on the lost coast, but it has become over-run with rif-raf and is not regularly serviced by the state parks department. Sad because it was an awesome spot. I cannot speak for the OR and WA campgrounds, although I know they do offer tent camping. A couple campgrounds in OR had yurts, which looked really nice as well.
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:35 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Primitive... As in we set up a lean-to or tent on a beach. No services needed.
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:47 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by deadmeat View Post
I know there is camping along PCH, I've stayed. But it was a while ago.
Shouldn't be too hard to find on the net though.

PCH from San Diego to San Louis Obispo will be crowded, mostly through towns. But there will be things to see along the way. Not sure what kind of time you want to make on that stretch
From Boy Scouting days, there are some nice campgrounds in the south. Capistrano (Orange County) comes to mind, Refugio up by Oxnard as well.

Near Fort Bragg there's a lot of nice campgrounds and the town itself is one of the cheaper beach towns to knock around in. Motels are cheap, if you're ready for a break. seafood in town is awesome.:smoking:

Montery Aquarium is very cool, but eat your lunch before you go there. VERY expensive near there, but the pier has lots of cheap Chowder joints.
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Old 01-02-2014, 09:18 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Kirk Creek CG in Big Sur is a very scenic CG. Don't know if its open in Winter.
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Old 01-02-2014, 09:33 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Primitive... As in we set up a lean-to or tent on a beach. No services needed.
Usal fits that description, but beach camping in CA is generally frowned upon and truly primitive camping is getting harder to find. There is no camping without fees at any of the state parks. Russian Gulch in the FT Bragg area is a favorite of ours.
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:30 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:16 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:25 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Usal fits that description, but beach camping in CA is generally frowned upon and truly primitive camping is getting harder to find. There is no camping without fees at any of the state parks. Russian Gulch in the FT Bragg area is a favorite of ours.
Is that new? they used to not be able to charge a fee if there was no running water provided


I would say that while it sounds like you have a good bit of time set aside, plan on adding another day or two at least to both ends of your trip. Yeah you can make up time, but it sucks trying to haul ass for a whole day if you spend a bit of time taking in the sights.

Sounds like a great trip I've done the CA part on the bike, can't remember the names of any of the places we stayed at though

I'll go ahead and toss out that it is in no way worth paying for any of the scenic toll routes (whatever the fuck it is called by pebble beach) along the way. Just bypass around them, there is enough cool stuff on the way to more than make up for it.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:28 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Not new, been that way for a long time. At least at usual it was a self-serve system, but the ranger used to come by once a day and check camping permits and pop people for speeding in the creek or on the beach. It's CA, fees for everything.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:36 AM   #22 (permalink)
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huh, maybe I am just a bastard maybe they were all self serve and i never noticed

never paid a state fee for primitive stuff as in no running water. fuck paying them for public dirt
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:40 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Are there any areas for primitive camping on public lands?
In the US Forest Service lands, yes all over the place. It is called Dispersed Camping. Read up on the particular area you will be in.

You could also buy the Park Service Annual Pass, for $80, which gets you access to all National Parks, National Monuments, Fee areas if National Forests, some State Parks, and half-off camping at Forest Service developed camp grounds. You can buy them at any National Park.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:55 AM   #24 (permalink)
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In the US Forest Service lands, yes all over the place. It is called Dispersed Camping. Read up on the particular area you will be in.

You could also buy the Park Service Annual Pass, for $80, which gets you access to all National Parks, National Monuments, Fee areas if National Forests, some State Parks, and half-off camping at Forest Service developed camp grounds. You can buy them at any National Park.
A very high percentage of coastal camp grounds are state run in CA. A quick google search showed one FS campground in the Big Sur area.
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Old 01-02-2014, 12:07 PM   #25 (permalink)
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