The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Santa Cruz

Posted by Lauren Spencer on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 at 3:30pm.

Guide to camping in santa cruz

Spring is upon us, which means everyone in Santa Cruz can once again enjoy all the wonderful activities that make this city one of the best places to live in California.

One of the most popular activities to do in Santa Cruz is camping. And there’s no wonder why.

Santa Cruz has countless state parks and campgrounds that are home to dense redwood forests and miles of tree-lined trails.

The natural beauty alone is enough to attract people from all over the place to camp in these state forests.

So, if you’re planning on joining in on the fun, here’s the ultimate guide to camping in Santa Cruz:

Where to Camp in Santa Cruz

There are tons of spots in and around Santa Cruz that are known for their fantastic campgrounds and facilities.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is one of the most popular camping spots in all of Santa Cruz.

It’s home to over 40 acres of old growth redwood trees that skyrocket higher than trees in any other park.

The best place to hike in this park is in the Fall Creek Unit, which has over 20 miles of scenic hiking trails. You can also visit a place called Garden of Eden which has a natural spring where visitors can swim and enjoy the weather.

The park has over 100 campsites for tents and RVs. These sites are extremely private, making it one of the most preferable parks. There are also restrooms and showers for campers in the area.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is Calirfornia’s oldest state park and is only less than an hour from the city of Santa Cruz.

If you’re an advanced hiker and camper, you’ll love this park. It has striking landscapes that span from sea level to 2,000 feet above.

The park is best known for its Skyline-To-The-Sea Trail which connects with another nearby state park. It’s a challenging, yet rewarding hike.

Although there are many trails for advanced hikers, beginners and families are also welcome. There’s a slew of beginner trails through this beautiful park.

There are 150 campsites spread across five camping areas. There are options for tents, group camping, and biker/hiker specific locations.

Little Basin Redwoods State Park

Little Basin is right next to Big Basin, but is a bit smaller (hence the name). This park was only recently acquired by the state and is one of Santa Cruz’s hidden gems.

There are only 38 tent sites here, but if you happen to snatch a spot, you’ll be thrilled with the beauty of the area.

Manresa Uplands Campground

Located on the coast, Manresa Uplands Campground is a phenomenal spot for campers looking to be close to the water.

When you camp here, you wake up to the sound of the waves every single morning. Though, the campsites are protected from the water by large sand dunes.

This campground is located 15 miles south of Santa Cruz, but it’s definitely worth the trek. You won’t find a better beach spot than this.

There are a ton of other campgrounds in and around Santa Cruz to check out! Depending on what you want to do on your camping trip, you might find one place is better for you than another.

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When to Camp in Santa Cruz

The great thing about the California coast is that the weather is almost always nice. But this doesn’t mean it’s always perfect for camping.

In fact, there are certain times of the year that are better for camping then others:

Spring: April - June

Between April and June is possibly the best time to go camping in Santa Cruz.

It’s right at the start of the season, so the popular campgrounds aren’t too busy just yet.

Also, the weather at this time of year is ideal for camping. It’s not too hot or too cold.

Summer: June - August

The months between June and August are the most popular months for camping. The state forests swell with visitors, so take note that you’ll be among many others.

If you love the heat, then summer is the best time to visit. This is when the weather is at its hottest.

Just make sure to make your campsite reservation early to ensure you can get a spot!

Fall: September - November

Fall is an ideal time to go camping, especially if you want to stay away from the crowds.

As kids go back to school, the state parks are emptier than usual, so you’re more likely to get a reservation.

The weather is also great for camping. While the summer heat still lingers during the day, the temperature cools down at night, making it extremely comfortable.

Winter: December - February

This is the least popular time to go camping in Santa Cruz. And there’s a reason for it. Many state parks actually close down for the season so you can’t go camping.

So, before you plan a trip, make sure the park is taking reservations for campgrounds.

Tips for Camping in Santa Cruz

  • Book campground reservations months in advance, especially for summer camping.
  • Check for fire regulations beforehand.
  • Don’t rush your camping trip. There’s so much to see!

Are you interested in buying a home in the beautiful city of Santa Cruz? Contact Lauren Spencer today to learn more about the real estate in the local area!


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