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Old 01-02-2014, 07:41 PM   #1
DRTDEVL OP
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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 01-03-2014, 01:26 AM   #2
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Wow. Im looking to head south pretty much along the same idea, down 1 and 101 as well. Looking forward to some tips and tricks to add to my notes as well. Lol!!

Im looking to leave the Seattle area maybe late June or early July. Maybe we'll see each other. Cheers!
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Old 01-05-2014, 09:52 AM   #3
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Easy stuff,

Hi,, if your not under time constraints try to plan for two nights in a campground and spend the day exploring. Massive amount of stuff to do; find a map and start planning! California missions, quaint towns, awesome beaches to savor, definitely need extra time in the redwoods! Carmel Valley road is stunning but just one of many. Lots of events in California as you go north as well; Lagunna Seca? Always a little cooler at night next to the ocean, so carry a good sleeping pad. Fires as permitted- but the scenery surpasses looking into flames. As soon as you hit Crescent City start planning for rain! WA and ORE are wet along the coast a lot (August is driest) save your motel dollars for this stretch! Go slow and take time to stop. Watch for deer more closely in WA-ORE after 6:00 or try to stop before then. It is a beautiful ride; I have done it four times so PM me if you want, I will be glad to share. There are quite a few campgrounds- I never made a reservation.
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Old 01-05-2014, 11:41 PM   #4
marcoma
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I don't mean to be a negative nellie but good luck finding a camping spot along PCH in CA. They usually open the spots for booking 1 year in advance and they disappear overnight (especially Big Sur). Go book now and you may find one or two spots left if you're lucky but don't hold your breath. Good luck.

I thoroughly recommend this place if you can get in crystalcovebeachcottages.org
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Old 01-06-2014, 01:21 AM   #5
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Camping in a state park may be difficult as Marcona has indicated. Private may be your best chance.

The views are world class, and that's no exaggeration. Two things to watch for are ticks and poison oak. Both thrive on the Cal coast. Poison oak morphs into strange stuff at times and I've seen it in a dwarf state that's hardly discernible growing in the sand.

The coast, all the way up, in June, will often have fog and lots of overcast. Clearest months are September and October.
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Old 01-06-2014, 02:03 AM   #6
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Camping along Big Sur is tough as already noted, There are still spots open for june, but few. If you know an exact date I would book now. Motels might be youre best choice, depending on what festival/race/weekend/$$$ might be youre best option.
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Old 01-06-2014, 05:42 AM   #7
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I wish I could book now, but the dates are wildly open. As I will be retiring from the Army, I will be on this trip while burning over 3 months of vacation days. I hope to be employed this summer in my next career, but who knows when that will start. If I have to start work earlier than I planned, the trip will be curtailed (trailer to my dad's place to save 2 days each way, ride only 3 days North and 3 days South, then trailer back for a total of 8 days, rather than 30).

Yes, it is an interesting scenario being on vacation yet able to find employment while still being paid. I want to take advantage of that and make 2 months' salary on top of my old income.
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Old 01-06-2014, 08:47 AM   #8
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Don't forget that Moto GP for Laguna Seca isn't happening this year :( so you won't see the madness that usually happens in July. There is WSB in September but I think thats too late in the year for you to worry about.
Motels are probably going to be the way to go. Theres a few in San Simeon and lots in the Carmel/Monterey area. South end options are Cambria and San Luis Obispo/Morro Bay.
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Old 01-06-2014, 09:08 AM   #9
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You might want to do just the California section of highway 1. There is a lot to do and see. Don't be disappointed if there is a lot of overcast at the coast. That time of year it's what we lovingly (not) refer to as June Gloom. However, it does add a certain type of beauty.

Nice trip, I've been up and down highway 1, never get tired of it.
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Old 01-06-2014, 06:01 PM   #10
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I have done just about everything there is South of the Bay Area besides Hearst and I have about a month to complete the trip, so I will be focusing on the gloomy Northern California coast along with Oregon and Washington. My wife is from Germany, so gloominess doesn't bother her one bit. in fact, she welcomes it after living here in the desert for nearly 4 years.
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Old 01-06-2014, 06:11 PM   #11
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While the coast is awesome, I would recommend taking a jaunt over to the mountains at some point in your travels. I went down to Santa Barbara and back this past summer, and I certainly enjoyed the coastal portions, but really loved riding through the Sierras and Cascades, and the Diablo and Santa Cruz ranges in the Bay Area. Stunning scenery and minimal traffic most of the time. Hwy 1 afforded some fantastic views, but it was cold and a steady procession of 35 mph much of the time.

And by the time you hit WA, I'd definitely recommend heading inland a bit, our "coastal" route here only actually touches the coast for a small section of road, the rest is largely views of the impact of the logging industry. I would say you should follow the Hood Canal up if you want to stay on the western side of the state, much more scenic, IMO.
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Old 01-06-2014, 09:02 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by some call me...tim View Post
While the coast is awesome, I would recommend taking a jaunt over to the mountains at some point in your travels. I went down to Santa Barbara and back this past summer, and I certainly enjoyed the coastal portions, but really loved riding through the Sierras and Cascades, and the Diablo and Santa Cruz ranges in the Bay Area. Stunning scenery and minimal traffic most of the time. Hwy 1 afforded some fantastic views, but it was cold and a steady procession of 35 mph much of the time.

And by the time you hit WA, I'd definitely recommend heading inland a bit, our "coastal" route here only actually touches the coast for a small section of road, the rest is largely views of the impact of the logging industry. I would say you should follow the Hood Canal up if you want to stay on the western side of the state, much more scenic, IMO.
I rode the Hood Canal section about 4 times this summer, its a fun and twisty road but you can easily get stuck behind an RV or a lone of cars. For me, it was a gang of butt pirates on their Harleys doing about 30mph in a 45 zone.

If you're heading north I would suggest taking Highway 8 (I believe) towards Aberdeen and ride the coast. Some beaches you can shred on too! Lake Quinault is also a great place to visit the further you get up around the peninsula. Can easily take a few extra days to explore some great green scenery.
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Old 01-06-2014, 09:43 PM   #13
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Two cents - hybrid

Retiring from the military with 90-days paid vacation and you're talking about possibly cutting this ride short in case you get another job? Heck no! You earned/deserve this ride of a lifetime. Life's too short, opportunity is knocking, answer the door. My suggestion - you'll need a break from the coast line, 60 degree temps, fog, etc. and want/need a break. Ride up the coast thru Santa Barbara, jaunt up 101 for a bit thru Templeton wine country, back to coast Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Monterey, head inland thru Hollister, Hwy 152 to Central Valley, Hwy 140 in Merced, Hwy 49 North Gold Country, Hwy 140 to Hwy 120 thru Yosemite, up 395 North, veer off west a bit around Lake Tahoe, Hwy 89 thru Quincy, Hwy 36 to Mt. Lassen, continue West on 36 all the way back to the coast on Hwy 36, then up 101 and 1 thru OR and WA. OR coast and NorCal coasts are very similar in look/feel. You'll get giant sequoia trees in the Sierras, giant Redwoods on Hwy 36 west of I-5 to coast. Adds a couple hundred miles, but also adds variety and unbelievable rides in the Sierras. You are now two cents richer.
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Old 01-06-2014, 10:07 PM   #14
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I know of a camping spot in San Simion, its arrive and pay. Just off the highway and just north of Moonstone Landing in Cambria. Although I suggest you stay at Little Sur or Moonstone Landing at Moonstone Landing/Beach.
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Old 01-07-2014, 12:10 AM   #15
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You can make state park reservations 6 months to the day ahead in California. As others have noted, you probably won't be able to just show up. However, some parks have a limited number of walk up sites...first come basis. Don't count on those. There are some private campgrounds along the way. Probably worse until you get north of San Francisco. Then better. Don't miss the lost coast or the giant redwoods in CA. There's a nice state park in Newport, OR and we also like fort worden state park on the Olympic penninsula. Best clam chowder at the gere delli in Anacortes, Wa.
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