This guide is part of KCET's California Coastal Trail series, which looks at the state's massive undertaking to build a trail over 1,000 miles in length along its whole coastline.
Stashed between the imposing Santa Cruz Mountains and the northern coast of Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz County hosts fertile farmlands, redwood forests, and a pristine coastline. From sand dunes to sea bluffs to majestic waterfalls, Santa Cruz offers diverse camping opportunities for those looking for an adventure in northern Monterey Bay.
Below you'll find the following remarkable camping options in Santa Cruz County.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park Campground
Big Basin Redwoods is Californina’s oldest state park. Established in 1902, the park is a haven of monumental trees -- including old growth redwood forest, oaks, and chaparral. Some of the park's ancient coast redwoods are more than 1,000 years old! The park also offers Pacific Ocean views and is dotted with flowing waterfalls. Enjoy this verdant slice of the Santa Cruz Mountains year round. Visit here for reservation information.
Manresa State Beach Campground
A prime camping spot among eucalyptus trees on a bluff overlooking Monterey Bay -- too good to be true? Not at the campground overlooking Manresa State Beach, one of the few in the area that is an all walk-in campground. Many of the 64 sites offer a degree of privacy for those looking for a tranquil stay. Pets are welcome and bathrooms with showers are accessible from every site. Visit here for more information.
Sunset State Beach Campground
One of the most remote beaches in Santa Cruz, Sunset Beach offers the unique opportunity to camp between placid farm fields and the ocean. High dunes adorn parts of Sunset Beach, while 90 campsites are spread around three loops on a bluff above the beach, spaced among a thicket of Monterey cypress and pines. Visit here for reservation information.
New Brighton State Beach Campground
Four miles south of Santa Cruz lies the campground at New Brighton State Beach, a wooded bluff of pine and cypress trees gazing out over the Pacific. 109 family sites offer plentiful views of Monterey Bay from underneath the boughs of this campground's plentiful trees. A well-maintained trail leads guests to the beach below to enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, and lazing in the sand. Visit here for more information.