Photo: Ashley Hadzopoulos/Shutterstock

Campsite With a View: Gold Bluffs Beach

A California beach vacation meets the lush elements of the Pacific Northwest.

This northern California campground offers up the best of two equally idyllic worlds: lush forest and sandy coastline. Gold Bluffs Beach Campground is nestled in a flat, grassy expanse flanked by dunes, beach, and the thundering Pacific Ocean on one side, and bluffs covered in thick stands of coast redwoods, the world’s tallest living tree species, on the other. The campground is inside Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park along a 10-mile stretch of beach where fresh ocean breezes abound. Keep an eye out for herds of Roosevelt elk that occasionally graze nearby. With nearly 75 miles of hiking trails and a 19-mile bike loop in close proximity, there’s no shortage of worthy sights and activities to experience.

Location

Gold Bluffs is 5 miles west of U.S. Highway 101 down a winding dirt road to the coast. The campground is nearly six hours from San Francisco and six and a half from Portland.

Best Campsites 

You’d be hard-pressed to find a bad site at this picturesque campground, but if you have the option, try to snag Site 7 or 19. Both sites feel like they’re right on the beach, offer unobstructed views of the ocean, and have a little bit of extra privacy (they’re also farthest from the bathrooms, which can be either a pro or a con depending on who you ask). The other sites that face the ocean are 9, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17. The rest of the sites face the bluffs, and some offer privacy in the way of trees. Site 26 is accessible by wheelchair.

When To Go

Gold Bluffs is a popular campground so it’s best to try and visit during the week. Summer offers the warmest temperatures (ranging from 40 to 75 degrees) and is therefore the busiest season, winter is quite cool (35 to 55 degrees), and rain is common from November to May. To try and avoid a full campground, aim for midweek during the shoulder seasons: late September and early October or early May. 

Supplies

The campground is about one hour from both Eureka, Calif., and Crescent City, Calif. These smaller beach towns have airports, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and anything else you could need to pick up on the way. There are some smaller towns closer to the campground with more limited amenities. 

Photo: NPS photo

Things To Do Nearby

Redwood National and State Parks are home to the tallest trees on the planet. Access to their many wonders is at your literal doorstep (or, rather, right outside your tent zipper). Hiking is the best way to explore the area. Here are our favorite jaunts:

Fern Canyon

Right up the beach is the roughly mile-long hike through a narrow canyon with steep, 50-foot walls covered in lush green ferns. It’s absolutely stunning—so stunning that Steven Spielberg used it as a location for The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Pro tip: Wear waterproof shoes, it’s quite wet.

Miner’s Ridge

This’s a popular 13-mile loop right from camp and up into the hills (and through Fern Canyon). It’s a peaceful experience with soft dirt underfoot and towering moss-covered trees all around.

Big Tree Wayside

When you’re among the grandeur of the redwoods, take a minute to appreciate one of the oldest and biggest (the aptly named Big Tree is the 13th largest coast redwood, estimated to be at least 1,500 years old). Big Tree is located off U.S. 101 a short distance north of the turnoff to the campground. 

Revelation Trail

This quarter-mile-long trail is wheelchair-accessible, has enhancements for those with impaired vision, and boasts some of the easiest access to stunning old-growth trees. It’s located just south of the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. 

Details

Book any of the campground’s available 26 sites year-round at ReserveCalifornia.com ($35/night). The sites at Gold Bluffs are best for tent campers. RVs up to 24 feet are allowed but there’s no hookups (the road getting down to the beach can’t accommodate anything longer) and no trailers are permitted. There’s no shade and the sites are exposed, so plan to be in the elements. That said, being right on the coast, it’s often windy and chilly with the marine layer—the heat is never too big of a concern. Check road and trail conditions, especially in the winter months, ahead of time at nps.gov/redw.

Campground amenities include solar showers (often pretty chilly given the frequent cloud cover), restrooms, fire pits, picnic tables, and bear-proof lockers. Dogs are not allowed on park trails, but they are permitted at the campsite on a leash and at the adjacent beach. Pro tip: Make sure to bring a raincoat, warm layers, and super-dry firewood if you plan on having a fire.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.