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Salt Point State Park Camping Guide

About 90 miles north of San Francisco you’ll find Salt Point State Park–6,000 acres of grassland, seashore, and magnificent forest (both above and underwater!).

This expansive state park, located on one of several rocky promontories off Highway 1 that jut into the Pacific, is home to one of the first underwater parks (marine reserves) in California.

Read on to learn about Salt Point State Park camping and the best places to pitch a tent or park an RV in and around this breathtaking park.

salt point state park camping

What to Expect at Salt Point State Park

At Salt Point State Park, you’ll find jaw-dropping scenery where the Pacific Ocean crashes into the craggy coastline. Inland from the wave-beaten rocks spreads a forest of mixed evergreens that bump into second-growth redwoods. Grasslands and coastal brush sweep over the land on the north side of the park.

Temperatures in the park stay fairly mild year round. In the winter, the weather is wet and mildly cold, averaging in about the mid 50s. The park dries out and warms up in the summer, hitting perfect 70- and 80-degree days with little rain.

Dogs are allowed in most parts of the park, except for at the walk-in campsites and the group campground.

History of Salt Point State Park

The area including the park is native to the Kashaya Pomo people, who were excellent basketweavers. The Kashaya Pomo occupied the shoreline during the summer months, and moved inland in the winter to hunt. Many Kashaya Pomo descendents still live in the area today.

In the mid 1800s, Europeans moved in and began logging the area and building their own towns. During this time, sandstone from Salt Point was used to construct streets and buildings of a developing San Francisco. Quarried sandstone full of holes leftover from drilling is one of the unique features you’ll see at the park.

Camping in Salt Point State Park

Given the natural beauty and mild climate of Salt Point State Park, it’s no wonder visitors love to camp there. Read on for a comprehensive Salt Point State Park camping guide.

salt point state park camping

Reservations Required

Two family campgrounds are available with reservations, Gerstle Cove on the ocean side of Highway 1 and Woodside on the eastern side of the highway.

Although the campsites there are closer to the majestic Pacific, they tend to offer less privacy and little to no shade. The sunsets from Grestle Cove, however, are breathtaking.

Woodside, the larger family campground, is larger than Grestle Cove and offers more privacy, but can be a bit noisier. Fort Ross, the historic, southernmost Russian settlement in North America, is a short drive away, as are a general store, bar, and restaurant.

The campground features both more private and open campsites, and you choose from what’s available when you get there (your reservation is for the campground proper, sites are not assigned at booking).

Both Gerstle Cove and Woodside are RV-friendly for rigs up to 31 feet. Be aware that some sites can only accommodate RVs up to 27 feet.

No Reservations Needed

In addition to the two campgrounds that require reservations, several others at Salt Point State Park do not.

About 20 sites are available as walk-in, first-come, first-served sites on the Woodside side of the highway. However, these are often unusable in wet weather.

Hike-in/bike-in sites are also available without a reservation, and also near the Woodside Campground. These sites are much more secluded. Woodside also has a group-camping area.

The day-use parking lot is available for overflow car camping after sunset and until 9 am. If you camp here, you must be camping in your vehicle, and no services (water, power, bathrooms) are available.

Things to Do at Salt Point State Park

There’s so much to do and see at Salt Point State Park, it doesn’t matter where you decide to pitch your tent or park your RV–you probably won’t spend much time “indoors.”

The park offers a variety of hiking, biking, and horse-riding trails through the redwoods and to the coastline. Make your first stop at the park’s visitor center to get oriented.

At the coastline, you can marvel at the “tafoni” (Italian for “cavern”)–a honeycomb erosion phenomenon in which seasonal conditions, like drying and moisture, weaken the sandstone into pits, knobs, ribs and ridges.

salt point state park camping

In addition to the windswept sandstone, there’s amazing geology to observe in the park, which sits on a portion of the San Andreas Fault. The coastline here was formed by the collision of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates, which resulted in various degrees of uplift from the ocean floor as the plates continued to grind against each other.

This violent and prolonged tectonic activity has created numerous spaces for sealife to set down roots. Tidepooling in Salt Point State Park will give you a glimpse of sea stars, sea urchins, mussels, and several small fish.

Be sure to leave these creatures safe in their homes! Even slight disturbances can be fatal to them. Look, but avoid touching.

A little further out in the intertidal zone, you can find the red sea anemone that’s common on the northern California coast.

South of Grestle Cove is what divers call “South Cove,” and it’s a diver’s Mecca. Everyone from beginning skin divers to experienced scuba divers can enjoy the underwater world here amid the bull kelp that clings to the coastline.

November through January, you might spy gray whales as they pass through the bull kelp to breed along the Baja California coast, or see them going back north in February through April on their way to “summer” in the Bering Sea.

Salt Point State Park is one of the first underwater parks (marine reserves) in California. Be sure to check with the camp hosts before you venture into the tidepools or the cove waters, and be mindful of posted signs.

Enjoy viewing the wildlife in the area, whether on a hike or when relaxing at your campsite. Look for coyotes, gray foxes, bobcats, black-tailed deer, raccoons, striped skunks, squirrels, chipmunks, badgers, and porcupines. Rarely, you may get lucky enough to see a bear, mountain lion, or badger.

Plan Your Visit to Salt Point State Park Today

salt point state park camping

Modest in terms of amenities but affluent in natural beauty, Salt Point State Park is the perfect spot to spend a night or two along the northern California coast. Let nature entertain you in this little piece of paradise.

Learn more about state park camping across the United States, and any other camping topics on your mind, in any of our camping posts!