Camping Southward~ the Good, the Bad, the Expensive.

As we headed south towards Baja we knew we wanted to do some campground research along the way. Although we have camped on five continents, it never hurts to view other campgrounds with open eyes when planning improvements for Camp Coeur D’Alene.

With this in mind, we specifically chose to stay at some vastly different types of campgrounds to experience each end of the spectrum, checking out bathroom facilities, camp stores, and pricing options. While we didn’t garner any huge new ideas from what we were already thinking it sure was fun!

Alpine View RV Park~ Leavenworth, Washington- 1 night @ $38 USD

We had talked of traveling to the Bavarian village of Leavenworth for years, decades really, and yet somehow never made the journey. Leaving CDA it seemed the perfect opportunity. Alpine RV park is conveniently located about 1 mile from downtown and inconveniently located right next to the highway. However, the noise wasn’t too bad in this sleepy part of Washington state and the ability to easily walk into town for beer and dinner was ideal. The campground was small and clean with lovely bathrooms facilities but we were really there to see the town. Aspen in tow we strolled into what is a VERY dog-friendly village and while yes, it is super touristy, it’s also got stunning views of the snow-capped hills surrounding it and offers good beer and German delicacies at reasonable prices. Absolutely worth a visit.

Nehalem Bay State Park~ Manzanita, Oregon- 3 nights @ $34/night

We love Nehalem Bay, what can we say. We have, perhaps, spent more nights here than nearly anywhere else in Oregon except our old house. With a weekend of sun predicted we passed right through Portland and headed to the coast, happy to be joined by Dave, Anne, & Max. So great to see them and enjoy a great weekend hiking the trails, playing on the beach, and eating too much good food.

Dave & Anne’s yard~ Oregon City, Oregon

No, we didn’t take a picture but we did find ourselves back in our good friends’ side yard for our week in Portland. I cooked most nights, we enjoyed their company and had a few great meals out and about all while meeting up with friends and family, getting some necessary DMV issues done, and preparing to head south.

Boice Cope Park ~Flores Lake/ Langlois, Oregon- 1 night @ $16/night (low season)

I also didn’t take a picture of our one night at the county park at Flores Lake because we ended up caught in one of the stormiest 48 hours we’ve ever experienced at the coast. Brief walks with Aspen to do her business found us all soaked. The campground is small and clean with an ideal location right at Flores Lake. The park has hot showers and laundry, neither of which we used, along with WiFi. A sweet little spot in better weather and just one block from our friends’ John & Bertie’s house so we even got breakfast out of the deal!

Harris Beach State Park~ Brookings, Oregon- 1 night @ $32/night

We stayed at Harris Beach heading north in the spring and planned to continue into California to a park listed on Passport America. Said park, however, looked like the worst type of trailer park you can imagine. With the terrible weather still in play and a long drive the day before we hightailed it back to Harris Beach. The lovely sun greeted us the next morning allowing for a fun walk on the beach and the facilities were, as expected; clean and basic. A typical state park but with a view (from some sites).

Willits KOA~ Willits, California- 1 night @46/night

We wandered down 101 through the stunning Redwoods and found ourselves at a KOA in Willits, California. We had wanted to check out at least one KOA since we knew they’d have a store from which we could garner ideas for our own camp store and they generally have extensive family-friendly activities. The soggy weather continued and the camp was mostly empty but they do live up to the KOA promise with activities ranging from a petting zoo to miniature golf, to movies in the summer season to a pool. The oddity was the extremely limited number of bathroom facilities for a camp of its size but I’m sure families would love it.

Wine Country RV Resort~ Paso Robles, California- 2 nights @$74/night

Yowzers! A perfect example of price driven up by location. This park was a fascinating anomaly to us. The sites are PACKED in, as you can see from the above picture. There is a section of premier sites with a bit more space but we were already far over budget. The location is fantastic; walking distance to one winery and a short drive to several in the wonderful Paso Robles area and downtown. The campground, however, was lacking for the price in my opinion. The bathrooms were… okay. The pool was nice and laundry facilities clean and I will say the open air wine/beer bar was great. However with the crazy close quarters and lack of anything unique I can only determine this place is frequently full simply based on location.

Sweetwater Summit Regional Park~ Chula Vista, California- 2 nights @ $34/night

Oh boy.. here we were, back at Sweetwater. After our multiple trips in and out of this park nearly two years ago we weren’t sure we’d ever be back. This time we went right to the upper area of the campground and managed to avoid any theft or domestic disputes such as we experienced before. The hiking trails were fun as always, the bathroom blocks clean, and the location easy to get to everything in the area. And even at $34 easily half price of nearly anything in the area.

LA Cetto Winerty~ Valle de Guadalupe, BCN, Mexico- Free

Back at LA Cetto. We LOVE this stop. Camping is allowed for free assuming you’ll do some wine tasting (although it isn’t required). The setting next to the vineyards is gorgeous and the wine decent. Bathrooms are only open during the day (although in the spring we found that the employee banos had been left open all night ) so easiest if you have a toilet on board. A great first night back in Baja.

La Jolla Beach Camp~ Ensenada, BCN, Mexico- 1 night @ 390/night

We had intended to get much further south on this day but no air conditioning meant a morning spent at the mechanics in Ensenada. No worries, we found this delightful spot. Fairly clean toilet stalls with toilet paper AND toilet seats (never a given south of the border) and apparently hot showers (which we didn’t use) complimented the gorgeous oceanfront camp views. Run efficiently by several nice young ladies, this is our new go-to in the Ensenada area.

Rancho Santa Ynez~ Catavina, BCN, Mexico- 1 night @120MX/night

Back to Rancho Santa Ynez just outside of the tiny town of Catavina. We love this area for the enormous rocks and varieties of cactus but detest the road here from El Rosario. This trip was especially bad having to deal with the crazed Baja 1000 support vehicle drivers so a quiet night all alone here was particularly enjoyable. As always, rancher Ralph stopped in to say hi in the morning and make sure all was ok. Always a nice break in the road. There is a restaurant and supposedly hotel rooms to rent but the bathroom facilities have gotten worse since last year. Bring your headlamp.. there is no working light inside at this time.

Kadekaman Hotel & RV Park~ Vizcaino, BCS, Mexico- 1 night @ 370MX

Awwww. Back to Fabiola and family’s wonderful spot at the Kadekaman hotel in Vizcaino. It’s such a shame so many travelers to Baja only ever stop in Guerrero Negro and then complain about the camping. Just 40 minutes south is a peaceful and clean spot complete with a great steakhouse restaurant and the best bathrooms at a campground in Mexico. No, we haven’t been to every campground in Mexico but we’ve been to a LOT and we’re still standing behind the claim that these are the best.

Playa Santispac~ Bahia de Concepcion, BCS, Mexico – 2 nights @ 100MX/night

Leaving Vizcaino we heard what sounded like a  rock banging around in one of the trailer tires. Leaving Mulege for the Bay of Concepcion that brake suddenly locked up for a moment causing a sound that no one wants to hear. Rather than continue on to Coyote Beach, our favorite spot, we quickly pulled into Santispac to spend the night and see what we could figure out. Would we choose to camp at this beach again? No. It’s generally filled with huge RV’s and has more road noise than Coyote or some of the other options and offered the worst toilets we have ever seen in Mexico. The worst. Trust me on this.. just don’t go near them. For any reason. Are we glad we did stop? Absolutely. Jim was able to take apart the brake enough to see that the adjuster had broken and was what was causing the noise. By removing that we were able to continue on to Loreto to a mechanic. And hey, even while this will never be our preferred spot along Concepcion Bay… the view ain’t half bad.

Riviera RV Park~ Loreto, BCS, Mexico – 1 night @ 340MX/night

Back at Yolanda’s in Loreto. A favorite town and regular stop of ours are always nice. After a 45minute/ $10USD brake fix, we pulled into camp and set up. Sadly, we hadn’t been thinking and arrived on a Monday… the night El Zipolate brewery is closed, but nevertheless, it was a nice break. The showers are hot and clean and the location walking distance to the beach and main square. There is laundry on site or an excellent laundry across the street if you want to send your clothes out to be done. Common  BBQ area.

Martin Verdugo’s Beach Club ~ Los Barriles, BCS, Mexico- 3 months?? @ 9000MX/month (or 300MX/night)

Home for the winter. This is probably our 5th or 6th time here at Verdugo’s, although all other stops have been from a few nights to a couple of weeks. Los Barriles is, indeed, gringo land and yet that is what makes it comfortable for a while. The bathrooms were just redone for the better and the location is still ideal for beachfront access and the ability to pretty much walk nearly everywhere in town. The pool is clean, the laundry room also renovated, and the WiFi good (at least in our spot. We are in one of the few locations at camp where you can get reliable coverage). Martin and his family are lovely and we are happily set up for a couple of months.

And another pass down the West Coast and Baja complete. In a couple of months, we will make our way back north, stopping at a couple of new finds shared by friends, and head up through Nevada or Utah back to camp, promising more interesting insights into how other campgrounds are run.

For now, we’re just going to “sit right here on the edge of this pier, and drink a beer” to quote!

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10 thoughts on “Camping Southward~ the Good, the Bad, the Expensive.

  1. Ridiculous…..we always camp at WalMart parking lot…..😍 Free and great breakfasts too….$ 000

    • well yes, Walmart is an option but that wouldn’t have really given us insight into other campgrounds as part of our research now would it? In addition… because of our current life situation we have a trailer with a slide…. not exactly stealth camping like we used to do.

  2. Our paths will finally cross. We expect to arrive in Los Barriles next Saturday. I hope there will be a spot for us at Verdugo’s, it sounds like a lovely spot for New Year’s Eve.

  3. Looks like a pretty nice winter home! It’s fascinating for me to see the costs and types of campgrounds you can get since I’ve never travelled that way before. Hope you guys had a great Christmas 🙂

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