California State Parks

California Hiking at Andrew Molera State Park

California Hiking at Andrew Molera State Park

I don't think there isn't anything more "Californian" than an impromptu hike to the beach.  Whether you are driving along Pacific Coast Highway on a long road trip or just going for a day trip in Central California, Andrew Molera State Park is a great place to hike to the beach.

Family Hiking Milestone: 13 Miles at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

It's been four months, since our milestone hike:


with our toddlers.  I think I have emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually have come to grips with it.  Believe me this isn't our normal deal when we hike with our toddlers but we were meeting up with some Twitter Hiking All Stars: 

Russ Beebe ~ Winehiker Witiculture

Paulina Dao ~ Little Grunts


David Wherry ~ Hiker Adventures


Yes, it rain a few times in California this year.

My husband had been captive to his cubicle for a couple of weeks, so an 8 mile hike sounded like a good time and a good workout since we knew we would have to carry the kids most of the way.  My daughter can barely hike 1/2 mile but my son had hiked up to 5 miles in the past, so we planned to carry them quite a bit.  Nothing that we haven't done before hikers pace vs. non-kid hikers is completely different, primarily in how fast/slow one hikes.  Either way we were up to the challenge.

It was a rainy day (WHAT?!) in the San Francisco Bay Area, as we headed out to Felton in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  The second we started hiking in the rain, I had immediate flash backs to hiking in the Peruvian Andes and it put me in a great mood.  Our kids hardly ever hike in the rain, but of course they enjoyed splashing in the puddles.

Russ, Paulina and David were in the front of the pack and we were in the back.  Our kids like to play the "in-and-out game" for the first hour of hiking, until we encounter an uphill they don't want to hike.  I can't remember all the details of our hike, now four months behind me but the things that stood out in my mind were:

  • Green ~ Everything was GREEN!  The Bay Area, especially the East Bay is brown ahem...golden most of the year and only turns green during the winter rains.  In this severe drought year, there was only like a 4 week period where water was flowing in our seasonal creeks and everything was green.  It was really refreshing.
  • Big Ben Tree ~ Not really too much to say about this except show pictures.

The whole familia fits inside Big Ben. Photo Courtesy of

Little Grunts


Getting to 13 miles....

We all were having a blast enjoying snacks, resting, taking pictures and eating that we took a little wrong turn due to so many fallen trees on the trail as well as many trail markers were destroyed or removed (see WineHiker comments below).  We realized our mistake 2.5 miles out from where we should have taken our trail, putting us at 5 miles added onto our 8 mile hike.  A 13 mile hike isn't all that difficult as a day hiker, but when you have 30-50 lbs of human plus snack, water and gear every step is well....hard.  I think I really earned my hamburgers and fries that day.

I'm smiling but I'm crying inside! Photo Courtesy of

Hiker Adventures

Well, there was nothing we could do but hike and hike as fast as we could because the winter daylight was short.  I don't know what happened with my children, I think God answered my prayers as we hiked along that kids wouldn't have a meltdown.  With a steady flow of candies, I mean snacks...water, being carried, singing, hand holding, my two and four year old made this 13 mile trek at Henry Cowell Redwoods.  At one point my husband carried both our toddlers because they both wanted Daddy to hold them.  Russ turned to me and said "Is that fair?" and I said, "I carried them for 9 months each, 1 mile won't kill him."

Oh by the way, did I tell you we calculated that our son hiked SEVEN of the THIRTEEN miles!

That's my boy!

I don't know what else to say about this hike, it was beautifully hard but worth every minute. It was a great family hiking milestone that we got to share with some great people.  What stands out the most in my mind now, is that the next day as my husband and I laid on our living room exhausted, Mr. David Wherry was running across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Oh someday, we will no longer be kid-carrying sherpas!  More pictures please and pass the cheese....

Group effort to get across! Thanks David and Russ!! Photo Courtesy of

Little Grunts


Lime Kline left overs....

Fun Times!

These niños....

Trail Report Detials

Who: Five Adults, Two Toddlers

Family Friendly: Very Difficult (due to distance)

Mileage: 12.9 miles, 13+ with extra walking around

Elevation Change: 2625 ft

Trails Description: Pretty much up a mountain and back down.

Trails: Bennet Creek Trail - Fall Creek - South Fork - Cape Horn - Lost Empire - Big Ben Tree (Not the Trail, the actual tree).  We continued onto Lost Empire Trail, instead of taking Big Ben Trail for the added five miles.  Continue onto Big Ben Trail and take Fall Creek Trail all the way to the Parking Lot.

I'm glad I know what my family is capable! What is your family's hiking limit? 

Related Links and Posts:

  1. Henry Cowell State Park: Big Ben Loop #winehike by Little Grunts
  2. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Wine Hike by Hiker Adventures
  3. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park ~ California State Park Website

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Road Trip Camping: Pismo State Beach ~ North Beach Campground

We love to road trip for any reason!  Mainly because we get to see more of our surroundings and it's usually less expensive than flying a family of four anywhere.  Our latest adventure took us on a road trip to Pasadena for the American Hiking Society Board of Directors meeting.  Road tripping  allowed us to bring more of our regular car camping gear unlike our previous camping trip where we flew to Orange County.

This year we have been lucky enough to camp three times on California State Park coastal campgrounds: Half Moon Bay State Beach, El Capitan State Beach and now Pismo State Beach - North Beach campground.

The Campgrounds

In most of my previous beach camping California experiences, beach camping is not really camping on the beach! The campgrounds are usually near a beach but not on the sandy beaches, North Beach campground at Pismo State Beach is no different.  The one thing that stood out about North Beach was the SPACIOUS campgrounds!

Having spacious campgrounds are really great for car camping because we normally set up our mansion tent, but on this occasion we brought our backpacking tent which looked really tiny in our giant campground.  In the picture above, my husband is walking in the campground next to us (empty) and the neighboring camp was the 1st RV in the distance.  The large space did allow our kids to run around and climb trees without worrying about them running into the next campsite.

Almost everyone there had LARGE RV campers, except for us and a few other tent campers.  The tent campers were the minority but once again everyone turned off their generators at the appropriate times.  I have noticed that a lot of coastal campgrounds draw the RV camping crowds.  The RV campers at North Beach were very luxurious and people would lay out rugs, patio furniture, plastic flower decorations, etc.  There was a lot of glamping and comfort camping going on at North Beach.

Location: Pismo Beach, California - 80 miles North of Santa Barbara (Google Map & Campground Map)
Reservations: Seasonal on Reserve America, otherwise walk-up 1st come 1st serve
Daily Price: Off Season Walk Up Rate $25/Night - On Season check Reserve America
Facilites: Drinking Water, Restrooms, Showers, Fire Pit and Tables

North Beach

We arrived at our campsite just before sunset, so we quickly setup our tent and headed for the beach.  I love watching my California sunsets and we had been promising our children to play at the beach for a couple of hours, so we made sure we got there before the sunset.

Pismo State Beach ~ North Beach and Pismo Creek
There are two trails at North Beach campground: Beach Foot Trail and Meadow Creek Trail.  Beach Foot Trail is the path to the actual beach, not an actual hiking trail but a walkway to the beach that passes the campground amphitheater and bathrooms through a eucalyptus grove.  The Meadow Creek Trail (which we did not explore) heads off to the Monarch Butterfly grove and loops around the Pismo Beach Golf Course according to the map.

Beach Foot Trail and the Amphitheater

The sunset was gorgeous and even though it as quite chilly the kids splashed around in Pismo Creek and made sand castles until it became dark.  Dinner was at a Old Juan's Cantina less than 2 miles south of North Beach Campground, near the south end of Pismo State Beach - Oceano Campground.  Unless we are full blown car camping we usually eat out for dinner.  No mess or cleanup at the campsite.

The next morning we cooked breakfast before we headed out to the beach one more time.  The kids were going to be in the car for a few more hours before we arrived to our final destination in Pasadena, so we wanted the beach to tire them out.  We made more sand castles, found sand dollars, ran away from the waves and walked up and down the beach.

This year we have been camping quite often at California State Parks, especially along the California coast.  Even though I prefer a more rustic, out of the way campsites, I am truly enjoying my California State Parks this past winter and spring.

Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting one of California's great State Parks?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Chasqui Mom's California State Park Visits
  2. Pismo State Beach - California State Parks

California Winter Family Camping: El Capitan State Beach

I mean really, sometimes I almost feel bad for living in California while the rest of the United States of America is in the Polar Vortex.  Middle of "Winter" camping on the California coast isn't really all that bad.  We take any opportunity to head outdoors whether, hiking, camping, backpacking or just a day outdoors.

Over Valentine's Day weekend we extended a Southern California business trip to include a two-night camping trip at

El Capitan State Beach

.  We were hoping to find a more "Hiking" place to camp but most of my husband's co-workers recommended El Capitan, a place along the coast where they all like to escape to.  We were sold on El Capitan because it was by the beach and I really wanted to drive home to San Francisco by the Pacific Ocean.

El Capitan State Beach Campground

Location: Goleta, California off of Highway 101- 17 miles North of Santa Barbara

Reservations: Only seasonal on Reserve America, otherwise Walk-up

Daily Price: $35-45 a individual site (depends on the season). Winter Walk-up Rate we paid $35/night

Facilities: Drinking water, Restrooms, Showers, Camp Store, ATM, Picnic Tables and Grills

Campsite Visited: Campsite No. 29 (Shaded, partial Pacific Ocean View)

We arrived at El Capitan shortly before sunset, and set up camp: our large family camping tent, hammock and camp gear.  I knew by the time we finished setting up camp it would be dinner time and after my husband working all day, driving a few hours, neither my husband nor I would want to cook, so we planned to head into Goleta for some Mexican Food.  We normally don't eat out while camping but it had been a very long day for both my husband at work and as well as me dealing with preparing for our camping trip from our hotel!

Oooh! The Ocean!!

After dinner we headed back to El Capitan and went straight to bed.  There was so much excitement during camp setup that the kids (and us) were exhausted, so we all headed into our mansion of a tent for a good nights rest.  If you follow my blog, you know that my daughter is a TERRIBLE sleeper but our first night at El Capitan my daughter slept ALL night long and I actually got to sleep very well for once!

My kids knew we were camping near the ocean, but we never had a chance to go down to the beach when we arrived.  The second my kids woke up, they heard the ocean and wanted to see it so we just opened our tent window and let them see it.  It is awfully nice to camp on the California Coast!

Valentines Day at El Capitan State Beach

The two times we've been camping this "winter", 

Half Moon Bay State Beach

and El Capitan State Beach have been beach locations.  We normally like to hike during our camping trips but we haven't done any hiking in either of these trips because the beach being steps from out tent!  I love the ocean and my kids love ANY water source so to incorporate the beach into our camping is wonderful.

There are 10 miles of hiking trails at El Capitan but on this occasion we just walked down to the rocky beach.  At first there was actually no beach in sight, just small waves crashing onto the the rocks but we found a tiny sandy spot and as the hours went by the sandy beach grew.  The kids splashed and ran away from the waves, my husband sat on the rocks and enjoyed reading his books and I explored the tide pools.  We all eventually were splashing in the waves but I LOVE exploring tide pools.

During our little lunch break we had pleasure of seeing dolphins and even brown pelican making amazing dive into the water.  There was a large patch of seaweed/kelp floating by so I'm assuming there were fish for the dolphins and pelicans to eat!

We had a great day splashing at the beach but after a "tragedy" struck (a small toy was washed away at sea) it was time to say goodbye to the beach.  We retreated back into our giant mansion tent so the kids could play and my husband and I could doze off in our warm tent.  After we had recharged a bit, we took a trip into Goleta to get a few more food supplies and ice cream to soften the blow of the lost toy at sea.

After returning to camp, we started preparations for our dinner when all of a sudden we heard helicopters above and a crowd had formed by the cliff.  I investigated with my kids and there was a Search and Rescue effort for our kayaking camp neighbors.  A couple hours later, our camp neighbors returned obviously with their spirits down....they had shown up midday, quickly setup camp and headed out to sea.  Another camper came over a little later and offered them beer and I could see they were definitely "deflated".  Worst camping trip ever for them, the "mom side" of me wanted to go console them but then I thought if I were in their position I wouldn't want anyone to ask me ANYTHING, so I let them be.  They didn't seem happy.

It was Valentines Day, normally my husband and I go out for Round Table Pizza but since we were camping, I wanted to do something special, ala Jesse and Melissa Style!  We love steak, so why not get a heart shaped steak?!  It was one of the most delicious steaks I've ever eaten, in addition to mashed potatoes and dutch oven peach cobbler!

Get in my belly you rib eye steak!

After dinner the kids and I laid in the hammock and stared at the almost full moon and stars, while my husband cleaned up.  The kids get very clingy when night falls because they are scared of the dark.  The only time I like it because I get to cuddle with my babies.  The kids fell asleep very quickly and my husband and I enjoyed sitting by the fire and laying in the hammock in peace....silence.

Something I will never forget from this trip is my daughter waking up around 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning on our last night and said "Mommy, those trees are amazing...." in regards to the tree branch shadows on the tent ceiling. Just a random thought she woke up to tell me and then passed out again.  That's my girl.

I love my family, I love California and I love camping.

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Wave Crashing Family Camping & Mavericks at Half Moon Bay
  2. El Capitán State Beach - California State Park Website

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