Gualala is a small oceanside town that provides amazing camping and a range of fantastic outdoor adventure activities. You can hike through giant redwood forests or tiny pygmy forests, walk along sandy beaches or hike atop the coastal bluffs of Gualala.

Fishing, diving, spearfishing, and crabbing are all possible in the area, and kayaking is extremely popular as a way to explore the coves and bays along the coastline. With all of that on offer, it’s little surprise camping in Gualala is becoming more and more popular each year.

You can camp ruggedly or pick one of the more luxurious camping locations and enjoy a relaxing family camping experience. The choice is completely up to you on how you want to enjoy this beautiful region.

And if you’re planning your own Gualala camping adventure you’re in the right place!

That’s because we know this area well, and right here we share with you all the knowledge that we’ve gained over the years. We show you the best campgrounds, information on dispersed camping in Gualala, tips for hiking and whale watching in the region, and even have a free camping game you can enjoy.

So read on to begin your Gualala camping adventure!

CONTENTS:

  1. The Best Campgrounds in Gualala
  2. Best Campgrounds Near Gualala
  3. Dispersed Camping in Gualala
  4. The Best Time to go Camping in Gualala
  5. Scenic Hikes To Try Out
  6. Whale Watching in Gualala
  7. Free Camping Game

The Three Best Campgrounds in Gualala for Fun, Views & Adventure!

Gualala has three excellent campgrounds for you to choose from so you don’t need to go far to enjoy everything that Gualala has to offer. Campsites range from $35 to $84 and allow tent and RV camping.

Facilities and amenities at these campgrounds are reasonably minimal, but most of them are only 5-10 minutes from Gualala town center where you will find grocery stores, restaurants, and most things you’d expect in a small oceanside town.

Below are our three favorite Gualala camping options. Not only do we share with you what makes them unique and the facilities you can expect, but also what’s close by to each as well.

1. Gualala Redwood River Park

Gualala Redwood River Park is located along the Gualala River and nestled between incredible giant redwoods. The park is tranquil thanks to the surrounding forest, and the views of the night sky are fantastic and unhindered by any lights. It’s one of our favorite stargazing spots in California.

There are over 120 sites for tents or RVs, with 30 campsites offering a river view. Although access to the river is only from two entry points in the park.

Each site is very large and allows 1 RV with 1 tent, or 2 tents. You can have up to 6 people, 2 vehicles, and 2 pets at each site for the base fee, but additional fees are required for more.

Amenities and Facilities

The facilities are very good as the campground provides restrooms, as well as coin-operated showers and laundry facilities. For an additional fee, you can also log on to the camp Wifi!

There is a trading post store on-site that has camping essentials, groceries, firewood, ice, and a range of other items.

Each site also has access to electricity and water, a picnic table, and a fire ring.

There is even a children’s playground which has ping-pong, volleyball, basketball, bocce ball, and horseshoes!

What’s Close By

You’re close to the Gualala Point Regional Park, which has great fishing, birdwatching and whale watching opportunities, as well as a range of trails to hike during the day.

A short drive away is the Annapolis winery which provides great views and the chance to buy and enjoy a bottle of excellent local wine.

Just down the road is the Sea Ranch Golf Links, which provides 18 holes of golf if you’re looking for a relaxed day of golfing with your friends.The views from the course are amazing, and it provides a good challenge for your golfing skills.

The Important Info

Rates: $74 – $84 per night

Address: 46001 Gualala Rd, Gualala, CA 95445

Gualala

Gualala campground

2. Gualala Point Regional Park Campground

Gualala Point Regional Park has a small forested campground with fantastic ocean views and an estuary running in front of the campground that flows out into the ocean. It’s rustic, but a very scenic spot.

You have access to a large beach area to relax and play on, and the hiking trails can take you up into the bluffs for even better views of the area.

The campground has 19 sites for tents or RVs, but there are no electrical hookups, and you must reserve a spot online. Six of the sites are walk-in, and one is reserved for hikers or cyclists.

Amenities and Facilities

The campground provides restrooms with flush toilets and electrical outlets, clean water, and pay showers are available ($2 for 5 minutes).

Each campsite has a fire ring, grill, and picnic table. There is also a dumpsite for RVs available.

What’s Close By

You’ll be surrounded by the Gualala Point Regional Park, which is a fantastic area for hiking, relaxing on the large beach, picnics, and bird watching. There is even an area on the point to watch out for whales (we have more on whale watching in Gualala later).

Fishing from the rocks along the shore of the estuary here is also a great opportunity to catch cabezon, rockfish, eels, and even halibut.

The birdwatching along the estuary is fantastic and a great opportunity to see a range of local shorebirds, including Brown Pelicans, Brant Goose, Kingfishers, Heerman’s Gulls, Killdeers, Sandpipers, and more.

Pacific grey whales can be seen from Whale Watch Point in the park from late winter into spring during their migration.

The Important Info

Rates: $35 per night

Address: 42407 CA-1, Gualala, CA 95445

Gualala

Gualala campground

3. Anchor Bay Campground

Anchor Bay Campground is located right above the beach at Anchor Bay and is surrounded by huge redwood trees and other local flora – it’s a fantastic quiet spot right in nature.

There are 27 campsites, 4 walk-ins that will have you camping surrounded by forest, and 23 that are right at or even on the beach!

This is a popular campground, so reservations should be made early.

Amenities and Facilities

Every campsite comes with a water hookup, picnic table, and fire pit. Some of the sites provide electricity and a sewer hookup.

There are restrooms with flush toilets, coin-operated showers, fresh water is available (including hot water) and there are electrical outlets to plug in whatever you need.

If you don’t get a site with a sewer hookup, there is a dump station available to everyone.

There’s also a recreational area that has sinks and picnic tables so you can relax and have a picnic during the day.

And if you’re going fishing, crabbing, or diving, there is an area to clean your fish as well as wash your wetsuit and other things you’re bringing back to camp.

A small store is available on-site too that sells essential camping supplies, including ice, bait, and firewood.

What’s Close By

Anchor Bay provides a huge range of activities and sightseeing opportunities with easy access from the campground, including diving, fishing, kayaking, and just enjoying Anchor Bay beach.

The waters in Anchor Bay provide an excellent place to dive or go snorkeling. Many people go spearfishing or just check out the local marine life under the water.

You can fish from the shore, whilst during crabbing season Anchor Bay is a great spot to go hunting for crabs. With the facilities here it’s easy to bring everything back to the campground to then be cleaned and eaten at your campsite.

Anchor Bay is a fantastic spot to see the 20,000 grey whales that pass by this region during their migration – your best chance to see them starts in November and continues throughout the winter. You may even see whales and their babies come into Anchor Bay for a break during migration!

The Important Info

Rates: $45 – $60 per night

Address: 35400 CA-1, Gualala, CA 95445

Gualala

Gualala campground

The Two Best Campgrounds Near Gualala

Close to Gualala are a range of other campgrounds accessible from Mendocino County’s scenic Highway One.

So taking a drive up the coast can provide a different perspective and additional hiking and outdoor adventure activities.

1. Manchester Beach Campground

Manchester Beach Campground is a full-service KOA campground providing a huge range of features, facilities and activities for the entire family. Both tents and RVs are welcome, and you’re situated right next to the Manchester State Park with easy access to Manchester Beach.

It’s a large campground with numerous tent sites, RVs that have full hookups, and even cabins available to rent if you need a break from tent life.

Amenities and Facilities

The campground has restrooms with flush toilets, showers, and a coin-operated laundry room.

RV sites come with full hookups, including water and power. All sites include a picnic table, fire ring, barbecue grill, and a Kamper kitchen is available to all guests.

You have access to a hot tub, sauna, pool, and community area with cable TV! There is also a store that sells camping essentials, including firewood and propane.

There is volleyball, horseshoe pits, bocce ball courts, disc golf, and even an arcade room for the kids.

The campground sets up a range of activities for everybody to enjoy too, including hayrides, ice cream socials, wine tastings, and many other activities and seasonal events. If you’re a family, this is probably the best Gualala camping option for you.

What’s Close By

Manchester Beach Campground is close to a huge range of activities and sightseeing opportunities, including Manchester Beach to relax on, and a redwood forest to hike through.

Just down the road is Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum, which is a great tourist attraction to visit. They provide guided tours of the lighthouse and surrounding areas.

The Important Info

Rates: $51 – $70 per night

Address: 44300 Kinney Rd, Manchester, CA 95459

Gualala

Gualala campground

2. Salt Point State Park Campgrounds

Salt Point State Park offers two campgrounds close to each other, the Gerstle Cove Campground on the ocean side on the coastal bluffs, and the Woodside Campground on the opposite side of the highway, located in a more forested area.

Gerstle Cove Campground has 30 sites, and Woodside Campground has 79 sites. There are also a number of overflow campsites located around the park, including at the parking lot as well as a section for hikers or bikers to camp.

Salt Point State Park is also known for having a Pygmy forest full of mature but tiny trees of all kinds! Some of the trees are over 100 years old but don’t stand taller than a few feet. There is a 4-mile hike you can do around the Pygmy forest.

Amenities and Facilities

Both campgrounds have limited amenities and facilities, but each does provide a picnic table, fire ring, and food locker at campsites.

Clean water and toilets are available, but there are no showers or laundry facilities.

What’s Close By

The biggest advantage of camping here is Salt Point Park, which provides a huge range of outdoor adventure activities to keep you entertained for your entire trip.

This park also provides over 20 miles of hiking trails that can be used for horseback riding, though you need to bring your own horse!

There is also an underwater area in the park that is protected and provides a great opportunity for divers to explore the cove and see all the marine life.

Fishing in the park is possible from the shore, though you will need a valid license and are not allowed to fish in the underwater reserve area. It’s typical to catch lingcod, cabezon, rockfish, and greenlings here.

The Important Info

Rates: $35 per night

Address: 44300 Kinney Rd, Manchester, CA 95459

Dispersed Camping in Gualala: Everything You Need to Know!

Dispersed camping in Gualala and the rest of California is permitted on most land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS). (Recommended: Dispersed Camping in California).

That includes many of the state and federal forests along with a range of other areas, including:

  • Mendocino National Forest which is around two hours away from Gualala
  • Sonoma Coast State Park which is around 50 minutes away from Gualala
  • Sail Point State Park which is 20 minutes away from Gualala
  • Jackson Demonstration State Forest which is around 1 and a half away from Gualala

Most dispersed camping doesn’t require camping permits, but there are rules that must be followed, including:

  • Don’t camp near trailheads, recreational areas, or developed campgrounds
  • Keep your campsite as small as possible
  • Use existing campfire or fire ring areas
  • Build your campsite in an area without vegetation
  • Don’t camp within 200 feet of a water source
  • Dispersed camping in the same area is limited to 14 days within 30 days.
  • Get a campfire permit
  • Take away whatever you bring to the campsite

California Campfire Permits

California has experienced major wildfires that continue to be a significant problem, and any camping on federal land or land owned by someone else requires a campfire permit if you plan to have a campfire. That includes land managed by the USFS and BLM.

In addition to campfires, a permit is required for any barbecue, lantern, or stove that will be used outside of developed recreational areas like designated campgrounds or picnic areas.

So any type of open flame or fire that you intend to use while dispersed camping requires a campfire permit.

You also need to check Gualala and the surrounding area to see if there are any campfire bans during your visit. If there are, even if you have a campfire permit you will not be allowed to have a campfire.

You can apply for a permit here – Submit your California Campfire Permit Application.

By obtaining a campfire permit, you also agree to specific terms around your use and management of the fire, including:

  • Clearing a space at least 5 feet around the campfire from any flammable materials.
  • Have a shovel and water available to help build and extinguish the fire.
  • Have a responsible adult watching the fire at all times.
  • Extinguish the fire with water every night
  • You also need to follow specific campfire building and extinguishing procedures.

The Best Time To Go Camping in Gualala

The best time to camp in Gualala is between April to October as that provides the warmest weather to enjoy a full camping experience and outdoor activities.

During the winter months, the temperature can range from 1°C to 16°C, while the summer months can range from 13°C to 34°C.

However one advantage of visiting Gualala during the winter months is the opportunity to see whales! Migrations happen in both winter and spring, see our section on whale watching below for more info.

Scenic Hiking Around Gualala

Gualala offers a range of hiking opportunities with easy access from your camping site.

Most of the best trails can be found in Gualala Point Regional Park and range in difficulty and time, so everyone can enjoy at least a small part of nature here.

Coastal Bluff Trail is a 10.5 km trail that will take you around 2 and ½ hours to complete and guides you along the rugged coastline high up in the coastal bluffs so you can see far out into the ocean.

Gualala Point Loop is a 2.4 km trail that should only take you 35 minutes to complete and loops you around part of the park. It’s an excellent trail to take your time and bird watch, so don’t rush through this hike.

Gualala Bluff Trail is a 1.1 km trail that should only take you 15 minutes to complete, but it provides a great opportunity to see a range of animals, including sea lions! So take your time and enjoy the experience of the trail, rather than trying to complete it too quickly.

The Sea Ranch Access Trails take you along the Gualala bluffs via six different maintained trails through the Sea Ranch community, which is private, but the trails are open to the public. Trails range from 0.20 km to 5 km long and provide an easy hike with fantastic views.

Whale Watching in Gualala

Gualala, and most of the local Gualala campgrounds, provide easy access to the rugged California coastline, which is perfect for whale watching.

Twice a year, you’ll be able to see 20,000+ gray whales pass along the coastline during winter and spring for the breeding season.

The best times to see grey whales in Gualala is from January to May, and the spring migration brings with it a range of baby gray whales who may even stop in one of the many bays or covers near Gualala!

Gualala Point Regional Park has the Whale Watch Point located high up on the coastal bluffs and provides the best place to spot gray whales; bring binoculars for a better view.

Gualala Camping: Free Scavenger Hunt Game!

If you’re looking to keep kids amused while camping in Gualala – or you fancy having some fun for yourself – then we’ve created a printable scavenger hunt game!

Grab it (right click on the image and save) and print it out, then tick off what you find and achieve during your camping holiday.

The game encourages players to get out and discover wildlife and nature, as well as make new friends and do fun camping activities. Enjoy!