Camping at El Capitan State Beach

El Capitan State Beach is located just north of Santa Barbara on the California coast.

This is a guest post by Thomas Neton. If you would like to guest post on CampingBlogger, please see the guest posting page for more information.

My son and I camp regularly. He’s a Boy Scout, so he’s a big help setting up our site and camping equipment . One of our favorite spots is El Capitan state beach, just north of Santa Barbara on the California coast.

El Capitan State Beach, on the California coast

If you’re coming from LA or farther south, try to leave during the middle of the day or on the weekend. Downtown LA’s famous rush hour traffic is pretty brutal and can add an hour to your trip. It take us about two hours to get up there from Long Beach with no traffic.

El Capitan State Beach (photo by Robert Garcia on Flickr)

El Capitan State Beach (photo by Robert Garcia on Flickr)

The campground is up on a bluff with a fantastic beach below. At the far north end of the beach is a freshwater creek that runs into tidepools at the ocean’s edge. We’ve camped there in spring and summer, but in spring there are tadpoles in the creek – hours of kid fun! There are many forms of marine life for kids to see and experience. Bring your bikes because there are miles of roads and bike paths on the beach and in the campground that kids can enjoy.

The campground is very clean and well kept. The camp hosts are a married couple who keep a sharp eye on the campground while maintaining a friendly atmosphere. The majority of campers are families, and everybody has been very friendly every time we go.

One thing to watch for on the beach is naturally occurring tar that sometimes washes up on the shore. The occasional tarball can be cleaned up by the small wipes sold at the campground’s store. The store itself is very sparse, so make sure you bring all your supplies. The closest town is about 10 miles south of El Capitan, so a supply run can take over an hour roundtrip. They do have a small coffee shop in town, though.

Sunset at El Capitan State Beach (photo by frankenschulz on Flickr)

Sunset at El Capitan State Beach (photo by frankenschulz on Flickr)

The sunsets are absolutely beautiful here. And here’s the insider tip: some sites offer nice views, but sites 82-84 offer ocean front views. Reservations are made through Reserve America 7 months in advance. If you time it right, you can get a prime site. Also, you can check back periodically during the current month- sometimes there are cancellations.

Thomas Neton is an avid camper and former Scout leader who runs, a retailer of tents, sleeping bags and camping gear.

21 thoughts on “Camping at El Capitan State Beach

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  3. Great tips for someone who has never been to El Capitan State Beach. As far as apparel to wear, dress for the environment. Since the west coast tends to be warmer layers are important. You want to be warm enough when the breeze from the ocean comes, but yet cool enough for the sun. I was always a fan of wearing a long sleeve that breaths, cotton was always my favorite.

  4. Great post! I love camping at el capitan with my family because we live relatively close by. I agree with you when you say the campground is clean. The last time we were there we didn’t really see any trash at all. Nice pictures too.

  5. That looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve only been to California once, but I would love to go again. I’ll add that to my future visit list.

  6. Wow this looks like a great place to camp! Santa Barbara has it all when it comes to nature trails. If you’re ever looking for more places to camp, check out We have thousands campgrounds, travel destinations and recreational vehicle dealerships from all over the United States. Check it out; I think you could find some useful camping information from it.

  7. heading down from bc into california in mid february with my 3 &6 yr olds. el capitan sounds great…think i need reservations during that time? any other nice off the beaten path campsites to reccomend through mid march? thanks.

  8. Visiting this beach was a refreshing, breath taking experience. Camping here was great fun. Camping ground occupies large area of land and stays cool due to sufficient shade, which protects from direct exposure to sunlight. Bathrooms are always available for shower. If you wish to take hot water bath, you will be charged 25 cents for 5 minutes, which is quite reasonable. Beach is not much far from the campground. One cannot move his eyes away from the beach on the first sight. At the left are the tide pools that comprise of magnificent sea creatures. If you wish to swim, you should take the right route to the beach. Do not forget to apply sunscreen. Leave your dogs at home, as they are not allowed.

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    • Oh, sure – we camp at the Central California beaches throughout the winter months, and I bet it is even nicer down by Santa Barbara.