Camping (With A Dog) At Big Basin State Park
The Friday before Labor Day we were lucky enough to nab a campsite at Big Basin State Park. Camping within a few hours of the Bay Area is notoriously difficult, so even though we were only able to stay for a night we were thankful we got a site at all.
Though we’ve both been camping separately, this was the first time we’ve gone together and we assume it was likely Rusty’s first time as well. Overall, we had a lovely time! I wish the trip could have been longer, but it was a great “intro to camp” crash course and got us excited for more adventures to come. Here’s a quick recap:
Amenities: As far as amenities go, Big Basin is as close to modern as a regular campground can get. They have bathrooms, coin showers, and a general store that has everything you may have forgotten from craft beer to sleeping bags. They also have group activities all through the summer — not our thing, but people on Yelp seem to appreciate it.
Dog Friendliness: While a lot of state park campgrounds aren’t dog friendly at all, Big Basin is — with a few caveats. The most important thing to note is that dogs are only allowed on paved roads and one trail. Because we had an abbreviated stay this wasn’t an issue, but if we were doing multiple nights all three of us would have likely been bored without areas to explore in the afternoon. Because of an endangered bird species Big Basin is also a “crumb clean” park, meaning no traces of food should be left behind as Blue Jays are ruthless, hungry monsters. I would say that having a dog with us made this an easier rule to follow because Rusty lets no crumb go to waste when we eat. However, it is important to note that dog food and treats must be contained within the (park provided) bear locker or in arm’s reach at all times.
Weather/Conditions: Thanks to typical drought conditions brought on by California summers, the grounds were extremely dusty. I was glad I threw my boots in the car at the last minute, because the Chacos were not going to cut it. By keeping the tent zipped and keeping things off the ground we were able to keep the dustiness at bay, but it is something to plan for. Also, plan for mosquitos. You don’t encounter them in NorCal that often so it was a surprise — even with bug spray and citronella candles we still left with quite a few bites! Overall the weather was pleasant — typical warm during the day, comfortably cool at night temperatures.
Overall: I’d definitely camp at Big Basin again, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. The lack of hiking/activities we could do with Rusty is the major downfall here, so without a dog I’d recommend it as a place to check out! They have the world’s tallest redwood which we were able to see on a trip in March, and their trail network is filled with everything from short/basic to long/strenuous. It’s a comfortable camp experience with civilized stores and gift shop trinkets a short hike away, so if you’re interested in giving camping a try this would be a great place to do it! There are MANY primitive camps in California, so there is something to be said for this level of amenities and accommodations out in the woods!