Rocky promontories, panoramic views, kelp-dotted coves, and the dramatic sounds of pounding surf; open grasslands, forested hills, pristine prairies, and pygmy forests- you can experience all of these coastal wonders within the Gerstle Cove Campground. With 20 miles of hiking trails, over six miles of rugged coastline, and an underwater park, you can enjoy a variety of picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, skin and SCUBA diving, and camping. The weather can be changeable along the rugged Northern California Coast. Even summertime can be cool as fog hugs the coastline and ocean winds chill the air. We recommend layered clothing for your visit.
Sandstone and Tafoni Ever wonder where the streets of San Francisco came from? Sandstone from Salt Point was used in the construction of San Francisco's streets and buildings during the mid 1800's. If you look closely at the rocks at Gerstle Cove, you can still see eyebolts where the ships anchored while sandstone slabs were loaded onboard. Quarried rocks can still be seen scattered along the marine terrace north of Gerstle Cove. Look for the drill holes along the edges of the rocks that were used to separate the large rocks into smaller slabs.
Tafoni is the Italian word for cavern. It is a natural phenomenon that is common along the sandstone near the ocean's edge at Gerstle Cove and Fisk Mill. Look for a honeycomb type network carved into the rocks forming pits, knobs, ribs, and ridges.
FACILITIES and ACTIVITIES
When utilizing the facilities at Salt Point State Park we ask that you remain on developed trails at all time in order to preserve the park's unspoiled qualities and to avoid contact with ticks and poison oak. Mountain bikes must stay on paved or fire roads, however, fire roads are closed to bicycles from October 31 to April 30. Bikes are not allowed on single-track trails as they cause a great deal of damage to the trail surfaces. Dogs must be kept on leash at all times and are not permitted on the trails or on the beaches. They must be kept in a tent or vehicle at night. For additional State Park regulations (State Park Rule and Regulations).
Picnicking: Fisk Mill Cove is a day use area that provides picnickers with paved parking, picnic tables, small upright barbeques, restrooms, and drinking water. Additionally, the bishop pines in this area provide protection from the spring and summer winds. You can take a short walk from the north lot for a dramatic view of the Pacific Ocean from Sentinel Rock's wooden deck.
Stump Beach is another picnic area that offers one of the few sandy beaches north of Jenner. There are a few picnic tables near the parking lot and a primitive toilet with no running water. A 1/4 mile trail leads down to the beach.
South Gerstle Cove also has picnic tables, a primitive toilet, and a beautiful, exposed view of the ocean.
Hiking and Horseback Riding: There are over 20 miles of hiking and equestrian trails to explore in Salt Point State Park. Trail maps are available at the entrance station.
Underwater Area: The park includes one of the first underwater areas in California, Gerstle Cove Marine Reserve, where marine life is completely protected. The cove affords shelter for the hand launching of small boats and divers come to the cove to explore the wonders of the undersea world.
Marine life can be experienced on land during low tide in the rocky intertidal zone through tide pool exploration. When exploring these areas remember that many of these organisms can be damaged or destroyed by even the simple act of turning over a rock and exposing the animals to the sun.
Fishing: Fishing is permitted throughout the area with a valid fishing license, with the exception of Gerstle Cove Marine Reserve and north of the parking lot at Fisk Mill Day Use as part of the Stewart's Point Marine Reserve. The rest of Salt Point State Park is part of the Salt Point State Marine Conservation Area and only the take of finfish and abalone is permitted. The rocky coastline at Salt Point provides many excellent ocean fishing opportunities. Using bait of squid, shrimp, mussels, or smelt you can catch lingcod, cabezon, rockfish, and greenlings while fishing from the rocks. Be careful to stay back from the waves reach, since the rocks can be slippery and the ocean is rough.
Camping: All campsites, with the exception of our overflow camping, are equipped with a fire-ring, picnic table, and food locker. The campgrounds have drinking water and restrooms but no showers. A dump station is not available.
The family sites and group campground are on our reservation system by calling 1-800-444-PARK (7275). The hiker/biker sites and overflow camping are on a first-come, first-served basis year round- no reservations are available for these sites. Campgrounds consistently fill on weekends from April 1 to the end of September. Reservations are strongly recommended. For campground maps please see link to the right, but keep in mind that specific sites cannot be reserved.
FAMILY SITES Two main campgrounds are available at Salt Point State Park. Gerstle Cove campground is situated atop the coastal bluffs on the ocean side of Highway One and offers 30 family campsites. Woodside Campground, with 79 sites, is located on the east side of Highway One.
HIKER/BIKER SITES Ten sites are available for campers on foot or bicycles. These sites are located behind the ranger office near Woodside Campground.
GROUP CAMPING This camp is located on the ocean side of Highway One and accommodates a maximum of 40 people and ten cars.
OVERFLOW CAMPING A day use parking lot located below Gerstle Campground is available for self-contained vehicles only. No tent camping or open fires are allowed. No restroom facilities or drinking water are available.
We’ve been there a few times now and we love it. We are looking forward to go back soon. The campsite is clean, love walking to the ocean. We drove our van down to edge to watch the sunset. Beautiful.
Such a quiet campground. Sites are spaced apart. Great big trees that sing in the wind. This park is not an easy drive to get to from anywhere. Maybe that is why it is so quiet. Must stay at least 3 nights to rationalize that drive. Nice bluff trails, picnic sites and the Rhododendron Preserve has an easy hike. We would like to return again.
Leaving the Bay Area to camp it can still be hard to escape the crowds, but salt point seems to be in the right spot to avoid the hustle bustle. There is no cell service here except at the restrooms at salt point. The campsites we stayed in where on the east side of highway 1 and where quiet and nicely spread out. The campground was full but there was very few people on the trails around the camp. This is the summer of Covid and everyone was social distancing and most where wearing masks. The actual Salt Point is absolutely beautiful with so many tide pools and so much marine life. Stump beach is not far and it is amazing too. My only complaint is how many people have dogs and let them run off leash in camp and the beach and trails. There are many signs saying it’s illegal, but dog owners today seem to think it never applies to them. I would visit again tho, such a beautiful spot!
I had never camped before my team organized a socially distant camping trip. Salt Point campgrounds were my first campground experience and I am now hooked! We had a very conveniently positioned campground, close to the bathroom, and very near a water reserve.
The campgrounds are also near a lot of hiking trails, and near the coast, where we were able to see a lot of marine life, including leopard seals.
It was a little chilly in July, so prepare clothing accordingly!
I'd highly recommend this campground!
This can get crazy in the summer but in the spring and fall it is still beautiful. I like the Gerstle Cove side (ocean side) camping area rather than the hillside area across the highway. Smaller loop. There is no better place to watch a sunset!
Good sites with tables, fire ring and privacy. The inside loop sites are open. More shade on the outside of the loop. Visitor center and small harbor type area to launch kayaks. Lots of abalone divers.
Great hiking trail along the bluff. Hear the ocean crashing the whole way. Great rock formations.
There is tidepool area which is fun to explore at low tide.
Great moutain biking nearby from the top of the mountain down to the sea.
Near the Rhododendron Grove which - if you hit it when they are blooming is spectacular. A whole grove hidden on the hillside in the redwoods you can hike through.
Good surf fishing at the picnic area at Stump Beach.
The group tent site is on a bluff away from the other sites at Gerstle Cove. A great place to gather.
Unusual rock formations make this a unique part of the California coast. Abalone diving and spear fishing is popular here.
Salt Point State Park is a great find for those looking to take advantage of the nearby oceanscape, where the beaches have been transformed to seemingly Martian cliffs making up a pourous red rocky wonderland full of tide pools and creepy crawly sea creatures who do their best to stay hidden. My kids (OK, us parents too!) absolutely loved crawling all over this natural playground from early in the morning to high tide. That said - be aware of the crashing waves that have been known to scoop unsuspecting tourists (and newlyweds recently posing for photos) into the cold blue Pacific!
Conveniently located just across the street from the ocean, Salt Point Campgrounds are basically divided into 3 different locations, Gerstle Cove, which is closer to the ocean, but lacks the forest cover of trees, and is better outfitted for those with RV's, and the Upper and Lower Loops of the Woodside Campground. When we visited, the Upper Loop was closed, so we had reserved a spot in the Lower Loop (#55), which ended up being a great situated spot about 30 yards to the facilities, but complete with our own water spigot. The site was just big enough for our 6 person tent and came with the standard picnic table and fire ring. We visited during the long Memorial Day weekend, and Woodside Campground was heaving with revelers making for loud nights of parties in a handful of the campground's quarters. Overall, it wasn't too bad, but I will be mindful to search out more remote, quieter campsites in the future.
While the grounds were fine for the most part, offering substantial shrubbery around most of the campsites that we saw (providing decent privacy and a good border between our next door neighbors), the absolute worst thing about the whole experience were the facilities, which didn't look like they had been cleaned in several months. This led to us creatively (and frequently) leaving the parks grounds to search out nearby restaurants and grocery stores for a proper loo. Due to the long holiday weekend, it also appeared that garbage piled up quite quickly, so seeing overflowing garbage cans everywhere took away from the feeling that you were 'getting away from it all' - in fact, it seemed like we had landed in a place where everybody else had also found for the weekend.
An aspect of the campground that we really enjoyed were the several trails that are here, whether you opt to head down towards the ocean (which had a direct trail getting there, crossing highway 1) or diving deeper into the forest - both made for really good easy-to-moderate hikes that we enjoyed as a family. Nearby attractions I would recommend include: Kruse Rhododendron Preserve, Stump Beach Cove and Gerstle Cove State Marine Reserve. There's not much in the way of grocery stores or restaurants around for long distances, so whatever you need, be sure to bring it!
Salt Point was so much fun. The ocean lulls you to sleep and the gentle sunrise through the trees wakes you up. The plants here are great, so many succulents and wild flowers. A short drive/bike ride is the coast where you can find some amazing hiking and some of the best tidepools I have ever seen. The hosts are very accommodating and kind. This place is a campers dream
I camped here over halloween in 2015 with a few girlfriends. It was great because there were only about two other campgrounds being used. Brisk and clear at night, with sunny days with a fall chill in the air. The campgrounds were nice and spacious with a fire ring and picnic table. There are bathrooms but no garbage pickup.
It was a nice walk to the coast. About 30-40 hike if I remember correctly. The "tafoni" rock along the coast is magnificent. Windy and sunny Pacific Coast ocean experience. I would definitely return next time Im in the area.
This campground is a jewel. Oceanside. Hiking, tide pooling. Beach, seal and whale watching. Abalone diving when permitted.