California has become a craft brewery hot bed with many super popular craft breweries in the state. What could be a better way to spend a week or two in the summer, than camping and touring the state of California’s craft beer scene? Probably nothing. Plus we have done all the leg work for you, finding the best breweries and campgrounds to make your west coast craft beer camping road trip a success. Filled with sunshine, craft beer and tent camping this road trip is certainly one you would never forget.
The West Coast Craft Beer Camping Road Trip
The California Craft Beer Camping Road Trip : North to South
1. Eureka, California : Lost Coast Brewery / Eureka KOA
Lost Coast Brewery
Let’s kick off our Craft Beer Camping Road Trip in the Northern California city of Eureka. The cool maritime climate of the Humboldt Bay region is very conducive to brewing quality ales. The year round average temperature of 55º Fahrenheit is ideal for top-fermenting ale yeast. Lost Coast Brewery embraces the rich tradition of English-style ales, while Master Brewer Barbara Groom has added a distinctive West Coast flavor to her ales by brewing with Western Plains barley and wheat and the exceptionally clean water of Humboldt County. With nearly a dozen quality craft brews on tap – ranging from a Tangerine Wheat and Raspberry Brown to their Indica IPA and Alleycat Amber – a stop here will kick your trip off right!
Eureka KOA Campgrounds Cabin Rental
Since this is the first night of your road trip, let’s take it easy. The KOA Kampground in Eureka offers cabin rentals and is located 5 minutes from the ocean. The KOA provides a beautiful place to recuperate after your first day of brewery and craft beer touring. Granted, you’re not going to be sleeping underneath the redwoods- but the accommodations are nice, and the proximity to both the brewery and the ocean are perfect.
Camping: Eureka KOA
4050 North Highway 101
Eureka, CA 95503
2. Fort Bragg, California : North Coast Brewing / MacKerricher State Park
North Coast Brewing
Travel a little bit further south from Eureka, and you’ll find yourself in the historical city of Fort Bragg, CA. Home to North Coast Brewing, who have been a pioneer in the Craft Beer movement. North Coast Brewing Company opened in 1988 as a local brewpub in the town of Fort Bragg, located on California’s Mendocino Coast. Known for both their core beers, as well as specialties. If you’re a fan of Russian Imperial Stout, we definitely recommend that you try their Old Rasputin. Fans of Belgian Farmhouse Ales will definitely want to give Le Merle a spin as well.
MacKerricher State Park
MacKerricher State Park is a great place to camp and offers a variety of things to see from beaches, bluffs, dunes, forest and wetland. There are some cool tidepools along the shore and if you look out on the rocks off the coastline you usually can see seals. In the middle of the campground is Lake Cleone, with some fishing and picnicking opportunities. With over 140 sites, the campground has four different camping areas for tents and RV’s with some sites close to the ocean and others near the lake. Most of the sites have a fire pit and picnic table and is a great place to relax for the night.
3. Chico, California : Sierra Nevada / Loafer Creek
From opening a homebrew shop to changing the craft beer world forever with Sierra Nevada, owner Ken Grossman has been a pioneer for the craft beer world. Known for their hop forward brews, Sierra Nevada pushed the limits and changed the minds of many beer drinkers. Sierra Nevada was one of the first to open a taproom, back in 1989 and it has now become a destination in itself. You have to stop by the taproom to sample one of their 19 beers on tap and grab a bite to eat as their gourmet meals are made with local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. Sierra Nevada provides a great tour with a few different options ranging from their 90 minute brew house tour to their 3 hours beer geek tour.
Lake Oroville State Recreation Area
Lake Oroville State Recreation Area is near the town of Oroville and is a man made lake with a ton of activities available at your finger tips from camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, and swimming. If you are lucky enough to rent or borrow a boat, we highly recommend staying on one of the floating campsites. If that is not an option there are 6 other campgrounds within the recreation area to camp in. Most are very close to the lake and work for both tent and RV campers. The recreation area is a great location between you and the next brewery on the tour.
4. Healdsburg, California : Bear Republic / Russian River RV Campground
Bear Republic Brewing Company
Located in the heart of Wine Country, Bear Republic Brewing Company offers award-winning food and world class, handcrafted ales. Known for daring, hop-forward, and bold brews the brewery has climbed its way up to the 34th largest in the country. If you are around on a Saturday morning, we highly recommend making a reservation to head on the tour. Tour or not you better come hungry as the brewpub serves up traditional pub fare with a twist, including signature burgers, salads and specialty items. All their dishes pair really well with their brews. From their popular Racer 5 IPA to specialty or barrel aged beers like Vermicious Knid you can’t go wrong sampling any of the Bear Republic brews.
Russian River RV Campground
Located on the beautiful Russian River, the Russian River RV Campground has an enjoyable activity for everyone. They have cabins and cottages to rent if you want a break from the tent for the night. But the 125 site campground has some really great shaded sites for tents and RV’s. The river is a fantastic place to spend some time kayaking, canoeing, rafting, trout fishing, and swimming. The campground has a very relaxing atmosphere and is in a great location as you move along your craft beer tour.
5. Petaluma, California : Lagunitas / Petaluma KOA
Lagunitas Brewing Company
Inspired from many different places throughout the country, Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company, brought different styles and ideas to the beer world. Known for their iconoclastic interpretations of traditional beer styles, Lagunitas has become the 5th largest craft beer seller in the country. Lagunitas is quite the place to visit and offers free tours at varying times throughout the week. If you’re looking to taste some brews, head to the taproom. They serve up munchies, music, fun and many beers you won’t find on shelves. From their staple Lagunitas IPA to an only at the taproom specialty like Undercover Investigation, their taproom is an experience you don’t want to miss.
This beautiful campground is rated one of the top RV campgrounds in California. With 312 spacious sites on 70 acres, the Petaluma KOA is a great spot to spend a night. If you wanted to venture out, San Francisco is close along with wine country. There are quite a few areas to pitch a tent whether you want to be located in the pine forest, near the activities or close to the playground. They also offer 1 room cabins that can fit up to 4 if that is the route you want to go for the evening. This really is a great campground to relax at as you continue the west coast craft beer camping road trip.
6. San Francisco, California : Anchor & 21st Amendment / Half Moon Bay State Park
As one of the oldest breweries in the country, Anchor Brewing, formed in 1871 has been a driving force in the craft beer movement. From brewing the first American wheat beer in 1984 to continuing to innovate craft beers, Anchor is truly an iconic brewery. Although tours can fill up 6 months in advance, it is worth it to plan your craft beer tour around getting a reservation for this tour. They give 2 tours each weekday, offering a glimpse at centuries-old craft brewing traditions, a taste of San Francisco history, and a flight of selected Anchor beers. Your flight will most likely consist of, Anchor Steam Beer, their oldest recipe with rich history.
21st Amendment Brewery
Founded in 2000, by Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan, the 21st Amendment Brewery celebrates the culture of the great breweries of old, making unique, hand crafted beers, and great food in their popular brewpub. The 21st Amendment Brewery is a full service pub and bar open seven days a week. They keep 8 beers rotating on tap from their popular Brew Free! Or Die IPA to specialty beers like the MCA Stout. But you shouldn’t just come for the beer, 21st Amendment pumps out some great food, voted best burger in the city, they offer a wide variety of sandwiches, entrees and burgers. The brewpub is a small, but unique place to eat. With many windows and an old wood look, it is a fun place to grab a drink and a meal.
Half Moon Bay State Park
Four miles of broad, sandy beaches stretch out to welcome you to Half Moon Bay State Park. It is a picturesque setting, ideal for sunbathing, fishing and picnicking. Francis Beach has 52 developed campsites for family camping. All sites have picnic tables and fire rings. This is true camping on the beach and offers great sites for tents and RV’s. There are a few sites that are just for tent campers and if it’s possible to snag one, we’d highly suggest it. Half Moon State Park is in a great location between San Francisco and your next stop on the tour and offers a long stretch of sandy white beach to relax and play in.
7. San Jose, California : Gordon Biersch / Saratoga Springs
Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
Celebrating 25 years of brewing this year, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company was a match made in beer heaven. Starting out as a brewpub, owners Dan and Dean, found success in making craft beer paired with fantastic food. About 10 years after the brewpubs started popping up, Gordon Biersch opened a state-of-the-art brewery and bottling facility in San Jose in order to begin distributing its famed, German-style beers. With both the brewery and a restaurant in San Jose, it makes a 2 for 1 stop. The brewery gives tours Monday through Thursday by appointment. If you truly want to sample the beers and have a great bite to eat, head over to their restaurant (only a 5 minute drive) and chow down on those famous garlic fries.
Saratoga Springs Campground
Saratoga Springs Campground is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz coastal mountain range, offering breathtaking views of the forest and streams. The facility is huge with picnic spaces, wedding facilities, team building classes etc. But there is a nice campground perfect for tents or RV’s. They do take reservations ahead of time, which is always encouraged. The campground is tucked in to the trees and is a great place to relax after a day of craft beer drinking.
8. Paso Robles, California : Firestone Walker / Kirk Creek
It started as two brother-in-laws debating on good vs bad beer and turned in to a world-class brewery, pumping out exceptional pale ales. Firestone Walker produces rich and complex ales selectively fermented in the Firestone Union oak barrel brewing system. They do proudly offer complimentary guided tours of the brew house and cellar. Tours last about 20-30 minutes with very limited space. If you can’t catch a tour, visit the Paso Taproom it features a spacious modern ambiance with booth and table seating. The Taproom specializes in brew house bistro cooking. You also get a chance to try out a lot of their brews, including their popular DBA along with specialty brews such as the Taproom Brown.
Kirk Creek is situated on an open bluff 100 feet above the ocean, among several Monterey Pines. Each of Kirk Creek’s 34 sites have a view of the Pacific Ocean and the magnificent Big Sur coast. There is one short trail leading from the campground to the beach, making Kirk Creek a popular spot for surfing and ocean fishing. The campsites are a combination of open space and shaded trees, which are perfect for most campers. Kirk Creek does not have running water so before you arrive make sure you stock up on some bottled water to keep you hydrated.
9. Anaheim, California: Anaheim Brewery / Crystal Cove State Park
The Anaheim Brewery of old disappeared with prohibition so Barbara and Greg Gerovac are aiming to reintroduce a staple, fresh beer, back into the Anaheim community. With an emphasis on quality ingredients and traditional brewing techniques, Anaheim Brewery’s range of beers will satisfy every taste. When you swing by the brewery make sure to check out their taproom and beer garden. Take a seat at the 30 foot long vintage wooden bar, where you can gaze at the shiny brewery tanks and watch the brewing process. The tasting room is open Tuesday through Thursday and offers all 7 beers on tap from their flagship Anaheim 1888 to their Belgian style Unite Pale Ale.
Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park features 3.2 miles of Pacific coastline, plus wooded canyons, and open bluffs. Visitors can enjoy the beach, the backcountry and activities such as swimming, surfing, sunbathing, fishing, and hiking. The Moro Campground is where you should stay. It has 58 family campsites with picnic tables. 28 are designated RV while 30 are designated for tents. Although it is a bit of a bummer fires are not permitted in the campground, you are able to have a small gas grill. This is a really pretty campground and will set you up well for the next leg of the west coast craft beer camping road trip.
10. Escondido, California : Stone Brewing / Dixon Lake
Stone Brewing Co.
Stone Brewing Co. is the brainchild of both Steve Wagner and Greg Koch. After finding that they had similar tastes in beers, they went in to business together starting what has become the popular Stone Brewing Co. They have gone from a tiny brewery to having 50,000 people enjoy a guided tour of their magnificent brewery each year. Tours are conducted every day, but if you can’t catch a tour, definitely spend some time in their bistro and gardens. Sit inside the bistro’s dynamic and expansive interior, or venture out to the beautiful open-air patio and one-acre organic beer garden. Stone always has 36 craft and specialty beers on tap ranging from their popular Stone Pale Ale to Stone’s spotlight series or special releases.
Dixon Lake Campground
Located next to Dixon Lake in the city of Escondido, Dixon Lake Campground is a beautiful place to spend a night. The park is filled with fun activities such as fishing, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, and boating. The campground is located on top of a hill providing gorgeous views of both the lake and the city of Escondido. With 47 sites to choose from there are a lot of different options for what view you would like. Some give a great view of the lake, some a view of the city and some provide a pretty good view of both. Most of the sites offer moderate to good shade and would be a good choice for a relaxing evening before hitting the road to the next brewery.
Campground: Dixon Lake
1700 North La Honda Drive
11. San Diego, California : Ballast Point & Karl Strauss / Santee Lakes
Ballast Point Brewery
It started as a small group of home brewers, who simply wanted to make a better beer, and has evolved into the well known Ballast Point Brewery. They are known for reinterpreting how beers are brewed from bringing a hoppy twist to a porter, developing a proprietary yeast for their amber ale, and creating a breakthrough IPA. With that passion Ballast Point has had continued success at their brewery in Oak Grove and has now opened two other taproom locations in the San Diego area. We suggest stopping at the original brewery and taking a tour, offered daily. You can also hit up their taproom, open daily to try some of their flagship Pale Ale, or a specialty brew like Sea Monster.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company
In 1989, Karl Strauss Brewing Company officially opened its doors in downtown San Diego and kicked off the city’s craft beer industry. With a taproom on site, it is a great place to visit. Open Wednesday through Saturday, the taproom offers views in to the brewery and bottling line and an awesome outdoor beer garden. The taproom allows you the opportunity to taste any of the 20 taps or purchase a growler to take with you. If you really want to take a tour you can head to their downtown San Diego brewpub where they offer tours of their small batch brewery. They also offer a rotating special release brew to pair with their West Coast pub fare. You can’t go wrong with a Karl Strauss Amber Ale or one of their specialty brews like Off The Rails.
Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve
Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve is a beautiful 190 acre Park surrounding seven scenic lakes all filled with recycled water. The Park is great for fishing, picnics, bird watching, boating, and biking. The campground is nestled in the foothills of Santee, just 20 minutes from San Diego. You will definitely be able to find a place to camp, with 300 full hook-up campsites, all having free WiFi. An awesome perk for campers is the exclusive fishing in Lakes 6 & 7, which are not open to day use guests. For your last night of the tour, you could splurge and get a waterfront cabin equipped with a fire ring and pedal boats for a ride around the lake.
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