Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is a spectacular park offering access to a large range of coastal area & large sand dunes for off-road and recreational use. Additionally, Oceano Dunes provides access to numerous other outdoor activities such as surfing, swimming, camping, fishing and hiking. Camping is allowed (on the beach) for several miles without any of the size restrictions found in campgrounds. There are vault toilets and chemical toilets located through out the recreation area, but such bathroom trips can be a trek.
Service trucks drive the beach selling firewood, ice, water, & such.
The SVRA has also been host to popular off-road events in the past (ie.Huckfest, TC Freeride, Jeeps West, Etc…) which attract thousands of visitors. Holidays are also some of the biggest draws, as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving bring out massive amounts of off-roaders and campers to enjoy an extended weekend. With over 2 million visitors per year, the Oceano Dunes is California’s busiest state park. Over 1,500 ridable acres, the ocean, and the beautiful weather make it a favorite destination for the off road community.
Towing a trailer onto the Oceano Dunes can be intimidating enough to cause many to pass up the chance, but that would be a mistake. The unique experience offered is worth the effort if you plan your trip well. Below are tips to make camping at the Dunes easier:
First, time your arrival to low tide. The firmly packed wet sand is much easier to drive on and the driving area available is much wider.
Click here for Pismo Beaches daily tide chart.
Once you get on the beach, pull off to the side (out of the road) and air down your tires. Airing down your tires will allow your truck to travel much easier in the sand. At a minimum, you’ll want to air your truck tires down to 20psi, and15 psi in real soft sand but never below 10 psi.
Once you air down and start south on the beach you may encounter the infamous Arroyo Grande Creek. The Creek can get nasty, especially after big winter storms but if you’ve timed your arrival to low tide you shouldn’t have any problem crossing at all. The creek is usually only a few inches deep, if there at all. When crossing, you will see the path that others are using and only need to keep a slow, steady pace.
Shortly after you pass the creek you will see pole #1. Keep traveling south (approximately 1 mile) until you find the trailers/camping area. Keep in mind, for obvious reasons, you must camp above the high tide line. Feel free to park on the hard pack (but never block traffic), get out of your vehicle and walk the area you plan on setting up at. Note how firm the sand is. If its been windy, you may notice drifts of sand that are lighter in color. These drifts are soft and you want to avoid them if you can. You will also notice darker wet sand, this type of sand is much better. Play out your route (in your mind) while you walk the area. It is also easier to unload your toys and passengers here to lighten the load. Once you know the route you plan to take, travel at a good steady speed and don’t stop until you reach your spot. Your speed and momentum are key to not getting stuck. Sharp turns are your enemy and should be avoided at all costs.
Despite all your cautions, eventually everyone gets stuck. Its part of the experience. So bring along a shovel and a tow strap. Keep in mind, you do not want to bury your vehicle up to the frame. Once you feel your losing the battle, let off and seek help. Dig out the sand from in front of all 4 tires as well. Also consider unloading extra weight. (toys and passengers) If you have a buddy with a 4wd truck have him come in front and hook your tow strap to his hitch. If not, you may have to wait for a friendly passer by. Now that you made it in (and have a spot) you can relax and enjoy the beauty of the Oceano Dunes SVRA.