Beach Camping at Clam Beach County Park: A Casual Visitor’s Guide

Key Takeaways

  • Clam Beach County Park offers beach camping and day-use areas right on the Pacific coast
  • Facilities include restrooms, picnic tables, beach access trails, and a small campground
  • Popular activities are beachcombing, clamming, horseback riding, wildlife viewing
  • The campground has 13 sites for tents/RVs, with a 3-night maximum stay
  • Day use is free, and camping is $30 per night for a great bargain beach getaway

What is Clam Beach County Park?

Imagine waking up to the sound of crashing waves and the salty sea breeze. That’s the vibe at Clam Beach County Park, a laidback beach camping spot in Northern California. This neat little park butts right up against the Pacific Ocean near the town of McKinleyville, about 20 minutes north of Eureka.

Clam Beach County Park
Clam Beach County Park

Clam Beach makes an awesome base camp for beach lovers on a budget. You can park your car or RV practically on the sand and spend days exploring the gorgeous coastline. Dig for clams, fly a kite, go beachcombing, or kick back and listen to the waves. The park’s location also puts you within striking distance of fantastic redwood forests and coastal towns like quirky Trinidad.

Where is it, and How Do I Get There?

Clam Beach County Park is about 7.5 miles north of Arcata, CA, off Highway 101 (the “Redwood Highway”). To get there, take Exit 719A from 101 and follow signs for Clam Beach Drive.

The easiest way to find it is to punch “Clam Beach County Park” into your GPS or maps app. That straightforward slice of the Pacific coast makes for an excellent road trip pit stop or weekend getaway.

Clam Beach County Park
Clam Beach County Park

What Can I Do at Clam Beach?

As the name suggests, clamming is one of the top activities here. This long stretch of sandy coastline is famous for its abundant razor clams that you can dig up and cook over a beach bonfire. Clamming is allowed all year, but a fishing license is required for anyone 16 and over.

But even if you’re not into clamming, there’s plenty to keep you busy:

  • Beachcombing – Search for shells, agates, driftwood and other treasures
  • Horseback Riding – The park has horse trails plus a stretch of beach for riding
  • Beach Bonfires – Bring some s’mores stuff and enjoy an evening beach fire
  • Wildlife Viewing – Spot shorebirds, whales, seals and other marine life
  • Walk or Bike the Trails – The Hammond Trail runs behind the beach if you want to stretch your legs
  • Surfing/Kiting – Big waves make for good surf conditions at times

You can also flop out on the sand and read a book or skip rocks. For such an affordable spot, there’s a nice variety of simple beach pleasures on tap.

What Kind of Camping is Available?

The campground at Clam Beach has no frills but gives you all the basics for some delightfully unplugged beach camping. There are 13 campsites total, including 2 ADA-accessible spots. Both tent camping and RVs/trailers are allowed.

Each campsite has a picnic table and a fire ring. The campground has pit toilets but no showers or hookups. You’ll need to load up on fresh water at home or use the single potable water faucet.

Clam Beach County Park

Most sites are back-in with parking for your vehicle right on the site. I’ve heard the two ADA-accessible sites can fit a larger RV, but call ahead to see if you have a big rig over 30 feet or so.

You can’t make reservations – it’s 100% first-come, first-served. But during my stay in the off-season, plenty of sites were available even late into the evening. Summer is a different story, though.

The maximum stay is 3 nights, so it’s geared for a short beach camping session rather than an extended stay. But with rates of just $30 per night, it’s one of the most affordable beach camps.

Day-Use Areas & Beach Access

Even if you’re not camping, Clam Beach is an excellent spot for easy beach access and a picnic. There are two main day-use parking areas with boardwalk trails leading through the dunes to the sandy beach.

The north parking area has an accessibility mat that allows wheelchairs, strollers and mobility chairs to roll comfortably out to the waterline. There are also vault toilets and trash cans for convenience.

You’ll likely share the beach with camping neighbours as the campsites are also just up from the sand. Crowds disperse nicely, though, given the park’s decent size.

Insider Tips for Your Visit

Here are a few quick pro tips to cover before you hit this beach park:

  • Bring layers and prep for wind – This exposed stretch of the Pacific coast can bring intense wind and quick weather changes
  • Pack it in, pack it out – There are no recycling facilities, so plan to tote out all trash and recyclables
  • Buy firewood from the camp host – $6 bundles sold daily until 3 pm
  • Watch for snowy plover nesting areas – Stay clear of any roped-off bird nesting zones
  • Check the tides for clamming – You’ll have better luck digging at lower tides
  • Leash up dogs part of the year – Dogs allowed on leash Mar-Sept on dry sand only
  • Call ahead for RV length limits – Make sure your rig can fit the site sizes

Clam Beach County Park punches way above its weight for a budget beach getaway. For under $30, you get front-row access to some prime Pacific coast with all the camping basics covered. It’s a fantastic option for those seeking simple seaside fun without breaking the bank.

FAQs

What are the camping costs at Clam Beach?

The nightly camping rate at Clam Beach County Park is just $30 for any site, RV or tent. This is an incredibly affordable rate for beachfront camping. Day use is entirely free.

Can you have beach fires?

Yes, beach fires are permitted at Clam Beach in the designated fire rings at each campsite. You can purchase firewood from the camp host for $6 per bundle until 3 pm daily.

Is there RV camping? What about hookups?

RV and trailer camping is allowed at Clam Beach, but no hookups exist. Each site has a parking area for your RV or trailer and a picnic table/fire ring. The campground is dry camping only.

How long can you camp there?

The maximum camping stay at Clam Beach County Park is 3 consecutive nights per visit. After that, you’ll need to relocate to a different campground. No long-term camping is permitted.

Are dogs allowed at Clam Beach?

Dogs are permitted at Clam Beach Park but with some seasonal restrictions. From March to September, dogs must always be kept on a leash except on the wave slope area. From October to February, dogs can be off-leash but must always remain within 30 feet of their owner.

Conclusion

Clam Beach County Park delivers laid-back, no-frills beach camping at an unbeatable price point. For just $30 a night, you get front-row access to a gorgeous stretch of Northern California coastline. Go clamming, beachcombing, surfing, hiking or just soak up the sun and saltwater therapy.

While amenities are limited, Clam Beach provides the basics – campsites, picnic areas, trails, and those beautiful ocean views. It makes for a refreshingly simple yet affordable beach getaway, especially compared to pricier options down the coast.

Whether you tent camp or bring your RV, Clam Beach scratches that beach camping itch without breaking the budget. Just remember to load up on firewood and clam chowder supplies!

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