Review: Leo Carrillo State Park & Beach

By Heather

We’ve been hearing the legend of Leo Carrillo for years. It’s a campground, but not just any campground. A campground with its own beautiful beach with tide pools, a dog beach and a regular people beach. A campground that’s open year round and impossible to get a reservation at.

We finally experienced the magic of Leo Carrillo this weekend and had the most wonderful time. Hard to believe that this place is less than two hours from our apartment.


nabby corgi leo carrillo state park

Even Nabby approves!

The details

We’re quickly learning that state parks are better funded than national ones, so if you want the hookup, go state all the way. You’ll reliably find flush toilets, showers, water and very well-maintained grounds.

I did not use the showers, since we were only camping for two days. I realize how gross that sounds. But here’s what they looked like:


They operate on tokens, and the machines take $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills. Man, what kind of shower are you planning, $20 spender?

On the other side of that building are restrooms, outdoor sinks and a place to rinse off your sandy feet when you return from the beach. There are water spigots all over the campground.

And if that isn’t enough, there’s a store selling firewood, ice, snacks and assorted basics. Their prices are… okay, considering they’re saving you a trip outside of the park. It’s only open Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you stay longer than that, you’ll have to get your supplies elsewhere.

There’s an adorable outdoor eating area where I ate my lunch and listened to podcasts on Saturday afternoon:

photo 2

The campground host at site No. 17 sells firewood, as well. Both the store and the host sell the wood for $7 a bundle.

Speaking of the host, he did a great job. The noise was kept down, everything was immaculately maintained and he basically did everything a host should do.

The lowdown

We’ll hit Leo Carrillo any old time. In fact, we have reservations to go back in February and I’ll try to snag another site for sometime in the summer!

  • Dog friendly: Totally, 100 percent. There’s even a beach for your dog.
  • Water: Yes, lots of it.
  • Toilets: Flush.
  • Provisions: The host (site No. 17) and the Beach Store sell firewood for $7 a bundle. The bundles didn’t look very big, though.
  • The Beach Store also sells sandwiches, snacks, beverages, beer, water and miscellaneous items you might need.
  • Sites: All sites have picnic tables and a big, tall fire ring. Shade varies – it’s better in some sites than others.
  • The Beach: The beach is located on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway, accessible by going under a bridge. That’s the people beach. Facing the ocean, the tide pools are to the right, and the dog beach is just beyond that. The dog beach has its own parking lot if you don’t want to schlep your dog over there. I recommend water shoes of some sort if you’re going in the water, since there can be some sharp rocks hiding beneath the waves.
  • Hours: The campground closes at 10 p.m. – and they do close the gates – so be sure to arrive before then and have your reservation printed out. If your car is an extra, you’ll have to pay the $12 per day parking fee.
  • Cell service: Cell service was spotty toward the back of the campground, but on the beach it was perfect.

But… Whatever. Put your phone away and enjoy the nature!