Camping with Kids: Morro Bay

Morro Bay State Park

Before children camping involved a lot of sitting around the camp fire, hiking through the woods, and generally relaxing and communing with nature. Sure we never slept particularly well in a tent outdoors, but we went to bed earlier then usual and that made up for it.

After children camping involves a lot of chasing little people away from the camp fire, slowly creeping through the parking lot towards the hiking trail as they stop to pick up every rock and stick, and not relaxing at all until the kids are asleep for the night. Sleeping with children in a tent means constantly having to rearrange positions as the little kings and queens claim way more space then their small bodies deserve.

Or is that just my kids?

Double baby wearing
Sometimes this is the only way to make them move on a hike!

The crazy thing is that I actually prefer camping now that we have kids. It’s chaotic and I am mostly always hopelessly underprepared, but the children receive so much joy from it that I can’t help but feel fulfilled (and proud of myself for making it happen).

This weekend we had the fun opportunity to go camping with family, including 4 of my cousins ages 5-11. My children hero worship their older cousins and had a ball running around and playing with them. I also got to see the light at the end of the tunnel as my Aunt and Uncle were far less frantic then we were and could trust their children to go to the bathroom on their own, stay out of the fire pit, and stay in their tent once tucked in for the night. They still had some child-specific challenges, but it definitely made me optimistic that camping trips will get easier with time.

Tree climbing
Morro Bay had some great climbing trees. You can see a the bottom of a leg in the top of this pictures to see how high the big kids climbed!

Morro Bay State Park is half way between SF and LA so is a great spot for meeting family or friends. If you are making plans, make sure not to get confused between Morro Bay (on the bay) and Morro Strand (on the beach). Morro Bay has 122 spots total and was pretty much full during our visit. As far as camp sites go, these seemed particularly close together and there were no hills or groves of trees to give any particular spots an advantage over the neighbors. Try to get out a spot on the back perimeter if you can, although you’ll need reservations early for that.

Right across from the camp ground is a small marina where you can rent kayaks or watch the boats. The small peninsula that separates the marina from the bay has a wooden boardwalk that makes for a pleasant walk and there is a natural history museum on a hill overlooking the marina. The museum costs $3 for adults and closes at 5, but you can get in free after 4:30. It was a fairly small museum but had some interesting exhibits such as taxidermy animals or hands-on weather demonstrations. They also have a little puppet stage with puppets for the kids and (of course) a gift shop.

Morro Bay Boardwalk

From the back of the camp ground there is an “exercise trail” from which you can access several other hiking trails. We didn’t make it very far down the exercise trail, because it has stations where you are supposed to do certain exercises. The children took this very seriously and spent a lot of time at each station as well as their usual delay picking things up or playing in the dirt.

Carrying Kids on the Exercise Trail at Morro Bar
Again, sometimes the only way to make forward progress on a hike!

Overall it was a nice campground (although I prefer ones with fewer spots and fewer RVs) and I’m sure we’ll be back. The location is really spectacular and we would like to spent some time at the beach when it is warmer (as well as actually progress through an entire hiking trail.) The drive back on Sunday was very beautiful, and there are a couple stops we could plan for next time.

Small beach overlooking Morro Rock

Where should we go camping next?

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