Van Damme Campground Review


We went on a family camping trip to Van Damme State Park in Little River, CA. Van Damme is a California State Park. We stayed at site 32.

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The Campsite

Our 20 foot trailer fit into site 32 just fine. The parking pad was large and easy to accommodate our rig, but it was very unlevel. We took longer to park than it seemed like it should have just because we were trying to make it not terribly unlevel.

We ended up parking our rig in a spot where the ground near the front door was high. The problem with that is when we went to put our steps down they were too high and consequently we couldn’t close the entry door. (We of course didn’t realize this until unhitched.) We couldn’t dig the area lower because it was paved. We ended up pulling out the adjustable legs and that gave us just enough clearance to close the door.

Once we got everything set up the unlevel site caused us no further issues. And having an unlevel parking pad was really a low price to pay to camp in such a beautiful campsite.

This site is one of our favorite sites we’ve camped at, ever. It was large and private. This campground has two main loops and this site wasn’t on either. It was on the hill going towards the second loop. It really was an amazing site.

One possibly bad part about the site is it is so secluded that it is nowhere near a bathroom or dumpster. The closest bathroom is a pretty far walk up a hill. And for trash, we collected it and then dropped it off at a dumpster when we were in the truck already driving near one.

The site did also have a private trail. It wasn’t long but at the back of the campsite there was a trail that went to the edge of the cliff. It wasn’t much but it was nice to have a small area to walk the dog. And it helped make the site feel that much more secluded.

So we were very happy with the campsite. It is worth mentioning that getting this far into the campground was a little tricky with a 20 foot trailer. Between the two campground loops there is a temporary bridge. The bridge is narrow. It felt just barely wider than our trailer. And at the end of the bridge the turn is too sharp to make it while towing so you have to go straight and make a u-turn. The u-turn area did have plenty of space and didn’t feel stressful. The bridge part was also fine, though it was a little nerve wracking.

This is a dry campground. There were no hook-ups, but there was a dump station available. And we had no cell signal through Verizon.

The Best Campsites

  • Sites 7 & 10
    • These two sites would work well together. They back up to each other and they have their own private area in the center of the campground loop. Next to site 10 in the center area has a large shaded area that would be a nice spot for the group to hang out.
  • Site 32
    • This was by far the best campsite in the campground. There were multiple sites that were secluded like this one but this was the best one for a trailer.
  • Site 33
    • This was a large site with plenty of nature to explore. Though it wouldn’t work as well for a trailer because the door would be on the opposite side from where you’d want it.

The Activities

Van Damme State Park is located in a beautiful area and there is a lot to do.

Beach Access

The campground does have beach access. It is, however, across highway 1. It is right on a bend too, it’s a bit of a dangerous spot to cross and I really would not recommend doing it on foot. And that means even though it’s technically at the campground, you still have to drive there. We love going to the beach but we skipped this beach access just because we didn’t feel like driving across the street to get there.

Mendocino Headlands

Since we’d have to hop in the truck to get to the beach, we decided to just go a little further and drive to Mendocino. We decided to walk around the Mendocino Headlands. It isn’t the same as playing at the beach but there are endless ocean views and a nice trail. The trail is very easy and was no problem for kids. There is a decent sized parking lot and you just go as far as you want and then turn around. It was a nice way to see the ocean and get some exercise.

The Town of Mendocino

After we walked around the Mendocino Headlands we couldn’t resist walking through the town of Mendocino. This is a very small town filled with little stores and shops. We have a few favorites. We always go to Bay View Coffee Company and get some lattes for the adults and hot cocoas for the kids. Then we drink our drinks as we walk around the corner and look at the scenery. We normally finish right before we get to the Gallery Bookshop. We always go into the bookshop and let the kids each pick out a book or two. And then we end the visit by going to our favorite toy store, Out of this World. Out of this World is a science focused toy shop. Not only do they have toys but they also have binoculars and telescopes. It is a very fun place to shop around.

Fort Bragg

The town of Fort Bragg is a little further than Mendocino. It’s about 20 minutes away instead of 5 minutes, but there is a lot to do there. On this visit we went hiking at the Otis R. Johnson Wilderness Trail (which we’ll discuss in the next section), and then we got some ice cream at Cowlick’s Handmade Ice Cream, and lastly we grabbed burgers at Jenny’s Giant Burgers.

Whether you want to grab some food and need to find a way to stay entertained, Fort Bragg has plenty of options. For entertainment there’s the botanical gardens (which are dog-friendly), the skunk train (which is not dog-friendly), and the dog-friendly boardwalk at MacKerricher State Park. And for food we discussed a couple of good choices above plus there’s also North Coast Brewery.

The Dog-Friendly Hiking

Van Damme State Park does have some hiking trails right at camp. Like most California State Parks, these trails are not dog-friendly. So we did not get to check them out. I hear they are absolutely beautiful and definitely worth exploring if you’re able to.

Mendocino Headlands

Since we wanted to walk with our dog we went and walked around the Mendocino Headlands. These trails were level and very easy both for the kids and the dog. There were beautiful views and this was only a 5 minute drive from camp.

Otis R. Johnson Wilderness Trail

The next day we went a little further. It was about a 20 minute drive to Fort Bragg but the Otis R. Johnson Wilderness Trail was well worth it. This trail was beautiful. There were ferns everywhere. We saw redwoods, we saw flowers, we even saw a creek. This trail did have a steep area. Our kids had no issue with it, and rather enjoyed it. The most exciting part for our kids was when they found a swing attached to a tree in the middle of the trail. It was such a fun experience for them to swing in the middle of a hiking trail. I’m not sure if this is always there or not but it will certainly be a memory my kids keep for a very long time.

The Beer

Fort Bragg has some good beer options. North Coast Brewery is the popular option around so those beers are very easy to find at the local grocery stores. They are so popular there’s a good chance you have tried them before.

If you want to try something else you may not have tried before, I’d recommend Overtime Brewing. The brewery is in Fort Bragg and you can get beer in cans there. We’ve been very impressed with everything we’ve tried from Overtime and it’s one of our favorite stops in the area.

The Recap

Van Damme campground is in a beautiful area. Whether you want to stay and relax at camp or explore the neighboring towns it is an enjoyable trip and a fantastic experience.

Campground Details:

Van Damme State Park
8001 CA-1, Little River, CA 95456

Can reserve online at Reservations open 6 months ahead at 8am PST.

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