This trip just felt SO MUCH like summer. I know, I know, it is technically summer, but with work & weird Northern California coastal weather, it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. & that is where a good camping trip comes in. Sam & I packed up our sleeping bags, fished the tent out of the garage (still labeled with my name on it from old summer trips as a Girl Scout), & headed south.

In between a busy work schedule these days (but yes, I love it), I didn’t have the energy for a long drive into the California mountains. Yosemite is definitely on the highlight reel for favorite places in the world, but we’ll be heading that way next week on our way to Bishop (for some of this & some of that) & well, isn’t there anywhere pretty to camp nearby?!

Easy answer: HECK YES! Enter, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains & be prepared to be in summertime camping heaven.

Long story short, it’s perfect. An hour away from Half Moon Bay, the campsites are nestled in the oak trees. There’s lots of families & not much noise. It’s hot – think seventy degrees – & the way the light filtered through the trees made my photographer heart super happy. Seriously. Golden & rustling with the sound of oak trees in the wind.

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

We lounged around a lot. Mandatory naptimes every single day, obviously. I didn’t shower after Tuesday morning at my house until we got home on Friday afternoon. Flip flops & running shorts & sunglasses were everyday attire. (Sam wondered why, as we packed up the car on Friday, why he even bothered to pack other clothing. Why would you?!)

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

During the day, we took a five minute drive over to the other side of the park & enjoyed the redwoods. Apparently you can hike, but when we did a hike to try to find the observation deck & see where the trail right by our campsite led, we were greeted with hot hot hot, uncovered, sandy trail. Not that fun in the blazing sun.

So we wandered among the redwoods with tons of trails through the old growth trees & the second day, we found a running river & a beach. There were kids playing in the water & we waded in up to our knees, skipping rocks & splashing. All this lovely open space was a serious advantage of this park: lots to spread out in & all of it really felt like California in the summer.

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

In the evenings, we finally got around to drinking those two special bottles of wine that I’d been saving for the perfect occasion. I don’t always get gifted expensive wine, but it was a serious perk of working with Sunset Magazine as part of my last job at Torani & months later we were finally reaping those grape flavored benefits, in front of the campfire.

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

We cooked some delicious food. & I mean that in an all seriousness, let’s eat like royalty sense. Mostly I did the cooking, ahead of time when we had a real stove, but Sam sure looked cute heating things up, didn’t he?

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

Seriously, though. Fast, easy, delicious, healthy camp meals packed full of taste. More, please.

(Recipes here, because a bunch of people asked for them on Instagram: The most amazingly delicious vegetarian chili you’ve ever had, I-ate-four-of these-in-one-sitting hearty quinoa/black bean/corn tacos, & also how I dress up my oatmeal, but perhaps actually just pretty breakfast camping photos.) ** Please note, if you’re just looking at these now that the posts for these meals will be published in the next few days!

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

Found an old scarf of my mom’s in the tent… & brought my good old camp whistle just because I felt like it.

Plus perfect light? Yep. Silly photos ensue. Sorry, not sorry.

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

In the evening, we wandered back up the trails that we thought were too hot in the daytime & found a beautiful sunset & more stars than you ever see in the city. It was quiet, but you can see the hills & the ocean & the airplanes overhead. So calm after a long, hot day.

Obviously s’mores are a camp staple, so we made them every single night. Mostly I used it as an excuse to eat too much sugar & drink that wine I was just on about. Yep, every bit as good as it sounds.

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

Although, one thing I gotta say is this: Making a fire is SO MUCH HARDER than I ever thought. I vaguely remember making fires in Girl Scouts as a kid, but the more I think about it, the more I remember homemade firestarters, chock full of lint & wax, being absolutely crucial. These fires were, well, not so easily lit, although we managed in the end.

Mental note to self: Bring a hatchet next time so we have smaller pieces to work with & definitely bring old newspaper to help jump start the process. Also, oxygen really helps.

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

But, you know, always worth it.

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

On our last day we packed up after breakfast (leftover tacos) & then headed to the beach. I can’t be in the Santa Cruz area without hitting up the hot, beautiful beaches. I know they get fog just like the rest of us, but it was sunny & lovely & we found a sheltered beach where we could soak up the sunshine.

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

How dreamy, right?

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

Gosh, I just love this state.

This is What Real Summer Feels Like: A week of Camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Sunny California // WeAreAdventure.us

& that’s that! Happy summer, happy camping, happy beach days! Prep yourself some of those tacos or a big pot of chili, throw it in the cooler, & head down the coast, okay? It’s the most wonderful thing. 🙂

For more camping adventures, see HERE, for more in California, see HERE, for more Santa Cruz, see HERE, for more Highway One adventures, see HERE!

For things we ate on this trip & tips for making your own super killer, absolutely delicious, definitely vegetarian & possibly vegan if you’re into that CAMP MEALS, see our tasty vegetarian chili recipe HERE, the tacos that I will be making until I die HERE, & my favorite way to eat oatmeal even though that’s not really a recipe HERE.

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