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Pacific Dunes Ranch Campground offers RV and cabin camping on the south-central California Coast. Conveniently located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this park is adjacent to rolling sand dunes, on the Pacific Ocean. This RV resort is part of the Thousand Trails Encore campground network, where you can stay for a nightly fee as low as $20. We stayed here in February, during our nine-week California RV trip, just a few weeks after big storms hit California’s coastal, leaving their mark on this property.
Read on for more details about this RV resort – with pros, cons, and prices – in our in-depth review.
Location of Pacific Dunes Ranch Campground
As the name suggests, Pacific Dunes Ranch is situated directly by the sand dunes that separate the park from the Pacific Ocean. The closest small towns are Oceano and Arrojo Grande, California, with the park’s address technically being Oceano. The larger and more recognizable towns include Pismo Beach, less than five miles away, and San Luis Obispo, about 30 minutes north. Paso Robles is about 50 minutes north up Highway 101.
Neighboring properties are a mix of agricultural and dunes, which are owned and managed by state parks. This park is easily accessible from Highway 1 in south central coastal California. It’s about a half-mile walk across the dunes to get to the beach.
The dunes, beach and nature trails adjacent to the campground are one of the main attractions. The surrounding area, which includes the popular and lovely Pismo Beach, offers many wineries, farmers’ markets, golf courses, shopping, and restaurants. During our short overnight stay, we visited Laetitia Vineyard and Winery, for a wine tasting while taking in the scenic views around sunset. They are well known for their sparkling wines, chardonnay, and pinor noirs.
Laetitia Vineyard and Winery offers daily tastings and often has events
Pacific Dunes Ranch used to have a horse stable next door offering horseback riding on the beach. This was one of the unique attractions of this campground. Unfortunately, the heavy rains in January 2023 caused significant damage to the campground buildings and flooded the horse stables. These are now closed for the foreseeable future, so horse riding is unavailable. Don’t worry, the horses were rescued! They are staying elsewhere until the stables are (hopefully) rebuilt.
The dunes accessible from the campground are only available for hiking and sledding. Another reviewer says the walk across the dunes to the ocean takes about 40 minutes each way. That’s bound to be a great workout!
Their website says they offer basketball and horseshoes, but we didn’t see them. Honestly, we didn’t even think to look! This area’s main activities during your stay will include hiking, sledding on the dunes, swimming, surfing, and exploring outside the campground.
Heavy flooding damaged the stables, now closed until further notice
What activities are available near Pacific Dunes?
A short distance south of the campground, dunes are available for ATVs and other recreational off-highway vehicles (OHVs). Of course, the beaches nearby also offer opportunities for swimming, fishing, and other water sports like surfing, depending on the season. But our visit was in winter, cold and windy, and our stay was short, so we didn’t get to do any of that.
Are dogs allowed at Pacific Dunes Ranch Campground?
Dogs are welcome in RV sites (not the cabins) at this campground BUT they are not allowed on the adjacent state park dunes. However, there is a sandy walkway entry area between the park and state park property (see pic below) that doesn’t have a sign restricting dogs.
Amenities At Pacific Dunes Ranch Campground
This Thousand Trails Encore Resort is more basic in terms of available camping amenities than you might expect from a typical RV resort. Especially since the main building and neighboring riding stables were heavily damaged during the recent storms and flooding.
Before the damage, the main building housed the office, an arcade, a billiard table, showers, bathrooms, and a small store. It will be interesting to see what they do with the space when they rebuild.
Right now, there are two bathhouses with laundry facilities open for guest use. But that is about it. It will probably be a while until they can rebuild the amenities that were formerly located on the lower level of the campground. One of the cabins on the upper level has been turned into a Guest Welcome Center/Office, as a temporary solution.
Cell Coverage / Internet WiFi / Mail
We had average cellular coverage with our T-Mobile phones but were only there for a night over the weekend, and didn’t do any work, so it was fine for our needs. We are not aware of any WiFi connectivity available through the campground, and there is nothing mentioned on the website about it. In our experience, Thousand Trails campgrounds and Encore RV RV parks generally offer their guests an internet option, so you might want to call and check the status for the time of your visit.
We don’t recommend having mail or packages sent to this campground, the current limitations of their damaged main office. But do check with their office staff for exceptional circumstances, like receiving medicines. We found the lady on-staff during our visit to be friendly and helpful.
RV Site Layout and Types
Campground sites at Pacific Dunes Ranch Campground all appear to be full hook-up sites with 50 amp power. There are two different types of campsites depending on rig size. Standard sites are for RVs smaller than 32 feet. Our 25-foot motorhome and Jeep mostly filled our site. We were originally allocated one of the larger sites further up the hill. But we asked for this smaller site instead, as it backed directly up to the dunes, and had no surrounding neighbors – just the cabins opposite.
The extra large sites are for RVs over 32 feet in length. Many of the larger RV sites were quite roomy, easily accommodating large motorhomes, fifth wheels, and trucks with room to spare.
All 48 of the standard RV sites are back-ins. There are 90 of the larger pull-through sites and 67 larger back-in sites. Their website points out reserving a large site does not guarantee a pull-through site.
There are also three cute cottages for rent at this campground if you or your friends don’t have an RV. But, one of those cottages is currently being used as the campground office, leaving only two available for quite a while. The cottages seemed relatively new and looked nice. They can sleep a family of four but do NOT allow pets.
Pacific Dunes Ranch has paved internal roads and relatively few obstacles at the ends of angled RV sites. So I consider this campground to be fairly friendly to big rigs. The upper and lower sections of the campground are quite level. The section between the lower and upper sections has a slight side-to-side lean, so many RVs need some leveling blocks. But overall, this campground is pretty good for finding level sites.
Nightly Rates at Pacific Dunes Ranch Campground
Current retail rates for non-members staying here are $84 per night for the standard sites and $90 for larger sites. The average nightly rate drops to $73 or $78 with a minimum 7-night stay.
What is the rate for Thousand Trails members?
Pacific Dunes Ranch is one of a handful of RV parks in the Trails Collection that charges $20 per night (plus tax) for RV camping. This is excellent value for being able to stay in such a nice location!
As members of Thousand Trails with the Trails Collection add-on, we could have stayed at this campground for twenty bucks. Members pay NO nightly fee to stay at Thousand Trails / Encore grounds. Except when staying at one of their premium parks, like Pacific Dunes Ranch, Marina Dunes RV Resort, and Sunshine Key RV Resort in the Florida Keys, as these charge $20 a night. But we chose not to … why?
Well, we had managed to score a 4-night reservation at the popular and highly desirable Marina Dunes RV Resort near Monterey, starting the next day. And one of the rules of the Trails Collection is that you cannot move directly from one Trails Collection resort to another. You have to stay out for a week in between. Unless you have the Trails Collection PLUS (available exclusively to those with the Adventure membership) when this restriction doesn’t apply.
We have the standard Trails Collection, so just paid the retail rate (less 20% member discount) for a night at Pacific Dunes Ranch, as it was on our wish list of places to see while in California. It just made more sense for us to use our Trails Collection to pay $20 a night for our 4-night stay at Marina Dunes. Our review on Marina Dunes is coming up this week, so keep an eye out for it, or sign up for our email updates.
For those who don’t have an RV, cottages are $211 nightly, or pay $181 nightly average with a minimum 7-night stay.
- Access to the sand dunes directly from the campground
- Nearby Pismo Beach and other area attractions
- Quiet peaceful campground despite being close to town and major highways
- Extremely affordable if you have a Thousand Trails camping membership with Trails Collection add-on
- Recent damage closed stables and main building
- Few amenities and basic RV sites
Pacific Dunes Ranch is a great campground to stay if you like sand dunes! You’re only a half-mile walk across those dunes to the beach. We really liked that it felt as though you were getting out of town, even though you were still only a few minutes away from restaurants, shopping, and other activities. Despite the recent storm damage that damaged the main office building and the stables next door, we still enjoyed our short stay here and would be happy to return. It’s a nice stopping point if you’re making your way up or down the California Coast!
Related: Read the comprehensive recap of our nine-week California RV trip, including all campground and travel costs, here.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any RV park, campground, or RV resort, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
To find out more or to make a reservation, contact:
Pacific Dunes Ranch Campground
1205 Silver Spur
Oceano, CA 93445
Email: [email protected]
Thousand Trails members should book directly through your online booking portal or via the phone/chat reservation system, not the park.
To learn more about how we save with our Thousand Trails camping membership, click here or complete the info request form below.
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