Spend the night, but abandon the tent


For some of us, the great outdoors are great until bedtime, when we prefer a real bed to a sleeping bag, and a shelter with floors and walls rather than flaps and zippers. Fortunately, California State Parks offer a wide variety of options for the less intrepid travelers, from mountain cabins and beach cabins to old and modern hotels. Below are some highlights, in alphabetical order; book through www.reservecalifornia.com or by calling (800) 444-7275, unless otherwise specified. (The prices listed were the lowest available at the time of publication, excluding taxes and fees.)

Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds

Between 1913 and 1931, architect Julia Morgan of Hearst Castle designed 13 Arts & Crafts structures, including rustic pavilions and a large dining room, for what was originally a YWCA summer camp on the Monterey Peninsula. Check into one of the 312 vintage or more contemporary rooms, then follow walks through the adjacent 25-acre unspoiled dunes to the white sands of Asilomar State Beach. Some rooms have a fireplace, but none have a telephone or television, in keeping with the coastal serenity.

Premium: Heated swimming pool, restaurant and café.

Vital: Off Sunset Drive, Pacific Grove. (831) 646-6440, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=566. Reservations, (888) 635-5310, www.visitasilomar.com. Starting at $ 152.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Home to thousand-year-old coastal redwoods, the oldest state park (founded in 1902) could easily have been on the list of its 40 tent-cabins (www.bigbasintentcabins.comEven more appealing, however, is the park’s 534-acre enclave known as Little Basin, a former retreat for Hewlett Packard employees. Groups of four or more can claim one of its 12 fortified cabins, offering heaters, electricity and mattresses; shared bathrooms are a short walk away.

Premium: Tennis, basketball and volleyball courts with equipment.

Vital: Off the highway. 236 Boulder Creek. Grand Bassin, (831) 338-8860, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=540. Petit Bassin, (831) 338-3314, www.petitbasin.org; cabins starting at $ 105.

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

A yurt pictured at Bothe-Napa State Park Campground in Napa, California on Sunday March 12, 2017.
A yurt pictured at Bothe-Napa State Park Campground in Napa, California on Sunday March 12, 2017.Alex Washburn / The Chronicle

Who said accommodation in the Land of Wines had to cost an arm and a leg? This lush 1,900-acre coastal redwood and Douglas-fir park between Calistoga and St. Helena features five restored period cabins with full kitchens and private bathrooms (bring your own linens) as well as 10 furnished yurts; some allow pets at an additional cost. Cool off in the spring-fed pool on summer weekends.

Premium: Visitor center with Wappo artifacts, Calistoga shuttle service ($ 1).

Vital: highway. 29 at Larkmead Lane,

Calistoga. (707) 942-4575, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=477.

Chalets starting at $ 150, yurts starting at $ 70.

Crystal Cove State Park

Plan to book six months in advance to purchase one of Crystal Cove’s 24 restored cottages, built in the 1930s and 1940s as part of a private beach and clifftop community in the Orange County. Ten cottages offer private dormitory-style rooms with shared bathroom, living room and kitchen. All come with a

vintage fridge and microwave, but the layouts and decor are unique (details, https://crystalcove.org). Anyone can enjoy a meal with an ocean view at the park’s Beachcomber Cafe, inside another of the original 46 cottages.

Premium: Rental of deckchairs, umbrellas and towels.

Vital: Off the Pacific Coast Highway

between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. (949) 494-3539, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=644. Rooms starting at $ 36, cabins starting at $ 179.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

If you’re a fan of towering trees, but not so much knotty pine paneling, you’ll appreciate the two-bedroom, one-bathroom mountain cabins at this famous Calaveras County park named for its two giant redwood groves. Steps from the North Grove Trail, the four post-war cabins feature white walls, kitchens, living rooms with futons, bathrooms with showers / tubs, and changing rooms.

Premium: Cross-country ski trail with heated cabin.

Vital: 4 miles northeast of Arnold on the highway. 4. (209) 795-3840, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=28069. Starting at $ 165.

Columbia State Historic Park

Take your time wandering around this Gold Rush-era town in North Sonora – you can still stay overnight at one of two elegant Victorian inns, the Columbia City and Fallon Hotels. Both floors they have been updated with heating, air conditioning and private half-baths (showers in the hallway); for more privacy, book one of three quaint cabins, ranging from 1870 to 1930, and one to three bedrooms.

Premium: How many other parks have a saloon or ice cream parlor?

Vital: 11255 Jackson St., Colombia. (209) 588-9128, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=27907. Rooms starting at $ 55, cabins starting at $ 127.

Columbia State Historic Park
Columbia State Historic ParkCalifornia State Parks, 2018

San Diego Old Town State Historic Park

Tourists and schoolchildren flock to the urban reserve celebrating California’s Spanish, Mexican and American heritage. The Casa de Bandini, an adobe built in 1827, became a two-story hotel, stagecoach, olive cannery, and Mexican restaurant before returning to its 1870s incarnation as a Cosmopolitan hotel. A 10-room bed-and-breakfast, the hotel sits just off the lively square, with a popular restaurant; room amenities include earplugs for light sleepers.

Premium: Free reserved parking for hotel guests, afternoon snack.

Vital: 2660 Calhoun Street, San Diego. Park, (619) 220-5422, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=663. Reservations, (619) 297-1874, www.oldtowncosmopolitan.com. Starting at $ 139.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

The Big Sur River weaves its way through peaks and forests, creating a woodland setting for the 62 rooms and cottages at Big Sur Lodge. Nicely renovated in 2017, all offer terraces to enjoy the green view; some include a kitchenette and a fireplace. Sample the hospitality of the indoor-outdoor restaurant by the creek, which also has an espresso bar, perfect for recharging your batteries before or after the hike.

Premium: Swimming pool, bar and souvenir shop.

Vital: 47225 Highway 1, Big Sur. (831) 649-2836, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=570. Reservations, (831) 667-3100, (800) 424-4787, www.bigsurlodge.com. Rooms starting at $ 247, cabins starting at $ 295.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Station Historical Park

While this 115-foot lighthouse south of Pescadero no longer relies on its Fresnel lens to light up the waves, it’s still a dramatic sight, as does the rugged headland with pocket beaches. Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel offers simple but comfortable dorm beds, family rooms, and private rooms in four former Coast Guard houses, including kitchens.

Premium: Cliffside hot tub in the old fog signal building.

Vital: 210 Pigeon Point Road, Pescadero. (650) 879-2120, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=533. Reservations, www.hiusa.org, (650) 879-0633. Dorms from $ 30; private rooms with shared bathroom from $ 84 and private bathroom from $ 192.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Station State Historic Park
Pigeon Point Lighthouse Station State Historic ParkCalifornia State Parks, 2018

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse Station Historical Park

Perched on a spectacular headland between Mendocino and Fort Bragg, the spacious former quarters of the Principal and Assistant Lighthouse Keepers (four and three bedrooms each) offer stunning views of the 1909 lighthouse, ocean and coastline as well as modern kitchens . Two one-bedroom cabins, converted from sheds, only have a microwave and refrigerator, but equally impressive views. There is no internet, cell phone or TV signal here to distract from the rugged beauty of the North Coast.

Premium: Museum, aquarium exhibit and gift shop.

Vital: 45300 lighthouse road, Mendocino. (707) 937-6122, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=22276. Reservations, (707) 937-5033, www.mendocinovacations.com. Cottages starting at $ 263, houses starting at $ 850.

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