We travel to Santa Cruz area frequently to visit my sister and her family. Finding a campground in this area is alway difficult, but some years ago we found Pinto Lake Park RV Campground. Initially, we were there in February and were only one of two campers in the park. Since that time we have been there in all seasons and have learned to make reservations if we are traveling during school vacation times.
Pinto Lake is a beautiful 10,000 year-old lake is located midway between Santa Cruz and Monterey. Pinto Lake itself covers 110 acres and is one of the few natural fresh water lakes of its size on the Central California Coast. Pinto Lake is fed by several creeks, including Pinto Creek, and drains into Corralitos Creek.
There are nature trails around the lake with trail markers that highlight the wildlife which can be viewed along the trail. Pinto Lake is also one of the designated sites for the Annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival held in September. The California Department of Fish and Game has listed 133 species of birds at Pinto Lake. The site also includes the nesting areas (rookeries) for Great Blue Herons and Night Herons.
One interesting development happened in March of 2016. A 1/2 acre chunk of land broke off the lake’s rim and began floating around the lake. This floating island became fixed just next to the boat launch. See this link to watch efforts to move the island with an aquamog. We were at the campground when they pulled the aquamog out of the lake.
Pinto Lake County Park includes an extensive network of hiking trails, a bike path, picnic facilities, and a fishing pier. The campground is a city park owned by the city of Watsonville, California. It is run by an independent contractor who is friendly and keeps the park clean and well maintained. The Pinto Lake RV Campground is located at the end of Pinto Lake next to the boat docks. There are playgrounds and picnic areas nearby.
The 28 grassy sites are back-in 50′ x 15′. There is electricity (30 amp), city water, and sewer at each site, but no tables or grills. Fire rings allowed in picnic area adjacent to campground. The gate is locked at night, but you get a key when you register. ($5.00 deposit that is returned when you leave.)
The park provides motorized and non-motorized boat rentals as well as fishing pole rentals and bait for sale.
How to Get There
From California Highway 1 south in Watsonville, California, exit onto Airport Boulevard, on Green Valley Road make a left. From Highway 1 north, take the Airport Boulevard exit, turn left onto Airport Blvd to Green Valley Road, go left. You will go past Pinto Lake City Park and will see Pinto Lake County Park. Make a left turn into the park. The address is
Pinto Lake Park
757 Green Valley Road, Watsonville