San Luis Reservoir Recreation Area is a public recreation area in California near Gustine in Merced County, offering a multitude of outdoor recreation alongside a camping experience that isn’t to be missed. The campgrounds are equipped with modern facilities that will add to the comfort of your visit—the greatest being the availability of Wi-Fi. Camping is offered year-round, and April through September are the most crowded times of the year.
There is so much to explore and enjoy at the park. RV campers are entertained with an abundance of outdoor activities in the form of both water and land recreation. Three beautiful lakes, O’ Neill Forebay, San Luis Reservoir, and Los Banos Creek Reservoir, allow campers to relax and rejuvenate their senses with sports like boating, fishing, and swimming.
Five picnic sites along the shores of O’ Neill Forebay invite campers with picnics on their minds. There are opportunities for horseback riders to enjoy both equine camping and horseback riding. Hiking and bicycling are also favorite activities at the park. If you are curious to learn more about the historical and geographical aspects of the region, stop your trailer by the Visitor Center near the Romero Overlook Trail to discover little-known facts about the reservoirs and major water projects.
RV Rentals in San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area
Transportation in San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area
San Luis Reservoir Recreation Area can be accessed in less than half an hour via car or RV from the City of Merced. Just off of Interstate 5, you can get here from San Jose in about an hour from the northwest or less than an hour from Salinas to the southwest. The park is right off of CA-152 and can be easily reached with any size RV or camper. However, you will need to take it slow on some of the more winding roads near US-101 and as you get closer to the lake.
The park lies within the western side of San Joaquin Valley near the mountainous Pacheco State Park and Upper Cottonwood Creek Wildlife Area, which are less than 15 miles away. If you are headed to the Los Banos Creek Campground, you will need to go a bit further south on CA-152, where it meets Canyon Road.
Campgrounds and parking in San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area
Campsites in San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area
San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area also boasts two extra-large group campgrounds along the shores of the O’Neill Forebay. Group Camp A accommodates up to 60 people and 15 vehicles. This campsite has 10 concrete picnic tables with ramadas for shade, several campfire rings with grills for cooking, and tons of space to spread out and have fun. Group Camp B has room for up to 30 people and 10 vehicles. There are five concrete tables with ramadas, several fire pits with grills, and lots of room to play or hang out around the fire. There are no hookups, but there are modern restrooms with running water and showers with hot water. Go ahead and bring your pooch but make sure they are leashed or otherwise restrained while you are here. Both sites are only available by reservation.
The Basalt Campground is the only campground on San Luis Reservoir, and it has 79 spacious campsites. The campground sits near the reservoir in a well-shaded, wind-protected valley featuring family and pet-friendly campsites. On-site amenities include water faucets, modern restrooms with running water, hot showers, and flush toilets. There is also an RV dump station for your convenience. Each of the campsites here has a picnic table, fire ring, and BBQ grill with plenty of room to hang out around the fire. There are no hookup sites in the campground. Not all, but some sites accommodate campers, motorhomes, and trailers up to 30 feet in length. Others offer accommodations for vehicles smaller than 30 feet. Camping is a year-round activity, and the campground offers reservations.
San Luis Creek Campground
Offering both water and electrical hookups, San Luis Creek Campground is one of the two camp areas situated near O’Neill Forebay and the only one with hookups. There are 53 campsites, all boasting electric (30-amp), and water connections. A few campsites offer excellent views of the shore. The campground is not very well shaded and is prone to disturbances from the winds.
The maximum length for RVs like campers, motorhomes, and trailers is 30 feet or less. Each site comes with a level pad, a campfire ring with a grill for cooking, and a concrete picnic table. There are no flush toilets or showers. A dump station is available. Campers can use the new five-mile accessible trail to get to the North Beach Day Use Area. Pets are welcome as long as they are restrained, and reservations are recommended.
Los Banos Creek Campground
Also known for its excellent fishing, the Los Banos Creek Campground has 20 primitive sites on the shoreline of the Los Banos Creek and Reservoir. The fishing is so impressive here that they sometimes host fishing derbies for bass, but you can also catch massive crappie and bluegill. Each of the 20 sites has a concrete picnic table with a ramada for shade and a fire ring with a grill for cooking.
The sites here are smaller than the other campgrounds, making this a good option for those with smaller RVs or campervans. Potable drinking water spigots are available, as are chemical toilets and boating areas. You can bring your furbaby, too, as long as you keep your pet properly restrained and supervised while you are here. These are all first-come, first-served campsites, so arrive early in the day if you want to get one of these spots.
This campground boasts 350 primitive campsites on the southern shores of O’Neill Forebay that can accommodate RVs of any size. Although there are no hookups available, there are a bunch of vault toilets and several potable water spigots available among the campsites. Many of the sites have a campfire ring with a grill to cook on, a large concrete picnic table, and some have a ramada for shade.
At the Medeiros Campground, you are only a few miles from the boat ramp, and this part of the lake is known for its huge striped bass. Pets are welcome but must be supervised and restrained at all times. All sites are on a first-come, first-served basis, and although there are 350 sites, they will fill up fast in the summertime. They may not have showers and playgrounds, but they do have waterfront camping, and no reservations are needed.
Seasonal activities in San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area
Swimming and Boating
San Luis Reservoir Recreation Area comprises three beautiful lakes: O’ Neill Forebay, San Luis Reservoir, and Los Banos Creek Reservoir. The lakes are jam-packed with visitors and campers during the summer season. A large number of RV campers love cooling off in the summer heat at these lakes. The favorite activities at the lake include swimming and boating. There is no beach in the park, but still swimming is one of the most attractive recreations at the lake. Boating is also allowed in all of the three lakes —follow the speed limit rules different for different lakes.
If getting wet is not a part of your plans for this California RV camping trip, there is an abundance of recreation awaiting you on the land. Picnicking is one such activity. Five picnic shelters for large group gatherings can be found near the shores of O’ Neill Forebay on both North and South Beach Day-Use Areas. The shelters feature plenty of shade, ramadas, lush green grass, BBQ grills, and cemented tables. Simply put, there is everything you need to make your picnic a joyful success.
Horseback Riding and Biking
Camping with horses is incredible, and San Luis Reservoir Recreation Area has plenty of recreation that includes your horses. So, what are you waiting for? Book an RV campsite for yourself in the horse camp. And while you are camping, take your horse along with you on the equine trails to enjoy a spectacular horseback ride through some incredibly scenic locations. You can also enjoy biking on the California Aqueduct Bikeway, part of which begins from the San Luis Creek.
Take a stroll in nature’s wonderland by hiking the beautiful trails of San Luis Reservoir Recreation Area. You must not miss hiking the Basalt Campground Trail, which you will discover in no time by walking a little to the right of its namesake campground. The six-mile round Lone Oak Trail is for those who are looking for a more strenuous hike uphill above the lake. The trail begins at the parking lot by the boat ramp, making it easier for those who wish to park their RVs aside.
If you love the snow-covered wintry outdoors, bring your GPS and get set geocaching— the sport is a wonderful means of enjoying your favorite winter scenery. It’s just like treasure hunting; only there is a real treasure to find. Several geocaches are hidden at numerous locations of the park. You will be rummaging quite a lot, and isn’t this a fancy way of trying to keep yourselves fit? Also, geocaching in winter can be double the fun—how about snowshoeing and geocaching at the same time?
If you visit during the off-season, you may make use of the hunting opportunities at San Luis if a hunting season is in swing during your visit. Mostly hunting is allowed during the off-season, and you can hunt waterfowl in selected areas of the park. Hunting is not permitted near the lakes, boat ramps, and campgrounds within a distance of 500 feet to ensure the safety of other visitors. Only licensed hunters are allowed to indulge in the sport. There are also opportunities for the beginners on a one square mile flat ground within the park.