Sometimes you want to relieve old memories and it doesn’t live up to expectations and sometimes it does. I hadn’t been here in 20 years and didn’t remember much from that visit as I was mostly just photographing but my expectations were high though because I used to love Knott’s Berry Farm in the 60s as a child and this San Bernardino county park was actually started by the Knott’s Berry Farm family. I was not disappointed. Nowadays, kids expect fancy rides and expensive entertainment and I’m so glad to see that this county park has not succumbed but retains it’s 1950s charm, when it was first purchased and preserved by Walter Knott.
Just up in the hills from Barstow and I-15, the campground is nestled right next to the old mining town. I stayed for a week and had so much fun walking with the dogs up to the little town every day. There is also a large parking lot for people that just come for the day but the town entrance is free for campers. Everything is open year round except for Christmas and when I visited in January, it was very uncrowded which was really nice. There are gift shops, museums, restaurants, and activities, all with the old west theme, and everything is dog-friendly. You can’t take your dog in the general store but everything else is fine. There is even a dog biscuit store named after a famous Calico dog, Dorsey, who helped deliver the mail.
I can imagine that the campground gets a little crowded during periods like spring break. A store owner told me the high season is April/May. The camping sites all have full hook up but they are very close together. In some, you might even have difficulty opening your slides. Fortunately, I had no one on either side of me except for one side for 2 days. And as I write this, during the middle of the week, there are only 2 other campers in the same area. The ground is not paved and many of the picnic tables are missing. When I arrived after dark, there were no lights anywhere and I had a lot of trouble figuring out where my spot was. There doesn’t seem to be a campground host but I did see San Bernardino County trucks drive by once a day while I was here.
However, if you are really into that rustic desert Old West charm, then you have it in droves here. There are also a lot of hiking opportunities, just watch out for abandoned mines, which dot the landscape. All of the activities are dog friendly and only a few dollars each. Those include the Mystery Shack, the train, gold panning, and the Maggie Mine Tour. Just a note of caution — both of my dogs got partially stuck in the turnstile at the end of the mine tour because they didn’t understand how it works and tried to go backwards after we started going through. Next time, I hold the little dog.
I had one of the best burgers I’ve ever had at the Calico House Restaurant. It was a double burger, grilled, and had jack cheese and a chili pepper. It also came with really wonderful home made potato chips. I had a local beer on tap which was quite good too. I would have eaten here more times but I needed to clean out my fridge before taking my MH in for servicing. I also bought some fudge at the sweet shop and she told me that the fudge is made right in town.
It was never crowded and most of the other visitors were either foreigners visiting on tour busses or who had rented motorhomes, or families with pre-school kids. I can imagine it gets a lot wilder with visitors closer to spring. There are no other facilities for campers but the restaurant does open one hour earlier for campers than for day visitors. And you can order breakfast or dinner ahead of time and pick it up.
- Dog friendly almost everywhere
- Full hookups
- Restaurants and stores within walking
- Places to hike
- Rustic and not maintained as much as it could be
- Small sites
- Lots of rocks, be careful walking and taking dogs