The 10 Most Spectacular Camping Destinations Near San Francisco

|July 7, 2017

We count ourselves lucky to live in such an incredible city. After all, San Francisco is home to the friendliest people, the best food and a thriving economy — not to mention all of the incredible opportunities for outdoor adventures. When you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, the hundreds of nearby campgrounds offer a safe haven to settle down for a night under the stars.

While there are plenty to choose from, some stand apart from the rest, offering spectacular views or quirky experiences worth bragging about. We’ve gathered up 10 camping destinations near San Francisco that we think should be on everyone’s bucket list, because they’re certainly on ours.

Read on to learn all about them, but be warned, these destinations are known to cause serious cases of wanderlust.

Kirby Cove

Kirby Cove

Photo courtesy of Emily Staples of RootsRated

Nestled just north of the Golden Gate bridge lies Kirby Cove. This spot welcomes hikers for picnics, beachgoers looking to bask in the sun, and even overnight campers. The highly sought after camping spots (there are five) allow you to sleep on the coast in the shadow of San Francisco’s most famous landmark, and offer unparalleled panoramic views of the city. It’s the perfect getaway for couples, groups of friends, and families alike — and you don’t even have to leave the city to get there.

Huckleberry Campground

Huckleberry

Photo courtesy of John Cody via Outdoor Project

If you still haven’t gotten comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a tent, then Huckleberry Campground might be right up your alley. Here, you’ll be able to stay in a rustic cabin among the giant redwood trees in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. By day, you’ll have access to scenic hiking trails featuring wildlife, waterfalls and plenty of shade! Looking for a more primitive experience? Fear not — there are traditional car-camping and walk-in tent spaces available as well.

Mount Tamalpais State Park

Photo courtesy of Kelly Dunleavy O’Mara via RootsRated

Located less than 15 miles from downtown San Francisco, Mount Tamalpais State Park is a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers and campers looking to escape the concrete jungle for a weekend. Only some campsites are open for reservations, and the rest are walk-in.  This is a bit refreshing for those of us that don’t plan six months in advance, but those walk-in sites will be full during the summer months — so get there as early as you can! Our favorite campgrounds are Pantoll, which is just a short hike from the parking lot, and Alice Eastwood, which is perfect for large parties. Make camp and then head out to explore the nearby trails.

Steep Ravine

Steep Ravine

Photo courtesy of Emily Staples via RootsRated

Steep Ravine is actually located within Mount Tamalpais State Park (mentioned above) but offers a completely different experience. If you’re quick enough to grab a reservation at this popular campground, you’ll be treated to a cliffside retreat that looks like it was snagged straight from a fairytale. There are nine cozy cabins that overlook the ocean, and several spaces to pitch a tent nearby. After you get settled, swing your legs over the cliffside and watch the sunset (you might even see some whales), and cook your dinner over the firepit.

Bicentennial Campground

Bicentennial

Photo courtesy of Christie Pierce via Outdoor Project

Bicentennial Campground is consistently rated among the best our area has to offer, and it’s no wonder why — the view is absolutely incredible. The campsite itself rests in a sheltered area overlooking the bay and the famous Golden Gate Bridge and offers access to tons of nearby hiking trails. While you’re exploring, you’ll no doubt run into plenty of photo opportunities, and probably some black-tailed deer to boot.

Sky Camp at Point Reyes National Park

Sky Camp

Photo courtesy of Brandon Katcher via Outdoor Project

Point Reyes National Park houses a handful of campsites (all amazing in their own right), but our favorite is Sky Camp. Unfortunately, this is also the most popular of the bunch, so it will likely fill up quickly. If you’re early enough to reserve one of the 12 spots here, you’ll camp 1,000 feet above sea level in a picturesque clearing. You have to hike in to find it, but it’s an easy jaunt at two miles.

Ridge Camp at Angel Island State Park  

Angel Island

Photo courtesy of Basil Newburn via Outdoor Project

Angel Island State Park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and is located just a short ferry ride away across the bay. Since the island is not very sheltered, you’ll want to bring warmer clothes to protect yourself from the chilly sea breeze, but the chill will be well worth it! There are several spots to make camp in the park, but Ridge Camp offers views of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz. Additionally, the sites are well-spaced, allowing you to have some privacy and enjoy your own little slice of heaven at Angel Island.

Mount Diablo State Park

Mount Diablo

Photo courtesy of Ilya Katsnelson via RootsRated

Mount Diablo is a small peak, sitting at just 3,849 feet above sea level. Nonetheless, it offers incredible views of the surrounding area. On a clear day, expect to see scenery spanning 40,000 square miles in total, including peaks, valleys, rivers and even parts of Yosemite National Park. You can reach this view by road, but hikers challenge themselves to conquer the trails nonetheless.

Regardless of your travel method, we recommend making camp overnight to fully experience the trails and scenery the park has to offer. Campsites include Juniper, which is the most popular sitting two miles beneath the summit off of the main road, Live Oak, which is just one mile from the entrance, and Junction, which houses six first-come-first-serve sites. Once you’ve made camp, trek around on the 150 miles of trails in the park, but leave Fido at home. Dogs are allowed at the campsites, but not the trails.

Black Mountain Backpack Camp

Black Mountain

Photo courtesy of Basil Newburn via Outdoor Project

Those used to paying upwards of $25 to book a campsite for a night will be thrilled at the mere $2 fee required to stay at Black Mountain. The campground is tucked in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, just a short drive from Silicon Valley. Reserve your spot (you might be able to snag a spot within the week) and plan your trip. The best option is to leave early enough in the afternoon to make it up to your campsite before the sun sets (you’ll need to hike a bit over a mile to get there) — and then enjoy views of the mountain and ocean as the dark settles.

Some things to note: campfires are not allowed so bring your stove! Also, water is not potable at the site, so carry enough drinking water to get you through the night.

Haypress in Tennessee Valley

Haypress

Photo courtesy of Emily Staples via RootsRated

If you’re looking for a leisurely backpacking route through wildflowers and with intermittent views of the Pacific ocean, make your way to the Tennessee Valley pronto. Haypress will be your camping destination but requires just a short, scenic hike to get there. Once you arrive, fall in love with the colorful meadows and private beach that this retreat offers. The area is laid back and does not require a reservation or even a camping fee, but we do recommend that you get an early start, especially if you’re looking to secure a spot over the weekend. Even though the spot is just a short drive from civilization, the lack of cell phone service and truly spectacular scenery will make this seem like a true wilderness getaway.

Phew! That was In(Tents).

Ready to hit the trails? Let us know where you’ll be camping this summer in the comments! We’re always on the lookout for recommendations.

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