This post was updated on April 16, 2019 to include up-to-date information and recommendations.
We count ourselves lucky to live in the 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. And when you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle, you’ll find hundreds of nearby campgrounds that offer natural getaways and serenity.
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 nine 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 about each one and locate them on the interactive map below. But be warned, these camping spots and parks will cause serious wanderlust.
Distance from San Francisco: 10 minutes
Golden Gate National Recreation Area consists of 80,000 acres spanning from San Francisco over the bridge to Marin County and even has land in parts of San Mateo County. Through all of those areas, you can explore 19 distinct ecosystems with more than 2,000 plant and animal species alongside historic exhibits of California’s indigenous cultures, Spanish colonialism, the Mexican Republic, US military expansion and the growth of San Francisco. The section of the park we love most for camping is located in Marin County, just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Here, you’ll find four different campgrounds: Bicentennial Campground open year-round, Hawk Camp Campground and Haypress Campground which are available for free tent camping, and Kirby Cove Campground & Picnic Area. The Bicentennial Campground is the most accessible campground in Golden Gate and the quiet, secluded Haypress Campground is located in the Tennessee Valley at the north end of the Marin Headlands. To learn more about all four and make reservations, click here.
Kirby Cove Campground & Picnic Area
Distance from San Francisco: 10 minutes
Though located in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, we separated Kirby Cove because it’s the region’s most popular campsite and it’s located on the coast of the Marin Headlands. The picturesque spot welcomes hikers, day use picnickers, beachgoers and overnight campers in highly sought after camping spots. These five sites allow you to sleep on the coast in the shadow of San Francisco’s most famous landmark and they offer unparalleled panoramic views of the city. It’s the perfect getaway for couples, groups of friends and families alike, just be sure to reserve your spot several months in advance. To make your reservation, click here.
Distance from San Francisco: 20 minutes
Located less than 15 miles from the heart of the city, Mount Tamalpais State Park is one of the most popular destinations for hikers, mountain bikers and campers looking to escape the hustle and bustle. The park’s main attraction is the 2,571-foot peak which offers panoramic views of the Farallon Islands, the Marin County hills, San Francisco Bay, the East Bay and Mount Diablo, but the sprawling landscape of the park offers several different environments for exploration and camping. Overnight campers can stay in walk-in or reservation campgrounds or in rustic view cabins at Steep Ravine and on private property at West Point Inn. The overnight accommodations include environmental campsites, rustic campgrounds, family and group campsites, and hike-in or bike-in campsites. To make reservations online and learn more, click here.
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Encompassing much of the western coastline in Marin County, Point Reyes National Seashore is a vast expanse of protected coastline offering rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches, open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges. And the area’s campsites are some of the most sought-after for their uniqueness. Accommodations include year-round backcountry camping along Drakes Bay and amongst the hills and valleys of the Phillip Burton Wilderness, and boat-in camping on the west shore of Tomales Bay. The backcountry sites can only be accessed by hiking, biking or horseback riding while the Tomales Bay boat-in sites are accessible only by kayak, canoe, small motorboat or small sailboat. To see a map of boat-in campsites, click here, and to learn more about all camping and activities in the park, click here.
Distance from San Francisco: 15 minutes by ferry
The largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island has a dense history that dates back to the Coast Miwok and includes over 100 years of military history. To get to the island, you’ll have to take a ferry—like Blue & Gold Fleet from San Francisco or Angel Island Tiburon Ferry from Tiburon. Then, the hikes, the bike rides, the 360-degree views and the campsites await. These include environmental campsites, family and group campsites, and hike-in primitive campsites. One of these hike-in sites is Ridge which offers up to six sites and expansive views of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz. To learn more and make reservations, click here.
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Located just southeast of Walnut Creek, Mount Diablo State Park is named for the isolated, 3,849-foot peak that offers sweeping views of the entire Bay Area. On a clear day, you can expect to see scenery spanning 40,000 square miles, including peaks, valleys, rivers and even parts of Yosemite National Park. Campers can settle into sites available for families and groups, open to RVs, and sites only accessible by hike or bike. These include Juniper which is the most popular and sits just two miles beneath the summit, Live Oak which is just one mile from the entrance, and Junction which offers six first come, first served sites. For more information and online reservations, click here.
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour
Named for the Italian phrase meaning beautiful mountain, Monte Bello Open Space Preserve encompasses 3,436 acres and is one of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s richest in wildlife and ecosystem diversity. It’s also home to Black Mountain Backpack Camp, the only campsite on District lands where visitors can spend the night under the stars. Only 30 minutes from the midpeninsula cities below, the camp often serves as the first stopping place for backpackers wishing to hike from the valley to the coast. The best part is overnight camping is just $2 per person per night—much less that other campsites around the Bay Area and on this list. For full information on Black Mountain, click here.
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is operated by the Napa Open Space District and offers year-round camping, picnicking, hiking and seasonal swimming. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the park’s spring-fed swimming pool is open to park guests and other attractions include more than 10 miles of hiking trails and 1,900 acres of wilderness. Overnight visitors can stay at walk-in campsites set back in the canyons or in yurts with cots and tables or in cabins with full kitchens and bathrooms. To learn more about making reservations and to take 3D tours of the accommodations, click here.
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest state park and it’s located just under 2 hours from the city near the Pacific Ocean and Santa Cruz. Home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, the park’s main attractions are ancient coast redwoods that date back 1,000 and 1,800 years and that stand as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Big Basin’s 142-site campground rests under the ancient redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains and is available for $35 per night with a $10 per night fee for additional vehicles. Guests can choose to stay in tent cabins, at the horse camp with your own horses or at the Little Basin Concession Group Campground, a 534-acre California State Parks campground that was recently added to the park. For more information, click here.
Are you a Bay Area camper?
In the comments below, let us know where you love camping in the Bay Area! Unless, of course, it’s a secret.