Northern California’s coastline and inland areas are among the most majestic natural territories in the United States. The deep blue Pacific is stunning against its backdrop of soaring coastal ridgelines, craggy bluffs, wild grown headlands, and redwood forests. There are a number of habitats located within the Bay Area. Sandy beaches, tide pools, salt marshes, chaparral, temperate rainforest, riparian and many others provide sanctuary to an abundance wildlife species.
Visitors can enjoy some of the country’s best hiking, biking, and equestrian trails within northern California’s regional and state parks on their getaway. Camping, rock climbing, boating, swimming are just a few of the other activities to be enjoyed. Here are our Top 25 Picks for places to camp in the Bay Area.
1. Angel Island State Park
Located on San Francisco Bay’s largest natural island, this state park boasts unrivaled views and miles of scenic hiking trails. Weekend visitors ferrying into the park will enjoy activities like biking, fishing, beach swimming, snorkeling, boating, and more.
Campsites include options for families and large groups. There are restrooms and a camp store on-site, as well as a café.
The island has a richly diverse history involving the native Coast Miwok tribe, Spanish Invaders, Chinese immigrants, foreign WWI and WWII prisoners of war, and US military operations. Families can visit the museum or opt for one of the island’s several guided tours, including a tram tour. Ferries to Angel Island embark from San Francisco. Browse our California weekend getaways guide for more ideas.
Ayala Cove, Belvedere Tiburon, CA, Phone: 415-435-1915
2. Anthony Chabot Regional Park
Boasting over 70 miles of hiking, biking, and riding trails, this regional park sits just 20 minutes outside of downtown Oakland. A cool water lake, Eucalyptus groves, tall grass prairies, and local chaparral provide the scenery. The park’s Anthony Chabot Family Campground overlooks Lake Chabot and hosts a total of 63 drive-in and walk-in campsites. There are also 12 RV/trailer campsites fully equipped with water, sewage, and electrical hook-ups. Each site is furnished with a fire ring, a grill, and a picnic table. Campers enjoy the luxury of hot water showers. Firewood and coal may be purchased on the grounds.
9999 Redwood Road, Castro Valley, CA, Phone: 888-327-2757
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3. Sonoma Coast State Park, Bay Area
Seventeen miles of beach, secluded coves, and grassy headlands form Sonoma’s craggy coastline. Bodega Harbor is a popular park destination for crabbing along the rocky jetty. Atop the headland forming the harbor are hiking trails, where visitors can spot the migration of gray whales, or meander to hidden coves. There are several beaches along the state park, each featuring a different attraction. Goat Rock beach is home to a colony of seals, Shell Beach is a fun place to explore tide pools and beachcomb, and Salmon Beach is popular for its lagoon, fishing, and great surf. There is a campground designated to hikers and bikers only, as well as three drive-in campgrounds equipped with primitive campsites.
CA-1, Bodega Bay, CA, Phone: 707-875-3483
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4. Bay Area Camping Spots: Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
Del Valle Lake, the regional park’s central attraction, is nestled deep within a rolling green valley, surrounded by gorgeous oak trees. The lake hosts an abundance of water activities such as fishing, boating, windsurfing, and swimming. Lifeguards are on duty during high season. Boasting nearly 5,000 acres of land, the park is also home to the 28-mile Ohlone Wilderness Trail, horse trails, and biking trails. Family, group, and equestrian campgrounds are on-site. There is parking, concessions, restroom, and a visitors’ center. Kayak and boat rentals are available. Guided tours of the lake are a great way to learn about the natural history of the area.
2950 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, CA, Phone: 888-327-2757, (website link)
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5. Butano State Park, Bay Area
The park sprawls across 4,000 acres of upland and cool canyons, filled with redwoods and babbling brooks. Forty miles of hiking trails pass through chaparral, oak woodland, and wet riparian ecosystems. Visitors will marvel at the diversity of plants and wildlife. There are eighteen walk-in campsites and twenty-one drive-in campsites, while the backcountry trail camp hosts another eight campsites. Restrooms with running water are located within the park, but showers are not provided. Drinking water is available. As a special treat for guests, the park offers Junior Ranger programs, campfire programs and guided nature walks.
1500 Cloverdale Road, Pescadero, CA, Phone: 650-879-2040
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6. Castle Rock State Park
The Robert C. Kirkwood entrance is the main access for Castle Rock State Park. Here, visitors can access parking, restrooms, water-fill stations, and also learn about the history of the area by observing interactive displays. The park is best known for its dense forests, sandstone walls, and infinite vistas. The Santa Cruz Mountain ridge provides thirty-four miles of rugged trail for hikers, backpackers, and horseback riders. Climbers will revel in the park’s enormous rock walls and caverns. The campground is a two-and-a-half-mile trek from parking and features twenty campsites. Trash bins, restrooms, fire rings, and picnic tables are provided on-site. There is no cell reception within the park.
15451 CA-35, Los Gatos, CA, Phone: 408-868-9540
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7. China Camp State Park
As a first stop, guests to the park should spend some time at the ranger station and visitor’s center. Interactive exhibits and docents provide visitors the opportunity to learn about the park’s natural history, the Coastal Miwok tribe, and the historic China Camp Village. Within the park, fifteen miles of hiking, road biking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails loop the San Pablo Bay. The bay itself offers recreational activities such as paddle boarding, kayaking, and sailing. (website link)
Launch areas are equipped with picnic tables, restrooms, and parking. The campground offers 33 walk-in, tent only campsites. Visitors may enjoy the luxury of wheeled carts to help transport gear. Food lockers, fire rings, and picnic tables are provided. Things to do in San Rafael
100 China Camp Village, San Rafael, CA, Phone: 415-488-5161
This self-identified “eco-adventure resort” takes glamping to a whole new level. Surrounded by pristine wilderness and secluded beaches, the retreat offers lodge suites, cabins, tent bungalows, and both tent and RV campgrounds with full hookups. Five star amenities are found within its “comfort station” which houses restrooms, private indoor and outdoor showers, a sauna, a courtyard fireplace, and even a laundry room. A spa, an organic garden restaurant, and a general store are on-site. The resort is connected to 30,000 acres of state park. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayaking, sightseeing, and yoga are among the activities to be enjoyed. Children will love the youth rock climbing wall, kids hiking trail, barn petting zoo, tie-dye craft activity, and more.
2001 Rossi Road at Highway 1, Pescadero, CA, Phone: 650-879-1100
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9. Del Valle Regional Park, Bay Area
This deep-valley lakeside resort features a 5-mile lake at its center. Visitors flock to the lake’s shores to enjoy boating, windsurfing, swimming, fishing, and more. Lifeguards are on watch during high season. Over 4,000 acres of oak trees is host to scenic hiking and riding trails. The 28-mile Ohlone Wilderness Trail, fit for serious hikers, can also be accessed here. There are 150 campsites on the Family Campground; 21 of the sites have full RV hookups. Large group campgrounds and an equestrian campground are also on-site. Toilets and showers are an added perk. Kayak and boat rentals are available. The visitor’s center offers educational tours of the lake. Things to Do in Livermore
7000 Del Valle Road, Livermore, CA, Phone: 510-544-3146
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10. Bay Area Camping Spots: Henry W. Coe State Park
Sprawling across 87,000 acres of rugged terrain, Coe Park is northern California’s largest state park. Visitors who enjoy wilderness will appreciate the park’s deep canyons, high ridges, dense forest, and immense fields overgrown by native plants and grasses. The Coyote Creek headwaters are located in the park. Guests can also access the waters of the Orestimba and Pacheco creeks, and there are several ponds and lakes to fish. Hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, and riding trails traverse the park. There are 19 drive-in campsites set atop a lofty ridge, each with a stunning view. The campsites are primitive, but have potable water and vaulted toilets. The parks hosts “geocaching”, a modern-day treasure hunt that is fun for the whole family.
9100 East Dunne Avenue, Morgan Hill, CA, Phone: 408-779-2728, (website link)
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11. Campgrounds in the Bay Area: Half Moon Bay State Park
Half Moon Bay stretches itself across four miles of sandy beach, backed by bluffs, native coastal plants, flowers and trees. The Coastside Trail offers a three-mile scenic walk, run, or bike ride with ocean views. Francis Beach, located within Half Moon Bay, hosts 52 campsites. Trailer and RV sites with electrical hookups are provided, while other campsites are designated to tent-only campers. Showers may be accessed by coin payment. Flush toilets are located at Venice Beach. The local organization “Kids2Parks” provides educational programs for grades K-12, that focus on coastal ecology. Teachers should plan to spend two hours per field trip. Things to Do in Half Moon Bay
95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA, Phone: 650-726-8819
12. Golden Gate National Recreation Area California
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Golden Gate recreation area travels 70 miles, to the north and south of the Golden Gate bridge. Towering redwoods, awe inspiring shoreline, breathtaking vistas, and coastal wilderness provide endless hours of exploration. There are a number of hiking trails, which vary in difficulty. Visitors may choose to traverse the bluffs, meander through forests, climb hillside switchbacks, or make their way to one of the area’s historical landmarks. A paved walking and biking trail provides yet another option. There are four secluded campgrounds within Golden Gate, located at the Marin Headlands. The campsites are tent-only. Water is not provided, and fires are not permitted.
Building 201, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA, Phone: 415-561-4700
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13. East Bay Regional Park District
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The East Bay Regional Park District is comprised of Almeda and Contra Costa county parks and trails. The system includes 73 parks, 1,250 miles of trails, and a whopping 125,000 acres of land. Visitors to the district’s parks can enjoy any number of outdoor recreational activities. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails abound. Summer favorites like camping, boating, and fishing are a wonderful way to bring the family together. A number of sites offer geocaching; a modern-day treasure hunt. There are a variety of nature-based kid's programs to choose from, as well as swim lessons, riding lessons, and day camps. The district also hosts a Junior Lifeguards program. Things to Do in Oakland
2950 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, CA, Phone: 888-327-2757
14. Kirby Cove Campground
Located at the historic Kirby Battery, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the cove boasts views of San Francisco and its surrounding coastline. Steep bluffs, craggy coastal terrain, and native trees paint themselves against a backdrop of ocean blue. The cove’s beach is nestled at the bottom of Marin Headlands, a mile-long trek down from the Battery Spencer parking lot. The path is surrounded by Blue Gum eucalyptus trees, Monterey pine, Cyprus trees, and coastal sage. Tent-only camping, fire pits, picnic areas, barbeques, and food lockers are located on the grounds. Guests can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing, bird watching, and berry picking. Water access and pit-style toilets are supplied. Things to Do in Sausalito
Marin Headlands Visitor Building, 948 Field Road, Sausalito, CA, Phone: 415-331-1540
15. Bay Area Camping Spots: Mount Diablo State Park
Best known for its remarkable summit views, Mount Diablo towers above vast green valleys and rolling hills. When clear sky conditions are present, visitors take in panoramic views that extend 200 miles out in all directions, towards northern California’s most memorable natural landmarks. The Summit Building has an observation deck equipped with telescopes, while the Diablo Valley Overlook boasts views of the Golden Gate Bridge. A visitor’s center showcases exhibits that reflect the cultural and natural history of the mountain. Kids will love visiting Rock City which is home to wind caves, Sentinel Rock, Elephant Rock, Fossil Ridge, and Artist’s Point. Campgrounds, hiking, and horseback riding are located within the state park.
2675 Mount Diablo Scenic Boulevard, Blackhawk, CA, Phone: 925-837-2525
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16. Mount Tamalpais State Park
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Tamalpais State Park is located to the north of the Golden Gate Bridge, boasting views that extend 25-miles beyond the Farallon Islands and out to sea. Visitors also enjoy views of San Francisco Bay, East Bay, and Mount Diablo. Cavernous canyons, redwood and oak forests, grasslands, and native chaparral areas are among the park’s habitats. Hiking and equestrian trails give guests a chance to view an abundance of local wildlife. There are two standard campgrounds and a third campground for group reservations. The Steep Ravine Cabins and Environmental Campground offers rustic seaside accommodations. A visitor’s center and an outdoor theatre are located within the park.
3801 Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley, CA, Phone: 415-388-2070
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17. Pantoll Campground
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The Pantoll Campground is a first come, first serve campground located within the Mount Tamalpais State Park. There are only sixteen campsites, so campers will want to plan ahead to secure a spot. Visitors can either drive-in or hike in, although there are no sites for RVs and no hookups. Vans are a great option, however. Campsites are set among towering trees and gorgeous wood views. Campfires are permitted and there are picnic tables at each site. Campers have access to flush toilets, firewood for purchase, and potable water. There are no showers. Pets are happily welcomed.
3801 Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley, CA, Phone: 415-388-2070
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18. Point Reyes National Seashore
Stormy waves, rocky headlands, and meandering beaches stretch along 80 miles of storybook shoreline. The park’s red roofed Point Reyes lighthouse has been recently renovated and contains a visitor’s center, restrooms, and an observation deck. Lucky guests may spot a California Grey Whale in migration. On land, 150 miles of hiking trails meander through wild grasses, native plants, and forested ridgelines. In total, the park spans 71,000 acres and several habitats, boasting robust biodiversity. There are over 1500 plant, marine, and animal species. Guests to Point Reyes will also appreciate its cultural history, which spans 5,000 years. Kids will love hiking, exploring tidepools, digging in the mudflats, and searching for critters during the annual summer camp.
1 Bear Valley Road, Point Reyes Station, CA, Phone: 415-464-5100
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19. Portola Redwoods State Park
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The park’s cool redwood forest grows densely beneath a steep ridgetop. Nearly 3,000 acres of woodland hosts 18 miles of hiking trails, bubbling creeks, mossy banks, huckleberries, and ferns. Refreshing waterfalls cascade down into Pescadero Creek and Fall Creek; scenic locations to stop for a rest. The park houses 55 family campsites and four tent-only group campsites. There are no RV hookups, but there are pay showers. Visitors may purchase firewood and water on-site. Families will want to make sure to pack in plenty of supplies, as the nearest gas station is 14 miles away. Activities include hiking, swimming, geocaching, and checking out the exhibits located within the visitor’s center. There is no cell reception in the park.
9000 Portola State Park Road, La Honda, CA, Phone: 650-948-9098, (website link)
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20. Campgrounds Near Me: Redwood Regional Park
Once a logging site, this hidden forest has regrown with redwoods 150 feet tall. Almost two acres of calm redwood groves contains wild grasses, chaparral, and evergreens. Redwood Creek, home of the Rainbow Trout species, flows through the park. A fish-way was built at the creek to help trout swim upstream, where their spawning grounds are located. There are several scenic picnic sites, a kids’ play area, a swimming pool, and archery located within the park. Forty miles of hiking and horseback riding trails give visitors a chance to enjoy the grandeur of the forest while observing some of the park’s wildlife. Group camp sites and restrooms are available. Drinking water may be purchased on-site.
7867 Redwood Road, Oakland, CA, Phone: 888-327-2757
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21. Samuel P Taylor State Park
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Nearly 3,000 acres of shaded redwood and oak forests create the park. Visitors can enjoy an easy stroll along the Lagunitas Creek, or cruise along its partially paved, three-mile bike trail. A moderately challenging hike ascends up to Barnabe Peak, one of the area’s most popular viewpoints. A plethora of hiking and horseback riding trails traverse the park. Lucky visitors get to observe salmon spawning and wildflowers in bloom. Scenic picnic areas, family campsites, and group campsites are available. The park also has newly constructed cabins, RV access, and an RV dump station. Restrooms and showers are on-site. Water is available for purchase. The visitor’s center hosts family programs, exhibits, guided tours, and geocaching.
8889 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Lagunitas, CA, Phone: 415-488-9897
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22. Steep Ravine Cabin & Campgrounds
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Nestled within the Mount Tamalpais State Park, the Steep Ravine Cabins & Campgrounds are comprised of 1940s era wooden structures, fully equipped with panoramic ocean views. Each sweet little cabin has its own wood stove and sleeping platforms. The cabins are also outfitted with picnic tables, benches, and a barbeque. There is no electricity or running water in the units. Faucets, firewood, and primitive toilets are a short walk away. Tent-only camping is available in the Environmental Campground. Each campsite has a food locker, fire pit, and a table. Potable water is available to all campers. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, beaching, fishing, and rock climbing are among the options for entertainment.
Rocky Point Road, Stinson Beach, CA, Phone: 415-388-2070
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23. Sweetwood Camp
Sweetwood Campground is located within the four-mile stretch of the Half Moon Bay State Beach, near HWY-1. Green grass clearings and coastal trees scatter across the campground. Campsites are equipped with fire pits, picnic benches, and primitive toilets. Sweetwood is nestled to the east of and between Venice Beach and Dunes Beach, just a short walk away. Both beaches have parking and restroom facilities, along with running water. Just a mile or two to the south of Sweetwood is Francis Beach, which hosts the park’s ranger station and visitor’s center. Amenities at Francis Beach also include picnic areas, barbecues, and an RV sanitation station.
95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA, Phone: 650-726-8819
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24. Bay Area Campgrounds: Wright's Beach Campground
Located within the Sonoma Coast State Park, this campground has twenty-seven seaside campsites. An expansive beach and ocean waves provide scenery for the campground, which is nestled in among a thick cluster of trees. Each site is outfitted with a fire ring, picnic table, and a paved parking spur. Restrooms have flush toilets and running water, although there are no showers. Registered campers are welcome to use the coin operated showers and water fill station at the Bodega Dunes Campground, which is about five miles to the south. The campground does not have RV hookups.
7095 CA-1, Bodega Bay, CA, Phone: 707-875-3483
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