UPDATED SEP 14, 2020
California is an outdoor playground ripe with hikes, amazing views, and beautiful places to pitch a tent. Jumpstart your next adventure with this guide to some of the best camping spots nearby.
If you've ever wished you could sleep in the redwoods, you’re in luck. Make the trip to California’s oldest state park (just south of Santa Cruz) for a magical experience. Hike some of the park's 80 miles of trails to explore the redwood groves and the coastline. And at night, set up camp in one of the many walk-in campgrounds for a peaceful camping adventure.
If you want to escape the crowds, look no further than Lassen. A four-hour drive north, this national park gives campers the option to backpack the trails around its lakes, or settle into a waterside campsite complete with hammocks. For a multi-day backpacking trip, start by Summit Lake and head toward Echo Lake. Follow the figure-eight trail loop and pass the park’s famous Cinder Cone. Otherwise, post up by Echo Lake for a few days out in the wild.
This nifty little spot is the perfect overnight for San Franciscans who travel light. We hope you splurged on that backpacking tent because it will come in handy when biking to your campsite just outside the city. Tucked in San Rafael, this coastal nook has both hiking trails and beach access. It also has drinking water on-site (that’s big), so don't have to worry about lugging water jugs across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Ditch the car and take a ferry to this island campsite in the Bay. Because of its close proximity to the city, Angel Island is prime SF camping territory. So plan on booking way in advance (several months at least) for this one, as it's a super popular spot to pitch a tent. Once off the ferry, it's just a short hike to the campsites. The best part? Incredible views of the San Francisco skyline.
Point Reyes is another great hike-in campsite an hour north of the city. So much more than just its grassy pastures, it also has the area’s coziest seaside campgrounds. Take note: The park service is strict (be good), and all campgrounds require reservations (no car-camping, unfortunately). But with a bit of planning, you'll be camping under the stars in no time.
An enormous bright blue, crystal clear lake is what makes this campground special. It doesn’t require a hike in, but the park has plenty of woodsy trails and walking paths to check out. And with facilities on-site, plus towns nearby, guests can relax without having to rough it. Oh, and be sure to bring your inner tubes. The best part of hiking up a mountain is staring up at it from the water afterward.
If you want to camp pinkies up — head here. What Napa's campgrounds lack in s’mores, they make up for in vineyards, as campers can bring a portable stove to cook an epic dinner with the perfect vintage pairing. Before you head out, check whether campfires are allowed, many of these places prohibit them.
Dense, fragrant shrubbery and both ocean and mountain views make Castle Rock perfect for last-minute camping not far from the city. The campgrounds are hike-in. But nothing beats unrolling your sleeping bag under the stars while surrounded by towering pines, redwoods, and rocky cliffs.
Just across the Golden Gate Bridge lie San Francisco’s most sought-after campgrounds. With only five campsites and one public day-use site, book this one way ahead of time (campsites are released three months in advance). Not unlike Angel Island, Kirby Cove is so close to the city that its sparkling skyline will be your outdoor backdrop.
All of our friends flock here during the camping season for epic views of San Fran. With steep hiking and biking trails as well as clear views of the Farallon Islands, Marin Headlands, and East Bay’s Mount Diablo, Mt. Tam is an insanely beautiful campsite. And if it’s clear when you visit, you may even see the snowcapped mountains of the Sierra from 150 miles away. Book ahead!
San Francisco’s only official campground, this Presidio hot spot might seem like a reservation nightmare. But the loophole at Rob Hill is that each of the two campsites can accommodate up to the 30 people. Cue the overnight BBQ party you’ve been planning. Campsites are open from April to October, so notify your crew in and plan on being one of the first to call in early February when the reservation phone lines open.
This campground is a small secluded spot for those who need a complete break from city life. It’s a bit of a ways up north on Highway 1 in Salt Pointe Park in Sonoma County, but the 30 campsites in are well worth the drive. It also has beautiful coastal views, 20 miles of hiking trails, opportunities for scuba diving (yes, you read that right), and all the amenities you need for a weekend in your tent.
Bodega Dunes Campground is also on the Sonoma Coast but has a completely different, beachy vibe than some of its forested neighbors. It’s a (kind of) short walk to the beach, but you'll be glad you made the trek once you get there. On your way up to the campground, stop at some of the famous oyster-shucking stands — it's all super fresh. Did we mention this site has hot showers AND flushing toilets?
For all you East Bay folks, there’s picturesque camping right in your backyard. Most of us know Mount Diablo State Park for all the crazy bike rides it holds, but who ever thought of camping out there? This spot has a bunch of different campgrounds — make a point to check out the Juniper Campground. It’s close to the top of the mountain and has amazing views, especially during golden hour.
Pescadero is one of the cutest towns in the Bay Area. With its laid-back, classic California vibes, it is sure to be a weekend well spent. And Costanoa is an incredible lodge along the Pacific Ocean with campgrounds and RV sites, as well as cabins, bungalows, and a spa available right next door.
This is one of the most quintessential camping spots in driving distance from SF. There are many, many options for camping around this site along Highway 1 (even in your car on the side of the road). Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground is the biggest and the best, with 189 campsites. It has quick access to scenic hikes (including one with a waterfall!). If Pfeiffer is full—and gets packed during summer months—there are plenty of other places to set up camp in the area.
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