Here in San Francisco we’re lucky to enjoy excellent proximity to some of the best wilderness in NorCal. When it comes to camping in the Bay Area there’s a variety of options to explore, whether it’s reserving a night at nearby Angel Island or road tripping out to Mount Diablo. Read on for some of our favorite local campgrounds near SF, all of which are less than 2 hours by car from the city.
Kirby Cove is one of the most popular camping spots in the Marin Headlands for its proximity to a beautiful coarse-sand beach and unparalleled views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy a picnic on the beach, take a dip in the gentle waves, or explore the historic Battery Kirby. Campsite amenities include pit toilets, barbecues, fire pits, and picnic tables, but there’s no potable water so you’ll need to hike yours in.
You can book campgrounds here between March and November, but do so in advance because the five overnight campsites tend to fill up quickly. Campsite reservations are released on a 3-month rolling basis with nightly rates running between $40-75. Each campsite can accommodate up to 10 people but there are no dogs allowed.
Other popular campgrounds in this area are the Bicentennial Campground, Hawk Campground, and Haypress Campground.
🚗 10 miles/25 minutes by car from SF
2. Angel Island
Angel Island is famous for having been a quarantine facility, a military base, an immigration facility, and more. Despite its tumultuous history (this is where the US enforced the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882), it is now a picturesque State Park and a California Historical Landmark. You can reach Angel Island via ferry from Pier 41 and even rent a bike on the island to take a spin around the 5.9-mile Perimeter Loop. Stop by the Immigration Station for a self-guided museum visit.
Visitors can reserve campsites on Angel Island 6 months in advance, and they fill up very quickly. According to Redwood Hikes the island has 10 campsites scattered throughout, all of which are a 1-2 mile walk from the ferry landing.l
⛴️ 30 minutes by ferry from SF
Mt. Tam is one of the most picturesque peaks in the Bay Area with several different camping options available. The park’s rolling hills and deep canyons make for exciting hiking routes, and if you make it to the upper mountain you might catch a glimpse of the Farallon Islands in the distance.
If you’re not up for tent camping, you can rent the Steep Ravine Cabins for your own private 1940s-era wooden structure, a wood stove, picnic table, sleeping platforms, and outdoor barbecue. These book out quickly, but reviewers say to keep an eye out for weeknight openings from last-minute cancellations. Alternatively, the Steep Ravine Environmental Campground has seven nice tent campsites available to reserve.
🚗 25 miles/55 minutes by car from SF
San Rafael’s China Camp is a quaint local escape that’s great to visit during wildflower season in the spring. It was once the site of a Chinese shrimp-fishing village in the 1880s housing nearly 500 residents from Canton, China.
Today, China Camp is home to a large variety of wildlife including coyote, deer, and squirrels who inhabit the salt marsh and meadow. Visitors can enjoy over 15 miles of hiking trails or set up for a picnic on the water. At China Camp Village, you can learn more about the site’s history in a small museum or otherwise grab a bite at the Quan Bros. snack shop on weekends.
Visitors can stay at Back Ranch Meadows Campground with several dozen hike-in campsites available year-round for $35 a night. Redwood Hikes recommends campsites 23-29 for easy parking lot access; or sites 11 and 14 for more privacy.
🚗 21 miles/41 minutes by car from SF
If you’re ready to do some hiking, this campground in Point Reyes is situated in a big open meadow overlooking the ocean. It’s just a few steps from the beach where you can see the towering 40-foot coastal tidefall that is Alamere Falls (see #9 on our list of waterfall hikes), or you can spend an afternoon at Bass Lake (#9 on our list of Bay Area lakes).
The campground is not accessible by car so you’ll need to hike your stuff in 5.5 miles from the Palomarin Trailhead or 6.3 miles from the Bear Valley Trailhead. There are five regular campsites accommodating up to 6 people, and 3 group sites accommodating up to 25. You’ll need a permit to camp here, which you can book up to 3 months in advance.
🚗 34 miles/1 hr 20 minutes by car from SF (to Palomarin Trailhead)
This hidden gem in Lagunitas, CA is a beautiful park for camping under the redwoods. Hike to the top of Barnabe Peak for one of the best views in Marin, watch salmon spawn in Lagunitas Creek, or explore other shady hiking trails throughout the park’s 2,882 acres. Add on to your trip with a stop in nearby Point Reyes.
The park’s main campground has 60 or so single-family campsites that you can book up to 6 months in advance. Amenities include picnic tables, food lockers, barbecues, fire rings, flush toilets, and potable water. In addition to these smaller campsites, you can look into renting the giant Madrone group campsite for up to 50 people, the five-person Madrone cabins, and several medium-size camps at Devil’s Gulch.
🚗 31 miles/1 hr by car from SF
Not only is Sugarloaf Ridge in Kenwood a great place to see wildflowers in the spring, but it’s also one of our favorite places for a magnificent waterfall hike. The 0.5-mile Lower Canyon trail will take you straight to the waterfall with about 80 feet in elevation via stairs. Other slightly longer options are the Upper Canyon and Canyon-Pony Gate Loop trails, which cover 400-450 feet in elevation with a steep uphill climb and stairs.
Sugarloaf Ridge offers year-round camping with 47 family-size campsites and one giant campground accommodating up to 50 people. The smaller campsites are situated in a large meadow near a stream and forest. Campsites fill up quickly on weekends between April-October, but you can often nab day-of campsites on a first-come, first-served basis by calling the park. Visitors can also rent 6-person luxury glamping sites, pop-up tents, port-a-potties, and more.
🚗 59 miles/1 hr 30 min by car from SF
Anthony Chabot Campground in nearby Castro Valley is wonderful getaway near Lake Chabot (#8 on our list of Bay Area lakes) which offers fishing, kayaking, and boat rentals. During the spring, Lake Chabot plants about 1,200lbs of trout in the lake every two weeks, and you can rent single and double kayaks, rowboats, pedal boats, electric motor boats, and more. Don’t forget to leave time for a hike on the park’s extensive trail system.
The campground itself has 75 different campsites, 53 of which are drive-to sites meaning you don’t have to haul your stuff too far. Amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, grills, hot showers, and firewood and charcoal to purchase. There are also several large group campsites accommodating up to 300 campers.
🚗 26 miles/45 min by car from SF
If you’re looking to combine your camping weekend with a relaxing day at the beach, Half Moon Bay’s Francis Beach Campground is a great option just a little down the coast. The area is famous for Mavericks, a big-wave surf spot off the coast of nearby Pillar Point (check it out from the Coastside Trail). Half Moon Bay’s isolated location on Highway 1 makes for a relatively unchanged landscape, with farms dating back to the 1800s and long stretches of raw coastline to explore.
The Francis Beach Campground offers 52 campsites with ocean views. Three of them are located on the grass for tents only, but the rest can accommodate tents, RVs, and trailers. Amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, food lockers, restrooms with flush toilets, WiFi, tap water, and a campfire center. Additionally, you can check the nearby Sweetwood Group Campground for tent camping options although it’s a little more expensive.
🚗 30 miles/45 minutes by car from SF
Mount Diablo is the East Bay’s highest peak, presenting those determined hikers with up to 200 miles of jaw-dropping panoramic views. The Summit Trail is a great spot for hiking, running and bird watching, and is filled with miles of beautiful mountain wildflowers. It’s also worth exploring Rock City to see wind caves, Native American grinding rocks, and more.
Look for campsites at Juniper Campground, Junction Campground, or Live Oak Campground. Juniper Campground is near Mount Diablo Overlook where you can catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from 2,900 feet above sea level. The park has about 50 campsites to choose from with fire rings, picnic tables, toilets, and showers.
🚗 42 miles/1 hr 15 minutes by car from SF