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12 Top-Rated Campgrounds near San Francisco, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Dec 16, 2019

With a beautiful Bay Area location, San Francisco is surrounded by many great campgrounds that showcase the unique coastal landscapes. Few legal camping options exist within the city, except the coveted Rob Hill group campground in the Presidio, but the surrounding Bay Area is home to a diverse amount of camping experiences. From walk-in sites in the Marin Headlands to family campgrounds in the East Bay, campgrounds near San Francisco add to the undeniable charm of the city.

North of the Golden Gate Bridge, campgrounds in the Marin Headlands range from bayside views at Kirby Cove to walk-in sites in the Tennessee Valley. For campgrounds close to Muir Woods National Monument, the surrounding Mount Tamalpais State Park features tent camping sites at Bootjack and Pantoll Campgrounds. Farther north, the rugged and wild beauty of Point Reyes National Seashore can be experienced overnight at four different hike-in campgrounds.

The family campground at Anthony Chabot Regional Park is a popular campground close to Oakland in the East Bay. Mount Diablo State Park also provides a spacious campground in the East Bay, as well as one of the best viewpoints in the region. South of San Francisco, campgrounds like Portola Redwoods in La Honda and Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay offer RV camping close to San Francisco.

For more ideas on how to escape the city bustle, see our list of the best campgrounds near San Francisco.

1. Kirby Cove Campground, Marin Headlands

Couple walking on the beach in front of the Kirby Cove Campground

In the Marin Headlands at historic Battery Kirby, on the immediate north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, this tucked-away campground isn't even known by some locals of the city. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the five available sites at Kirby Cove are accessed by a service road leading straight down from the north side of the bridge. From Kirby Cove, the view of San Francisco Bay including the Golden Gate Bridge is nothing short of special.

The five sites at Kirby Cove can be reserved ahead of time, which is necessary throughout the weekends between March and November. Each site accommodates up to 10 people, and each group needs to pack in their own water and supplies. It's a short walk from the parking area to the campsites, and three cars are allowed per campsite. An additional day-use picnic area at Kirby Cove can host up to 35 people and needs to be reserved ahead of time.

To the west of Battery Kirby and the Kirby Cove Campground, closer to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, the Bicentennial Campground offers three additional sites with similar accommodations. Both Kirby Cove and Bicentennial Campground only facilitate tent camping.

Address: 948 Fort Barry, Sausalito, California

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/kirby.htm

2. Haypress Campground, Tennessee Valley

Tennesee Valley near the Haypress Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

North of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands, the Haypress Campground features five hike-in campsites within the verdant Tennessee Valley. It's a relatively flat, three-quarters-of-a-mile hike from the Tennessee Valley parking area to reach the Haypress Campground. Each campsite can accommodate four tents, and a single group can reserve the entire campground. A vault toilet is available at the campground, and every overnight visitor needs to pack in their own water.

For a heartier hike-in campground in the Tennessee Valley, the Hawk Campground can also be reached from the parking area. Accessible with a three-mile hike, the Hawk Campground has three sites with similar accommodations. Both Haypress Campground and Hawk Campground are free to use and must be reserved ahead of time before packing in any gear.

Address: Marin Headlands, Sausalito, California

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/camping.htm

3. Back Ranch Meadows Campground, China Camp State Park

China Camp Village

On the Marin County coastline adjacent to the city of San Rafael, China Camp State Park entices beachgoers, history buffs, and overnight campers. First settled by indigenous cultures of the region, this coastal site later became a major Chinese fishing village following the California Gold Rush. Visitors today can see remnants of this once-bustling era at the historic China Camp Village within park boundaries.

The Back Ranch Meadows Campground at China Camp State Park features 33 developed sites that visitors must walk up to 300 yards to access. Wheelbarrows are available to haul gear from the parking area to the campsites. Potable water and flushing toilets are also available at the campground.

Hiking and bicycling are popular activities at the state park, and campers can reach the China Camp Village and China Camp Beach with a six-mile hike on the Shoreline Trail from the campground.

Address: 100 China Camp Village Road, San Rafael, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=466

4. Francis Beach Campground, Half Moon Bay State Beach

Camping on the coastal bluffs of Francis Beach Campground

Forty-five minutes south of San Francisco on Highway 1, Half Moon Bay State Beach offers a good reminder of why it's nice to live near the Pacific Ocean. Spread out over five white, sandy beaches with calm surf, the coastal atmosphere at this state beach feels like a tropical getaway. On the south end of the state beach, the Francis Beach Campground features 52 campsites just steps away from the shore.

With no hookups available, many of the sites still support RV and motorhome parking, and three grassy sites closest to the ocean are reserved for tents. Potable water, flushing toilets, and coin-operated showers are available for all overnight guests.

The city of Half Moon Bay has many seaside attractions to check out from the campground, including the big wave surfing at Mavericks located four miles north on the coast.

Address: Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=531

5. Juniper Campground, Mount Diablo State Park Campground

Mount Diablo State Park

Offering one of the best hikes near San Francisco, the summit of Mount Diablo features a view that stretches for hundreds of miles. Near the Summit Visitor Center at the park, the Juniper Campground has 32 campsites with access to flushing toilets, potable water, and coin-operated showers.

Trailers are not recommended at Juniper Campground due to narrow roads. Campsites can be reserved ahead of time at Mount Diablo, and reservations are nearly required on busy summer weekends.

The other campground at Mount Diablo State Park, Live Oak Campground, features 22 additional sites with similar accommodations. Five group campsites are also available at Mount Diablo State Park with sites that can host up to 50 people.

The Summit Visitor Center is a good place to head for historical information about the park, as well as access to the one-mile Mary Bowerman Interpretive Trail that leads to the 3,849-foot top of Mount Diablo.

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=517

6. Bootjack and Pantoll Campgrounds, Mount Tamalpais State Park

Flowers in Mount Tamalpais State Park

Encompassing over 6,000 acres in Marin County north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Tamalpais State Park allows visitors to truly escape the city. Among the redwood grove hiking trails, like the Steep Ravine Trail, as well as Muir Woods National Monument within its borders, Mount Tamalpais offers two first-come, first-served campgrounds, each with 15 sites available. Located on the Panoramic Highway, less than six miles from Muir Woods, both Bootjack and Pantoll Campgrounds include short walks from the parking area to the campsites.

Potable water and flushing toilets are available at Bootjack and Pantoll, and firewood can be purchased at either campground. At the coastal end of the Steep Ravine Trail, the state park also offers eight rustic coastal cabins at the Steep Ravine Cabins and Environmental Campground. These cabins are located within vicinity to Stinson Beach and cater to a remote experience.

Address: 3801 Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=471

7. Anthony Chabot Family Campground, Anthony Chabot Regional Park

Golden hills at Anthony Chabot Regional Park

Twenty miles from downtown Oakland in the East Bay, the family campground at Anthony Chabot Regional Park features 53 standard sites and 12 RV sites with full hookups. An additional 10 walk-in campsites are reserved exclusively for tents. The popular Honker Bay Trail leads from the campground to Lake Chabot, which is frequently stocked for great fishing opportunity. All overnight visitors to Anthony Chabot have access to flushing toilets, potable water, and hot showers.

Northwest of Anthony Chabot and connected by hiking trail, Redwood Regional Park is also operated by the East Bay Regional Park District. With dense forests of giant trees, Redwood Regional Park features three different group sites to spend the night. Available by reservation only, campgrounds like Fern Dell Group Campground can accommodate up to 50 people.

Farther east and outside of Fremont, Lake Del Valle Family Campground is also operated by the East Bay Regional Park District. Lake Del Valley Campground features 150 individual campsites that are just over an hour away from San Francisco.

Address: 9999 Redwood Road, Castro Valley, California

Official site: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/anthony_chabot/default.htm

8. Angel Island Environmental Campsites, Angel Island State Park

The Golden Gate Bridge seen from Angel Island

The largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island State Park is only accessible by ferry or personal boat. A day hiker's dream, the island is sparsely populated and has 13 miles of trails, including a route up to Mount Liverpool, the highest point on the island. Along this trail system, three environmental campgrounds allow campers to have the whole island to themselves throughout the night.

The environmental campgrounds on Angel Island comprise three individual campsites, and campers need to hike in their own gear to each spot. Water and vault toilets are available at the campgrounds.

Angel Island State Park also features a small beach with an additional environmental campground that is reserved exclusively for those traveling by kayak.

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=468

9. Coast Camp, Point Reyes National Seashore

Tent pitched at Coast Camp, Point Reyes

The only designated national seashore on the West Coast, Point Reyes is a sprawling coastal peninsula approximately an hour drive north of San Francisco. No car camping or RV camping opportunities exist at Point Reyes National Seashore, but the park does offer four hike-in campgrounds. Located 1.8 miles from the nearest trailhead, the Coast Camp at Point Reyes is popular for its vicinity to the beach and ocean.

With 12 individual sites and two group sites available, Coast Camp provides a vault toilet and water faucet. Reservations are required to stay at any hike-in camp at Point Reyes. The other hike-in campgrounds at Point Reyes include Glen Camp, Sky Camp, and Wildcat Camp. Point Reyes also has a boat-in camp at Tomales Bay, where 20 permitted vessels can beach camp in designated areas.

Address: 1 Bear Valley Visitor Center Access Road, Point Reyes Station, California

10. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Under a two-hour drive south from San Francisco, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California. Home to the largest grove of ancient redwood trees south of the Bay Area, Big Basin has four different campgrounds, with 146 total campsites available. Accommodating both RVs and tents, Big Basin Redwoods State Park also has group sites, tent cabins, and backcountry hike-in campsites spread throughout its massive forests.

Overnight visitors to the four developed campgrounds at Big Basin have access to flushing toilets, potable water, and coin-operated showers. Two of the campgrounds, Huckleberry Campground and Sequoia Campground, are open throughout the year.

Over 80 miles of hiking trails navigate throughout the park, including the Skyline to the Sea Trail, which spans from the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Address: 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=540

11. Rob Hill Campground, San Francisco Presidio

Crissy Field, below the Rob Hill Campground

One of the few campgrounds in the city of San Francisco, the Rob Hill Campground is designated for group camping only. In a stunning location on the highest point in the Presidio on the city's northern tip, the Rob Hill Campground is situated above Baker Beach and Crissy Field.

Two large group sites at Rob Hill accommodate up to 30 people each, and both have separate picnic and barbecue areas. RVs and trailers are not permitted at the Rob Hill Campground.

Address: 1475 Central Magazine Road, San Francisco, California

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/prsf/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

12. Portola Redwoods Campground, Portola Redwoods State Park

Tiptoe Waterfall in Portola Redwoods State Park

Just over an hour south of San Francisco, the 2,800-acre Portola Redwoods State Park makes it easy to escape the hustle and bustle of the South Bay. Eighteen miles of hiking trails reveal the big trees of this state park, and a family campground offers 55 sites to spend the night. The campground can accommodate RVs, but no hookups are available, and every camper has access to flushing toilets, potable water, and coin-operated showers.

Address: 9000 Portola State Park Road, La Honda, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=539

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

More to Explore in San Francisco: After spending the night at a great campground near the city, the best way to spend the day is exploring one of the best hiking trails near San Francisco. After getting your fill of San Francisco's natural wonders, in-city attractions like the Palace of Fine Arts and Golden Gate Park are just a few of the top-rated tourist attractions in San Francisco to check out in the city. For a great hotel after time spent camping, our guide to Where to Stay in San Francisco covers all types of travelers.

Other Campgrounds in California: North of San Francisco, the best campgrounds at Redwood National and State Parks deliver with some big attractions. The stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains are located three hours east of San Francisco, and the top-rated campgrounds at Yosemite National Park really showcase what this region has to offer. For details on great campgrounds near another urban center, our guide to campgrounds near Santa Cruz can have you pitching a tent next to the beach or near redwoods in no time.

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