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25 Best Campgrounds Near San Francisco in 2023

Though there’s much to experience in America’s favorite city by the bay, it’s equally wonderful to get out of the urban area and explore the natural wonders Northern California has to offer. From the Central Coast to the vineyards of Napa, and the gold miners of Sacramento County, adventure awaits. What are you waiting for?

Central Coast

Big Basin Redwoods State Park: Boulder Creek, CA

Image by David Gleit

As California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park was established in 1902 in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Guests from all over the world flock to view the vast forest of ancient redwood trees just south of San Francisco. Other vegetation includes conifer and oak trees mixed with chaparral and riparian habitats. The diversity of the land is marked by elevations in the park, which vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet. More than 80 trails feature hiking for every kind of outdoors person. Photo opportunities run rampant with the sites of the ancient trees, waterfalls, lush valleys, and a variety of wildlife. Rest peacefully under a blanket of stars in one of the 142 campsites throughout the park, including sites for tents, horses, and primitive spots dotted along with five backcountry locations.

Recent campers say: “Only two trails open right now,” “Big Basin is slowly recovering,” “Amazing place,”

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006

For reservations, please go to their website

Manresa Uplands Campground: Watsonville, CA

Image by Friends of Santa Cruz State Park

A little less than two hours away from San Francisco, the county of Santa Cruz features excellent beaches. Good citizens of the area saved the park some years back after concerns were raised about protecting beach land for the use of the public. This seasonal campground gives visitors easy access to fishing, surfing, boogie boarding, and all the other delights a stay by the seaside has to offer. Make sure to grab an official state fishing license to ensure your catch is legal, and be nice to the natural landscape surrounding the park.

Recent campers say: “Good camping facilities and easy access to the beach,” “Staff is friendly and helpful, bathrooms and showers are reasonably clean,” dogs allowed on leash

Manresa Uplands State Campground

205 Manresa Uplands Rd, Watsonville, CA 95076

Campsites: $35+ per night

Fremont Peak State Park: San Juan Bautista, CA

Image by Daniel McCormick

Visitors to Freemont Peak State Park experience sweepings views of Monterey Bay. There are incredible views in the hiking trails of the grasslands of the higher peaks of the Gavilan Range. Other views include the San Benito Valley, Salinas Valley, and the Santa Lucia Mountains east of Big Sur. Much wildlife lives in the pine and oak woodlands. There are plenty of spots for proper camping and picnicking throughout the park. The park also features an astronomical observatory with a 30-inch telescope, a popular destination for public programs on selected evenings.

Recent campers say: “A gem of a campground,” “Reservation is required,” “A beautiful place,” 

Fremont Peak State Park

10700 San Juan Canyon Rd, San Juan Bautista, CA 95045

For reservations, please go to their website

Bay Area

China Camp State Park: San Rafael, CA

Image by Bill T.

Located right over the Golden Gate Bridge, China Camp State Park is the perfect overnight trek for busy San Franciscans looking to quickly get away. Waterfront views dot the scenery of the roadways in the park. Salt marshes, meadows, and oak habitats make for a diverse ecosystem on the land.  A variety of wildlife including deer, squirrels, coyote, fox, bats, and various birds can be viewed by interested hikers throughout the year. In addition to the wonders of wildlife, guests to the park can also learn some history. China Camp Village features a museum describing an early Chinese settlement that in its day housed 500 settlers, three general stores, a marine supply store, and a barber shop. Guests may camp overnight at Back Ranch Meadows Campground. Tents and RVs are welcome.

Recent campers say: “The park itself is quite large,” “Beautiful, serene and quiet campground,” “This was an amazing place to camp,”

China Camp State Park

100 China Camp Village Rd, San Rafael, CA 94901

For reservations, please go to their website

Angel Island State Park: San Francisco Bay

Image by Brent McHale

Though situated just a ferry-ride away from San Francisco, Angel Island State Park might as well be a world away from the busy pace of the city. The U.S. Immigration Station processed many immigrants, the majority from China, from 1910 to 1940. During the Second World War, German and Japanese POWs were detained at the Station before being sent to facilities farther inland. Your vehicle must be left at home, and make sure to plan your trip well in advance. It can take up to a year to reserve your spot, but visitors will be able to reserve campsites and lodging six months in advance from the current date.

Recent campers say: “Amazing place,” “Great place for a weekend getaway,” “Really fun trip,”

Angel Island State Park

Angel Island Tiburon, CA 94920

For reservations, please go to their website

Point Reyes State Park: Inverness, CA

Image by Denise Trevino-Webb

Offering more than 1,500 species of animals and plants to discover, Point Reyes State Park is a veritable playground for the budding or advanced naturalist in your life. Elephant seals made a triumphant return to the Point Reyes Headlands in the 1970s after having been absent from the area for generations. The best time to view the sea mammals is usually December through March for the birthing and mating season. Multiple campgrounds are available throughout the park. The Coast Campground is nestled within a small coastal grassy valley with easy access to the beach and tide pools. Glen Campground is located within a quiet forest along the Bear Valley Glen Trails. For camping on the water, Tomales Bay offers boat-in camping on the west side beaches of the state park.

Recent campers say: “Great facilities,” “A beautiful place to hike,” “You MUST GO during the week,”

Point Reyes State Park

1 Point Reyes-Petaluma Rd, Inverness, CA 94937

For reservations, please go to their website

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park: Calistoga, CA

Image by Catherine Bernal

Located right in the middle of the famous Napa region, this state park, which features hiking, swimming, and some cool yurt-style glamping available, is a perfect place to kick back for a leisurely weekend. During the day, visitors may take a calming hike while looking for interesting plantlife among the Ritchey Canyon on the Redwood Trail. A dip in the park’s pool cost a few bucks, but worth a quick dip after your walk. Afterward, try picnicking under the imposing Douglas Firs with some wine and cheese from the region.

Recent campers say“Very cool experience staying at the Yurt,” “Great parks with several trails,” “A great state park,”

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

3801 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515

For reservations, please go to their website

Castle Rock State Park: Los Gatos, CA

Image by Ryan Petulla

With sweeping views, chiseled sandstone, and green forests, there is much beauty to admire at Castle Rock State Park. Located at just over an hour away from the city, this state park draws visitors eager to hike the park’s 34 miles of rugged trails and climb the park’s caverns and rock, including its famous namesake. Budding and experienced botanists enjoy exploring the California black oaks and high-elevation coast redwoods. Camping is available year-round on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it’s best to make your reservation as early as possible. The campsites are for enthusiastic outdoors people, as campers are required to hike 2.5 miles from the parking area while carrying all of their equipment into the camp.

Recent campers say: “Beautiful park with areas to rock climb,” “A breathtaking experience,” “Park is very well maintained,”

Castle Rock State Park

15000 Skyline Blvd, Los Gatos, CA 95033

For reservations, please go to their website

Kirby Cove Campground: Sausalito, CA

Image by Peter Zhu

While this campsite is very close to San Francisco, visitors may still feel transported away with a quick stay at this campground offering one of the most unique views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the city. Kirby Cove is situated at the foot of the craggy Marin Headlands just west of the Golden Gate Bridge. A steep, mile-long trail to the cove begins at the parking area above Battery Spencer on Conzelman Road. The path descends through a stately grove of Monterrey pine and cypress and Blue Gum Eucalyptus. Fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and a host of other activities are available throughout the park.

Recent campers say: “Such an amazing location right below the golden gate bridge,” “Amazing place with a beautiful view,” “[camp]site was so big!”

Kirby Cove State Park

948 Fort Barry, Sausalito, CA 94965

For reservations, please go to their website

Mount Tamalpais State Park: Mill Valley, CA

Image by Ellen Posch

Mount Tamalpais was mentioned in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Buns, but this majestic state park offers more than just beatniks and hipsters. Visitors often enjoy gorgeous hikes, picnics, and some choice views of wildlife. At the top of the mountain, a visitor center provides information, snacks, and souvenirs.  The large Mountain Theater below regularly hosts outdoor plays and astronomy programs. Visitors may camp in several locations or stay in rustic view cabins at Steep Ravine or on private property at the West Point Inn. On weekends and holidays, it’s advised to arrive early to beat heavy traffic. Take the West Marin Stagecoach for a quick ride to this and other Golden Gate National Recreation Areas. [/two_third_last]

Recent campers say: “Such an amazing time,” “Beautiful views on a clear day,” “Afternoons get very crowded,”

Mount Tamalpais State Park

3801 Panoramic Hwy, Mill Valley, CA 94941

For reservations, please go to their website

Rob Hill Campground: San Francisco, CA

Image by Andrea Squadrani

Rob Hill Campground serves as San Francisco’s only official campground. At Rob Hill, new and experienced campers alike can view the lights of Sutro Tower, smell the fresh, ocean breeze, and hear the owls in their Cypress roosts. Campers have been enjoying the land while sleeping under the stars for generations. The first was the Ohlone, a tribe of Native Americans who were the first inhabitants of this area. After the US Army left Presidio in 2010, the area received a major renovation with the addition of upgraded group campsites, better restrooms, accessible paved pathways, and a building for educational programs.

Recent campers say: “It’s well organized,” “Looks gorgeous but the reservation process was a waste of time,” “Super clean restrooms,”

Rob Hill Campground

1475 Central Magazine Rd., San Francisco, CA 94129

For reservations, please go to their website

Gerstle Cove Campground: Jenner, CA

Image by Eric Miller

Visitors at Gerstle Cove Campground enjoy a variety of ecosystems, including grasslands, forested hills, and pristine prairies, to explore. The dramatic coastline provides a beautiful and dramatic view to visitors. There are over 20 miles of trails for hikers to trek. In addition, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy horseback riding, fishing, and scuba diving during visits. The campground offers 20 spots for an overnight stay. You can bring your canine friends, but they must be kept on a leash the whole time, and in your tent or vehicle during the night.

Recent campers say: “Spent three great days hiking and relaxing,” “Mostly small spots,” “Well kept campground,”

Gerstle Cove Campground

25050 Highway 1, Jenner, CA 95450

For reservations, please go to their website

Santa Cruz North / Costanoa KOA: Pescadero, CA

Image by KOA

This eco-adventure resort offers guests the opportunity to experience and explore the natural beauty and protected coastline of California. A myriad of activities is available for whatever you’re into, including hiking, mountain biking, music, art exhibits, kayaking, and even spa treatments. The campground strives to keep a strict commitment to caring for the environment and has developed programs and initiatives to keep the area clean and protected. Make sure to check out Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which is just three miles north. This historically interesting lighthouse has watched over the sheer cliffs and rocky shores of the area since 1872.

Recent campers say: “Each [trip] is fabulous,” “An exceptional campground,” “High prices,”

Santa Cruz North/Costnoa KOA

2001 Rossi Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

$55+ per night

Butano State Park: Pescadero, CA

Image by Yolanda Castaneda

Founded in 1957, Butano State Park was established in order to protect precious redwood trees from the logging industry. Today, visitors enjoy hiking along 40 miles of trails scattered along the 4,000 acres of canyons and uplands of the property. Curious hikers may view woodpeckers, newts, and an exciting array of ecosystems throughout the park. Guided nature walks and weekend campfire programs are offered during the summer. Visitors may wish to leave extra drinking water at home, as drinking water is available at the park in both the main campground and the day-use areas.

Recent campers say: “Park is good shape and is nicely kept,” “Great place to hide from the heatwave,” “Love this park,”

Butano State Park

1500 Cloverdale Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

For reservations, please go to their website

Memorial County Park: Loma Mar, CA

Image by Ian Miguel

On the 673 acres of Memorial County Park visitors have the opportunity to feel at peace with nature beneath old-growth redwoods that have grown for centuries. The park provides regular campfire and naturalist programs during the summer months. Guests are encouraged to learn about conservation, survival skills, and being good stewards of the land through these programs. Budding naturalists may view common plants around the park such as huckleberry, poison oak, ferns, redwood sorrel, and horsetail. Woodpeckers and stellar jays are good draws to birdwatchers. Two camping sites are available on the grounds. Both are open year-round.

Recent campers say: “This campground was great,” “Perfectly family camping spot,” “Awesome in every single way,”

Memorial County Park

9500 Pescadero Creek Rd, Loma Mar, CA 94021

For reservations, please go to their website

Liberty Glen Campground:  Geyserville, CA

TEMPORARILY CLOSED

Image by Ellie Otter

As the only drive-in campsite within the perimeter of Lake Sonoma, Liberty Glen Campground offers guests a unique experience in the heart of wine country. Horseback riding, hiking, and biking are popular activities within the park. In addition, archery, disc golf, fishing, and a shooting range offer a myriad of ways to spend a day. After all of that activity, it might be time to settle down with some wine and artisanal cheese at your campsite, a must for foodies visiting the area.

Recent campers say: “Great campground within 2hrs of the city,” “The views were spectacular,” “There is NO WATER,”

Liberty Glen Campground

3288 Skaggs Spring Road, Geyserville, CA 95441

For reservations, please go to their website

Brannan Island State Recreation Area: Rio Vista, CA

Image by Teresa Chang

Brannan Island State Recreation Area is surrounded by a maze of waterways through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Bring your own boat and enjoy the countless water activities the area has to offer, including swimming and fishing. Attempt to truly live off of the land and catch some striped bass, sturgeon, catfish, bluegill, perch, or bullhead fish for your dinner. The park receives heavy use from May through October. The late fall, winter and early spring months are much slower paced at the park and offer some of the best fishing opportunities of the year.

Recent campers say: “Great place and nice people,” “Early morning wind is so strong,” “Great time camping,”

Brannan Island State Recreation Area

17645 CA-160, Rio Vista, CA 94571

For reservations, please go to their website

Mount Diablo State Park: Walnut Creek, CA

Image by Steve von Erenhook

Mount Diablo itself isn’t terribly tall, coming in at 3,849 feet. However, the view, surrounded by low, rolling hills and broad, flat valleys, is actually very remarkable. It’s the reason most visitors flock immediately to that spot. The Visitor Center is located in the historic stone building at the highest peak. The building was constructed during the late 1930s of fossiliferous sandstone blocks quarried in the park and highlights the cultural and natural history of the park. Make sure not to collect any plants or wildlife in the park. It’s not worth taking anything home, as the park is protected by federal law.

Recent campers say: “Beautiful views,” “Great views of the east bay,” “Absolutely lovely state park,”

Mount Diablo State Park

Summit Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598

For reservations, please go to their website

North Coast

Clear Lake State Park: Kelseyville, CA

Image by Christie Bacalso-Dewar

Located on the shores of California’s largest freshwater lake, Clear Lake State Park is popular for water activities, including fishing, swimming, boating, and water-skiing. Lucky anglers are known to catch largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and channel catfish when the fishing it right. The region has a rich history for Native Americans and European settlers alike. The visitor center explores both the cultural and natural history of the land, as well as an aquarium exhibiting some of the species of the lake. The park offers four campgrounds, cabins, and group campsites. A boat launch is available for both campers and daytime guest.

Recent campers say: “Cabins were clean with AC,” “The place has been maintained neatly,” “Beautiful park,”

Clear Lake State Park

5300 Soda Bay Rd, Kelseyville, CA 95451

For reservations, please go to their website

Central Valley

McConnell State Recreation Area: Ballico, CA

Image by David Y.

The McConnell campground serves up some comfortable relaxation in the shade of sycamore and cottonwood trees. There are actual hibachi grills available at the campsites, so you can grill and chill to your heart’s content. Bring some fun food fun items of your choice, or try to catch some fish in the Merced River, and get to cooking. There are also food lockers provided at each campsite, so you know your stash is safe when you’re not using it. Rock fireplaces are another cool draw of the campground.

Recent campers say: “Multiple camping sites with lots of shade,” “Had family come for the day,” “Had a great time,”

McConnell State Recreation Area

8800 McConnell Rd., Ballico, CA 95303

For reservations, please go to their website

George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area: Hilmar, CA

Image by Suman Ziaullah

Situated right beside the Merced River, George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area is a shady little park with great fishing, swimming, and floating opportunities. Throughout the year, fishermen enjoy catching catfish and perch. A historic bridge built back in 1910 spans the river and provides beautiful views of the water. Picnics, birthday parties, and family reunions are popular activities in the park. Hikers enjoy exploring the 46.5-acre park and regularly see plenty of wildlife to keep them coming back.

Recent campers say: “Great for extended family gatherings,” “Small park,” “Nice local place,” 

Geroge J. Hatfield State Recreation Area

4394 N Kelly Rd, Hilmar, CA 95324

For reservations, please go to their website

San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area: Gustine, CA

Image by Satish Choudary

Visitors at San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area enjoy boating, fishing, and swimming in the area’s three lakes. As wind can be a dangerous issue in the park, make sure to watch for warning lights at the Basalt entrance station, Quien Sabe Point, and Romero Visitor Center. Multiple campsites are available throughout the area, including Basalt Campground, San Luis Creek Campground, Medeiros Campground, and Los Banos Creek Campground. Camping conditions are considered more primitive at most of the campsites in the area, as flush toilets and showers are not available at three of the four sites. There are no reservations required at Medeiros and Los Banos Creek Campgrounds, but instead, are given on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Recent campers say: “Easy parking,” “Best place to get away from the city,” “Campground was excellent,”

San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area

31426 Gonzaga Rd, Gustine, CA 95322

For reservations, please go to their website

Gold Country

Folsom State Recreation Area: Folsom, CA

Image by Mackenzie Jones

Don’t go singing the Folsom Prison Blues at this gorgeous state park. Located at the base of the Sierra foothills, Folsom State Recreation area offers a variety of activities for visitors, including hiking, biking, running, camping, horseback riding, water-skiing, and boating. When fishing, visitors may catch trout, catfish, big and small mouth bass or perch. Make sure to check out the Folsom Powerhouse. It was once called “the greatest operative electrical plant on the American continent”.  For cyclists, there is a 32-mile long bicycle path connecting Folsom Lake with many Sacramento County parks before reaching Old Sacramento. Camping is available at Beals Point year-round and at Peninsula Campground beginning in April each year.

Recent campers say: “Trails are well groomed,” “hosts and employees were all very kind,” “Purchase a park pass before,” 

Folsom State Recreation Area

7755 Folsom-Auburn Rd, Folsom, CA 95630

For reservations, please go to their website

Auburn State Recreation Area: Auburn, CA

Image by Spencer Koski

Situated right in the middle of the famed gold country, Auburn State Recreation Area covers 40-miles of the North and Middle Forks of the American river. The area, which was once teeming with would-be gold miners, the area is now a natural area offering a wide variety of recreational fun to over 900,000 visitors a year. Visitors to the park enjoy hiking, river access, boating, fishing, camping, mountain biking, gold panning, limited hunting, equestrian/horseback riding trails, and off-highway motorcycle riding. Whitewater rafting fans will find fun with Class II, III, IV, and V river runs.

Recent campers say: “Love this hiking area,” “Bring drinking water,” “We love coming here,”

Auburn State Recreation Area

501 El Dorado St, Auburn, CA 95603

For reservations please go to their website

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