California

The 12 Best Camping Spots Near San Francisco, California

by Arthur McMahon

best camping san francisco california

The San Francisco Bay Area is a densely populated metropolis surrounded by miles of coastline, thousands of wetland acres, and rolling hills as far as the eye can see.

NorCal’s cultural and economic hub was built upon a richly diverse ecosystem. Thanks to conservation efforts and thoughtful city planning, there are plenty of wild spaces within and around the city set aside for nature to blossom and humans to explore.

You don’t have to travel far from the skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco to find excellent camping opportunities. There are a couple of great camping spots within the city itself, and it’s possible to reserve several remote campsites that are less than a 30-minute drive from Fisherman’s Wharf — without traffic, of course.

Lush coastal forest campgrounds, lakeside retreats, dry mountain prairie tent sites, and rustic beachside cabins are but a few of the great camping options near San Francisco, California. We’ve got the scoop on the best camping in the Bay Area.

San Francisco Area Camping

Visitors and residents alike have a wealth of camping options to explore near San Francisco. Below, we’ve detailed our favorite camping spots in the San Francisco Bay Area. You’ll find everything from far-out backpacking campsites to amenity-rich RV resorts.

Each camping spot on our list has its own unique atmosphere. We believe the best camping spots near San Francisco provide access to a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, yet are conveniently located near the accommodations of the area’s small towns and big cities.

No matter which direction your travels take you from San Francisco, we’ve found a great camping spot for you. Read on to learn where you can find the best camping spots near San Francisco.

Black Mountain Backpack Camp

black mountain backpack camp
Photo: Dipika Bhattacharya

Why you should camp here: Escape the electric din of Silicon Valley with a quick trek into the Monte Bello Preserve.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall, winter
  • Campsite type: Tents
  • RV hookups: No

Overlooking the tech-savvy towns of Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Santa Clara, Black Mountain is a dark peak looming against the western skies. From its lofty summit, the workaday hubbub of the cities below seems trivial. Here, you can allow the breeze to carry your stresses away.

There are a handful of campsites in the campground, including a large group camp. To access the grounds, campers must hike 1.5 miles from the parking lot. There is water on-site, but it is not potable. A pit toilet, fire hose, and, oddly enough, a payphone are also located at the campground.

Miles of trails and unbound vistas can be found around every turn up in these hills. Keep an eye out for wildlife, and don’t be surprised to hear the yip of coyotes or the screech of a lone cougar in the distance during the night.

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Bootjack and Pantoll Campgrounds

Mount Tamalpais State Park Camping
Photo: Harminder Dhesi

Why you should camp here: You haven’t made a reservation elsewhere in the area and want to roll the dice on a first-come-first-served spot.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents
  • RV hookups: No

Together, Bootjack and Pantoll Campgrounds provide over 30 walk-in camping sites in the tranquil Douglas fir forest of Mount Tamalpais State Park.

“It’s hard to beat a quiet morning here. Bring your binoculars so you can pick out the peaks of San Francisco peeking out above the morning fog that lines the city. It’s quite the view.” said visitor Xanthe on HipCamp.

Grabbing a spot on the weekend can be tricky on a fair-weather day, but you’ll have a good chance mid-week or when the skies are cloudy.

The two campgrounds are ideally located at the heart of the park where convenient day-use amenities and numerous trailheads can be found. Mount Tam is perhaps the most popular hiking destination in the Bay Area, and for good reason.

With an early start toward the peak from your tent, you can beat the crowds, or you could head the other direction toward the less-populated Muir Woods National Monument.

There are flushing toilets, potable water, and fire pits with cooking grills at both campgrounds.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area Campgrounds

haypress camp golden gate
Photo: Fabrice Florin

Why you should camp here: Small and secluded tent-only campgrounds in the Marin Headlands.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents
  • RV hookups: No

Want to get away from it all without leaving the Bay Area? The Marin Headlands is one of your best bets, and the minute campgrounds of Hawk, Haypress, and Bicentennial are the best places to sleep under the stars within a 20-minute drive from SF.

Each of the three campgrounds has five or fewer tent sites to choose from, they all must be hiked into, and they all must be reserved ahead of time. For how close they are to the most densely populated city on the west coast, these three campsites are remarkably remote and primitive.

Water is not available at these locations, so make sure to pack some in, and ground fires are not allowed, so be prepared to bring a gas stove if you want to cook. This is about as ‘roughing it’ as you can get without leaving the Bay Area.

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Huckleberry Campground

Huckleberry Campground Big Redwoods
Photo: David Fulmer

Why you should camp here: Spend some time in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, cabins
  • RV hookups: Dump Station

It would be remiss of us not to mention Big Basin Redwoods State Park when discussing camping near San Francisco, and Huckleberry Campground is one of our favorites in this grandiose park. The campground’s collection of tent cabins turns glamping primitive again, in a fun way.

The campground has a mix of reservation-only and walk-in campsites, as well as a swath of over 30 reservable tent cabins. Each cabin has a table, bench seating, and a couple of sleeping platforms, and they also provide privacy and protection from the weather.

Campers have access to running water, toilets, showers, and fire rings. The park has a web of trails to explore underneath towering coastal redwoods, and they extend far out to neighboring parks and the Santa Cruz mountain range.

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Juniper Campground

mount diablo camping san francisco
Photo: Markus Spiering

Why you should camp here: Take in sweeping views from the most prominent peak in the Bay Area.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall, winter
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

With spacious campsites that are private and well protected from the elements by the local flora, Juniper Campground is an enjoyable place to spend an evening under the stars. The western campsites have spectacular views of the Diablo Valley, and the rest are nestled under the branches of aromatic juniper trees.

Don’t fret if your campsite doesn’t come with a view as there is a wonderful overlook for all to enjoy at the southern end of the campground. You can also take the Juniper Trail or Summit Road up to Diablo’s peak where panoramic vistas and historic structures battle for your attention. On a clear day, you can see San Francisco, the Pacific Ocean, and the majestic Sierra Nevada from the peak.

Back at camp, you’ll find bathrooms as well as a fire ring, food locker, and picnic table at each campsite. The bathroom and showers have flowing water but tend to be turned off when drought restrictions are put in place.

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Kirby Cove Campground

kirby cove camping

Why you should camp here: Camp near the lapping waters of the cove with a panorama view of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents
  • RV hookups: No

There’s no campground better for taking in the sights of San Francisco. Kirby Cove Campground is a day-use and camping area separated from the city by where the tumultuous ocean waters collide with the bay.

“On rare, fog-free summer days when sun-starved crowds pack San Francisco’s beaches, Kirby Cove remains delightfully quiet.” said visitor Charlotte at RootsRated.

The campground lies uphill from the beach within a grove of cypress and eucalyptus trees. Kirby Cove’s sandy beach is a mile-long downhill walk from the campground and can be a safe and fun place to dip your toes in the water on a warm summer day. The cove is naturally protected from the big waves and strong winds that ravage other parts of the coastline.

Campsites must be reserved ahead of time and feature accommodations such as fire rings, barbecue pits, picnic tables, and vault toilets. Aside from the nature trails and beach, there is also a decrepit gun battery known as Kirby Battery to explore with interpretive signage about its military history.

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Lake Del Valle Family Campground

Lake Del Valle camping

Reservations accepted: Yes
Best season: Spring, summer, fall, winter
Campsite type: Tents, RVs, cabin, equestrian
RV hookups: Yes

Why you should camp here: An abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities awaits!

Lake Del Valle Family Campground is a hub of outdoor fun in the East Bay Regional Park District. Hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, and an array of watersports are popular activities in the area, and there are enough amenities to keep your family fueled for the duration of your stay.

Located in the wilderness south of the city of Livermore, Lake Del Valle stretches five miles in length and is encircled with access points and resort-like amenities. A marina, store, watercraft rental service, vineyard, and golf course can be a part of your civilized getaway, or you can use the camp as a staging area for a remote backpacking trip into the Ohlone Wilderness.

This family campground is one of several camping areas around the lake. Here you will have large, well-groomed campsites with access to flowing water, restrooms, an amphitheater, and a store with camping gear, snacks, and fishing equipment.

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Olema Campground

Why you should camp here: Explore the expansive beaches and coastal cliffs of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Reservations accepted: Yes
Best season: Spring, summer, fall, winter
Campsite type: Tents, RVs
RV hookups: Yes

The 71,000 acre Point Reyes National Seashore boasts some of the most outstanding and unforgettable seaside scenery California has to offer. Olema Campground has nearly 200 campsites that are conveniently located near the park entrance and the cute town of Point Reyes Station.

You’ll find laundry facilities, bathrooms, showers, and a suite of other amenities at the campground, though you’ll likely want to head out to the shoreline as often as you can. The sandy beaches, wild wetlands, fish-filled bays, and ridgeline trails all will steal your breath away with their natural beauty.

Olema Campground is located off of the scenic California State Route 1 north of San Francisco. The meandering highway continues northward along the Pacific coastline and showcases Northern California’s coastal attractions.

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Rob Hill Campground

Why you should go: It’s a legitimate campground within San Francisco’s city limits.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents
  • RV hookups: No

Rob Hill Campground was first developed by the U.S. Army in the 1850s with plans to turn the land into a fort, but that never fully came to fruition. It was facelifted in 2010 with modern facilities and well-groomed campsites.

Sitting high up at the Presidio’s tallest point, Rob Hill Campground overlooks Baker Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the vast horizon of the Pacific Ocean. Campsites are limited, and some of those are reserved for the local Camping at the Presidio youth program, but you can nab a spot if you look far out into the reservation calendar.

Each campsite comes equipped with a fire ring and standup barbecue grill. There are multiple picnic tables and food storage lockers on-site, as well as restrooms, a scullery, bike racks, refuse receptacles, and an emergency call box.

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San Francisco RV Resort

san francisco rv resort

Why you should camp here: This is the best place to park your RV when you want to explore San Francisco.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall, winter
  • Campsite type: RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Rich with amenities and ocean views, San Francisco RV Resort is a fine place to make basecamp as you set out to explore San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area. It’s an unbeatable location for those looking to spend some time in the city.

“The main attraction of this park is its location. Being right on the cliff looking over the Pacific Ocean, we were able to see quite a bit of wildlife.” said visitor Julie at RV Love.

The RV park is set atop a steep ocean cliff southwest of the city. Campers can take advantage of the on-site amenities which include a pool, hot tub, clubhouse, picnic area, and a store. The surrounding neighborhoods have plenty of grocery stores and restaurants to choose from, among other conveniences.

The heart of the city is a short drive away, and the RV park is adjacent to several beaches and parks worth checking out. Mussel Rock Park offers astounding rocky coastline vistas with sandy beaches to enjoy, and a hike up Milagra Ridge proffers a grand view of the area from above.

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Sunrise Point Campground

Photo: Daniel Ramirez

Why you should camp here: You’re hiking, biking, or boating through the Candlestick Point State Recreation Area.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tents
  • RV hookups: No

No vehicle access is provided for Sunrise Point Campground and vehicles are not allowed to park overnight at the Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. This place is for those who want to hike, bike, or boat there way to one of the few quiet places in all of San Francisco.

All visitors must reserve their campsites ahead of time, and motorized boats are not allowed to access the shoreline. Amenities include flushing toilets, potable water, and barbecue grills. Pets aren’t allowed, and visitors can stay for a maximum of two nights.

Restrictions aside, this is one of the most pleasant places to camp in the San Francisco area. The camping area is new as of 2018 in what has otherwise been a day-use area that was established to preserve the San Francisco Bay’s wildlife diversity and ecosystem.

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Steep Ravine Campground and Cabins

Why you should camp here: Reserve a rustic cabin and spend the day hunting for starfish on the rocky shoreline.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall, winter
  • Campsite type: Tents, cabins
  • RV hookups: No

Steep Ravine Campground and Cabins is one of the most unique locations on our list. Here, you can stay in a bare-bones cabin on the stunningly beautiful shore at the base of Mt. Tamalpais State Park. It’s a wild and awe-inspiring location that words fail to describe.

Multiple tent sites are located on-site as well, but the cabin experience is what you should go for if you can grab a reservation. The cabins feature built-in seating, tables, storage shelves, and several sleeping platforms with enough room for six people in a pinch, though that would be cramped.

Each cabin has a wood stove and there are shared restrooms a short walk from the cabins. If you want a cabin with more modern amenities, check out the nearby Bird’s Nest Bungalow we featured in our roundup of 15 Unique California Airbnb & Vacation Rentals.

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