My Favorite Camping Near San Francisco (All Within a 2 Hour Drive)

I moved to San Francisco almost two years ago. Prior to the pandemic, I lived in Toronto, Canada and although camping was a core tenant of my personality, all of the camping was 3-5 hours away. Well, you can imagine my delight when I realized just how the amount of amazing camping near San Francisco.

In the post, I’ll introduce you to my favorite campgrounds near San Francisco. There’s a mix between car camping sites, short hike-in sites and full-on backpacking sites.

Unless stated otherwise, I’ve personally been to every destination on this list. Thus, I’ve included my tips and recommendations for getting permits, choosing sites and having the best experience possible!

This post contains the following campgrounds near San Francisco:

  • Mount Diablo State Park: 40 miles east of San Francisco. (1 to 1.5 hours)
  • Steep Ravine: 16 miles north of San Francisco (30 to 45 min)
  • Angel Island: 5 miles north of San Francisco (20-30 min ferry from Pier 41 or the Ferry Building)
  • Point Reyes National Seashore: 35 miles northwest of San Francisco (1.5 to 2 hours)
  • Del Valle Regional Park (Ohlone Wilderness Trailhead): 52 miles east of San Francisco (1.5 to 2 hours)
  • Half Moon Bay State Park: 25 miles south of San Francisco. (45 min to 1 hour)
MSR Hubba Hubba tent set up at Juniper Campground in Mont Diablo State Park. The sun is setting in the background.

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Mount Diablo

Type: Car Camping

Standing at 3849 ft, Mount Diablo is the tallest peak in the San Francisco Bay Area and easy to spot along the horizon (I can even see it from my apartment window right now). The park and surrounding area have over 100 miles of trails and the park is characterized by unique rock formations, including sandstone outcrops, cliffs, and boulders, which are popular for climbing.

There are four campgrounds within Mount Diablo State Park. There are both family campsites and group campsites. Family campsites fit up to eight people while group campsites can hold 25 people (and are more expensive).

Mount Diablo – Facilities

This is car camping at its finest. You get the beautiful view from the top of Mount Diablo… without having to hike all the way up. All of the sites are well-equipped:

  • Picnic Table: Yes
  • Water: Yes
  • Food Locker: No
  • Fire Pit: Yes
  • Flush Toilets and Outhouse

Each of the sites has enough space for 3 or more tents, a picnic table, and a fire pit. I didn’t see any campsites with food lockers; we kept ours in the car overnight.

Mount Diablo – Reservations

Reservations are required for camping at Mount Diablo State Park. Although campsites can be purchased on arrival, I recommend making your reservation well in advance, especially on weekends. Reservations can be made online through Reserve California.

As I alluded to, reservations are tricky on weekends. If you check the California State Park, 99% of the dates will be reserved already. You can either book far in advance (up to 6 months in advance) or look for a last-minute cancellation. CampNab is helpful for that; it notifies you when there’s been a cancellation and texts you a link to book the site – we’ve used it for all of our trips to Mount Diablo.

MSR hubba hubba tent

Mount Diablo – Tips / What To Expect

Beware the Wind: The wind at the top of Mount Diablo can be insane. Stake your tent well; set it up with some kind of protection (near shrubbery or trees, for example). The sites further down the mountain are less affected by the wind.

Steep Ravine

Type: Car Camping / Backpacking Hybrid

Steep Ravine is a gorgeous campground within Mount Tamalpais State Park. The campground is right on the edge of the coastline, with cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other.

There are nine cabins and seven campsites. The cabins are about $100 per night, whereas the campsites are $30. We stayed at a campsite (but either would be great!).

There are lots of hiking trails around this area, and you’re not far from Stinson Beach. However, we chose to spend all of our time around the campground. The view is incredible, and there’s a rocky beach you can hike to nearby.

Steep Ravine – Facilities

I’m calling this a car camping / backpacking hybrid because there is a 5-minute walk between the parking lot and the campsites. There are wheelbarrows to help you transport your gear from the parking lot to the campsites.

  • Picnic Table: Yes
  • Water: Yes
  • Food Locker: Yes
  • Fire Pit: Yes
  • Flush Toilet and Outhouse

Each of the sites has enough space for 2 to 3 tents, a picnic table, a fire pit and a food locker.

Steep Ravine – Reservations

Reservations for Steep Ravine Campground can be made through Reserve California.

When making the reservation, you’ll see you need to choose one of three camping areas within Mount Tamalpais State Park. Choose the one called S Rav Camp Area (sites E1 to E7). This is for the seven environmental campsites.

Steep Ravine – Tip / What To Expect

Opening the Gate: When you turn off Hwy 1, there’s a gate to open to get down to the campground. The gate is locked with a combination lock. A day or two before your trip, call the permit office to get the code to the gate.

Displaying Your Permit: When you arrive at your site, you’ll find a laminated permit inside the food locker. This has to go on the dash of your car while you’re at the campground. Note: You can only have ONE car parked. They are very strict about this.

Fire Wood: You can either bring your own or purchase it there for $10.

Angel Island

Type: Backpacking

There are five campgrounds across Angel Island. Ridge, Sunrise and East all have three campsites. North Garrison and West Garrison are the group campgrounds (fit more people). West Garrison can be reached via kayaking.

Angel Island – Facilities

The Angel Island campsites have pretty basic facilities, but there is a good cafe at the ferry dock.

  • Picnic Table: Yes
  • Water: Yes
  • Food Locker: Yes
  • Fire Pit: Small Grill
  • Outhouse

Angel Island – Reservations

Reservations for Angel Island are made through Reserve California. You can choose any of the campgrounds – just make sure you don’t accidentally book a Day Use Picnic Table instead of a campsite!

Some people ask which of the campgrounds is the best (which is probably the Ridge sites), but it’s sort of a useless question. It’s so hard to get a permit here that you should take any permit you can get – all of the campgrounds are great and provide a beautiful view.

On my trip, we stayed at Site #3, one of the East sites. There was a decent sunset and we could see Bay Bridge.

Angel Island – Tips / What To Expect

Getting There: As the name suggests, Angel Island is surrounded by water. There are no bridges to Angel Island and there are no cars on the island either. To get there, you’ll need to catch the ferry from San Francisco to Angel Island.

The ferry takes about 1 hour and makes one stop between San Francisco and Angel Island. You can buy your ferry ticket at the Ferry Building – no reservation is needed.

The ‘Backpacking’: As you can see in the photo below, some of the backpacking is on a road and goes by buildings that are no longer in use. There are no cars on Angel Island – you’ll only see hikers and bikers. But it’s not exactly the most wilderness-y backpacking route.

Point Reyes

Type: Backpacking

Point Reyes is a beautiful peninsula on the Pacific Ocean, north of San Francisco. Spanning 71,000 acres, Point Reyes is known for its diverse landscapes and wildlife, specifically tule elk and sea lions. Most of the park is easily explored during the day with a car and short hiking trails, but there is a section along the coast dedicated to backpacking.

Point Reyes – Facilities

Each of the campgrounds in Point Reyes have all the basics.

  • Picnic Table: Yes
  • Water: Yes
  • Food Locker: Yes
  • Fire Pit: Yes
  • Outhouse

Point Reyes – Reservations

Point Reyes has five campgrounds – 4 hike-in or bike-in, and 1 boat-in. Reservations can be made through The campsites are almost always booked well in advance, but there is one campsite at each campground that opens the day of – so if you don’t mind leaving your reservation for the last minute, this can be a good way to snag a site.

Point Reyes – Tips / What To Expect

Almere Falls: Regardless of where you camp, definitely take a walkout to Almere Falls. This is the one of two “tidefalls” in California – waterfalls that empty directly into the ocean. You can hike to it from Wildcat Campground, or from a nearby parking lot. Just be mindful of the tides, as the tide can come up really close to the falls.

Wildcat Campground: Of all the campgrounds, I think Wildcat is the best. We weren’t able to get a reservation at Wildcat, but we walked there in the morning and it was beautiful. It was super close to the ocean and Almere Falls.

Ohlone Wilderness Trail

Type: Backpacking

If you’re looking for more an active adventure, consider the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. The OWT starts in Del Valle Regional Park and ends at the trailhead for Mission Peak – some 28 miles away.

Ohlone Wilderness Trail Camping

When I backpacked the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, I camped at Maggie’s Camp. The downside to choosing this campsite is that it made the distance I hiked each day very different: on day one I hiked 9 miles and on day two I hiked 19 miles. The upside, however, is that I was camping a short walk from Rose Peak which is one of the tallest peaks in the area – it was absolutely stunning at sunset and sunrise!

If you can break the hike into three days instead of two, or you don’t mind lopsided mileage, I highly recommend camping at Maggie’s Camp.

There are other campgrounds along the route, but Maggie’s Camp is my favorite. You can read a full description of this hike and the other campgrounds in this blog post.

Ohlone Wilderness Trail – Facilities

Each of the campgrounds is different but they have common traits. Typically there was a water pump and an outhouse. Two of the water pumps I tried were empty, so don’t assume each one will have water.

  • Picnic Tables: Some of the campsites had picnic tables
  • Water: Some pumps throughout the hike
  • Food Locker: No
  • Fire Pit: No
  • Outhouses

Ohlone Wilderness Trail – Reservations

Permits are required for camping on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. No one inspected my permit on my specific trip and I didn’t have it printed – just an email on my phone.

You can book your permits by calling: 1-888-EBPARKS, option 2. Of all of the campgrounds on this list, Ohlone was the easiest place to get permits for. I called two days before the trip and basically had my pick of any campground.

Ohlone Wilderness Trail – Tips / What To Expect

Cows: The section after Maggie’s Camp has sprawling fields with lots of cows! They aren’t aggressive, but they’re a little intimidating if you’re solo. I talked in a conversational volume and gave them space while passing.

Half Moon Bay

Type: Car Camping

Half Moon Bay is a campground I have been to many times… and still never camped at. Half Moon Bay has a single campground for tents, cars, vans and RVs. The campground is right on the coast, in between the Pacific Ocean and Hwy 1.

The campground is very open, so there’s very little privacy between campsites.

Half Moon Bay – Facilities

This is a well-developed campsite with a full suite of amenities:

  • Picnic Table: Yes
  • Water: Yes
  • Food Locker: No
  • Fire Pit: Yes
  • Flush Toilets and Showers

Half Moon Bay – Reservations

Reservations are required for camping at Half Moon Bay and can be made online through Reserve California. The reason I still haven’t camped here is that it’s so hard to get a reservation on a weekend, even using CampNab. But, if you don’t mind booking 6 months in advance or going on a Thursday night, this is a great campground!

Half Moon Bay – Tips / What To Expect

No tips because I haven’t camped here yet!

Other Campground on My TO DO List

I haven’t stayed at Kirby Cove Campground or Bicentennial Campground. Both of these campgrounds are in the Marin Headlands, north of San Francisco.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get a reservation yet. Fingers crossed for this summer!

Camping Near San Francisco

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful and that it’s given you inspiration on where to find camping near San Francisco. I’ll update this post as I explore more campgrounds in the area!


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