Where can I camp around this time of the year?
January 22, 2017 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I live in the bay area. Help me find camping spots nearby.

A goal in 2017 is to camp more. But I am having tough luck finding camping areas.

What are places that are within driving distance from the SF Bay Area (and this can be up to 6 hours drive, but 3-4 is more preferable) that I can camp at?

I run into these two issues:
--Not good places to camp at this time of the year (I'd rather not do snow camping)
--Booked out

I've looked into Trinity Alps and Lassen Volcanic Park but they seem too cold. Point Reyes, Mt. Tam, Big Basin seem all booked out.

I've already been to Pinnacles (fantastic!). I'm open to LA/Joshua Tree.

I'm new to this camping thing and it's already stressing me out. Help me!
posted by pando11 to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
How about the Monterey Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest? There are some excellent backpacking opportunities off of California 1 and the Nacimiento Ferguson Road, just south of Lucia. You can find some primitive car camping spots around there, and and extensive network of backpacking trails. Some spots are very busy, but probably not this time of year.

(I haven't been backpacking in California in several years, so I'm not up to speed on the weather conditions, snow, roads, etc., in this area.)
posted by tybstar at 6:37 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some ideas off the top of my head:
Joseph D Grant Co Park.
Uvas Canyon
Cerritos Alto (down in Atascadero)
Lake Chabot
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 6:59 PM on January 22, 2017

Agua Caliente Canyon just north of Santa Barbara
posted by hortense at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2017

The very beautiful, not super well known Hendy Woods State Park.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:05 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mt. Diablo has camping.
posted by rhizome at 7:35 PM on January 22, 2017

I go bike camping in the Bay Area fairly often, and I love riding to China Camp and Samuel P. Taylor for an overnight, either via the Larkspur Ferry or by taking BART to SF and riding to/across the Golden Gate Bridge. There's a good East Bay Bike Camping FB group that probably has a list of nearby-ish campsites, and one bonus of bike camping is that it's much cheaper: $5-7 for a hiker/biker site, as opposed to $30+ for a car.
posted by tapir-whorf at 8:35 PM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Check out Hipcamp!
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 8:53 PM on January 22, 2017

Henry Cowell SP, between Santa Cruz and Felton. Redwoods but not so busy as Big Basin.

Butano SP, north up Hwy 1 from Santa Cruz towards Half Moon Bay
posted by anadem at 9:41 PM on January 22, 2017

Stayed at Bothe-Napa State Park last year. There are short hikes in the park and longer ones a reasonable drive away.

There are lots of relatively obscure spots in the North Bay, here are some ideas.
posted by Standard Orange at 1:29 AM on January 23, 2017

Stevens Creek campground is in the Bay Area. It has showers, near Los Gatos Canyon, I think there are some redwoods up there somewhere.
posted by Oyéah at 9:45 AM on January 23, 2017

Angel Island seems to have some availability in the next 4 weeks. I haven't camped there myself, but I have done day hikes, and it's very pretty and the museum at the immigration station is great.
posted by phoenixy at 2:47 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not taking anything away from the places already suggested, but I think you'd benefit from picking up a copy of Tom Stienstra's California Camping (Amazon link). Stienstra is the long-time outdoor writer for the SF Chronicle, and has been authoring/editing a definitive series of books on CA camping, fishing, and hiking for 20+ years; he revises them every other year or so, they are arranged geographically, and by now they are fairly complete, with reviews, reservation info, etc. They are incredibly helpful for just this sort of situation.

Personally, unless you love mud and very, very damp camping, I'd avoid the coastal redwoods at this time of year - some of the places mentioned above received 12"+ of rain in the last two weeks, and they aren't going to be drying out anytime soon. TBH, I think most of CA is going to be a muddy mess for a while, so I am not sure you can avoid that if you choose to go camping during this particular winter season.

What you didn't mention was what you liked to do when you're camping. Hiking? Mountain biking? Fishing? Winery tasting (not a joke)? Just sitting around? It would help to know how you like to spend your time when you're camping, so we might offer appropriate suggestions.
posted by mosk at 4:00 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yay for Bothe-Napa, one of my favorite campsites in the area. I sorta fell in love with the area on the hike from camp up to Coyote Peak many moons ago.

I see Diablo mentioned above--we were up there hiking right before this rainy system arrived and the campground nearest the summit was 100% deserted. We walked around the sites and made a plan to come back and camp, because the views are incredible. The bathrooms were functioning, water was on, and toilet paper was stocked. It certainly gets windy up there, so bring stakes and use them if you're in a tent.

Samuel P. Taylor's already been mentioned, but it's very close to the city and a bit of a remarkable spot. It's right on Sir Francis Drake Blvd in a tight, redwood-lined canyon, just beyond Lagunitas. Lagunitas Creek runs below.

Just a bit further up Francis Drake Blvd, there are private campgrounds in Olema that are perfectly fine if your plan is to get out and hike or what have you, instead of sitting around the campfire all day. We've stayed here before and it was great--it's pretty deserted outside of holidays and summertime (we did an overnight once just before Thanksgiving, though, and were one of maybe five occupied sites).

Guerneville, too, has lots of wonderful camping. Austin Creek SRA is wonderfully isolated, and you have to drive through the Armstrong Redwoods SNR to get to it. If you don't mind being closer to main roads, there are loads of private campgrounds in the area. Schoolhouse Canyon might be closed right now but other spots are undoubtedly open.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:19 PM on January 23, 2017

Sunol Regional Wilderness and Ohlone Wilderness both have outstanding backpacking camp sites that have reasonable availability. Check for the dates you want at reserveamerica.com (search for SUNOL, CA) and then call East Bay Parks to reserve. Spring will be spectacular! this year.

Henry Coe State Park is the second larges park in California with 89,000 acres of mostly free camping (i.e. camp where you want). There are designated campsites in the Western Zone adjacent the ranger station that are booked on a first come basis. But there's plenty of sites and there's usually something available. There are nice sites with (I think) car access at Manzanita Point. China Hole is a popular backpacking site. But Los Cruzeros (middle site) is my favorite. Henry Coe is HUGE, look out for the back country weekend (last weekend in April) to visit the remote eastern section of the park without having to hike for 3 days. Henry Coe is so big that you can walk for days without meeting anybody once you get out of the Western Zone. There are no bridges across any of the creeks in the park, so at this moment they are probably raging rivers and are a bit wild to cross on foot so I'd wait for a spell of dry weather before going beyond Manzanita Point.
posted by Long Way To Go at 8:13 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older What should I pay (if anything)   |   Chicago Trip + HAMILTON Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.