Camping outside the Bay Area over Labor Day
August 27, 2006 9:02 AM   Subscribe

HikinginNorthernCaliforniaoverLaborDayWeekendFilter: Help me figure out the best place for a small group to go hiking and camping for two/three days, within a (half-)day's drive of Oakland/Berkeley.

Here's the situation: I'm flying into Oakland on from the East Coast on Friday to meet up with a few friends who live in the East Bay. I'm the only really fit one in the group (four or five of us total), so for the others' sake the hiking can't be of more than moderate intensity or duration (maybe four hours of hiking at most). We want to find a location that:
  • is outside the metro-Bay Area, but that we can drive to early on Saturday and return from sometime Monday at the latest,
  • we can hike out to a campsite away from the road,
  • we don't have to take precautions against bears (since bearproof gear is heavy, yes?),
  • is not going to be completely overrun with other campers/is not too late to make campsite reservations for (if necessary), and
  • is scenic/memorable.
We've already ruled out Yosemite since it's a guaranteed traffic nightmare and we've all been there before. Big Sur is an option, as is (on the outside) Mt. Shasta. I've looked at Bay Area Hiker, Kevin Gong's page,, the CA BLM, and the other sites suggested previously, but it's all turning into informational overload.

Does anyone have a specific recommendation based on past experience that sounds fitting? Or does this sound too specific, too late?
posted by kittyprecious to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I really think you're too late, but my suggestion otherwise would be Point Reyes National Seashore. There's some easy, flat hikes to backpack camps (wait, are you backpacking or car camping?)-but I very much doubt you'll be able to get any reservations anywhere at this time. Day hikes in Point Reyes are a possiblitiy of course... If you're stuck in the East Bay, there are many many day hike choices in the East Bay hills.

Also, wherever you go, avoid coming back on the Bay Bridge. It's going to be closed eastbound all weekend.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:51 AM on August 27, 2006

Response by poster: We've already ruled out Point Reyes--I can't recall why--and we're pretty dead-set (at least the two of us who are doing the organizing) on not car-camping.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2006

You should go down the coast to Big Sur or (less crowded) Ventana wilderness, the drive to and fro will be worth it I promise you and then once youre there it will feel like you are in the promised land. :) Happy trails.
posted by Meemer at 10:39 AM on August 27, 2006

The major limiting factor here is lack of reservations for one of the biggest camping weekends of the year. Try calling around to some of the less famous campgrounds (there are plenty of nice ones in Mendocino which should be within your commute distance). Though even if you can find a spot still available at one of those, expect lots of other campers.

As for bear avoidance, search the state parks website for the ones with cabins. For instance, Hendy Woods is 3 or so hours from SF, offers easy/moderate hikes through redwoods, and one of their woodstove-heated cabins is enough to sleep a group of that size.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:52 PM on August 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I second Meemer's recomendation of Big Sur, especially Andrew Molera State Park. There are some amazing hikes there, and decent camping. My favorite thing about hiking here is that a single hike will take you through several distinctly different ecosystems. I always really get a kick out of it, and have never found it to be crowded.
posted by TheCoug at 3:31 PM on August 27, 2006

ditto Ventana Wilderness, or Los Padres National Forest.

Specifically, why not drive into the LPNF and hike from China Camp (car camping, zero services) down into Pine Valley (~5 miles) and camp again there. Beautiful falls in Pine Valley, good spring with drinkable water there too, so you don't have to carry more than you need for the hike.

After the hike out you might want to go on down to Tassajara Zen Center (6 miles south from China Camp) for a dip in their hot tubs (must book by phone first) or skip the center and take a swim in the beautiful Tassara River a mile further east.

(Hwy 1 to Carmel, inland 27 miles on Carmel Valley Rd, then take Tassajara Rd into the LPNF - China Camp is (aprox, guessing) 12 miles from Carmel Valley Rd, and the last six are unpaved)
posted by anadem at 3:40 PM on August 27, 2006

head north to the feather river area. beautiful mountains and rivers to swim in, plenty of camp sites, not wildly crowded.
posted by judith at 5:10 PM on August 27, 2006

« Older Pass the Kleenex...   |   Unsold Pets Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.