Looking for a weekend camping trip outside of San Francisco? Well, you’ve come to the right place. San Francisco is home to beautiful locations like the Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite, and urban parks. It makes California unarguably one of the most ravishing places to live in. And just outside the Bay Area’s city center, you will find even more adventures to be explored.
In the current COVID climate, we can’t travel internationally and should try to avoid crowds. So, it’s a perfect time to spend a night in the wilderness. For a backcountry escape, you need not drive more than a few hours from San Francisco. We’ve hunted down some of the best Bay Area national parks and camping sites that northern California has to offer.
This park is located just an hour from San Francisco. The oldest park in the whole of California is guaranteed to provide you with a mesmerizing experience. They are a heritage site for ancient coast redwoods. Being able to explore and sleep amongst the giant redwood trees here is no less than pure magic.
A haven for hikers, you’ll find paths that take you past waterfalls to freshwater marshes, some trails take you up the Santa Cruz mountain range.
Camping within the park is more about tents and backcountry trails. Some sites can accommodate RVs, but there are no hookups available.
If you are visiting in a campervan, consider staying offsite at Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort, which provides full hookups and all the amenities you might need. Plus, it’s located just next to the San Lorenzo River, where you will still be sleeping under strands of redwoods.
Angel Island State Park
Take a ride out to the island in the San Francisco bay and relish the beauty of the much-talked-about skyline. Steeped in history and surrounded by nature, camping in a place like Angel Island State Park becomes an adventure that embeds in your memory forever.
Camping here is basic, but a good way to avoid crowds as they only have 16 sites.
Even if you decide not to spend a night, Angel Island makes a perfect stop for a day trip.
Mount Diablo State Park
Everyone who lives in the East Bay is lucky enough to have this stunning camping site right in their backyard, where they are more than welcome to ride their bike and enjoy an over-the-top camping experience. The state park is just above the mountain and has breathtaking views. On a clear day, you can see 200 miles out – so it should take a spot on your bucket list.
The park has tent camping and some RV sites without hookups, though you can find drinking water, flush toilets, and fire rims in the campsites.
If you’re looking to spend your weekend at a place that is picturesque with an incredible campground, Costanoa Lodge in Pescadero is the place to head to. Experience the wild and adventurous aura it radiates on the rugged coastline, with all the comforts of home.
Try out one of their numerous hiking or biking trails, take a kayak out to sea, maybe even attend a yoga class or book a spa session.
You will find perfect RV spots to set up camp in addition to luxury cabins and tent bungalows. Water, electricity, and full hookups are included. This is camping but also a restorative retreat.
Among the many sites that exist along Highway 1, Big Sur is one of the biggest and most wondrous of all. If you’re craving hiking trails and glamping, Big Sur is the outdoor space to be. A word of warning, it gets crowded here in the summers!
While you are staying in the area, visit some of the state parks here, including Point Lobos State Reserve Garrapata State Park & Beach, Andrew Molera State Park, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
The Presidio is a park of forests and hills with scenic vistas overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific Ocean.
From April to October, the park is packed due to its easy getaway into nature! A popular spot here is Rob Hill Campground – each of its campsites can accommodate around 30 people. It is extremely famous for BBQ nights, making it a hotspot in Presidio.
Mount Tamalpais State Park
Mt. Tamalpais is a spectacular camping site that offers a phenomenal view of San Francisco. It is famous for its hiking trails, biking escapades, and epic views of the Marin headlands, Farallon Islands and Mount Diablo.
If you want to enjoy the sight of Sierra’s snowcapped mountains, you should consider booking a cabin already. Thanks to the enchanting surroundings of a steep ravine and unique hiking trails of Pantoll campgrounds, campers love visiting the area.
A great opportunity is to stay in your campervan at Marin Park, just a short drive away. Here you’ll experience up close and personal what you might have glimpsed from Mount Tamalpais.
Kirby Cove Campground also lies across the Golden Gate Bridge for tent campers and is popular among camping enthusiasts. Book early as there are only five camping sites, together with a day-use site.
Anthony Chabot Regional Park
Situated in the East Bay, Anthony Chabot is a great camping spot with stunning landscapes.
Nestled in the Oakland hills, with 70 miles of hiking and cycling trails, immerse yourself in the rolling grasslands and scent of eucalyptus trees. In a place as amazing as this, the smallest activity, such as looking at the stars, becomes very enjoyable.
Here you’ll find a number of camping spots and several RV sites with full hookups.
Outdoor activities are abundant here on the coast. Sweat it out on trails for hiking and biking, go sunset horseriding, or rent a kayak or paddleboard to watch a sunrise over the water.
Half-moon State Beach is home to a gorgeous campground called Francis Beach campground. Some, but not all, campsites have electrical hookups for campers in RVs. Be sure to book ahead for your desired spot.
Castle Rock State Park
Castle Rock State Park is ideal for hikes. The high mountain ridges, beautiful ocean views, and dense shrubbery make it an incredible weekend visit. Here you can also have the experience of sleeping surrounded by redwood groves.
This state park’s 34 miles of rugged trails connect to a larger network between the Santa Clara and San Lorenzo valleys and up to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Why not squeeze both into a weekend and stay at Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort
Napa aka. Wine Country, just an hour from San Francisco, makes the perfect destination for a camper who loves wining and dining. Here you can find an escape into nature or enjoy the wonderful town.
After going on a hike (or maybe a wine tasting adventure), settle down in Skyline Wilderness Park located in the foothills of the Napa Valley. The site’s vintage environment is perfect for campfires and family gatherings, with both tent camping and RV hookups available.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes is north of the city, offering a soundtrack of crashing waves and a sky full of stars to sleep under at night.
Explore the cape and its famous lighthouse, or maybe visit the local Heidrun Meadery for a taste of history.
Camping within the area requires reservations, so make sure to plan it ahead of time. Four hike-in campgrounds are famous in Point Reyes; Coast, Wildcat, Glen, and Sky.
You’ll also find great tent and RV sites in Olema Campground just next door. It offers full hookups and free hot showers.
Bodega Dunes Campground
This is another recreation area along the Sonoma Coast that gives you gorgeous seaside vibes.
Enjoy the local scene of art, culture, and gastronomy, or take a whale-watching excursion.
It is a bit of a short walk to the beach from the campground, but once you let the sea air into your lungs, you’ll know that the trek was worth it. You’ll need to take a hike through the dunes – which is quite an enjoyable experience before being greeted with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean in Bodega Bay.
Camping here is basic without hookups, but you’ll find hot showers, flush toilets, and a dump station.
Fremont Peak State Park
If you want the prodigious views of Monterey Bay, take your camping car up to Fremont peak. Surrounded by Oaklands, wildlife, and natural beauty, this site gives picnics and camping a new meaning.
It’s especially popular as an astronomical observation spot; it even has a 30-inch telescope. You get clear views of stars thanks to little light pollution here.
You’ll find tent camping here and a limited number of RV spots. So if you want to get a peek through the telescope, make a reservation with the park early.
Mount Madonna County Park
This park is absolutely full of redwood forests and lush greenery. Here, you’ll find a variety of flora, from dense woodlands to rolling meadows. It’s the perfect escape from the city.
And if you want to give your feet a little break, Mount Madonna Stables offer horseback trail rides! It’s a fun way to see the park, and kids will love it.
Mount Madonna is also well known for overnight camping, and they offer a very unique experience. Valley View #1 offers yurts! They can house up to 10 adults, so they are perfect for gatherings of families and friends. If you are taking your RV or tent, there are spacious sites offering plenty of amenities.
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.