With nine national parks, including Yosemite and the Redwoods, camping competition can be challenging in California. Those familiar with the Bay Area’s unique shoreline and stunning array of public lands know that nearby camping possibilities rival some of the state’s most desirable campgrounds. Whether you’re passing through or living in a camping spot Bay Area, a few hours’ drives from the city center are all it takes to find a tight outdoor overnight spot.
Salt Point State Park’s Gerstle Cove Campground
On the ocean side of Highway 1, Gerstel Cove Campground in Salt Point State Park contains 30 drive-in sites. While there are several campgrounds in the park, Gerstle Cove Campground is the closest to the ocean and is open all year. The campground is next to Gerstle Cove, a State Marine Reserve with a rich underwater kelp forest, as its name suggests. Gerstle Cove is a popular diving destination for campers due to its diverse marine life.
The campground is designed in a single loop, with the outer campsites providing greater privacy than the inside ones.
Fort Ross State Historical Park’s Reef Campground
Reef Campground is a small, pleasant beachfront campground within Fort Ross State Historical Park that is open from April 1 to November 30 every year. Near Fort Ross, the 21 campsites are located next to the seaside coves and extend up a small, redwood-lined gulch. There are no hookups, and sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Half of the sites are shaded by redwood trees, while the other half is exposed to the elements. When Reef Campground is open, potable water is occasionally available. Still, it may be turned off due to drought conditions or park conservation measures, so come prepared or check with Fort Ross State Park ahead of time.
Mount Diablo State Park’s Junction Campground
Junction Campground is Mount Diablo State Park’s smallest campground, with only six campsites. The campground, which stands under the shade of coast live oaks and opens to west-facing views of Diablo’s lower slopes and Diablo Valley, is located at the intersection of South Gate, North Gate, and Summit Roads.
The Junction Ranger Station is located near the campground’s entry road and provides functional park and recreation information. Nearby, the Summit Trail connects campers to great hiking and biking opportunities around Mount Diablo’s hillsides and significant monuments.
Mount Tamalpais State Park’s Pantoll Campground
Pantoll Campground, situated halfway up Mount Tamalpais’ forested southern slopes, is one of two first-come, first-served walk-in campgrounds within Mount Tamalpais State Park (the other being Bootjack). With 16 historic campsites nestled among a peaceful Douglas fir forest, time spent around the campfire here will quickly erase memories of the central city just a few miles to the south.
Camping is an outdoor activity that involves being away from home for an extended period with or without a shelter, such as a tent or a recreational vehicle. Typically, individuals leave developed regions to spend time outdoors in more natural settings, searching for enjoyable activities. Camping differs from day trips, picnics, and other similar short-term leisure activities.