Best Spots to Camp in California

In many cases, these campgrounds are less than an hour away, making them ideal for weekend or midweek getaways. A lot of these sites have a variety of activities including hiking, swimming and fishing. So if you want to avoid a long drive to Yosemite or Lake Tahoe, take advantage of the beauty that surrounds us in the Bay Area. Reservations for most of these parks can be made at


East Bay

Anthony Chabot Regional Park. The Chabot Family Campground has 63 walk-in and tent campsites, and 12 trailer campsites with full hookups. This year-round campground offers naturalist-led campfire programs, an amphitheater and hiking and fishing at Lake Chabot. The bathrooms include hot showers. Reservations should be made 12 weeks in advance. 9999 Redwood Road, Castro Valley. 888-327-2757, option 2. 

Del Valle Regional Park. Once you get your campsite set up, there’s so much to do including swimming in the lake, fishing, boating, hiking and picnicking. The campground features family campgrounds, group camps and equestrian camps. The family campground includes 150 sites, 21 of them with water and sewage, and electrical hook-ups. There’s also centrally located toilet and shower facilities. Reservations should be made at least 12 weeks in advance. 7000 Del Valle Road, Livermore. 888-327-2757, option 2. 



Kirby Cove. This campground may be a little rugged, but its view makes it worth it. From Kirby Cove’s sandy beach, you get beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city. Within the cypress trees near the beach, there are only four campsites (each accommodating 10 people), so reservations are essential. The sites include pit toilets, barbecue pits, picnic tables and fire rings. But you must bring your own water. Conzelman Road/Battery Spencer, Sausalito. 415-331-1540. 

China Camp State Park. This park offers intertidal salt marshes, meadows and oak habitats, hiking and an 1880s Chinese shrimp-fishing village that is now a museum by the bay. All of the campsites at Back Ranch Meadows campground are hike-in for tent camping only. The sites are no more than 300 yards from the parking area. 101 Peacock Gap Trail, San Rafael. 415-488-5161 or 800-444-7275. 



Butano State Park. Just three miles from the ocean, this campground is one of the area’s best-kept secrets. The campground, which is south of Half Moon Bay, is seldom full except during peak summer months. The park offers hiking trails with beautiful scenery. There are 39 campsites each with a table, food locker and campfire ring. Twenty-one are drive-in sites and the rest require a 20- to 150-yard walk from parking. Restrooms have flush toilets but no hot water. 1500 Cloverdale Road, Pescadero. 800-444-7275.

Half Moon Bay State Beach. For beach lovers, the Francis Beach Campground is the place to go. Campers can enjoy beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and the Half Moon Bay harbor, seeing shorebirds and being lulled to sleep by the crashing waves. Make sure you come prepared for strong winds. The 54 sites at this campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Flush toilets and showers are available. To accommodate an improvement project, reservations cannot be made Oct. 1-Dec. 31. 95 Kelly Ave., Half Moon Bay. 1-800-444-7275.

San Mateo County Memorial Park. With a swimming hole, more than eight miles of hiking trails and a store, this is one of the most popular campgrounds in the area. Surrounded by beautiful old-growth redwoods, it has 136 campsites, flush toilets, showers and water. 9500 Pescadero Creek Road, Loma Mar. 650-879-0238. 


Silicon Valley

Big Basin Redwoods State Park. With its majestic towering redwoods, this is a place that everyone should visit. Established in 1902, it’s California’s oldest state park and is home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco. There are 146 campsites that include a picnic table, fire ring and bear locker. The campground also has drinking water, restrooms and showers. For campers wanting a little more privacy, there are some walk-in sites available. Big Basin’s park headquarters is nine miles north of the town of Boulder Creek on State Highway 236. 800-444-7275. 

Henry W. Coe State Park. Spring is the most popular time to visit this park with its fabulous displays of wildflowers. There are also numerous creeks and ponds and hiking trails. The park includes 27 campsites, 11 of which are hike-in group sites. 9000 E. Dunne Ave., Morgan Hill. 408-779-2728.

Teresa Mills-Faraudo is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent and mother of two.

Do you love the outdoors, but don't want to rough it? Check out our list of Bay Area glamping options. 


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