Roughing It or Fluffing It

What better way to bond as a family than sleeping on the hard earth, snuggling up against each other in a cold dark tent, and then warming up a can of beans over a little fire for breakfast?


Camping with your kids is one of the classic family adventures. But in the event it doesn’t appeal to your urban sensibility, you can always go glamping – aka, glamorous camping, complete with down comforters, housekeeping, coffeemaker and yes, on-site masseurs.


The idea is to escape the city, if only for a weekend, and let your kids discover a whole other world – the world of no cement. Perhaps, if you’re really brave, a world free of technological gizmos.


The Bay Area offers a particularly rich diversity of camping experiences – from the redwood forests to beaches and ancient volcanic canyons. It’s a short drive to some of the best campsites in the country, whether you’re a novice camper or a die-hard nature enthusiast.


Even those who are squeamish about bugs, scared about reports of mountain lions and terrified of poison oak can find a place in the great outdoors, with resort and lodge camping a short drive away.


Consider these perennial favorites, all within a short drive of Silicon Valley:

You don’t even have to leave Santa Clara County to take advantage of both car and hike-in camping at Henry W. Coe State Park. Its 250 miles of hiking trails, deep canyons and rippling creeks make it the largest state park in Northern California.


In Santa Cruz County, Big Basin Redwood State Park is California’s oldest state park, with miles of trails for hikers and equestrians, along with stunning redwood groves and waterfalls. This park, located in Boulder Creek, is a longtime favorite camping spot for Silicon Valley families.


If it’s the ocean you’re longing to see, look no further than Manresa State Beach, with its 15 miles of hiking and ocean-side campground. Or, for that matter, try New Brighton State Beach in Capitola, one of the most visited state beaches in California. It features family-oriented campgrounds, hiking and biking sites, family programs and spectacular views of the Monterey Bay.


Further south, Fremont Peak State Park in Monterey County offers expansive views of Monterey Bay and a unique astronomical observatory with a 30-inch telescope, which often hosts public programs.


Keep driving south and you’ll hit Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, famous for its open meadows, varied forests and wildlife, scenic trails and campsites situated right on the Big Sur River. The Big Sur Lodge is another option with 61 guest rooms, a café and grocery store.


Glamping Your Way

But if a night sleeping under the stars and over the rocks is not your idea of fun, you can still introduce the kids to the great outdoors. 


Call it nature with a human touch – queen-sized mattresses, fresh towels, heaters and those little bottles of pretty-smelling shampoo. 


Costanoa Lodge & Camp in Pescadero offers an eco-adventure resort connected to four state parks and 30,000 acres of hiking trails. It also features a bar and restaurant, general store, catering, Wi-Fi, spa and hot tubs. After a full day of hiking, you can crash in a tent bungalow, a cabin, lodge room or basic tent site. Rates start at $115. Rossi Road at Highway 1, Pescadero. 650-879-1100.


If you’re willing to drive a greater distance, you can check out Safari West in Santa Rosa. Billed as the “spirit of Africa in the heart of the Wine Country,” this resort is built around a preserve consisting of more than 400 exotic mammals and birds. It also features animal presentations, vehicle tours, a restaurant and spa services. You can bed down in tents or cottages, from rates starting at $170 a night. On Franz Valley Road, Santa Rosa. 707-579-2551.


Sara Solovitch is an associate editor of Bay Area Parent. Millicent Skiles and Christine Foster contributed to this article.

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