Last-Minute Guide to Bay Area Camping

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It’s Friday (already?!). And dammit, you want to get outside this weekend. Last-minute camping in the Bay Area may seem as far away as the stars, but life actually ain’t too shabby for us procrastinators. With a little guidance, and an acceptance of the unknown (it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?), you can max out your weekend with all the pine, sun, salt, water, and wind you can get—minus the planning—and come back fully recharged for your next set of 9-5’s.


Pro Tips 

  1. Just because a campground is fully booked doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. More often than you think, reserved campgrounds end up being available due to last-minute cancellations or no-shows. 
  2. Head out Friday morning to get dibs on FCFS (first-come, first-served) camping in the Bay Area.

  3. According to Recreation.gov, if you arrive after 12 p.m. (check-in time) the day after a “booked” campground should be claimed, and you find that it's empty, it’s yours for the taking! *Check-in time varies by campground. Make sure to double-check before snagging a spot.

  4. Don’t be shy! Camping is all about community, right? If everything is really full, ask around and you’re likely to find someone who’ll let you pitch a tent in their area. Bonus: making new, like-minded friends who are also passionate about the outdoors. Not too shabby if you ask us.

Where To Go

(Glen Camp, Photo by Hipcamper, Agnes Czaja)

Point Reyes National Seashore

Here you’ll find diversity at its finest among five campgrounds ranging from kayak-in spots to sites that are just a hop, and a skip from waterfalls that will lead you to the beach. Glen Camp is a good place to scope out, as it's the furthest from the coast of all the campgrounds in Point Reyes.

Short Notice Score: Oceans, valleys, and oysters, oh my! Learn more.

Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 18 minutes (via CA-1 N)

(Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Photo by Hipcamper, Julian Bialowas)

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin is one of the oldest state parks in California, consisting of four standard campgrounds, one set of group campgrounds, and tent cabins. We’re guessing the odds of grabbing a last-minute cabin is pretty slim, but try your chances at hundreds of other campsites. 

Short Notice Score: Waterfalls, canyons, and wildlife galore. Learn more.

Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 35 minutes (via I-280 S)

(Mount Diablo State Park, Photo by Hipcamper, Cody Reneau)

Mount Diablo State Park

Mount Diablo is a massive state park and ecological gem of the Bay Area. On a clear day, you can see 35 of California’s 58 counties from the summit of this Bay Area giant! Snag a pair of binoculars, and you can even see Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Short Notice Score: Head to the western side of the campground for incredible views over the valley. Learn more.

Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 28 minutes (via CA-24E)

(China Camp State Park, Photo by Hipcamper, Clinton Loo)

China Camp State Park

This is one of the closest campgrounds to San Francisco! Close enough to bike to during a weekday, and leave the next morning for work. Brag about that over the water cooler! Sound like a plan? Take notes from our overnight bicycle camping trip with Pedal Inn.

Short Notice Score: Basic amenities (you can shower before heading back into work!) and a plethora of trails to stretch out the legs. Learn more.

Distance from San Francisco: 38 minutes (via US-101)

(Portola Redwoods State Park, Photo by Hipcamper, Katey Wade)

Portola Redwoods State Park

This place is like real-life FernGully. Scope out over 50 family sites at Portola Redwoods Campground sprinkled underneath a canopy of majestic, olfactory-tingling redwoods.

Short Notice Score: Banana slug sightings and bundles of firewood for supreme s’more cooking. Learn more

Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 15 minutes (via I-280 S)

These aren’t the only options available for first-come, first-served camping in the Bay Area. Discover more, and get outside this weekend!

 

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