4 Easy Bay Area Backpacking Trips + Where to Rent Gear
Wildcat Campground, one of four hike-in campgrounds at Point Reyes National Seashore. (Courtesy of @elkke)

4 Easy Bay Area Backpacking Trips + Where to Rent Gear


If you’ve never done it, backpacking—hiking with all the gear you need to camp overnight—can be intimidating.

Not only does adding a heavy pack significantly up the trail’s difficulty, a single vault toilet is about as much convenience as you’re likely to get once you’ve arrived at your destination.

But if you’re willing to rough it, backpacking is one of the best ways to experience the outdoors. Away from electricity and road noise, you’ll get a real taste of how the natural world spends its evenings.

You don’t have to hike long distances to experience the backcountry; just a couple of miles is enough to get away from it all. Nor do you have to drive far to find it. Here are four easy backpacking trails right in the Bay Area—and where to rent any gear you need.

Castle Rock State Park

(Courtesy of @castlerock_sp)

Sculpted sandstone cliffs, lush forests of redwood and oak, and sweeping views all the way to the Pacific are all part of the magic at this park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s a 2.5-mile hike to Castle Rock’s trail camp, where you’ll find toilets, picnic tables, and garbage cans for offloading any trash you’d rather not pack back out. They reserve a quarter of the campground’s 20 sites for walk-ups—just be sure to check in at the visitor’s center to find out if any are open before you start your trek.

Distance: 2.5 miles one way

Reservation required: Five campsites are first-come, first-served; 15 campsites can be reserved in advance.

Fee: $15/night + $8 reservation fee

// 15451 CA-35 (Los Gatos), parks.ca.gov

Morgan Territory Regional Preserve

(Courtesy of @baggiebloke)

Although Livermore’s Morgan Territory flies under the radar, it’s an absolutely gorgeous park with a fraction of the visitors suffered by many of the Bay’s other hiking trails. The preserve’s backpack camp is just 4.5 miles from the staging area on a route that explodes with wildflowers in spring and early summer, and has commanding views all the way to the Sierra. There are a few different ways to reach the campground, which has a vault toilet and picnic tables, but the Highland Ridge Trail is currently closed due to storm damage. The backpack camp is closed seasonally, November through April.

Distance: 4.5 miles one way

Reservation required: Yes

Fee: $8 reservation fee + $5/night for those 16 years old and up

// 9401 Morgan Territory Rd. (Livermore), ebparks.org

Point Reyes National Seashore

(Courtesy of @allytanner)

All four of Point Reyes hikable backcountry campgrounds are perfect for beginners or anyone who wants the seclusion of a remote site without the intense effort. Both the Coast and Sky Campgrounds are less than two miles from their respective trailheads (Laguna and Sky), and their names hint at what to expect: Coast is in a cove near the beach, Sky is on a mountain ridge with impressive views of Drakes Bay and the Pacific. For a longer but still manageable trail, the Wildcat Campground, which sits on a bluff just a short walk to the beach (and nearby Alamere Falls), is 5.5 to 6.3 miles, depending on which trailhead you start from. Glen Campground, which is a 4.6 mile hike from Bear Valley, is nestled in a wooded valley.

Distance: 1.5 to 6.30 miles one way, depending on the campground

Reservation required: Yes

Fee: $30/night per campsite

// 1 Bear Valley Rd. (Point Reyes Station), nps.gov/pore

Round Valley Regional Preserve

(Courtesy of @savemountdiablo)

This 2,200-acre park has the lovely rolling hills, oak and manzanita woodlands, and open grasslands only the East Bay can deliver. The Round Valley Regional Preserve’s backpacking route runs 3.6 miles alongside the Miwok River to the Round Valley Group Camp. There, you’ll find graded tent pads, picnic tables and, crucially, a vault toilet. With the Hardy Canyon Trail currently closed due to storm damage, stick to the Miwok and Murphy Meadow Trails on your way out and back.

Distance: 3.6 miles one way

Reservation required: Yes

Fee: $8 reservation fee + $5/night for those 16 years old and up

// 19450 Marsh Creek Rd. (Brentwood), ebparks.org

Where to Rent Backpacking Gear

(Courtesy of @sportsbasement)

If you’re not ready to invest in a pack, lightweight tent, and other equipment essentials, there are several spots to rent it. For a successful backpacking trip, you’ll need:

  • Backpack, 30-50 liters
  • Lightweight tent
  • Lightweight sleeping bag and pad
  • Small backpacking stove with fuel
  • Tarp (optional, unless the weather is wet)

Gear Rental

Last Minute Gear: 563 Sutter St. (Lower Nob Hill), lastminutegear.com

The Camp Kit: Delivery only, anywhere in the Bay Area, thecampkit.com

Sports Basement: 610 Old Mason St. (Presidio);,1590 Bryant St. (Mission-Potrero), and a variety of other locations in the Bay Area, sportsbasement.com

REI: 840 Brannan St. (SoMa); 1338 San Pablo Ave. (Berkeley); and a variety of other locations in the Bay Area, rei.com

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