San Francisco Bay Camping

View of Golden Gate from Kirby Cove Campground, Photo by Alison Taggart-Barone, NPS
View of Golden Gate from Kirby Cove Campground, Photo by Alison Taggart-Barone, NPS

As Bay Area residents, we are privileged with incredible access to scenic hiking trails, wilderness areas and campsites. Although Tahoe, Big Sur, and Yosemite are favored by many, most of us don’t realize that we don’t need to travel quite so far to arrive at our next camping destination.

Learn more about four campgrounds that are located right on the Bay.

Kirby Cove

Located at the foot of the Marin Headlands, Kirby Cove has four public campgrounds, each accommodating up to 10 people. Kirby Cove is nestled right along the Bay, just west of the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, offering campers breathtaking views of the Bridge and San Francisco.

The descent to the cove begins at the parking area above Battery Spencer on Conzelman Road. The trail is merely 1 mile in length, descending through a stately grove of Monterrey pine and cypress and Blue Gum eucalyptus. Coastal sage and vibrant Lupine cover the neighboring hillsides.

Campers can spend their day hiking, picnicking and taking in the beautiful views from Kirby Cove beach. Visitors should also be sure to check out Battery Kirby, a historic army battery located in the middle of the campgrounds.

Angel Island

Smack in the center of San Francisco Bay sits Angel Island State Park, offering spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline, the Marin Headlands, Mount Tamalpais and the East Bay. Combine the proximity to the city and Marin with the spectacular views and you can see why campers have to reserve one of Angel Island’s nine sites up to six months in advance.

Camping at Angel Island provides a unique experience. Looking out, you quickly realize you are surrounded by a bustling and urban landscape, yet seeing the Bay surround you on all sides, there is also a feeling of isolation and seclusion.

During your stay, take the time to consider the island’s history and past inhabitants. Angel Island was originally a seasonal hunting and gathering location for the Coast Miwok tribes. In addition to serving as an Immigration Station, processing hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the island has over 100 years of military history.

Take the Tiburon Ferry to the island and you might get the chance to meet Captain Maggie and learn more about the island’s history and transition to a State Park.

Rob Hill

Rob Hill sits on top of the highest point in the Presidio overlooking Baker Beach and the Pacific Ocean. It is the only campground in San Francisco and is open April through October. Rob Hill is close enough to bus or bike to, yet secluded enough to provide a relaxing getaway.

Of the four campsites, two are available for public use, each accommodating up to 30 people. The other two sites are used for the Camping at the Presidio program, a program which provides youth who traditionally have not visited national parks with meaningful overnight camping experiences.

Campers can spend their time roasting marshmallows in the large campfire pits, hiking the nearby Bay Area Ridge Trail or walking down to Baker Beach via the sand ladder on Lincoln Blvd.

China Camp

Nestled on the shores of San Pablo Bay in San Rafael, Back Ranch Meadows Campground features 30 campsites situated among groves of oaks, bay laurels, and madrones. Once the site of a thriving fishing village, China Camp State Park is comprised of 1,640 acres of natural watershed along the shores of San Francisco Bay.

All campsites at Back Ranch Meadows campground are hike-in sites. The park features extensive salt marsh, meadow and oak habitats that are home to a variety of native wildlife. Campers can enjoy bird watching, hiking, swimming, boating, windsurfing and sunshine. The park has some of the best weather in the Bay Area, with an average of over 200 fog-free days per year.