6 of the Best Campsites within 2 Hours of the Bay Area
Perhaps you’ve gone on plenty of action-packed weekend trips. Or, you might love going to small coastal towns and camping by the seaside for easy access to surfing. Maybe you prefer camping in the woods, with countless hiking trails surrounding you. No matter what you are looking for in a weekend adventure, the Bay Area most likely has it.
The Bay Area is an excellent spot to try out many different outdoor activities and be immersed in the beautiful scenery while camping. If you are trying to plan a weekend trip to the area, but you don’t know where to start — keep reading.
Below, we have the six best campsites around the Bay Area that are suitable for camping with your adventure van and will give you access to countless fun activities.
Francis Beach Campground - Half Moon Bay
The Francis Beach Campground is only a little over an hour away from the bay area and will give you a gorgeous sunset view over Half Moon Bay.
You can find 50 different campsites, each with access to flush toilets, potable water, showers, and picnic tables. There are no electric hookups here, but there is a dump station. Campfires are allowed here, so have your portable fire pit on hand.
You won’t have to worry about finding something to do while camping here. The campsite is located right next to Francis Beach, so pack your swim and beach gear to wade in the water and catch some sun on the sand; if you are looking for a hike, head over to the four-mile Coastside Trail.
You can also find great surfing while you are here. You will find the best waves at the Jetty near El Granada. If you are a big wave fan, head to Pillar Point to catch a glimpse of the famed Mavericks.
If you are low on food or other essentials, you can head to the Safeway in Half Moon Bay. Half Moon Bay is home to many great attractions, including Half Moon Bay State Beach, Pillar Point Harbor, and Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
The Blooms Creek Campground in Big Basin Redwoods State Park is just two hours from the bay area. There are 52 RV sites here, with four tent-only sites.
You will have access to picnic areas, food lockers, a fire ring, flush toilets, tap water, and quarter-operated showers at each campsite. There is also a dump station located at the campground entrance. Reservations are recommended because of the campsite’s popularity.
The Big Basin Redwoods State Park preserves over 18,000 acres of natural landscape. If you want a great introduction to the beauty of the redwoods, stroll down the .5-mile-long Redwood Loop Trail. If you want a longer hike, check out the Marsh Trail, a 1.5-mile out-and-back hike. You can also take a bike on any of the fire roads. If you want something new, you can ride a horse on the Westridge Trail or the Henry Creek Trail.
This state park is 25 miles northwest of Santa Cruz, a great California spot to explore. Some of the best highlights include Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Natural Bridges State Beach, and Wilder Ranch State Park.
Bothe Napa Valley State Park
Just under two hours from the bay area is Bothe Napa Valley State Park, where you can stay at the Bothe-Napa Valley Campground. There are only 30 campsites here, so you should reserve ahead of time.
While here, you can use their flush toilets, potable water, showers, and picnic tables. The park even has cabins that fit up to six people with natural gas heat, full kitchens, dishes and cooking equipment, a bathroom with a shower, and a deck.
If you are in the mood to swim, the state park has a pool open to people visiting and staying at the campground on weekends during the summer. If you are in the mood to hike, climb up Coyote Peak, which will give you amazing views of wine country. At Both Napa Valley State Park, biking is extremely popular, and each trail will have designated signs marking bike-friendly sections.
The park is five miles north of St. Helena, boasting many inspiring sights. The most popular thing to do here is to tour wineries and go on wine tastings. Some of the most popular destinations are Pride Mountain Vineyards, Sattui Winery, Merryvale Vineyards, and Joseph Phelps Vineyards.
Bodega Dunes Campground - Sonoma Coast State Park
The Bodega Dunes Campground, located in Sonoma Coast State Park, is only an hour and a half away from the bay area. This campground is the biggest on our list of recommendations, with 103 campsites. You will find flush toilets, potable water, showers, and picnic tables here.
Luckily, Sonoma Coast State Park has plenty of exciting things to do. Bodega Head is one of the most popular attractions, a rocky peninsula that will give you a prime spot for whale watching.
If you would rather watch the water from a sandy beach, check out South Salmon Creek Beach and North Salmon Creek Beach. After a day at the beach, check out Kortum Trail. This 4.5-mile hike will take you from Wright’s Beach to Blind Beach, giving you one-of-a-kind water and seaside landscape views.
Suppose you want to explore a lovely small Northern California town, head over to Jenner, four miles from the state park. While in this coastal town, check out Fort Ross State Historic Park, Jenner Headlands, and Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery. You will also find markets here if you need to pick up any groceries or toiletries.
Santa Cruz North - Coastanoa KOA
About an hour and a half away from the Bay Area is Santa Cruz North. Here, we recommend staying at the Costanoa KOA. This resort-like campground is designed to allow residents to explore the protected California coastline. Campers can also look forward to having access to water, electricity and full hookups, and fire pits.
The KOA provides plenty of activities, including hiking, mountain biking, music, art exhibits, kayaking, spa treatments, and more! Staying here will give you a traditional campground environment but with resort-level amenities.
The Santa Cruz Mountains are second to none for city-weary backpackers, but if you venture far from the camping spots, you can enjoy a fun-filled day aboard the Roaring Camp Railroad.
Gerstle Cove Campground - Salt Point State Park
Our last spot is Gerstle Cove Campground in Salt Point State Park. There are 28 sites here that will suit your adventure van, so claim your spot ahead of time. While you are here, you will have access to flush toilets, potable water, and picnic tables. There are no showers here, so you might want to pack a portable shower.
If you have your fishing gear packed, head over to Salt Point. However, be aware that fishing is not allowed in Gerstle Cove State Marine Reserve or Stewarts Point State Marine Reserve because marine life is protected here.
Motorized boating isn’t allowed within the park, but feel free to take your kayak or canoe on the water. You can even start at the cove and go into the open ocean for fishing and diving.
If you would rather take a hike, there are over 20 miles of trails in the park. One of the most popular trails is Salt Point Trail, a three-mile trail that will allow you to admire the rugged coastline and rock landscape.
Start Loading Up the Van
Now that you have a list of the best spots to visit in the bay area, it’s time to pack up your car and get going! If you need any upgrades to your adventure van to make your trip more convenient and enjoyable, check out our options and tips at Flatline Van Co.
Pillar Point Bluff | County of San Mateo, CA
Big Basin Redwoods State Park | CA Dept. of Parks and Recreation
Sonoma Coast State Park | CA Dept. of Parks and Recreation
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