Sports Basement's Guide to Bay Area Campsites (by drive time)
So you wanna go camping buuut you don’t want to load all your stuff into the car and drive for 10 hours. Or you don’t want to get up at an ungodly hour just to avoid traffic. Maybe you only wanna go for a day or two to start practicing your backpacking skills but you don’t want to spend a whole day just driving there. Or maybe your kids refuse to be in a car longer than an hour-- apparently that “Are we there yet?” bit never goes out of fashion.
The good news is the Bay Area is chock full of places to go camping, even in San Francisco! To see some of our favorites, just check the map layer(s) with the drive times you can tolerate (click the box in the left hand corner if you don't see the layers). All drive times are estimated from the San Francisco so make sure to adjust accordingly when you plan your trip (and don't be afraid to use Google's traffic estimates!). We’ve also included the Sports Basement locations so you can get some last minute gear close to your campsite or pick up your camp rentals.
Wanna know more about our super-extra favorite campgrounds? Scroll down past the map for some recommendations and tips on a few of ‘em. And don’t forget to RSVP for CampFest so you can test out the gear you're gonna wanna take on your upcoming adventures.
Pantoll Campground, Mt. Tamalpais State Park
Only a short drive away, Pantoll is perfect for a weekend outing with the kids! You’ll only be in the car for about 45 minutes (Google may say 30, but SF traffic always says otherwise) and you’ll feel like you’re in a whole new world. The campgrounds have all the basics including drinking water, restrooms, and even firewood so you can make s’mores (weather permitting, of course). This place is just far enough to get away from the hustle & bustle yet close enough to take comfort in the fact that city life is just a short ride away.
Castle Rock, Castle Rock State Park
If you’re looking for local backpacking spot, this is the perfect place. This campground is a starting point of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. If you start at Castle Rock, you’ll hike down Castle Rock Park through Big Basin and end at Waddel Beach. It’ll take about 3 days to complete the 25-mile hike so if you're a beginner backpacker, be sure to take a couple training hikes first (or join us for a Beginner Backpacking trip!). Get more info on the Santa Cruz backcountry trail camps here.
Juniper Campground, Mt. Diablo
The Juniper campgrounds offer incredible views of the East Bay. You’ll be over the bridge in no time (or maybe you're already there!) so you can get a few extra Z’s before you leave to make camp. From there, you’ll have all day to explore the whole mountain. The mountain tends to be on the drier side so take plenty of water for basecamp and any hiking/biking adventures. You’ll only be a short distance away from the city which means that the raccoons are no joke! Those fearless little critters will loot your snacks come sun-down so make sure to use food canisters and keep your pooches on a leash.
Bullfrog Campground, Austin Creek State Recreation Area
A small gem in the North Bay, this campground is great for a long weekend trip away. There are a ton of trails to hike throughout the park and a large pond to find bugs and bullfrogs. History buffs will also like seeing the historic Pond Farm. You’ll find a recently restored pottery barn with artists exhibits and info on the pottery artists who used to live there. Tucked away in the trees, you’ll be one of the happiest of campers in the Bay Area.
10 Lakes Basin, Yosemite National Park
Beginner backpackers can start practicing their skills on the hike to Ten Lakes Basin. The 13.8 mile hike goes up 2,200 feet for stunning views that are well worth the walk. All of the lovely lakes along the trail give you plenty of options to cool off in. Bonus: you’ll enjoy Yosemite without worrying about the crowds in the Valley. This is one of our favorite spots to take beginner backpackers so if you don’t wanna go it alone just yet, you can sign up for one of our guided backpacking trips to 10 Lakes Basin this summer!