Imagine waking up to the sound of waves crashing against the shore, feeling the salty breeze on your skin, and watching the sun rise over the ocean. This isn’t just a dream; it’s a reality when you go beach camping in San Francisco. San Francisco is known for its stunning views and diverse landscapes, and what better way to experience all of them than by camping on the beach?
From Ocean Beach to Half Moon Bay, there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a family adventure, or a solo trip, beach camping in San Francisco offers something for everyone. So pack your tent, grab your sunscreen, and get ready for a memorable experience in the great outdoors.
#1. Kirby Cove Campground, Marine Headlands
At the storied Battery Kirby in the Marin Headlands, there is a secret campground called Kirby Cove. It is a portion of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and a service road that descends directly from the north side of the bridge provides access to its five available sites. Meanwhile, each of the five sites can hold up to 10 people and you can reserve in advance.
Additionally, three automobiles are permitted per campground, and it takes only a short distance to get there from the parking area. Up to 35 people can eat at the additional day-use picnic area at Kirby Cove, and there are three more sites with comparable amenities in the Bicentennial Campground. Only tent camping is permitted at both campgrounds.
#2. Back Ranch Meadow Campground
On the shore of Marin County, close to San Rafael, sits China Camp State Park. Here, indigenous civilizations of the area first made their homes. Later, this coastal location developed into a significant Chinese fishing community. Within the confines of the park, the historic China Camp Village offers visitors a glimpse of this once-bustling time. Visitors must walk up to 300 yards to reach the 33 constructed sites in the Back Ranch Meadows Campground in China Camp State Park. There are wheelbarrows available to transport equipment from the parking lot to the campsites, as well as flushing toilets and potable water.
Moreover, the China Camp Village and China Camp Beach can be reached by campers after a six-mile stroll on the Shoreline Trail, which is a popular activity in the state park. The roads in the park are frequently used by bikers who want to enjoy the coastline views.
#3. Point Reyes National Seashore
Two rustic hike-in campgrounds near the ocean are available at Point Reyes National Seashore. Permits are required for the Coastal Campground, which is hidden in a small grassy valley. There are two group sites, two ordinary sites, and a vault toilet, although there is no assurance that any will be functional. There is a 6.3-mile journey from the Bear Valley Trailhead to the Wildcat Campground, which has a view of the ocean and is close to the beach. Both call for permits.
#4. Francis Beach Campground
One of the most amazing beach camping is San Francisco is the Francis Beach Campground. On Highway 1, Half Moon Bay State Beach is 45 minutes south of San Francisco. With 52 campsites and five white, sandy beaches, it provides a tropical retreat. Tents are only permitted on three of the grassy spots closest to the water. Overnight visitors have access to potable water, flushing toilets, and coin-operated showers. There are other seashore sights to see at Half Moon Bay, including the huge wave surfing at Mavericks, which is four miles up the coast.
#5. Anchor Bay Campground
You will be rewarded by the splendor of this modest, six-acre, privately-owned campground if you travel north to Mendocino County. It was first popularized as a family-friendly vacation spot in 1925 and is located in a small gulch surrounded by native redwood trees and other coastal vegetation.
There are 27 campsites total, four of which are among redwoods, with the remaining sites scattered along the shore. Each camping area features a fire pit, picnic table, and a water hookup. You can purchase coffee and pastries from White Cap in the little village by taking a short route from the campground.
#6. Angel Island Environmental Composites
The largest uninhabited island in San Francisco Bay is Angel Island State Park, which can only be reached by ferry or private boat. There are 13 miles of paths there, one of which ascends Mount Liverpool. Three ecological campgrounds let guests spend the entire night alone in the facility. A small beach with an additional eco campground set aside for kayakers is also there, along with water and vault toilets.
#7. Limekiln State Park
At Limekiln State Park in Big Sur, Ocean Camp is only a short distance from the water. Ocean Camp has just 12 campsites, the majority of which are near a creek, and is frequently reserved months in advance. You can get to the beach by taking a sand path that passes beneath a bridge.
The campsites are slightly wind-sheltered, despite not being immediately on the beach, which makes it easier to sleep, especially if you’re tent camping. Although this park does allow RVs and trailers, don’t anticipate any electrical hookups. Each campsite includes a fire ring with a grill and a picnic table, and the restroom building provides showers.
#8. Sunset State Park
On one side of this campground lies a beach, and on the other are miles and miles of strawberry fields. There are 90 spots for auto camping there, some of which can fit RVs up to 30 feet long. (no hookups). Bring a pop-up umbrella for the afternoon because there isn’t much shade at some of the locations. If you have a lot of beach stuff to carry, you can drive from your campsite and park in the lot below, or you can take a quick 100-step walk down to the beach. It’s good to know that campsites don’t provide much privacy and are very close to one another.
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#9. Manresa State Beach
With only 64 sites, Manresa is smaller than the state beach campgrounds nearby. All of the sites at this campground are walk-in, so you can park in the unloading zone to transport your gear, but you’ll need to relocate it to the higher lot for the duration of your stay. Bring a folding cart for your gear to make moving things easier, but it will be well worth the effort because the campsites are on a bluff with ocean views.
Make sure to dress in layers and wrap the youngsters up at night because, like with any coastal camping, the temperature drops at night and it can be very chilly in the mornings until the fog clears.
#10. New Brighton State Beach
Between Manresa and the center of Capitola is New Brighton. There are 109 campsites available at this campground, nine of which have ocean views. Ten of the sites have RV hookups, while one is designated as a bike and hike campsite for people who arrive on two legs. You can walk along the railroad lines to get to downtown Capitola or down paths to the ocean if you need to hurry to the Village Creamery for a scoop of mint chip ice cream. Some of the locations lack shade, so be sure to have quarters for the showers.
#11. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
California’s Sonoma County is home to the well-liked campground Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. It is only 20 miles away from the city of Sonoma and is the location of Sonoma Creek’s headwaters. With mature trees and vegetation along its borders, it contains 49 plots that can be reserved in advance. Each overnight visitor gets access to flushing facilities and coin-operated showers despite the lack of electric hookups. In addition to the Robert Ferguson Observatory and Jack London State Historic Park, the park features 21 miles of trails and several distinctive visitor attractions.
#12. Kirk Creek Campground
This campground is also another one of the beach camping in San Francisco with amazing features. It is a part of the Los Padres National Forest, has 33 single-family sites for tent and RV camping, and is perched on a hill 100 feet above the ocean. (no utility hook-ups). Each campsite has a table, a campfire ring with a grill, and a great view of the river. The campground has vault toilets, but there aren’t any showers or running water. There are hiking trails nearby, including one that leads to the beach (be aware of poison oak). You can reserve a spot here up to six months in advance, which is useful to know.
Can You Camp Anywhere in San Francisco?
With the exception of the prized Rob Hill group campground in the Presidio, there aren’t many legal camping alternatives in the city, but there are a variety of camping possibilities across the Bay Area. From San Francisco, campgrounds are located in every direction.
Is there a Free Beach Camping in California?
The only thing better than camping, especially in a forested or coastal setting, is free camping. There is enough free camping in California, a state renowned for its natural beauty, to keep you traveling for months or perhaps years.
Do I Need a Permit to Camp in California?
The Friday before Memorial Day to September 30th each year is peak season, during which time overnight permits are quota-restricted and need reservations all year long. Additionally, free day-use permits are necessary to enter Desolation Wilderness. These are accessible from local trailheads or US Forest Service offices.