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We wanted to follow up with a complete listing of all 51 backpacking camp sites within 2 hours of the Bay Area. Thanks again to Brice for helping out with this! If you didn’t get a chance to read the last post, Brice Pollock lives in the SF Bay Area where he logs a couple hundred miles every year on trail as an avid hiker and backpacker. He writes about his experiences in the Northern Californian wild on his blog Bay Area Explorers and leads an adventuring group under the same name. Like the story? Follow him on Twitter @BAExplorers
Now, you might be asking yourself: if I’m backpacking and carrying all my gear out into the park, why can’t I camp anywhere I want? Why do I still need to stick to designated camp sites?
Any kind of outdoor activity comes with responsibility: responsibility for the well-being of yourself and your party, and responsibility for the native environment and habitat that you're in (you wouldn't want to be the person who set off one of the largest wildlfires in California history in Yosemite National Park, would you?). By taking responsibility, you can have a great time and want to go back; and the environment can be protected and maintained so as to welcome you back.
Designated backpack campsites exist to help you take responsibility:
And while there are some parks that allow you to backpack in and set up camp nearly wherever you want, there may still be regulations you need to follow, such as setting up camp a minimum distance from the trailhead. Regardless, any good citizen outdoors should practice the seven 'Leave No Trace' principles. For obvious reasons, we have only inventoried the designated backpacking campsites
This following guide should be used as a starting point to planning (the information was compiled summer 2015). Availability and accessibility will inevitably change as the seasons and weather conditions change. You should always contact a ranger for the most up-to-date park information, to avoid showing up and finding out your favorite campsite has been closed due to mudslide!
As you read our guide, here are some other things to keep in mind:
|Area||Park||Campsite Name||Cost||Toilets?||Potable water?||Food locker?||Fire amenities?||Reservations?|
|North Bay||Marin Headlands||Bicentennial||Free||Yes||Yes||Grills nearby @ Battery Wallace||recreation.gov|
|Kirby Cove||$25 per camp per night||Yes||Yes||Grill & fire rings|
|Austin Creek||Tom King||$25 per camp per night||Yes||Fire rings||First come first serve|
|Manning Flat 1||Yes||Fire rings|
|Manning Flat 2||Yes||Fire rings|
|China Camp||Back Ranch Meadows||$35 per camp per night||Yes||Fire rings||reserveamerica.com|
|East Bay||Sunol||Sycamore||$5 per person per night + $2 Ohlone Wilderness Pass||1-888-EBPARKS|
|Cathedral||$5 per person per night||Yes|
|Maggie's Half Acre||Yes|
|Black Diamond Mines||Stewartville||Yes|
|Mission Peak||Eagle Spring|
|South Bay||Castle Rock||Castle Rock||$15 per camp per night||Yes||Yes||Fire rings||First come first serve|
|Waterman Gap||$15 per camp per night + $8 reservation fee||Yes||Yes||1-831-338-8861|
|Portola Redwoods||Slate Creek||Yes|
|Pescadero Creek Park||Shaw Flat||$10 per camp per night||Yes||First come first serve|
|Henry W. Coe||China Hole||$5 per camp per night||First come first serve|
|Madrone Soda Springs|
|Deer Horn Spring||Yes|
Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below, or contact us for immediate help with trip planning, gear, or anything else we can do to get you outdoors. We're Last Minute Gear, the only outdoor gear shop where you can buy, rent, or borrow gear!