By ,
Community Engagement Intern

Growing up as a Bay Area local and hiking its abundant selection of county and state parks as an adult, I’ve acquired my fair share of topographical intel. My dog Koda loves it when I bring him along to Mt. Madonna. I also feel a slight wave of satisfaction when we reach a familiar trailhead and I know exactly which route will keep us on the shaded side of the peak, away from poison oak and back to the car before a ranger writes us a ticket for being in the park past sunset (believe me, I’ve had to learn that one the hard way).

But what about those times when I actually want to relax in the great outdoors past nightfall? Starlit skies, the sweet sound of crickets at sunset and the smell of a campfire burning itself out is all within reach and is as easy as calling ahead or going online to reserve a campsite.

And while I did have to invest in some basic gear like a tent and a sleeping bag, I don’t have to invest in a long trip — there are plenty of incredible parks to check out right near my South Bay home!

Making the transition from Bay Area hiker to Bay Area camper has been an exciting challenge for me. So, I’ve compiled some of the campgrounds that adjoin areas that POST has had a role in protecting. My hope is that this will help get you started on planning your next overnight adventure, and will make trying out camping more accessible to you.

3 Incredible Bay Area Camping Destinations

1. Sanborn County Park

Some of the greenery you’ll see at Sanborn County Park, pictured here on a misty day.

Sanborn County Park contains over 3,449 acres of mixed forest, mostly redwoods and tanoak, and is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains between Saratoga and Skyline Boulevard.

The park features family-friendly campgrounds where you can choose to either hike into the park or camp with an RV at RV-specific sites open year-round.

Highlights

  • Hiking trails through redwood groves
  • RV camping year-round with available water and electric hookups
  • Hike-in camping in late spring, summer, and early fall
  • Pet friendly

Need to Know

  • Camping reservations include spots for two cars in a nearby parking lot; additional vehicles are permitted for a small fee.
  • Maximum capacity is eight people at RV sites and six people at hike in sites.
  • Hike-in tent camps are closed from the third Sunday in October to the third Friday in March.
  • While the hike-in campsites are a short walk from the parking lot, the grade to the sites can be steep.

Reservations

Make reservations online at www.parkhere.org​ or by calling (408) 355-2201.

2. Uvas Canyon County Park

Campers set up their tent at Uvas Canyon. Photo courtesy of Department of Parks and Recreation, County of Santa Clara.

Next is Uvas Canyon County Park, located at the Southern tip of Santa Clara County. Uvas Canyon is situated on the east side of the Santa Cruz Mountains along the Sargent fault zone. This park contains 7.2 miles of hiking trails among its 1,147 acres, and is an integral part of our regional wildlife habitat, something POST is actively working to protect more of in the South Bay.

The trails of this park meander through redwoods and to the Swanson Creek waterfall. Uvas Canyon is the ancestral homeland of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Various historic Ohlone campsites have been located throughout Uvas Canyon, most of which were likely used for seasonal hunting and gathering.

Highlights

Need to Know

  • Showers, flush toilets and running water are available.
  • There is a two dog limit per campsite.
  • Bring bug repellant, since there are many mosquitos and other insects during the summer.
  • Prior to entering the park, you will pass through Sveadal, a private resort belonging to the Swedish American Patriotic League.

Reservations

Make reservations online at www.gooutsideandplay.org or by calling (408) 355-2201.

3. Half Moon Bay State Beach

A great nearby outing is the Cowell-Purisima Trail where you can walk along seaside bluffs near farmland.

Last on the list is Half Moon Bay State Beach, located along the San Mateo County coast near the town of Half Moon Bay. Campsites for Half Moon Bay State Beach are accessible from the Francis Beach entrance.

While camping, you can stroll along four miles of sandy shore, or cycle along the nearby paved Coastside Trail. You’ll also be driving distance to several POST protected coastal farms and ranches conserved by POST through our Farmland Program. Many of them operate farm stands along Highway 1 with U-Pick seasonal berries and sunflowers — see how you can support them and enjoy their produce with this guide!

Highlights

  • Beach access for fishing, sunbathing, and picnicking
  • RV and tent camping sites
  • Dogs allowed in developed areas but not on the beach

Need to Know

  • Camping on the sand is prohibited. RV and tent-only sites offer bluff camping near the ocean.
  • There are no sewer or water hook-ups.
  • Several campsites are ADA-accessible and an all-terrain beach wheelchair is free and available to guests by checkout at the Francis Beach Entrance on 95 Kelly Ave.
  • Reservations must be made 48 hours in advance and can be made as far out as six months in advance.

Reservations

Make reservations online at www.ReserveCalifornia.com or by calling (800) 444-7275.

Please note, Half Moon State Beach campground does not have any availability until mid-December.

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Whether you choose to car camp or go bigger and take the family in an RV, all three of these campgrounds are perfect weekend getaways that let you enjoy the outdoors without leaving the Bay Area. Redwoods, waterfalls, or the coast — the choice is yours. Just don’t leave home without your sense of wonder.

About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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