For a major metropolitan area, the San Francisco Bay Area has a surprising number of lovely campgrounds.
But, they are not all bikepacker-friendly. Some are on hiking-only trails, or not well connected to long distance bike-friendly routes. The most popular tend to fill up very quickly and require careful advance planning. But the determined bikepacker can still find plenty of options for a few nights out under the stars in the SF Bay Area.
One day I will post a big list of all the SF Bay campgrounds accessible to bikes. For now, here’s an overview of some of the best options.
Castle Rock State Park
Castle Rock Trail Camp is located about 2.5 miles west of the singletrack Skyline Trail, one of the few singletrack trails in the area that is open to bikes. This makes it a perfect spot to spend a night out while connecting the trails and fire roads that weave through the Santa Cruz mountains.
Most sites require reservations, with a few open on a first-come-first-served basis.
Monte Bello Preserve: Black Mountain Backpack Camp
This classic little backcountry campsite near the top of Black Mountain is perfect for a quick overnight getaway from the valley down below. Reservations are required but typically not too hard to get.
Henry Coe State Park
The not-so-secret secret backcountry camping haven in the Bay Area. In addition to developed campgrounds in the western zone which are usually not hard to get permits for, backpackers and bikepackers can legally camp anywhere in the rest of the park (following good Leave No Trace ethics of course). You have to work for your nights under the stars though, because Henry Coe State Park has the most rugged, remote, and steep terrain in the region.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park Hike/Bike Campsite
Nestled in the redwoods of the north bay and accessible either by road or trail, this is a great place to spend the night while exploring the trails and fire roads around Bolinas Ridge and the Mount Tamalpais Watershed. There are a lot of possibilities in this area, many still on my list to check out.
Half Moon Bay Francis Beach Hike/Bike Campsite
While not exactly a backcountry camping experience, this state beach has hiker/biker campsites that supposedly won’t turn you away and only cost $5. The town of Half Moon Bay, complete with restaurants and grocery store, is just a short walk or ride away. This is a convenient place to spend a night if trying to connect the dots on a mixed-terrain ride down the coast.