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 Area campsites accessible to bikes. For now, here’s an overview of some of the best options.
Castle Rock State Park
Castle Rock Trail Camp is one mile off-route (downhill) from the singletrack Skyline Trail. 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. It’s a lovely hike-in / bike-in primitive campground with 15 sites, all with picnic tables and fire rings (sometimes fires are prohibited). It’s right next to a shooting range, but generally quiet through the evening, night, and morning.
Bikes are not allowed on trails in Castle Rock State Park, so the only way to access the Trail Camp is the service road. You’ll follow this road downhill about 1 mile off-route from Skyline Blvd, and yes, you’ll have to climb back out in the morning.
Sites must be reserved online through the Backcountry Trail Camps system. At time of this writing (2021) cost was $15 plus an $8 reservation fee.
Monte Bello Preserve: Black Mountain Backpack Camp
This classic little hike-in / bike-in 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.
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.
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. The Hike & Bike site does not require reservations and costs $7 per person.
Pantoll Campground Hike & Bike Campsite
On the forested slopes of Mt. Tam, Pantoll Campground has a hike and bike campsite for $5 per person, no reservation needed. This is a great spot to spend the night while exploring trails in the Mt. Tam watershed and Marin Headlands.
Routes involving Pantoll Campground: Bay Area Triple Crossover
Sibley Backpack Camp
Sibley Backpack Camp is a hike-in / bike-in campsite to the northeast of Oakland. The private site is perched atop a hill and surrounded by eucalyptus trees. There are picnic tables and a toilet, and the closest water is 0.2 miles away. The site must be reserved in advance and does book up on weekends.
Routes involving Sibley Backpack Camp: Bay Area Triple Crossover
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 is home to some of the most rugged, remote, and steep terrain in the region.