Fall Family Camping in Marin and the Bay Area
Introduce the kids to camping at Slide Ranch's Family Campouts at their spectacular seaside location. Photo: Slide Ranch
Fall in the Bay Area, especially at the coast, can have some of our best weather of the year, making it a perfect time to dust off your gear, pack up the kiddos and head out for a weekend camping trip. No tent? No problem! Some of these campgrounds even have cozy cabins you can rent. Here are our picks for great fall camping spots in Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area.
California State Parks have an all-new platform for camping and lodging reservations—visit www.reservecalifornia.com or call 1-800-444-PARK to reserve your camping spot at any of the state parks listed below.
Slide Ranch's Fall Family Campout
Slide Ranch's Family Campouts, at an amazing site overlooking the Pacfic, are fun for the whole family! Spend the day taking part in farm activities, making crafts, and exploring nature. In the evening, gather together for a potluck dinner and a cozy campfire before settling in to sleep under the stars.
This fall's campout begins at 10 am on Saturday, November 3 and ends by 1 pm on Sunday, November 4. Participants must bring their own camping gear, including a tent and sleeping bags. More info and reservations at slideranch.org.
Olema RV Resort & Campground
While largely catering to the RV crowd, the Olema Campground also offers 107 tent sites on its property between Point Reyes Station and Olema, bordering Olema Creek and Highway One. Each site has a fire ring and picnic table, and onsite amenities include a bathrooms and showers; a playground; games like horseshoes, shuffleboard, and volleyball; a general store and post office; a laundromat, and even wifi access. Plus the Point Reyes National Seashore is right next door! More info and reservations at (415) 663-8106 or www.olemaranch.com.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Samuel P. Taylor State Park near Lagunitas offers one of Marin's most popular camping experiences. The park's campgrounds, many located in groves of towering new-growth redwood trees, include tent and RV sites, as well as the Madrone Cabins, which offer a more civilized camping experience. Samuel P. Taylor State Park is close the Point Reyes National Seashore and makes a great base for exploring the area.
Campsites and cabins are available on a first-come, first-served basis from late September through March. Campsites include fire rings and charcoal barbecue grills. Drinking water, restrooms, and showers are available. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov or call (415) 488-9897.
Mt. Tamalpais State Park
Mt. Tam's Pantoll Campground offers 16 walk-in campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. Each site has a table, rock barbeque, and food locker, and there are flush toilets and water nearby, and firewood is available for sale. Bootjack Campground has 15 campsites. Sites here are first-come first-served. Bootjack sites have tables, rock barbeques, and food lockers. Drinking water and flush toilets are nearby. At both these campgrounds, you'll need to pack in your gear a short distance from the parking area. Call the Pantoll Ranger Station at (415) 388-2070 for current rates and availability (the rangers will not hold a campsite for you though).
At Steep Ravine Environmental Campground, families can camp in rustic cabins on a marine terrace near Stinson Beach. Each cabin has a small wood stove, picnic table, sleeping platforms, and an outdoor barbeque. There is no running water or electricity. Pit toilets, water, and firewood are nearby.
Visit www.friendsofmttam.org for more info on camping opportunities on Mt. Tam.
Angel Island State Park
Angel Island is a favorite place for day trips, hiking, bicycling, and picnics at Ayala Cove. You can also pack your gear onto the ferry and camp out overnight on the island at one of its several environmental campsites. Campsites include picnic tables, charcoal grills, drinking water, food lockers, and pit toilets.
Getting to these campsites involves a hike of one to three miles from the ferry dock, so they're probably best for families with older kids. But then where else can you camp with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Franciso Bay? Bicycles are allowed, which can make the trip easier. For more information, visit www.angelisland.org.
California State Parks
Sonoma Coast State Park
Sonoma Coast State Park offers a number of popular campgrounds along the beach between Bodega Bay and Jenner. Camp right on the beach at Wright's Beach and Bodega Dunes so you can spend a day playing at the beach and then gather around the campfire in the evening before turning in. Willow Creek Environmental Campground offers rustic campsites along the Russian River nearby. Dogs are allowed at Bodega Dunes Campground.
Both RV and tent sites are available. Visit www.parks.ca.gov to learn more and make reservations.
Doran Beach Regional Park
This Sonoma County regional park at Bodega Bay has more than 120 campsites available year-round for tents, trailers, and RV. Restrooms have flush toilets, power outlets, and coin-operated showers.
Visit parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov to learn more and make reservations. Regional Parks members even get one night of free camping every year.
Casini Ranch Family Campground
Located along one mile of the Russian River in the tiny Sonoma County town of Duncans Mills, Casini Ranch is family friendly and pet friendly, and boasts tons of amenities and activities to keep everyone busy. Activities include beach bonfires, hayrides, movie nights, hiking, fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, inner tubing, and more. They also have playgrounds, areas for horseshoes, volleyball, and softball, a general store, game room, dog parks, and gees, ducks, and horses to feed. There's also a general store selling food, beverages, camping gear, and other supplies.
Casini Ranch offers spots for tents, RVs, and campers, and they also have cabins, cottages, and RVs available to rent. More info and reservations at www.casiniranch.com or 1 (800) 451-8400.
San Francisco North KOA
San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA
This campground north of Petaluma off Stony Point Road is always full of families, and for good reason—there's so much to do here. While it might not qualify as "camping" for some the Petaluma KOA has activities and amenities galore, including a huge pool with cabanas, a giant bounce pillow, a petting zoo, a playground, outdoor movies, a 30-foot climbing wall, banana bikes, hay rides, karaoke night, traditional camp games, and even tours of San Francisco.
Although this campground seems to be pretty RV-centric, it offers tent sites in a forested area, some of which even have electricity for those creature comforts. All tent sites have fire rings and picnic tables. Cabins, some of which have their own bathrooms can kitchens, are also available. The KOA is pet-friendly and even has an on-site dog park. More info and reservations: koa.com/campgrounds/san-francisco or (707) 763-1492.
Sonoma County Regional Parks
Spring Lake Regional Park
Spring Lake Regional Park near Santa Rosa offers 31 campsites in the oak woodlands above the lake for tents, trailers, and RVs. There are also three camping cabins, each with bare mattresses, decks with seating, porches, picnic and food prep tables, food lockers, grills, and fire rings. Cabins are suitable for 4 to 6 people and you can even pitch tents outside for a total of 8 people per campsite.
Spend the day fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming down at the lake, then head back to your campside for more fun in the evening. The campground is open daily through September and on weekends and holidays from October through April. Visit parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov to learn more and make reservations. Regional Parks members even get one night of free camping every year.