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Free Camping?

Hello! Just moved to the bay area this past winter and looking for places to camp! Any tips on good, and reservation free camping would be a plus! Tried reserving, but as most know, it's really hard to find places to go and get reservations for the entire weekend.  Looking for places with lots of hiking, climbing or other outdoor activities. Backpacking ideas a plus.  Thanks!

7 Replies

There is no such thing as free camping unless you go to a national forest. 

But, in the bay area you can climb at Pinnacles NM and camp at a private campground outside the parks gates. very cool trip. 

Angel Island camping is worth the money. 

Point Reyes is a gem. 

Head to the Sierra foothills for a great time. 

The campground at Pinnacles National Park was purchased by the park some years ago so it's no longer private. It's still a great campground.


Just go do it & have fun 🐵


Henry W. Coe State Park isn't as hard for getting camping reservations and it's also a good destination for backpacking. The summer is blazing hot so it's best in the spring and fall. Great wildflowers there in the spring.


Big Basin Redwoods State Park

21600 Big Basin Way

Boulder Creek, Ca.


Henry W Coe State Park is your best option and a hidden gem in the Bay Area.

- 330 miles of trail and not many visitors, this equates to about 800 acres on average for each visitor. The feeling of remoteness and wilderness is real
- 1 conventional campground near main entrance / Visitor Center
- 1 attractive group campground, check website link below for details
- plentiful, no reservation backpacking camping. 5$ per day per visitor.  "Free" in the sense that you can camp almost anywhere you please except an area with plenty of designated campsites around the Visitor Center
- very interesting plants (700+ species), fauna (from mountain lions to roadrunners if you can believe this)
- great to hike ANY season when the temp is not too high. Fall is interesting, winter is great for hiking, spring is glorious but a bit more crowded

Check this link for details on access (3 entrances), trail conditions, water sources (important), ...


Some ideas I've found: campgrounds in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area I've only camped there once, at Haypress (1 mile hike), but a reservation was easy to get a few weekends in advance in July this year.

Coming up on winter time campground reservations get much easier to obtain (for example at Point Reyes, Mount Diablo, Anthony Chabot) but still not free. If you want something adventurous, the Juniper Campground on Mount Diablo gets quite cold!

As for backpacking, Henry Coe is a great idea, as are some of the East Bay Regional Parks which offer inexpensive backcountry camp sites (not dispersed camping) I've also found these easier to reserve than the usually campgrounds. Point Reyes too but it's hard to get a reservation until November.

I found "One Night Wilderness: San Francisco Bay Area: Quick and Convenient Backpacking Trips within Two Hours of San Francisco" a useful book not only for places to backpack but also really detailed descriptions of the sites and trails.