Rugged headlands, brushy hillsides, piney ridges, and pocket beaches—Point Reyes is a soul-soothing stretch of California coast that's less than half a gas tank from San Francisco. And when the day-tripping tourists leave, you've got it virtually to yourself. Accessible only by a 2- to 5-mile walk, Point Reyes' hike-in campgrounds are the best way to experience the Bay's favorite coastal wilderness wonderland. Grab one by reserving ahead or sacrificing some sleep (see below). Coast Campground is only a one- to two-minute walk from sublime Santa Maria beach, which is nearly vacant toward the end of the day. After pitching your tent and grilling dinner, wander down to the beach to see if gray whales are cruising the coast. If the wind is calm, gather some driftwood for a private bonfire. With its oceanside setting and space for only 6–12 groups per campground, this is the ultimate coastal camping hideaway that keeps the crowds at bay.
Distance: 39 miles from San Francisco
Coast and Wildcat Camps are closest to the beach. Don't worry about running water, fire pits, grills, or bathrooms—these camps have it all. Campsites are $15 per night. Make a reservation, or show up the day of your visit at the Bear Valley Ranger Station to get one of the first-come-first-served camping reservations; there are only eight of these, so arrive before it opens at 8:00 a.m. to increase your chance of getting one. Free fire permits are also available at the ranger station. Click here for more information. No dogs.