Bay Area Coastal Campgrounds - Point Reyes - Costanoa - Mt. Tam


Perfect Pitch

With gas prices hitting all-time highs, we've rounded up some coastal camping destinations that aren't far from home. From hidden hike-ins to comfy canvas bungalows to a simple car-camp, here are three perfect places to pitch a tent this summer.

Point Reyes Hike-in Campgrounds

Point Reyes Confidential

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.

Topic 1 photo courtesy of Mathew Grimm

Costanoa Tent Bungalow

Costanoa Chic

Prada meets Patagonia: With soft king-size beds, electricity, and eminently comfortable comfort stations, Costanoa offers a different kind of camping experience. About halfway between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz on the San Mateo coast, this sprawling 40-acre eco-adventure resort mingles well with its natural surroundings. The classic canvas tent bungalows sit right on the rim of the Pacific and are only a 15-minute stroll to the sand. Check out the resort's robust activities calendar, ranging from horseback riding and kayak paddling to biking and hiking. Just plain relaxing is high on the list, too. (After a day of roughing it, the on-site spa will rub any tensions away…) For dinner, bring your own food, or enjoy tasty California cuisine at the on-site restaurant, Cascade Bar & Grille. Afterwards, rediscover the Milky Way while toasting marshmallows at the communal firepit. Heavenly.

Distance: 55 miles from San Francisco

Costanoa, 2001 Rossi Rd. at Hwy 1, Pescadero; 650-879-1100. Weekend rates start at $130 a night. Stay at one of the Cypress Village bungalows to get access to the hot tub at the lodge. Dogs aren't allowed at the tent bungalows.

Mount Tam Pantoll Campground

Mt. Tam Grand Slam

For a close-to-home car-camp that doesn't require reservations months in advance, head to the Pantoll Campground on Mount Tam's southwest slope. Spreckled along a forested hillside, this first-come-first-served campground is ideal fora quick getaway—but you have to get there early to snag one of the 16 sites. Set at the intersection of nine primo trails, the camp offers loads of hiking options, including hikes to Muir Woods and Stinson Beach; the famous Dipsea Trail isn't far either. When hunger strikes, there's no shortage of cooking options: each site has fire pits, barbecue grills, and stone-built Diablo grills. Sit back, listen to the night sounds, and watch the moon rise over Mount Tam. Close to home never felt so far away!

Distance: 19 miles from San Francisco

Pantoll Campgound is off of Panoramic Highway (map). Call the ranger station ahead of time to see if sites are available (415-388-2070); they answer the phone until 5:00 p.m. Click here for more information. Dog-friendly!

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