Cabin Camping in California - Steep Ravine - Big Basin - The Lure Resort


Cabin Camping

Escaping overnight into the outdoors doesn't have to mean pitching a tent or spending big bucks on fancy lodges. These three hideaways are excellent bets for getting rugged—with a real roof over your head! Book them now for September and October, prime times for sun, fun, and ahhhhhh-relaxation.  

Steep Ravine Cabins

Ocean at Your Doorstep

At the edge of the continent, 2 miles but worlds away from the crowds of Stinson Beach, ten rustic all-wood cabins offer wide, clear views of the Pacific and accessible solitude. Built in the 1940s, these little beauties—at the base of Steep Ravine Canyon off Highway 1 in Mount Tamalpais State Park—provide one of the best deals around for oceanfront views. Whales are common passersby in the winter and spring, and on a clear day, the mysterious Farallones appear in the distance. Outside the cabin doors, a set of wooden steps descends to a quiet cove, Redrock Beach, where sea stars lounge in the sand. The Steep Ravine cabins are the perfect place to finally read that summertime book while listening to the waves lap and lather the shoreline. Later, barbecue some tri-tip and sip wine while watching the sunset. Way to unwind.

The Steep Ravine cabins are reservable up to seven months in advance through Reserve America; they cost $75 per night. On the first day of each month, the entire seventh month in advance becomes reservable (for example, on August 1, 2008, you can reserve cabins for the entire month of February, 2009). All weekends typically sell out within minutes, but there are always cancellations. Typically each week there are at least one to two cabins available. Call 415-388-2070 to see if there are any cancellations (up to 10 days in advance). If there are, show up at Pantoll Ranger Station at 2:00 p.m. the day of availability for a lottery to see who gets the cabin. No dogs.

Big Basin Tent Cabins

A Night Among Giants

Home to some of the state's most stupendous old-growth redwoods, Big Basin Redwoods State Park offers a unique way to spend the night among these peaceful giants. The park's 12x14 foot wood-and-canvas tent cabins let you "camp" in comfort in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with some of the best hiking trails in the Bay Area right out your door. Take your pick of over 80 miles of trails—from a leisurely walk on the Redwood Loop Trail to a day hike to Berry Creek Falls on the famed Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. In the evening, enjoy the cabin's private grill and make a small campfire. Hot dogs and marshmallows taste extra good under the redwoods. That's a smoré!

TIP: Don't have the camping supplies to make this trip happen? Rent the "hassle-free camping package" from the Big Basin Store. It includes all the stuff you need for up to four people: sleeping bags, a Coleman stove, a lantern, pots and pans, and wood. But you still have to start the campfire yourself.

The Big Basin Tent Cabins (831-338-4745) cost $75 per night (two-night minimum on weekends) and sleep three to four people. Make a reservation through Reserve America. Dog-friendly!

Topic 2 photo courtesy of martytsao

The Lure Resort Downieville


It's a place visited only by those who know its tucked-in-the-mountains whereabouts. Downieville, on the Yuba River, has a Main Street that's a throwback to the 1950s: kids circling on their bikes, dogs trotting down the sidewalks, and an old-fashioned tune-tooting ice-cream truck. This former gold rush boomtown offers multiple ways to kick back and lounge, including staying at The Lure Resort, a new hideaway right along the North Fork of the Yuba River. The Lure's eight log cabins were built from pine trees, and they have a full-size platform and bunk beds; campers bring their own bedding. (Lure also offers more upscale cabins, with kitchens and all the amenities.) A day's itinerary could include tubing the river, fishing for rainbow trout, or hitting the area's epic singletrack. Intermediate and advanced mountain bikers can whoop it up on the 15 miles of notorious Downieville Downhill. For more mellow singletrack, try the North Yuba Trail. Two bike shops in town rent bikes and run shuttles to the start of some great trails. Whether you're river tubing or mountain biking, save time afterwards to sample some rare reds at 49 Wines, right on the town's main drag. Downtime, delivered.

The Lure Resort, 100 Lure Bridge Ln. at Hwy 49, Downieville; 530-289-3465. Camping cabins are $75 per night and hold up to four people. Dogs are permitted for another $20 per night. Rent mountain bikes and schedule shuttle rides from Yuba Expeditions or Downieville Outfitters.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Enchantment Under the Sea

Here's a little summer secret: Now is the best time to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Their Evenings by the Bay lets visitors see the museum in a different light—evening light! Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day, the aquarium stays open later, until 8:00 p.m. Enjoy live jazz in the Marine Mammal Hall while you stroll around and spy flirty sea otters, diving penguins, sleek sharks, and dancing jellyfish. Then groove on over to Portola Cafe & Restaurant for food and cocktails, and watch the sky turn colors from your ocean-view table. Evenings by the Bay ends after Labor Day, so get there soon, and experience an undersea enchantment at the aquarium.

NEW! Try the Behind-the-Scenes Tour or get out on Monterey Bay for a Sailing Adventure (day and evening cruises available). Stay overnight in Monterey and buy the two-day aquarium ticket (available only at hotels). Get it all in this summer!

For more details about Evenings by the Bay or any of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's special tours and programs, visit

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