the dyrt
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Vine Hill, CALIFORNIA
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A hidden gem just outside SF

Hawk camp is one of my favorite backyard (I live in Marin) camping spots. It's free, it's a 2.2 mile hike in from the car, and even for that, it's remote. I head there when I just feel the need to strap on my pack and break out my gear. Only 3 first-come sites, I prefer the one on the upper left. Fires are not permitted and be warned - Bay Area coastal weather patterns prevail. You can go to sleep staring at the stars and looking out on the lights of the City, only to wake up to a wet camp under a steady drizzle from the condensing fog in the cypress trees above you. I have literally booked a night, gotten close, seen the pea soup fog rolling over the ridge, and turned around for home. But for all that it is a great place to pack in, hike to the top of the ridge for epic sunsets, and feel like you're miles away from the crowds just across the bay.

Beautiful views, lots of space

These cabins are well worth the cost. There is a separate bedroom, you could sleep 2 couples on beds easily with extra floor space and a small individual bunk for larger families. No electricity but the wood burning stove provides some light. Bring candles and lanterns and some fabric for curtains for privacy.

City camping

There are 4, 30 person, group sites. Pitch tent on wood chips. Level. Fire pits, water. Nice and close, yet feels a ways away. Accessible to many trails.

Nice side of mountain camp

Nice campground. Went there with Cub Scouts. Good walk down the hill to John Muir Woods and visitor center. Not too bad hike back up to camp. Nice views. Reserve way ahead your date.

Senic walkup campground

This is an ada compliant walkup campground situated near the top of Mount Tamalpais. Featuring 13 sites ranging from standard campground style to a few more secluded areas. As a first come first serve campground and camping in the middle of a gale storm we had our pic of sites and explored the entire campground. I picked a site more secluded from the rest. While there is some road noise from below it does give some of the feel of a back country trip with none of the hassle. There is a ranger station with maps and selling firewood. Stinson beach is a 3 mile hike away or a short drive down the mountain if you are in need of more supplies.

Nice and quiet

Rolled into this campground with no reservations The campground was pretty much empty. Park ranger Lynsey was great to work with after a long drive. The camp spots were pretty clean despite people being disrespectful to the park. I stayed in lot 44 which backed up to the beautiful forest. Great place to stay

Great place

Great little place in the redwoods in beautiful majestic wine country. Campsites are clean, bathrooms are being renovated at the moment but the ones completed are nice. You need reservations but there are a few walk in campsites up at the end that go on first come first serve basis. Great hiking in the redwoods along a nice creek. Close to Calistoga and St Helena for all your needs.

Cleanest Campground

We love going to Cayote Hills Regional Park it's so much fun. It's some of the cleanest campgrounds I have event seen. We walked through and enjoyed the nature areas so much. We continue to go back and spend time at Cayote Hills because it is so beautiful. We can't wait until thwe next time. It's close and easy to access. It's beautiful and so nice to spend time here. One of our favorite places to go spend time at as a family. ❤️😊

Military campground not far from the Bay

You have to be former or active duty military to use this campground. It is located on one of Coast Guard's main training centers. The campground is at the back of the complex, next to a playground, volleyball court, cookout shelter, and stocked lake. Full-hookups and large pull in spaces made it very easy and relaxing. The wind kicks up in the afternoon sometimes so watch out for your awning and camp chairs. It is a 15 min drive into Petaluma (which is a very cute town) and another 35 minutes to the GG bridge in good traffic. We visited Muir Woods, SF, and Sausalito while we were here without breaking much of a sweat. Recommended.

Parking Lot w a View

Literally enough room to park your rig and if you’re lucky enough to be in the front you’ll have a sweet view. Definitely not my favorite place but if you need a place to stay the upside is the fact that it’s right on the water.

Great views

Often booked so you’ll want to get a reservation. $35/night for tent camping plus 7.99 reservation fee. No electric for tent camping but there is water. Safeway is just a mile away. Super cute town close by with fun shops and restaurants. The wind in the afternoon can be annoying but the views are worth it. I love staying here after working in Burlingame which is only 30 minutes away. Super easy to get to Mavericks, San Francisco etc.

One night

Not bad for a night. A little close to others for my liking, but everyone was friendly and helpful.

Campground in the heart of wine country

Small, cozy campground located in the heart of wine country. Site contains fire pit, picnic tables, and bear locker. Several prominent wineries located near by as well as a charming town called Calistoga. Sites and bathrooms were well maintained. Good option if you're doing Napa on a budget!

Great campground for kids

Playgrounds, swimming pool, lots of space to run and scream. We stay when visiting the area and endure the screaming kids. The kids do have fun, I give them that. But this is not wilderness camping. It's camping among giant caravans and lots of families. On one visit, the campground was filled with vintage camp trailers It was fun to walk around and see the oldies.

Petaluma is a cute town with lots of good food and things to do. I recommend the area, and recommend KOA if you're driving a big caravan. There are some tent spaces and cabins too. Something for everyone.

Close to the Bay Area, high above the clouds

We camped at the Juniper Campground, 3/4 up the mountain. Register in advance, but it's first-come-first-serve once you get to the campground. We watched the sunset over the Bay Area, whew, it was spectacular. Hiked to the top of the mountain, to the lookout point, on a trail through the woods and brush. We come every year and will continue the tradition in years to come. Oh, btw, because it is fire season, campfires are not allowed. Sorely missed a fire, but appreciate that the mountain will not burn down while we are up there.

Camping on Mount Diablo

The campgrounds on this mountain include picnic tables, grills, bathrooms, and amazing views of the Bay Area. It can get very hot and dry during the summer months, but the sites are shaded by many trees. This mountain has many of hiking trails for various levels of hikers. The summit is just a short drive away from the campgrounds and has a visitor's center that has history of the mountain and the surrounding area.

Make sure that you lock up all food at night as the wildlife is very present and will take advantage of left out food.

Ranger Review: Ethnotek Setia 20 Liter at Half Moon Bay SB’s Francis Beach

Campsite Review: 2/5 Stars

Half Moon Bay State Beach – Francis Beach Campground State Beach Phone # (650) 726-8819

I find it a little disappointing just how close the campsites are to each other here, meaning you’re not going to get anything close to a secluded camping experience. The facilities were dirty/sandy (although you are right on the beach), probably because not only are they being overused by day trippers to the beach and the many campers. Although, they do have coin-operated hot showers available (2 minutes per quarter). They really do pack in the 50+ sites here although there are 3 walk-in sites with great views over the beach and of the ocean, which are separated from the RV (up to 40’) mad house, but then you’re right by all of the day use people and even more out in the open as there is literally no coverage at all. The RV sites have electric hook-ups and there are shared water spigots (not hook-ups).

All of these are reservable by phone at 1-800-444-PARK (7275) or online at www.reservecalifornia.com/ ($35 for tent, $56 or $65 for RV and a $7.99 online fee)

Dogs are allowed at the campsite on leash, but not on the beaches here at all (Although horses are… Guess only one animal per “beach”). If you want a dog friendly beach go just a little south to Poplar Beach where the doggos can roam free off leash and have a blast.

The State Beach Park itself is very tiny. $10 to park, there’s a small visitor centers, beautiful beaches, nice scenery, not a lot of vegetation. From here you have access to the 4-ish mile long Half Moon Bay coastal walking/bike trail which runs right through the back of the campground and into the “park”, and of course there are ~4 miles of sandy beaches to enjoy. Should you need connectivity there is actually (unsecured) wi-fi provided by the park and adequate cell coverage!!

For me personally the campground only gets 2/5 stars :

Overall, remember that while you have great access to the beach and the campground is pet friendly you’re definitely, not exactly going to get a remote camping experience and the dog beach is a little way away. The facilities are a bit dirty and jam packed and could be a little better maintained.

Gear Review: 4/5 Stars

As a Ranger for The Dyrt I sometimes get the opportunity to test out products and what I got to use during this trip as a day pack during this trip was Ethnotek’s Setia 20 Liter backpack. While listed as a laptop backpack I used it to store my snack, water bladder/bottle and other first aid type items. I used the laptop pouch to hold the water bladder and ran my tube out the side. Worked perfectly!! For being a compact backpack, I really liked that it has both padded shoulder straps with a slide adjusting sternum strap and the raised lower back padding which made for a comfy fit and allowed a bit of airflow.

I also like that it’s water resistant and contains a hidden built-in rainfly, not that it has rained once since I’ve moved out to Northern California, but it is foggy and a bit damp first thing in the morning. The top zippered pocket in the top hood is the perfect size for items which you’ll want to have easy quick access to like; IDs, credit cards, extra sunscreen, etc. The main pocket is easily accessible via either the drawstring at the top or the side zipper so you can grab things out of the bottom without having to root around through everything in the pack. I do appreciate the laptop compartment, but for a more urban commuter bag I think this would be better utilized with additional pockets to separate out your work items and as a day-pack I think the laptop sleeve would be better utilized as a water bladder holder if there was a slot to pull the tube through.

The only real drawback I had with this gear was that the side zipper doesn’t have a lock of sort for security. I like that there are the 2 zippers, but I think that having some sort of webbing across the zipper so that you could place them both on that side making it a little more difficult for someone walking behind/beside you to just unzip the side and pull out items. This added security isn’t really needed if you’re out hiking, but if you’re commuting in a large city or on crowded public transportation could really save you from losing some valuables.

Overall, I give the bag 4/5 stars. I really love the company’s mission of keeping culture alive by creating high quality laptop and travel bags that feature ethically sourced handmade textiles. The back is extremely comfortable and has a ton of great features, but I think there are just a few minor tweaks which would make it truly unsurpassable.

Backpack’s Features:

· Water resistant 840 denier ballistic nylon main bag fabric

· Built-in handmade textile paneling. Exterior & interior.

· Left side zip gusset pocket for water bottle & quick-grab accessories

· Back-right side zip pocket to access main internal compartment volume

· Main compartment can also be accessed by its large drawstring cinch top

· Main compartment is sealed with a buckle clipped top hood

· A zipper pocket is built into the top hood for easy access storage

· Padded shoulder straps with slide adjusting sternum strap for comfortably fit while wearing

· Built-in rain cover tucks into and can be removed from the bottom of the bag’s back panel

· YKK® zippers

Hard to get but worth it

We’ve been lucky enough to score one of these cabins twice by checking in every so often to see if someone cancelled a reservation.

wood burning fireplace (you can buy wood on site) keeps the cabin warm. Smoke detectors work too!

It good and has small beach and large for family

It good place to camp but remember the wind. It has great facility for disabled and has great area to run around and you can fish the bay area from the area or go fishing in boat

Incredible location at an incredible cost

Campground Description

The Rob Hill campground claims the title of the only overnight campsite in the city! Stumbled across this campground by accident a few weeks ago as we were hiking around The Presidio. It was quite the hidden gem set amidst a stunning cypress and eucalyptus grove. Looked like there was easily room for at least a dozen small tents at each of the sites and nice restrooms accessible via combination punch pad. (You can see how much space there is in the photos and video)

I found out that 2 of the 4 sites, that can accommodate 30 people each, are open to the public, reservations are handled through the emailing the PDF reservation form to camp@presidiotrust.gov. The staff person indicated yesterday that weekends are booked solid through the end of the year; however, weekday sites are available.

This is a great place for a group camping event. With the campsites centered around a large communal campfire circle. Really seemed like the whole campground is very well organized and clean, with each of the 4 sites also having individual fire rings, looked like nice clean bathrooms, and plenty of space for people to run around. There's a great view of the ocean nearby as this is basically directly above Baker Beach. Since it's in the Presidio, come prepared for fog and cold weather. With a nice big fire and plenty of warm clothes, it seems like it could provide a very cool experience to watch the fog blow in through the trees. Note we haven’t camped here because of the crazy high campground cost being $125 per site, thus I’d say that Rob Hill is definitely intended for groups, not for individuals.

The campsite’s main distinction is the site for the Camping at the Presidio (CAP) program, which provides youth with meaningful outdoor experiences.

When the U.S. Army left the Presidio, Rob Hill was a dusty, rustic site. It was expanded and improved in 2010 with support from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. "Rob Hill Campground is a place where children and families have the opportunity to pitch a tent in their national park, enjoy s’mores cooked over a campfire, and wake up in the woods to the sounds of nature,” said Walter J. Haas, Chair of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and son of its founders.

2018 Rob Hill Campground Application and Payment Form PDF >>

To request a site, please right click on the above link and Save Link, complete it, and email it to camp@presidiotrust.gov. (Mac Users: print the form, fill it out, scan it, and send it to camp@presidiotrust.gov.) Some browsers are unable to open this form properly, so please make sure it is saved to your computer.

Reservations are filled on a first-come, first-served basis and are confirmed via email. For questions, please call the Presidio Visitor Center at (415) 561-4323. Reservations cannot be made over the phone.

Please Note/Restrictions

  • RV, pop-up and camper-truck camping is not allowed in the Presidio. No hook-ups available.
  • Reservations begin at 12 pm and end at 11 am the following day.
  • Service dogs are the only pets allowed.
  • Alcohol, smoking, firearms, explosives, and generators are not permitted.
  • Campsite permits come with four parking passes. Please park in the designated parking area; illegally parked vehicles are subject to ticketing and towing by the U.S. Park Police. Additional paid parking is close by for additional vehicles.
  • All sites are walk-in. ADA access to the sites is available. Vehicles are not permitted in the campground proper.
  • Each campsite is equipped with a fire pit (you must bring your own firewood) and a fixed charcoal barbecue grill. Please do not burn wood or charcoal when there is a Spare the Air alert in effect. Visit http://www.sparetheair.org to learn more.
  • Quiet time is 10 pm to 6 am.
  • No amplified music is allowed.
  • The campground cannot be considered a temporary residence.
  • Heavy rains and high wind advisory cancels. Please call the weather hotline (415) 561-2115 for updated information.
  • The Great Room and Fire Circle are reserved for education programs only. Please do not disturb the groups using these spaces.

CAP Program

Two of Rob Hill's four group sites are reserved for the Camping at the Presidio (CAP) program, which provides youth with meaningful camping experiences. Through this 'train the trainer' program, the leaders of schools and community organizations are given the skills to bring groups of kids to explore the Presidio's outdoors. These adventures offer hands-on learning and exploration. CAP leaders love "getting to know the kids in a different setting" and seeing their kids' enthusiasm about simple natural wonders like a banana slug or the night sky. "The whole experience was truly magical!" said one CAP participant. CAP is a partnership of the Presidio Trust and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Overall, I gave the campground 4/5 stars because it was very well maintained and in a great location. But the cost is pretty exorbitant and there are only 2 sites open to the public.

Campout at Fort McDowell

I camped on Angel Island with a large organized group of 200+ campers at Fort McDowell. To get to the island, you have to take a short ferry trip that leaves from Tiburon, CA. From there you will backpack with your gear until you reach the campground that you will be staying at.

The island is well equipped with various bathrooms that include flush toilets and sinks. This is a great place to visit to get views of the Bay that you cannot get anywhere else. There is plenty of hiking, beach access, paved roads for biking, and tours of the history of the island.

Be aware that it gets very windy and chilly at night, so come prepared with a sturdy tent and warm clothing. Dogs are not allowed on the island.

Inexpensive Full and Partial Hook-ups in Napa Valley

Clean showers and bathrooms, some trees, close to Raley’s Grocery store. Easy drive to the wineries of Napa Valley, a little further to Sonoma but a nice drive. Picnic table, some full hook-ups and some partial, we will ask for full hook ups next time just for ease of getting out when your ready to go.

Not Too Well Known, Super Windy

The Pantoll campground is up on Mount Tam which rises up above San Francisco. I came from the north and wound my way through the incredibly Marin countryside before heading up Tam. Take care on the drive up to Pantoll, no matter which way you come at it the road is steep and winding. I'm not sure I would want to drive up or down in the dark because the road has so many sharp curves, you wouldn't be able to see the magnificent views if you were traveling in the dark either.

There are just a handful of campsites on the hill above the Pantoll Visitors Center. Campers must park in the lot by the visitors center and then carry their belongings up the hill to their site. There are several sites within a few hundred feet of the parking lot and toilets while others are much further up the hill. Each site is equipped with a fire pit, a grill, picnic table, and small food locker (not animal proof). The lower sites are pretty close together so you will certainly hear your neighbors and hikers passing by. I enjoyed that wifi was available as are flush toilets and an outdoor sink for washing dishes.

It was also SO windy the night I was there and the ground wasn't ideal for staking a tent.

100% take a drive or hike up to the summit and admire the views of San Francisco, Marin, and the bridges. There's lots of good hiking, mountain biking, and road biking. If you happen to be there on a weekend morning, you will encounter lots of locals out for a hike or ride.

Secluded and Quiet

This is more of your traditional campground where you must carry all your food and gear to the campsite.  It is a short hike from the parking lot to the camping area and the camp hosts can provide containers to carry your items.  The campground was not busy and this allowed me to pick a spot hidden away from others. There are restrooms and a place to get water, but when I was there the showers were closed.  There are many hiking opportunities and chances to see wildlife (deer, wild turkey, rabbits, squirrels, racoons, and birds). Sites include fire pits, picnic tables, and food storage box.

Busy Campground in May

The hike and bike area is next to the RV hookup sites, and it can get a good bit of foot traffic.  Restrooms/showers were dirty, but that seems to be from the day visitors to the beach. It was cool and breezy, but still enjoyable on the beach.

Magical :) A Place Like No Othe You can go

Magical :) I feel at Peace at Such a Beautiful Location. Its a Must see.

Chill and scenic

Short walk to the beach. You can walk for miles on the beach or on the bluff trails. Everyone is laidback which makes for a peaceful experience. Great sunsets!!

Tenting camping and RVs. Limited electrical hookups.

Tucked away

This campground is about a 0.75 mile hike from the Tennessee Valley trail head. Very limited number of sites, so you’ll definitely need a reservation. No fires. Bring your own water and a camp stove.

There are owls perched in eucalyptus trees next to the campsite, and coyotes. Came across one on the way back from a sunset hike to the beach.

Hike to Muir Woods

Basic camping sites. Very popular during the summer, so get there early to get a spot or you will have to go to another campground along the road. Also bring cash for camping/parking fees.

The real draw here is to hike down to Muir Woods. And I mean down to Muir Woods. Save your energy for the hike back up. Absolutely worth it, though, for the gorgeous views.

Worth doing at least once. Bring mouse traps.

How is it possible that I am the first to review this place, the number one most difficult to reserve spot in all of California (and therefore presumably all of America)?!

So the cabins are not only notoriously difficult to reserve -- you need to be ready to click "reserve" on the website at no less than 5 minutes before the window opens for your dates of interest, which was 6 months ahead of time when I reserved -- but kind of expensive for what they are, at $100/night plus reservation fee.

For that, you get your own seaside cabin with million dollar views just 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sleeping platforms for about 6 people split among 3 semi-private rooms. Flush toilets at the parking lot and an honor system for buying firewood bundles with kindling. A full-time host lives in the house at the parking lot. There are dish washing spigots scattered among the cabins. There are wheelbarrows for schlepping your stuff to the cabins and campsites; more on that later. And charcoal grills outside each cabin. A couple general use picnic tables scattered about. So those are the basics you can read anywhere.

Various thoughts and recommendations, based on my solo weekend visit in mid-March 2018, staying in Cabin 7 at the bottom of the hill closest to the little beach:

  • It's a classic, twisty ride on Highway 1 to get to the entrance, and then another steep, curvy ride down to the campground. Campers sensitive to motion sickness or vertigo be warned.
  • Mice. There were several brand new mouse traps provided at the entrance to my cabin. You'll need them. You'd think staying in a cabin would elevate the camping experience a bit, but frankly, this brought things down a couple notches. In two days, I caught three and actually had to buy more traps. Removing any hint of food every night might work, but that's a pain. Experienced cabin-stayers will probably have better advice than mine.
  • Views. The campground and all cabins have incredible views. Bring binoculars and your good camera. Bolinas, Stinson, The Farallon Islands, fishing boats, the night sky, raptors, seals, all manner of water fowl…that's why you're here. The views. And…
  • It's about a mile into Stinson Beach if you need provisions or restaurants, and you can hike right onto the Steep Ravine / Matt Davis trails and climb all over Mt. Tam from the campground. It's also a great base camp for exploring Bolinas and the Pt. Reyes area by vehicle.
  • Wind! It's typically windy in this area most afternoons from May to September. Between those months, there's always a chance of rain, so being inside the cabin with the woodburning stove does have a major advantage over the campsites.
  • Seating. Bring your camp chairs. The cabins have fixed sleeping platforms, a built-in table, and two hard wooden benches. If you want to sit close to the wood stove or just lounge comfortably inside or out, it's DIY.

My advice? If you're a small party that just wants a couple days with the gorgeous oceanfront views and location, stay at the tent sites, not the cabins. You won't sleep with one eye open waiting for the mousetraps to pop, and it's a flat, easy portage from the parking lot to the campsites. Easier to keep clean, and I find cooking outside to be less of a hassle and easier to clean up than doing it inside the cabin where there isn't any water, sink, or spillage containment solution. Cheaper and (barely) easier to reserve a tent site, too.

If you're intent on having the cabin experience, or if you're staying in winter, or staying for more than a couple days, or have kids and really want to set up house, then go for a cabin, and I'd recommend choosing a cabin close to the parking lot. They're actually more private and you can use the wheelbarrows to move your stuff from car to cabin. The cabins further away from the parking lot are further down the hill; wheelbarrows are not an option, and footing is iffy when carrying large, heavy items up and down from the parking lot. Views are the same from all cabins so you're not losing any benefits. I'll try for CB04 next time.

But take whatever cabin you can get, and check "Steep Ravine Cabins" off your camping bucket list.