Gregory R.
San Francisco, CA
Joined December 2018
Beautiful Views, Windy & Tightly Packed

We stayed in tent site #4, aka “Extra Special Lakeshore Camping”. The views were absolutely incredible. The site site on a small promontory, affording you incredible sunsets across Bridgeport Reservoir. The drawback to this of course is that everyone has to walk right by your campsite to enjoy these views. Expect very limited privacy, friendly conversation, lots of it, and to meet every dog in camp. As the listing warns, the location also means extra exposure to wind and bugs. What the listing also says is that the site is (just) big enough for a large tent and EZ-up (shade structure), although it doesn’t mention what we were told upon arrival: due to winds coming off the reservoir at up to 60 knots, we were not allowed to rely on stakes and had to be present at all times when the shade structure was up.

Additional clarifications: The “dog beach” is ~30 ft long, and is the same beach the kayaks, SUP boards, and pedal boat are lunched from (and stored). In practice this is fine for playing fetch, but is not enough room for letting your dog run. Individual fire rings are not provided, so if you want a fire cozy up to the communal fire ring, which can get crowded on weekends, hopefully you’re not an introvert. Restrooms and showers are at the far corner of camp, ~1/8 mi away and up a small incline, not the easiest to get to for midnight wake up calls, or those with mobility limitations. FYI re: accessibility: the entire camp past the bathrooms is not firm & stable surface, and the restrooms are very tight with small stalls.

Otherwise the camp was great. We loved the free and easy access to boats. The communal kitchen was a nice convenience, particularly for washing dishes. The bathrooms were always very clean, and having free showers is awesome. The host’s local knowledge was very helpful, and pointed us to the right hot springs for the right day/time/weather. Finally, back to the view. It was great anytime of day, sunrise to sunset, even peeking out when hiding in the tent from the rain and bugs, the view really made the trip.

Nice Campsites, Hot & Buggy

We stayed in Sites 78 & 80, which were enormous, and could’ve easily fit 20-30 people, not the 8 people the sites were limited too. Careful though, many sites, including these, were mostly exposed with very little shade. Camping Labor Day weekend, temps were in the low 90s, and there were LOTS of mosquitoes. Most people in our party came back with upwards of 20-30 bites, even with lots of bug spray, screened enclosures, and other precautions.

Campsite amenities were great, easy access to water and bathrooms. Bathrooms were spotless the whole weekend, even though it was a holiday weekend and every site was booked. Park staff came by each evening to invite us to programs at the amphitheater. A firewood truck drove by at least once a day. You can also make purchases at a little camp store (in a shipping container), plenty of ice and firewood, but we didn’t see any alcohol for sale.

Check the rules ahead of time, they are quite restrictive and very different from many other campgrounds. No hard alcohol? No hammocks? No entry after 10:00pm?

Also note, the lake isn’t really in walking distance. If you have a dog, you have to head to East Shore (~5 min drive) and the Dog Run trail to let them in the water. Be prepared for a steep scramble down to the lakeside, and very limited beach.

Fun Lake Campground

This is a large campground with sites generally well spaced apart, you don’t feel right on top of your neighbors. Lots of site variation, so do your homework or be flexible, you might get an amazing lake side spot with a view, but not enough room for a tent. Great amenities, including flush restrooms and showers, and firewood available for purchase onsite.

Even without a boat or any lake toys we had a lot of fun hanging on the shore and letting the dogs swim, and even took a dip ourselves. The town of Valley Springs is ~5 min away by car, and has a great little grocery store and a fun run down ice cream shop among other restaurants, etc.

Highly Sought After Camping Within Spitting Distance of San Francisco

Kirby is a unique and unforgettable experience. Make sure you’re on top of the reservation window on recreation.gov, because there are only 5 super popular spots. Site 001 is the most popular for the views, but any of the sites are good, and most work well with groups of up to 10 people, and 2-3 medium size tents. Tent pads are provided, so try and avoid bribing your 15-person tent cabin.

Plan ahead: 1- if the fog roles in, prep for an all-night symphony of fog horns. Bring ear plugs. 2- the raccoons are vicious and fearless. Store all food and ANYTHING with a scent in the bear box. If you plan to leave your cooler outside of the bear box make sure it has a lock or secure latch. 3- you get a gate code and parking pass to drive down, but have to walk your gear the last 500-1,000 ft. to your site. Wheel barrows are provided, but packing a bit on the lighter side is best. 4- No water is available, so make sure to bring enough for drinking, cooking, washing up, and putting the fire out.

Fun: Relax and let the Insta-gold views fill up your like quota, but expect to be joined by plenty of day trippers making the long hike down to the beach. Expect it to empty back out again around dinner time. Spend your day on the beach or exploring the rest of the Marin Headlands. Check out the Nike Missile site, Point Bonita Lighthouse, Rodeo Beach, and the endless miles of hiking and biking trails.