Labor Day weekend is right around the corner. As this is the only federal holiday in sight until October, this weekend is basically your last shot of achieving summertime glory.
Perhaps you have been too busy working or drinking coconut rum in Dolores Park to have organized a getaway for Labor Day weekend. There’s no need to get frazzled over the impending holiday. In fact, you should feel anything but frazzled: the best perk of living in San Francisco is getting out of San Francisco to visit Northern California’s many beautiful campgrounds for an easy, breezy nature getaway.
Since the upcoming three-day weekend might be the best chance you have of finally getting out and visiting one of those cool places you’ve been telling yourself to visit, we’ve compiled a list of awesome campsites worth your while. These campgrounds are within a 30-minute to 5-hour drive from San Francisco (depending on the severity of holiday traffic, of course), perfect for a low-maintenance road trip.
If you don’t want to camp out overnight or can’t get a campsite reservation, these destinations will still make for wonderful day trips. From mountains to lakes, here’s a list of 7 campsites near San Francisco where you can get away from it all.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is the furthest place from San Francisco on this list, but the 5-hour drive is worth the gas money. Lassen’s clear lakes and stunning mountains offer plenty of appeal to its campground, so swimmers and hikers alike will have something to stay occupied. To turn up the dial on your weekend itinerary, explore the park’s hydrothermal areas; the park is home to roaring fumaroles steam, volcanic-gas vents, thumping mud pots, and boiling pools. Just make sure to watch your step.
Surrounded by redwoods and ferns, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park offers a scenic getaway only 3 to 4 hours from San Francisco. It hosts Sonoma Creek, a gorge and canyon, meadows, and scenic rock outcroppings. If you’re lucky, you can find a flowing 25-foot waterfall after heavy rains. The park has 25 miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding, so bring your sneakers and a horse. On a clear day, visitors can see views of the Sierra Nevada and the Golden Gate bridge from the Bald Mountain summit. If you want an astronomical edge to your trip, the Valley of the Moon Observatory Association provides astronomy programs at the Robert Ferguson Observatory, at which there are 3 telescopes and the New Generation 40-inch Telescope Project, which will be one of the largest telescopes dedicated for public viewing.
Only 1.5 hours from San Francisco, Point Reyes is inarguably one of the most beautiful destinations in Northern California. The Point Reyes campgrounds are backdropped by tableaus of dramatic ocean waves crashing against massive rocks, expansive sand beaches, open grasslands and meadows, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges. For nature and history aficionados, Point Reyes is home to over 1,500 species of plants and animals as well as historic sites of several cultures that used to inhabit the space. Given its locality and the myriad activities it has to offer, Point Reyes is definitely worth your consideration.
Head to the flip side of the Bay for a local, yet otherworldly camping experience at the Golden Gate National Recreational Area in the Marin Headlands. The site has four different campgrounds where you can sleep under the stars, but there is no water available for drinking or cleaning so you’ll have to come prepared.
You might know Angel Island as an important historic site and tourist hotspot, but it’s also a choice location to pitch a tent and unwind for the weekend. In addition to having significant cultural value, Angel Island is the largest natural island in the Bay Area. Adding to its elusive remoteness, the Island can only be accessed via ferry or a private boat, so make sure to pack some Dramamine.
A mere 40-minute drive from San Francisco, China Camp State Park is nestled along the San Pablo Bay. The historic state park displays a plethora of eye-catching features such as beautiful views of the waterfront, an extensive intertidal salt marsh, meadow, and oak habitats. There is a variety of wildlife including fox and bats, as well as 2 endangered species: the California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. There is beach access, swimming, and picnicking available at China Camp Village. At the village, there is a museum that illustrates the Chinese shrimp-fishing village that thrived on this site in the 1880s, which was inhabited by nearly 500 people originally from Canton, China.
Under an hour away from San Francisco, Mount Tamalpais State Park is practically synonymous with Marin County. Located north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Mount Tamalpais peak has everything that avid campers could desire. For those looking to maintain their fitness amid their nature getaway, the park offers hiking, picnicking, wildlife watching, and mountain and road bicycling. The most remarkable aspect of Mount Tamalpais is the peak itself, which has a panoramic view of the Farallon Islands, Mount Diablo, and on rare occasions, the snow-covered Sierra Nevada.