Backpacking Trips

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Short backpacking trails around the Bay Area

April 2004

Hi there, i am looking for some ideas for one nighter, short backpacking trips around the bay area. Some where with water is preferable, 3 to 4 mile hike in would be great....and i wouldnt want to drive for more than 2 hours to get there. Is that possible around here? We are wanting to go in May and June. Anyone know of anything? thanks, cris

It sounds to me like you should go to Point Reyes! We haven't done this for a few years, but as I remember there are several campsites, all in view of the water, that you can hike in to. Some are actually on the beach, and I think that none of them are more than three or four miles in. I've done it in the winter -- it may be crowded in the summer (meaning you'll have to reserve your site well ahead of time). Information is available at

Point Reyes is the place. I took my then 3 yr old daughter there in August of last year to Sky Camp. Hike in was 2 miles all uphill but only about an hour (or more depending on who you're hiking with) from the trailhead (1 1/2 hrs away). My daughter handled it like the trouper she is. The camps had beautiful views of the ocean and there we met a group of girls close to my daughter's age with their dad's and had a great time. My daughter still talks about it all the time. Others like Coast and Wildcat Camps are a little further, but are no more than about 4-5 miles from the closest trailhead. Get your reservations early. Rob

Our family has been ''backpacking'' into campsites since my son was 10 months old. We often go to Coast Camp at Pt. Reyes - during fog season, it's windy and cold - so we usually go in the spring or the fall. It's less than 2 miles hike in on the beach - or up and over the hill from the trail head near the hostel. You can also ride in on the trail with a Mountain bike. The park service can help you when you call for reservations 415 663 8054 it's quite popular and you now have to reserve 3 months in advance for weekend sites beware of the very aggressive raccoons in the small group sites they are formidable - potable water and toilets are available.

Another place that we like it Waddell Creek primitive sites off of highway 1 - 2 miles south of Ano Nuevo - a relatively flat dirt road about 1.5 miles to the first set of camp sites. You have to haul in water or filter from the stream. Our now 3.5 year old was able to ride his 2 wheel training wheel nubby tire bike and keep up with us walking in - you could also ride a bike and pull a trailer or even just wear your back packs. Nice trails to the water falls. linda

It's a little difficult to find much backpacking within a couple of hours of the Bay Area. One place that we have found nice is in the Sunol Wilderness-I think the camp was about 5 miles in from the Sunol regional park (or 16 miles if you come from Del Valle). You need a reservation and I'd be a little careful-the site we stayed in was called something like Eagle's Rest and was narrow with precipitious falls, but the other sites were more ''stable''. Someone was staying there with a 2 year old (you didn't mention kids but others might be interested).

Also, there's a fairly popular backpack trip just north of Big Sur-I think it's in the Ventana Wilderness, maybe from China Camp? It would be easy to find if you looked around there. Mount Diablo has been expanding in recent years and there are several camps there. It's getting a little hot for that (and proably Sunol as well).

In general, backpacking in the Bay Area is marginal-doesn't really offer that isolation of ''real'' backpacking, but population density necessitates designated campsites, etc. I was kind of disappointed not to hear more ideas-anyone else?? anxious to backpack again with one year old

I know you asked for short backpacking trips but my husband and I were avid hikers....not stopped by one child as I would carry her and my husband carried the rest of the gear. However, with the second child we were at a standstill. Last summer when my son was just a couple of months old and daughter a pretty large 2 year old, we rented a couple of llamas from Potato Ranch Llamas in the Sierras and they carried the gear while we carried the children- the llamas are not trained to be ridden by children but proved to be sweet, very low maintenance- drank at streams and hobbled at night to graze. Potato Ranch llamas rented us the trailer and the two llamas (they were on the buddy system and only go out in pairs). All you need is a car with a hitch ($125 installed at UHaul). We went for a number of days and our daughter loved taking care of the llama. There may be other llama rental outfits around. We are currently researching the Great Lost Coast area. Happy hiking. dj

PS - I forgot to mention Angel Island SP for backpacking - a unique urban camping experience for sure! And since the ring road is flat and short it is easy to get to all the campsites. We usually take the ferry from Tiburon. Reserve well ahead. - Charis