San Francisco

The Essential Campsites Within an Hour of San Francisco

In case you're in need of an escape.

Tareq Ismail / Unsplash
Tareq Ismail / Unsplash
Tareq Ismail / Unsplash

Desperate to get away to anywhere-but-here, but not comfortable calling a hotel “home” for a couple of nights? We hear you, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck inside the same house you’ve been stuck inside for months. Why not take your relationship with Mother Nature to the next level (sleepover!) at a nearby campground? Obviously times are a little different right now, so just keep in mind that group camping isn’t allowed (some sites even require that you only camp with the people in your household), all campsites require reservations (all the better for eliminating the stress of trying to procure a walk-in site), and you’ll still need to wear a mask anytime you’re in a public area. What has stayed the same though is the tranquility that comes with sitting around a fire under the stars, the back aches you’ll complain about for days after you go back home, and that no one ever agrees on the perfect way to toast a marshmallow.

Andy Zinsser/Hipcamp
Andy Zinsser/Hipcamp
Andy Zinsser/Hipcamp

Kirby Cove Campground

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Driving time from SF: 28 minutes
This tiny oceanside campground in Sausalito is known for its seriously stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge (and SF), chilly temps, and seclusion in a wooded setting. There are five overnight camping sites, reached by a steep one-mile trail that can accommodate 10 people and three vehicles. Right now though, those 10 people have to occupy the same household. And while Kirby Cove is super popular, which means people snatch up the reservations quickly, during COVID, the reservations can only be booked out 14 days in advance (rather than 90) so you actually have a better shot of snagging one. There are pit toilets, barbecue pits, picnic tables, and fire rings, but you’ll have to bring your own water. And layers. Like, lots of layers. Nope, even more than that.

Sasha Cox/Hipcamp
Sasha Cox/Hipcamp
Sasha Cox/Hipcamp

Pantoll Campground

Mount Tamalpais State Park
Driving time from SF: 44 minutes
You know those sweet photos everyone takes from above where Karl the Fog is rolling across sweeping valleys and patches of redwood trees like an ocean on land? Yeah those are taken at Pantoll Campground. This first-come, first-served spot is a photographer’s dream, so there’s a very good chance you’ll run into others who had the same genius idea of camping out to get the perfect shot for the ‘Gram. Up your chances of claiming one of the 16 sites (up to 8 guests per site) by going during a weekday. And though you’ll be stoked to get any site, if you have your choice, get one uphill as they’re bigger and offer more privacy (also known as “ability to easily practice social distancing”). All of the sites have campfire pits with grills, potable water, and toilets, and you won’t have to get a pet sitter because dogs are allowed.

Cody Reneau/Hipcamp
Cody Reneau/Hipcamp
Cody Reneau/Hipcamp

Juniper and Live Oak Campground

Mount Diablo State Park
Driving time from SF: 51 minutes
Mount Diablo is a massive state park spanning 20,000 acres with arms wide open for sunrise chasers, rock enthusiasts (caving and climbing), and hikes for all abilities. You’re going to want to do one that takes you to the peak, which sits at an elevation of 3,864 feet. Yes, you could also drive there, but don’t you prefer to earn your panoramas? Especially when, on a good day, you can see almost 200 miles, which means views of the Farallon Islands, Mount Hamilton, Mount Saint Helena, and even Mount Lassen and Sentinel Dome in Yosemite. Juniper Campground has 50 campsites and Live Oak has 22. Our rec is Juniper, especially if you can get a site higher up because there’s a little more privacy and also views. Both campgrounds have fire rings, and picnic tables, but the flush toilets and showers are closed because of a water shortage. There are portable toilets though, and luckily your dog (who is allowed) won’t care one way or the other.

Tori Bennett/Hipcamp
Tori Bennett/Hipcamp
Tori Bennett/Hipcamp

Francis Beach Campground

Half Moon Bay State Beach
Driving time from SF: 51 minutes
This is the best place to watch the sunset over Half Moon Bay, particularly if you have an RV. Or, more likely, a friend with an RV since SF isn’t exactly RV parking-friendly. For tent campers, this might not be your best bet as there’s little privacy between the 52 sites. RV campers, though, this could be your paradise. All of the campsites have a picnic table, food locker, and fire ring, and there are also restrooms and WiFi.

blueviking63 / Flickr
blueviking63 / Flickr
blueviking63 / Flickr

Camp Taylor Area

Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Driving time from SF: 55 minutes
Why tour the redwoods when you can sleep amongst them? This drive-in campground has over 50 sites with picnic tables and firepits. There’s some noise from the road, which makes the Orchard Hill Loop sites (which are more removed from it) the way to go. The 2.7-mile Pioneer Tree Trail Loop is connected to the campground and meanders along a creek lined with redwoods, including the eponymous Pioneer Tree, one of the few remaining old growth redwoods in the second generation forest. The park is just a few miles from Point Reyes, so if you don’t mind an extra 30 minutes in the car (each way), make a reservation at Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall for oysters and seafood with a view either when you come in or before you head home.

Gardenista
Gardenista
Gardenista

Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground

Mount Tamalpais State Park
Driving time from SF: 56 minutes
People love Steep Ravine because of the cozy cliffside cabins. Unfortunately, the primitive cabins aren’t open right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to forsake this campsite altogether, as tent camping is still an option and just as scenic. The seven sites are on a bluff overlooking the ocean (ah to fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves) and offer more privacy than most campgrounds, and each site has a table and firepit with toilets close by. Also close by: a secluded beach within hiking distance.

Becky Lee/Hipcamp
Becky Lee/Hipcamp
Becky Lee/Hipcamp

Tomales Bay

Point Reyes National Seashore
Driving time from SF: One hour 24 minutes
Okay, so we’ve officially lost credibility for our whole “under an hour from SF” pitch, but we promise: this one’s totally worth it. Or at least it is if kayaking to your campsite is a thing you’ve ever dreamed of doing. There are lots of beaches available, but only two with toilets. If you don’t get one of those, you have to bring your own, along with water, food, a camp stove, and anything else you may need (wood fires are currently prohibited). Don’t have a kayak? You can rent one at Blue Waters Kayaking who will even drop it off at the boat launch location for you. Usually permits are sold on a first-come, first-served, same day basis, but right now they must be reserved ahead of time.

Stephen R. D. Thompson / Flickr
Stephen R. D. Thompson / Flickr
Stephen R. D. Thompson / Flickr

Bodega Dunes Campground

Sonoma Coast State Park
Driving time from SF: One hour 15 minutes
Okay, this one’s also a little more than an hour’s drive, but those extra 15 minutes in the car will be totally worth it once you arrive at your campsite tucked away in the dunes and just steps from the ocean. There are 99 sites with picnic tables and fire rings (and flushable toilets close by), so your chances of actually getting a reservation during peak season is high. There are tons of places in the park to explore, including remote hiking trails, but if you start to get a little antsy, town (which has waterfront restaurants and wine bars) is less than a mile away

Stuart Barr / Flickr
Stuart Barr / Flickr
Stuart Barr / Flickr

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Campground

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Driving time from SF: One hour 15 minutes
Okay, okay, so this one’s also a little over an hour away, but with the majority of campgrounds still closed, we felt like the more options the better. We like this spot for several reasons, including the fact that most of the 100+ sites (with picnic tables and fire rings) are spacious and private. We’re also a sucker for towering old-growth redwoods, which you’ll find in a grove about two-miles from the campground. Closer by, just a half-mile walk, is a rare sandhill plant community, also worth checking out. Keep going to reach the highest point in the park.  Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.

Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who is always on the hunt for a new adventure. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf to see where she goes next.

Julie Murrell is the Content Manager at Hipcamp. She’s a writer, adventurer, hula-hooper, and self-described “die-hard Bloody Mary enthusiast.” Check out the sum of her adventures, including a heavy dose of #vanlife on Instagram @jollymurrell.

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 – Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Daisy Barringer is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on Instagram to see what she’s up to now.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.