Angel Island State Park Campground
San Francisco Bay, CA
Angel Island state park offers unparalleled 360-degree views of the San Francisco skyline, the Marin Headlands and Mount Tamalpais. Besides some great hiking and biking, visitors experience living history from the Miwoks three thousand years ago through ranching, immigration, housing World War II POWs to the current Coast Guard stations. If you like to backpack or camp via bicycle, camping on Angel Island is an experience. The island offers campsites all around and campers ascend up to 250 feet on paved and dirt roads to sites from one to 2.5 miles from the ferry dock.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Samuel P. Taylor State Park offers North Bay camping amidst the redwoods, oaks and bay trees and close proximity to the Golden Gate national recreation area and Point Reyes national seashore. The hearty may hike Mt. Barnabe while the relaxed may hike to the Azalea picnic grounds. Hikers, bikers and equestrians have designated campsites.
Monterey Veteran’s Memorial Park Campground
Veteran’s Memorial Park covers 50 acres in the hills of Monterey with an 81-acre forest and wildlife preserve called Huckleberry Hill. It’s just a mile from downtown Monterey and allows dogs on a leash. This is an adventurous and affordable way to enjoy the peninsula with several beaches that also allow dogs on a leash. Visit Monterey State Beach, south of the Monterey Beach Resort hotel, Seaside exit off Highway 218, west of Highway 1. Stroll and picnic at Asilomar State Beach, Carmel River State Beach and Garrapata State Park.
Riverside at Big Sur
Big Sur, CA
Riverside Campground stands among the redwoods on 16 acres between Carmel-by-the-Sea and San Simeon with Hearst Castle. Riverside campground offers beach access just 10 minutes away, some wonderful rustic restaurants like the River Inn or Ripplewood Cafe, local art including Nepenthe and the Henry Miller museum, cliffside ocean panorama along with Pfeiffer Beach and mountain hiking in the Ventana Wilderness. Campers aren’t the only ones on the move as California gray whales migrate in winter. Check out the Riverside photo gallery.
Oceano Dunes offers 1,500 acres of off-highway vehicle recreation along with another 2,500-3,000 acres of natural areas closed to motor vehicles. It’s warmer in San Luis Obispo County than San Francisco and winter campers have all sorts of water sports from surfing, skimboarding and kite boarding to personal watercraft operation. Wander over 18 miles of sand dunes at Nipomo Dunes. Oceano Dunes allows drivers to cruise in vehicles on the beach, even passenger cars. Pets are allowed in the park and on the Oceano Dunes beaches, with the beach at Avila setting aside an area for dogs to roam off-leash and frolic in the surf. For a trail map of Ocean Dunes Preserve, click here.
Related: Best Driving Ranges In The Peninsula
Cindy Warner is a freelance writer and a San Francisco Bay Area native. Cindy has covered SF theater and opera for Examiner.com via her bicycle since January 2009. Check out her work on Examiner.com.