First and foremost, the campground here is NOT a car camp site. You park in a main lot and then lug all your gear to your site. I didn't realize that when I made the reservation for me and my three little ones. However, the very friendly campground hosts had several residential wheeled street garbage containers that you can use to load your gear in and wheel to your site. VERY helpful as some sites can be quite a walk (sites 9 and 10 are wayyyyy back). I made about 6 or 7 trips each for loading and unloading. Yeah, the kids brought a lot of stuff!
At the entrance is a sign warning of poison oak. It shows a drawing and gives good information. Right next to the sign are several live poison oak plants. So pay attention and have your kids take note as well so they will recognize it when they see it.
There are two separate campground "loops". 1-15 are the lower sites, while 15-30 are up on a hill. A couple of the upper sites have a view of San Pablo Bay. I think maybe site 25 or 26. Hauling those garbage cans up the hill can be daunting, so take note!
As for wildlife, we were woken early each morning (like 5:30 am) by the cackling of the wild turkeys. As much as I hate waking up that early, it was cool to be surrounded by the wildlife. The kids got a kick out of seeing the turkeys. Deer came through the campground frequently.
A WORD OF WARNING about the raccoons. While we were eating hot dogs one evening, a very bold raccoon walked right up to our table. If we had done nothing, I'm sure he would have jumped right up, grabbed a hot dog, a bun, some catsup, and asked for a beer, too. This raccoon would look you in the eye and pat the ground in front of him with a paw as if to say, "throw me some food right here". Kids will think it's the cutest thing and may be inclined to feed him like he was the family dog, but you need to send this raccoon on his way quickly. Looked like he lived in one of the trees in the lower campground.
Since there are no bears here, the food lockers are not very secure, nor are they large enough to accommodate coolers. I was able to fill them with paper grocery bags filled with our stuff. The absolute best security against wildlife is to bring your own lock for the lockers. I think the raccoons can defeat the food locker's built-in security. I ended up lugging our cooler out to the car at night and back again in the mornings or anytime we were going to leave the site.
We were in campsite #9, just past the showers. Next time I'd grab something not on the well traveled path. Since we were there on a weekday, there was only ONE other camper at the campground. There were cyclists and runners who used the lower campground as a main thoroughfare to the trails. Because I had three little kids running around my site, the bicyclists took note and slowed as they passed. They were friendly enough, but buyer beware when you're hiking the trails.
The lower campsite is fairly well insulated by trees. It was raining lightly when we first arrived, but the campground was dry. You won't be shielded from the wind, tho, and it was quite windy during our stay. The bathrooms and showers (coin-op) were very clean and friendly. I've come to expect that from my state park camping experiences.
The China Camp historical village was cool, but so much more could be done to make it truly a historical site. It looked like workers were in the process of restoring it. There are picnic tables there as well. The beach there is very rocky, and was full of jellyfish that had been left behind by the tide. The kids enjoyed that.
Overall, I really enjoyed this camping experience. We used it more as a base of operations to set out and see sites around the bay area. We visited the SF Zoo one day, and Fort Baker the next. Considering how close the Park is to civilization, it has an amazingly isolated feel to it. I'd definitely return, but will be better armed to enjoy the experience more.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- With stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, China Camp State Park, established in 1977, has 1,500 acres on the tip of the San Pedro Peninsula in San Rafael, CA. Its 15 miles of trails are available for runners, hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. Unique to the Park is China Camp Village. The only one still standing of the two dozen that dotted the San Francisco Bay, this Chinese fishing village exported to China dried shrimp from the Village's establishment in 1868 until the 1920s. ... more less