A Camper’s Paradise on the Pacific: the Cabins at Steep Ravine
As you make your way north out of San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Mill Valley, the city traffic slowly starts to dissipate as you begin to ascend through coastal redwood forest into Mount Tamalpais State Park.
Up and over the mountainous, winding road and just under an hour from the city, the drive opens up to views of the Pacific ocean that will take your breath away.
It’s along this stretch of Highway 1 that you’ll find Steep Ravine, an incredible campground that could be the setting for a fairytale. With rustic camping and cabin options in a wilderness setting overlooking the sea, it’s a special spot for a getaway to unwind and feel happy in nature.
The 10 cabins at Steep Ravine are rustic but stunningly beautiful. Each and every one is perched above the ocean, with wide windows that look out to sweeping sea views.
The wildlife watching is excellent here. We’ve spotted pods of dolphins right from our cabin windows, fawns frolicking around the campground during the daytime, and baby coyotes at dusk.
There’s a gorgeous driftwood-laden beach right below the campground that’s perfect for whiling away an afternoon. The sunsets are epic from Steep Ravine, and on a clear night the stargazing is superb. After a full day of relaxing, you can fall asleep to the sound of the crashing waves.
If you can pry yourself away from Steep Ravine, there’s plenty to explore a bit further afield. Hang out at Stinson Beach, wander around the adorable town of Bolinas, or get a workout on one of the many hiking trails. The Dipsea, Steep Ravine and Matt Davis loop is on our radar for next time.
For good reason, Steep Ravine is a notoriously difficult place to snag a cabin at. We’ve had luck finding cabin openings from last-minute cancellations during weekdays. Alternatively, if you’re organised and good at planning ahead, you can book a site up to 6 months in advance – just make sure to set a reminder for yourself to hop on the booking site exactly 6 months ahead of time, as they go fast.
We like to bring most of our food and drinks with us, but pick up fresh local produce at one of the great little farm stands in Bolinas. For an easy camp dinner, make a foil packet for the barbecue: layer vegetables (sweet peppers, summer squash, etc.) with a little olive oil and seasoning, top with fresh salmon and lemon slices, seal and grill for about 20 minutes. You’ll have a divine dinner with little cleanup.
Below are some of the nitty-gritty details about what to expect at Steep Ravine:
Where to book: On the Reserve California website (enter ‘Mount Tamalpais SP’)
- Each cabin contains a table, countertop, and four wooden platform beds
- Outdoor barbecue at each cabin
- Indoor fireplace in each cabin
- Firewood for sale on-site (bring cash)
- Running water that’s safe for drinking
- Flush toilets (up at the top of the campground) and long-drop toilets closer to the cabins
- Garbage and recycling bins, and garbage bags in the cabin
- Wheelbarrows for moving your things from car to cabin
What to bring:
- Camp sleeping pads or an air mattress – the beds are wooden platforms so you’ll need some cushioning! If you opt for an air mattress, bring a battery-operated air pump or one you can use with your car charger
- Sleeping bags & pillows
- Curtains or blankets for the cabin windows – there are no coverings on the windows, so we like to bring our own for the sleeping area
- A lantern and headlamps
- Charcoal for the barbecue
- A lighter or matches for the barbecue and fireplace
- Camp stove
- Cooking supplies
- Ice chest
Things to note:
- A maximum of 5 people are allowed in each cabin, and you’re allowed one car. No pets are allowed.
- There’s no electricity in the cabins, so plan accordingly. There are also no showers.
- You will likely not get any cell coverage at the campground.
- The campground is down a gated road and you’ll need a code to open the gate. You’ll also need a code for the lock on your cabin door. These codes will be emailed to you before your arrival – note them down somewhere before you leave for your camping trip.
- Print out your reservation confirmation and leave it on your dashboard when you park at Steep Ravine.
For a place that’s so close to a city, it’s pretty amazing how Steep Ravine feels so far away from it all. If you’re lucky enough to find an opening for a cabin reservation, just do it – you won’t regret it one bit.