Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bike Camping on Angel Island

angel island camping

One of the most unique outdoor experiences to be had in the San Francisco Bay Area is camping on Angel Island, which lies in the middle of the bay. This state park serves a lot of daytrippers, particularly on weekends, but after the last ferry leaves around 5pm, the island is virtually deserted, save for other campers and a minimal staff of park employees. It's a very unusual place, essentially a wilderness area surrounded by one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country.

It should be noted that reserving a campsite for the weekend requires booking months in advance. However, if you can manage to stay on a weeknight, it's pretty easy to get a reservation. Access to the island is possible by ferry from San Francisco or Tiburon. We took the boat from Tiburon, which made for a brief, but very nice ride. There was a nominal charge for the bikes, and an out of the way space to stow them. Once on the island, we checked in with the park ranger, then pedaled off to our campsite. The site we had chosen was not far from the ferry landing, about a mile and a half away. Other sites on the island are a bit further off, but nothing is more than a few miles away.

angel island bike camping

We pulled into our site and were immediately impressed with the expansive views right in front of us, including the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the entire east side of San Francisco all the way to the Bay Bridge. The campsite consisted of a few tent spots and a picnic table and grill. (Charcoal and camp stoves are permitted, but wood fires are forbidden due to fire danger.) We also noticed an abundance of poison oak in the area, so one must be careful to avoid it. Behind our campsite lay the remains of an old gun battery, one of many that were scattered around the bay in the early 1900s to protect it against an enemy invasion that never came.

angel island camping

After setting up camp, we wasted no time in exploring the island. From our site, we followed a path downhill which took us to a nice beach which shared essentially the same view, but from a different perspective. Next we rode our bikes along the Perimeter Road, a 5.5 mile paved road that circles the island and provides access to most of the highlights.

angel island beach

angel island cycling

Prior to becoming a state park, the island was used for military and immigration purposes, so there are several historical buildings in various states of decay. Most are quite interesting, and literature describing the structures can be found on the island. There are also several hiking trails that can be taken advantage of. It seems that no matter where you are on the island, there is a nice view to appreciate. The best view is from the top of the island, otherwise known as Mount Livermore. From there, you get an unobstructed, 360 degree view of the Bay Area. We hiked up top just before sunset and watched the sun go down and the city lights come up. It was a sublime experience. Back at our campsite, we were still able to enjoy the nighttime view of San Francisco. You can spend quite a lot of time just gazing at the city across the bay, and watching the giant cargo ships glide by.

angel island view

After our short stay, we rolled back out to the ferry landing and caught the boat back to Tiburon. It all seemed to pass by very quickly. As bike camping goes, this was a pretty easy trip, and it would be a good intro for first timers. Backpacking is also an option, and here too, it would be a good introduction for the novice. It's enough of a trip to familiarize yourself with the gear without venturing too far from civilization. Plus, it's just a great experience all around.

7 comments:

  1. Just by looking at the photo, I'm sure anybody would surely enjoy this place.

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  2. Oh I gotta try this! Thanks for the great info!

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    1. It's a really great experience. I have repeated this trip a few times now. Definitely try it and have fun. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  3. Replies
    1. Hi Paloma. We stayed at site 5. A lot of people like site 4 too.

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  4. Hi, we will be doing this trip soon with a toddler. Thinking about attaching a kids cart to our bike to carry our stuff and our kiddo. Is it mostly paved on the way to the sites? Do you think a decent sized bike cart would be okay?

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    1. Most of the route to the sites we used is paved. There were a couple brief uphill sections that were unpaved, but a bike/trailer could be pushed up these short bits if need be. My friend had no trouble with his BOB trailer there, which you can see pictured above.

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