No tent? No camp stove? No car? No problem. Every little urbanite should get a chance to sleep under the stars, and the one and only campsite located in San Francisco offers camping with all the convenience one has come to expect from the city that coined the phrase “there’s an app for that.” So whether you are an expert outdoorsman or green to the camp scene, everyone should experience this one-of-a-kind camp experience. Here’s how.
Nowhere Prettier than the Presidio
For starters, visitors to Rob Hill Campground get to pitch a tent in the stunning 1,500-acre national park that is the Presidio. The campground is just across the road from one of the more breathtaking Bay views—Immigrant Point Overlook—and a walking trail can take you right down to Baker Beach. The sites themselves are as special as you would expect considering the locale. There are four group sites, each sleeping up to 30 campers. Each site has a collection of picnic tables, a fire pit, a bbq grill, lockers to keep food away from critters (and critters away from you) and access to shockingly nice bathrooms (sinks and toilets, but no showers). And while camping within proximity of 90 other people (mostly school groups) sounds like it could be everything BUT serene, the sites are situated in such a way that we barely heard or saw the other campers. Each site comes with 4 parking permits, and the walk from car to site is about 100 easy feet. The cost is $125 per night.
No Gear? No Problem
It’s as simple as click and camp. Nearby Sports Basement rents everything novice campers could need for a night out in the woods. Tents, sleeping bags, air mats, and camp stoves …just click, pick up and pitch your tent (although we are sure, if you really feel like a clueless camper, there’s a Task Rabbit out there who will fit those pesky tent poles together for you). But as for what you should be sure to pack in: we suggest fire wood (scavenging for wood/kindling in the Presidio is a no no), drinking water and plenty of ingredients for s’mores!
The Perks of City Camping
If you grew up eating camp meals of hotdogs cooked over the fire on a stick, be prepared for a major upgrade. For the group that doesn’t feel like packing in dinner for 30, there are countless options for scoring gourmet grub. If you are camping on Thursday evenings, simply head down to the Main Parade Ground at 5 p.m. for Off the Grid Presidio Twilight, where cabanas, fire pits and nearly a dozen food trucks await. Our crew enjoyed everything from bacon burritos to lobster rolls to garlic noodles. And to fend off the fog rolling in (the large open field gets CHILLY) there was plenty of hot mulled wine to warm up our bones.
If you are camping any other night, consider stopping into the Presidio Social Club or Traci des Jardin’s Arguello. If you would rather keep it wild, and dine at the site, any of the dozens of local food delivery apps will delver right to the camp ground. We rang up Smitten Ice Cream and had then drop off their new sundae picnics—insulated bags filled with absolutely everything you need for an ice cream sundae bar, from ice cream and toppings to spoons and bowls—even the ice cream scoopers!
But it was the next morning when we were really praising our iPhones: Postmates delivered piping hot coffee for 30 from Peet’s Coffee. We could camp here every night!
So Much Cool Stuff for Kids
But beyond the perks, the coolest thing about camping in the Presidio is all the incredible stuff there to absolutely blow your kids minds. From a visit to the Officers Club where history, plant and animal activities and art converge inside a stunning centuries-old building (and all for FREE!), to hikes to fit every ability to, well, just nature at its most stunning. We took a meandering 45-minute hike from the Officers Club to El Polin Springs that included countless birds, whimsical “fairy huts” contracted from sticks, two bees getting busy, a traditional Ohlone chant and so much more. It was an experience our troop will never forget—and it happened practically in their own backyard.
Rob Hill Campground
1475 Central Magazine Rd.
San Francisco, Ca
Good to know: The camping season runs April 1–October 31. Reservations are filled on a first-come, first-served basis and are confirmed via email. As of press time, all Friday and Saturday dates are booked through July, 2016. There are a few Sunday through Thursday dates available in August, September, and October. For questions, call 415-561-4200.
Have you camped in the Presidio? Tell us about it in the comments below!
All images by the author unless otherwise noted.