This guide is part of KCET's California Coastal Trail series, which looks at the state's massive undertaking to build a trail over 1,000 miles in length along its whole coastline.
Encompassing part of the San Francisco Peninsula and bordered by the Santa Cruz Mountains, San Mateo County offers a wealth of rural forests and beaches south of the densely populated Bay Area. From landscapes of coastal scrub to fern grottos, there is an array of enchanting worlds to set up camp.
Below you'll find the following alluring camping options in San Mateo County.
Butano State Park Campground
About midway between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz lies the little-known but beloved Butano State Park. A valley of redwoods nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, many make the trek to Butano for its healing isolation and towering forests -- including the awe-inspiring Candelabra Tree. Butano has 39 campsites, some drive-in, others a short walk from parking areas. Visit here for more information.
Half Moon Bay Campground Campground
Abutting the tranquil coastal community of Half Moon Bay, this campground offers access to 4 miles of some of California’s most pristine coastline. Plus, campers will find the Coastside Trail scaling the bluffs above the beach, a 3-mile stretch of the California Coastal Trail for walkers, hikers, and bikers. Tent sites, RV hook-ups, and group sites available. Visit here for more information.
Portola Redwoods State Park Campground
Escape the noise of the city and head into the Santa Cruz Mountains to experience the crisp hush of douglas firs, coast redwoods, and mossy banks in Portola Redwoods State Park. Named after the famed Spanish explorer credited with discovering the San Francisco Bay in 1769, Portola boasts a 55-site family campground and 18 miles of creek-adjacent trails where waterfalls flow gently for all those to enjoy. Visit here for more information.