Kirby Cove is one of California’s best kept secrets, one of those hidden gems that seems almost too good to be true. Are you wishing for some place quiet and peaceful near San Francisco to set up your tent and relax? Do you want to gaze at the city, the Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge away from bustling tourist attractions and crowds?
How does a beautiful, private beach with a secluded campsite only yards away sound? Perfect, right? Well that is Kirby Cove!
The one true downside to Kirby Cove is that unless you get extremely lucky, you have to plan far in advance to be able to stay there. But this can be said about many prime campsites across the US. Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone... you won’t get a spot unless you reserve your site months ahead of time. The only difference between these popular parks and Kirby Cove is whereas they have hundreds of people coming in and out of them every day, Kirby has only four campsites, which means you are guaranteed solitude. Yes, it is a bit of extra work. But trust me, it's worth it!
The government website lets you reserve 6 months in advance. My suggestion is to get on the website exactly 6 months before the day you plan to arrive. Get on early in the morning, as early as possible. These sites fill up FAST. The website lets you choose your campsite. Site 1 is closest to the ocean. Site 2 and 3 are the biggest. Site 4 is the most secluded. We chose 2 because it has a view of the Bay and of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was amazing!
I was so preoccupied taking photos down by the water that I really didn’t get many of the campground. But they are beautiful sites, all of them guarded by towering California Oaks.
Here is the Cove in the middle of the day. It was a typical foggy July when we were there and like the famous saying goes: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
I liked this piece of old dock that washed up onto the shore. I thought it looked like a treasure chest at first.
The sites are 14 dollars a night and you can stay for up to 2 weeks. You will get a code that lets you into the gate at the top of the famous overlook on the West side of the Bridge in Sausalito. It was funny to see the curious stares of tourists as they watch you lock the gate back up and wonder where in the world you are going. Beyond the gate you drive down a steep gravel road that takes you into a protected grove of old growth trees. Inside this grove is where the campsites lie. The tree line breaks, opens up to a small bluff, and there is a small but gorgeous beach. The beach belongs to you and whoever else is camping down at Kirby Cove. We had it completely to ourselves each night we were there.
Though there are so many sites to see and things to do in the city, we made sure to be back at our camp every evening to watch twilight settle in over the Bay. We brought blankets and sat tucked behind the mountainside to stay out of the wind. Few man-made things are more beautiful than watching San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge light up from within the fog.
The colors constantly change with the impending darkness and the clouds. Giant boats stir up waves along the shore as they pass under the Bridge. As we sat there enjoying the stunning scenery it occurred to me that people pay hundreds of dollars a night to stay in fancy hotels in the city- for rooms with lovely views. But no amount of money could get you anything better than just sitting on a blanket at the Kirby Cove beach.
If you are a traveler looking for a less expensive, unconventional experience while visiting San Francisco, or if you’re a seasoned camper who is looking for a place to connect with nature while enjoying the benefits of the big city... Kirby Cove is your answer! Just don’t forget to plan ahead.
These were some of the best nights of my life.