Campsite Review: Angel Island State Park

Angel Island
Middle of San Francisco Bay

Date of visit:
August 19-20, 2011

Quite nice, considering it was the San Francisco Bay in summer!  It was in the mid to upper 60s when we arrived on the island via ferry.  I still wore a long sleeved shirt to hike to camp and quickly put on my down jacket and hat/gloves as evening progressed, but it was never uncomfortably cold.  Overnight low inside our tent was 56F.

(photo copyright April Tse)

Note that while the temperature was pleasant, it was extremely windy, even on the more-sheltered eastern site of the island.  The internet tells me that winds on Friday, August 19 were 15-25 knots, or 17 to 28 miles per hour.

Getting to Angel Island
The island is accessible via private boat or by ferry.

Ferries run a few times per day from both Tiburon and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.  More information at

For more information on specifically the Tiburon ferry, see:

Note that if you take the Tiburon ferry, the parking lot behind the bank (on your left just after Beach St) is $5/day.  The parking lot seemed safe and secure and we had no issues leaving the truck overnight.

Peter and I on the ferry:

(Photo copyright April Tse)

Campground Condition:
* Because of the limited number of spaces and the sheer awesomeness of the location, be prepared to do a little bit of work to camp on Angel Island.  The California Park Service opens up camping reservations six months in advance at — you’ll need to be on the site at 8am sharp on the first day of the month six months before you want to go (example: we booked our site at 8am on February 1, 2011 for a camping trip in mid-August). The sites were all sold out for August at about 8:05am on 2/1.

* There are 9 campsites on Angel Island: 3 at Ridge on the southwestern side of the island,  3 at East Bay on the northeastern side, and 3 at Sunrise on the southeastern side.  The information below is only for the East Bay sites as we didn’t go to any of the other campground areas.

* Note that the campsites are all hike-in.  It was about 2 miles from the ferry dock to the East Bay campsites, with some steep elevation in places.  The trail was still fairly easy, even with my janky back and our friend Gwenn’s janky knee.  Many people we saw camping brought Radio Flyer type wagons or jogging strollers loaded with coolers/bags/etc for their gear.  We took some shortcuts on steep stairs/unpaved trails that would have made that impossible (you could take the paved road most of the way to the campsite but it’d be longer and not as interesting).

* The campsites have good privacy from one another.  Sites 2 and 3 are close enough together that it’s very convenient to get between them; Site 1 is out of sight from the other two and is a good deal larger.

* Site 1 at East Bay looked to have some flat spots but be forewarned that Sites 2 and 3 are sloped.  It wasn’t horrible — just make sure to stake the tent so that your head is uphill — but it is noticeable.

* Each individual site has a BBQ, food locker, and picnic table. The three East Bay campsites share a common area along the path with a pit toilet, water spigot, garbage cans, and recycling cans.  Use the food locker: there are lots of raccoons!

* The bathroom is, well, a pit toilet.  It wasn’t the most offensive pit toilet I’ve ever used, but the smell was pretty overwhelming (more from the chemically smell than of waste).  Holding one’s nose for the duration was recommended and worked wellt.  Toilet paper is provided.

* The island has a wood fire ban at all times: charcoal and camp stove cooking only.  It’s hard to complain when you think about what a wood fire can do.

What to do:

* There’s way more to do at Angel Island than I could possibly list out.  Here are a few things and some websites to go to for more information.

* A cafe, tram tours, and bike rentals are available seasonally (see for schedule)

* The Angel Island Company operates Segway tours on the island.  Tour prices are $65/person and are limited to people 16 years or older.

* The Cove Cafe near the ferry dock has live music seasonally on weekends.  The food and beer were pretty good.

* The island has 13 miles of trails and roadways for hiking.  There are 9 paved miles of roadways for bicyclists.

* There are many historic sites on Angel Island (available via hiking or bicycling), including Civil War buildings, a Nike missile battery, and most notably, the Immigration Station where primarily Chinese immigrants were detained.


For more information on Angel Island:

Additional photos:

Hiking from the ferry dock to the East Bay campsites:

Great views of Ayala Cove on the hike to the campsite:

Site #3:

Because of the wind, we moved to neighboring — and empty — Site #2 for the night.  It was much more protected from the wind.

When not sleeping, we still hung out at Site #3 because of the better view.

April took this neat photo of me taking a photo:

(Photo copyright April Tse)

View from Site #3 at night:

View of San Francisco in the morning from Site #3:

Not a bad view for breakfast!

In a tree at Site #2:

The intrepid adventurers getting ready to hike back down to the ferry dock:

Ridge Road heading back down to Ayala Cove:

Donor memorial at the Immigration Station:

The Northridge trail shortcut has some pretty steep steps:

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the ferry back to Tiburon:

What’s a trip without ice cream?  This is the Grass Shack organic ice cream parlor back in Tiburon.

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