I am very fortunate that I have been able to stay at Steep Ravine twice in the last couple of years. Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground are one of the most popular sites in all of California. Its location on the coast in Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, make it an ideal destination for a get-away no matter the day of the week. Reservations are required, and are often booked far in advance. As part of the California State Park System, reservations open up on a 6-month rolling window, so advanced planning is often required unless you luck out with a cancellation. This means that if you want to stay on July 1st, the reservations open on New Years Day at 8am PST.
The campground/cabins are accessed via a locked gate and paved road. I believe the park ranger called me close to my reservation time to give me the code to the gate, which makes me think that they likely change the gate code often. The parking lot at the bottom of the hill is small and only one car per reservation (campsite or cabin) is allowed. Several parking spaces are covered with a carport structure that’s connected to the park ranger’s lodging.
For the campsites, they range from ~700 feet away from the parking lot to nearly a thousand. Try to pack lightly, or be prepared to make multiple trips to/from the car. There are six designated primitive campsites and one pit toilet in the area, which is located closest to campsite 1. Although pit toilets are far from luxurious, I didn’t mind this one as it was clean and didn’t smell too bad.
When I stayed they had a wheelbarrow for use to transport gear from your car, but we ended up carrying our things as most of the sites are pretty far and the paths are rather uneven. But check out those ocean views!
It felt like we had the entire coastline to ourselves. Nothing like watching a beautiful sunset over the Pacific. Camping here is open year-round and we happened to go in April on a weekday. It was gorgeous weather, and the morning had a little bit of fog. This would make an excellent spot to watch migrating whales in the summer/fall.
There are a total of 10 cabins, including 1 that is handicap accessible with a wheelchair ramp and closest to the bathroom. The bathrooms are flush toilets for the cabin side of the site. The cabins are located on a slope and each has amazing views of the rocky California coast line with Stinson Beach in the distance. They are considerably more expensive than camping (nearly 3 times as much), and would be considered rustic as there is no power or running water into each unit. Some people came prepared with sheets/curtains to block the windows leading to the parking lot and battery powered string lights to give a warm ambiance to their cabin.
I had made reservations 6 months in advance to spend a couple of January nights in Cabin 8, one of the cabins closest to the shoreline. We had somewhat misty wintery skies that made the cabin feel extra homey to drink a warm beverage and enjoy being shielded from the wind.
As I mentioned, the cabins are rather rustic. There is a picnic table inside with big windows pointed out toward the ocean. There is also a wood burning stove, which we utilized to keep warm in the chilly January evenings. There is one room that has a double size bed and a smaller twin-size bed. Then there are 2 other spots for smaller beds – one adjacent to the table in the main room and one between that and the room. Everything inside – the floors, walls and ceilings – is wood. No cooking stoves are available, so we brought our propane camp-stove so we could cook inside. We had a little mouse in our unit that we never saw, but noticed crumbs on our camp-stove were cleaned up overnight and found people had written notes to be nice to it. So just be sure to keep your food in a plastic bin or something that prevents critters from getting into and having their own feast.
We spent the evening wandering around the trails next to the cabins and campground.
All in all I would highly recommend staying at Steep Ravine. Sleeping so close to the ocean feels rejuvenating no matter the season, and like a true privilege. The nearby Stinson Beach and Dipsea Trail are a close drive away to provide a change of gorgeous scenery.