The Ranger Station and Visitor Center is a good place to start your visit, especially if this is your first visit. Volunteer docents can answer questions and make suggestions about things to see and do. Interpretive exhibits provide a good overview of the park’s ecology, flora and fauna, and tidal processes. The library of books and other materials have information about the history of China Camp Village and the shrimp fishing industry, as well as other aspects of the China Camp story.
The Ranger Station and Visitor Center is also the administrative headquarters for the state park rangers and the best place to go in case of emergencies, lost hikers, or to report a problem. It is located at 101 Peacock Gap Trail, just across North San Pedro Road from the Bullhead Flat picnic area. It is open when Park Rangers are working onsite or when volunteers are available to staff the desk. A display board outside the entrance provides information about the park that can be viewed even when the building is not open. There is usually a stock of maps available outside as well. Free parking is available in front of the building. Restrooms are located across the road at Bullhead Flat.
Historic China Camp Village and Museum are located on North San Pedro Road half a mile east of the Ranger Station area. There is a parking area, restrooms, picnic tables, and beach area. The historic village and pier await your exploration. Docents give oral accounts of China Camp history on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from March until mid-November. The free museum is open daily, and the 1950’s-era cafe is open on weekends. The 1955 movie Blood Alley, starring John Wayne and Lauren Bacall, was filmed at China Camp Village. The 2012 HBO movie Hemingway and Gellhorn was also shot at the village, as were episodes of the 2017 second season of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
Camping at Back Ranch Meadows Campground
BEGINNING AUGUST 1ST 2017, CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS WILL BE CHANGING THE RESERVATION SYSTEM FROM RESERVE AMERICA TO THE NEW RESERVE CALIFORNIA SYSTEM. Go to ReserveCalifornia.com or call (800) 444-7275 (the phone number will stay the same) for more information.
China Camp State Park has one campground, the Back Ranch Meadows Campground, available for walk-in tent camping. It is located near the entrance to the park, just off of North San Pedro Road, about three miles from China Camp Village. It is close to a number of hiking trails, including the Shoreline Trail and the Turtle Back Hill Nature Trail.
Back Ranch Meadows Campground has 33 clean and spacious campsites, situated among groves of oaks, bay laurels, and madrones. There are restrooms and showers. All sites are walk-in, so tents and equipment must be carried from the parking lot, approximately 50-300 yards. Wheeled carts are available to assist in transporting your items. Each campsite has a fire ring, a picnic table, and a food locker to discourage the many raccoons. However, mice are able to get inside some of the lockers, so be prepared with food storage containers such as bear canisters, tightly sealed tupperware or metal containers to deter them.
The Glade sites, 1 through 15, are located along the low path. The Hill sites, 16 through 30, are accessible by walking the uphill path. (Extra vehicles for the Hill sites are encouraged to park in the overflow/en-route parking area which is closest to those sites.) Two first come-first serve Hike and Bike campsites (16 people total capacity) are available for $5 per person per night. Two campsites are accessible to the disabled, as are campground restrooms. Please be prepared to show your disability card or placard, in order to occupy these sites. If the group camping area is not being used, self-contained recreational vehicles are allowed to stay one night in the overflow/en-route parking area, although no electrical or water hook-ups are available. The fee is $35.
Check in time is after 2:00 PM and check out time is 12:00 noon. The gates by the entrance kiosk, a third of a mile from the front of the campground, close at 9PM and open at 8AM. During the high season of April through October, there is a seven-day limit on camping at Back Ranch Meadows. The rest of the year, the limit is 15 days. Reservations are accepted throughout the year and can be made for specific sites.
Campers ages 14-17
All campers under age 14 must be with a parent or guardian. Campers age 14-17 may camp without parent or guardian present, but only if arrangements have been made in advance with the rangers. The rangers need these forms from the parents at least a week in advance of the camping date(s) for Back Ranch Meadows at China Camp State Park. You can mail scan, fax or mail the forms back to us and we advise bringing a copy to campground as well on the day camping begins.
China Camp S.P. fax is 415-456-1743
China Camp S.P. address: 101 Peacock Gap Trail, San Rafael, CA 94901 ATTN: Park Rangers
The group campsite adjacent to Back Ranch Meadows Campground has a maximum of 40 people, minimum of 10. The cost is $175 per night. It includes several picnic tables, large free-standing food locker, fire ring, and 6′ barbecue grill. The large picnic/barbecue area is unshaded, but there is a small naturally shaded area within the campsite. Within the site there is a drinking fountain and water spigot. There are two porta-jon restrooms immediately adjacent to the site, and coin showers (and regular restrooms) are available within walking distance in the regular campground. Reservations for dates starting August 1st 2017 may be made on Reserve California.
Ranger-led campfire programs are held at a small amphitheater throughout the summer. Call the Park Office at (415) 456-0766 for more information.
Picnic Areas / Day Use
China Camp State Park has a number of scenic picnic sites, with locations in open meadows, grassy lawns, or along the shores of San Pablo Bay. It is a great place to bring the family for a day outing or a special barbecue. During the week, most picnic areas are lightly used, and even on weekends, there are usually ample facilities for anyone who wants to enjoy a nice picnic in a quiet and serene place.
Several of the picnic areas can be reserved for large groups. Miwok Meadows is the largest picnic area in the park, and can accommodate up to 200 people. It is located in a wide grassy meadow surrounded by groves of bay laurel and oak trees, a short distance inland from San Pablo Bay. The site has two large fire pits for grilling, two dozen picnic tables, a horseshoe toss area, trash and recycling containers, and portable toilets. There is no running water available at this site. To reserve the Miwok Meadows picnic area, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also large picnic areas at Buckeye Point and Weber Point. Both of these are bayside locations, with sweeping views across the water to the hills beyond. Each of these two sites can be reserved for groups up to 50 people. They feature barbecue grills, picnic tables, trash and recycling containers, drinking water, and restrooms. Day use parking for Buckeye Point and Weber Point is $5. Reservations can be made through Reserve California by calling (800) 444-7275 or follow these instructions to make a reservation online.
Other picnic sites that generally do not require reservations are located at China Camp Village, China Camp Point, and Bullhead Flat. Each of these sites has picnic tables, barbecue grills (not permitted at China Camp Village), trash and recycling containers, drinking water, and restrooms. The picnic areas at China Camp Point and China Camp Village are available for reservation on a limited basis.
Weddings, other special events with large numbers of people, and athletic events require a permit. For more information on special events and/or reserving picnic areas at China Camp Point or China Camp Village, please send an email to email@example.com.