Camping at Back Ranch Meadows Campground by Harriot Manley

Back Ranch Meadows Campground

Enjoy tent-only campsites in lush woods on the edge of San Pablo Bay


Situated at the northwest end of China Camp State Park, Back Ranch Meadows Campground offers walk-in, tent-only camping in a vibrant natural setting. Located on the edge of San Pablo Bay, roughly 30 minutes north of San Francisco, the campground offers a peaceful retreat surrounded by lush forests, meadows, and vibrant salt marshes, all accessed by a well-maintained trail network open to hikers and mountain bikers. (Non-reserved sites may be available; see details below.)


The campground is located off North San Pedro Road in San Rafael. Parking is at the end of a 1/3-mile paved access road. All of our tent-only sites require a short walk (50 to 300 yards, depending on the campsite) from the parking area. Note: Two sites closest to the parking lot are reserved for disabled visitors; placard required. 

Campers can choose from 33 spacious walk-in, tent-only sites. Glade Sites (1-15) are on the south side of the campground, accessed via a fairly flat trail heading slightly left from the parking lot. Hill Sites (16-30) are reached via a short, sloping path, heading right from the parking lot. There are also three hike- or bike-in sites (details below). Carts are available for portaging gear.

Types of campsites

Reserved sites

$35 per night (plus processing fees)

Bookings for specific sites are accepted year-round. Go to or call 800.444.7275.

Non-reserved sites

$35 per night

While reservations are strongly advised, particularly on weekends, unreserved sites are sometimes available, particularly midweek and during winter. Spring and summer are the busiest times of the year. Any sites not previously reserved are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and can only be reserved one night at a time. Check with the Ranger Station in advance (415.456.0766), or visit the Camp Host on site at the campground, but note that availability is not guaranteed upon arrival.

Hike/bike sites

$5/person per night

Two sites are available for people who arrive by bicycle or on foot from outside China Camp. Sites cannot be reserved in advance. Sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis

Group camping

$175 per night

A group campsite is available by reservation only for up to 50 tent campers and 8 vehicles.

En-route camping

$35 per night

There is sometimes space for self-contained RVs only; no hookups, dump stations, or generators. First-come, first serve only (no reservations); one-night limit. For availability, call 415.456-0766 during business hours.


Campsite features

Each campsite includes a picnic table, wooden food locker, outdoor grill, and a fire ring. No fires or outdoor grills are allowed during Red Flag Warnings. The campground also offers potable water, hot showers, and flush toilets, and camp hosts are on-site. No hammocks are allowed.


Maximum of 8 persons per campsite.


Campers can arrive from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Check-out is noon. The gate at Back Ranch Meadows Campground entrance, accessed via N. San Pedro Road, is closed from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily.


One vehicle per site; additional vehicles must pay a $5 per day (payable on-site).

Maximum stay

April 1 through October 30: Campers may stay no more than 7 consecutive days. The rest of the year there is a 15-day limit with an annual limit of 30 days.


Firewood is available from the camp host from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily except during Red Flag Warnings; cost is $10 per bundle.


Pets are allowed on a 6-foot fixed leash in the campground and paved areas only. Pets may be off-leash inside tents. No pets are allowed on trails.

Wildlife alert

Raccoons and other animals are often very active in the campground. Store all food in on-site lockers, a lockable cooler, your car, or other secure location.

Yellow jacket wasps are common, especially in summer and fall, and though staff installs and monitors traps, yellow jackets can still be present in large numbers. Consider bringing net domes or covers for food. Cooking and eating after dark can also help, since the small wasps are only active during the day.

Ticks are also common at China Camp. Consider wearing long-sleeve shirts and tucking pants into socks, and check yourself—and pets and kids—after visiting the park.

Youth camping

All campers under age 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Campers ages 14 to 17 may camp without a parent or guardian, but only with special permission. Please print out and submit these forms. They must be received at least 7 days prior to camping dates. Scan and send to, or mail to Friends of China Camp, attn: Campground Manager, 101 Peacock Gap Trail, San Rafael, CA 94901. Youths should keep a copy at their campsite.

More info

Hammocks and generators are not allowed. More rules and regulations throughout the park are available here. For additional questions, contact us.