While Southern California solidly holds the title as the craft beeriest region in the Golden State, when it comes to epic camping opportunities, NorCal has it wrapped up. With tree-huddled mountain greenery and foggy windswept adventuring around every turn, there’s no denying that Northern California is giving the southern half of the state a run for its money when it comes to the tip-top trio of biking, camping, and craft beer.
Whether you’re driven by a thirst quest and just enjoy setting up a tent every now and again or you’re an outdoor enthusiast who seeks liquid refreshment beyond the basic grocery store can selection, you can now hop on your bike and snag a craft brew without having to worry about tottering too far back to camp. I present to you: the best places in Northern and Central California to bike-drink-camp!
As the only overnight campground in San Francisco, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone talking smack about Rob Hill Campground (tent only). With the ability to sleep under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s not just one of the most unique campgrounds in California, it’s also less than 6 miles from one of the most respected experimental breweries in SF – Cellarmaker Brewing Company. On bikes, it takes around a half hour to reach this cozy tasting room, but between the views and the brews, it’s worth it.
Rob Hill Campground, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Photo by Andy Zissner
Half Moon Bay
If you can’t afford the soaring real estate prices around the Bay Area for a permanent vacation, do the next best thing, camp! Francis Beach Campground in Half Moon State Beach gives tenters and RVers the chance to soak in the world-class views before heading 5.7 miles away to one of “America’s Best Beach Bars”, Half Moon Bay Brewing. In less than a half hour, you can cycle through some of the prettiest panoramas in California and know that there’s an ice-cold pint waiting for you at the end of your ride.
Francis Beach Campground, Half Moon Bay State Beach, Photo by Hipcamp Staff
You may be in the heart of California wine country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your craft beer on! Napa Valley Brewing Company has been a Napa County staple since 1987 and was actually the first place commercial brewery in the area since Prohibition. Their award-winning library of craft beers have multiple Great American Beer Festival wins, and all of their golden-hued, glorious taps await a mere 4 miles from Bothe-Napa Valley Campground. If you can manage to drag yourself away from the campground’s pool for a few tasters, you can’t beat it.
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Photo by Hipcamp Staff
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Photo by Ali Inay
Craft beer nerds in and beyond Mendocino County will know the name North Coast Brewing, and if the name doesn’t ring a bell, a sip of their Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout will likely burn the name into your memory. North Coast Brewing has been a craft brewing pioneer since the 80s and a must-stop on the northern end of the California Beer Trail.
For those hankering for a place to hang your hat or hiking boots within biking distance of their tasting room, look no further than MacKerricher Walk-in Campground, a mere 3 miles away and a prime spot for a quiet, secluded, impromptu camping trip. Hitch up the bike rack and grab a growler—this dynamic duo can’t be beat.
MacKerricher State Park, Photo by Hipcamp Staff
North Coast Old Rasputin, Photo by Bernt Rostad
Santa Cruz is known for its offbeat offerings and lively locals, so it stands to reason that Sante Adairius Rustic Ales made its home here. Eschewing what’s become standard in many California craft breweries (a tendency to go big or go home with hops), Sante Adairius instead focuses on Belgian-influenced balanced ales with a penchant to barrel-age. Beer nerds from all over flock to their Capitola brewery, and for those who seek alternate accommodations, take your pick between North Brighton Campground or Seacliff State Beach Campground (RV/trailer only).
North Brighton is located slightly closer (1.6 miles away) than Seacliff (2.9 miles), but some of the bike routes take you on restricted access roads, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and stick to the Seacliff biking trail. Either way, you’re guaranteed to enjoy amazing craft brews, a serene bike ride through one of the best beach towns in America, and ocean access – pretty much a trifecta of awesomeness.
New Brighton Campground, New Brighton State Beach, Photo by Emma Bassein
Hankering to head south for more beer-bike-camping fun? Check out our Guide to Camping, Beers & Bikes: Southern California edition!
Title image by Swift Industries
Beth Demmon is a craft beer enthusiast based out of San Diego, which explains her bias against all other craft beer capital city contenders. Her (current) favorite place in SoCal to camp is Idyllwild, but don’t tell anyone. Check her out on Instagram at @thedelightedbite.
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