Area trail camps offer good backpacking tuneup: best 10 trail camps

At Sunset Trail Camp, deep in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, it is only a short walk to reach the region’s prettiest canyon, where you can take in the Golden Cascade and Silver Falls.

At Slate Creek Trail Camp at Portola Redwoods, you get a jump-start on the day when you head off to see the remote Peters Creek Grove of hidden old-growth redwoods.

At Wildcat Camp at Point Reyes National Seashore, you have access to a wilderness beach and a mile walk south to Alamere Falls, which sails off a coastal bluff to the beach.

These are among the best of 135 wilderness-style trail camps and walk-in camps located at parks across the greater Bay Area region’s 11 counties. On Thursday, 52 hike-in sites opened for the season at seven trail camps in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The region also has 25 campgrounds now open that are accessible by car.

When you wake up at one of these camps, you are often within close range of a marquee payoff, with no drive, no long hike; you’ve already done the rough stuff to get there. In addition, the late spring days of May often bring the first periods of sustained warm and clear weather ideal for camping. While wilderness areas in the High Sierra are still locked up by snow, regional trail camps provide a chance to test your gear and your body, and to get a feel for the coming summer.

Here are the best 10 trail camps:

Berry Creek Falls and three other falls in the canyon all are within a mile of Sunset Camp in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Photo: Scott Peden

Berry Creek Falls and three other falls in the canyon all are within a mile of Sunset Camp in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

1. Sunset, Big Basin Redwoods State Park: Set on a ridge in the backcountry, 5.5-mile hike one way, within close range of Berry Creek Canyon, Golden Cascade and Silver Falls. Reserve at (831) 338-8861.

2. Wildcat, Point Reyes National Seashore: Campsites perched on a bluff above a wilderness beach, 5.6-mile hike from Palomarin Trailhead. Vegetation provides privacy at sites. One-mile walk on beach to get full frontal of Alamere Falls. Reserve at (877) 444-6777, www.recreation.gov.

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