The dock and general store at China Camp Village

China Camp Loop 
8.5 miles – 700 ft.

China Camp State Park gets its name from the historic fishing village that thrived along the shoreline here in the 1880s. At one time the fishing village had more than 500 residents, mostly immigrants from China. Today the park offers a nearby Bay Area getaway, a historic look back at the former fishing village, walk-in camping on weekends and amazing views of San Pablo Bay, bridges and surrounding towns. It is also unfortunately one of the parks on the state closure list for this July though you can help by joining the Friends of China Camp raising money to offset the budget deficit before July 1.[?]

This loop hike is relatively easy despite its length with most of the elevation gain at the very beginning. It takes you full circle through the park from the shoreline up to a ridge line and down to the fishing village and beach before your return on a lower shoreline path back to your car. Bring a lunch to enjoy at a picnic table near the beach at the historic fishing village site. You can even swim at the beach if you are willing to brave the icy cold bay waters.

Distance 8.5 miles | Time 4-5 hours
Elev. Gain 700 ft. | Elev. Loss 700 ft.
Difficulty Easy [?] | Parking Easy, $5 [?]
Trail Signage Decent | Bathrooms At trail start
At Ranger Station
At China Camp Village

The Route

Back Ranch Meadows Campground » Back Ranch Fire Trail » Bay View Trail » Oak Ridge Trail (unmarked) » Peacock Gap Trail » Shoreline Trail » China Camp Village » Shoreline Trail

Download.

Trail Maps

  • GPS track: Download the GPX file. Note: The GPS track starting point is slightly off due to satellite connection issues. Where the track ends is also where you start, walking through the campground to the trailhead.
  • Trail Map and Park Brochure: PDF trail map and park information for China Camp State Park

The Route In Detail:

1. Park at the Back Ranch Meadows Campground. See Parking for more on when the lot is open and alternatives when it’s not.

2. Hike up the road toward the campground. You will come to the Camp Host’s trailer and a very clean park restroom for a pre-hike pitstop. Continuing just past the bathroom you will come to Back Ranch Fire Trail. It’s a little confusing here as it’s not clearly marked by name, but you’ll know you are on the right path if you cross a small bridge and continue straight uphill from there (do not turn left).

3. Continue uphill on Back Ranch Fire Trail past the Shoreline Trail turnoff until you come to the Bay View Trail intersection. Make a left.

4. The next major trail intersection is unmarked with an option to go straight up a hill, right or left. Make a left and you will be on the Oak Ridge Trail. At this point you have finished the toughest of the uphill climbs; be sure to enjoy the views along these ridge trails and watch out for mountain bikes that can sneak up on you throughout the hike.[?]

5. Continue straight on Oak Ridge Trail through the intersection with McNears Fire Trail until you reach Peacock Gap Trail. Make a left.

6. After a very short downhill jaunt, you’ll come to Shoreline Trail. Make a right. Note: If you are feeling like maybe this hike is a bit too long for you, you can shorten it at this point by turning left instead and following Shoreline Trail back to your car, skipping the walk down to China Camp Village and its beach.

7. You will pass the Ranger Station on your right. For a restroom break, cross North San Pedro Road to the bathrooms across from the Ranger Station.

8. Continue on Shoreline Trail until you reach China Camp Village. The trail does cross the main road as well as a parking lot before you reach the village. At the village be sure to check out the visitor center for more on the village history and to view artifacts. If you brought your lunch, you can grab a picnic table near the village or continue past it to the beach where you will find some shaded picnic tables.

9. Return on the Shoreline Trail in the direction you came. When you reach the intersection with Peacock Gap Trail again, stay to the right on Shoreline Trail.

10. From here the return trip is fairly straightforward. The trail roughly follows North San Pedro Road but inland a little. At one point you will turn left to go around a big grassy meadow and walk past Miwok Meadows Day Use Area. There will be two unmarked right turnoffs after the day use area that you should ignore, unless you want to shorten your hike by taking them to the main road and walking along North San Pedro Road back to your vehicle.

11. As you approach the campground again, follow the right turn off sign to the campground parking lot. This will bring you out right by the bathrooms you saw at the start of the trail.

Photos

Trail Notes & Tips

Difficulty

I’m calling this hike easy because the elevation gain is minimal, but keep in mind it is a long hike and does have some steep sections so may not be easy to every hiker out there.

Trail tip: Watch for bikes

China Camp’s trails are multi-use and very popular among mountain bikers in particular. Keep an eye (and ear) out for them as they come up quickly from behind sometimes. Trail etiquette is for bicyclists to yield to hikers (and hikers to yield to horses), but etiquette aside, the bike moves faster than you and it seems only fair to step aside so they can pass. Just watch yourself as you do this since the trails are flanked with a lot of poison oak.

China Camp Park Closure

China Camp is on a list of 70 California state parks scheduled to close on July 1 due to a budget deficit. But all hope is not lost just yet.

The group Friends of China Camp is working to raise $250,000 to save the park. As of today, they have already raised more than $175k of that. You can help them reach their goal by donating or joining the group online, or attending an upcoming fundraiser at the SF Maritime Museum on June 20, 2012.

My Team in Training hike coach and inspiration in many ways for hikerly spoke last year with the San Francisco Chronicle about her shock at China Camp being on the closure list. Check out the video of her and others talking about how the closures hit close to home for many of us.

Getting There

Directions

Here is the Google Map to the trailhead parking

From San Francisco and the South
  • US-101 North over Golden Gate Bridge
  • I-101 North
  • Exit North San Pedro Road
  • Follow fork to right
  • Continue on North San Pedro road to the Back Ranch Meadows Campground on the right
From the East Bay
  • I-580 West across the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge
  • I-101 North
  • Exit North San Pedro Road
  • Follow fork to right
  • Continue on North San Pedro road to the Back Ranch Meadows Campground on the right
From north of San Rafael
  • US-101 South
  • Exit North San Pedro Road
  • Turn left on Merrydale Road
  • Turn left on North San Pedro Road
  • Continue on North San Pedro road to the Back Ranch Meadows Campground on the right

Parking

There is a day-use parking lot at Back Ranch Meadows Campground where you can park for $5 per vehicle, paying at a self-serve kiosk near the trailhead. However, the campground is currently only open on weekends due to budget cuts. Should you arrive on a day when the entrance to the campground is barricaded, you can park along the road instead and walk up to the campground area to start the hike.

If you want to park in a lot and the campground is closed, you can also start this hike at a different point in the loop. Two alternatives include parking across from the Ranger Station (Step 7 in the trail description above) or at the parking lot above China Camp Village (Step 8 in the trail description above). Both also have a $5 parking fee per vehicle.