Peggy, who lives in El Cerrito, loves fun family adventures and exploring the Bay Area and beyond with her husband and son. We thank her for sharing her favorite family camping spot!
Mount Madonna County Park’s serene and beautiful location in a redwood forest, close proximity to local towns, and lots of kid-friendly activities make it one of our favorite spots for car camping in in the Bay Area. It’s about an hour and half drive from the East Bay just west of the town of Gilroy.
Mount Madonna County Park campsites open for reservations 6 months in advance with limited walk-in sites are available (yurts, too, for more plush accommodations). The park has two main campgrounds: Tan Oak and Valley View 1, 2, and 3. Most of the sites have both sun and shade and are fairly close to the bathrooms, which were kept clean and stocked. Showers and RV hookups are only available at Valley View 1 Campground, but no coins are required.
The park has 14 miles of trails to explore for hiking, and kids can ride bikes or scooter around the camp loop. An outdoor amphitheater has live music on Saturday nights in the summer. On site stables have horseback trail rides for ages 7 and up. You might even catch a glimpse of white fallow deer held in a pen on what was formerly Henry Miller’s estate (although friendly, we were advised not to feed the deer).
You can drive 15 minutes west of the park to Gizdich Ranch for berry-picking in the summer and apple-picking in the fall. Year round, you can try their varieties of berry and apple pies — we love the dutch apple pie a la mode! — at their deli and pie shop or take home some berry jam or apple juice from their gift shop. The gift shop makes a perfect spot for a picnic with the sand pit, old tractor, and hay bale to keep young ones occupied while you enjoy a meal under the shade of the apple trees. Find out more about what’s happening at Gizdich Ranch online before you go.
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is about 9 miles away and features a ton of rides and attractions, including water play areas. Check Gilroy Gardens’ hours and directions.
More water play at Manresa State Beach or Rio Del Mar State Beach in Aptos, both about a 30-minute drive away.
We headed to the town of Gilroy (only a 20-minute drive east) for family-friendly restaurants including: Saigon 2 Siam Bistro, a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant that has tasty spring rolls, pho, and salads and Los Pericos Taqueria for enchiladas, burritos, and tacos.
- Beautiful and serene redwood forest
- Drinking water, flush toilets, free showers
- Spacious camp sites with food locker, BBQ pit, picnic table
- No pestering bugs
- Close to home
- Dog/pet friendly (must be leashed)
- Reasonable car camping for $30/night
- Kid-friendly activities in the park and at Gizdich Ranch and Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park
- Nearby shops and restaurants in Gilroy and Watsonville
- Really can’t think of any!
Thanks to Peggy for this inspiring mini vacation.
[Photos provided by Peggy, all rights reserved by 510families.