In Forestville, CA, just a few miles before Guerneville, Schoolhouse Canyon Campground offers easy-access kid-friendly camping for Bay Area families. This family-run car camping spot sits in a redwood grove across the road from the Russian River.
A small campground with about 30 sites for tents, each site has a firepit with a grill and a picnic table for dining. The bathroom has toilets, sinks and coin-operated hot showers.
Kids rule the roost at Schoolhouse Canyon. Mine explored the grounds on their own, eventually hooking up with kids from other campsites for a massive inter-campground game of hide and seek with walkie-talkies.
In the evenings, Ranger Chris, who along with his wife and little boy, manages this special place, provides some old-fashioned entertainment in the ranger station.
My kids headed there after dinner and then came back to our campsite, each with a “pocketknife” made out of popsicle sticks that could actually pop out, Westside Story-style. Scary stories were up next, but my daughter declined.
Where is this?
To reach the Russian River resort area, you'll head towards Santa Rosa on 101. It's about 20 minutes beyond Santa Rosa, with minimal car-sick-making driving.
Planning a trip
Schoolhouse Canyon Campground opens for the season Memorial Day Weekend. Reservations are accepted for stays more than two nights. One-night stays are first-come, first serve.
The reservation system is not part of any campground network. You must call and leave a voice mail and get a call back. The reservation voice mail opens shortly before Memorial Day weekend. FAQs are on the website schoolhousecanyon.com
A car with 4 people costs $35 for a campsite night. $5 each additional person.
Activities in and around Guerneville
The Russian River is the main recreational feature here for families. Wineries are abundant for those with very patient children. Schoolhouse Canyon guests have access to a private riverfront beach, a short walk across the road from the campground.
Burke's Canoe Trips offer a full-day, mellow paddling experience.
Rio Nido Roadhouse is a unique combo of a family-friendly bar/restaurant/music-venue/swimming pool.
Armstrong Woods State Park challenges kids to find everything on this treasure hunt list.