Bay View Trail Loop, China Camp State Park, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California

Bay View Trail Loop - 3.5 miles

China Camp State Park

The Bay View Trail leads visitors through the backcountry of China Camp State Park

The Bay View Trail leads visitors through the backcountry of China Camp State Park

Round-Trip Length: 3.5 miles
Start-End Elevation: 40' - 40' (665' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -0' net elevation gain (+1,610' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Bay View Trail Loop - 3.5 Miles Round-Trip

China Camp State Park is located on the shores of San Pablo Bay in Marin County. It protects some of the most intact salt marshes and wetlands in the San Francisco Bay estuary, along with diverse oak woodlands, grasslands and even three small redwood groves. 15 miles of multi-use trails can be linked for routes of varying distance and difficulty.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Park is named after a Chinese shrimp-fishing village that existed on this site in the 1880s. About 500 people, originally from Canton, China, lived in the village. In its peak there were three general stores, a marine supply store and a barber shop.

The Bay View Loop is a short but challenging route through China Camp's coastal hills and woodlands.

Visitors will enjoy varied terrain with good views across the bay from high points along the way. The following description travels counter-clockwise from the Day Use Parking Area (.2 miles before the Back Ranch Meadows Campground):

From the Day Use Parking Trailhead, turn right then right again on to the Shoreline Trail. Continue .1 mile to the Bay View Trail. Turn left on the Bay View Trail, which narrows on a steady descent through pacific madrone and coast live oak to the Powerline Trail (.4 miles : 128'). Turn right then quickly left to remain on the Bay View Trail. 

The trail rises on switchbacks through a diverse collection of wildflowers to another split (.95 miles : 325') - keep left on the Bay View Trail. It passes a young redwood stand before crossing a bridge (1.25 miles : 470') and emerging with great views of San Pablo Bay and surrounding hills.

The trail undulates in-out of an oak forest before dipping back towards a steep, redwood-lined ravine (1.95 miles: 590'), and gradually descends to the Ridge Trail junction (2.3 miles : 523'). Stay straight then turn left on the Back Ranch Fire Road (2.4 miles : 488').

Back Ranch Fire Road descends sharply - almost 400' in .4 miles - to the Shoreline Trail (2.8 miles : 105'), which descends past the campground to a creek (3.1 miles : 100') and back to the Day Use Parking Area (3.5 miles: 40').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N38 00.355 W122 29.835 — 0.0 miles: China Camp Day Use Parking Lot - 40'
  • N38 00.419 W122 29.766 — 0.1 miles: Turn hard left onto Bay View Trail - 50'
  • N38 00.424 W122 29.962 — 0.4 miles: Right on Powerline Trail then Left on Bay View Trail - 128'
  • N38 00.423 W122 30.087 — 0.95 miles: Left to remain on Bay View Trail - 325'
  • N38 00.186 W122 30.191 — 1.25 miles: Cross major bridge - 470'
  • N38 00.074 W122 30.054 — 1.50 miles: Trail bends to the right - 560'
  • N37 59.909 W122 30.020 — 1.75 miles: Bay Hills Drive Trail split - 596'
  • N37 59.841 W122 29.880 — 1.95 miles: Young redwoods grove - 590'
  • N37 59.995 W122 29.762 — 2.3 miles: Ridge Trail Split - 523'
  • N37 59.975 W122 29.712 — 2.4 miles: Left on Back Ranch Fire Road - 488'
  • N38 00.154 W122 29.757 — 2.8 miles: Left on Shoreline Trail - 105'
  • N38 00.238 W122 29.890 — 3.1 miles: Turn right over creek - 100'

Worth Noting

  • Wild turkeys can often be seen feeding in the campground area in early morning.

  • The California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse are endangered species that live in the marsh areas of the park.

  • During its heyday in the 1880s, over 90% of the shrimp netted were dried and shipped to China or Chinese communities throughout the USA.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Back Ranch Meadows Campground reservations can be made all year-round by calling Reserve America at 1-800-444-PARK (7275).

All campsites at Back Ranch Meadows campground are HIKE-IN SITES for tent-camping only. Visitors must handcarry all equipment from the parking lot to the campsites. Campsites range from 50-300 yards from the parking lot. Eight persons maximum are allowed in each site. Check in time is 2pm or later and check out is Noon.

En-route camping is available for RV's with a grey water holding tank for one night only. No dump station or hook-ups are available. Enroute Camping is limited to space availability. Check in for enroute camping is 6pm and check out is 9am.

There is no backcountry camping in the park.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is not permitted in China Camp State Park.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $3 day use fee (per person) to enter and park in Back Ranch Meadows.
  • All trails close at sunset - no backcountry camping allowed. Fires are only permitted in campground BBQ areas.
  • Dogs are not permitted on any trail, but are permitted in developed areas and campgrounds.
  • Collecting artifacts is illegal and will result in stiff penalties.

Directions to Trailhead

From San Francisco - drive 11 miles north on HIghway 101 to the San Pedro Road Exit.

From the exit, head east (right) for 3.3 miles through residential neighborhoods to the Back Ranch Meadows Campground and entry kiosk. Turn right into the campground, pay the day use fee then drive to the day-use parking area clearly marked on the right hand side. 

The gates are closed from sunset to sunrise.

Contact Information

China Camp State Park 
101 Peacock Gap Trail
San Rafael, CA 94901

Ranger Office: 415.456.0766

Business Office: 415.488.5161

Trip Reports

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