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Getaway Guide: Angel Island State Park
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Getaway Guide: Angel Island State Park

Desiring an exciting getaway in California? Check out our getaway guide to Angel Island State Park and have the time of your life.

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5 min read

August 30, 2021

Angel Island State Park is a wonderful destination for fun, adventures, and a deep dive into American history. As one of San Francisco’s most prominent landmarks, the largest natural island in the Bay welcomes hundreds of thousands of hikers, tourists, and history buffs every year. Are you also looking to get away from the busy mainland this weekend? Two days are more than enough to explore the ins and outs of the famous Angel Island State Park. Follow our getaway guide and you won’t miss out on all the best Angel Island things to do; we have your back.

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Day 1


Arriving

As the name so clearly hints, this state park is an island; and the only way to reach this beautiful island is by hopping on board a ferry ride. You can choose to take a ferry to Angel Island either from the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco or from Tiburon, which is the closest mainland city to the Island. The ride takes a little over 30 minutes if you depart from S.F. and around 15 minutes from Tiburon. Either way, you’ll enjoy scenic 360 views of the skyline you’re leaving behind. As you step off the ferry and look back, the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Richmond Bridge, Tiburon, San Francisco, and the Bay will all be beautifully situated from your Angel Island location.

P.S. You can also travel to Angel Island State Park on your own private boat if you have one. But, we’re guessing you probably already know this information if you have a boat in the Bay.

Ah, don't even stress if you can't figure out how to spend your weekend. Angel Island State Park is guaranteed a fabulous time.


Afternoon

First and foremost, an Angel Island camping check-in is in order. Bring your own tents and be prepared to walk up to two miles to your site, so pack wisely! There are 16 campsites to choose from at Angel Island State Park, and they are divided into four distinct areas: East Bay, Ridge, Sunrise, and Kayak Camp. Each Angel Island camping area comes with pit toilets and water nearby. 

Choose the Ridge sites if you want to enjoy picturesque views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. But, fair warning: these sites can get a bit windy. Sites in the East Bay section are more protected from wind and more private in general. If you’re traveling with a larger group, try to reserve the Sunrise sites, as they can either be booked individually or for groups up to 24 people. Kayak Camp is also group friendly, and the perfect option if you’re coming in with your own boat. 

There isn’t a spot on the island that doesn't have an awesome view. But if you have a special site in mind, be extra-prepared to reserve well in advance to get it before it’s very quickly snagged up. And with only 16 Angel Island camping sites in total, it’s very likely that you’ll have all the privacy you want overnight, especially if you’re camping on a weekday.

Once you’re all done sorting out your camping situation, it’s time to get exploring. First stop: Fort McDowell. Built in 1899 by the U.S. military, as a quarantine station for sick troops, Fort McDowell is an interesting peek into the area’s history. Over time, it transitioned into a discharge depot and it became a major facility for processing military personnel for overseas assignment. Till this day, you’ll find remains of the hospital, barracks, and the jail at this site. The Immigration Station is near the Fort, so make a quick stop there as well if you're interested.

Evening

There is a beach called Quarry Beach near Fort McDowell that’s quite the hidden gem in Angel Island State Park. Once you’re there, you might as well find Quarry and watch the sunset in a quiet yet scenic corner. Boasting gorgeous sands and a postcard view of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge, this beach on the east side of the Island is what coastal sunset dreams are made of.

Leave a little while before the sun completely disappears over the horizon so you’re able to comfortably hike back to your campsite. Watching the twinkling city lights beyond the waters will give you a whole new perspective on San Francisco; one that’ll definitely rekindle your affection for the city like you’re seeing it for the very first time.

Day 2

If you're looking for a way to rest and rejuvenate in nature for the weekend, look no further than Angel Island!

Morning

Start your morning with a delicious breakfast at the esteemed Angel Island Cafe. Outdoor seating offers beautiful views of Ayala Cove and the Tiburon coastline, and the menu offers delicious options to kickstart a day of adventures on Angel Island State Park. Grab a sandwich or two to go before you head out, you won’t want to make a detour in the midst of your Angel Island tour later to come back to this canteen.

Now that you’re all fueled up and ready for exploration, it’s time to trek or bike the five mile paved perimeter road. Walking the road takes about two and a half hours and biking it takes around 45 minutes total; But that’s beside the point. This Angel Island hike takes you by many of the island’s key historical landmarks, so you’ll be taking plenty of breaks from walking throughout the process. Consequently, you’ll spend much longer completing it as well, so be prepared.

If walking or hiking is not something you’re interested in, you can also go on an Angel Island tour along the perimeter road in an open air tram. The tram ride also includes an audio history of the island, so you won’t be missing out on any fun facts.

Afternoon

After walking or biking for five miles, you probably won’t be in the mood for another physically demanding activity for at least a few more hours. So, you might as well head over to the Angel Island Conservancy to check out the exhibits on how the Miwok used the island for their summering grounds, as well as learn more about the military and natural history of the island. You’ll find the Conservancy near the ferry dock that first welcomed you on Angel Island from San Francisco.

After spending enough time in an air conditioned space, get back out there and squeeze in one last activity before heading to your campsite. Remember when we said the entirety of Angel Island State Park has amazing views? Well, there is one spot that offers even better scenery than the rest. The Sunset Trail leading up to Mount Livermore is an easy loop trail with views that are nothing short of breathtaking. There are also picnic tables at the very top, so you can reward yourself with the most scenic picnic you’ve ever had after completing the hike.

What's the best way to spend an evening at Angel Island? Admiring the gorgeous views, of course!

Evening

Coming back down on your hike, the sun will have already begun to set. You’ve spent two rewarding days adventuring, exploring, and learning about the history of Angel Island State Park. It’s tough to believe that you’ve been a 30 minute ride away from San Francisco the whole time, but that’s what’s so great about living in California.

For more close to home holiday trips that you can embark on spontaneously, consider heading out to Lake Tahoe in NorCal or Oceanside in SoCal.

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