Technology Hiker

Backpacking with Kids: Angel Island State Park

Backpacking in Angel Island is special:

  • Sports one of the best urban camping areas in the nation with world class views of San Francisco, Marin & the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Acts as a portal into SF history.  Chapters include the West Coast Ellis Island & a Nike Missile Site
  • Rewards advanced planning as I made the Saturday night reservation 6 months ago
  • Represents my first backpacking trip w/ my four year old son

Our family has car camped multiple times in San Mateo County Parks over the last two years.
Now we’re graduating with our first backpacking trip.  Joining us was another intrepid 4 year IMG_3942old, his outdoorsman Dad, and a buddy whom I’ve backpacked and climbed with since 1999.

Arriving at Angel Island is an adventure in itself.  We took a ferry from Tiburon across the San
Francisco Bay to the Angel Island dock.  We were better equipped than Asian immigrants making their first US landfall in the 1800s, but hopefully we shared a bit of their sense of adventure and possibility.

On well graded trails and the perimeter road, we hiked about 2 miles to our campsite – #5.
IMG_4066  There were a couple of hills that were non trivial for 4 year old legs.  Fortunately, well deserved breaks with brownies from a “secret pocket” helped loosen limbs that did not want to move anymore.  Deer crossing our paths and butterflies also provided additional excitement.

Each turn ushered in a new outstanding view: Tiburon, Mt. Tam, Sausalito, the golden gate bridge, Alcatraz, and San Francisco.

We settled into camp #5 nestled against a former Nike missile site.  The site felt like a scene
from lost with a giant circular pit in the center.

We cooked dinner, enjoyed smore’s over a whisperlite stove, and explored the island.IMG_4004

Sidetrips included a deserted beach overlooking San Francisco (felt like something out of planet of the apes) and a climb to the top of a hill to watch deer.

On Sunday, we packed up and headed back to the Ferry pick-up.

A take less, do more approach has enabled me to travel farther, faster, and happier.  With the

prospect of carrying gear for me and my son, lightweight backpacking is less of a luxury and more of a necessity.  I tested my new Gossamer Gear Mariposa backpack recently w/ a jaunt in the Santa Cruz Mountains (  The lightweight Mariposa served me well on the test hike and even better on our first family backpacking trip.  A Western Mountaineering quilt/blanket provided warmth.

The trip was a success and represents the first of many family backpacking trips.