Shoreline Trail in China Camp State Park

On my list of places in the Bay Area I’ve heard about but haven’t managed to visit, China Camp has been high on the list for a while. Earlier this month I finally made it out there on a Monday morning. I walked around for nearly three hours, but that’s not nearly enough time to cover this 1500-acre state park, a few miles east of Central San Rafael.

On the Shoreline Trail in China Camp.

On the Shoreline Trail in China Camp.

There are a good number of hiking trails, some of which are on the steep side. A good choice for a path with some length and variable terrain seemed to be the Shoreline Trail, which runs most of the length of the park near the San Pablo Bay. On a weekday at least, it was easy to park on the main road just outside the first campground entrance you come to after entering on the west side. Be aware there’s a parking fee if you go the lot a two-three-minute drive inside, and that you still need to pay a $3 walk-in fee at the trail entrance.

China Camp trail map.

There’s not much in the way of water views from the trail, though occasionally you get glimpses such as this one:

View

The bends on the trail might not offer scenes as spectacular as those in many more celebrated California parks, but they’re pleasing enough, as this series shows:

Trail1 Timber SunTrail Overhang FirstBendBridge

Unfortunately there are reminders that California’s in danger of suffering another drought. This is supposed to be a creek:

Creek

After a while you’ll get to the Back Ranch Meadows Campground (actually not far from the trail entrance if you take the much easier flatter path), where you’ll have a good chance of spotting a bit of wildlife, as I did:

Deer

Turkey

Across the main road that runs through the park, on the side by the water, there’s a very short trail, Turtle Back Trail, that true to its name winds around Turtle Back Hill. It’s actually just a minute-or-two drive from the campground where you can enter the Shoreline Trail. This seems like a good option for parents escorting small kids, and I saw a couple such pairs when I did the loop in just a few minutes:

Turtle Hill Trail path.

Turtle Back Trail path.

Hill to the east of Turtle Back Trail.

Hill to the east of Turtle Back Trail.

The most popular spot in China Camp is China Camp Beach at the eastern end, which has a fairly big parking lot (fee required) overlooking the dock. I stopped just long enough to take a picture, and that’s where I’ll start on my next visit:

Dock

More info on China Camp State Park at http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=466.

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