Tyler and I decided not to wait too long for his second Backpacking trip (see his first trip to Point Reyes here). We had passed by a ferry terminal on the way back from the last trip so we decided on Angel Island as our next destination . I booked our site, East Bay #1, about three weeks out and was able to get a site midweek only. Angel island is crazy popular in the summer for camping lately. Once school starts up again sites become more available. I was glad we were able to get a site that was different from the last time I was out here (see trip to Sunrise site #8 in 2010 ). Sunrise camp does have uninterrupted views but East Bay site #1 is huge, away from neighbors, has shade and some shelter from wind. I think all three East Bay sites rock compared to Sunrise on the whole. We did the Tiburon Ferry as the pier one ferry from Blue and Gold doesn't have a return trip during the week. I still can't believe how booked the sites are midweek. Tyler and I caught the 11 am ferry out of tiburon and if is about a ten minute ride. We parked at Bank of America for $5, about two blocks away from ferry. There is a closer option for $25 if you are so inclined. You have to pay in cash when boarding the ferry so hit the ATM after parking or plan ahead. The photo is the state park sign from the ferry dock in Tiburon.
Here is Tyler after we parked in the public lot next to Bank of America. It was in the 60's with a cool breeze off the bay. The cost is only $5 a day in this lot, as long as you make it out before noon. Even Tyler was impressed that we could park the car all day for $5.
We walked the two blocks to the ferry dock. There are two ferry docks, one for the Blue and Gold Fleet and the other for the Angel Island - Tiburon Ferry (make sure you take the right one) . The ferry ride is a short ten minutes from Tiburon. There is limited service from this ferry during the non summer months, so be sure to check ferry schedules using the links above before you use reserveamerica to book your site (unless you have a private boat of your own). Here is Tyler checking out the Tiburon fire boat.
This is a shot of Ayala Cove where the ferries offload. You can see one ferry at the pier, dead center.
This shot is back looking back at Tiburon while on the ferry. It is a nice small town that seems to have enough to keep you busy an afternoon (as long as a meal/snack is part of the plan).
The weather can be a bit on the chilly side depending on what the fog and wind are like. The East Bay sites are the most sheltered sites when the fog/wind rolls in from the coast. It was windy this day with the light fog rolling over the peak of the island, Mount Livermore, at 788 feet..
After we disembarked the ranger spotted my not so subtle backpack and asked if we were spending the night. My pack was seriously bulging with the addition of Tyler's sleeping bag, two man tent and my old thermarest. He said to meet him at he kiosk in 5 minutes, so we did, after hitting the facilities. While talking to the ranger we saw some bombers refueling some helicopters in flight going overhead. Pretty awesome even though I question why they were headed towards San Francisco doing that? We hit the trail after getting the run down from the ranger. We used the north ridge trail past the gift shop to go up the the stairs to the perimeter road to the trail again to the fire road to camp (per the ranger this is the quickest route). Trails are well marked and you are on an island so do us all a favor and don't get lost. Here is Tyler at the top of the stairs. The perimeter road has nice views and benches/tables along the way so take a break and enjoy them. The downside of the Perimeter Road is that the tours and bikes travel them and there is not much shade. If you want more solitude or shade use the trails and Fire Road to get around. Both the Perimeter Road and the Fire Road make a complete circle around the island. See map below for your options to get around. Bikes are not allowed on the trails only the Fire Road and Perimeter Road. They are also not allowed at the Immigration Station but there are a couple bike racks.
Here is Tyler holding a tree up for me to pass under on the North Ridge Trail. All trails are well maintained. There is poison oak and ticks on the island so be keep an eye out for both and you will be fine.
Your way is generally up from Ayala Cove to the Fire Road. We aren't talking much though but since you start at sea level it has to be up right? See profile below. Here is a shot looking down on Ayala Cove with Tiburon in the background.
Here is a shot of the North Ridge Trail. It is generally well shaded but does not have the views that the Perimeter Road offers.
Before we knew it we had arrived at camp (~1.5 miles). We setup camp at the end of the road where site #1 is located. It was forecast to be windy and it was. Tyler hung around camp and was entertaining himself by climbing into a tree pretending it was a ship. We saw many large ships go by and ferries and the Tiburon fire boat training. Here is Tyler in his tree.
Here is site #1 as you first walk up on it. There is running water at site #2 and an outhouse. There are two picnic tables at this site and your own garbage/recycle cans. There is also a food locker that the ranger says you must use to keep your food from the raccoons. .
Here is the tent with some of the view of the East Bay in the distance. We are directly across from El Cerrito. Notice the second table in the shade near the tent.
From camp we could see this much of the Bay Bridge. It was a little foggy/hazy even with the wind.
On the way to camp you will see the old water tank platforms. I am not sure when the new ones were installed but you pass those two along the Fire Road. Tyler thinks that they were damaged in the fire that it the island in 2008. I will try to remember to ask the ranger next time I am out here.
I am not sure why but it seems there are giant spider webs on this island. I have not seen the spiders that create these but would be curious to see what size the creators are.
Here is Tyler with his feather sword. You ca see the view behind him of a container ship cruising by. It was neat to watch the big tankers go by with tugboats attached and also hear the many trains that must be bringing or receiving the containers. If you have the space a set of binoculars would get some use here. I used my telephoto lens to see a little closer but it only helps a little compared to a good set of binoculars..
We decided to day hike it to the Immigration Station where I tried to explain why we held Chinese and Japanese people longer than the rest of the immigrants and why we held them at all. Along the trail to the Immigration Station we saw the Tiburon fire boat again. This time instead of testing its top speed it was using the water canon. Tyler was quite impressed.
We were the only ones at the Immigration Station this afternoon (It was after 4 and the last ferry had already left the island). The buildings were already closed for the day, but you could walk outside them and read all about the history posted on plaques. Here is Tyler down at the beach just past the large bell. There are flush toilets, running water and soap at the bathrooms here.
We headed back to the camp for dinner and we saw our neighbors in campsite two. As we were eating dinner we were invited to partake in some s'mores action. We of course obliged. The couple's kids were a little where the wild things grow due to the s'mores and running low on energy. We decided to call it a night and thanked them for their hospitality. We had a nice night with wind but nothing the tent couldn't handle. Here is Tyler in the morning making his campfire. There are bbq pits at each site but you are not allowed to gather/burn wood so bring your briquettes.
While we were packing up we had a few brave visitors.
A total of five deer made there way through camp and didn't really seem to mind that we were there. I guess they know they have it pretty good on this island with no predators. This one was checking out Tyler's tree.
We decided to use the Perimeter Road ont the way back. Here is a shot of Tyler and his snack on the way out. We talked to some other campers and wind sounded bad at both Sunrise and Ridge sites that night. Ridge #4 seems to have the best views according to some hikers I chatted with. I have also heard that there is a decent amount of poison oak just outside those sites as well.
Tyler and I made it back in time to catch the 10:20 Tiburon ferry and still have time to get a toasted bagel from the snack bar before boarding. It was windy again out in the bay as you can see in this shot. The snack bar on the island is open from 10 to 3 this time of year. Do check on the hours before booking your site if you plan on this as a meal source. The snack bar does have beer/wine and decent sandwiches. Prices are what you would expect for buying food on an island. There is also a bar but it is only open on the weekends. The bar appears to have lie music as well.
This is a great and easy trip. Once the last ferry leaves you have the island to yourself. I did see many families that were camping that chose to use bikes to haul gear. I also saw some gals with coolers that had wheels. You really can make this as close to car camping as you want to. You could even use the snack bar as a meal source as well. With the short mileage and the amount of history, beaches and views this island is really a gem in the middle of the bay worth exploring. Make sure you get out here, even if it is only for the day. Though there is really no excuse not to spend the night... If you can make it up to the top of Mount Livermore after dark you won't be disappointed.
Red line shows the path we hiked on the way out from East Bay site #1 to the snack bar at Ayala Cove. Elevation profile shows how easy this hike is on the lungs/knees. Click either for a larger version.