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Steep Ravine Cabins & Campground: The Ultimate Guide

A morning rainbow on the beach at Steep Ravine

I love Steep Ravine. I try to sneak away for quick camp/cabin adventures whenever life allows. I frequently find myself helping friends prepare for their first visit, so I created a list of things to bring for a perfect Steep Ravine trip.

I’ll get into more specifics below, but before you go any further, my number one piece of advice: call Reserve California in advance (1-800-444-7275) to get the gate code, as well as the code for your cabin if you’re staying in one. There’s spotty cell service on the 1, and you don’t want to get stuck outside of the locked gate with no way to call.

If you want to jump directly to the juicy details:

About Steep Ravine

Steep Ravine is a small, secluded beach and environmental campground north of San Francisco. It’s on the Marin County coast below Highway 1, just south of Stinson Beach.

Steep Ravine is truly some of the best that California has to offer. It’s an amazing place to watch the sun rise and set, and to fall asleep under the stars to the sound of the waves.

Full moon rising over Pride of Madeira

Full moon rising over Pride of Madeira

It’s a fairly secluded section of the coast, and generally the only sounds you’ll hear are the waves rolling in and the ocean crashing against the rocks. On a clear day, you can see the Farralon Islands, but Steep Ravine is just as magical in foggy weather.

Steep Ravine cabins in the fog

Cabins in the fog

There’s limited cellular service here, but this feels more like a feature than a flaw. Steep Ravine is a perfect spot to escape from the real world for a night or weekend. I’d recommend anticipating an “off the grid” experience. It’s a great place to relax and read a book, or go for a hike and explore Mount Tam.

The Steep Ravine cabins are in rows terraced towards the beach and ocean. Each cabin has a wood-burning stove that will keep the main room nice and toasty on cold nights, but the heat from the fire doesn’t reach the bedrooms as much, so you’ll want to bring warm blankets, in addition to firewood. A full list of what to bring to the cabins can be found below.

You’ll be sharing this space with wildlife, particularly if you’re camping. There are lots of deer, raccoons, lizards, newts, and even a redtail hawk that likes to hang out on top of the cabins.

Red-tailed hawk on Steep Ravine cabin

Red-tailed hawk on Steep Ravine cabin

There’s a helpful campground host that lives on the property. You might meet him when you arrive.

A brief history

Previously known as “Hot Springs Beach”, the land was purchased by William Kent for $25/acre in 1903. A portion of this tract of land was deeded to the state in 1928 and would be come to known as Mount Tamalpais State Park.

13 cabins and the Kent family house (now the camp host house) were built on the coast in 1938. Each cabin cost $1500 to build and had a wooden stove, a sink, and a bathroom with a shower and toilet.

The military took control of Steep Ravine (and much of the Mount Tam area) during World War II. After the war, the Kent family began to rent out the cabins to friends and family, including Dorothea Lange. They charged $450 a year for rent.

The site was sold to the State for $10 in 1960 and became a part of Mt Tam State Park. The tenants were evicted in 1975, and the cabins sat empty for the next 5 years.

The cabins were refurbished in 1983. Bathrooms and sinks were removed, and the 3 cabins closest to the ocean were demolished. The remaining, refurbished cabins could be rented by the Pan Toll team for $12 a night. Those cabins are a bit more expensive to rent through Reserve California today ($100 a night), but they’re well worth it for the experience.

How to get to Steep Ravine

Steep Ravine is located off of the 1, between Stinson Beach and Muir Beach. Rocky Point Road will take you from highway 1 down into the beach and campgrounds.

You’ll need a 4 digit code for the padlock in order to open the gate to get on Rocky Point Road. Be sure to call Reserve California ahead of time (1-800-444-7275) to get this code, and have all of your reservation information ready, because the agent will ask for it before they give you the code.

The gate to Rocky Point Road off of Highway 1

The gate to access Steep Ravine off of Highway 1

This access code changes once every month or so. Again, cell phone service is limited in this area, particularly on Highway 1, so be sure to call in advance. I know several people who have gotten stuck on the side of the road with no code and no cell signal.

Your reservation allows you to park a single car. Make sure to print it out ahead of time and leave it on your dashboard.

What to bring to Steep Ravine if you’re staying in a cabin


The cabins at Steep Ravine cost $100 per night, plus a $7.99 reservation fee. They’re pricey, but the way I see it, a hotel with a view like this would be significantly more expensive.

Some folks might refer to this sort of cabin situation as “glamping”, but you still need to come prepared. My list of what to bring to Steep Ravine cabins reads a lot like my camping list, minus the tent.

The cabin is a shelter with a wood-burning stove, a dining room table (basically an indoor picnic table) and a few wooden platforms to sleep on. Each cabin also has its own grill outside, so bring charcoal and grill tools if you want to cook.

There’s no food available at Steep Ravine. You can venture to Stinson Beach for meals if that’s your style. I bring my own food and coffee supplies. There is potable water available all around the cabins/campgrounds.

There’s no electricity in the cabins, so I’d recommend bringing a headlamp or a flashlight at minimum. I like putting some minimal lighting up, too. These LED string lights from REI are bright enough to illuminate the entire “living room” area, and last me a full weekend when plugged into a small power bank.

If you want to have a fire at night (you should), you’ll need wood. Duh. They sell wood in the parking lot for $8 a bundle, but you can also buy some at the market in Stinson Beach, or at Good Earth in Mill Valley if you’re coming from the south.

You’ll need bedding supplies: pillows, sleeping bags, and air mattresses at a minimum. In the photo above you can see that the “bed” is a wooden platform, so an air mattress will go a long way here.

It can get chilly at night, and a fire will keep the main room nice and warm, but doesn’t reach the other rooms as much, so bring some warm blankets.

The cabins get a lot of natural light during the day, but it’s nice to have curtains (or tapestries) to hang over the windows for privacy, if you’re into that sort of thing. Some of the windows have rod clips so it’s easy to hang a sheet or even a towel over them.

Finally, I’d recommend bringing anything that’ll help you make the cabin feel like your home for the night/weekend. Bring a tablecloth, some candles, a vase of flowers, a Bluetooth speaker, a disco ball… get creative!

Packing list for Steep Ravine cabins:
  • Firewood, matches/lighter, hatchet
  • Let there be light: headlamp, flashlight, LED lights/lantern, disco lights
  • Bedding supplies: pillow, mattress, sleeping bag
  • Warm nighttime stuff: blankets, pajamas/thermal underwear
  • Food+drink: water bottle, snacks, coffee gear, grill supplies/charcoal
  • Privacy: Curtains/tapestries to cover windows
  • Toiletries: Dr. Bronners, toothbrush/paste
  • Misc: tablecloth, candles, speaker

What to bring to Steep Ravine if you’re camping

Steep Ravine campsites cost $25 per night plus a $7.99 reservation fee.

The campsites each have a picnic table, a fire ring, and a large wooden locker to keep your food safe from raccoons and other hungry critters. The raccoons at Steep Ravine are not shy. If you leave your food out, animals will get into it.

There’s no food available at Steep Ravine. You can venture to Stinson Beach for meals if that’s your style. I bring my own food and coffee supplies. There is potable water available all around the cabins and campgrounds.

You’ll obviously want to bring a tent and bedding supplies: a sleeping bag, a pillow, and an air mattress or cot. I’d also recommend some extra blankets as it can get chilly at night.

If you want to have a fire at your campsite, you can buy wood in the parking lot for $8 a bundle. If they sell out, you can also find firewood at the market in Stinson Beach, or at Good Earth in Mill Valley if you’re coming from the south.

Packing list for camping at Steep Ravine:
  • Shelter: please don’t forget your tent
  • Firewood, matches/lighter, hatchet
  • Let there be light: headlamp, flashlight
  • Bedding supplies: air mattress/cot, pillow, sleeping bag
  • Warm nighttime stuff: blankets, pajamas/thermal underwear
  • Food+drink: water bottle, snacks, coffee gear, grill supplies/charcoal
  • Toiletries: Dr. Bronners, toothbrush/paste

How is the cell phone reception at Steep Ravine? Will I have service?

The results of an internet speed test on a Verizon connection at Steep Ravine

Data speeds on a Verizon connection at Steep Ravine… on a clear day.

In my experience, Verizon service cuts out on Highway 1 entirely. Once you’re down the hill and in the campground/cabin area, it seems to be mostly fine if the weather is clear.

I’ve used a mobile hotspot to do some work on clear days, but I’ve also been here when it’s been foggy, and my phone didn’t receive a single text for the duration of the trip.

The camp host has satellite internet, and he mentioned that his connection is affected by weather in the same way. As soon as some clouds or fog roll in, the service tends to cut out.

All in all, it’s probably best to clear your calendar of Zoom meetings before you head to Steep Ravine.

Which campsites and cabins are the best?

All of the campsites at Steep Ravine are amazing for different reasons. There’s honestly not a “bad” campsite there.

Sunrise from Steep Ravine campsite 5

Sunrise from campsite #5. Yes, I was working on this trip.

Campsite 5 is my personal favorite. After that, I’d rank them in the following order: 4, 6, 3, 2, and then 1. Campsites 2 and 3 are right next to each other, so if you’re planning a group trip and can reserve both of them, you’ll have a lot of privacy and space for your group. If not, they’re both great spots, but you might have neighbors.

Similarly, all of the cabins at Steep Ravine are fantastic. They all have the same layout inside, so the only real difference is the view of the beach from the windows.

Morning coffee with a view in cabin #7

Morning coffee with a view in cabin #7

Cabins 7 through 10 are all closest to the beach, so you’ll have an unobstructed view of the ocean. Don’t worry if you can’t snag cabins 7-10 though, as they’re all great. Cabins 2 and 6 are a bit closer to the restrooms (and the parking lot) which may be convenient for some.

Hiking trails near Steep Ravine

In my opinion, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands are home to some of the most beautiful trails on the planet, and there’s convenient access to these trail systems from Steep Ravine. Lucky you!

The Steep Ravine trailhead is just up Rocky Point Rd on the side of the 1. If you want to leave your car parked and hike up the road, it’s about .7mi and approx 317 ft of elevation gain to get up Rocky Point Rd to the Steep Ravine Trail on foot. If you’d rather save your energy for the trails, you can drive up the road and park alongside the 1.

I’ve spent a lot of time running these trails, including a recent 50k. To name a few, Steep Ravine, Dipsea, Matt Davis and Cataract Trails are all incredibly beautiful and worth your time. These are my favorite hiking/running routes that are convenient to Steep Ravine:

If you don’t want to commit to a specific route or loop, just jump on the Steep Ravine Trail and start walking, and turn around whenever you feel like it. The entire trail is beautiful, but as you begin to climb it gets a lot more magical.

These trails can get pretty crowded on the weekends, particularly Steep Ravine and Dipsea. For a bit more solitude, try going on a weekday.

There’s lots of poison oak on some sections of these trails, so long pants are recommended. Remember, you can always rinse off in the ocean after your hike!

How to reserve a Steep Ravine cabin or campsite

This is the tricky part. Getting a reservation at Steep Ravine can be hard, but persistence pays off.

Campsites and cabins at Steep Ravine are available on a 6 month rolling window. When a spot is available, you can reserve it for up to 7 days at a time. Reservations open at 8am and they go very quickly. You’ll want to make sure you’re logged in to reservecalifornia.com and have the specific campsites/cabins pulled up (under “Mount Tamalpais SP”) a few minutes before 8.

My advice is to do a few “dry runs” to practice the reservation process. Choose a less popular state park and go through the booking flow so that you can familiarize yourself with the Reserve California interface and understand exactly where you’ll need to click at 8am sharp to get your desired cabin or campground into your cart. This will save you precious seconds, and every second counts. Once your reservation is in your cart, it’s “locked in” and you have 15 minutes to check out.

You might also get lucky with a day-of reservation. When campsites and cabins are available day-of, they hold an in-person lottery at the Pantoll Campground kiosk (3801 Panoramic Highway in Mill Valley) at 2pm. I believe you need to be present “IRL” to participate in this lottery. You can get more information by calling (415)-388-2070.

2 Comments

  1. how many tries or long did it take you get a reservation the steep ravine?? My fiance an I have going to the beach there an always wanted to know what those cabins were. Now we know thanks to you. I hope we can get in there one day.

    • John

      It took me lots of tries to get the hang of it. I work on the computer so I started to try everyday at 8am PST and eventually I got the hang of it. It’s never a guarantee, but if you’re logged in to reserveca and ready to go, there’s a good chance you can reserve a cabin ~6 months out if you know what you’re doing and can plan that far ahead. Good luck!

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