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China Camp State Park

Shoreline, Bay View Trails

4.5 miles round trip with 400-foot elevation gain

On Point San Pedro Peninsula, only a few ramshackle buildings remain of the once-thriving shrimp fishing village of China Camp. During the 1800s, more than thirty such camps were established on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

The fishermen were mostly Chinese, primarily natives of Kwantung Province. The fishermen staked nets on the shallow bay bottom, in order to capture tiny grass shrimp. The shrimp were dried, then the meat separated from the shell. It was a labor-intensive process, but a ready market for the shrimp existed in China and Japan.

In the early 20th century, competing fishermen helped push through legislation that banned the use of bag nets, and in 1905, the export of dried shrimp was banned entirely, thus ending the San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay shrimping business.

In 1977, the state acquired 1,500 acres of bay shore to form China Camp State Park. Some 1890s-era buildings still stand at China Camp Village, and interpretive exhibits tell of the difficult life in this fishing village.

The park’s ridge separates the 1890s from the 21st century. While the view south has changed immeasurably, the view down to China Camp on San Pablo Bay is almost exactly what it was in the early 1900s.

Shoreline Trail is a mellow path that meanders through the forest and grassland above the miles of marshland that border China Camp. For a grand tour of the park, follow Shoreline Trail to the west boundary of the park. An optional return route could be on Bay View Trail, which travels through redwoods and stands of bay through the higher (750 feet or so) elevations of the park. Views of upper San Francisco Bay are outstanding. Returning via Bay View and Ridge trails adds up to 6.5 miles; all together that’s a 12 mile tour of the park.
A more modest loop, described on the next page, uses parts of Shoreline and Ridge trails, for a fine family outing.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 101 in San Rafael, take the North San Pedro Road exit, and head east through a residential area to China Camp State Park. After entering the park, proceed approximately 3 miles to China Camp Village and park in the village lot.

The hike: Cross North San Pedro Road and head uphill on the Village Trail. Bear right on the Village Trail where it intersects with Shoreline Trail. As you follow San Pablo Bay from east to west, you’ll stay at about a one hundred foot elevation.

Enjoy views of the park’s four distinct shoreline hills—Jake’s Island, Turtle Back, Bullet Hill and Chicken Coop Hill. When the bay water was higher, these hills were islands.

The Miwok Fire Trail has been removed it is no longer part of the trail system.

Two miles out, you’ll reach the dirt road leading to Miwok Meadows, a day use area. (Ambitious hikers will continue on Shoreline Trail.) Those opting for a shorter loop will head uphill on the Miwok Fire Trail and join up with the Oak Ridge Trail. Head east on the Oak Ridge Trail, gaining a different perspective with a little elevation compared to the view from Shoreline Trail. When you meet Peacock Gap Trail, turn left, descending briefly back to Shoreline Trail and returning to the trailhead.

Those choosing the longer hike will head left (south) down the Miwok Fire Trail and cross the Miwok Meadows gravel parking lot. At the southwest corner of the lot, you’ll find a wooden bridge spanning an intermittent creek. Shoreline Trail picks up again here and you’ll continue east until it meets up with Back Ranch Fire Trail. Join this trail and head uphill across slopes forested with oak, madrone and bay laurel. Proceed right (west) at the intersection with the Ridge Fire Trail and head to a former Nike Missile Station to savor terrific views of San Pablo Bay.

For a great loop hike, backtrack on the Ridge Fire Trail and descend on the Back Ranch Fire Trail until it meets up with the Bay View Trail. Follow the Ridge Fire Trail left (east) and when it meets up with the Miwok Fire Trail, follow this path downhill for a short distance. Miwok Fire Trail meets Oak Ridge Trail, which you’ll join heading east. When you reach Peacock Gap Trail, turn left, descend to Shoreline Trail and return to the trailhead.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at