(NEXSTAR) – Few California park experiences are more relaxing than sitting in a rustic little cabin above Stinson Beach and watching whales and porpoises go by. But the process of booking one of 10 reservations at Steep Ravine Cabins is perhaps the most anxiety-inducing park experience this side of climbing Yosemite. If you don’t beat the other campers and claim your rental within the first five seconds of the booking window, you have to hope for luck on a rare cancellation.
Steep Ravine in Marin County is one of the toughest reservations in the entire California state park system. In fact, many of the most requested “camping” accommodations are not tent sites or RV hookups, but cabins and cabins that the park system makes available for rental.
We wanted to know which sites are the most brutal to book, and we asked the national park officials. Rooms at the five locations below are the most booked in the state park system this summer, counting peak season from May 1 through August 31.
The historic cottages of Crystal Cove State Park – This popular Orange County gem offers exploration of tidal pools and sandy beaches near dozens of rustic cabins dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. The area is considered a historic district, and the charming cabins vary in size, ranging from accommodation for two to large “hostel-style dorms”, depending on the park system.
City Hall at Columbia State Historic Park – This park off Highway 49 southeast of Sacramento offers a glimpse of gold rush living in a small town. You don’t need to book or even pay an entrance fee to wander the streets and get in the 19th century mood, but an evening in your living room at the City Hotel will have you ready to grab your pot and going on strike is rich.
JEdediah Smith Redwoods State Park cabins – This facility near the Oregon border offers a jumping off point to explore the rugged and breathtaking Smith River, touted by park officials as “California’s longest free-flowing major river.” It also only hosts four cabins, making rentals difficult to find. The units can sleep up to four people inside and up to two more in a tent outside, according to California State Parks.
Steep Ravine Cabins at Mount Tamalpais State Park – A short drive north of San Francisco is this rustic 10-cabin facility overlooking the Pacific Coast. From here, you can enjoy a nearby quiet beach or hike the seven miles to the top of Mount Tam for views of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.
Cabin at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park – This park is best known as a premier camping destination in Big Sur with 189 tent and RV sites available. But Pfeiffer has a secluded cabin, available with an attached campsite that will allow up to six people in total. At only $75 a night, it’s no wonder this place is hard to secure.
If car or tent camping is more your speed, check out our list of Most Booked California Campgrounds for the high season.
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