San Jose Family Camp

San Jose Family Camp Tent-Cabins

Where do I even begin to express how amazing San Jose Family Camp is to us, and so many of our friends… Well, here goes…

SJFC Brochure

What is it?

SJFC is a camping experience for the family. SJFC provides all the essentials necessary for a camp experience, including lodging, restrooms/showers, meals and activities.

Who qualifies for this camp?

You might have heard that San Francisco has their own camp and etc, that are only open to their residents. Well, you are in luck that SJFC is open to everyone, though San Jose residents get a resident discounted rate. This is one of the more inclusive camps that you can get together with friends, even from other cities, and all go camping together.

Who is it best for?

Best for individuals/families that enjoy nature, hikes, camp activities, fishing, socializing and the river. Especially good for families with kids. Tubing down the river is a popular activity. We’ve heard that teenagers don’t attend as much, as they get bored of many of the camp activities, especially if they’ve been going year after year.

What gear do I need for this?

On a basic level, you need only a sleeping bag, a lantern/flashlight, toiletries, towels and swim wear. For an advanced list, see below.

What do they provide?

  • Tent-cabin lodging
  • Sleeping cots, up to 6 per tent
  • Daily meals served in the cafeteria
  • Hot showers, toilets and outlets
  • Coin-op Laundry machines
  • Daily variety of activities
  • Daily babysitting (not a licensed daycare) from potty-trained until 6yrs old

How do I sign up? Where can I learn more?

SJFC typically runs during the summer months from June to early August. The earlier you go, the cooler the weather will be, which are more beneficial for hikes, hot cocoa days and etc, but the water will be freezing. The later you go, the weather will be hotter, sometimes reaching 100F, where you don’t want to do anything but soak in the water. Each has their benefits and their risks (later on, there might be wildfires and one year my camping trip got cancelled due to smoke/fires.)

Registration typically opens up in January or February. Be sure to check their website, and more importantly follow their Facebook page for the latest details.

Additional Info and What We Love About SJFC

We love to stay in the tent-cabins that don’t have electricity. We sleep when it gets dark and we wake when it turns light. The days we spend at SJFC are much healthier as we don’t stay up late, since there’s no electricity.

Unless you have Verizon as your carrier, you will also not have reception out there. We use the camp office phone to call home, to let our family know that we’ve arrived. Other than that, all the days we are there, we are disconnected. It is an amazing experience… and the funniest thing is that when we depart, and start to get reception again, our phones go crazy with the *ding ding ding* of all the communications pouring in at once since we’ve been disconnected. At this point we realize how much noise there is in our daily lives.

Finally, we get to spend so much time with family in nature and leisurely lounging, which we don’t get nearly enough of in our regular busy lives. The sweetness of SJFC lingers with us days and weeks after we’ve departed and we look forward to going again the next year.

And now the nitty gritty details….

Check out SJFC’s Packing List here and my more thorough list below.


  • Lawn Chairs: Bring your own lawn chair for your cabin or to sit in the river with. There are no chairs in the cabins.
  • Food: Bring Plastic Bins for your food if you bring any into the tents – mice can get into food & chew through soft plastic bags/wrappers. Or leave food in the Car. No bears here, but bats, raccoons, fox, mice can come by. (I personally don’t bring food because we fill up pretty well during mealtimes.)
  • Restroom/Showers: They have flush toilets in bathrooms, sinks, running water, free showers (bring own soap/shampoo/conditioners), and electrical outlets in bathrooms.
  • Lighting: Bring a light flashlight or lantern. (I use LuciLux on all our camping trips because they are as light as a feather, bright and solar charged. The Lux is frosted so it’s a nice soft light versus the glare of un-frosted ones.) You will probably be making bathroom stops, doing campfire activities or whatever, so the lighter your light source the better it’ll be for you. Plus once you set a flashlight down, it’s useless, while lanterns are useful even if you are not holding it. One LuciLux was bright enough for our entire tent cabin when we hung it from the top using a carabiner. Luci’s are available at SportsBasement, REI, Amazon and etc.
  • Cots: Cabins have 4 to 6 cots, so bring your own sleeping bag, pillow. Cot mattress is soft and sometimes the cot itself is old and sags when you sit/lie down on it. You can also bring an air mattress if you want.
  • Wipes: You will want to wipe down those cot mattresses and other things.
  • Twin-sized fitted sheet: If you get grossed out by stains on the cot mattress pad. I buy mine from Ikea for $3 each.
  • Sleeping bag: so you can sleep in it. Might be hot at night too, so maybe a lighter one.
  • Rope: to hang your towels and swim suits to dry
  • Shoes: Always needed. You don’t want to get splinters walking inside your tent cabin. Count on some sneaker like shoes for running/hiking and some Crocs for hybrid in/out of water/showers, easy to slip on/off type shoes but covers the sides of your feet, walking on river rocks type shoes. Sneakers are required if you want to participate in archery, btw.


  • DEET: Mosquitoes come out in the mid AMs and early PMs. They can bite through clothes. I prefer to just wear insect repellent clothing during those hours rather than covering myself with bug repellent.

<- Insect repellent wrap/scarf by InsectShield

  • Water bottles/water bladder: It’ll probably be VERY HOT, so make sure you are hydrated. The groundwater at SJFamily Camp is really refreshing, so you can fill up there. Last year we brought one water bottle per person and it killed me lugging it around all day. After that experience, I bought a water bladder + backpack and we all shared the same water, and it’s been great. I use it on field trips too (so I don’t have to carry so many bottles), camping, cycling, Great America, road trips and more. I, and all the REI/Sports Basement clerks I’ve spoken to, all recommend the Platypus brand, compared with other brands.
  • Wet/dry bag: just makes your life easier to have a place to stuff wet clothes & dry clothes after showers or playing in the river. This is what I use for swimming, beach, Great America, SJFamily Camp.


  • Inflatable tube/raft: The Tuolomne River flows into Yosemite Valley, but before it gets there, it goes through San Jose Family Camp. SJ Family Camp set up a dammed area, so you basically get a swimming pool. You can get cheap $2-$3 inflatable toys to float around in the pool area, get smaller size for smaller kids. Or you can get a larger one meant for lazy river tubing. You could also consider an inflatable raft which would allow you to fit several little ones in there so they can go down the river together. SJFamily camp has a heavy duty air machine that will blow up your inflatable in seconds. (ToysRUs sells kid sized donuts for $3 and the Dollar Store has small ones too.) Most people tend to just buy the Intex tubes and they are also sold at the camp store too for a fair price. However, after going for many years and replacing my Intex with new ones (and thinking about my environmental impact), I tried a new tube… the best that money can buy (about $50) and wow, was it a nice solid ride. Linked below
  • Water toys, water shoes, swim suits, etc: Get some water toys to play in the river (Since we are overlapping on weekdays, we might find some inflatables left behind by other campers that we can use. Of course, always check first.)
  • White t-shirt: if the days you will be camping has tie dye as an activity and you plan to do it. (I haven’t checked our activities for our dates yet.)
  • Booze: You are allowed to bring them, but use plastic drinkware. Keep it discreet and imbibe at your own tent, are the rules of courtesy at SJFC.


  • Verizon: You will have service
  • Anything else: You will be completely disconnected from the outside world. (This is my preference actually.) But you can borrow the camp office phone to call if needed.


My Personal Packing List for Reference:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Twin Fitted Sheets
  • Wipes
  • Swimwear
  • Flotation vest (Type 1) for kids – rented at SJFC camp store
  • Water/Shower shoes (Crocs)
  • Sunblock
  • Towels
  • Wet/Dry Bag
  • Lanterns
  • Bug spray
  • First aid kit
  • Camping Chairs
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body/Facial Soap
  • Hair dryer
  • Bungee cord – as a clothesline
  • Floaties/Tubes – sold at SJFC camp store
  • Squirt guns
  • Camp confirmation paperwork
  • Wagon – oh so useful
  • Fastrak – useful for that long drive to use Fastrak where available
  • Blank shirts for tie dye – sold at camp store too
  • Sneakers – to participate in archery
  • Fishing License – to participate in fishing, can be gotten in Groveland

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