Steep Ravine Cabins #2 - Prepping Tips

If you need to read this, congratulations! Steep Ravine is one of the loveliest hidden treasures of the Bay Area.  Due to it's isolated location, it's best to come prepared and not to have to venture out and break immersion and so I've tapped out a few tips which may come in handy.  If you are the type that survives anywhere with just a bedroll and a bag of peanuts, you don't need this list.

Important! To start, read your "Additional Park Details" pdf from ReserveCalifornia carefully but 2 points are critical:
  • 1. Print out your confirmation PDF and put on your dashboard. This is your parking pass.  
  • 2. On the day of your stay, you need to call Reserve California(1-800-444-7275) and get the gate code and cabin lock code. Cell phone service can be spotty at the park and the hold times can sometimes be long (20+minutes), so call ahead.   Also if your stay is straddling different week boundaries (Sunday-Monday), you should ask to see if the gate code will be changed at the end of your stay.
    • There is really nobody to greet you or check in with and it will be a very very long walk down from the gates if you need to find someone with the code or you can drive down closer to Stinson beach and make a call.
    • The locks are very stiff and sometimes you have to push the lock in to open it. (My husband shook his head I didn't know such basic things but I can't be the only clueless person...)

These rustic cabins have no electricity so you need to pack all your usual camping equipment minus the tent.  Running water is available in spigots near cabins. The site has 2 clean flush bathrooms with toilet paper but no hand soap. You may or may not get cell reception depending on your carrier. Our Google Fi service (Sprint/T-Mobile backed) worked barely just for sending texts which was fine.

Stinson beach is only a mile away,  however since the location is so beautifully remote, it's great not to break the mood by going into civilization. We happily spent our entire 2 days self-sufficient with our creature comforts.  You will need to lug all your stuff down the hill using these wheel barrows by the parking lot. However they only take you to a certain point and it's wise to pack lightly.  The more private cabins(4,7,8,9,10) are down a set of small set of stairs.  One wishes for a stronger pair of haunches as one truly understands the true meaning of steep in "Steep Ravine" 

Each cabin is identical in layout with the following:
  • main room equipped with a wood stove, picnic table, small end table. also a nook for sitting or sleeping for 1 adult.  most wood stoves had a metal door except #5 had glass.
  • kitchen prep area with laminate covered work surface, trashcan, wall hooks
  • main bedroom has 2 wooden platforms, 1 double/modest queen, another kid sized platform useful for staging your gear
  • second bedroom with kid sized platform- more useful for storage
  • closet with broom and dustpan
  • cooking grill outside behind the cabin (see photo at end of post)
  • you can get squeejee and bucket at the wood station above if you find your picture windows are a bit salt laden.
There are no DOORS! That's right parents. If you've got kids in tow, this is not an ideal setup for unhindered romance. 

Ample beach views even over rooftops. 

I have to admit I scoured the web for packing tips and I had a rather complex packing list. I wanted to list some of the things I found particularly useful:

Main bedroom
  • Camping Pad/Exercise Mat. Those wooden sleeping platforms are hard.  
  • LED headlamp flashlight (very useful for bathroom at night which is not lighted inside, or dishwashing at night)
  • More flashlights - it gets pitch dark at night unless you catch a full moon
  • Matches, tea candles (not only for setting a romantic moo but mice deterrent see below)
  • CURTAINS: Cloths or newspaper used as makeshift curtains for privacy for cabin facing windows. I brought 4 but ended up using 2, 1 for back bed room window and the kitchen.   If you forget, you can use one of the extra trash bags or even newspaper as a curtain but I've seen other campers bring florals which added a cosy homey touch.
  • Extra wood - you can bring free wood from home or buy(self-service through an envelope) a bundle of wood for $9 as shown in the bins above. Bring exact cash. Don't wait to buy wood if it's a cold night, I noticed that they sold out fast on the chilly week we were there. Depending on how cold the night is, you can burn through a single bundle.
Curtains for extra privacy

  • Plastic bin with clasp top for packing non-refrigerated food stuffs  to keep mice away...
  • Table top stove, kettle, fry pan, etc...
  • Disinfectant spray/paper towels to sanitize surfaces
  • Stainless steel trays
  • Paper plates (I normally take stainless steel plates camping. However it got quite windy and doing dishes was a serious challenge.)
  • Thermos - hot coffee at the beach!
  • Foil - use the wood stove to cook
  • Sweet potatoes(purple) - steam them on top of the fireplace. This does take some fiddling to find the hot spots.
  • I stored just two half gallon plastic containers of frozen water in the cooler and it barely melted in 2 days.
On our first trip, I spent significant amounts of time laboring over our portable stove to cook 3 hot square meals.  In hindsight fish curry while tasty seriously ate into my lazy time. Wiser on the second trip, I went for a pre prep route that proved more satisfactory. I cooked sausages and boiled eggs at home, kept them in the ice box and them just reheated them on the wood stove in the morning so hand grinding beans and brewing coffee was the only pleasurable morning labor.

Morning coffee for Crees, tea for me.

  • Hiking poles - it takes serious bouldering to get down the beach. I recommend 1 pole per hiker so you can use your other hand for balance
  • Water bottles
  • Full pants- Steep Ravine like most of  Northern California has it's fair share of poison oak patches. If you don't know what they look like or know the protocol,  follow the guide here.) 


  • Chaise Lounge- great for indoors and out. The inside benches are hard and we found great pleasure in lounging around in front of the fire or the ocean in comfort. We brought 1 and took turns.  

Some Extras
  • Magnesium pills- your haunches will get tired and if you are the type to get night leg cramps, magnesium pills will really help ease those sore muscles
  • Old phone/media player with speaker loaded with podcasts- play at night to keep mice away.  (Actually this is a bit overkill...)
  • Ear plugs for sensitive sleepers- the wind can make the entire cabin creak and groan.  Also the charm of the pounding ocean surf can prevent sensitive sleepers.
  • Portable charger (you can decide to go off-grid completely but I was using my phone camera extensively and so my Anker Powercore 20,000 mAh charger was more than ample.)

Items which weren't as useful this trip or entirely necessary

1. BBQ Charcoal
In theory we could have had a barbeque but it was exceedingly windy.  The tabletop stove was so convenient(and we were tuckered out) that we never opened our bag of charcoal.  I can see for party bigger than 2 it would be fun to have a grill party.
2.  3 legged portable stool for the beach - it was fine to sit on boulders, and probably the stool was more useful to sit up close to the fireplace more than anything else
3. Seat Cushions- yes they did make bench more comfy but we could do without.  Unless you have the buns of Voltaire whose friends joked his had been guillotined during the revolution, it's not bad to rely on one's natural cushion.

The Mouse Problem

Yes there definitely are field mice scampering about at night- all part of the rustic cabin experience and perhaps the one downside of these cabins.  Chris says they are totally cute- these are coyote munch not New York subway rats. Cute or not, one can take a few precautions:
  1. Don't leave food out. Always put away your food stuffs in a tight bin.
  2. Don't use fruity shampoo or lotion. I had all foods put away. Somehow in the middle of the night from the corner of my eye I saw a little blur of a mouse coming close to my head. In hindsight, I suspect it was probably my orange scented shampoo. 
  3. Mice appear to be sensitive to human voices so I played podcasts all night to keep them away. Snoring also appears to keep mice away.
  4. Woolens. Someone complained that a mouse tore away parts of a wool sweater probably to take as nesting material so you might put away in a zippered bag.

The Howling Wind

The wind can be surprisingly strong in the colder months.
  1. Close the bottom latch on the door so it doesn't feel like some one is trying to break the door open.  
  2. Make sure your hat is tight or has straps. My hat blew off a few times.
  3. When you are taking the trash out on the last day, make sure you tie the bag.  Some hipster millennials staying below us did not and blew trash all over our cabin side yard which they did not bother to clean up.  This is why hipsters and millennials get a bad rap.

Over/Under Preparation

One of the benefits of having a middle row cabin is that you get to people watch some urban creatures who come with a lot of gear. These rustic cabins are not for glampers no matter how hard they may try to lug in such amenities.

The natural beauty of Steep Ravine is so overwhelming that even if you forgot something, it's okay to go without.

Any tips are welcome so please post any below.