Mount Madonna Camping (in a yurt!)

We’ve been quiet on this blog for a while, it’s true. While our lives have not been excessively filled with outdoor adventures, we do want to share a winter camping gem that we visited twice this year. Yurts, tents, trails, crazy ruins, even crazier deer– could you ask for more when camping with kiddos?

IMG_1972Mount Madonna is part of the Santa Clara County Parks system, maybe 25 minutes south of San Jose. We’ve talked about the campgrounds we’ve been to in Santa Clara–they have been clean and well-stocked, as was Mount Madonna. You have a few options for camping at Mount Madonna. When we went in January, we stayed in one of the yurts. The yurts were clean and functional, if not warm (bring your cozy sleeping bags). We were there on one of our (very) rainy weekends this year, and while staying inside the yurt was great, you cannot cook in the tent. If you have a yurt on a rainy weekend, we recommend bringing a pop-up that you can put over the picnic table outside. It would have been perfectly fine to cook and eat under a table but trying to cook in the rain was… not the best.

IMG_1476There are also RV sites and tent-only sites. If you are looking to be farther away from evidence of humanity, the Tan Oak campground is tent-only. Best sites in Tan Oak (in our view) would be 411, maybe 410, and 417. We stayed at this campground in October and it was wonderful. Nestled under huge redwoods, these sites feel like you are deep in the forest, when you’re really just a few miles from San Jose. We went with two other families in October and rented adjoining campsites–also recommended.

IMG_1488The camping alone would recommend Mount Madonna, but the park also has miles of amazing trails. If your hikers have smaller legs, staying right around the ruins of the Henry Miller house (more on that in a moment) will offer plenty of wandering opportunity, or you can put together hikes up to 10 miles or more without repeating trails. (Rock Springs & Blue Springs were particularly beautiful, but not flat.)

What our kiddos loved the most about Mount Madonna was the Henry Miller House. (Not the author Henry Miller–this Henry Miller owned tons of land, including the property that became Mount Madonna.) The house is no longer standing, but the stone foundation remains. This is the best place for an extreme game of hide-and-seek and definitely a highlight of Mount Madonna.

IMG_2005In other weird facts about Mount Madonna, there is a herd of White Fallow Deer. These were a gift from William Randolph Hearst (well, a pair of them) years ago, and when Santa Clara County Parks acquired the land, they had to agree to keep the deer. However, being good land stewards, these deer are most definitely a non-native species and so they are not permitted to roam freely through the park. Definitely a draw for the younger crowd (although it must be noted that our crew was much more interested in the ruins of the Henry Miller House).

IMG_1490Finally, Mount Madonna is dog-friendly. Dogs can be on leash and even in some of the yurts! The one cautionary note I will share about Mount Madonna is that we have friends who went in June and said it was very, very damp. In October, it was gorgeous and I would imagine spring would be fairly ideal as well. If you’re trying to rent a yurt, plan ahead, but Mount Madonna is an under-utilized park and worth keeping on the “last minute possibility” list.

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