Despite the abundance of preserves and parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco, most do not allow overnight stays. Black Mountain Backpack Camp is one of the welcome exceptions. Situated in the charming Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, Black Mountain is just a short drive from Silicon Valley population centers and is the closest, most convenient place for the tech-weary to go for a campout and some fresh air.
Camping on Black Mountain requires a reservation, but the online reservation system is simple to use and the sites are a bargain at $2 per person per night. The camp has sites for individuals and groups, making it great for either a spontaneous getaway or a planned excursion. The preserve does not allow campfires, but stories can be told around an illuminated Nalgene or makeshift lantern just as well. Water is available at the camp, but it is not ready to drink from the pump: either filter it or bring enough for your stay. There are great trails with views of Silicon Valley to the east and wild, open spaces to the west, but be sure to explore them during the day: outside of camp, the preserve closes a half hour after sunset.
Availability is usually excellent during the week, making Black Mountain the perfect place for a mid-week microadventure. Leave work early enough to arrive at the parking lot before dusk, then hustle up the short 1.5-mile hike to the campsite, enjoying nice views of the sun setting over Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Make some dinner, stargaze, get some sleep, then rise with the sun and get back to your desk in time for another day at the grind.