After all that pizza, burgers, and pho, it’s time to get a little physical activity in. Fortunately, Bay Area locals have a wealth of outdoor options that will get your legs moving, your heart pumping, and your eyes totally bugging (in total awe of Mother Nature’s beauty). Here are 10 of the best places to go hiking in San Francisco and the surrounding area. And, boy, was this list hard to narrow down.
1. Lands End Trail
Feel like you’re at the tip of the world within just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Explore Sutro Baths, the labyrinth, and incredible ocean and Golden Gate views. Of course, the foggier it is, the more surreal it gets.
2. Batteries to Bluffs Trail
From the Lands End Trail, dig your toes into the sand at Baker Beach and then weave your way up and down the coastline. Stop at the smaller Marshall’s Beach for the ultimate Golden Gate Bridge shot, climb the batteries, and take in breathtaking views the whole way through.
3. Angel Island State Park
From the city, jump on a ferry to this mostly uninhabited California Historical Landmark that’s popular with cyclists, hikers, and campers. It offers incredible 360 views of the Bay and the city — yet it feels like a world away.
4. Mount Tamalpais State Park
There are plenty of trails to choose from in the area, but the most popular (and scenic) is probably the 7-mile Dipsea-Steep Ravine-Matt Davis Loop Trail, which starts at the expansive Stinson Beach and winds through towering redwoods and greenery. Watch for some small waterfalls, and, oh yeah, those ocean views…
5. Muir Woods National Monument
Sure, it’s a tourist mecca, but those redwoods never get old. Also, there are lots of opportunities to venture beyond the main trail and get deep into those woods.
6. Palomarin Trailhead to Alamere Falls
This is one of those great treks (get ready for 13 miles) that is totally worth every step. There are multiple waterfalls along the way, leading up to the grandest one of them all, the tidefall that flows right into the ocean. It’s a rare and incredible site. Watch for poison oak and loose rocks, and get to the parking area early.
7. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
This park is often less crowded than Muir Woods, but offers just as many awe-inspiring, tree-hugging moments. Watch for gushing waterfalls, colorful mushrooms, and neon-bright slugs (so psychedelic!). For advanced hikers and backpackers, try the 30-mile Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, which takes you from Castle Rock State Park to Big Basin to Waddell Beach.
8. Tennessee Valley
Just north of the Golden Gate, this expansive area in the Marin Headlands offers a number of trails for beginners and advanced hikers alike. The Tennessee Valley Trail is a fairly casual 3.4-mile loop that includes a lake and a secluded beach.
9. Mount Diablo
Reach the 3,849-foot summit at this East Bay crowd-pleaser, which offers more incredible views of the Bay Area. There are several trails to explore that offer peeks at small waterfalls, wildlife (watch for mountain lions), and a bounty of beautiful wildflowers.
10. Portola Redwoods
One of the more modest (if you can call it that) redwood parks in the area, this La Honda spot gets you deep into the woods. It all feels completely untouched. In fact, the greenery here seems to almost glow — a truly other-worldly sight.