9 trails that every Bay Area hiker needs to check off the to-do list
While many head to San Francisco to visit its top-notch restaurants and cocktail lounges, others who live in the city are eager to get out of town on weekends to enjoy nature.
The beauty of living in this area is that you don’t have to travel to all the way to the mountains of Tahoe or Yosemite to “tree bathe” and get a little workout.
1.) The Dipsea Trail
The Dipsea Trail officially starts in Mill Valley and starts with a boatload of stairs through dense forests and neighborhoods. It then crosses Panoramic Highway to dip down near Muir Woods and skips through forests and grassy meadows to Stinson Beach. This 7.4-mile trail is awesome to hike year-round and one major added bonus is beer and food in downtown Stinson Beach. If you don’t want to hike all the way back to Mill Valley, hop on a shuttle to get you most of the way back to your car.
2) Mt. Diablo
If you really want an intense workout, try your luck on a hike up Mt. Diablo in the East Bay, which is the highest peak in the Bay area at 3,848 feet. There are tons of different hikes to choose from, but most have elevation gains worthy of an athlete. Try Mitchell Canyon, a 7-mile hike with a 1,700-foot elevation gain, or stick to the Mitchell Canyon nature trail which stretches just 4-miles with 500 feet of gain.
3) Angel Island
Angel Island sure looks pretty sitting there across from San Francisco, but it’s also a beautiful state park you can hike around on. So, catch a ferry and head on over to do a hike in this state park. There are a few hikes to choose from here, like the Perimeter Trail, which is a 5.5 mile loop around the island with stunning bay, bridge and city views. Or you can hike up Mt. Livermore, which has a gain of 800 feet but a spectacular view to reward you up top.
4) Mori Point
The windswept bluffs of Mori Point near Pacifica are on the southern-most reaches of the Golden Gate National Recreation area. This isn’t so much a strenuous hike but a view destination, with wildflowers and the beautiful expanse of the Pacific Ocean. There are many trails to choose from, and it’s a perfect place for dog lovers because you can bring your pooch to hike here.
5) Wildcat Canyon Regional Park
The Wildcat Canyon Regional Park is 2,427 acres and right up the hill from El Cerrito in the East Bay. There are 25 miles of trails to hike on here, most of them fire roads. Cross the border into Tilden Park to Inspiration Point for a stunning view of the East Bay and San Francisco beyond. Hikes in Wildcat Canyon are mostly through hilly grasslands, where you’ll most likely see a wild animal or two, and herds of cattle.
6) The Marin Headlands
Plenty of hikes for all skills levels meander through the Marin Headlands, which is just a short hop from the Golden Gate bridge. Try parking at the Spencer Avenue exit off Highway 101 and hike up the hill into the headlands, then take the SCA trail for a view of the Golden Gate bridge. For a longer hike, you can go several miles to Rodeo Beach, then wander through the grassy hills until you’re tired of looking at stunning ocean vistas.
7) Castle Rock State Park
This is a very popular park near San Jose, where people come to get a workout hiking or rock climbing. Some just come to soak up the nature and views. There are many hikes to choose from here, including the easy Castle Rock loop that goes for one mile, to the strenuous Gap to Gap loop, which marches 16.4 miles roundtrip from Saratoga Gap to Waterman Gap with 1,860 of elevation gain. There’s something for everyone at Castle Rock.
8) Sunol Regional Wilderness
This wilderness area is located east of Fremont and south of Pleasanton, and is a beautiful park that spans 6,869 acres. It was home to the are’as first residents – Native Americans – and offers hiking and backpacking alike. There all levels of hiking trails here and the popular Little Yosemite Valley area, which is a creek lined with huge boulders. Trails in this wilderness area wind through woodlands, down canyons and over grassy hills.
9) Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach
This 9.7-mile out-and-back hike in Marin County is worth checking out. You’ll have views of the rocky coastline on one side, and rolling green hills on the other. Start by parking at the Tennessee Valley trailhead, and follow the signs to the Coastal Trail. Once you reach Muir Beach, where you can stop for lunch at the Pelican Inn before starting your journey back to your car. This hike truly is a gem of the Bay area.