These are my favorite hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve done them all a few times.
Berry Creek Falls Loop, Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Twelve miles though one of the most amazing stands of ancient redwoods on the coast, plus a series of impressive waterfalls at the half-way point. This hike never disappoints.
Dipsea Trail to Matt Davis Trail from Stinson Beach, Mount Tamalpais State Park. I was told this was the “hard” way to go, working up the canyon from Stinson Beach, but it’s a great walk in either direction — towering trees, tumbling waters, lush greenery — and that’s just the Dipsea part. The Matt Davis section is more open in places, giving wonderful views of the California coastline. An essential Marin hike.
Three Peaks, Mount Diablo State Park. This is a true leg-burner — from Clayton, hiking to Mount Olympia, then North Peak, then hitting the summit and heading back down — but it can be a spectacular all-day outing on a clear winter day.
High Peaks Trail, Pinnacles National Monument. Not exactly Bay Area, but so many local hikers make the drive down there, it might as well be. Amazing rock formations, gorgeous vistas, challenging trails, and the condors, if you’re there on a lucky day. Go in spring for a wildflower bonus (avoid in summer, it’s way too hot).
Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore. This is an easy 10-miler out to the tip of Point Reyes. Best time to go is in the autumn when the Thule Elk are out in force, but any time is fine.
Angel Island State Park. Best place to take in the whole Bay on a clear day. Thanks to the sea breezes, it’s one of the few sunny locales where you can go all summer and not get scorched.
Point Lobos State Preserve, south of Monterey. Another long drive that’s very much worth the effort. Crashing waves, seals, sea otters and all manner of sea birds are there for the gazing. The hikes are mostly easy. Parking’s limited and the place is busy on the weekends; a better way to see it is to take a day off midweek.