From the San Jose Mercury News, August 2007
Chances are you’ll never get rich enough to buy an island, but a few hours at Angel Island State Park might offer a few clues as to why so many billionaires want one.
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Miles of trails: 13
Limitations: No dogs, no wood fires.
Camping: Nine walk-in sites, $20 in summer; $15 in off-season; call Reserve America at (800) 444-7275 – weekend nights often booked months in advance.
How to get there: The most direct route is from downtown Tiburon via the Angel Island Ferry ($13.50 for adults, $3.50-11.50 for children; includes admission to the park; schedule: www.angelislandferry.com). Take the Tiburon Boulevard exit from Highway 101 (north of the Golden Gate Bridge if you’re coming from the Peninsula, or via I-580 to Richmond Bridge to 101 South if you’re coming from San Jose and the East Bay). Take Tiburon Boulevard to Main Street, turn right; a parking lot there is expensive but convenient. Ferries to Angel Island also run from Tiburon, San Francisco, Vallejo and the East Bay. For fares and schedules, see www.eastbayferry.com or www.blueandgoldfleet.com; transit information at www.511.org
On the Web: www.angelisland.org
Something about standing on solid ground with water on all sides brings an inner calm you can’t get anywhere else. Angel Island is no great shakes for devoted hikers — the trails are easy, the hills are small, the crowds can be large — but the park seems protected by an anti-annoyance force field. The tourists on Segways do look vaguely ridiculous, but it’s easy to overlook such petty details when you’ve got the whole Bay Area laid out for viewing.
Angel Island’s signature attraction, the Immigration Station, is closed for renovations until next year, which gives you all the more reason to check out some of the old military barracks or just enjoy a few miles of satisfying strolling. One summer highlight is seeing the fog shrouding San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge burn off as the day warms. Bring your camera.
Standard precautions: Angel Island is pricey — ferry and bridge tolls add up in a hurry, so consider car-pooling with friends. Temperatures are highly variable, from cold and clammy to baking in the sun, often within minutes on the same walk. Dress appropriately, and use sunscreen. Don’t miss the last ferry back to the mainland.
Easy: The paved Perimeter Road is five miles around and mostly flat with lovely views the whole way. You’ll have to step aside for tour trams and bicyclists now and then, but the force field will protect you.
Moderate: The 4.5-mile loop to the 788-foot Mount Livermore summit climbs gently to the top via the Sunset Trail; if you need more exercise, set out on the Ridge Trail, which climbs steeply from the outset.
Hard: Pack your overnight gear and hike up to two miles to one of the island’s nine campsites. Securing a reservation for a weekend night is often the hardest part, but you’ll have the island mostly to yourself if you succeed.