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.
Fall Creek. Take the short hike the the old kilns and quarry, or a longer hike to the barrel mill, or up to the top of the mountain. The walk back along the Fall Creek is spectacular in it’s beauty.
Purissima, from the Half Moon Bay side. So good we did it twice. Go in early July for the black raspberry and thimble berry. Go early as there is very limited parking. The redwoods are sensual: quiet, earthy, warm, sun stroked. And a couple of creeks to soothe your feet.
Uvas Canyon. During the hieght of the rainy season, the best waterfall hikes close to the valley.
Grant Ranch. The best wild flowers in the area.
Russian RIdge. The second best wild flowers in the area.
Sunol Regional Wilderness. Feel like an eagle, sky walking the high ridges. Feel like the king of the world on the cliff edge of Flag Hill.
Henry Coe. Just before mother’s day, see rare wild flowers, turkeys, and other wildlife. Two miles from the ranger station, you’ll feel like you’re in the remote wilderness.
Castle Rock. Especially when we have a rare snowfall.
Bear Meadow/Picchetti WInery. Go for the tadpoles in the spring, the apricots in the summer, peaches in the fall.
San Francisco. Lots of fun hikes. Try the stairway hikes, or Golden Gate Park.
Berry Creek is usually the first route I recommend to someone who’s looking for a south bay hike.
The Pinnacles high peaks loop is the second.
I started to think about this – and realized I rarely leave any trail in utter disgust or disappointment.
With apologies to Will Rogers, I never met a trail I didn’t like. Found an 8 mile loop at Los Vaqueros Reservoir (Black Hills to Canada to Los Vaqueros) Sunday, and although it may have seemed scenically bereft, I had a hell of a time exploring and paying close attention to the minutiae of life all around. Watching red ants move a beetle carcass, or tiny songbirds hide in clusters of grass, every step provides the chance to see something you’ve never seen before.
Great picks, all! I’ve got to add a most unheralded and unvisited system of trails to be discovered and explored at the Briones Reservoir (not to be confused with Briones Regional Park). Oursan Trail or Bear Creek Trail winds and wraps around the bluest body of water in the Bay Area – easy casual hiking (you need a permit) amid gorgeous oak studded hills reflecting in placid blue waters lapping at rocky shores inhabited by wildfowl galore! And – NO PEOPLE! For being so close to the Berkeley hills, it’s an amazing place. Check out miy lengthier description at http://gambolinman.blogspot.com/2007/01/briones-regional-park-and-reservoir.html
Feel free to use my site as a resource for listing trails like this. I guess it is a shameless plug, but I am trying to make a free resource for my students first and the rest of the internet to use for all sorts of outdoor activities.
I also like the Soberanes Canyon-Rocky Ridge trail in Garrapata State park. While I don’t think it is a hike for beginners, I certainly recommend it for the views and if you get lucky, the wildflowers. You can read my trip report here – http://www.outdoordesi.com/tripreports/soberanes-canyon-rocky-ridge-loop-garrapata-state-park
Nice list! I’d also add the Methlusaleh trail by Kings Canyon. Great views and shade during the summer.