This was in Thursday’s Mercury News: quick looks at four great places to be in the springtime.

I imposed my affection for Henry Coe State Park upon the Merc’s tender readers, but I was merciful and recommended the wonderful Ponderosa Trail.

Ponderosa Pines on the ridge

My piece is here:

Spectacular views of the South Bay and Diablo Range make the flat, easily accessible Ponderosa Trail an oasis from the long, steep routes passing through Henry Coe’s 87,000 acres of high ridges and deep gullies. Spring rains turn the hills a shimmering green, setting the stage for the return of wildflower season. And after the view, there’s the vibe: Walking through the stand of ponderosa pines towering over the 3,000-foot ridge top will seem strikingly familiar to those who’ve hiked Yosemite or the High Sierra (minus the spectacular rocky peaks, of course). You won’t get that anywhere else in the South Bay.

The rest:

North Peak Trail, Mount Diablo State Park:

The hike to the peak offers spectacular views and a wilderness experience that visitors to the mountain’s top don’t even come close to. From the top of the peak, the panorama stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge across the delta and the San Joaquin Valley to the snow-capped Sierra. Late winter and spring are particularly good times for this adventure.

Cataract Creek Tral, Mount Tampalpais State Park:

In the spring, the Cataract Trail boasts one of the highest concentrations of waterfalls in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cataract Creek stretches three miles and drops 1,200 feet in elevation as it plummets down the mountain from Rock Spring to Alpine Lake, and the Cataract Trail parallels it every step of the way. The upper 1.2 miles from Rock Spring to Laurel Dell picnic area are mildly strenuous with a modest, but steady slope. The lower 1.8 miles from Laurel Dell to Alpine Lake are steep.

Montara Mountain, near Pacifica

The trail climbs from an elevation of 200 to 1,600 feet, making this a very doable hike that has a little of everything. The real payoff is the end of the trail where, weather permitting, the expansive view includes nearby verdant valleys, Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County and Sutro Tower in San Francisco.

Each link includes driving directions if you want to check ’em out.