Point Reyes National Seashore (credit: Thinkstock)
The San Francisco Bay Area is fortunate to have so many excellent hiking areas and trails to fit everyone’s abilities, from easy to moderate to strenuous, making it impossible to offer specific hikes as the best ones around. That said, read on for five suggestions for hiking trail locations you will want to explore.
1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Come help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with a visit to Point Reyes National Seashore, a wonderful stretch of close to 150 miles of hiking trails. Point Reyes hikes are extremely varied, covering coast and ocean, beach, forest, meadow, waterfall and even a historic Lighthouse turned museum. Popular hikes range from less than an hour to more than six-hours, and each one provides an excellent range of all the riches the California coastal area offers. You’ll find area geology, forest and meadow ecosystems, descriptive plants and animals you may encounter along the way, plus interpretive signs that describe the Coast Miwok culture, history and village life, stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and so much more. Click here for the Point Reyes Trail Guide & Suggested Hikes, where you’ll find links to invaluable maps and hiking tips to get the most out of your hiking experiences.
Angel Island State Park
A most unique hiking destination is the largest island in San Francisco Bay. Angel Island seems to visually rise from the water between San Francisco and Marin Counties and is accessible only by the Angel Island ferry on the Blue and Gold Fleet, Pier 41 at Fisherman’s Wharf; call (415) 773-1188 for a ferry schedule. Once disembarked from the ferry, there are two main hikes on the island to choose from. One is a five-mile mostly flat trail that circles the island on a fire road, known as The Perimeter Road, an easy hike that meanders past the many grounds and buildings of the island’s history. A second hike, a moderate six-mile loop, combines the Northridge and Sunset trails, and a short out-and-back spur to the island’s highest peak, Mount Livermore.
Mount Diablo State Park
96 Mitchell Canyon Road
Clayton, CA 94517
The ecological crown jewel of the East Bay, Mount Diablo, is a nature lover’s nirvana, with enough trails to satisfy all levels of hiker, bicyclist or wildlife enthusiast. The hiking trails are plentiful and diverse, and many trails are special for the plant and wildflower viewing along the way. One noteworthy hike is the Mitchell Canyon-Eagle Peak Loop, a 7.8-mile loop and day-long excursion to the Mount Diablo summit. This trek takes hikers from 590 feet to 3,849 feet and back, and is known as one of the Bay Area’s toughest day hikes. For a shorter loop and more moderate hike, try the trek to Eagle Peak, a peaceful hike away from the developed park areas that delivers an first-rate hike along with some of the awesome views Mount Diablo is famous for. Check out Audible Mount Diablo to learn more about the hikes and wildlife within the park.
Mount Tamalpais State Park
801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Mount Tamalpais State Park lies north of the Golden Gate Bridge, where Mount Tamalpais rises grandly from the heart of Marin County, capturing attention to its sweeping hillsides. A diverse environment resides within the mount’s canyons, filled with an assortment of plant and animal groups. There is an abundance of hiking trails and adventure possibilities at Mount Tamalpais State Park. Hikers enjoy more than 50 miles of park trails connecting to a 200-mile trail system over land partly managed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. A mere one-half mile hike to atop Mount Tamalpais brings just about the best views of the San Francisco Bay Area. Hiking trails range from easy to moderate to difficult, with diverse terrain and access to magnificent views. Click here for a map and hiking trail list for Mount Tamalpais State Park.
Edgewood Park And Natural Preserve
10 Old Stagecoach Road
Redwood City, CA 94062
Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve is a well-maintained and unique site. Here you’ll find nature’s rare beauties in plant communities and varied habitats, and natural environments for living creatures in the park. San Mateo County protected the Edgewood area from development in 1993 and now the area is a nature preserve and park. Edgewood Park contains ten miles of trails that explore the varied plants and habitats, with most open for horse-riding as well. Sylvan Trail is for non-equestrian use and is quite popular with hikers and joggers. Trails in general pass wildflowers, particularly in the spring, and bushes and shrubs – though in the dry summer red-leaved poison oak shrubs are plentiful, so be mindful as their “leaves of three” mingle with dry buckeye leaves nearby. The dry summer growth along trails is in sharp contrast to the lush green vegetation of late winter and spring. Click here to view a map and Edgewood Park trail information.