Bathing in the sunshine for more than 250 sunny days a year, San Francisco and the Bay Area are calling for lots of times spent outdoors. With hundreds of hiking trails in the area, whether you are up for a big hiking challenge or a stroll with a view, there is something out there for everyone. Here’s my selection of best Bay Area hikes to start with.
With more than 40 hills at your disposal, you don’t even have to leave San Francisco to go hiking. From the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps to the famous Twin Peaks, you are guaranteed to get the best views of The City. My favourite local hike is Mount Davidson that is a quick easy eucalyptus-covered hike (around 0.44 mile) with a 103-feet high Mount Davidson Cross landmark and a beautiful view to San Francisco. Enter from Dalewood or Juanita Way and don’t be shy to say hi to the fellow hikers and their dogs (of which you will see many).
Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill
A true hidden gem at the Golden Gate Park, Strawberry Hill is located on an island in Stow Lake. A 2 mile hike (if you include walking around the island and then heading to the summit) will leave you thrilled with the flora and fauna of the area (check out the little turtles enjoying a sunny day – in the pic below) and a beautiful view from the 430-feet tall hill including downtown San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Marin. Sadly, there are no strawberries at the Strawberry Hill.
From Golden Gate Bridge To Sausalito
Crossing The Golden Gate Bridge is an experience of its own and something you must do if you are visiting the Fog City. On a sunny day head to Marin Headlands that offer a number of hiking routes, with some of them leading to Sausalito. While the most popular route is a one hour / 2.8 mili hike via East Rd and Bridgeway, hiking via Marin Headlands will reward you with gorgeous views to The City, the ocean and Sausalito harbour.
The hike goes up and down and can be challenging if you’ve been recently skipping the gym. 😉 Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, pack layers of clothes (it can be hot in the sunshine and chilly on the hills if you are hiking on a windy day), drink plenty of water and expect to spend a couple of hour journey.
Once you reach your destination before heading back to San Francisco on a ferry, make a pit stop at Bar Bocce and sip their cocktails and grab a bite to eat (their thin pizza is absolutely delicious! salads are yummy too!). Skip queuing for a table by ordering drinks and food at the bar and sit outside watching boats in the bay.
Only one hour (or less depending where in the city you are) drive away from San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument territory boasts 554 acres with 240 acres of old grown coast redwood. Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the fog that it supplies, the plants and woods grow even at the times of a draught.
Once you enter Muir Woods, you will walk on a wooden floor that you have to stay on before you choose which hike to go for. You might fall for the beautiful name of the Ocean View Trail promising the view to the ocean. Please note that the hike is a difficult one and you will have to keep going for miles questioning your trail choice and wondering whose bad joke it was to send the naive hikers on a goose run. Your persistence will get rewarded though: there is indeed an ocean view waiting for you – scroll down for the spoiler.
Depending on which trail you choose, expect a few hour hike. It took me around 2.5 hours to do the Ocean View Hike and return to the starting point via the scenic route.
The Dish is a radio telescope in the Stanford foothills that was built by The United States Airforce with an objective to study the chemical composition of the atmosphere. While the Stanford Dish is not a state park but a private property of Stanford University, it is open for public who can enjoy 3.5 mile walking trail. The public indeed appreciates the opportunity, with 1,500–1,800 people visiting The Dish daily.
Expect to see the traditional Californian rolling hills and beautiful views of San Jose, San Francisco, and the East Bay. The hike itself is relatively easy as you have to stay on the paved road however beware of the steep hills that are a real challenge if you attempt to run them. Hikers, walkers, and runners are welcome at The Dish however you will have to take your dog or bicycle to some other place as these are not allowed in the area.
Depending on how fast you walk and whether you are exercising or just enjoying your day, the trail can take you between half and hour to one hour. It took me 1.5 hours to walk and run it both ways making it a 12,000 step workout. On a hot day drink plenty of water and wear a hat while at The Dish. Oh, and mind mountain lions! The big cats were last seen there in 2011 and while the opportunity of meeting one might sound exciting, they are dangerous creatures and you should stay away. There are plenty opportunities to watch the other representatives of The Dish’s fauna including gophers and herons.
Enjoy a beautiful drive and views of the Peninsula Skyline when you head towards Woodside to see the famous Methuselah Tree at El Corte Madera. Located at Skyline/Highway 35 on Peninsula, north of Sky Londa, Methuselah is the biggest redwood on the Peninsula with a diameter of 14 feet and circumference of 44 feet. There is no sign pointing to the tree so keep your eyes pealed if you want to see the best spot for a tree-hugger.
Take your time and hike around the area – there are numerous hikes, of low and moderate difficulty. Make sure to drink plenty of water, wear comfortable shoes and watch out for mountain lions.
Conclude your journey with a well-deserved burger at Alice’s restaurant: an ‘eco-minded spot, named after the famous song, serving burgers, BBQ & more in a rustic cabin’.
While I’ve compiled this list based on my personal Bay Area hiking experience, you might find the following websites and articles useful when planning your own hiking experience: