As a Bay Area local, one of my favorite past times is going hiking on the weekends. There are plenty of great places to hike in the Bay and sometimes it may seem overwhelming with the bounty of options. To help you decide where to hike and pretty much show off all of the great outdoors the Bay has to offer, I came up with a list of the best places to hike:
Best Bay Area Hikes
1. Lost Coast Trail – Pacifica, California | Level: Easy
The Devil’s Slide Coastal Trail is a part of the California Coastal Trail. It is a short 1.3 mile paved trail with spectacular ocean views that is perfect for easy hiking, biking, or walking your dog. There are plenty of amenities that make it a comfortable hike, such as pet waste stations, bike racks, water fountains, and bathrooms.
Close to the trailhead, you can find this abandoned WWII bunker pictured below. You can actually go inside if you climb in from the left-most window. Inside, you can walk around the dank rooms and there is a staircase leading you to different parts of the bunker. The ground is littered with empty beer cans, 40’s, and god knows what else…it’s probably the closest I’ve come to a crack den.
You can find more information about the trail here.
2. Muir Woods National Monument – Mill Valley, CA | Level: Easy
This popular tourist spot is a great way to see and experience California’s famous redwoods up close. It is very family friendly, with its walkways and educational placards decorating the trail. If you visit during popular visiting times like the weekend, you may need to park in the overflow lots and take the shuttle bus to the park ($5/person).
You can find more information about Muir Woods here.
- If you’re going on a summer weekend, you will likely have shuttle wait times up to an hour when trying to leave the park. I would recommend parking as close to the park as you can on the side of the road and walking the 15 minutes to your car (so you don’t end up hitchhiking like we did).
- Once you’re in the Woods, snacks are steep at $10/sandwich and $5/soup. I would recommend bringing your own if you can.
3. Land’s End – San Francisco, CA | Level: Easy
Land’s End offers a great view of the Pacific Ocean and also features the ruins of the Sutro Baths, which are pictured below. Walking amongst the old bath ruins is pretty incredible, especially when you wonder how it was like when the public bath houses were in their prime and drew tens of thousands of San Franciscans. At Land’s End you can go on trails that will lead you to the ocean or meander alongside it on the cliffs. A portion of the aforementioned Coastal Trail can be found here, which is handicap-accessible and great for biking as well.
4. Buena Vista Park – San Francisco, CA | Level: Easy
If you’re looking to stay closer to downtown SF, Buena Vista Park might fit the bill. It is walking distance from the Castro Muni station and the translation of its name literally means “good views”, which is evident from the picture below (ignore us and look at the views you can get from the park!). Also, did you know that it’s the oldest park in SF? It also houses one of the last oak groves in the city.
5. Ano Nuevo State Park – Pescadero, CA | Level: Easy
If you’re looking to make some animal friends, head over to Ano Nuevo State Park where you can see elephant seals playing, molting, or being the water animal equivalent of a sloth and just chilling aka my spirit animal. They can grow to insane sizes, some being as large as 4,500 pounds, so cheers to that #summerbod.
In addition to the seals, you can also picnic here, learn at the visitor center, or go on a guided tour. The park is also close to fruit farms where you can grab some fresh strawberries as a snack or maybe a pie or two.
The park is 20 miles north of Santa Cruz and is off of Highway 1.
6. Alamere Falls – Point Reyes, CA | Level: Medium
Alamere Falls is one of the classic Bay Area hikes and is known for its waterfall that falls directly onto the beach and flows into the ocean. This is rare in California and there is only one other waterfall in the state that does this. To get to the falls, you can take a 13-mile roundtrip hike that will guide you through lush vegetation, lakes, and ocean views. Be aware that there are some uphills areas and it can get crowded on the weekends.
Alamere Falls is about a 2-hour drive northwest from Oakland, CA. You can begin your hike at the Palomarin trailhead, then take the Coast Trail to Wildcat Camp, and continue hiking until the falls are visible. Along the way, you may come across poison ivy (I didn’t know about this and had to borrow clothes from friends lol) so you might want to bring longer clothes just in case.
7. Castle Rock State Park – Los Gatos, CA | Level: Medium
Castle Rock State Park is located in South Bay and features beautiful views, seemingly endless forests, and over 30 miles of hiking trails. It is a popular spot for rock climbers as it has many caverns and rocks, like Castle Rock. It also features campgrounds and picnic areas.
In the picture below, you can see a rock climber scaling Castle Rock. If you climb the rock, there are some caverns that you can lower yourself into. These caverns are large enough to comfortably fit 10+ people in and people will often take pictures with their heads poking out (like us).
Castle Rock State Park is a 1.5 hour drive from Oakland, CA.
8. Mission Peak – Fremont, CA | Level: Difficult
Mission Peak is a public park in Fremont and it is the city’s top tourist attraction, with thousands of people visiting each week. I rated Mission Peak as difficult due to the steep ascension and high amount of exposure to the elements while doing the hike. There are no trees to offer protection from the sun or to block wind. When we started this hike at 2pm, it was extremely hot (bring water!) and by the time we reached the summit, it was windy, cold, and I wished I had brought a jacket. The full hike is 6 miles and takes anywhere from two to five hours to hike. Reaching the top is extremely gratifying though and you can take a picture with the iconic summit pole, popular enough to have its own geotag on Snapchat.
9. Mount Tamalpais State Park – Mill Valley, CA | Level: Difficult
Writers like Jack Kerouac have written about Mount Tam and with its panoramic views of the Bay and surrounding hills and mountain ranges, it’s not hard to see why. Mount Tam offers a range of diverse terrain, from redwood forests to open grasslands to oak woodlands. At the park you can go hiking, picknicking, biking (mountain and road), and camping. The park also features a visitor center, a “gravity car barn,” and a Mountain Theater that features plays and star parties.
Mount Tam is about an hour away from San Francisco.
10. Twin Peaks – San Francisco, CA | Level: Chill
So I included this last spot because after hiking all day, you may want a chill place to unwind with great views. Twin Peaks (the North peak is named “Eureka” and the South peak is named “Noe”) is one of the best places in the city to do this, with its panoramic views and spacious parking lots. It is beautiful whether you go during the day or night. It does get pretty windy though, so you might want to bring a jacket.
Any other hikes that you think should be added to the list? Comment below!
If you liked this post, you might also like…
1. Find out why so many people are excited about SF – Here are the top 10 Places to go in San Francisco.
2. Visiting Pfeiffer Beach – It’s about a 2 hour drive from Oakland, CA and features purple sand!
3.Ever thought about hiking Machu Picchu? We break down the four day Inca trail trek for you here.