KEY: AFTER WORK DAYHIKE OVERNIGHT FOOD
This area is tops for beautiful views and you can camp. Hop on a ferry from Tiburon ($15; angelislandferry.com) and link the North Ridge and Sunset Trails to top out on 788-foot Mt. Livermore. Or, walk the paved, 5-mile Perimeter Road (or bring a bike and cruise it) to see Civil War and World War II forts, as well as a 1940s immigration station. If you overnight, try for the East Bay campsites ($30; bit.do/AngelIsland).
Sam’s Anchor Cafe
Both the Blackie’s Pasture hike and Angel Island ferry will deposit you in downtown Tiburon next to this watering hole—which is a good thing if you like fried calamari and icy pints of Lagunitas IPA. Grab open seating on the deck patio overlooking the bay.
Blackie’s Pasture to Downtown Tiburon
Hike the length of the Tiburon peninsula on this 2.9-mile bayside multiuse path from Blackie’s Pasture. Get an eyeful of the Golden Gate Bridge before landing in downtown. Pro tip: Duck into The Candy Store on Main Street for gourmet chocolates and fudge.
Get the best view of the bridge
Camp below the Golden Gate in Kirby Cove for the best seat in the house. Be prepared for the 4 a.m. foghorn wake-up call, though. $25; bit.do/KirbyCove
Get the same dramatic coastline views as Point Reyes but without the drive: From Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands, pick up the Coastal Trail and trace the rocky bluffs over the Pacific .8 mile to Tennessee Point. Pass abandoned military forts and explore the sea caves below. (Very important note from a scarred editor: Beware the poison oak.)
Check out the Coastal Trail and the Sutro Baths—San Francisco’s Machu Picchu—then head over to the Beach Chalet Brewery to refuel.
Camp in the Presidio
Spend the night in the city’s only overnight campsite at Rob Hill. $125 for up to 30 people; bit.do/RobHill
View from Below the Golden Gate
Forgo the parking insanity at the bridge and Fort Point. Get there from Baker Beach via a 2.7-mile walk through the bluffs on the California Coast Trail.
Like the Sam’s Club of the outdoors world, this massive warehouse is one-stop-shopping (or renting) for all outdoor gear. It’s also providentially located right off the San Francisco Bay Trail in Chrissy Field.
Stairway to Heaven
Climb the .3-mile-long Filbert Steps—San Francisco’s best stairway—from Sansome Street to Coit Tower. Bonus: wild parrots!
If you’re in the Financial District, trek up Grant Avenue for some midday hills. Then recharge at Red Blossom Tea Company.
Oakland to Yerba Buena Island
Walk 2.2 miles on the new span of the Bay Bridge.
4505 Burgers & BBQ
After you’re done snapping pics of “Postcard Row” in Alamo Square Park, walk a block west—where the Best Damn Cheeseburger awaits.
Golden Gate Park
You’ll never get bored in this 1,017-acre urban park, but get a real taste of wilderness on Strawberry Hill. The disc golf course is also top-notch. Fore!
You don’t need to leave the city for this one: Connect Hawk Hill, Golden Gate Heights, and Grand View Parks on this 1.1-mile urban hike that, on a clear day, earns you a vista over Golden Gate Park and the Bay into Marin. If it’s too foggy in the Inner Sunset, all is not lost because you’re still only a short walk from the best baklava (Golden Bear Trading Company) and focaccia (Arizmendi) in the city.
Foggy day? Watch the mist roll in through the eucalyptus trees on the Historic Trail.
High point San Francisco on a 1-mile path to the 927-foot summit.
It’s less crowded than Twin Peaks and, in return for the short climb, you get one of the coolest views of downtown. From here, it looks like you’re looking down rows of corn.
Channel the city’s bohemian legacy on the 2.7-mile Philosopher’s Way hike, which features 14 “musing stations,” and views that stretch from downtown to San Bruno.
Explore the peninsula’s largest dunefield.
San Bruno Mountain
Bag a peak within city limits, but steer clear of the popular Ridge and Saddle Trails. Instead, opt for the 3.5-mile Summit Loop Trail, which climbs to the 1,314-foot peak. Spot Mt. Diablo and Candlestick Park from the top. Late-summer bonus: yellow tarweed, golden asters, and sticky monkey flowers.
Ascend the paved Sneath Lane Trail 2.8 miles to views over Pacifica and to San Andreas Lake. Peel off to check out the Nike missile site and the Discovery Site. The latter commemorates the first recorded European sighting of the bay in the 1700s.
Find one of the Bay Area’s—shhh!—last quiet (and clean) beaches here. If you can pull yourself away, hop on any number of short trails on this 110-acre coastal promontory, which protects garter snakes and California red-legged frogs.
Beyond the City
If you have more time (and patience for crowds), Mt. Tam, Point Reyes, and Muir Woods
are worth a visit.
If you have a weekend, venture out to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz.
The East Bay is a gem in itself. Mt. Diablo, Wildcat Peak, Tilden Regional Park, and Mission Peak are worth the trip over.
One more reason to like the Bay Area: nonstops to Hawaii. The Na Pali Coast is a great cure for summer fog.