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California Trails

Escape the Bay Area Crowds With These 6 Coastal and Redwood Hikes

The Bay Area's best hikes range from enormous redwoods to waterfalls dropping straight to the sea.

Among the crowds of San Francisco and its suburbs, it can be easy to forget that the San Francisco area isn’t just home to millions of people—it also has some truly world-class hiking. Leave the city behind for the coast, hills, and mountains on one of these Bay Area hiking escapes.

Lands End, Golden Gate Recreational Area

Photo: Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Time: 1 day
  • Elevation gain: 723 feet

This 4-mile out-and-back traces the coastline through scattered strands of evergreens, culminating with a view back along the cliffs to the full span of the Golden Gate Bridge. A short walk from Lands End Point hikers can descend to Mile Rock Beach, accessed by a set of stairs. The beach is a perfect spot to watch the waves roll in, bordered by sea-carved cliffs to either side; in this hidden oasis you would never guess the park borders city neighborhoods.

Mt. Livermore, Angel Island State Park

Photo: Photo by Michelle Li on Unsplash
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Time: 1 day
  • Elevation gain: 1,700 feet

This 6-mile loop takes you from the ferry dock to the highest point on the island and back again. Start on the North Ridge trail, heading through coastal scrub to the spur trail for the summit. Head to the other end of the open summit to descend via the Sunset trail (for the most spectacular light, do this loop in the evening). The 788-foot peak, named for the conservationist who campaigned to form Angel Island State Park, is actually taller now than in previous decades—the army removed part of the summit in the 1950s, but it was replaced in 2002 (the bulldozed dirt, still on the mountain, was shaped back into the historic shape of the peak).

Stream Trail, Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park

Photo: Photo by Joey Banks on Unsplash
  • Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Time: 1 day
  • Elevation gain: 309 feet

Redwoods in Oakland? Yes, almost 2,000 acres of them! The groves in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park all date from after the logging boom here in the mid-19th century, but that doesn’t take anything away from their beauty. The 5.5 mile Stream trail is a great out-and-back tour of the park, following trout-rich Redwood Creek through lush woods.

Tomales Point Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore

Photo: “Tomales Point, Point Reyes” by Franco Folini is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Distance: 9 miles
  • Time: 1 day
  • Elevation gain: 518 feet

Ramble 4.5 miles of open ridgeline on your way to the point, at the northernmost edge of Point Reyes National Seashore. Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay drop away on either side of the long, narrow peninsula, while to the west the horizon disappears into the blue blur of the Pacific. Keep an eye out for tule elk, a subspecies found only in California; the trail passes through the Tule Elk Preserve a mile in.

Mitchell Canyon to Mt. Diablo, Mt. Diablo State Park

Photo: Photo by Ronan Furuta on Unsplash
  • Distance: 13.2 miles
  • Time: 1 day
  • Elevation gain:3,529 feet

The 13.2 mile loop to the summit of 3,849-foot Mt. Diablo requires some serious exertion, gaining 3,529 feet of elevation on the way up the north face, but the payoff is well worth it. While not the tallest peak in the area, Diablo is one of the most prominent, which means it gets the best views; the Diablo Range, Black Hills, Santa Cruz Mountains, and San Francisco Bay spread below the summit like an enormous tapestry. The trail also nabs 2,369-foot Eagle Peak and 2,645-foot Bald Knob on the way up, giving peakbaggers triple the gain.

Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Tamalpais State Park

Photo: Photo by @freezydreamin on Unsplash
  • Distance: 14.8 miles
  • Time: 1 day
  • Elevation gain: 3,732 feet

This hike is a classic for a reason: tucked among 6,300 acres of undeveloped land, Mt. Tamalpais is a welcome of wilderness just 20 miles from San Francisco. Start from the Dipsea trailhead, then climb 7.4 miles through redwoods and grasslands to the summit. Need a quick dip for your feet after savoring the panorama of San Francisco Bay and the Sierra Nevada? Take a quick detour on your way down to Stinson Beach, where the soft sand feels heavenly on hike-weary toes.

Make the Most of the Best Bay Area Hikes

Keep an eye on the weather: San Francisco is famous for its fog and it can get copious rain in the winter as well. Toss a light, waterproof shell in your pack so you’re prepared for any sudden showers. If you’re expecting rain, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a pair of Gore-Tex or other waterproof footwear to keep your socks dry; alternatively, spring for a pair of light trail runners with mesh uppers that can easily dry off when they get soggy.