The San Francisco Bay Area is known for its natural beauty, and hiking is one of the best ways to experience it. Immerse yourself in the stunning scenery of towering redwoods, meandering hillsides, and endless ocean views with these 9 'don't miss' hikes.
Dipsea, Steep Ravine, Matt Davis Loop
Just north of San Francisco in Marin County, this 7.4-mile loop combines of trio of the Bay Area's most legendary trails to connect Stinson Beach with Muir Woods. Along the way hikers pass among shady grows of towering redwoods, stop to gape at stunning views of the Pacific, and even encounter a waterfall. Expect ample foot-traffic on this moderate trail, which includes a climb that can be fairly difficult—so definitely pace yourself. Additional scenery includes grasslands, canyons, and stands of Douglas fir and oak trees.
Redwood Regional Park in the Oakland Hills is home to the East Bay's largest remaining natural stand of coast redwoods—the result of a natural wind tunnel coming across San Francisco Bay. It's also where you'll find the Skyline Gate Staging Trail, a 4-mile loop trail with shady redwoods and eucalyptus trees, as well as huckleberry patches and a fern-lined creek. The foot-traffic can be heavy at times, but this all-level combo of mostly multi-use trails still provides an excellent urban reprieve.
The Waterfalls of Mount Diablo Loop Trail
Another East Bay trail, this Mount Diablo beauty runs for 7.9 miles through naturally air-conditioned canyons and past several waterfalls, some of which can be quite impressive (depending on annual rainfall). Though considered difficult due to a lengthy initial climb, the trail features numerous switchbacks that help with the elevation gain as it progresses and it pops to life with colorful wildflowers during various times of the year. It utilizes a mix of roads and single-track trails, connecting the Falls trail to the Back Creek Trail, and running partially along the edge of a steep canyon as it goes.
Angel Island Perimeter Loop
Located within San Francisco Bay and an easy ferry ride from both San Francisco and Oakland, Angel Island served as the “Ellis Island of the West” for millions of immigrants from 1910 to 1940. Today it's a California State Park and its lightly trafficked 5.9-mile perimeter road offers some of the best views in the Bay Area, with wildflowers and history to boot. While not a bonafide hiking trail, you'll still get a good workout and are really only sharing the route with some bicycles and the occasional tram. The island does feature an additional 13 miles of foot trails, including a fairy easy loop to the top of its highest peak: the 781-foot-tall Mount Livermore.
Tomales Point Trail
In a region that's well-known for its beauty, Point Reyes National Seashore still manages to stand out with its rocky seaside cliffs and panoramic ocean views. The 9.4-mile Tomales Point Trail is a popular one—a moderate trek that passes by herds of grazing Tule elk and heads right to the end of Tomales Point, with Bodega Bay on its north side and the Pacific on its south. The point is only accessible by this undulating, well-maintained trail, which is often covered with colorful wildflowers starting in February and sometimes lasting through June.
Palomarin Trailhead to Alamere Falls
Marin County's small, unincorporated coastal village of Bolinas may seem like it's in the middle of nowhere, but you'll still encounter plenty of people along this 8.8-mile out-and-back trail—which begins right at the end of Mesa Road. For some hikers, stopping at one of the two lakes along the way—Bass and Pelican—is enough, though others prefer to go the full distance to bask in its highlight feature: Alamere Falls. This spectacular cliffside waterfall drops more than 30 feet onto a beach in Point Reyes' Phillip Burton Wilderness before flowing into the ocean. To reach it, take the Coast Trail from the Palomarin Trailhead, then turn into a brief unmarked trail about 4 miles in.
Land's End Trails
As good of an urban hiking destination as it gets, San Francisco's Land's End offers breathtaking views and endless nature without even having to leave the city. This western San Francisco parkland is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) and features several trails, and with easy access to the Sutro Baths, Golden Gate Bridge, and both Baker and Marshall beaches. Depending on which trail you choose, you may encounter historic batteries, windswept cypress trees, or the Land's End Labyrinth perched high above the ocean's crashing waves.
Ridge-Saratoga Gap Trail Loop
Located in the South Bay near Los Gatos, the Saratoga Gap Long Ridge Loop Trail is a moderate, undulating trek with medium foot traffic that ends with spectacular views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This 9.8-mile hike winds among redwoods and across hillsides, and even includes a waterfall. The two trails (Ridge and Saratoga Gap) split after 0.6 miles, then meet up again at Castle Rock Trail Camp, combining to form an overall loop. Keep an eye out for rock climbers and the occasional turkey vulture (or several) as you go.
Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach
Another Marin County beauty, you can start this 8.4-mile out-and-back hike at either its Tennessee Valley trailhead, which is closer to San Francisco, or at Muir Beach—harder to get to for most, but offering great views of the SF skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge when done in this direction. The trail—which is part of the much longer 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail—winds above the ocean with Marin's verdant hills to the east, and provides some good exercise, as well as access to hidden coastal coves and prime picnic spots.