The 7 Best Hikes in the Bay Area

The 7 Best Hikes in the Bay Area

July 19, 2021hiking5291Views

Although California’s San Francisco Bay Area is one of the nation’s largest metropolitan regions, it still boasts an amazing number of hiking trails. Whether you’re looking for rugged cliffside ocean views, rich redwood forests, mountain peaks, or maybe just a little solitary break from the bustle of urban living, hikers of all skill levels will find something amazing here. Keep reading to check out the best Bay Area hikes!

Note: California has an active, ever-shifting natural environment that is susceptible to forest fires, mudslides, floods, and more. It’s a good idea to check up on current conditions of all these hikes before beginning your adventure.

1. Golden Gate Bridge

golden gate bridge san francisco best bay area hikes
Photo from Ryan Stone/Unsplash

You won’t find wilderness solitude on this easy point-to-point walk. But who doesn’t want to stroll across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge at the entrance to San Francisco Bay? Starting at easily-accessible parking in San Francisco on the south end of the bridge, you can hike, bike, or take a wheelchair 1.7 miles with 240 feet of elevation gain to the Marin headlands on the north. This coastal trail is for everyone.

2. Bear Valley/Sky Trail Loop

Despite gaining over 1,600 feet in its 10.5 miles, the Bear Valley to Sky Trail loop in Point Reyes National Seashore north of the city still has a very moderate, laid back feel. You’ll traverse redwood forests and fields of wildflowers before paralleling the Pacific Coast, with possible views of humpback whale pods. This loop trail can get crowded on weekends, and you may want to wear long pants due to patches of poison oak, but it’s a great day-hike.

3. Presidio Loop

Presidio of San Francisco
Photo from Julian Bialowas/Unsplash

The Presidio is a large public park situated in the far northwest of San Francisco, abutting up on the Golden Gate Bridge — think of it as the Bay Area’s own historic version of NYC’s Central Park. Despite its urban location, thick forests, scenic overlooks, and miles of trails abound here. This 6.1-mile loop hike traverses the best of the Presidio, interspersing natural scenes with historical sites like the San Francisco National Cemetery and the Presidio Golf Course.

4. Mount Tamalpais State Park

Lovingly called simply “Tam” by locals, the peak of Mount Tamalpais boasts spectacular views of nearly the entire Bay Area. You’ll catch breathtaking views of the protected Farallon Islands 25 miles out in the Pacific and the Marin Headlands. On a clear day you can even see the Sierra Nevadas, the highest mountains in the lower 48 states!

Although you can easily drive to the highest point of Mt. Tam, there are also many hiking trails in the state park. One of the best is the Dipsea Trail into Steep Ravine, a moderate 2-hour, 4.5-mile hike that descends into a narrow canyon thickly forested with redwoods.

5. Mount Diablo Summit Trail

Mount Diablo State Park in California
Image via Shutterstock

If you’re looking for a real cardio workout with stunning views from the mountaintop as a reward, check out Mount Diablo State Park in the East Bay region. From the trailhead in the town of Diablo, you’ll gain over 2,000 feet in 7 miles on your way to the 3,800-foot summit, where you’ll re-enter Mt. Diablo’s developed facilities. These include historical viewpoints and an excellent museum.

6. Stonewall Panoramic Trail, Claremont Canyon

In the hills overlooking California’s intellectual epicenter of Berkeley is the small, secluded Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve. Though originally developed to protect a vulnerable watershed, the canyon also features beautiful woods, wildflowers, and amazing vistas. For a short and steep introduction to this stunning canyon, check out the Stonewall-Panoramic Trail. This hike gains 700 feet in less than a mile, but after you catch your breath, your reward is sweeping views of the Bay, Oakland, Berkeley, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

7. Black Diamond Mines Loop

Inland from the East Bay is Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, which contains historic cemeteries and mining ruins of 1860s coal towns. The Chaparral/Manhattan Canyon loop will take you through human-created ruins as well as beautiful open meadows that are a welcome contrast from the Bay Area’s closed-in, hilly terrain. This phenomenal Bay Area hike can be a relaxing place to escape crowds.

Feature photo by Teresa Barajas on Unsplash