The Bay Area has some of the best hikes in the country and I was lucky enough to live there for over 12 years and experience so many awesome trails. I recently went over my top 3 favorite hikes in the Bay, specifically tied to moderate trails that were about 5 miles or so, for the perfect workout. But there are so many that I’m including other trails we frequented that are purely gorgeous!
- Marin Headlands, Marin
Just across the Golden Gate Bridge lies Marin, the beautiful woody North Bay community that is so stunning, people come from all over the world to hike in the area. The trails at Marin Headlands / Tennessee Valley are incredibly gorgeous, very mellow, and RIGHT on the coast. Plus you can see the Golden Gate Bridge from the top and into the city on a clear day!
Wow Emily, this is gorgeous!
You might be thinking, WHY wouldn’t I include this area on my favorite hikes?
Well mostly 2 reasons: one, it’s always very crowded and parking is annoying and two, the trails aren’t challenging. It’s a lovely walk/hike by the ocean which is AMAZING, but when you train for intense trail hiking adventures it doesn’t cut it. But if you want a nice picnic and beautiful ocean views, nothing else will compare!
The trails along the headlands remind me of the Irish coastline down by the Dingle peninsula!
The Tennessee Valley trail opens up so you can walk right out to the ocean, just a hop skip and jump away from the headlands trail. You can easily do both in one afternoon.
2. Castle Rock, Saratoga
This loop is great because there are many trail options. It can be several miles up to about 12 if you do the whole thing (we didn’t). This was one of the hikes we trained on for our British Columbia adventure which included a great range full of of easy, moderate, and hard parts.
The most challenging part is crossing the boulders on the cliff-side where you hold a rope in order to pass. This made me very uncomfortable (due to my fear of falling off a mountain top) but I persevered and made it. This is definitely a more challenging hike if you’re up for it but you feel so good afterwards!
3. Alamere Falls, Bolinas
This trail is a lovely 8 mile roundtrip, there and back experience. It does get pretty crowded on the weekends, so I would highly suggest going either super early in the morning or waiting until after 2pm in the afternoon. There’s also some very muddy areas so be sure you aren’t wearing shoes that you care about getting dirty!
Hiking down to the bottom is very challenging, I didn’t even do it! John was brave enough to climb down to the bottom on the side of the cliff to get these shots. I am just anxious about being cliff-side so if that doesn’t bother you, then it won’t be too hard to get down.
4. Muir Woods, Marin
Over the years and visits from friends and family I’ve been to Muir Woods countless times. The first time I thought it was the most incredible place I’ve ever seen! But with the expansion of my hiking experience, I realized that the beauty that you find within Muir Woods is also available in countless other areas. It’s also VERY crowded and you now need reservations to visit (and parking passes) but with that said, it is still so beautiful I’m including it here. It’s also more of a walk and less of a hike, but you must see it at least ONE time.
The last visit we actually camped on private property just on the backside of the park, so we easily made our way down onto the trails which was better than dealing with the main entrance in my opinion. I mean, talk about an AWESOME CAMPING adventure!
5. Dusky-Footed Woodrat Trail, Redwood City
Before moving back to Austin we went on a fun 5 mile loop with one of our favorite hiking pals, Heather, down in Redwood City. This loop is very close to my favorite hike at El Corte De Madera Creek, but we opted for something different in the area for one last hike.
This was a great 5 mile moderate loop with challenging twists and turns (not too challenging though!) with very few other folks on the trail. I would definitely do this one again – Redwood City is beautiful and my favorite place in the South Bay!
And now I miss hiking in the Bay! Enjoy a trail or two next time you’re in the Bay.