Favorite Bay Area Hikes, Part 2

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!

  1. 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.

Favorite Bay Area Hikes, Part 1

El Corte de Madera Creek

Living in California for 12 years changed me in many ways. I became more outspoken, confident, eccentric and open minded than I ever was before. The climate also allowed me to become somewhat of an outdoor person. I got into hiking and camping and spending adequate time in nature, things I didn’t do much of before because Texas was always so DAMN hot. (and let’s be real, I’m prone to being an indoor cat…)

I’m writing a post of my favorite Bay Area hikes, recapping the most gorgeous spots with the best trail memories. I’ll do this in two parts, with this post focusing on my top 3 favorite hikes in the Bay. Let’s do it!

  1. El Corte de Madera Creek – Open Space Preserve (Redwood City)

I’ve written about this trail before after the first time John and I experienced it. After all the trails all over the area, from South to North Bay and even East Bay – this trail is hands down my favorite spot. I think we’ve hiked it about 5-6 times over the years and I always want to return. GIVE ME THOSE TREES!

I love it because it’s a damn good hike and it feels like you’re immersed in a badass forest. It can also be anything you want it to be. Want to go easy? Take the shortcut and avoid the steep section. Want it to be hard? Do the whole thing! It has the beautiful redwoods, moss, a creek, an easy to follow trail that isn’t very crowded. It is shaded but also sunny in parts. There is a separate section with a huge Boulder and also a nice view up top with a picnic table. I always felt at peace here.

View from the top

Everytime we hiked we always stopped at the Mountain House for a beer before heading home as it’s only 2 miles away. (This restaurant also has a bizarre old-timey mirrored ad of Czar Nicholas II. John didn’t believe me and we immediately went home and watched a documentary about murder of the Romanovs)

All I can say is….this is the perfect moderate trail! DO IT.

2. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park – Vista Trail (Sonoma)

This trail is absolutely gorgeous in the winter time! Went once in January and another in May, and preferred the dreary winter vibes more. It’s so mossy and green and is perfect on an overcast day – thought the sunny summer vibes are also nice! I just like overcast dreary weather more than the average Bay Area person.

One side of the trail is full of waterfalls not far from the road, twisting and turning into different secret spaces within the rocks. The other side of the road and trail opens up a bit more with rolling hills.

This trail has a nice contrast in a pretty rad spot in Sonoma. You have to drive through a vineyard and a neighborhood to get there but once you round the corner into the State Park it feels pretty remote, especially since it’s in the middle of wine country! Go wine taste afterwards or stop and eat something amazing.

3. Sweeney Ridge Trail (Pacifica)

Ok this one is a weird one. The first time we did it I thought it was so hard. To be fair, it was the first hike I had done in like a year, and it starts off EXTREMELY steep. The kind of steep that just keeps going and going, and you think you’re at the top and then you’re not and then you get grumpy. Well once you get past that part it’s pretty awesome!

The first time we went the old Nike Missile Site was still there with tons of graffiti and we were lucky to get some good pics. We even saw some chick dancing for her music video on Youtube so it felt pretty eventful.

The second time we went however, the missile site was removed and no more graffiti <sad face> and John was pretty bummed. BUT- it wasn’t NEARLY as hard because by the time we hit this trail again (1 year later) we completed many hikes while we trained for our BC hikes, and actually hiked BC, so this felt much easier.

Here you can see panoramic views of the Bay (hence the steep up and up) and feel like you’re on top of the world.

If you’re in the area, hope you are able to get out and enjoy one of these fun hikes. Next time we’re in the Bay we are definitely hitting up El Corte de Madera again 🙂

Stay tuned for Part 2.