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.

British Columbia Hiking Adventures – September 2018

I would never call myself an “outdoorsy person” until a few years ago. And even then, it’s not natural for me, but more like I’ve grown into not being “an indoors-only person.” Sort of like an indoor-outdoor cat. While living in California and being with John for many years, I became more comfortable with hiking, camping, and wilderness adventures that would have definitely intimated me 15 years ago. But adventure has always called me, especially when it’s outside of my comfort zone! So when my sister Krista asked us if we wanted to join her on an REI guided hiking trip in British Columbia, we didn’t hesitate.

It was 3 days of hiking ranging anywhere from 7 to 10 miles per day, upward of 3,000 elevation gain in a single hike. Labeled as moderate it was no joke, and to train John and I did more advantageous hikes (2-3 a month, from 5-8 miles each) for 10-12 weeks prior to leaving. This meant I had to acclimate quickly, get boots that were easy to break in (hello Danner boots which I LOVE), and build my endurance. While I have always been a workout fiend completing multiple half marathons and ongoing weekly circuit training sessions, serious hiking is a totally different skill set, and despite that I was in shape – I felt very unprepared for what I was about to get into! I will post the hikes we did for training with a whole separate piece on my favorite hikes in California, but just know many miles went into preparing for this experience throughout summer of 2018.

The REI portion of the trip was 4 days / 3 nights at the Whistler Lodge with about 12 other guests plus 2 guides. It was nice being able to hike throughout the day and stay in a comfortable room and hot tub after (as opposed to backpacking) but I’m pretty sure anything you do in this area would be considered amazing due to the sheer beauty of everything. John and I met my sister in Vancouver and rode up to Whistler together, and we sandwiched some Vancouver fun on both ends of the hiking portion (which I’ll cover in a different post).

We hiked in our group of other like-minded individuals from all over, though John and I tended to stick with Krista the majority of the time in the back, as it was challenging for all of us at different times. Plus I enjoy taking my time and hiking slower than others (maybe because I’m short with short legs? I don’t feel the need to rush and walk fast and lead the way, I’d rather be the tail end so that when or if danger appears I am likely more safe 😉 ha!).

Day One was spent hiking all of the Joffre Lakes trail, from the first to the second lake, and the hardest portion of getting to the third lake with the glacier at the very top. This was one of the most BEAUTIFUL places I’ve ever seen in my life. It is the picturesque vision you imagine being enthralled in when you think of hiking in Canada.

On our way up we made a stop at the second lake and John had an incredible nature experience – check out this bird that landed on his hand as if he was a character in a Disney movie!

Going up was steep but I did it without using any poles. Once we were up at the top lake we were able to view the glacier and enjoy a nice picnic. However it started to rain and coming down was super challenging without poles so one of the guides lent me theirs and I was able to make it down the large slippery boulders. This was the scariest moment for me as I felt very anxious being the last one in the group, moving slowly to ensure that I didn’t fall in the pouring rain – but in the end I made it out only 15 minutes behind everyone else and was able to take my time, so I call that a win.

Day Two we made our way up Skywalk Trail on Rainbow Mountain in a beautiful old growth forest. It felt as if we were hiking in Lord of the Rings or some fantasy flick and was one of the coolest settings I’ve ever been in!

I used the poles for the entire journey on this day because this hike was super steep (upwards of 3,100 elevation gain), and because we were slow pokes we broke the bigger group of 12 into two, with the fast walkers leading and our group casually took our time. This was nice to not feel rushed and enjoy the amazing scenery, but also because this was a very long hike and if you had any goal to make it to the top you had to book it (even that group didn’t get all the way up after hiking 9 hours).

Krista also experienced a freak accident! Somehow a yellow jacket nest ended up on the ground and after many people walked over it, they buzzed out piping mad and stung her 4 times on her legs! It was so crazy and she ended up getting steroid shots from her legs ballooning up. We laughed about it later but in the moment was so bizarre.

This was John’s favorite hike and a special moment for us to share together!

After hiking we went out to dinner with our group and got to know everyone a little bit more; there as a newlywed couple from Ohio, an older couple from Houston, someone who came alone from Maryland who also went on an REI adventure in Iceland, a newly divorced older woman from South Carolina – so many unique folks!

We had one more excursion on Whistler + Blackcomb Mountain (where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held) to close out our REI adventure.

The weather turned extremely cold unexpectedly and the area had the first snowfall of the season over Labor Day Weekend! This changed our plans because none of us were prepared for hiking in the snow, and we had to do a less intense trail on the middle of the mountain (as opposed to the top). While riding the ski lift up to the top before we changed direction, I completely freaked out and felt so ill-prepared for the snow, (all while Krista laughed at me 😉 ) so I felt great about changing plans. Though John did try to go as far as he could into the unknown abyss…

It was nice closing out the intense few days of hiking with something a bit easier and relaxing, as that is my kind of hiking! But I know we definitely want to go back and explore. I think British Columbia Canada is one of (if not THEE) most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

The next area in Canada we want to hike is in Banff National Park, and hopefully after the nightmare of Covid we can make that happen! I had an incredible time with REI on this guided trip and would totally book something similar again. Having a guide allowed us to experience places we never would have found on our own and we felt safe and relaxed not having to worry about how we would get from point A to point B. And we loved our group too!

I’m also glad I got to experience something life-changing with not only my amazing partner John, but with my sister Krista as well. We loved our trip and frequently bring up those memories. ❤

Krista didn’t miss traveling together in that crazy white van though…that will not be missed LOL.

Feel free to ask me any questions about this REI trip or specific trails mentioned!

It’s the Lands End Of the World as We Know It

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As January comes to a close I reflect over the past 31 days with fondness. January felt really awesome in a lot of ways! Did you feel that too, or was it just me? From slowing down and being more available “with myself” to incorporating more yoga into my routine to FINALLY getting a DSLR and embarking on a new hobby (and goal) –  I feel very pleased with how 2018 has blasted off. Nope, I didn’t watch the State of the Union Address either because I am focusing on things that make me happy at this time in my life, but I heard about the crazy drinking games surrounding it and I think that WOULD be the only way I could have watched it tbh… but let’s move on to the BEAUTIFUL LEFT COAST!

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Just creepin’ around….INTO YOUR SOUL.

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Lands End is one of my favorite places for a nice trail walk in the city. It’s at the edge of the city (hence the name Lands End…DUH) right where the cliffs meet the ocean and the thick fog meets the gorgeous forest. It’s not super close to our house but also not too far either. It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors without having to drive away from the city or embark on a strenuous 8 mile hike. Or as I would say, lazy nature. ❤

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I am really getting into this photography thing and I’m also pleasantly surprised that John is taking a liking to it too, maybe even more so than me! But that’s all good news because #instagramhusband and all. (Who else is going to take my picture to prove that I’m a #realblogger? 😉 )

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Look at the surfers from way up top! They look like ants. The ocean is like a center for ants….

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This view is so gorgeous. The west coastline takes my breath away for real. When I get overstimulated, I take a walk outside, find a park, breathe in the fresh crisp air, and think about all of the things that I am grateful for, like THIS CITY OMFG Y’ALL!!!!!

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And what a perfect flower to stumble upon at the end of our walk, SPRING IS COMING and I’m taking it all in! But right now, let’s live for today and focus on what is in front of us…like BIRTH MONTH FEBRUARY – HOLLA! ❤

A Hidden Gem Within The Santa Cruz Mountains

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A few weeks ago John and I made our way down to Loch Lomand, a hidden recreation center located in the middle of the Santa Cruz mountains. I had been before with a friend in the past but wanted to show him how cool I thought the area was and knew he would love it. Turns out, I was right! #duh

I navigated him about an hour and a half south of the city, and many twists and turns later, we found ourselves in a hidden mountain neighborhood area loaded with a lot of “keep out!” signs. He was convinced we were not in the right place, and I kept reassuring him by saying “Patience, young grasshopper.”

Once we found the entrance and paid the $6 fee, we made our way to the glorious nature escape we were hunting for. This lake is SO GORGEOUS! You can rent paddle boats, go fishing, and picnic along the water to get some glorious sun. #vitamindplease

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We must have picked a crazy busy day to explore because there were children EVERYWHERE waiting for a paddle boat.  While it was cute, being around a bunch of screaming kids wasn’t exactly the nature get away we were looking for, so we opted for a hike around the water and up into the mountains.

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My goal was to take John to the top for the vista point, but there was just too much poison oak that it deterred us from going up higher. I mean, it COVERED the entire trail, even several feet out from the sides. This picture was about as high up that we got, but it was still really fun and cute, and all in all we hiked 3 miles.

Once we left Loch Lomand we headed to the Cremer House for a delicious bite accompanied by a tremendous beer selection. This place is SO FRICKING GOOD. I loved every part of it and I would gladly go again. Then we proceeded to do some vintage store thrifting, which is like John’s favorite thing on the planet. See I like the more curated vintage shops, the kinds that have everything organized by color and it’s clean and cute and doesn’t smell like mothballs. John will straight up dig through boxes of “goods” that people leave put out on the street. And sometimes he finds something good. Most of the time he tends to find things like a casserole book from the 70’s. It’s hit or miss. BUT Felton does have a good amount of random mountain town thrift stores, if that’s your thing!

I’m bummed we didn’t get to the top of the mountain, as I did per my previous trip (pic below) but I am glad we had a good time and got to explore! California is full of so many great day-cations and I want to explore them all.

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Until next time!

Bodega Bay With My Bae

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In case you didn’t know, Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Birds in Bodega Bay, which is about an hour and a half drive north of the city. We recently re-watched The Birds and since we had an amazing change of weather, decided to make a day trip just to see if could spot any of those crazy birds…

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While this movie makes no sense to me (the relationship storyline at least, not the bird plot. That makes the most sense of all! What woman meets a man and instantly takes a trip hours away to secretly drop off birds in his house while he is gone?! SOMEONE PSYCHO…) it was still fun to watch and hang around Bodega Bay and find where certain scenes were filmed. We ate at The Tides restaurant which has a scene in the movie too, and the food wasn’t the best and was super touristy, but now I can say that I ate there so I don’t ever have to again… <laugh crying>

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The California coast truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, so the fact that we were able to hike the Kortum Trail right off the coastline was a breathtaking experience.

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We easily made our way down to Shell Beach, where ironically there were no shells, just a bunch of rocks but still really chill.

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We hiked about 4 miles total with the loop, and ended up on top of the hill which was super steep but worth it. Driving around the Bay Area will always be something that brings me joy, everything about this part of the world is absolutely beautiful inside and out, from the diverse and open minded people, to the coastal views, to the vineyards, and everything in-between, (northern) Cali is where it’s at. ❤ ❤ ❤

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El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve

A few weeks ago, John and I pleased our inner trail bunnies by hiking the El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve trail in the South Bay. We had a VERY long San Francisco wet winter (yay we are FINALLY out of the drought!) so it felt amazing to have gorgeous weather and be outside in nature. With how busy things were for us in February on top of my crazy work schedule, we decided to hike this spot and relax right before I made my way to Vegas.

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The trail was a 6.2 mile loop in the very removed forest. For a long time we were the only people and I wondered if some creepo would pop out of the woods to abduct us into their underground lair, but I’m a weirdo who has seen too many creepy things… #dontabductme

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I never hiked much in Texas because of the damn heat and the fact that I sweat profusely. But ever since I’ve moved to California, hiking has really become one of my favorite things to do on the weekend. It’s just so gorgeous along the coast! I can’t get over it and am always telling myself how lucky I am to live here.

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This tree was pushed over, at the roots, due to a crazy storm we had the weekend before! WHAT THE HELL KIND OF STORM DOES THIS TO A REDWOOD?!

Apparently a plane crashed in the middle of this forest way back in the 50’s, so there is a memorial at the top of the view point. I was hoping to see any sort of debris but it just didn’t exist anymore. I would totally come back and hike this trail again, as it was a nice remote spot and there was THEE CUTEST little mountain tavern a couple miles down the road. We had a celebratory drink there after we ended our journey.

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GET OUTSIDE PEOPLE AND ENJOY NATURE!

The End.