Top 11 Hiking trails around San Francisco Bay Area
Hiking in California state parks reveals the hidden treasures and diversity that lay trapped within the busy state. Each park offers something different for every visitor and surely something new, even for those who have already been. Northern California state parks provide great access to the outdoors and affordable summertime recreation. Here's a list of our recommendation:-
Mission Peak Regional Reserve - Moderate
Street address: East end of Stanford Avenue, off Mission Blvd, Fremont, CA
Hiking time: 3-5 hrs.
This 5.6 mile out and back hike is a steep trek from the edge of a residential neighborhood to the top of the mountain.
hike is moderately tough, but manageable, particularly if you visit on a cool day and bring plenty of water. Trailhead elevation is about 400 feet. The park's high point is about 2517 feet. This trail is not for beginners or casual 'neighborhood' walkers. It is somewhat steep and continually demanding.
The determined hiker who reaches its top will be rewarded with views of Mount Hamilton to the south, the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, Mt. Tamalpais to the north, and Mt. Diablo and the Sierra Nevada to the northeast.
Keep in mind: The trails open at 5am so start early, especially during the warmer seasons. The sun will be in your face pretty much the entire time so don't forget sunglasses and of course sunscreen will come in handy. Parking is free but gets filled pretty fast. And also keep distance from the grazing cattle.
Big Basin Redwood State park - Strenous
Street address: 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, California 95006
Hiking Time: Upto 5 hrs.
The park has over 80 miles of trails. It contains 10,800 acres of old-growth forest as well as recovering redwood forest. Elevations in the park is over 600 m. The climate ranges from foggy and damp near the ocean to sunny, warm ridge tops.
The park has a large number of waterfalls, a wide variety of environments (from lush canyon bottoms to sparse chaparral-covered slopes, many animals and abundant bird life.
Parking is $10
Keep in mind: Avoid poison oak and do not feed the deer.
Mt Diablo State Park - Strenous
Street address: 96 Mitchell Canyon Rd, Clayton, CA 94517
Hiking time : Upto 5 hrs.
The park has over 155 miles of trails.The Diablo summit area has great views, easy trails and a nice museum. Being a mountain its elevation is about 3,849 feet. Many visitors to Mount Diablo head straight for the summit to enjoy the famous view. You can look to the west, beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, to the Farallon Islands; southeast to the James Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton; south to Mount Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains, north to Mount Saint Helena in the Coast Range, and still farther north to Mount Lassen.
The park is a wonderland of plant and animal species. Regulars in the park include coyotes, grey foxes, deer, feral pigs, rabbits, raccoons, gophers, squirrels, 200 species of birds, snakes, tarantulas, occasional cougars and bobcats.The parking fee is $10.
Keep in mind: to carry a jacket. A word of caution, the roads to the summit are steep and narrow with many twists and turns. Keep your speed down, eyes on the road and watch for cyclists.
Angle Island State Park - Easy
Street address: 21 Main St, Tiburon, CA 94920
Hiking time: Upto 3 hrs.
In the middle of San Francisco Bay sits Angel Island State Park, offering spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline, the Marin Headlands and Mount Tamalpais. Visitors can hike the foot trails and fire roads that circle the island and climb to the 788-foot high summit of Mount Caroline Livermore.
The water at Perle's Beach is considerably rougher, and the beach is more exposed to wind and weather. The view, however, is spectacular, and Perle's Beach is a delightful place for walking and general beachcombing.
You have to take a ferry to get to the island, which cost apprx $15(round-trip). It gets pretty crowded during weekends.
Keep in mind: to carry a jacket and don't miss your ride back to the mainland.
San Bruno Mountain State Park - Easy
Hiking time: 2 hrs.
The Mountain's ridge line runs in an east-west configuration, with considerable slopes and elevations ranging from 250 feet to 1,314 feet at the summit. Sightseeing is also popular. Radio Road, leading up from near the main entrance, affords visitors the opportunity to drive to the summit of the Mountain and enjoy breathtaking views north to Mt. Tamalpais, south to Mt. Diablo, east to the Oakland foothills, and west to the Farallon Islands.
At the summit, visitors can see the remains of an old Nike Missile early warning radar site, which was used to detect approaching enemy aircraft and direct the missiles to their target.
The park provides habitat for several species of rare and endangered plants and butterflies.
There is a $5 enterance fee (exact change). Park is open 8am - 8pm.
Keep in mind: Watch out for thorny purple thistle and blackberry vines and poison oak.
Sawyer Camp Trail - Easy
Street address: Skyline Blvd & Crystal Springs Rd, San Mateo, CA 94401
Hiking time: 2.5 hrs
Sawyer Camp Trail is one of the most popular trails in San Mateo County with 7 miles out and back walk on paved path along crystal springs.
There are markers every half mile to track your progress. This trail is specially good for wheelchair users and parents with young kids.
If you are lucky you might spot herd of deer on the way. There is street side parking and can get very crowded.
Keep in mind: to carry bottle of water.
Coyote Hills Regional Park - Easy
Street address: 8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont, CA
Hiking time: 2 hrs
It is Comprised of nearly 978 acres of marshland and rolling grassland covered hills.
The park's sprawling marsh teems with shorebirds, the grassy hills are vibrant with rabbits and squirrels, and the skies are filled with hawks, seagulls, geese, vultures, and many other birds. If you are lucky you might even spot a fox.
This park is great for beginners and parents with young kids. Parking fee is $5.
Windy Hill Open Space Reserve - Moderate
Hiking time: Upto 3 hrs.
The 1,312-acre preserve features open grassland ridges and forests of redwood, fir, and oak. Windy Hill Preserve rises steeply out of Portola Valley, reaching its highest point at the summit of Windy Hill. At 1905ft, on a clear day the summit provides views of the entire San Francisco Bay Area to the north, east, and south, and the Santa Cruz Mountains and Pacific Ocean to the west.The Trails to make an 8-mile loop through forested ridges to the valley floor and back again.
Most of Windy Hill is sheltered from the prevailing weather, which comes in off of the Pacific Ocean. A nice day further down can be very cold, windy, foggy or rainy at the summit.
The area is rich in wildlife; among the species likely to be seen are California Mule Deer, coyote, California Vole, White-tailed Kite, American kestrel, band-tailed pigeon and California quail. There are signs warning about mountain lions, but bobcat are more common. Rattlesnakes and gopher snakes may also be found. Banana slugs and, in season, California newts, are common.
Keep in mind: to watch out for poison oak in spring.
China Camp State Park - Easy
Hiking time: 3 hrs.
The park is nestled along the shore of the San Pablo Bay. The road through the park offers beautiful views of the waterfront. Features include an extensive intertidal salt marsh, meadow, and oak habitats. There is a variety of wildlife, including deer, squirrels, coyote, and numerous birds. The park is even home to endangered species such as the California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse, which live in the salt marsh.
The park offers 15 miles of trails but beware of the mountian bikers. The park use fee is $5.
Point Reyes National Seashore - Moderate
Street address: 1 Bear Valley Rd, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
The park has 150+ miles of hiking trails with exceptional views of the coastline. Many trails have dozens of wildflowers in spring and summer. Parking is free.
Bear Valley Trail is the most popular hike in the park. Taking off from the visitor's center, it travels mostly streamside through a shaded, fern-laden canyon, breaking out at Divide Meadow before heading gently downward to the coast, where it emerges at the spectacular ocean view at Arch Rock.
Keep in mind: Bring a hat, suncreen, binoculars and snacks.
Castle Rock State Park - Moderate
Hiking time: 3 hrs
The park has 32 mile of hiking trails, the highest point in the Santa Cruz Mountains. One of the best hikes in the Bay Area, it offers outstanding views west, pretty oaks, woods, and chaparral, and unique sandstone formations.
Ranging in elevation from a peak of 3,231 feet near Mt. Bielawski (Mt. McPherson) to a low of 960 feet along the San Lorenzo River.
Parking is $8.
Keep in mind: Make sure to bring water, sturdy hiking shoes, sunscreen and bug spray.