The San Francisco Bay Area is a mecca for hikers and lovers of the outdoors. With everything from looming redwoods to scenic coastal views, you could hike somewhere different every weekend and never get bored! Which, for a while, is what Jeremy and I did. We’d grab a rental car, drive anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours, and find a new spot to camp, hike, or explore. After a few years of what we’ll call “research & evaluation” – I literally have a hike spreadsheet of hikes and weekend trips near the Bay Area, is anyone surprised? – I’ve put together a list of my favorite and (in my opinion) best hikes near San Francisco and the Bay Area! These are all easy to intermediate level hikes that are accessible within a few hours from the San Francisco Bay Area.
French Loop Trail, Redwood Regional Park, Oakland
Miles: 8 Elevation Gain: 1,534 ft Guide: Link
Vicente Flat, Big Sur
Scenic Redwood Loop, Joaqin Miller Park
Rubicon Trail, Lake Tahoe
West Ridge Trail, Redwood Regional Park, Oakland
Miles: 5.4 Guide: Link
Tomales Bay to Tomales Point, Point Reyes
Miles: 10.2 Guide: Link
Sempervirens Falls to Slippery Rock Loop, Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Miles: 4.5 Elevation Gain: Minimal Guide: Link
No disrespect to the new growth redwoods in Oakland, but new growth pales in comparison to old growth redwoods. “Growth” refers to the age of the trees – whether they survived the pillaging and deforestation of our greedy timber producing Californian ancestors, or whether they were destroyed and then rose anew, pheonix like, from the wreckage. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest State Park, and it’s filled with old growth redwoods. They are hundreds of years old, huge and cavernous, awe-inspiring and breathtaking. The Sempervirens Falls Hike winds through old growth redwoods before stopping at a beautiful waterfall, climbing up the decidedly no-longer-slippery rock face called Slippery Rock, passing through a historical site, and looping back to the parking lot. It’s not terribly difficult and there’s plenty to see!
Meeks Bay to Crag Lake, Desolation Wilderness, Lake Tahoe
The name “Desolation Wilderness” isn’t exactly what I would call appealing. In fact, it conjures up images of being lost in a murky, haunted forest, possibly filled with rabid bears. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. But I can attest to the fact that it is, in fact, incredibly beautiful and not scary in the slightest. The day we hiked was warm but a little bit foggy, so everything had this beautiful eerie tint which seemed very fitting. We camped at Meek’s Bay right on the shores of Lake Tahoe and did this hike across the street from our campsite. The trail winds up rocky granite cliffs with constant, sweeping vistas of lush pine forest and distant mountain tops. After about 5 miles you start seeing lake after lake. The most picturesque lake – well worth continuing past the initial, inferior lakes – is Crag Lake. At the valley created by rocky mountain peaks, the lake is a mirror reflecting the beauty of its surroundings peacefully on its surface. It is an idyllic midway point for lunch before hiking back the way you came, new views all the way down.
How about a hike in San Francisco itself? Check out the 6-mile walking tour of San Francisco that we created! You can get a free printable map with directions sent to your email by subscribing below.
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Had you heard of any of these hikes near San Francisco? Did I miss your favorite hike? Leave me a comment!
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