The 11 Best Hikes: East & North Bay Edition
Hiking weather is here, and hikes to our east and north where the weather can be way more summer-like in the summertime are a very good idea on weekends to escape the gloom of SF fog. And after you get a little bit of fresh air and activity, you can also check out one of these outdoor bars on the way home.
Photo via Yelp.
Abrigo Valley Trail
Inside of Briones Regional Park lies the Abrigo Valley Trail — an easily accessible loop that takes you across several streams as you circle Moot Peak. Near Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill, the park manages to not give into the pull of suburbia and still feels a bit wild. If you want something with a bit of a climb, there’s the chance to hop onto Moot Peak Trail and head on up to the top. If you catch it at the right time of year, there are great views of wildflowers, and with plenty of picnic tables the trail provides great spots to stop for lunch with family or friends. — Jack Morse
Angel Island State Park, a former immigration station accessible by Ferry from San Francisco, provides lovely views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco proper, offering pleasant, stress-free day hikes (and, if you’d like, overnight camping). It’s crazy more people don’t come here more of the time, and you can usually expect to find the Island relatively uncrowded. The hike up Mt. Livermore, which is the island’s high point, culminates in picture-perfect (and lunch-perfect, for that matter) picnic benches. There’s some sandy beach front to get your feet wet after, if you’d like. — Caleb Pershan
One very pretty, very beginner hike for those Saturdays when you’re not feeling too ambitious and maybe want to carry a serious picnic is the hike into Bass Lake, which is near Point Reyes and features a coastal trail with stunning sea views. It’s only three miles in to get to the lake from Palomarin Trail, which you can get to by following Mesa Road in Bolinas, and the reward is a tree-lined swimming hole, complete with rope swing, as well as a pretty picnic area. As the Marin Independent Journal describes, “The trail follows an old road that swings inland and passes through tall stands of eucalyptus and Douglas fir trees.” And, “Bush lupines, sticky monkeyflowers, Indian paintbrushes and California poppies add color along the way.” And, by mid-summer, you can feel free to pick a few pints of blackberries, which will be getting ripe by then. — Jay Barmann
Just a few of the stairs on the Dipsea Trail. Photo: John G/Yelp
The Dipsea Trail
The Dipsea Trail is so beloved that not only is there an annual footrace along its hills and valleys, but it sports a namesake restaurant known as one the best brunch spots around. The full trail’s about seven miles long, and runs from downtown Mill Valley, up 672 (slick!) wooden steps, up and over Mount Tamalpais, and ends at Stinson Beach. Along the way, expect to see the occasional bobcat, coyote, deer, or rabbit as you wind your way through the redwoods and, as local hiker Barry Spitz puts it, “2,300 feet each of very steep, often slippery, uphills and downhills.” — Eve Batey
Photo via Yelp.
East Bay Skyline National Trail
Thirty-one miles of rolling hills and lakeside views, the East Bay Skyline National Trail inside of Anthony Chabot Regional Park is another one of those underused Bay Area treasures. With lots of campsites available, you can certainly make it an overnight thing, but a day hike is also highly recommended. With plenty of eucalyptus trees, there’s lots of shade to accompany the views. Unfortunately, you can’t swim in Lake Chabot (regardless of how hot it is), as it’s a back-up water supply for the East Bay. But, if it’s any consolation, horses are allowed in the park — so maybe you’ll get to see some. — Jack Morse
Mount Diablo’s Tarantula Trek
Mount Diablo State Park is chock-full of great trails, many of them the site of guided hike events andtruly nifty audio tours. You can’t really go wrong with any of them, but my favorite is the Tarantula Walk, which is held during the arachnids’ mating season (typically, September and October) and is really, truly amazing. Depending on where area experts say the spider hot spots are, you’ll be led up and down the hills of the Mitchell Canyon Trail, looking for tarantulas scrambling around, seeking food, and having sex. (Spiders! They’re just like us!) Keep your eye on the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association’s website and event calendar to reserve a spot on the hike. Not advised, obviously, for the arachnophobic.— Eve Batey
“Just makin up poems in my head as I climb toward Mount Tamalpais,” Jack Kerouac’s narrator says inThe Dharma Bums, “See up there, as beautiful a mountain as you’ll see anywhere in the world, a beautiful shape to it, I really love Tamalpais.” Sure, Mt. Tam’s stature makes it hard to keep much of a secret, and I may or may not have hiked here as recently as last weekend or whatever, but what good would a list of hikes in the Bay Area be without a tip of the hat to its 60 miles of trail? The Coast Miwok who inhabited it gave it the name, which translates to “coast mountain.” For a complete list of trails in the park and its environs, check out One Tam. — Caleb Pershan
Photo via text here.
Ohlone Wilderness Trail
Located just south of Livermore is an amazing bit of wilderness that far less visited than some other popular parks in the Bay Area (think Mount Tamalpais State Park). Within the Ohlone Regional Wilderness lies the Ohlone Wilderness Trail — 28 miles long, passing over mountains (check out the 3,817-foot Rose Peak) and through valleys, the trail is really the only way to access the park. With no mountain bikes or motor vehicles to scare animals away (they’re prohibited), you may actually see bald eagles, a mountain lion, or Tule Elk. A permit is required to hike through the park, but it’s only $4. Also, you can camp overnight, and take a dip in nearby Lake Del Valle when it’s hot. — Jack Morse
French Trail in Redwood Regional Park. Photo: Wikimedia
Redwood Regional Park
One of the better kept secrets in the East Bay Regional Parks district is this large, forested canyon (1830 acres) ringed by some interlocking ridge trails that make for both short (3 miles) and long (8 miles) loops, with the option to traverse the middle of the canyon and its streams and shaded picnic areas. The entire park is dog-friendly, and its well kept trails make for a nice, non-strenuous afternoon hike — less strenuous if you don’t descend into the middle and have to re-ascend. The redwoods, while majestic, aren’t as old as ones you’ll find in Muir Woods because these only date back about 130 years — the area was heavily logged until the 1880s, and most of what you see has grown since then. But given how crazy crowded Muir Woods is on the weekends, this is the perfect, easy-to-get-to place to show some out-of-towners what a redwood forest looks like (along with stands of moss-covered California oaks like those pictured above) without having to make that schlep to Marin. —Jay Barmann
Tennessee Valley Beach. Photo: GGNRA
The trails in Tennessee Valley, which is the northernmost part of the Marin Headlands and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, are some of the most popular in the region, include the very flat and mellow stroll that takes you from the parking lot and trailhead directly to a small and pretty beach. If you want some exercise you’ll want to try one of the loops, which include a nice 4-mile loop with ocean and Mount Tam views, as well as more ambitious loop options that include hiking to Muir Beach and back along the Coastal Trail, which includes some very steep spots and lots of ups and downs. Beware (or get excited): coyote sightings are no uncommon, especially along the Coyote Ridge Trail. — Jay Barmann
Berkeley’s Tilden Park has 2,079 acres to explore and is particularly popular with young people (by which I mean children and also me). Lake Anza, for example, is great for a dip, and there are nearly 40 miles of hiking trails. But my favorite aspect of all has to be the child-sized Steam Train you can take through the redwoods. This will delight anyone under the age of 10 (also me, and yes, I’ve ridden it without children before and no I’m not ashamed.) — Caleb Pershan