UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
Have we hiked in Muir Woods just for the Insta photo op? You betcha. But there’s more than this local fave to explore. Here are the best hiking trails to hit up in San Francisco.
Sure, you can drive to the top of Twin Peaks, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, put all that time you’ve spent climbing San Francisco’s hills to good use by hiking to the summit of Twin Peaks. We recommend starting an hour or two before dark and catching sunset along with 360º views of the city.
We’ve raved about the 3.4-mile Land’s End Trail before, and it makes our list of SF-area hikes for a reason: It’s challenging, well-maintained, and full of awe-inspiring views. Add an extra mile to your trek by following the signs for Mile Rock Beach to check out the Eagle Point Labyrinth.
Shoot across the Golden Gate Bridge to one of the Bay Area’s best hiking and biking spots — the Marin Headlands. And our favorite trails to hit up are the Point Bonita Trail and the Rodeo Lagoon Trail. The former starts at the Battery Mendell and offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sutro Tower, and Ocean Beach before winding down to the historic Bonita Lighthouse. Meanwhile, the Rodeo Lagoon Trail starts at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center and is an easy loop around the lagoon. Even better, it finishes at Rodeo Beach, where you can stop to cool off and watch the surfers before heading back.
If you’re heading to Muir Woods, get there early (once the parking lot fills up, you’re stuck taking a shuttle from Sausalito). As you’re trekking along, enjoy the shade of a 1000-year-old canopy of ancient redwoods. There are a number of trails that break off, venturing into neighboring Mount Tamalpais State Park, but you can also use this as a starting point for the Dipsea Trail.
The Dipsea Trail was originally constructed to connect Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. Now, it’s a popular hike that will take you through Muir Woods and Mt. Tamalpais State Park, leading down to the sleepy beach town. Pack a lunch to eat on the shore, though, because you’re about to take on over 2,500 feet of elevation change (but it’s a -10ft net loss round-trip!). Just make sure you have cash for the bus or a car at Stinson Beach to get home — there’s no cell service to call an Uber.
Stepping off the ferry at Angel Island is like walking onto the set of Shutter Island. You’ll spot abandoned army barracks, a lighthouse, and the immigration station where people first arrived from across the Pacific. Follow a six-mile loop trail along the coast with Insta-worthy views of the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco. If you want to spend a little more time in nature (and see SF lit up by night!), reserve a campsite.
Mt. Diablo is the East Bay’s highest peak at 3,849 feet tall — it’s also a training point for mountaineers getting ready to tackle Mt. Whitney. Pack a snack (and some beer) — this is an all-day hike. Take the 6.8-mile summit trail if you’re itching for adventure, or explore the many others criss-crossing the foothills. On a clear day, you can see everything from the Farallon Islands to the Sierra Nevadas.
Head to Pacifica for a hike along the picturesque Sweeney Ridge. You’ll walk through history along the way, passing through where Portola first discovered the San Francisco Bay in 1769, as well as abandoned buildings from the 1950s-era Nike missile base (now you know!). And any Bay Area insider knows this is also home to the most scenic Taco Bell ever (but we much prefer Loco Tacos or Gorilla BBQ).
Wait until after a rainstorm to hike at Cataract Falls — there are seven separate waterfalls ranging in height from 30-60 feet and you'll want to see them at their best. This hike through the redwoods is easy enough for beginners but hard enough to feel like you got in a good workout. Fuel up at Mana Bowls before heading home — you’ve earned it!
There are over 150 miles of trails within Point Reyes National Seashore. The Coast-Laguna Loop is our fave — it's a five-mile hike with views of the coast for the entire route. It also has almost zero shade, so pack sunscreen, a hat, and extra water. And if you’re looking for a bite before heading home, we suggest The Marshall Store for grilled oysters.
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