UPDATED NOV 1, 2019
In San Francisco, there’s no shortage of outdoor spaces to explore. The hard part, choosing your next adventure. Fortunately, with this list, there's no wrong answer.
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 showing off your mojo on a date-night hike up to the summit of Twin Peaks. We recommend starting an hour or two before dark and catching sunset at the summit. You’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the city for your trek uphill.
We’ve raved about 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. The 3.4-mile loop is surrounded by wildflowers and expansive vistas that will have you wishing it went on for longer. Fitt tip: add an extra mile to your trek by following the signs for Mile Rock Beach and check out the Eagle Point Labyrinth.
Shoot across the Golden Gate Bridge to one of the Bay Area’s best hiking and cycling spots — the Marin Headlands. That’s where you’ll find 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. Fitt Tip: 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, you’ll be shaded by a 1000-year old canopy of ancient redwoods. There are a number of trails that break off, venturing into neighboring Mount Tamalpais State Park at varying short distances — mainly 0.5 miles, 1 mile, and 1.5 miles. 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 (for good reason) trek 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!). It’s also the home of the second oldest foot race in America — the Dipsea Dash. Fitt tip: 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 an abandoned army barracks, a lighthouse, and the immigration station where people first arrived from across the Pacific. You’ll 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!) you can even 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 wine if you are so inclined) — 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, making this hike totally worth it.
If you want to escape the fog while you get your fitness on, head to Pacifica for a hike along the picturesque Sweeney Ridge. You’ll be walking 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 rain storm to hike at Cataract Falls. And you’ll want to make sure there’s space on your phone for plenty of photos — there are seven separate waterfalls ranging in height from 30-60ft. Yeah, it’s that incredible. This hike through the redwoods is easy enough for the whole family 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 (that’s a lot, if you didn’t know). The Coast-Laguna Loop is our fave — you’ll hike five miles with views of the coast the entire time. It’s exposed, so be sure to 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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