San Francisco - the City by the Bay, the Golden City, she goes by many names. Almost everyone who talks about her steep streets, wild culture and exultant diversity does so with a respect and fondness in their voice. A place beloved by all, while there's plenty to do in the city proper, the area surrounding San Francisco is every bit as magical and primed for exploration. With tons of trails within easy driving distance, we've outlined a few of our favorites for you:
Batteries to Bluffs TrailThis family friendly, dog friendly stroll along the Bay’s coast is one of the gentler and easier hikes in the area. Running just 1.9 miles, the trail offers great views of the iconic Golden Gate bridge and the Marin. Although it isn’t too far out of city limits (it’s definitely no, “Into The Wild” type hike), the best part about Batteries to Bluffs is it's unparalleled views of some of the Bay’s most picturesque landmarks overlooking the ocean.
There are actually a lot of trails that go through the Marin Headlands, and we would encourage you to try as many as possible. Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, hiking paths are extremely well maintained, clean, and a fun day outdoors. With breakers lining the gorgeous beaches, wildflowers exploding across the grassy hills, and impending cliffs enveloping you, you'll completely forget you're just a few minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge and be completely taken with nature.
Steep Ravine Loop via Matt Davis, Mt Tamalpais
Consistently rated one of the best hikes in the Bay area, Steep Ravine Loop is revered as the best hike on Mt. Tam. This trek is a good seven miles, so don't forget to pack water and snacks and prepare for a decent hike: strap on the boots, slip into a breathable t-shirt and throw on a pack. The loop features a bit of everything California has to offer, from redwoods to grasslands, to canyons and oak forests. This hike is recommended for every season except summer (when it gets insanely packed with tourists).
Cataract Trail Loop in Marin County
You could hike a quick mile and half to the Mount Tamalpais Watershed, but you drove all this way out of the city so you may as well commit to the seven mile loop that circles the watershed entirely. The trail has a few scenic overviews that offer hikers vistas stretching all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Of the nearly 500 miles of trails in Marin County, these are undeniably some of the best, so definitely make time to check Cataract Trail Loop out!
Mount Diablo's Grand LoopIf you are looking for a mild hike with unimaginable views of the San Francisco Bay, the Sierra Nevadas, the Santa Cruz mountains, and Mount Lassen, Mount Diablo will be your speed. It can be completed in just 2-3 hours at a moderate to fast pace, or you can take a leisurely stroll and stretch it out to 4-5 hours to really appreciate the scenery. Either way, this part of the country simply must be experienced to be believed.
California Coastal Trail (CCT)
The California Coastal Trail spans the entire length of the state, encompassing a whopping 1,200 miles, but you certainly don't have to do all of it to appreciate the beauty. The Coastal Trail is actually a network of paths that offer views of the ocean in most sections. This trail is only partially complete, so if you start hiking and are overcome with the urge to continue, don’t stop! The volunteer organization Coastwalk California encourages people to get out and explore what segments haven’t been mapped yet to help with the completion of the CCT.
Angel Island Trails
This unique spat of land has served as a war camp, military base, cattle ranch, quarantine zone, and immigration facility over the course of its history, but today, Angel Island has been reincarnated simply as a place to escape. The island is the largest in the Bay and stands between Marin and San Francisco Counties like a divider. Mount Livermore, the highest peak, has been restored to it’s natural state by park rangers after the military excavated the mountaintop in the mid-20th century. Now, there is a circumference road that explorers can walk along the perimeter, and a number of on-island trails that will take you inland through oakwood forests and gentle rolling hills.