Top 6 Hiking Destinations around San Francisco
San Francisco has been calling travelers to visit since the early days of the Gold Rush, and though the gold may not be as abundant as it once was, a new kind of gold can be found in the ever-present beauty of nature. With beautiful beaches, green spaces complete with rolling hills, top-rated state parks, and quiet nature reserves, the San Francisco area is a world-class destination for hiking in the United States.
It’s easy to fill your time exploring the attractions that are located in the heart of the city, but it’s also good to sneak in some activity while traveling. So when you need a break from the city, consider visiting these highly recommended places.
Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge can be found here. Be sure to check out Battery Spencer for that iconic postcard view. However, this area is also home to a variety of hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous, coastal to wooded, and crowded to isolated. Stroll along the 1.5-mile loop trail that circumnavigates Rodeo Lagoon and enjoy a picnic on dog-friendly Rodeo Beach. If you are looking for a longer hike exploring coastal bluff and hidden coves, then walk 13.1-miles along the Coastal Trail from Rodeo Beach to Muir Beach. For those of you hoping to witness wildlife such as bobcats and coyotes, your best chance is hiking in the Gerbode or Tennessee Valleys.
Angel Island State Park
The largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay is also home to many great hiking trails and a few campgrounds for those looking for a unique overnight experience. The 760 acres are home to a variety of wildlife including deer, lizards, and many species of birds. The 5.5-mile Perimeter Trail Loop offers commanding views of the bay, including the famous Alcatraz. For a little more adventure and challenge, take the Sunset Trail up to the peak of Mount Livermore for panoramic views of the bay. On this trail, you’ll climb almost 800-feet in elevation in just about 3 miles!
San Bruno Mountain State & County Park
Lying just south of San Francisco’s city limits, this park is easily accessible and, believe it or not, rarely crowded as most people head north of the city to the Marin Headlands. Spanning over 2,000 acres, this wilderness reserve offers shelter to several rare plant and butterfly species, and due to lack of modern-day development, it provides a glimpse of what San Francisco may have looked like 300 years ago! Tread carefully on the well-maintained trails that cut through this unique biodiversity, leading to incredible views of the city, and if you time it right you may be able to catch the fog rolling in over the bay. The 5.2-mile Ridge Trail is a scenic path up to the summit of San Bruno Mountain.
Tilden Regional Park
This urban oasis is a symbol of Berkeley’s commitment to environmental sustainability and access to nature. With hiking options for every age and fitness level, this park is also popular for families, cyclists, and trail runners. Many of the trails will guide hikers through forests of fragrant eucalyptus and grassy meadows. The 3.9-mile Wildcat Peak trail, a mostly wooded-route, is one of the best hikes in the park as it gives more of a backcountry feel.
Briones East Bay Regional Park
Crossing over to the east side of the bay near the historical town of Martinez is a hiker’s paradise of rolling hills and oak-dotted grasslands. Encompassing over 6,000 acres the park features picnic areas, walk-in campgrounds, and dozens of trails mostly along old fire roads. There is very little shade in the park which allows for open, scenic vistas though be sure to apply sunblock and bring along plenty of water. The Sindicich Lagoons is a 5.7-mile trail that leads to the top of Briones Crest, an open, rolling hilltop meadow. The Alhambra Creek Trail is a moderate 3-mile hike providing open valley views.
The Presidio of San Francisco
This 1,500-acre park on a former military post has become one of San Francisco’s major outdoor recreation hubs. With over 25 miles of wooded trails and scenic overlooks, one can easily spend a full day crisscrossing and linking up multiple trails of varying difficulties. The 3-mile Land’s End Trail to Eagle’s Point is of moderate to challenging difficulty and leads to great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The 6.1-mile Presidio Loop Trail will take you through the highlights of this community including art sculptures, war memorials, and scenic overlooks.
The next time you find yourself wanting to take a break from the city life of San Francisco, or perhaps you just need a little adventure in your life, check out these hiking destinations and explore the natural world. We realize that there are numerous other hiking trails accessible from San Francisco, so if we left some of your favorites, please feel free to share your insights with our community.