Updated: May 12, 2021
Kirby Cove Beach
◾Length (mi): 3.0 ◾Route Type: Out & Back ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 561 ◾Location: Marin Headlands ◾Alltrails Guide: Kirby Cove
This was one of the first hikes I did, when I moved to the USA, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
The trail actually starts at the parking area right next to Battery Spencer. I suggest checking out the Battery Spencer trail first, just a 0.5 mile walk leading to a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge and then come back and hike down to the beach. This way it’s all downhill, but don’t forget it will turn into uphill on your way back.
Bring some snacks, layers (since it’s often windy and chilly), a beach towel and enjoy your lunch with the view (looking up right at the Golden Gate bridge). FYI, there’s also a campsite available at this location.
Point Bonita Lighthouse
◾Length (mi): 1.0 ◾Route Type: Out & Back ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 170 ◾Location: Marin Headlands ◾Alltrails Guide: Point Bonita Lighthouse
If you’re looking for a nice short hike, with stunning views this one’s for you. It’s a very short hike, more of a walk down to the lighthouse, offering spectacular views of the Pacific ocean cliffs.
The lighthouse itself is closed right now due to Covid-19, but it’s still worth visiting. Amazing views, beautiful wildflowers during spring, ocean, and cliffs all make it a great location for pictures.
I suggest checking out Battery Mendell right off the parking lot on the left side. FYI, you can also see the Golden Gate bridge in the distance from the parking lot.
Devil’s Slide Trail
◾Length (mi): 3.1 ◾Route Type: Out & Back ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 170 ◾Location: Pacifica ◾Alltrails Guide: Devil’s Slide Trail
This is actually a paved 1.5 mi trail each way with incredible views of the ocean. The trail is paved as it used to be part of Highway 1, before the construction of the Devil’s Slide Tunnel, when the old highway was turned into a hiking path.
There are free parking lots on both the north and south sides of the trail. When I first went there, dense fog was covering most of the ocean and it was rolling down onto the trail itself. It was really something to watch and this kind of fog frequently appears at this location.
Overall this is a very easy hike/walk. If you’re up to more, you can expand your hike by doing Pedro Point via Devil's Slide Trail (Alltrails Guide). Or you can park at the north parking lot and do a little less popular (but with great views) hike - the Pedro Point Headlands Trail (Alltrails Guide). Or if you want to cover more miles start the Devil’s Slide Trail from the south parking lot, when you reach the north parking lot continue with the Pedro Point Headlands Trail and then get back to where you parked the car.
The last option is my personal favorite, but no matter which one you do, just keep in mind that parking fills up very quickly. You may have better luck parking at the south parking lot, since it’s bigger.
Tennessee Valley Trail
◾Length (mi): 3.4 ◾Route Type: Out & Back ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 436 ◾Location: Marin Headlands ◾Alltrails Guide: Tennessee Valley Trail
This is an amazing trail located in Marin Headlands and another hike in this list that ends at a beach. Parking is usually easy, even though this location has gotten more popular during Coronavirus. This particular trail is a 3.4mi dog-friendly, easy, mostly level hike down to the beach, which is already a great hike itself, but there are also a number of other trails leading into the hills above Tennessee Valley. You can decide yourself how much farther you’re willing to go.
I’d highly suggest Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach Hike via Coastal Trail (Alltrails Guide). I just did this myself last week for the first time. It’s a great hike, but keep in mind that it’s 8.2 miles out and back with a 1,978ft elevation gain, without any shade at all. If you decide to go all the way to Muir Beach and back, bring lots of water/snacks, keep yourself protected from the sun (sunscreen/hat) and expect lots of uphills followed by downhills (some stairs/steps). There’s a Pirates Cove along the way, but I was too tired to go down there. I’ll just have to check it out when I go back again.
Bon Tempe Lake
◾Length (mi): 4.1 ◾Route Type: Loop ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 209 ◾Location: Mount Tamalpais Watershed ◾Alltrails Guide: Bon Tempe Lake
This is definitely one of my favorite hikes in the Mt Tamalpais Watershed. We usually park at the Bon Tempe parking lot (Parking fee is $8). The 4.1 mile loop starts with gorgeous lake views. Almost half of the trail is exposed and the other half is shaded.
I love sitting next to the lake afterwards and taking in the views; It’s usually so calm and peaceful around. There are usually lots of people (some hiking, some fishing, some just having a picnic), but it never feels crowded. There is plenty of space along the lake to spread out.
What’s also really cool is that there are 3 lakes next to each other in this area: Lagunitas, Bon Tempe and Alpine lake, so you have the option to check those out too. Mount Tamalpais Watershed is great to explore in general, so to provide additional inspiration, this is the Alltrails list for some of the best hikes in this area: Alltrails list.
Stream Trail via Skyline Blvd
◾Length (mi): 5.5 ◾Route Type: Out & Back ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 718 ◾Location: Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park ◾Alltrails Guide: Stream Trail
Redwood Regional Park is probably my most visited park around the Bay Area. It’s located in Oakland, just 30 minutes away from where I currently live. Entering the park you forget that you are still in Oakland as you leave the noise of the city behind for the peaceful redwood forest. It’s a great place to explore redwoods without needing a reservation (like Muir Woods). This park provides a variety of trails, featuring an array of coastal redwoods, evergreens, and chaparrals along with several elevation changes.
I’m adding the Stream Trail via Skyline Blvd to my list, which is a nice 5.5 mile walk along Redwood Creek with decent shade, but honestly I love all the trails in this park. Sometimes we just show up there without any particular trail in mind and just keep hiking.
Tomales Point Trail
◾Length (mi): 9.4 ◾Route Type: Out & Back ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 1,177 ◾Location: Point Reyes National Seashore ◾Alltrails Guide: Tomales Point Trail
This 9.4 mile heavily-trafficked out and back trail is a highlight of Point Reyes National Seashore. This mostly flat trail provides excellent views of the Pacific Ocean as you follow the peninsula all the way to Tomales Point. It was a very clear and sunny day when I went, but it can get really foggy in the mornings. Bring some layers, as it can be very windy as well.
It is also a great place to see the Tule Elk, one of only two species of elk native to California, and the only location administered by the national park system where they can be found. We saw at least 15 of them on our hike. Let me know how many you will see, if you do this hike!
Dipsea Trail, Steep Ravine Trail, and Matt Davis Loop
◾Length (mi): 7.5 ◾Route Type: Loop ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 1,689 ◾Location: Mount Tamalpais State Park ◾Alltrails Guide: Dipsea Trail, Steep Ravine Trail, and Matt Davis Loop
Apart from the fact that Mt. Tamalpais trails are gorgeous, this particular loop is very diverse and has it all: Ocean views followed by shade, towering redwood trees, waterfalls, uphill followed by downhill, lots of stairs, bridges, even climbing a ladder. What else could a hiker want?!
The trail is located near Mill Valley, California and you can start it from Stinson Beach. Parking at Stinson Beach is free, but keep in mind that this area is very popular and you might wanna go there quite early to find a spot.
If you’re interested in camping, there’s Pantoll Campground. The campsites are reserved on a first-come, first-serve basis and cost $25/night.
You can also start the hike from Pantoll Campground (since it’s a loop), but I like starting from Stinson Beach, that way I can head to the beach after the hike, dip my toes into the ocean and relax for the rest of the day.
It’s a great hike all year around, but the best time for the waterfalls is the spring season or after there’s been a lot of rain.
◾Length (mi): 11 ◾Route Type: Out & Back ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 1,574 ◾Point Reyes National Seashore ◾Alltrails Guide: Alamere Falls
It’s a must do hike located in Point Reyes National Seashore, that takes you to an extremely rare tide fall. Tide falls are waterfalls that flow directly into the ocean and there is only one other in California.
In order to reach the falls, park at the Palomarin Trailhead in Bolinas, CA and take the 11 mile heavily-trafficked out and back Palomarin Trail to the falls. Keep in mind, that the trail is very popular and the parking lot fills up quickly.
There is a shortcut, shaving 4 miles off the hike, that requires a short scramble down a steep cliff. We took the long way out to the falls, walking the last part of the hike on the beach and the shortcut on our way back since the shortcut can be hard to find.
There is also a hike-in campground (Wildcat Campground) located approximately 8 miles down the Palomarin Trail, if you want to turn your hike into an overnight trip.
◾Length (mi): 6 ◾Route Type: Out & Back ◾Elevation Gain (Ft): 2,135 ◾Fremont, CA ◾Alltrails Guide: Mission Peak
Those who follow me on instagram, probably have noticed that I’ve done this hike at least 3 times recently. It is a strenuous, heavily-trafficked hike in Fremont CA, about 40 minutes away from San Francisco.
There are 2 main trailheads leading to the summit: From Stanford Avenue and from Ohlone College. Stanford Avenue Staging Area has free, but very limited parking. The Ohlone College Staging Area has a multi-story parking garage for a $4 fee. The Ohlone College trail is about a mile longer. No matter where you start, the trails merge for the final ascent to the summit.
The well maintained gravel trail is a moderate to strenuous uphill climb to the summit. The final section of the trail is hard packed dirt with an occasional boulder. On top of that the hike is basically without shade, so bring lots of water and sun protection. Using hiking poles helps, but definitely not a requirement. I’ve done it both with/without poles and haven’t noticed a significant difference.
There are six benches along the route to the peak, giving you a chance to rest and also track your progress. It’s usually quite windy at the top, so you might need a coat even on a warm day.
I couldn’t help but mention that this is a great preparation hike. It’s a great place to exercise, if you’re planning to conquer more challenging peaks, which is exactly what I’m trying to do right now. But that’s a story for another blog post.