It’s no wonder that people cannot get enough of the San Francisco bay area. Thanks to a beautiful combination of temperate weather, almost-perpetual sunny skies, incredible landmarks, and friendly residents, tourists flock from all over the world to enjoy the bay’s many notable attractions. If you recently moved to this stunning city or simply want to up your hiking game, read on! You will find a treasure trove of fantastic hiking options ranging from beginner to advanced, all of which promise the uncompromising beauty that hikes in San Francisco are known for.
What Are The Best Hiking Trails In San Francisco And The Surrounding Bay Area?
San Francisco is truly a hiker’s paradise. Many of the best trails are found at every corner of the city and offer exciting ways to fill your days and get serious exercise as well. There are many things to do in San Francisco, including some of the best hikes that offers the many things the city is known for: beautiful vistas, rocky shorelines, majestic redwoods, and plenty of greenery. It is hard to stay indoors when you live in a metropolis as outdoor-friendly as SF. Which trail you choose should depend on your experience and fitness level. It is always best to start with an easy trail and build your endurance from there, while carrying an adequate amount of water for hydration is always a must. Keep wildlife in mind as well, and never attempt to approach or feed a wild animal.
Best San Francisco Hiking Trails
1. Land’s End
Located at the city’s northwestern corner, this gorgeous hike along the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean is simply breathtaking. Enjoy views of the famous Golden Gate Bridge, China Beach, and Marin Headlands, or observe the Sutro Bath ruins. Stop along this four-mile hike to visit the rocky beach, or reach the end and grab a local brew at the renowned Cliff House. This well-known bar and restaurant is a stunning landmark overlooking the sea. Land’s End is also part of the Golden Gate National Park Area and subsequently in close proximity to the many activities and sites the park offers.
2. Muir Woods
Nestled in the Bay Area just outside of San Francisco, the Muir Woods are named after famed explorer and writer John Muir. Trail lengths and difficulties vary, with loop trails on the easier side and canyon and hillside options offering a more strenuous journey. Venturing into this grove of sky-skimming redwoods is truly a gorgeous sight to behold, and elicits magical feelings of wonderment and awe. If you hike the Bohemian Grove Trail you will come upon a “family circle” of redwoods resembling a place where fairies and gnomes dance. This is easily one of the most beloved bay area hikes.
3. Matt Davis & Steep Ravine Loop, Mount Tamalpais State Park
This 7.5-mile loop takes about half a day and provides lots of photo opportunities via cascading streams, mossy forests, and beautiful vistas. If you start this amazing hike at 10:00 am, you will reach Stinson Beach by lunch. Feeling particularly adventurous? Try the heart-pounding climb up the side of Webb Creek to come upon amazing redwoods as well as Douglas firs, small waterfalls, and crystal-clear pools.
4. Golden Gate Bridge
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge offers an amazing hiking experience. Begin your journey at Crissy Field Center, which is located on beach’s eastern end, before walking west along the bridge’s promenade. Experience level views of the bay waters, Angel Island, and Tiburon, all of which almost seem touchable. You will also enjoy views of the beach and tidal marshes, and may see a number of wading birds making their daily rounds. Hit the Warming Hut Cafe landmark and hike the Battery East Trail, an uphill trek that eventually takes you to Battery Lancaster. This unusual area features an interactive exhibit all about how suspension bridges function.
5. Angel Island
Speaking of Angel Island, this “Ellis Island of the West” offers a fabulous day of hiking near San Francisco. The state park offers several bay area hikes, including ridge and loop trails. All are classified as easy. Visit the island by boat or public ferry and take the time to learn the history of this landmark. It was a hunting and fishing site for the Coastal Miwok Indians three thousand years ago, and also served as a refuge for Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala, among other uses.
6. Purisima Redwoods
The loop trail making up a section of the Purisima Redwoods Open Space Preserve is just outside of the Bay Area but well worth an honorable mention, as you can still categorize it as hiking near San Francisco. What starts as a challenging uphill hike through grassy, mountainous areas ends at a glorious redwood grove straight out of the movie Legend. Listen to babbling brooks as well as plenty of birds and insects as you wind your way down to the bottom of this outstanding grove. The water is so cool and clear you will have to control yourself so you don’t jump in!
7. Berry Creek Falls
No list of the best hikes in San Francisco would be complete with Berry Creek Falls. A 9.2-mile round trip hike, you will begin your journey at the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail and make your way through redwoods. Lovely creeks pepper the trail to add even more beauty to the experience. The 4.2-mile mark is where you find the Berry Creek Falls hike, which includes a glittering waterfall seemingly emerging through the woody perennials. The final stretch of this outstanding hike is a 65-foot-tall cataract that becomes a fern-laden cliff with a redwood border.
These are just some of the many San Francisco hiking trails guaranteed to leave you feeling satisfied and more in love with nature than ever. Hiking in the beautiful San Francisco bay area is a wonderful, refreshing reminder of the natural world’s dazzling beauty and continual mystery.