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Hiking trail going through redwood forest of Muir Woods National Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 10 best places to hike in the Bay Area

Fill up that water bottle and charge up the camera, it is time to celebrate the best places to hike in the Bay Area

Written by
Shoshi Parks
Matt Charnock
John Bills
Erika Mailman

Dust off those boots; it is time to go walking. The San Francisco Bay Area is known for its fantastic hiking, and there are few better places to go for a long amble than this breathtaking corner of the world. The best places to hike in the Bay Area run the range, from the hushed quiet of redwood forests to exhilarating jaunts across the incredibly windy Golden Gate Bridge and more.

Lovers of wildflowers will find plenty to admire, while amateur hikers will be able to get the heart pumping without the occasional futility that difficult hikes can inspire. No such fear here; the best hikes in the Bay Area offer something for every skill level, with views to boot.

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Best places to hike in the Bay Area

Lands End offers all the drama of windswept cypresses and cliff faces descending into the crashing ocean. Start at the parking lot by the Lands End Lookout (with a visitor center and café open Friday through Monday) near the ruins of the Sutro Baths—which are worth hiking down to for a quick ramble—and take the Coastal Trail heading east. The path involves steep staircases and brings you along the coastline to the Eagle’s Point Overlook, where you’ll catch incredible vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Length: 1.7 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: Lands End Lookout, 680 Point Lobos Avenue 

Pets: Dogs allowed on-leash or within sight/voice control

This 1,833-acre park in the Oakland hills boasts 150-foot coast redwoods planted to replace those logged during the Gold Rush to build the Bay Area’s structures. Trails wind through the thick groves of these fragrant giant trees and make you feel completely removed from city life. There are several entrance gates; the parking fee of $5 per car and $2 per dog is only applied at the Redwood Gate. The large parking lot at the Skyline Gate Staging Area is an easy choice to start your hike. From here, follow the West Ridge Trail from the lot’s south side, then turn left onto the Tres Sendas Trail, which crosses Redwood Creek right before you turn left on the Stream Trail to return to the beginning.

Length: approximately 4 miles

Difficulty: Moderate, with steep sections

Trailhead: Skyline Gate Staging Area, 8490 Skyline Blvd, Oakland

Pets: Dogs allowed 

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  • San Francisco

This 66-acre park sits along a deep canyon, with trails crossing Islais Creek, one of San Francisco’s last free-flowing creeks. The canyon has naturally forested slopes, rock outcroppings, and seasonal wildflowers. A wide array of trails form a 3.7-mile network; try the 1.2-mile “Creek to Peaks" trail, which starts along Islais Creek and heads towards Twin Peaks with city and bay vistas. Be wary of coyotes as night falls. Well, we should always be wary of coyotes, but you get the point. And don't forget to look up: birds migrate here all the way from South America! 

Length: 1.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy, with some spots becoming muddy in the rainy season

Trailhead: Bosworth Street and O'Shaughnessy Blvd

Pets: Dogs allowed on leash

Bernal Heights Summit rivals Twin Peaks as the best vantage point for a 360-degree view of the city. You’ll be surrounded by dry grassland most of the year, but after the winter rains, the hill is covered in lush greenery and wildflowers, like shooting stars, checkerblooms, and native purple needlegrass. For hiking, the park provides a paved limited-access road and many different dirt trails that wind around the hill and lead to the summit—or you can try many of the residential side streets’ dirt trails: just keep heading up.

Length: There’s a 1-mile loop in the park

Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead: Start at Bernal Heights Park, 3400-3416 Folsom St, or follow ad-hoc trails from various spots around the base of the hill

Pets: Dogs allowed off-leash 


The Presidio has numerous paths traversing its lush, wooded environs, but the Batteries to Bluffs Trail can’t be beaten for the sheer drama of its scenery, and you may even see dolphins with this shoreline hike overlooking the ocean below. Check out this trail at sunset for incredible vistas, and enjoy the seasonal native dune plants and wildflowers. You’ll cross hidden springs as you trek to Battery Crosby, a historic gun battery dating to 1900. If you wish, take the extra winding trail down to Marshall’s Beach, San Francisco’s most hidden beach.

Length: 0.7 mile

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Trailhead: Look for the Batteries to Bluffs sign on Lincoln Boulevard on the stretch between Pershing Drive and Kobbe Avenue, subtly marked by red pavement striping

Pets: Pets not allowed 

The magic of Muir Woods is that it’s the only remaining old-growth coastal redwood forest in the Bay Area—and one of the last on Earth. These are the tallest of all living things, and Muir Woods’s most epic tree is a crane-your-head-back-to-see-it 258 feet. The cool hush of this ancient forest, where the average age of a tree is 600-80 years old (the eldest being 1,200 years old), is life-affirming, while the park’s Redwood Creek is one of the last California streams with a native stock of salmon. Walk along six miles of trails: a half-hour loop, a one-hour loop, and a 1.5-hour loop, as well as longer hikes extending into Mount Tamalpais State Park. 

Distance: Various trail lengths

Difficulty: Easy on the loops, strenuous on the canyon and hillside trails

Trailhead: Visitor Center at 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley

Pets: Pets not allowed 

Note: Loops are wheelchair and stroller accessible


On a bright, sunlit day, the Golden Gate Bridge is a disarming sight, an elegant feat of engineering straddling the steel blue expanse of the Bay. But why admire it from a distance when you can get up close and personal? Start at Crissy Field Center (at the eastern end of the beach) and head west along the Golden Gate Promenade. You’ll get pushed along by the stiff wind and be a mere metal fence away from multiple lanes of car traffic, but in return, you’ll get great views of San Francisco, the rolling hills of Marin and Sausalito, the prison fortress atop Alcatraz, the beauty of Angel Island, and the busy sailboats and container ships.

Distance: 3.4 miles one way

Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead: Crissy Field Center, 1199 East Beach

Pets: No pets allowed 

A short hop across the Golden Gate Bridge will take you to the Marin Headlands, a veritable nature-lovers playground. The Headlands are crisscrossed with trails of varying difficulty and terrain; you can choose to hug the cliffside along Jurassic rock formations, tread across trails through chaparral, or stroll along protected pebble beaches. There are also four remarkable historical sites here. Two routes are not to be missed: the Point Bonita Lighthouse Trail and the Rodeo Lagoon Loop.

Point Bonita Lighthouse Trail

Distance: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Steep and precarious sections, not recommended for wheelchairs

Trailhead: Point Bonita, Sausalito

Pets: Dogs not allowed

Rodeo Lagoon Loop

Distance: 1.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead: Marin Headlands Visitor Center, 948 Fort Barry

Pets: Dogs are not allowed due to sensitive species in the lagoon


The first issue is getting here; the state park is an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Also a historic site, Angel Island served as an immigration and deportation center for mostly Chinese immigrants in the 1800s. Today, you can hike up to the summit of Mount Caroline Livermore, the highest point on the island at 788 feet, reachable via a six-mile loop trail with incredible vistas and picnic tables. As far as 360-degree views go, the summit of Mount Livermore might be the ultimate one. Once you’ve reached the top, you can take in three bridges (Golden Gate, Bay, and Richmond-San Rafael), the other islands (including Alcatraz), Oakland, Tiburon, Sausalito, and San Francisco. 

Length: 6 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: Angel Island Ferry Terminal

Pets: Pets not allowed 

Oakland’s beautiful hills once held many creeks that fed into Lake Merritt. Today, most of those creeks have been culverted, but Sausal Creek remains free-flowing, and a trail that winds along it provides a nice hike. You can go roundtrip or do a one-way trek knowing that public transit services both ends of the trail. Start at Dimond Park and locate the creek trail near the park’s recreation center. Jump on it until it emerges at El Centro Avenue at the entrance to Dimond Canyon Trail, which you will follow along the edge of the creek. Although you’re never far from a neighborhood, this trail feels surprisingly remote and gives you all the nature feels you need. You’ll come to the pretty, arched Leimert Bridge and follow directions to continue up the hill to finally reach Monterey Boulevard in the Montclair district.

Length: 4 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: Dimond Park Recreation Center, 3860 Hanly Rd, Oakland

Pets: Dogs allowed on leash

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