Things to do in Bay Area

Best Hikes in the Bay Area

Grab your gear and hit the trail. Breathtaking views await on hikes across the Bay Area.

See the dappled sunlight gleaming through a canopy of redwoods and experience the cool breeze from the ocean. Hikes in the Bay Area take you through the region’s diverse ecosystems. Adventure hides around every corner. You just have to know where to look.

Whether trekking across coastal ridges or through secluded forests, you’ll find plenty of things to do in the Bay Area. Get ready to discover your next outdoor caper with our list of the best hikes in this part of San Francisco.

Waterfront Trails

Listen to the song of seabirds as you stroll past California’s coast. One thing’s for sure, the Bay Area doesn’t lack stunning beaches, coves, and ocean cliffs filled with wildlife.

1. Lands End Trail

Lands End Trail extends 3.4 miles around some of San Francisco’s best historical attractions. Begin your journey near Cliff House on the hill for spectacular shoreline and Seal Rocks views.

The trail first takes you past the crumbling ruins of the Sutro Baths. These remaining concrete walls and passageways transport your imagination back to when this magnificent bathhouse was in its prime.

Lands End Trail becomes a labyrinth farther north, so a map comes in handy. However, it’s also fun to see where you end up. Parts of the trail offer clear views of the Golden Gate Bridge, with cypress trees framing camera sightlines elsewhere.

Photographer: Marcus Jones

2. Mount Sutro Loop

Winding land once owned by former mayor Adolph Sutro, the Mount Sutro Loop provides a moderate challenge for hikers tackling its 2.2-mi. length and nearly 500-ft. elevation gain.

When Sutro first purchased the land, it was decorated with little more than sand and a few shrubs. Over the years, his vision for a breathtaking residential area saw the planting of many cypress and pine trees. Sutro also loved eucalyptus trees and sowed them everywhere, giving Mount Sutro a uniquely exotic aesthetic.

Dense as the forest is, you catch glimpses of the city skyline through the trees along various points. You can also sometimes see Marin County and Twin Peaks at these heights.

3. Discovery Park Trails

Close enough to Sacramento for a little pre-hike shopping but large enough to offer a sense of escape, Discovery Park feels like a wilderness retreat despite being only a few steps from busy streets. Nature thrives at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers.

The main trail takes you 10.3 miles through the park, but you don’t need to traverse the whole distance on foot. Keep things leisurely by taking a boat along the river’s most scenic route. Cyclists looking for a challenge can also tackle the 32-mile-long Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail.

We adore the fun activities found along the hikes. Draw back your bow and aim for a bullseye at the archery range, or play softball with your kids to keep the hike interesting.

4. Tomales Point Trail

Rugged and wild, Tomales Point Trail beckons you toward a thrilling journey across the ancestral lands of the Coast Miwok people. Strap in because the hike stretches for over 9.3 mi., and you’ll reach an elevation gain of 1,200 ft. by the end.

We recommend accomplished riders travel the Tomales Point Trail on horseback, as it’s one of the best places to let loose. Given the area’s rich history of cattle ranching after the Gold Rush, it’s a fitting way to evoke the same nostalgia people felt during the rise of California’s long-gone dairy empire.

Make sure you don’t gallop too fast from the trailhead. If you rush past Point Reyes Beach and the grasslands along the route, you’ll miss some of the Bay Area’s most gorgeous vistas. Tule elk even graze upon the meadows in summer and spring.

Photographer: Jahmanz Williams

5. Lake Natoma American River Trail

The gold rush left a dramatic impression across much of California, but urban development paved over most of it. That’s not the case with Lake Natoma American River Trail. Gold dredge tailings still form mounds across the shores of the American River, offering a unique sight.

While an easy trek, this trail stretches on for 11.5 miles. Arrive early in the morning for the best views as the sunrise scatters warm light across the river and the sporadic wildflower fields that erupt nearby.

Stay overnight for the full outdoor experience. Fall asleep to the soft hum of crickets along the banks of Folsom Lake. When morning arrives, you’ll wake to the songs of sparrows and meadowlarks—their energetic chorus motivating you for the day ahead.

6. Estero Trail - Point Reyes National Seashore

Spanning over 21 miles, Estero Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore takes over eight hours to walk. Or, you could take a horse to speed things up.

If the length of the trail isn’t formidable enough, you’re also signing up for an elevation gain of 2,395 ft. You’ll pass over coastal estuaries for much of the walk, so conditions get wet and muddy.

Bridges carry you over deeper spots in the marshes, where you might spot egrets, herons, and other majestic bird species. Occasionally, adorable river otters surface to splash each other.

While somewhat rarer, marsh hawks soar over the area, looking for prey. They're on the hunt for rodents, and once they catch sight of dinner, they descend in a flash. Blink and you’ll miss it!

Photographer: Ben Lande

7. Gerbode Valley Loop - Marin Headlands

A quiet hike near Stinson Beach, Gerbode Valley Loop sprawls across a sheltered valley in Sausalito. Rolling hills surround you from all sides, with the terrain undulating over meadows, creeks, and oak groves.

With all this natural land ahead of you, it’s no wonder wildlife flocks to the valley. While you may spot sparrows and wrens, there’s also no shortage of fluffy creatures darting about.

When dusk hits, rabbits hop across the hills, and black-tailed deer prance across the grasslands. Creeks along the trail hide brightly colored California newts. Look for the vivid orange color among the damp rocks for the best chance to spot one.

While dogs aren’t allowed on the trail, you can ride your mountain bike. Prepare to cycle nearly 5.3 mi. with an elevation gain of 869 ft.

8. North Ridge and Sunset Loop - Angel Island State Park

Want panoramic views of San Francisco Bay, the Marin Headlands, and Alcatraz? Angel Island’s position within the heart of the bay makes this a reality. However, the best viewpoints hide along the North Ridge and Sunset Loop.

As the hike’s name suggests, you’ll witness a surreal atmosphere across the trail when sunset arrives. Watch as those final gold, orange, and red beams descend over eucalyptus and bay trees. Exposed ridgelines grant the best views.

To get to the trail, you must take a ferry and pay a small admission fee to Angel Island State Park. However, it's worth the effort—especially during holidays. If you time your trip for 4th of July events in the Bay Area, you can even watch the fireworks from a boat during a two-hour cruise around the bay.

9. Rodeo Beach, Coastal, and Miwok Trail - Marin Headlands

A popular hike near Muir Woods, the Rodeo Beach, Coastal, and Miwok Trail loops 5.2 miles around Marin Headlands and gains an elevation of nearly 1,060 ft. Dogs are allowed off-leash in some areas, so bring your best friend and stop along the road for sights and treats.

Strolling to the end of this trail should take you nearly three hours, and contrasting landscapes keep things interesting the whole time. Feel the fresh ocean breeze across your face as you walk over the black sands at Rodeo Beach.

From there, you’ll cross a rugged coastline, a lagoon, and even steep hilltops that carry your sight far across the horizon. Geology fans are also in for a rare treat. A collision of two tectonic plates pushed the land up over millions of years to form the headlands, exposing rock layers.

The serpentinite, shale, and sandstone layers are almost like tree rings because they tell the story of the earth’s past.

Photographer: mtilghma

10. Ancil Hoffman Park

River breezes push past old oak trees, invigorating your spirit as you walk through Ancil Hoffman Park. Being so close to the American River and surrounded by oak groves, the park attracts lots of wildlife. You’ll feel like you’re hiking through a nature reserve despite being near the middle of Sacramento.

Traveling through Ancil Hoffman Park requires exploration because there’s no main trail to guide you everywhere. Paths weave through oak woodlands, trace around the riverfront, and link up with the American River Parkway bike trail system at various points.

Wherever your boots take you, expect to share the space with wild turkeys, mule deer, and squirrels. If you're unlucky and don’t spot any critters, you can change that with a quick pit stop at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center.

11. Gray Whale Cove Trail - Montara State Beach

Walking high among the cliffs that line Gray Whale Cove, it’s easy to feel at peace because of your dreamy surroundings. Lush green hills fold over the horizon while the ocean embraces the rocky ledges below. Those precarious cliffs led to many accidents in the past, earning them the name Devil’s Slide.

Fortunately, Gray Whale Cove Trail keeps its distance from landslide-prone ridges. With how easy and gentle the trek is, it’s among the best hikes for people of all skill levels. It’s only 2.3 mileslong, and you can easily turn back before reaching the end if you’re hiking with younger kids.

The trail’s end brings you straight to Montara State Beach—one of the most picturesque Bay Area beaches. Wildflowers bloom unexpectedly in several spots along the way, leading to surprise explosions of color.

12. Coast Trail to Wildcat Camp - Point Reyes National Seashore

Escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of Point Reyes. Several miles of trails line this coastal wonder, and your choice of adventure is part of the fun. Granted, we love planning our choreography, so the sense of exploration comes naturally to us.

If you’d prefer to set a route and go, start your journey at Palomarin Trailhead, where plenty of parking spaces are usually available. Look for wildflowers, birds, and elusive bobcats during this first trek.

Once you reach the Coast Trail to Wildcat Camp, your forested surroundings shift to clifftop ocean views, giving you the best of both worlds. The entire hike stretches just under 12 miles, so it’s not beginner-friendly.

When you reach the end, you’ve certainly earned a rest—especially since the hike takes over five hours. The sunset aims to impress, but the evening sky will fill your heart with awe. Without San Francisco’s light pollution, you can witness a sky full of stars.

Forest Trails

Smell that earthy scent of damp leaves and pine needles while traversing beneath the shade of the Bay Area’s forests. The modern world melts away as you pass by moss-covered logs and ancient redwoods.

13. Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park Trails

A growing city requires raw materials, and nothing would stand in the way of San Francisco’s expansion in the mid-1800s. Unfortunately, this led to the tragic destruction of many of the region’s oldest and grandest redwoods.

After watching over the land for hundreds, if not thousands of years, these giants fell like dominoes at the hands of loggers. Horrified at the destruction unfolding before her, Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt fought for environmental conservation.

Photographer: hannah grace

The Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park was named in her honor, which is fitting because the park's redwood groves might not have survived without her efforts. All that history and the natural beauty found throughout the park make the many trails here unforgettable.

Some traverse ridges bring you closer to the towering canopies above. Others weave through the groves, taking you to gorgeous clearings carpeted by redwood needles.

14. Montara Mountain North Peak Loop

If we had to pick one thing that makes a great show, it’s atmosphere, and the atmosphere of Montara Mountain doesn’t disappoint. On cool days, the fog fills the forests in a mystical shroud.

Alluring as it is, this fog is vital to life on the mountain. Condensing on leaves and dripping toward the earth it provides about one-third of the region’s moisture. Without it, the thick forests and grassy meadows that make Montara Mountain North Peak Loop so unique may not even exist.

As you hike along the trail’s 7.3-mile length, take a good look at your surroundings. Fog, sea spray, and all—Montara reflects what San Francisco looked like before the city took over, taking you on a trip back in time. At the trail’s peak, you can see far across the Pacific.

15. Baltimore Canyon via Dawn Falls Trail Loop

A former quarry site, Baltimore Canyon was once a bustling mining hub. The durable blue basalt dug up from the earth here formed the foundation of many older Bay Area buildings.

Today, the clang of hammers and chisels is long gone, and nature has swallowed up the remaining rusty mining equipment. Traveling along the Dawn Falls Trail Loop, you’ll marvel at the ingenuity of humans and the raw power of nature.

The stunning beauty of Dawn Falls complements the historic sights. It’s not surprising that musicians, such as Janis Joplin, have lived around the canyon and falls. The gentle sounds of rustling leaves and waterfalls would have made the perfect environment for songwriting.

Exploring the Great Outdoors: Top Hiking Destinations in the Bay Area

Adventure is only a few steps away when you’re in the Bay Area. You just need to decide which trail sings out loudest to your heart. And what song isn’t made better by an edgy dance routine or an expressive cartwheel?

Come down to the theater at the end of your hike and let our performance sweep you off your tired feet. Our compelling stories will take you on an emotional journey as our dancers and acrobats dazzle you with conformity-defying feats. Take your pick of our shows in the Bay Area.

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