San Francisco Bay Area 20-mile Day Hikes

Summary

What: 32 day hikes.
Where: San Francisco Bay Area.
Distance: about 20 miles each: totaling about 640 miles.
Highlights: a collection of diverse walks throughout the Bay Area; most are within an hour’s drive of San Francisco.

Introduction

The San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with a vast amount of public land containing a very extensive trail network. The habitat is diverse, the scenery varies from good to stunning, the generally benign climate allows year-round hiking, and some trails are accessible via public transit.

We enjoy taking day hikes as much as we like long distance walking. For us, a great day hike starts at dawn and lasts all day. We average a leisurely pace of about two miles per hour, stopping often to look at birds and plants and so forth. Our optimal day hike distance is about 20 miles; that’s about ten hours of walking plus an hour or two of breaks for lunch and snacks. There are many Bay Area guidebooks describing hundreds of hikes, however nearly all of these guides feature relatively short walks. This collection of routes is designed to provide hikers who are interested in longer walks some options to try.

Over the last 35 years we have taken many hundreds of day hikes in the Bay Area. We had previously walked most of the trails in this guide, but not always on the precise route that is described. To increase the geographic diversity of our offering, in preparation for this article we also walked a few areas we had not visited before in order to test and validate some new routes.

Our criteria for including a route in this guide includes:

  • about twenty miles in length;
  • minimal overlap with adjacent routes;
  • either a loop with the same start and finish, or an end-to-end hike with reasonable public transit options for returning to the starting point;
  • hikes without following the same route out and back, although a few walks have short pieces of repetitious walking;
  • routes that are primarily on maintained paths; there are, though, a few short pieces of easy cross-country walking;
  • routes that have attractive and diverse scenery, varied habitats, and interesting cultural sites;
  • include Nifty Ninety Peaks when possible; download the list here.

We are always interested in learning about new walks. If you have one that meets the above criteria, please share it with us. We may add your walk to our inventory and if we do, we will credit it to you.

Please note that trail conditions may have changed after publication of this document. Trails are sometimes closed for repairs or sometimes rerouted. Checking the website of the administrative agency for the parks you plan to visit can provide useful information about current conditions. Parking opportunities and regulations also can change over time.

Logistics

We are not not providing turn-by-turn instructions, and recommend using Gaia GPS or another smartphone app for navigation. Each hike includes a link to an individual CalTopo map with the route and a few waypoints for parking, water sources, and so forth. Get the gpx files from these CalTopo maps (instructions), then import into Gaia or your preferred navigation app. None of our routes follows a continuous single named and/or waymarked trail and staying them using only paper maps might be challenging as many trail junctions are not sign-posted. We frequently recommend a hiking direction based on many of factors that influence the quality of the walk, however all of the hikes can be done in either direction.

We have attempted to locate each starting point where there is unrestricted parking available so it is possible to start walking at dawn. Some of the parking areas have extremely limited space and can fill up quickly. Parking regulations can change over time so we cannot guarantee that parking will still be free or legal when you leave your car.

All mileage and altitude gain information were sourced from Caltopo. Altitude gain data produced by Google Earth tends to be greater, and data recorded by devices while on-trail will vary from the figures we provide.

RegionTitleMilesGain
BayfrontBay Trail Airport to Airport21.9 310
BayfrontSF Streets and Marin Hills20.34030
BayfrontSouth Bay Wetlands21.3 320
East BayAround Briones20.35730
East BayBerkeley Hills20.54520
East BayChabot20.53330
East BayMorgan Territory19.75320
East BayMt. Diablo Ramble21.05760
Marin CountyAlamere Falls20.44130
Marin CountyBarnabe and Bolinas Ridge19.84110
Marin CountyBear Valley to the Sea21.33940
Marin CountyFour Marin Lakes21.45000
Marin CountyMill Valley and Muir Woods20.34640
Marin CountyPoint Reyes Hill19.83170
Marin CountySouthern Marin20.65260
Marin CountyMt. Tamalpais20.35980
Marin CountyWhite Hill and Pine Mountain20.66040
Santa Cruz MtnsBig Basin19.76270
Santa Cruz MtnsBlack Mtn via Rhus Ridge20.55370
Santa Cruz MtnsBlack Mtn via San Antonio20.44950
Santa Cruz MtnsCanyon and Ridge19.84250
Santa Cruz MtnsCoyote Valley Foothills20.64130
Santa Cruz MtnsMindego Hill19.75390
Santa Cruz MtnsMontara Mountain20.13450
Santa Cruz MtnsPalo Alto Foothills19.75190
Santa Cruz MtnsPescadero Creek20.63670
Santa Cruz MtnsPurisima Loop20.35010
Santa Cruz MtnsSaratoga Gap20.13180
Santa Cruz MtnsWilder Ranch20.32760
Southern DiabloGrant Circumambulation21.25000
Southern DiabloBlue Ridge and The Narrows19.35180
Southern DiabloBurra Burra Big View20.85940
Southern DiabloMahoney and Willow Ridges21.95620
Click map to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab. Instructions for using CalTopo. Each hike has a detailed CalTopo map that can be accessed by clicking the maps in each hike description.

Bayfront: Bay Trail Airport to Airport

Where: San Francisco Bay Trail from SFO to San Carlos Airport.
Distance: about 21.9 miles.
Altitude gain: 310 feet.
Direction of travel: either direction.

Access

Starts at either the Millbrae or San Carlos CalTrain Station. BART also stops at Millbrae.

If arriving by car, you can park at one station, take the train to the other station, and then walk back to your car. By taking the train first, it is easy to match your start with Caltrain’s schedule. Here is information about parking restrictions and fees at the stations.

Additional Information

This is an urban walk along our very nice bay. You can watch big aircraft take off and land at the giant SFO airport and small aircraft at the tiny San Carlos Airport. There are many places to buy a meal along the walk; we have marked a number of restaurants that are adjacent to the path but there are many others  just a short distance off route. Almost the entire route is on pavement.

Bird watching is excellent with marshes, mudflats, tidal estuaries, open water and even a small forested area along the walk.

At Coyote Point there is a children’s science museum, CuriOdyssey that has hands-on and live animal exhibits.

Be aware that the mapped route may occasionally change as improvements are made to the Bay Trail or construction is taking place along the route.

Bayfront: San Francisco Streets and Marin Hills

Where: San Francisco waterfront to the hills of Marin County.
Distance: about 20.3 miles.
Altitude gain: 4030 feet.
Direction of travel: counter-clockwise on weekends, either direction on weekdays.
Nifty Nineties: Slacker Hill; Hill 88.

Access

There are many public transit options to reach the San Francisco Ferry Building where the loop hike begins. The Ferry Schedule will influence your direction of travel. On weekdays you could take the ferry at the beginning or end of the day; on weekends there are no early ferries from San Francisco and it is therefore best to walk counter-clockwise and take the ferry back at the end of the day.

Additional Information

The walk follows the beautiful San Francisco waterfront past numerous interesting places to the Golden Gate Bridge. After crossing the bridge, trails take you into the Marin Headlands section of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and out to the sea at Rodeo Beach. Slacker Hill is about halfway and a fine place for lunch if it isn’t too windy. The walk concludes with a descent through Sausalito on some of their public stairways. There are places to eat in Sausalito before catching the Golden Gate Ferry back to the Ferry Building. If you take a ferry after sunset, you will have great views of the Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge.

If you want to cut the walk short, on weekends, the MUNI Bus 76x runs between the city and the Rodeo Lagoon GGNRA visitor center.

Bayfront: South Bay Wetlands

Where: south bay between Alviso and Mountain View.
Distance: about 21.3 miles.
Altitude gain: 320 feet.
Direction of travel: no preference.

Access

Start at one of two VTA Light Rail stations: Mountain View or Champion, and use the Light Rail to connect to the other either before or after after completing the walk. The Mountain View station has good public transit connections to other places on the peninsula and it has a CalTrail Park & Ride lot near the station. There is also all-day free parking on some streets in Mountain View, but other streets have parking restrictions. We have marked a few of the free parking areas on the map.

Additional Information

The route primarily follows paved or unpaved trails adjacent to wetlands, however there is also some road-walking. The wetlands include the Guadalupe River, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, Alviso Marsh, and Saratoga and Steven’s Creeks. Bird watching is excellent. The route also goes through the Ulistac Natural Area, visits the Edwards Environmental Education Center, passes Moffett Field and the brand new Google headquarters buildings. There are a few restaurants in Alviso and many on Castro Street in Mt. View. The route also climbs to the top of the Sunnyvale landfill (not a Nifty Ninety) and where there are sweeping views of the south bay area.

East Bay: Around Briones

Where: Briones East Bay Regional Park.
Distance: about 20.3 miles.
Altitude gain: 5730 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Russell Peak, Mott Peak, and Briones Peak.

Access

There are two free parking lots, one at the end of Springhill Road and the other at the end of Brookwood Drive.

Additional Information

The route is convoluted with a lot of ups and downs, but contains fine sections of open ridgetop walking with great views, including of Mt. Diablo and the Carquinez Strait. For the best views of Mt. Diablo with favorable lighting, walk clockwise starting from the Springhill Road parking lot. The park can be quite hot in the summer. Cattle grazing is an intermittent and ongoing activity in Briones Park.

East Bay: Berkeley Hills

Where: ridgeline parks east of Berkeley.
Distance: about 20.5 miles.
Altitude gain: 4520 feet.
Direction of travel: no preference.
Nifty Nineties: Wildcat Peak, Vollmer Peak.

Access

The route connects the El Cerrito North and Berkeley BART stations. Start at either one and return via BART. There is free parking near the the El Cerrito North BART on weekends.

Additional Information

There are urban portions on both ends of this walk, but the long central segment is primarily on the top of beautiful San Pablo Ridge. There are fine views including some of the distant Golden Gate Bridge and on out to the Pacific. There are no sources of water along the ridge.

Vollmer Peak is a quarter mile off route. Wildcat Peak provides a fine place to have lunch. The Redwood Valley Railway is a fine old attraction with functional small-scale steam engines. Rides are offered for a small fee. There are some interesting old neighborhoods just above the Berkeley campus.

East Bay: Chabot

Where: Anthony Chabot Regional Park.
Distance: about 20.5 miles.
Altitude gain: 3330 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.

Access

There is free parking at the Redwood Canyon Golf Course lot from 5:00AM until 10:00PM. The Bayfair BART Station is a two-mile Lyft/Uber ride away.

Additional Information

Hike clockwise as this lets you pass the more heavily used area near Lake Cabot before it gets too busy and provides nice views over the south bay at the end of the walk. Sections of this walk are wooded and a portion is through a non-native eucalyptus forest. There are few great lunch spots with open vistas, but Bort Meadow is a very pleasant place for a meal. There are also picnic tables at the Chabot Equestrian Center.

East Bay: Morgan Territory

Where: Morgan Territory Regional Preserve.
Distance: about 19.7 miles.
Altitude gain: 5320 feet.
Direction of travel: counter-clockwise.

Access

There is a small roadside parking area on Morgan Territory Road. This is a very narrow one-lane road so drive especially carefully. There is also parking lot at the staging area, but it is marked as only open from 8 AM.

Additional Information

Walk counter-clockwise as this provides a fabulous lunch spot at an appropriate distance. It also places a reliable water source soon after lunch and puts the majority of altitude gain in the morning. It can be too hot in the summer for this loop. The wide-open grasslands are beautiful in spring when bright green and covered with flowers. Active cattle grazing is ongoing in Morgan Territory.

There are two easy cross-country segments which enable a loop hike without repeating a previously walked segment of trail. The first drops off of the Raven Trail to connect to a spur trail to Highland Ridge. The descent is steep at first but soon picks up cow trail that leads down to the creek. Cross and follow a faint use path downstream to a cattle pen. Pass through the pen and pick up a good trail climbing up the hill.

The second leaves the Jeremiah Trail and connects to the Highland Trail. Hike up the steep but easy and open grassy slope, ultimately heading for a lone tree on the horizon where there is a cow path connecting back to the Highland Ridge Trail. You could also stay on the Jeremiah Trail to its junction with Highland Ridge, but you then repeat a piece of previously walked trail.

East Bay: Mount Diablo Ramble

Where: Mount Diablo State Park, Diablo Foothills Regional Park, Shell Ridge Open Space Preserve.
Distance: about 21.0 miles.
Altitude gain: 5760 feet.
Direction of travel: counter-clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Mount Diablo.

Access

There is free unrestricted parking at the end of Marshall Drive in Walnut Creek. The Walnut Creek BART station is a 2.5-mile Lyft/Uber ride away. Hike counter-clockwise.

Additional Information

With a summit at 3848 feet, Mount Diablo is one of the most prominent peaks in the Bay Area. Since there are no nearby peaks nearly as high, the view from the top is unobstructed. There are many possible routes in the cluster of parks that surround the peak and we have designed one that has the requisite length has easy early morning access, and has a lot of habitat variety. This route has a lot of altitude gain, and it can be very hot in the summer.

Marin: Alamere Falls

Where: Point Reyes National Seashore.
Distance: about 20.4 miles.
Altitude gain: 4130 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.

Access

Randall Trailhead is a small free parking area on Highway 1; it is about eight miles north of Stinson Beach and 5.8 miles south of Olema.

Additional Information

Walk clockwise so you can choose whether to descend to the beach at Alamere or take the inland alternate. There is a short section on paved Mesa Road from the end of the Ridge Trail to a small beach access parking area.

This walk starts in the Olema Valley Rift Zone, where the San Andreas Fault splits Point Reyes from the North American continental plate. The hike visits Alamere Falls, where a perennial stream falls about fifty feet off the edge of a cliff down to a sandy beach. The route between the top of the falls and the beach is a steep, loose use trail that some people may find intimidating. Take the inland alternate if you are uncomfortable descending this trail. The alternate adds about 0.5 miles to the walk. The inland alternate is also used if the tide is too high and the beach walk to Wildcat Camp is impassible. The top or bottom of the waterfall is a fine place for lunch.

The route passes the Palomarin Field Station of Point Blue Conservation Science, where researchers have been studying coastal-scrub bird populations for almost fifty years. If you are lucky, you may pass by when they are offering public demos of bird banding.

When the weather is warm enough, people go swimming in Bass Lake. There are no lifeguards and no sandy beach.

Marin: Barnabe and Bolinas Ridge

Where: Samuel P. Taylor State Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Distance: about 19.8 miles.
Altitude gain: 4110 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Barnabe Mountain.

Access

There is a small pullout with unrestricted free parking at the corner of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Platform Road.

Additional Information

Highlights include a perennial creek, wooded hills, and wide-open meadows. The fire lookout on the top of Barnabe Mountain has fine views of the region. Just south of the Barnabe Lookout tower are four very fine lunch spots.

Best walked in a clockwise direction, as the views to the north along Bolinas Ridge are better than the views to the south.

For about a mile on the north side of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard the route follows unofficial cow paths; there is no formal trail or signs, but the walking is easy and the land belongs to GGNRA. If you don’t want to do the cross-country hiking, just walk east on the shoulder of Sir Francis Drake back to the parking area. Portions of the cross Marin Trail are paved and used by quite a few bicyclists. Locals use the Inkwell Pools as a swimming hole.

When we last walked this route in early 2018, Bill’s Trail on Mt. Barnabe’s northwest shoulder was closed for repairs. An alternate route is mapped if this trail is still not open.

Marin: Bear Valley to the Sea

Where: Point Reyes National Seashore.
Distance: about 21.3 miles.
Altitude gain: 3940 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Mount Wittenberg.

Access

There is a very large lot with unrestricted free parking at the National Seashore Visitor Center in Olema.

Additional Information

The Bear Valley Trail is the most popular trail in the park. However, if you start very early in the morning and walk clockwise you will see few people. The trail’s former ultimate destination, Arch Rock, collapsed a few years ago and the Park Service has placed the area off limits as large sections of the cliffs are continuing to crumble into the sea. No matter, the loop is very fine even without this feature.

There are three places with easy beach access, any of which makes a fine place for a break or a meal. The out and back to Wildcat Camp and beach is a 1.6m round trip, but is well worth doing and is considered an integral part of this route. There is a quarter mile spur trail to the summit of Mt. Wittenberg, but the top is wooded and there are no views. There are toilets and water at Wildcat and Sky Camps.

Marin: Four Marin Lakes

Where: Marin Municipal Watershed lands.
Distance: about 21.4 miles.
Altitude gain: 5000 feet.
Direction of travel: counter-clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Pilot Knob.

Access

There is unrestricted free on-street parking along Crown Road in Kentfield.

Additional Information

This route goes past four Marin Municipal Watershed reservoirs: Phoenix, Bon Tempe, Alpine, and Lagunitas. The Doug Fir forest along the Kent Pump Road is a fine place to hear (or see, if you are lucky) Pileated Woodpeckers. The route is a good mix of deep forest, chaparral, and open grasslands. When Cataract Creek is flowing, there is series of attractive waterfalls in Cataract Canyon.

A short optional side trip takes you to Little Carson Falls; this is worthwhile during the rainy season when the creek is flowing.

Marin: Mill Valley and Muir Woods

Where: Town of Mill Valley, GGNRA, Muir Woods National Monument, various Marin County Open Space preserves.
Distance: about 20.3 miles.
Altitude gain: 4640 feet.
Direction of travel: counter-clockwise.

Access

There is unrestricted free on-street parking on several streets near downtown Mill Valley; these are marked in pink on the map.

Additional Information

Walk counter-clockwise in order to enter Muir Woods via trail, as the park is now so popular that reservations are often required to enter through the main gate.

The route crosses the pleasant town of Mill Valley, where refreshments is available. Along the way, you will go through Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach; they supply organic produce for Green’s Restaurant at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

As of January 2019 there was a bridge out on the Redwood Creek Trail just after leaving the paved road. We believe the bridge has now been replaced; if not one can ignore the “closed” sign and easily cross the creek on fallen logs. Otherwise, follow the detour signs.

The map shows an optional loop leading to a lunch stop in a nice flat open field a bit away from the road.

Marin: Point Reyes Hill

Where: Point Reyes National Seashore.
Distance: about 19.8 miles.
Altitude gain: 3170 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Point Reyes Hill.

Access

Free unrestricted parking at the Estero Trailhead lot.

Additional Information

Walk clockwise so that the section along paved Lighthouse Road is done early in the morning when there is minimal traffic. The Mt. Vision Road has a gate that is sometimes locked but pedestrians are permitted to walk on through. Highlights include Bishop Pine forests, great views, and open grasslands. A flat place with sweeping views can be found by wandering up off of the trail in the area marked “lunch spot”.

Portions of this walk are in areas with active cattle grazing. Leave all gates as you find them.

Marin: Southern Marin

Where: Mount Tamalpais State Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Distance: about 20.6 miles.
Altitude gain: 5260 feet.
Direction of travel: counter-clockwise.

Access

Free unrestricted parking at the Tennessee Valley Trailhead. This large parking lot fills early on weekends, so plan to get an early start or go on a weekday.

Additional Information

Walk counter-clockwise as it is easier to find the unmarked public path through the Muir Beach residential area going downhill. This also puts two-thirds of the gain during the morning portion of the walk. The trail network descending from Ridgecrest Road is a mix of official and use paths; just work your way down through the open grasslands. There is a very short section of cross-country on an obscure use path dropping from Highway 1 to the Owl Trail. Otherwise, walk the sometimes busy shoulder of Highway 1. There is a short optional side-trip down a steep, loose, use trail to Pirate’s Cove.

This route has sweeping views out over the Pacific and south towards the city. Bare Knoll is a great place to stop for lunch, although it is sometimes a bit busy on weekends; there are other nearby places with fabulous views. You can go slightly off-route for refreshments or a meal at the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach. The Tennessee Valley Trail may be the single most popular walk in southern Marin, so expect company.

Marin: Mount Tam

Where: Mount Tamalpais State Park.
Distance: about 20.3 miles.
Altitude gain: 5980 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Mount Tamalpais-East Peak.

Access

There is free unrestricted street parking at Stinson Beach if you start early in the morning. The town can get crowded on weekends.

Additional Information

Walk clockwise as the trail to the summit is much easier to ascend, and the trail descending Tam has better views going downhill. The base of the stone fire tower on the summit of Tam is a fine place for lunch. Stinson Beach has a grocery and several restaurants. Tam is the universal local name for Mount Tamalpais.

Marin: White Hill and Pine Mountain

Where: various Marin County Open Space Preserves.
Distance: about 20.6 miles.
Altitude gain: 6040 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: White Hill, Pine Mountain.

Access

There is free parking in a lot in San Geronimo.

Additional Information

The route includes sections on streets in San Geronimo and Woodacre; these have minimal traffic. A short diversion leads to the Two Bird Café.

At the top of the hill in Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve there is a gate across the road with a sign staying STOP, entering private property. The property is owned by Spirit Rock Meditation Center and they currently allow the public limited access to their trails. Do not leave the trail and remain silent so as not to disturb their patrons.

Near the junction of the Spirit Rock driveway and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard there is an obscure culvert that leads under the road and into the Dickson Ranch Horse Stables.

The only sources of public water are in Woodacre and San Geronimo. There are a number of streams, some of which are seasonal. The area around White Hill is popular with mountain bikers, particularly on weekends. Note that this route has a bit over 6000 feet of gain!

Santa Cruz Mountains: Big Basin

Where: Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Distance: about 19.7 miles.
Altitude gain: 6270 feet.
Direction of travel: depends on the weather.
Nifty Nineties: Chalk Mountain.

Access

There is free parking on the east side of Highway 1 from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

Additional Information

There are fine views from the summit of Chalk Mountain; way to the south the big peaks of Big Sur/Ventana Wilderness are visible. If it will be a clear morning, walk counterclockwise to climb Chalk Mountain early when it will be cooler. If there is heavy fog, walk counterclockwise so you can enjoy views from the summit after the morning fog has hopefully dissipated.

On the western two-thirds of the loop, there is no water between the Interpretive Center and the surface water at Berry Creek Falls. The ridge walk along the old logging road can be hot and has little shade. On the other hand, the views from along this road are expansive. On weekends, there will likely be many hikers in the vicinity of Berry Creek Falls.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Black Mountain

Where: various Midpeninsula Open Space Preserves, Hidden Villa.
Distance: about 20.4 via Rhus Ridge start; about 21.5 via San Antonio start.
Altitude gain: 5370 feet via Rhus Ridge start; 4950 feet via Rhus Ridge start.
Direction of travel: either way.
Nifty Nineties: Black Mountain.

Access

There are three alternative starting points for this walk.

Rhus Ridge: free dawn to dusk parking in a tiny lot that often fills very early in the morning, especially on weekends. Parking is not permitted on the adjacent residential streets. If the lot is full, the closest alternative parking is a pay lot at Foothill College 0.9 miles away.

Rancho San Antonio: free dawn to dusk parking in several large lots that often fill on weekends, although not as early or as likely to fill as the tiny Rhus Ridge lot. The section of the walk in the vicinity of the lot is very busy.

Hidden Villa: their ranch and parking lot doesn’t open until 9 AM, closes at dusk and costs $10. The Villa is closed to the public from mid-June to mid-August, and also closed every Monday.

Additional Information

This is a classic mid-peninsula walk. The ascent of Black Mountain via Ewing Hill is quite popular. Rancho San Antonio is a very popular hiking destination, particularly in the lower sections near the parking lot. There are a couple of miles of out and back in order to include the top of Black Mountain. If you start at Rhus Ridge, there is an additional short out and back section on the hike.

The route goes through Hidden Villa, an interesting and venerable private educational preserve that allows public use their trails except when they are closed (every Monday and from mid-June to mid-August). They have numerous farm animals on display. Please respect this private property and follow their rules.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Canyon and Ridge

Where: various Open Space preserves, Upper Stevens Creek County Park.
Distance: about 19.8 miles.
Altitude gain: 4250 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Borel Hill, Table Mountain.

Access

The Monte Bello Open Space Preserve parking lot on Page Mill Road is open dawn to dusk. If you arrive before the gate is open, there is a small legal roadside parking area a few hundred yards downhill on Page Mill.

Additional Information

We always walk this route clockwise, as the ramble down Steven’s Creek Canyon is quite nice early in the morning. The walk back along the ridge west of Skyline Boulevard is always rewarding.

This route has excellent scenic and habitat diversity. It overlaps the Mindego Hill walk for a half mile or so in order to summit Borel Hill, a Nifty Ninety that is always worth visiting for the fine view. There is a short out and back to the top of Table Mountain, a most non-dramatic Nifty Ninety.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Coyote Valley Foothills

Where: Calero County Park, Rancho Cañada del Oro‎ Open Space Preserve.
Distance: about 20.6 miles.
Altitude gain: 4130 feet.
Direction of travel: either direction.

Access

There is free parking at the Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve lot on Casa Loma Road. The lot opens at 6:00 AM from April 16 to September 15, and at 7:00 AM the rest of the year. The lot is closed at sunset. Parking is prohibited along Casa Loma Road.

Additional Information

Much of Segment 1 is in open areas and thus sunny; Segment 2 is primarily shady. Both have beautiful oak savanna and oak woodlands and very nice views of the Diablo Range on the far side of the valley. The loop portion of segment 1 is not very steep and is quite popular with mountain bikers, especially on weekends.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Mindego Hill

Where: various Midpeninsula Open Space preserves.
Distance: about 19.7 miles.
Altitude gain: 5390 feet.
Direction of travel: either way.
Nifty Nineties: Mindego Hill, Borel HIll.

Access

There is free unrestricted parking in a small lot on Alpine Road. There is also some parking available on adjacent streets. The lot fills up early on weekends.

Additional Information

This walk has a section of out-and-back walking that we include because the view from Mindego Hill toward the Pacific is so stellar. The view from Borel Hill east over the Bay is also excellent and on a very clear winter day the Sierra Nevada are visible on the far horizon. The walk works equally well in either direction. There is a very short section of cross-country between the Hawk Ridge Trail and Skyline Boulevard to avoid a piece of possibly private fire road with an ambiguous trail easement.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Montara Mountain

Where: various Open Space and GGNRA preserves.
Distance: about 20.1 miles.
Altitude gain: 3450 feet.
Direction of travel: either way.
Nifty Nineties: Montara Mountain, San Pedro Mountain.

Access

The route runs between the SamTrans Highway 1 Main Street bus stop (just north of the intersection with Higgins Canyon Road) and the Linda Mar Park and Ride stop. Park at either end, take the #17 bus to the other end, and hike back to your car. The weekend and weekday bus schedules differ, but there is always an early bus.

Additional Information

The route includes a section that traverses the coastal towns between Montara and Half Moon Bay; most of this section is on bluffs or beach, however there is some road walking. South of Princeton Harbor one can walk on the coastal trail or on the beach, depending on the tide. There are many restaurants and shops in this section.

We have included a mapped Pedro Point alternate. This route has a bit less road walking in the Linda Mar area and fine coastal views from the Devil’s Slide Trail. However, it requires ignoring an “area closed” sign and climbing over a fence along the Devil’s Slide access road. To the best of our knowledge, this sign was posted by Caltrans many years ago and is commonly ignored by locals using the Old San Pedro Mountain Road on the other side of the fence; conditions may have changed since we were last there.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Palo Alto Foothills

Where: Arastradero Preserve, Palo Alto Foothills Park.
Distance: about 19.7 miles.
Altitude gain: 5190 feet.
Direction of travel: either way.

Access

The Arastradero Preserve trailhead parking is open from 8:00 AM to dusk. There is limited unrestricted on-street parking on Arastradero Road south of the trailhead lot.

Additional Information

This is a convoluted route through Palo Alto’s Arastradero Preserve and Foothills Park and includes a number of vista points along the way. Foothills Park is closed to non-residents entering in vehicles, but one can legally enter the park on foot from Arastradero Preserve. A small portion along Arastradero Creek is duplicated on the way out and the way back. There are several vista points with great views of the Bay. Approximately mid-way there is a bench in the shade next to Los Trancos Creek and about a mile away there is another bench in the sun with a big vista; either of these these make good lunch stops.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Pescadero Creek

Where: Pescadero Creek Park.
Distance: about 20.6 miles.
Altitude gain: 3670 feet.
Direction of travel: either way.

Access

The free Tarwater Trailhead parking lot on Camp Pomponio Road is about one mile south of Alpine Road.

Additional Information

This is a walk in the shady woods in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains; the perennial creek and many redwoods provide a nice walking experience, even on a hot day. At the mid-point an out-and-back vista point with sweeping views is a good spot for lunch. There are a couple of unbridged stream crossings which are easy to negotiate in normal stream-flow conditions.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Purisima Loop

Where: several Midpeninsula Open Space Preserves.
Distance: about 20.3 miles.
Altitude gain: 5010 feet.
Direction of travel: either way.

Access

There are three free public lots on Skyline Blvd: Teague Hill Trailhead, El Corte de Madera Creek Trailhead, and an unnamed pullout shown on the CalTopo map. The lot at the Higgins Road Trailhead is at the lowest point on the route for those who want to access the walk from the coastside.

Additional Information

The walk traverses several Open Space Preserves and a includes a portion of the Ridge Trail. There is a 2 mile segment on pavement along little-used Tunitas Creek and West Star Hill Roads. There are some nice sections of older second growth redwood forest on this route and a few glimpses out over the Pacific. A section along Tunitas Creek is also rewarding.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Saratoga Gap

Where: Castle Rock State Park.
Distance: about 20.1 miles.
Altitude gain: 3180 feet.
Direction of travel: counter-clockwise.

Access

The best place to park is the free lot at the intersection of Highway 9 and Skyline Boulevard. Hike counterclockwise. There is some noise from vehicles on Highway 9 on the Skyline to the Sea Trail portion of the route is near (but not on) paved roads; an early morning start mitigates much of this annoyance. The return leg on the old Post Road Trail is infrequently used and is in the woods for most of its way.

Additional Information

Most of this walk is in the woods, but there are several fine vista points including one with views south over Monterey Bay to the coastal monolith of Point Sur about 70 miles away. A potion of the walk is on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, completed in 1976 by the Sempervirens Fund. This is one of the first purpose built long distance trails in the Bay Area. There are also a couple of vista points in Castle Rock State Park.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Wilder Ranch

Where: Wilder Ranch State Park and Natural Bridges State Marine Reserve.
Distance: about 20.3 miles.
Altitude gain: 2760 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.

Access

Start at the unrestricted roadside parking on Empire Grade Road. There is a well developed use path leading to the park’s trail network from the road.

Parking on Highway 1 is restricted to 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM and is an option if starting after 6:00 AM. However, by parking on Empire Grade Road, the halfway lunch stop is nicely located near the ocean.

Additional Information

Walk clockwise as this puts the sun at your back when walking along the beach and coastal bluffs. There are Doug Fir and some Redwoods, large open meadows with fine views out to sea and a good coastal walk along the bluffs and on some beaches. The  section next to the Pacific is a small piece of the California Coastal Trail.

The far northeastern section of the trail may be marked closed, but it is frequently used by hikers and horseback riders and is a good trail which we have walked without problem. The park is quite popular with mountain bikers, so if possible walk during the week when their numbers are much reduced.

Southern Diablo Range: Grant Circumambulation

Where: Joseph D. Grant County Park.
Distance: about 21.2 miles.
Altitude gain: 5000 feet.
Direction of travel: either direction.
Nifty Nineties: Antler Point.

Access

The Twin Gates Trailhead parking lot on Mt. Hamilton Road opens at 8:00 AM. Because we usually start at sunrise, we park on the wide shoulder of the road opposite the lot; although not formally a parking lot there are no signs indicating that parking there is restricted and to date we have never had a problem parking there.

Additional Information

This walk follows the perimeter of Grant County Park through beautiful oak woodlands and open grasslands. Mt. Hamilton is the regional high point and is nearly always visible. A quarter mile side trip leads to Antler Point. The use trail leads to the west summit at 2987’; the Nifty Ninety summit is the east high point at 2999’ and is shown on our CalTopo map.

There are no sources of potable water on this walk. There are some horse troughs and occasional surface water that should be treated before drinking. As is true of all parks in the Diablo Range, this park is hot in the summer. There is also still some active cattle grazing in portions of this walk at some times of the year.

Southern Diablo Range: Blue Ridge and The Narrows

Where: Henry Coe State Park.
Distance: about 19.3 miles.
Altitude gain: 5180 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Mount Sizer.

Access

There is a campground and trailhead parking lot at Coe Park Headquarters at the end of East Dunne Avenue, about a 30 minute drive from Highway 101. Bring small bills so you can deposit your parking fee into the iron ranger box in case the ranger station is not open when you arrive.

Additional Information

We prefer to walk clockwise as the ascent from the Middle Fork Coyote Creek to the top of Blue Ridge is steep and is much easier to ascend than descend.

This walk, like many in this series, includes a lot of climbing. Henry Coe is hot in the summer months.

The walk through the Coyote Creek “Narrows” is very easy cross-country, but after heavy winter rains you may have to get your feet wet. There are also a couple of places upstream where the creek must be crossed and wading may be required after heavy rain. In the spring and early summer, there is a small swimming spot at China Hole. A short easy scramble to the top of Hat Rock provides some nice views, but poison oak is abundant around the rock. A brief side trip leads to the nondescript summit of Mt. Sizer.

The Monument area and Blue Ridge have lovely stands of Ponderosa Pine. This is an isolated population at the edge of the species’ range, and may not survive as global temperatures warm.

Southern Diablo Range: Burra Burra Big View

Where: Henry Coe State Park.
Distance: about 20.8 miles.
Altitude gain: 5940 feet.
Direction of travel: figure eight.
Nifty Nineties: Burra Burra Peak, Vasquez Peak, Willson Peak.

Access

There is a large trailhead parking lot at the Hunting Hollow entrance to the park. Bring small bills so you can deposit your parking fee into the iron ranger box.

Additional Information

Start by walking counterclockwise east up Hunting Hollow to Willson Camp. Cross the Wagon Road, turn left and continue in a clockwise direction to Burra Burra. To return descend Bura Burra and continue down to Cañada de la Dormida Creek, traverse over Vasquez Peak, cross the Wagon Road and continue up to Willson Peak. This figure-8 routing best divides the day and has you walking westbound on Willson Ridge which is the optimal view direction for this very fine piece of trail.

This route gains almost 6000 feet, and is best avoided in the heat of summer. A short very easy off-trail scramble takes you to a very fine comfortable lunch spot on a small rock outcropping with magnificent views of the Pacheco Creek drainage to the north. There is a 1-mile optional round trip to the non-descript summit of Burra Burra Peak. The view from the top is often partially obscured by vegetation and is not as satisfying as the lunch spot.

The trail down the ridge to Cañada de La Dormida creek is unmarked but quite easy to follow. There can be seasonal water in the creek, but do not depend on it. The walk along the top of Willson Ridge provides sweeping views of Monterey Bay and the Santa Lucia Mountains to the south.

Southern Diablo Range: Mahoney and Willow Ridges

Where: Henry Coe State Park.
Distance: about 21.9 miles.
Altitude gain: 5620 feet.
Direction of travel: clockwise.
Nifty Nineties: Willson Peak.

Access

There is a large trailhead parking lot at the Hunting Hollow entrance to the park. Bring small bills so you can deposit your parking fee into the box.

Additional Information

The walk includes about 3 km on paved Gilroy Hot Springs Road. Although the road is narrow, it is beautiful riparian habitat with large sycamore trees. Walk clockwise so you do the road walking first thing in the morning before there is any traffic, although there are few cars on this dead-end road most of the time.

The route follows the crests of two fine ridges. Mahoney Ridge is primarily grassy meadows and oak savanna, while Willow Ridge is dominated by chaparral. Both have continuous expansive views. The walk passes close to Coit Lake, where an alternate descends to and follows the shoreline. It also crosses the dam forming Kelley Cabin Lake. People fish in both lakes; a fishing license is required. Finally, the route crosses the flat top of Willson peak with its beautiful expansive views.

This route overlaps the Burra Burra Big View walk in two short places, but both hikes are so fine that we decided that it was OK.

2019-08-27T08:50:29-07:00Aug 22, 2019|Hike, Near SF, Public Transit, Route Guide|

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