All Parks
1 Jan 2012
South Bay
Redwoods in Santa Cruz Mountains

The best season to visit redwood parks is winters, after rains, when creeks and waterfalls are full of water.

  Big Basin has a large network of hiking trails. The most popular hike is to Berry Creek Falls. The 28-mile Skyline to the Sea Trail also goes via this park. Butano is one of my favorite parks with gorgeous trails next to creeks and canyons. Portola Redwoods and Purisima Creek also have awesome trails going through redwoods. Cascade Ranch lies to the west of Big Basin. Gorgeous loops can be constructed from this entrance by combining trails from Big Basin.

  Pescadero Creek and Sam McDonald are adjacent to each other with good hikes along shaded trails. Memorial Park is a small park with a short hike to Mount Ellen.

Redwoods near Santa Cruz

  Henry Cowell - Fall Creek has the 3-mile Fall Creek Trail, which is gorgeous in winter after rains. Henry Cowell has river crossing hikes which require us to wade through water at four places. Forest of Nisene Marks is home to Maple Falls, a seasonal waterfall which looks awesome after recent thunderstorms. Other hikes in this park are also good.

  Medicine Buddha has a six mile loop adjoining a Buddhist monastery. Wilder Ranch has a variety of trails through thick forest, open spaces and ocean views.

  Soquel Forest has fire roads popular among mountain bikers. Pogonip and Harvey West have good, shaded trails.

Lakes in Santa Cruz

  Loch Lomond is a popular picnic spot with a five mile loop.

Big Sur

  Point Lobos is an awesome location for photography, with hiking trails along a jagged coastline. Garrapata, Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Pfeiffer Big Sur have gorgeous hikes along shaded trails.

  Andrew Molera has good hiking trails next to the Pacific.

Open Spaces next to Hwy 280

  Rancho San Antonio is probably the most popular park for hiking in the bay area, next to Mission Peak. Hidden Villa is a less known park with equally good trails, lying to the west of Rancho San Antonio. It is possible to form long loops by combining trails in both parks.

  Stanford Dish is a popular park with a short four mile hike along a paved road. Great location for those looking for their first hike.

Rock Formations

  Castle Rock is a popular park with an awesome six mile loop with forested trails, canyon views and rock formations. Much longer loops are also possible.

  Sanborn Skyline and El Corte de Madera Creek are less popular but offer an experience very similar to Castle Rock.

Dumbarton Bridge & Palo Alto

  Palo Alto Baylands has flat trails next to a marshland.


Cupertino and Saratoga

  Villa Montalvo has a gorgeous three mile loop. Fremont Older, Picchetti Ranch and Stevens Creek are best visited in spring when hills are lush green. All of these parks are very close to cities like Cupertino and Saratoga.

  Cupertino Memorial Park is a small city park with a mile long loop.

Los Gatos

  Sierra Azul has rugged fire roads with great valley views, best suited for cardiovascular workouts.

  El Sereno, St Joseph's Hill, Lexington Reservoir have a decent network of trails.

  Vasona Lake and Los Gatos Creek Trail has trails with no elevation gain.

South San Jose & Gilroy

  Uvas Canyon is a hidden gem of the bay area with shaded trails and gorgeous mini-waterfalls in late winters. Henry Coe is a very large park with hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Almost all trails are in the open. Best visited in spring when hills are green and temperatures are not that high.

  Calero, Almaden Quicksilver, Rancho Cañada Del Oro, Mount Madonna and Pacheco are great parks for visiting in spring and autumn.

  Coyote Lake - Harvey Bear and Santa Teresa have a decent trail system. Most trails are sunny.

North Bay
Redwoods in Marin

  Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods are adjacent to each other. Both are classic destinations in the bay area for redwood hikes. The most popular hike is Steep Ravine - Matt Davis loop, which goes along a creek for several miles. Other great destinations are Cataract Falls and East Peak.

  Samuel Taylor is a great park with shaded trails.

Ocean Views in Marin

  Point Reyes is a paradise for hikers, exuding a feeling of expansiveness. Home to several beaches, campsites and dozens of miles of hiking trails. The hike to Alamere Falls is the most popular. It leads to a waterfall that flows directly into the ocean. The views from Drakes Head are spectacular. Other popular destinations are Arch Rock, Tomales Point and Point Reyes Lighthouse. Marin Headlands is a few miles north of Golden Gate Bridge with great hikes. I really like the Coastal Trail and Rodeo Beach.

  Slide Ranch has a gorgeous short hike all along the Pacific, leading to a non profit dairy farm. Tomales Bay has a great hike via four beaches adjacent to Tomales Bay.

  China Camp and Ring Mountain also have some good hikes.

Forests in Marin

  Mount Tamalpais Watershed is adjacent to Mt Tamalpais. A gret hike is to Cataract Falls in late winters, after heavy rains.

  Baltimore Canyon, Blithedale Summit and King Mountain are adjacent to each other. In late winters, after rains, the route to Dawn Falls is gorgeous. Other trails go through forests and canyons with good views. Cascade Canyon is another park in Marin with good hiking routes, mostly in the open. Olompali and Mount Burdell are adjacent to each other with good hikes to Mount Burdell.


  Old St Hilary's has a short sweet hike that offers great views of Angel Island.

  Tiburon Uplands is a small preserve adjacent to Old St Hilary's.

San Francisco & Daly City

  San Francisco offers a gorgeous hike all along the Coastal Trail. Angel Island has a short, sweet hike to Mt Livermore, the highest point in the island. Great 360-degree views and picnic area atop the peak.

  San Bruno Mountain is a small park with lots of wildflowers in early spring. One of the hiking trails along a north-south ridge offers the unique experience of seeing San Francisco Bay in the east and Pacific Ocean in the west, both at the same time.

  Fort Funston is a small area next to the Pacific Ocean. A long nine-mile beach is accessible here. Mussel Rock is another park next to the Pacific lying at the southern terminus of the nine mile beach.

  Candlestick Point, Lake Merced and Centennial Way have paved hiking trails, quite close to cities. Traffic noise is quite noticeable here.


  McNee Ranch and San Pedro Valley are adjacent to each other. The most popular hike is to Mount Montara. By combining trails from both parks, good routes can be formed. Montara Beach lies to the south of McNee Ranch. Gray Whale Cove cove lies to the north By combining trails leading to both, longer, interesting routes can be formed. Something unique about these routes is the variety of micro climates we get to experience. Mori Point and Pacifica Beach are connected by trails all along the ocean. This route is one of my favorites. It goes via beaches and hills, with several locations to pause, explore and absorb nature.

  Sweeney Ridge and Milagra Ridge are popular hiking locations that offer good views of the Pacific.

Half Moon Bay & Santa Cruz

  Año Nuevo is famous for seals mating in Jan-Feb time frame. Gazos Creek is a nice park, somewhat secluded, that offers a trail next to the Pacific.

  Fitzgerald Marine and Pigeon Point are connected by trails and beach walk that is feasible when the tide is sufficiently low.

  Half Moon Bay, Cowell Ranch, Greyhound Rock, Santa Cruz Beach and West Cliff Drive have small sized hiking routes all along the Pacific. If you love seeing the ocean and are not looking for hills to climb, all of these are beautiful places to visit.

  Cowell Purisima Tunitas Creek Beach, Pillar Point and Wilbur's Watch are smaller sized, less popular hiking locations.

Lakes in San Mateo

  Crystal Springs has a gorgeous bike trail next to a reservoir. Best visited with a bike. Fifield_Cahill requires a permit.

Redwoods near Redwood City

  Phleger Estate has good, shaded trails covered by tall trees. Wunderlich is a quiet park with gently graded, shaded trails.

  Huddart, Edgewood and Pulgas Ridge are quite close to CA-280. Most trails are shaded.

  Eaton and Big Canyon are small sized parks near the city of San Carlos.

Flower Gardens

  Filoli Gardens is popular in spring when wildflowers bloom with joy. Golden Gate Park and Hokane Gardens are two more gardens in the bay area.

East Bay
East San Jose

  Joseph D Grant is a large park with a variety of trails, shaded and unshaded. Best visited in spring when hills are green. Many find it surprising that a park so beautiful is adjacent to San Jose.

  Alum Rock has a good trail system with nice hikes.

Fremont & Milpitas

  Sunol is one of my favorite parks in East Bay. Lovely, panoramic views of lush green valleys in spring. Ohlone Wilderness has Rose Peak which is reachable via a twenty mile, 4000+ ft hike. Many bay area residents don't know that such a hike exists right in our backyard. Mission Peak and Rancho San Antonio are the two most popular parks in teh bay area for hiking. Some people equate the word hiking with walking up to Mission Peak, unaware that so many other routes exist in the bay area. Best done in spring when hills are lush green. Also popular for full moon hikes because the park remains open till 10pm.

  Ed Levin is adjacent to Mission Peak, offering a similar experience. Paid parking makes this park less popular.

  Alviso Marina has long, flat hiking trails along levies in marshlands on the periphery of San Francisco Bay. Good for quiet, serene walks. Plenty of wildlife.

Union City

  Coyote Hills is a small park next to San Francisco Bay. Gorgeous views at sunset. Pleasanton Ridge, Dry Creek Pioneer and Garin offer a similar experience with trails along rolling hills. Best visited in spring, when hills are lush green.

  Shadow Cliffs offers a short loop along a lake with a picnic area.


  Brushy Peak is a small park in Livermore. Best visited in spring.

Redwoods in East Bay
San Pablo to Castro Valley

  Sibley Volcanic and Huckleberry Botanic are adjacent to each other with good trails, partly shaded. Tilden and Cull Canyon offer a similar experience.

  Anthony Chabot and Five Canyons.

  Wildcat Canyon.

Walnut Creek — San Ramon

  Mount Diablo is fantastic for challenging hikes with panoramic views all along. Eagle Peak and Mt Diablo are good destinations.

  Las Trampas is a nice park that gives a feeling of wilderness despite being close to cities. Similar to Mt Diablo. Morgan Territory, Round Valley and Black Diamond Mines also have a good network of trails.

  Shell Ridge, Diablo Foothills and Bishop Ranch are smaller sized parks in East Bay.

Pinole & El Sobrante

  Pinole Valley and Sobrante Ridge are small sized parks.

Richmond & Berkeley

  Temescal is a picnic area with a short loop around a lake.

Vallejo & Concord

  Hiddenbrooke is a small park in Vallejo with good views of hills next to the city.

  Bay Point Shoreline.

Lakes in East Bay

  Lake Chabot is a popular destination with hiking trails that circumambulate a large lake. Adjacent to Anthony Chabot Regional Preserve. Trails from these two parks may be combined for longer routes. Del Valle offers gorgeous trails in hills overlooking Del Valle Lake. Upper San Leandro Reservoir is adjacent to Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Great network of hiking trails with panoramic valley views.

  Briones Reservoir, Lafayette Reservoir and Don Castro also offer loops around lakes.

  Contra Loma, San Pablo Reservoir and Lake Merritt.

Shorelines in East Bay

  Point Pinole, Miller-Knox Shoreline and Robert Crown Beach have shorelines along San Francisco Bay. Great for photography at dusk and dawn.

  Martinez Shoreline, Point Isabel, Middle Harbor Shoreline, Oyster Bay, MLK Jr Shoreline and Hayward Shoreline are additional parks with hiking trails along San Francisco Bay. Most of these routes are flat.

Long Trails

  Bay Area Ridge Trail has several long sections. A notable section is from Samuel Taylor Park to Golden Gate Bridge. The Bay Area Ridge Council organizes an annual event for hikes along this section.

  East Bay Skyline connects six different parks. Can be done as a long day hike.

  Bay Trail is a paved trail next to San Francisco Bay. Good for relaxed walks and photography during dusk and dawn.

A Few Hours Away

  Salt Point, Fort Ross, Death Valley, Tumey Hills, Pinnacles, Yosemite and Inyo are great destinations which are two to five hours away.

  Robert Luis Stevenson has Mt St Helena, the highest mountain in Napa Valley.

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