Best Hikes in the Bay Area

Best Hikes in the Bay Area

When it comes to urban mountaineering, San Francisco's got your back! Day hikes for various levels of outdoor enthusiasts are easy to come by, and trust us, once you do one, you'll want to do another, and another, and another! For that very reason, Alite has collected a list of our favorite hikes for you to put on your to-do list. All of them are located within less than an hour drive of San Francisco, and some of them can even be found pretty much in your backyard!

Did you know that Cornona Heights is less than a mile away from The Mill (coffee + toast cafe) on Divisadero, that's only a mere 20 minute walk! Get your urban hike on in the city, or venture out a few more miles across the bridge to Muir Woods for a variety of 1-8 mile hikes. No matter how big your calves are, there is a hike listed below that will inspire you to grab your shoes and get out there!

 

Lands End

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How Long: 3 miles out and back

Difficulty: Easy

Exposure: Mix of Sun and Shade

Park Website: Lands End

Start of Trailhead:  Park at the Lands End Lookout. No parking or entrance fees. GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead: Latitude 37°46'51.15"N Longitude 122°30'42.18"W

Cool Part: True to its name, Lands End feels like you are at the edge of world. The trails are mostly dirt with the exception of a few paved. It is the perfect spot for someone looking for a easy hike or a simple trail run. 

Don’t Miss:

 

Fort Funston

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How Long: Miles of scenic beach 

Difficulty: Easy

Exposure: Mostly Sun

Park Website: Fort Funston

Start of Trailhead:  Park at the large paved lot signed Fort Funston. There are no parking or entrance fees, but watch out - the parking lot fills up fast on weekends! GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead: Latitude 37.7143° Longitude -122.502°

Cool Part: Fort Funston is a super dog-friendly beach with fun trails connecting the parking lot down to the beach area. There are some gnarly sand ladders to climb down to the beach, but the miles of beautiful oceanfront makes for an awesome sunset stroll. Get ready to pet a lot of happy wet dogs. 

Don’t Miss:

  • Known as a great spot for hang gliding (look for the gliders up on the bluffs as you walk across the beach)
  • We like the dune trails that head south towards San Mateo County (they're less busy!)
  • Bring a picnic (this should include baguettes and Other Brother Olive Oil)

 

Crissy Field

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How Long: 3.3 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Exposure: Totally Exposed

Park Website: Crissy Field

Start of Trailhead:  Park down in Crissy Field area where there are large parking lots in various locations. The lots tend to fill up on weekends. No parking or entrance fees. GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead: Latitude 37°48'21.11"N Longitude 122°27'8.88"W

Cool Part: Considered part of the Bay Trail, you will walk along the San Francisco bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. You can reach the bottom part of the Golden Gate Bridge, better known as Fort Point. See locals surf underneath the bridge, and touch the Hoppers Hands.

Don’t Miss:

  • Check out the eight monumentally scaled sculptures at Crissy Field (you won't miss em' - they're gigantic steel sculptures by famous artist Mark di Suvero).
  • Great picnic tables
  • The Palace of Fine Arts
  • Dynamo Donuts Marina location (treat yo self) 

 

MT Sutro

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How Long: 3 miles out and back

Difficulty: Easy

Exposure: Mix of Sun and Shade, and lots of FOG

Park Info: MT Sutro

Start of Trailhead:  There is no parking lot. You will have to park on the road (try Stanyan and 17th - the trailhead starts with a staircase, or try around Clarendon Ave. - this leads to the Fairy Gates Trail or the East Ridge Trail). More info here!

Cool Part:

There are some amazing trails within this area, and it truly transports you to a location where you feel you're outside of SF. If you like fog, Mt. Sutro should be entered into your 'must hike' list. It's also cool to note that  over 40 species of birds hang out here! Holy smokes!

Don’t Miss: 

  • Bring a monocular to try and spot that weird mating call you're about to hear
  • Read up on the man who originally planted this area - Adolph Sutro before you go!
  • Bring good hiking shoes, it always tends to be a bit damp

 

Bernal Hill

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How Long: Total area of 26.34 acres

Difficulty: Easy

Exposure: Lots of sun!

Park Info: Bernal Hill

Start of Trailhead:  There is a paved road to a parking lot (follow Folsom Street up to Bernal Heights Blvd), or you can park at the base (around Precita Park) and then walk up and feel the burn! Latitude: 37.7431 Longitude: -122.4140

Cool Part:

If you've heard anything about Bernal Heights, it's most likely regarding the AHHHmazing view. This hill provides a panorama view of the city, Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks, and even the East Bay. Bernal Hill is also extremely dog friendly, easily accessible, and has plenty of benches and sweet spots to sit!

Don’t Miss: 

  • Go up around golden hour and snap a few shots for the scrapbook
  • Stop by Liberty Cafe after and watch a movie on their patio!
  • Bring a water bottle and fill it up en route 

 

Presidio: Battery to Bluffs Trail

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How Long: 0.7 miles

Difficulty: Moderate (FYI there are a few flights of stairs)

Exposure: Mix of Sun and Shade

Park Info: Presido Trust Trails

Start of Trailhead:  You can park in the Baker Beach parking lot, then continue north until you hit a sand ladder (which will be your first flight of stairs). Continue on that road briefly, then turn onto the Batteries to Bluffs Trail! More details here.

Cool Part:

Get ready to feel the burn baby, in a real good way! The Batteries to Bluffs trail has stairs and amazing views of the city, Marin Headlands and the Point Bonita Lighthouse! This is an awesome coastal hike you won't regret. It offers plenty of opportunities to stop and rest, soak in some history while checking out the Battery Lancaster, and watch the pelicans cruise around overhead.

Don’t Miss: 

  • Reserve a camp spot and stay at Rob Hill Campground
  • Check out Marshall's Beach! Epic views of the GG Bridge

 

Presidio: Inspiration Point

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How Long: Varies from .2 - 3 miles in trails

Difficulty: Easy

Exposure: Mix of Sun and Shade

Park Info: Inspiration Point

Start of Trailhead: Start at Inspiration Point Overlook and then jump on the Ecology Trail. There is a small parking lot here, but if it's full you'll have to find a place on Arguello Boulevard, or take the PresidiGo Shuttle to stop #33.

Cool Part:

Ever heard of Alcatraz? Ya, it was a prison, and the coolest view of it from the mainland is here at Inspiration Point! This is a good place to start exploring the Presidio area and find easy trails for causal walks/hikes. There is a great playground in close proximity, as well as tennis courts and outdoor art installations.

Don’t Miss:

 

Stow Lake

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How Long: 1.06 mile loop around the whole lake

Difficulty: Easy

Exposure: Mix of Sun and Shade

Park Info: Stow Lake

Start of Trailhead:  Park along John F Kennedy Drive or Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (more info here).

Cool Part: This mellow loop around the lake is perfect for a leisurely stroll or casual jog. The trail that goes around the perimeter of the lake passes a 110 foot waterfall called Huntington Falls, and also passes a few cool bridges. You will find plenty of aesthetically pleasing green vegetation and bridge stone work to catch your eye!

Don’t Miss: 

  • Stow Lake Cafe - try a made to order burger!
  • This makes for a great running loop for introductory runners (with lots to distract you)
  • #romancecentral
  • Rent a paddle boat
  • Keep your eyes peeled for the turtles!
  • Check out the Chinese Pagoda, which was gifted to San Francisco by its sister city of Taipei in 1976

 

Sweeney Ridge

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How Long: .2 - 3 mile hikes with various trails and loops

Difficulty: Moderate

Exposure: Mainly sunny

Park Info: Sweeney Ridge

Start of Trailhead: We suggest parking in the Foothills College parking lot and then taking one of the four walking trails that lead to the Discovery Site (various levels of hiking). The hikes range from .2 miles to 3.2 miles and have great views!

Cool Part: This ridge is beautiful, and the various levels of hiking trails offer something for everyone. There is also no shortage of wildlife to see or native plant vegetation to smell. In the spring, the wildflowers are poppin', but any time of year or any time of day is good to go! 

Don’t Miss: 

  • Check out the The Shelldance Nursery after or before your hike
  • Reward yourself at the nicest Taco Bell in the world, right on Pacifica Beach
  • Check out the Pacifica Pier (especially if it's crabbing season)
  • Gorilla BBQ is beyond delicious
  • Pacifica has a great skate park
  • Mori Point (off or Mori Ridge Trail) is our favorite spot!

 

Muir Woods

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How Long: 6 miles of trails

Difficulty: Moderate - difficult (some narrow steep trails)

Exposure: Mix of Sun and Shade

Park Info: Muir Woods

Start of Trailhead:  There is a public paid parking lot directly off Muir Woods Road. Various loops are found here to get you going! They range from .5 hour loops, 1.0 hour loops, 1.5 hour loops and longer hikes into the Mount Tamalpais State Park perimeter.

Cool Part:

Mount Tamalpais State Park is a hikers dream! Whether you want to hike around and check out the massive redwoods casually, or hike the Dipsea trail all the way down to Stinson Beach, this zone is a powerhouse. Pick up a dollar map at the visitor center and away you go! Bring appropriate footwear, some of these trails get steep and are rutted with roots.

Don’t Miss: 

  • Stop at the Pelican Inn on the way out (or the way in)
  • FYI horses are allowed on some trails!
  • Ever hear of the Tourist Club of San Francisco? More info here!
  • Bikes are allowed ONLY on designated fire roads

 

Tennessee Valley

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How Long: 1.7 mile hike in to Tennesse Beach along the Tennesse Valley Trail.

Difficulty: Easy - moderate

Exposure: Mix of Sun and Shade

Park Info: Tennessee Valley

Start of Trailhead:  The parking lot can be found at the end of Tennessee Valley Road. There are no entrance or parking fees. It is wise to get there early to snag a spot, it fills up fast. GPS coordinates* for trailhead: Latitude 37°51'37.69"N Longitude 122°32'8.71"W

Cool Part:

This is a great family hike that hosts ample opportunities to see some wildlife! The location from the city is the best part - only a 20 minute drive from SF! Bring along a picnic lunch for when you reach the beach, and be sure to bring a camera!

Don’t Miss:

  • Horseback riding options
  • The seal rescue area is a pretty sweet thing to learn about
  • Spring wildflower season is the bomb!
  • Try and plan a hike around low tide and seasonal sand alignments if you want to check out the remnants of the SS Tennesse

 

Point Bonita Lighthouse

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How Long: 0.5 mile trail to reach the lighthouse

Difficulty: Easy - moderate

Exposure: Mix of Sun and Shade

Park Info: Point Bonita Lighthouse

Start of Trailhead: Parking is available, but limited (especially on weekends). The trail to the lighthouse is only .5 miles, but is very steep at times. There is a tunnel halfway to the lighthouse, but it's only open during visiting hours (Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.). 

Cool Part:

Check out the Battery Wallace, near the start of the trailhead, for an awesome picnic spot that has tables and grills. BYOW (Bring Your Own Water).

Don’t Miss:

 

MT Tam Pantoll

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How Long: 4.3 mile loop to West Point Inn and back (About 2.5 hours)

Difficulty: Moderate

Exposure: Mix of Sun and Shade

Park Info: MT Tam Pantoll

Start of Trailhead: Park in Pantoll State Park lot ($8 parking charge). There are a few pull out points near the lot which are free, but usually full.  GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead: Latitude 37°54'14.52"N Longitude 122°36'16.63"W

Cool Part:

Waterfalls and wildflowers, need we say more? The ocean views are mesmerizing, and this trail is beautiful no matter what the weather is doing! There are a few good shaded areas to stop for lunch, but please, remember your sun hat, things get burnt fast! And unfortunately there are no dogs allowed, sorry pups. 

Don’t Miss: 

  • The opportunity to take a selfie ...
  • Need a weekend to yourself, or with a friend? Check out availability at Mount Home Inn

Tags: Hike