The folks at Arc’teryx Stanford Center asked me to share a few of my favorite Bay Area hikes and nonprofits at their spring launch event. There’s nothing I love more than talking about outdoor adventure, so I happily obliged.
For this roundup, I only wanted to include hikes within an hour of the Bay Area. These are all places you can go and get in mileage but still make it back in time for dinner and drinks with friends.
These are the best Bay Area hikes that I return to time and time again.
Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore
This hike is one I always suggest to out-of-towners. At 9.4 miles and 1200 elevation gain, this out-and-back is not insignificant. The Tomales Point trail goes by quickly with views of the rugged California coastline and the occasional sighting of tule elk. This hike also has cell service for almost the whole way if you wanted to Instastory the whole thing.
Point Reyes National Seashore is the ancestral homeland of the Tomales Bay Miwok.
Heritage Grove, Sam McDonald County Park
Heritage Grove is a new addition to my list of favorite Bay Area hikes, and it shot up there fast. Off the beaten path, this spot is home to the largest Redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, even larger than neighboring Big Basin and Portola Redwood State Parks. The loop is about 4 miles long with 900 feet of elevation gain. Bonus: add a stay at the Sierra Club Hiker’s Hut.
Sam McDonald County Park is the ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone.
Berry Creek Falls, Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Berry Creek Falls is a spot near and dear to my heart. It is a spot on the Skyline to the Sea trail, which was my first backpacking trip. For this reason, it makes the list. It’s about 12.1 miles with a little more than 2600 feet of elevation gain. The first half of the hike is all downhill. The second half is a pretty gradual hike back to the car.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the ancestral homeland of the Awaswas Ohlone.
Whittemore Gulch-Craig Britton-Purisima Creek Loop, Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
This loop at Purisima Creek is basically in my backyard. If you start early enough, you’ll have the trails to yourself. This creek loop is so scenic that you’ll forget that your thighs are burning. Banana slugs love this place after a wet period. The last time I was here, I counted over 400 banana slugs on this 10 mile loop. After your hike, stop for seafood in Half Moon Bay. You won’t be disappointed.
Purisima Creek Redwoods is the ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone.
Alec Canyon-Waterfall Loop, Uvas Canyon County Park
If you want to chase waterfalls, go to Uvas Canyon. This is my favorite Bay Area hike after a rainy season. This hike is about 6.4 miles long with 1000 feet of elevation gain. It’s also quite family and kid friendly with some paved portions. This park has been closed for the past year due to road damage, but it’s finally open again!
Uvas Canyon County Park is the ancestral homeland of the Mutsun Ohlone.