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Sacramento is an amazing starting point for a variety of day trips in Northern California. From the state capital, you can explore everything from the beaches of Bodega Bay to the wine country of Napa Valley and all points in between.

Whether you are looking for outdoor adventure or a relaxing getaway, there is something for everyone just outside Sacramento’s city limits. Here are 17 incredible day trips from Sacramento that will give you an unforgettable experience!

Grab some road trip essentials and get started on your day trip from Sacramento!

Folsom

Folsom, California

Folsom, California

Time to travel: 28 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

Just a 28-minute drive away from Sacramento is Folsom, an easy day trip destination with plenty of activities to explore. Spend the day shopping at the Folsom Premium Outlets or simply stroll through Historic Folsom and take some photos of its iconic landmarks like the Rainbow Bridge.

Or check out one of the many trails in the area, like the Johnny Cash Trail or Lake Natoma Loop Trail. And don’t forget to stop by the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary for some animal encounters.

Auburn

Time to travel: 33 minutes

Best time to visit: Summer, Fall

Another short drive away from Sacramento is the small town of Auburn. Located in Placer County, it’s known for its rushing rivers, majestic mountains, and endless outdoor activities.

Take a day trip to Auburn to start a hike at the Hidden Falls near the American River or Lake Clementine Trail. If you’re up for swimming, head on over to a gem of a swimming hole, the Auburn Confluence.

You can also walk the historic downtown of Auburn for cute boutique shops and restaurants. Check out The Pour for local coffee, go for wine tasting, or grab something more substantial at the Auburn Thai Garden Restaurant.

Lodi

Time to travel: 38 minutes

Best time to visit: Spring, Summer

With it being such a short drive away, Lodi makes an awesome day trip from Sacramento. Lodi is located right in the center of the San Joaquin Valley with sunny days and fields of greenery!

Today, Lodi is coming up in the wine industry and is recognized for its Zinfandel grapes. Besides wine country, there are also other adventurous things to do in Lodi.

Head to Lodi Lake for a swim or check out the unique animals found at the Micke Grove Zoo where zoologists are doing their best to take care of some endangered species hosted there.

You’ll also want to check out the local farmer’s market that the town has on Thursday evenings or head to the Double Dip Gallery for both ice cream and local art.

Placerville

Placerville, California

Placerville, California

Time to travel: 42 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

Another great day trip from Sacramento is to the town of Placerville. Located in El Dorado County, this place has a lot of history to it. It was the first large settlement in California and one time had the name “Hangtown” due to 5 men who were hung on the same day on the same tree!

Today, you can still walk around the historic downtown of Placerville and check out some of the oldest buildings in town. Visit local shops like The Bookery for books, head to the Lava Cap Winery as well for wine-tasting in Placerville, or visit the Larson Apple Barn for some of the most delicious apples!

For more outdoor activities, head over to Eldorado National Forest for hiking through trails like The Potholes, Bassi Falls, or Shealor Lake Trail.

Sutter Creek

Sutter Creek, California

Sutter Creek, California

Time to travel: 55 minutes

Best time to visit: all year round

Sutter Creek is a charming city in the heart of California’s Gold Country, located less than an hour from Sacramento. Explore its colorful downtown with historic buildings that date back to the 19th century and find a variety of unique shops and galleries along Main Street.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a panning tour at the Kennedy Gold Mine and test your luck at finding some gold! You can also take a self-guided tour through the Black Cavern Chasm filled with crystals.

For fuel, grab a drink from Chocolatte, and head over to Cavana’s Pub & Grub for a delicious sandwich!

Nevada City

Broad Street in Nevada City, California

Broad Street in Nevada City, California

Time to travel: 1 hour, 2 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

You don’t have to go too far from Sacramento to visit some of California’s oldest towns. Nevada City is located in the Sierra Foothills and is known for its well-preserved gold rush history.

Take a self-guided tour of the town’s historic sites, including the Nevada City Firehouse Museum or the Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. You’ll also find some great restaurants, shops, galleries, and wine-tasting rooms in downtown Nevada City on Broad Street.

For food, head to the local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, grab an almond croissant at the Three Forks Bakery & Brewery Co., or Lefty’s Grill.

Half Moon Bay

View of the coastal cliffs in Half Moon Bay, California an amazing day trip from Sacramento

View of the coastal cliffs in Half Moon Bay, California

Time to travel: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Best time to visit: Fall, Spring, Summer

Just an hour away from Sacramento is Half Moon Bay, a stunning coastal town with some of the best beaches in Northern California. From the harbor to the cliffside trails, you can experience breathtaking views and outdoor activities like surfing or fishing.

Some of the beaches to visit in Half Moon Bay are Pillar Point Harbor and Mavericks, a world-renowned surfing beach. For those looking to explore nature, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a great spot for tide-pooling and birdwatching.

A visit to Half Moon Bay wouldn’t be complete without stopping at Barbara’s Fish Trip for seafood or tasting some of the delicious local wine from Half Moon Bay Winery.

Napa Valley

Vineyards in Napa Valley

Vineyards in Napa Valley

Time to travel: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Best time to visit: Spring, Summer

Napa Valley is a great day trip from Sacramento for those wanting to experience world-class wineries and gorgeous vineyards. From tasting rooms offering samples of locally crafted wines to the many restaurants that feature local flavors, there are so many delicious adventures to be had!

There are dozens of wineries in Napa Valley, and each one offers something unique. To make the most out of your day trip, we recommend visiting a few of the top-rated places like Robert Mondavi Winery, Frog’s Leap, and V. Sattui Winery.

Sonoma Valley

Time to travel: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Best time to visit: Spring, Summer, Fall

If you’re looking for a day trip from Sacramento that’s close by, try Sonoma Valley! The sister to Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley is laid back and filled with wine tours, food, and outdoor activities!

Take a hike on the beautiful Sonoma Overlook Trail or visit Quarryhill Botanical Garden, a home for Asian plants and known for its impressive collection of rare and endangered plants.

You can also experience the unique sights and smells of California’s wine country by touring vineyards like Medlock Ames or taking part in some amazing culinary experiences by walking the Cheese Trail.

Petaluma

Petaluma, California

Petaluma, California

Time to travel: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Best time to visit: Fall, Winter, Spring

Another wonderful day trip from Sacramento (and a short drive south of Santa Rosa) lies Petaluma. This charming small town has plenty of unique attractions to explore, from the Petaluma antique stores to the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park.

If you’re an avid bird watcher, take a trip to Shollenberger Park or visit the Petaluma wetlands for some wildlife sightings. For a little bit of history, visit the Petaluma Museum, where you can learn about the town’s past.

For a bite to eat, head over to the Historic Downtown area for some of the best local restaurants like Central Market or the Petaluma Pie Company. Petaluma is also known for its creameries, so make sure to grab some locally-made ice cream at Lala’s Creamery.

Sausalito

Time to travel: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

Just an hour and a half away from Sacramento is the coastal town of Sausalito. With its stunning coastal views and beautiful bay, it’s no wonder why it’s such a popular day trip destination!

Take a stroll along the Sausalito boardwalk or go kayaking in Richardson Bay. You can also walk along the docks and view the houseboats lining the marina.

Not only can you walk around Sausalito, but you can also head to Marin Headlands for hiking the trails such as Hawk Hill, Kirby Cove, or Rodeo Beach.

For your meals, grab a coffee at Cibo or head on over to the Fish restaurant for local seafood. You’ll also want to check out Lapert’s for its quirky flavors of ice cream!

Santa Rosa

Time to travel: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

One of the best day trips from Sacramento is Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County with so much to do and explore! Home to the world-famous Charles M. Schulz Museum, it’s an excellent destination for art and history lovers. The vibrant and historic downtown area is known as Railroad Square and has plenty of local shops and restaurants to explore.

Be sure to stop at Nimble and Finn’s for an ice cream cone or eat some traditional Thai food at Khoom Lanna Thai Cuisine.

Not only are there small-town activities, but you can also find plenty to do outdoors. Santa Rosa offers scenic trails at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and a wealth of parks like the Jack London Historic State Park or the Trione-Annadel State Park. You can even experience a safari in the middle of California by visiting  Safari West.

Sonora

Sonora, California

Sonora, California

Time to travel: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

Travel just short of 2 hours from Sacramento and you’ll find yourself in Sonora, a former gold mining town located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

If you love being outdoors, Sonora is the perfect place for you! Take a scenic hike at Dragoon Gulch Trail to see the city of Sonora at the summit or go swimming in a cave at the Natural Bridges Trail.

For those looking to explore more of the town’s history, check out Sonora’s Historic Downtown District where you can visit some of the old buildings that were built during the Gold Rush days in the 1860s.

You won’t want to miss out on the farm-to-table restaurant of Emberz or scouring through all the cute antique shops lining the street.

Bodega Bay

Bodega Head Beach, a perfect day trip from Sacramento

Bodega Head Beach

Time to travel: 2 hours, 7 minutes

Best time to visit: Fall, Winter, Spring

On a 2-hour drive from Sacramento is Bodega Bay, a picturesque fishing community and popular tourist destination known for being the setting of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film, Birds. From the waterfront views to nature hikes, there’s plenty of seafood to enjoy and nature to explore.

Explore Bodega Head which has breathtaking views of the bay or visit Doran Beach for swimming, paddleboarding, or kayaking. You can also hike on the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail to catch sight of birds like pelicans.

Stop by the famous Spud Point Crab Company for some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever taste and then take a stroll along the beach and watch for migrating whales.

Lake Tahoe

Clear Waters, Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

Clear Waters, Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

Time to travel: 2 hours, 12 minutes

Best time to visit: Spring, Summer, Fall

A scenic 2-hour drive will take you on a day trip from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe. This gorgeous glacial lake is the perfect destination for outdoor activities like camping, fishing, swimming, and biking. Lake Tahoe is open in the winter for outdoor activities, but be sure you’d like to be there for the cold weather!

Start with a hike on the trails of Emerald Bay State Park or grab some gear and go kayaking on Lake Tahoe. You can also take a boat cruise directly on Lake Tahoe from the Zephyr Cove Marina during the daytime or take a sunset dinner cruise.

For a great breakfast spot, check out the Getaway Cafe for their coconut-crusted french toast. You’ll also want to the Base Camp Pizza Co. for some unique flavors of pizza!

San Francisco

Time to travel: 2 hours, 16 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

San Francisco is a must-see for any day trip from Sacramento. With its iconic Golden Gate Bridge and beautiful coastal drives, this city is a must-see!  You can choose to visit the world-renown Alcatraz, or just view it from shore, walk through Pier 39 to watch the sea lions, or take a stroll through Chinatown.

Other well-known places to explore in San Francisco are Golden Gate Park, Ghiradelli Square, and seeing Lombard Street. For a unique experience, take a ride on the vintage San Francisco cable cars or visit the Ferry Building Marketplace to sample some of the city’s best local flavors.

To really get the full San Francisco experience, you can’t miss out on its amazing food scene. From seafood dishes at Fisherman’s Wharf to traditional Italian cuisine in North Beach and Mexican favorites in Mission District—you’ll be sure to find your new favorite!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley from Wawona Tunnel Vista Point, an amazing day trip from Sacramento

Yosemite Valley from Wawona Tunnel Vista Point

Time to travel: 2 hours, 44 minutes

Best time to visit: Late spring-early fall

If you’re looking for a more adventurous day trip from Sacramento, Yosemite National Park is the perfect destination! From majestic waterfalls to lush meadows and valleys, this national park has it all.

Take a moderate hike on the Mist Trail to see Nevada Falls, or stroll around Mirror Lake Trail and catch sight of Half Dome. There are also other iconic points to explore like Glacier Point, El Capitan, and Mariposa Grove.

No matter where you go in Yosemite National Park, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable time. Don’t forget to bring your camera for some great shots!

Final Thoughts: Day Trips from Sacramento

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day by the coast or an adventure in a national park, Sacramento has plenty of great day trip options. From Bodega Bay to Yosemite National Park, these spots offer a variety of landscapes and activities to enjoy!

Which day trip from Sacramento is on your list? Share it with us below!

What’s better than a road trip? A road trip with the promise of hiking along the way. With its spectacular landscapes, diverse terrain, and a plethora of outdoor activities, the United States is a hiker’s paradise. From exploring some of the tallest peaks in North America to trekking down stunning coastal trails, there are countless hiking road trips here that can provide an unforgettable experience for any intrepid adventurer. From Oregon’s Pacific Coast to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, these are some of the best road trips in the USA for hikers. So get your car ready and hit the road!

Oregon Loop

Embark on an unforgettable hiking adventure with the Oregon Loop, a road trip perfect for outdoor enthusiasts! The Oregon loop is a popular hiking road trip that takes you from Portland, through the Willamette Valley, and down to the rugged coast of this beautiful state.

Rolling Hills of the Willamette Valley, best road trips in the USA for hikers

Rolling Hills of the Willamette Valley

Set against the backdrop of unspoiled beaches, volcanic mountains, and idyllic valleys, this majestic tour stretches over 1,400 miles of Oregon’s natural beauty. Along the way, hikers can venture onto some of Oregon’s most iconic trails, including the epic Mt Hood, Timberline Trail, or the Three Sisters Loop.

Hikers can also explore stunning coastal trails like the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the Yaquina Head Natural Area, or the world-famous Columbia River Gorge. With stunning views, lush forests, and plenty of wildlife, this hiking road trip is sure to provide a memorable experience.

Arizona Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic natural wonders in the world and it deserves a spot on any hiker’s road trip list.  With its dazzling array of colors and breathtaking views, there’s no better way to explore this iconic landscape than with a hiking road trip through Arizona. From Flagstaff, explore the vast terrain and take in views of the canyon’s red-rock walls, winding rivers, and lush forests.

The Always-Impressive Grand Canyon

The Always-Impressive Grand Canyon

Hikers can explore the many trails that wind through this stunning natural wonder, from easy day hikes to challenging backpacking treks. Popular trails we recommend include the Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, and the Rim Trail.

The South Rim provides a great introduction to the area, with an array of trails for all levels. For the more adventurous, venture further into the canyon to find even more secluded trails and unique views.  Road-tripping around the Arizona Grand Canyon is sure to have you returning home with some incredible memories.

Yellowstone to Glacier National Park

Double rainbow and Lower Falls from Uncle Tom's Trail, best road trips in the USA for hikers

Double rainbow and Lower Falls from Uncle Tom’s Trail

For the ultimate hiking road trip, embark on a journey from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. This epic adventure will take you through some of the United States’ most spectacular scenery. Starting in Wyoming, take a scenic drive through the sprawling tundra of Yellowstone National Park and marvel at the geysers, wildlife, and stunning vistas.

From here, cross the border into Montana and drive through the awe-inspiring landscape of Glacier National Park. With over 700 miles of trails and countless opportunities for exploration, hikers can take in views of pristine alpine wilderness, cascading waterfalls, and glacial-carved valleys. Popular trails include the Grinnell Glacier Trail, Highline Trail, and the St Mary’s Lake.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

No matter what trail you choose, hikers are sure to leave with unforgettable memories from this incredible road trip.

Colorado Rocky Mountains

Colorado’s Rocky Mountains provide the perfect getaway for any hiker looking to explore America’s national parks and trails. With over 600 miles of breathtaking scenery, hikers of all skill levels can find a trail that’s just right for them.

Stunning landscape in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Stunning landscape in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

From Denver, traverse the Rocky Mountains and take in views of snow-capped peaks, shimmering lakes, and jagged canyons. With hundreds of miles of trails, you can spend days exploring the area’s stunning vistas. Popular hikes include the Maroon Bells and Longs Peak, or for a more relaxed experience, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway.

With roads that lead from the state’s high mountain passes through alpine forests, winding rivers and past wildflower-covered meadows, road-tripping around Colorado’s Rocky Mountains will leave visitors with plenty of memories to cherish.

California’s Yosemite National Park to John Muir Trail

For the ultimate hiking road trip, take a journey from Yosemite National Park to John Muir Trail. This spectacular journey will take you through some of California’s most breathtaking landscapes, from the soaring cliffs of Yosemite to the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Yosemite National Park, best road trips in the USA for hikers

Yosemite National Park

Starting in Yosemite National Park, explore the vast terrain, take in views of towering granite cliffs and trek through ancient forests. Popular trails include Half Dome, Mist Trail, and the John Muir Trail.

From here, venture further into the Sierra Nevada Mountains and explore the majestic wilderness of John Muir Trail. This stunning trail stretches over 200 miles, taking hikers through a variety of stunning landscapes and providing unparalleled views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

This hiking road trip is sure to provide an unforgettable experience and leave you with incredible memories.

The Pacific Northwest Coast

For a road trip full of stunning views and incredible hikes, head to the Pacific Northwest Coast. This stunning region of the United States is home to some of the most scenic landscapes in the world. From sea stacks to emerald forests, there’s plenty of natural beauty to explore and take in on this hiking road trip.

Unique Landscape of the Pacific Northwest

Unique Landscape of the Pacific Northwest

Start in Seattle, Washington and explore the city’s waterfront and famous attractions such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. From here, take a hiking road trip up the coast and explore the stunning natural beauty of Washington’s Olympic National Park. Take in views of pristine lakes, rugged coastlines, and lush forests.

Continue your road trip up the coast and explore Oregon’s stunning landscapes. Popular places to visit in Oregon include the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Mount Hood, and Crater Lake.

No matter which trail you take, you’re sure to leave with incredible memories from your journey along the Pacific Northwest Coast.

The Appalachian Trail

For adventurous hikers looking for an epic road trip, take a journey along the iconic Appalachian Trail. Stretching over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, this legendary trail will take you through some of the United States’ most stunning landscapes.

Appalachian Trail Heading to Double Springs Gap from Clingmans Dome

Appalachian Trail Heading to Double Springs Gap from Clingmans Dome

Starting in Georgia, take a hiking road trip up the eastern seaboard and explore the diverse terrain of the Appalachian Trail. From towering mountain peaks to lush forests, this trail takes hikers through a variety of stunning landscapes and provides unparalleled views of the Appalachian Mountains. Popular places to visit along the Appalachian Trail include Mount Katahdin, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Shenandoah National Park.

The Best Hiking Road Trips in the USA – Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the best road trips in the USA for hikers. No matter which one you choose, these incredible journeys are sure to provide an unforgettable experience and leave you with lasting memories.

If it’s sun-filled days you seek, head to the East Bay. The region is home to California’s Bay Area’s driest microclimate, with a mixed landscape of oak-dotted hills, grassy ridgelines, forested valleys, and rock-studded peaks.

The East Bay Area Regional Park District’s 65 parks and preserves contain a whopping 1,150 miles of trails, nearly a dozen freshwater lakes, 40 miles of shoreline, two islands, and hundreds of acres of undeveloped inland hills and valleys, some of which offer panoramic views over the Bay Area.

Many of the trails in the East Bay Area are off-limits to dogs, due to wildlife considerations, but not to worry, there are still plenty of dog-friendly hikes in the East Bay Area. Some trails even explicitly allow for dogs off the leash. Just be sure to pay attention to posted signs, and always bring bags, so that you can pack your animal’s waste out of the hike.

Bay View Loop

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, Pinole

Level: Easy, 5 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: Negligible

Easy walking not far from East Bay Area cities leads to close-up bay views and a glimpse at Point Pinole’s varied history.

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline is a little park with a big heart, a place of tranquility not far from the urban bustle of the East Bay. Few visitors other than avid anglers and dog walkers make the trip to the tip of Point Pinole, but those who do are surprised at this small park’s varied offerings. 

In addition to inspiring bay views, a fascinating history, and good pier fishing, the park has volleyball courts, picnic areas, and more than 12 miles of winding dirt trails that offer dog-friendly hikes in the East Bay Area.

Two Trails and Carquinez Strait

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, between Crockett and Martinez

Level: Easy, 1-3 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 150 feet

Two appealing trail segments explore the grassland bluffs bordering the narrow waterway between San Pablo and Suisun Bays.

Although San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay are as familiar as the local freeways to most Bay Area residents, the waterway at Carquinez Strait is far less known. Even the name ‘Carquinez Strait’ sounds foreign and exotic.

The northeastern arm of the conglomeration of waterways that constitute the bay and river delta, Carquinez Strait forms the narrow passageway between San Pablo and Suisun Bays. 

The bluffs above Carquinez Strait are a wonderful place for an easy, dog-friendly hike in the East Bay Area. Part of the joy of this walk is watching the ships, large and small, journey in and out of the strait. You might see anything from a windsurfer to a freighter.

San Pablo Ridge and Wildcat Creek Loop

Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, Berkeley

Level: Moderate, 6.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet

Enjoy rolling hills, waving grasslands, and wide-angle views of the bay.

Never judge a trail by its trailhead, sage hikers say. When you park your car at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park’s Alvarado staging area, you might think you’re in for a forested hike through eucalyptus and oaks.

But looks are deceiving at Wildcat Canyon. What begins as a tree-shaded paved trail quickly becomes a dirt path through the grasslands that takes you up 1,000 feet for wide views of the San Francisco Bay Area. If you’re looking for a satisfying hike that is also dog-friendly, Wildcat Creek Loop is one of our favorites.

Briones Loop Tour

Briones Regional Park, Martinez

Level: Moderate, 7 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet

This pastoral loop hike in Briones’ less-visited northern section leads past a miniature waterfall, two duck ponds, and miles of cow-populated grasslands.

Briones Regional Park is more than 6,000 acres of grasslands and oaks that were once part of the Rancho San Felipe, a Spanish land grant. In the mid-1800s, this was an important fruit-growing region. Today it’s the grassy home of grazing cows and is frequently visited by hikers, mountain bikers, dog walkers, and horseback riders.

The large expanse of open grasslands is perhaps better suited to bikers and equestrians than to hikers. But on a breezy spring day when the wildflowers are blooming and the grasslands are glowing green, it wouldn’t be hard to wax poetic about the place. 

Stream, Fern, and West Ridge Trail Loop

The inviting dog-friendly trails in Redwood Regional Park in Oakland

Redwood Regional Park, Oakland

Level: Easy/Moderate 4.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 700 feet

The East Bay Area’s answer to Muir Woods and Big Basin is the prized redwoods of Redwood Regional Park.

They don’t call this place Redwood Regional Park for nothing. The dark, shaggy-barked trees grow more than 100 feet tall, and their shady canopy covers a vast expanse of the park. A walk among these lofty trees is the perfect antidote to too much time spent in Emeryville office buildings or on East Bay freeways.

Rocky Ridge and Devil’s Hole Loop

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, San Ramon

Level: Moderate, 6.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet

A hidden canyon tucked amid burgeoning development offers surprising tranquility and a healthy hill climb.

If you are looking for a dog-friendly hike in the East Bay Area and have some energy to burn, Las Trampas is a great place to tromp around. Quite simply, all trails at Las Trampas go up.

The park is composed of two parallel ridges – rock Ridge and Las Trampas Ridge – bisected by Bollinger Creek. The park road and its many trailheads lie along the creek canyon, which means that no matter where you start hiking, sooner or later you have to climb one of the ridges.

But no matter what, the rewards for doing so are great.

Stewartville and Ridge Trail Loop

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Antioch

Level: Moderate, 7 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet

Some steep ups and downs lead to an 1860s mining tunnel and big views of the Carquinez Strait.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve is a strange mix of elements – human history combined with natural history, wild green hills juxtaposed with industrial complexes north of the park, and rare species of plants commingled with nonnative flora planted by settlers in the late 1800s.

The 3,700-acre park has many moods and puts on different faces in changing seasons and weather conditions. Not only is it a great dog-friendly hike in the East Bay Area, but this 7-mile loop also reveals some of its highlights and adds some good exercise to the bargain.

Morgan Territory Loop

Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, between Livermore and Walnut Creek

Level: Moderate, 7 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1.200 feet

A varied loop in the green hills of Morgan Territory offers expansive views, a walk through oak woodland, and myriad spring wildflowers.

Morgan Territory – even the name sounds wild, like a holdover from the Old West. If you’re wondering whether anything wild could still exist in Contra Costa County, wonder no more. Come to Morgan Territory and rediscover the wild East Bay Area with your canine companion.

Bay View and Red Hill Loop

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Newark

Level: Easy, 4.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

The home of the Ohlone people for more than 2,000 years, Coyote Hills is now a place to enjoy bay and marsh views and abundant bird sightings.

If you ever have occasion to drive across the Dumbarton Bridge from the South Bay to the East Bay, a few things catch your attention – such as the huge electrical towers that straddle the water and the dismantled, decaying railroad bridge that parallels Dumbarton.

But urban-weary eyes come to rest on the soft green knolls of Coyote Hills Regional Park. Situated on your left as you head east across the bay, the park’s tule marshes, creeks, and acres of grassland hills beckon you to pull off the freeway and explore its dog-friendly trails.

A 1,000-acre patch of open space along the edge of San Francisco Bay Coyote Hills was the homeland of the Ohlone tribe for more than 2,000 years. The Ohlone fished bay waters for food and cut willow branches along the creeks to build their homes.

Today the park is a wildlife sanctuary, both a permanent home and a temporary rest stop for thousands of residents and migratory birds.

Sunol Loop Tour

One of many dog-friendly hikes in the Sunol Regional Wilderness

One of many dog-friendly hikes in the Sunol Regional Wilderness

Sunol Regional Wilderness, near Pleasanton

Level: Strenuous, 7.5 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain. 1,800 feet

Wildflowers abound in the spring and Alameda Creek flows year-round on this scenic loop in the Sunol countryside.

A trip to Sunol is a trip to the country. Unlike many other East Bay parks, Sunol Regional Wilderness isn’t bordered by neighborhoods or major thoroughfares. You can’t reach it any other way than by driving slowly on a narrow, country road.

When you hike the grassy, oak-studded hills of Sunol, all you see are more grassy, oak-studded hills, and an occasional glimpse at the shimmering Calaveras Reservoir. It is protected land that is surrounded by more protected land, and that is what makes it a great place to go hiking in the East Bay Area on dog-friendly trails.

Maguire Peaks Loop

Sunol Regional Wilderness, near Pleasanton

Level: Moderate, 5.5 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 800 feet

Explore the wilder side of Sunol Regional Wilderness on this moderate loop off Welch Creek Road

As you drive south on I-680 near Pleasanton, you can’t help but notice the oddly-shaped Maguire Peaks slanting outward from the round, grassy hills. The two side-by-side peaks aren’t conical, like most peaks, or even rounded. Instead, they’re fin-shaped, like two obtuse triangles. 

Their summits point sideways, then upward. After you spend a little while staring at these odd little mountains, you may find yourself longing to explore them.

Murietta Falls

Del Valle Regional Park and Ohlone Regional Wilderness, near Livermore

Level: Butt-Kicker, 12 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 3,500 feet

Hoping to spot a 100-foot-tall ephemeral waterfall, hikers endure a supremely challenging climb and descent in Ohlone Regional Wilderness.

Everybody loves a waterfall, but do you love waterfalls enough to grunt out a 3,500-foot elevation change? Think it over. If your answer is yes, you’re heading to find adventure in Ohlone Regional Wilderness, culminating in a visit to 100-foot Murietta Falls.

Ohlone Regional Wilderness is one of the Bay Area’s special places. No public roads lead through its nearly 10,000 acres. You have to hike just to reach its boundary, starting either from Sunol Regional Wilderness to the west or Del Valle Regional Park to the north. To be more specific, you have to hike uphill. 

Similarly, Murietta Falls is one of the Bay Area’s most special waterfalls. That’s partly because it’s much taller than other local falls and partly because it’s hard enough to reach that most people never make the trip. 

March is often the best month to see the fall flowing, but it depends on the current year’s rain pattern. One thing to remember, this trail is not suitable for a warm or hot day. It offers very little shade coupled with a ton of climbing. 

From Napa to the South Bay, The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most picturesque regions in the United States. The hilly region sits right next to the Pacific Coast, and with plenty of bays and waterways, it is a hiker’s paradise, with ample opportunities to take in great vistas. If you are looking for the best of the best, read our list of the best hikes near San Francisco with a panoramic view.

Bald Mountain Loop

Where: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park | Napa and Sonoma

Level: Moderate | 6.8 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change 1,500 feet

A climb along serpentine-dotted slopes leads to the grass-covered summit of Bald Mountain, Sonoma County’s answer to Marin’s Mount Tamalpais.

Although the grassy summit of Bald Mountain is the crowning glory of this loop trip in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, each leg of the route bestows its rewards. We recommend taking the most direct path to the summit and then looping back downhill on a series of trails for a roundabout tour of the park’s varied terrain.

Start your trip on Lower Bald Mountain Trail, which meets up with Bald Mountain Trail up to the summit. On the way back down, we recommend connecting Gray Pine Trail, Red Mountain Trail, Headwater Trail, and Vista Trail to return to your car. Along the way, you’ll take in wildflowers, chaparral, and unobstructed panoramic views of the nearby hills and mountains.

Mount St. Helena

Panoramic view over Calistoga from the top of Mount St. Helena

Panoramic view over Calistoga from the top of Mount St. Helena

Where: Robert Louis Stevenson State Park | Napa and Sonoma

Level: Strenuous | 10.6 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change 2,100 feet

Pick a crystal-clear day for this epic trek to the highest summit in the Wine Country, where the vista can expand to more than 100 miles.

Normally a trail that is 80 percent fire road would not interest me in the slightest, but the spectacular view from the top of Mount St. Helena makes the climb on its wide, expose road completely worthwhile. And, unlike other Bay Area peaks bearing world-class vistas, such as Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais, Mount St. Helena has no public automobile access to its summit. This is one of the best hikes near San Francisco where the panoramic view must be earned with some effort.

For the best possible trip, pick a cool, clear day in late autumn, winter, or spring. Forget the hot days of summer. Then pack along the finest picnic lunch you can put together, drive to the trailhead and start climbing.

Start at the Stevenson Memorial Trail, which later joins with the Mount St. Helena Fire Road. At the top, take in views of Lake Berryessa and the Sierra Nevadas to the east. To the southeast lies Mount Diablo, and a clear-day panoramic view of Mount Shasta to the north, nearly 200 miles in the distance.

Table Rock

Where: Robert Louis Stevenson State Park | Napa and Sonoma

Level: Moderate | 4.6 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change 1,000 feet

Take a walk on the ‘other side’ of Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, where a single-track trail leads to a rock outcrop with an amazing view.

If you’re not feeling ambitious enough to tackle the 10-mile roundtrip to mighty Mount St. Helena, there’s another worthwhile reason to drive the winding 9 miles on Highway 29 from Calistoga to Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. It’s the Table Rock Trail, a much easier hike that offers some of the best panoramic views in the San Francisco Bay Area’s wine country.

A mere 4.6 miles round-trip, with only a moderate amount of up and down, leads you to the craggy summit of Table Rock, a large block of igneous rock with sheer drop-offs on three sides. This moonscape-like rock outcrop with its crags, gullies, and pockmarks is fascinating enough from a geological perspective, but it’s the view from the top – a postcard panorama of the Napa Valley – that you will long remember.

The trailhead lies on Highway 29 directly across from the trailhead for Mount St. Helena. Along the hike you’ll pass through a canopy of tanoaks, madrones, and Douglas firs, with Mount St. Helena visible to the west, looming 2,000 feet above you while green hills and vineyards line the alley below.

Barnabe Peak Loop

Where: Samuel T. Taylor State Park | Marin

Level: Moderate | 6 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change: 1,300 feet

An intimate waterfall, a fern rainforest, and a summit with a big view are found on this loop trail in western Marin County, one of the best hikes near San Francisco with a panoramic view.

Although it is a much older public parkland, Samuel P. Taylor State Park is somewhat overshadowed by its larger and more famous neighbor, Point Reyes National Seashore.

For hikers, that’s a bonus. Even when Samuel P. Taylor’s campground is filled to the limit on summer weekends, it’s rare to find many people on its hiking trails. But that’s just fine with those who know and love the park; they can enjoy a little solitude along with the scenery. The park’s best hike with a panoramic view is a loop trip to Barnabe Peak, a 6-mile trek that leads through a ferny, mossy forest of bay trees, passes by a wet-season waterfall, and then culminates with the summit of Barnabe Peak at 1,466 feet.

The trailhead isn’t at the main Samuel P. Taylor campground entrance; it’s 1 mile west on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, near Devil’s Gulch Horse Camp. Park in the dirt pullout across the road from the camp and then walk up the paved camp road for 100 yards until you reach a trail cutting off to the right along Devil’s Gulch Creek, paralleling the road.

Verna Dunshee Trail and Gardner Lookout

Sunset view from Mount Tamalpais over the San Francisco Bay

Sunset view from Mount Tamalpais over the San Francisco Bay

Where: Mount Tamalpais State Park | Marin

Level: Easy | 1.4 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change: 170 feet

One of the Bay Area’s most famous peaks is circled by an easy loop trail that offers 360-degree panoramic views over San Francisco and the entire Bay.

If it’s a clear day and you’re in the mood to feel on top of the world, head for the summit of Mount Tamalpais and the Verna Dunshee Trail. The trail is short, wheelchair accessible, and stroller-friendly, and features top-notch panoramic views of Marin County, San Francisco, and beyond as it loops around the mountain’s summit.

To add a little challenge to the trip, you can also hike the short but steep path to the tip-top of Mount Tamalpais East Peak, where a closed fire lookout tower allows for an all-in-one-glance panoramic view over the San Francisco Bay Area.

The drive up Mount Tamalpais is part of the adventure. From Pantoll Road upward, the mountainside views are compelling enough that you have to remind yourself to keep your eyes on the pavement. Close attention is essential, because the summit road is narrow and winding, leaving little room for error.

Coastal Trail and Hill 88 Loop

View over the Pacific Ocean from the Coastal Trail

View over the Pacific Ocean from the Coastal Trail

Where: Golden Gate National Recreation Area | Marin

Level: Moderate | 5.5 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change: 1,000 feet

A hike high above the Marin Headlands’ busiest beach leads to an overlook with an unbeatable panoramic coastal view of the San Francisco Bay Area.

At one time, the Coastal Trail at Rodeo Beach was a paved road, but over the years, weather and erosion have taken their toll. The trail has been rebuilt, rerouted, and reworked so many times that today the path is patchwork: part paved road, part dirt road, part single-track, and part wooden stairs.

But its destination remains the same: The Coastal Trail leads from Rodeo Beach to the top of mighty Hill 88 in the Marin Headlands, providing what many consider to be the finest views in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area– a park rife with memorable panoramic views over the San Francisco Bay Area.

North Ridge and Sunset Trail Loop

Located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island offers incredible panoramic views

Located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island offers incredible panoramic views

Where: Angel Island State Park | Marin

Level: Easy/Moderate | 4.5 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change 780 feet

Visit the summit of Mount Livermore, the highest point on Angel Island, on this view-filled half-day hike. It’s one of the best hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area with a panoramic view.

Do you want to visit Angel Island but can’t bear to hike on the pavement? You don’t like sharing the trail with bikers and want a hikers-only path? No problem. There are two completely different ways to hike Angel Island: One path is on the wide, paved Perimeter Trail, which circumnavigates the island. The other path is the dirt and mostly single-track North Ridge and Sunset Trail Loop, which travels to the island’s highest point, the summit of Mount Livermore.

Wildcat Peak and Laurel Canyon Loop

Where: Tilden Regional Park | East Bay

Level: Easy | 3.5 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change: 500 feet

This easy trail to the panoramic summit of Wildcat Peak makes a perfect leg-stretching hike for a Sunday afternoon.

Most people think of Tilden Park as a place to take the kids. The park has pony rides, a carousel, a miniature train, a swimming beach at Lake Anza, and lots of other diversions that keep children occupied and happy. But over on the northwest edge of the park lies the Tilden Nature Area, a very different part of Tilden Park. Here, the only amenities are trail signs and the only diversions are the natural beauty and the panoramic views over the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mount Diablo Grand Loop

Mount Diablo looming in the background of the San Francisco Bay

Mount Diablo looming in the background of the San Francisco Bay

Where: Mount Diablo State Park | East Bay

Level: Butt-kicker | 10 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change: 2,900 feet

For an unforgettable day, circumnavigate the tallest peak in the East Bay and visit its two neighboring summits, Eagle Peak and North Peak.

Most everybody thinks about making a trip to 3,849-foot Mount Diablo from time to time. After all, you see it from just about everywhere in the Bay Area. It’s not the tallest mountain in the San Francisco Bay Area (Mount Hamilton near San Jose is 360 feet taller), it just has a way of making its presence known, looming in the background of the lives of millions of East Bay residents.

When your time to visit Mount Diablo arrives, make your first stop at the top. Drive to the summit and see what it’s like to look at the greater Bay Area from Mount Diablo rather than vice versa. Park as close to the top as possible and then walk up to the observation deck for a 360-degree vista. On the clearest of days, you can see all the way to the Sierra Nevadas and Mount Lassen. After being thoroughly wowed by the summit view, you are inspired to hike this 10-mile loop around the peak, which adds in two side trips to equally inspiring Eagle Peak and North Peak. The route includes substantial ups and downs, but you are rewarded with sweeping views and a variety of mountain flora.

Mission Peak

Where: Mission Peak Regional Preserve | East Bay

Level: Strenuous | 6.6 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change: 2,000 feet

A challenging hike to a popular summit near Fremont, where hang gliders soar past at eye level.

The grassy slopes of 2,517-foot Mission Peak are a requisite hike for outdoor lovers in Alameda County. On any sunny weekend day with good visibility, hundreds of East and South Bay residents make the pilgrimage to Mission Peaks’ summit.

At the top, they enjoy first-rate panoramic views of the South Bay, the northern Santa Cruz Mountains, the Peninsula, San Francisco, and even the summits of the Sierra Nevadas. Along the way, they are entertained by colorful hang gliders and paragliders taking off from Mission Peak’s slopes and then soaring with the thermals high overhead.

The trail to Mission Peak is a wide, exposed fire road, so be sure to wear your sunscreen. Also, forget hiking on hot days. Some of the grades are quite steep, and with its shadeless slopes, the peak can bake in summer.

Although the trail has a reputation for being a butt-kicker, it’s only 3.3 miles to the summit from the main Fremont trailhead, and even children can make the trip in cool weather. Just remember to bring along plenty of water and snacks and take your time.

Montara Mountain Summit

Where: McNee Ranch State Park and Montara State Beach | Peninsula and South Bay

Level: Strenuous | 7.4 miles roundtrip | Elevation Change: 2,200 feet

On a clear day, this coastal mountain offers sweeping bay-to-ocean panoramic views, taking in everything from Mount Diablo to the shoreline from San Francisco to Pescadero.

There are two routes to Montara Mountain’s summit. The dog-friendly route and the no-dogs-allowed route. Both trails yield good hiking, and the summit vista is sublime no matter how you get there.

The no-dogs-allowed trail begins in Pacifica’s San Pedro Valley County Park and is the preferred choice for hikers who love single-track. You won’t encounter any mountain bikers on this path (except in the last 1.1 miles to the summit. where the two trails join), but you can’t bring your dog, either.

The dog-friendly hiking route begins in McNee Ranch, a unit of Montara State Beach on Highway 1 just north of Montara. It’s an old paved road that transitions into a dirt fire road as it climbs the mountain, and it is open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs.

The road/trail serves up expansive coastal panoramic views as it winds up Montara Mountain’s western slope. One advantage of taking this route is that you don’t have to hike all the way to the summit to gain a panoramic vista.

The scenery is good for most of the trip. If you do go all the way, you can take an alternative route back down the mountain, making a semi-loop.

From its most urban neighborhoods to its rugged coastal trails, San Francisco is a city best seen on foot. Located on the tip of a peninsula, its small size also makes it a singularly walking-friendly city, with numerous points of interest packed into a relatively small area. Whether you’re visiting the city or have taken up residence here, one of our favorite things to do is to take one of the many city walks in San Francisco with a view. 

While some of the San Francisco walks included here are loops, many begin and end in different places. Public transit is usually the easiest way to negotiate the different start and end points. For downloading schedules and visitor passes visit www.sfmta.com or check out the maps located at bus shelters around San Francisco.

Polk Gulch and Russian Hill

Featuring San Francisco’s most famous street, soaring views, cobblestone alleys, cable cars, French bakeries, murals, and some fine boutiques, this walk through a vibrant area of San Francisco offers a tremendous variety of attractions.

DIFFICULTY: Steep

Begin at Pacific and Polk (via bus #12 or 19). Over the course of the next few blocks, you’ll pass a string of small shops and quirky restaurants.

Turn right on Union and left on Hyde–note the low hum of cable-car cables circulating under the tracks and stop at Lombard. Savor the glorious views from this popular perch, watch the cable cars climb Hyde’s steep incline, and peer down Lombard Street, San Francisco’s most scenic and famous street, paved in signature pink brick and lined with abundant hydrangeas and handsome homes.

Built in 1922 with an astonishing eight switchbacks packed into one block, the street was designed to make the hilltop accessible to automobiles. Descend the crooked street and turn left on Leavenworth, then right on Chestnut. Continue down Chestnut, turn right on Jones, and head up the hill.

Past Union, turn left into Macondray Lane, a narrow, tree-lined cobblestone alley. This is the street upon which Armistead Maupin based Barbary Lane in his beloved Tales of the City series. After this momentary respite, turn left on Taylor to return to Union, where you can catch bus #41 or 45.

Buena Vista Park and Beyond

This city walk, featuring two rugged hilltop parks rising out of an elegant neighborhood, offers memorable views of the entire Bay Area and a glimpse of one of San Francisco’s most beautiful neighborhoods.

DIFFICULTY: Steep

View over San Francisco from Buena Vista Park

View over San Francisco from Buena Vista Park

Start at Haight and Baker (via bus #6 or 7). Take a moment to admire the lovingly preserved Victorians on the eastern corners before heading up the staircase into the majestic hillside Buena Vista Park.

Relatively little known, San Francisco’s oldest park rewards visitors with magnificent views of the city, the bay, and the Marin Headlands filtered through a lush forest of cypress, eucalyptus, and pine trees, some of which are over 100 years old. Several paths run through this urban forest; to reach the vista point at the top, head straight up and then left along the main paved trail, continuing up through a series of switchbacks. The views appear as you spiral upward. 

Continue up the winding path, or take the steps to reach the grassy knoll at the top. Catch your breath and savor the soaring views (you may want to plan ahead for a picnic here).

Exit the park, following the elegant Upper Terrace to the end, where it affords a splendid view of Twin Peaks to the south. Loop to the right. Take the pedestrian walkway on the left. which boasts unobstructed views of Golden Gate Park, Lands End, and the ocean. Turn left at the bottom of the stairs onto 17th, then left again onto Roosevelt.

Stay left, veering right at Loma Vista. Corona Heights Park is ahead of you. Beyond the dog run is a rocky outcrop with a dirt footpath leading to a treeless vista point with spectacular 360-degree views. If you’re traveling with kids, consider visiting the Randall Museum (199 Museum Way), a children’s center tucked below the park.

Otherwise, continue along Roosevelt and turn left on Park Hill, then right on Buena Vista East, admiring the gorgeous homes that line the park, to return to where you started.

Ocean Beach

The natural beauty of San Francisco’s location is highlighted on this waterfront walk on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

Begin at the end of Point Lobos Avenue (via bus# 18, 38), near the entrance to Sutro Heights Park. Once the site of the home and gardens of Mayor Adolph Sutro, it is today a lovely 18-acre hilltop park. Head in the main entrance and tour the grounds, savoring the ocean views from its westernmost point. Check out the historic plaques to see its former grandeur.

Return to Point Lobos Avenue, looping downhill to the newly renovated Cliff House (#1090). Originally built in 1863, it burned down in 1894, then again in 1907. The newly renovated building rewards the visitor with glorious views from its perch on the city’s edge and houses two stylish new restaurants.

The elegant Sutro’s restaurant and adjoining bar offers north-lacing views from its soaring floor-to ceiling windows, and the light-filled Bistro boasts gorgeous views of Ocean Beach, which extends almost five miles south, and the Pacific fading into the horizon.

Continue along the waterfront esplanade to the Dutch Windmill. Turn left into Golden Gate Park beyond the windmill, which sits by the small, pretty Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden. The windmill was built in 1902 to supply much-needed water for the western side of the park.

Continue south to the Beach Chalet (1000 Great Highway). The murals on the ground floor were sponsored by the federal Works Progress Administration in 1936, and displays show how the area consisted of sand before the Sunset district was developed. The restaurant upstairs boasts fine ocean views, or head to the new glassed-in Park Chalet in the rear of the building. Continue along the beach to the N train two blocks south of the park.

Lands End

This oceanfront trail rewards the visitor with spectacular views of the Pacific and the entrance to the bay. As you hike along the rugged cliffs, you may find it hard to believe that you are still within city limits. This area also features one of San Francisco’s loveliest museums.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate to steep

Sutro Baths at Lands End overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Sutro Baths at Lands End overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Begin at California and 32nd (via bus #1). Walk north to the Coastal Trail trailhead. As you hike along the dirt trail amid the eucalyptuses and pines, stop to take in the gorgeous views.

Several trails leading off to the right end at vista points that allow you to look back on the entrance to the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge spanning its narrow opening, and the Marin Headlands across the way. Continue along the trail, descending to the right when you come to a fork.

The trail ends at a parking lot. Head to its western edge to enjoy the unobstructed ocean views and to observe the ruins of the Sutro Baths. Built by Mayor Adolph Sutro and opened in 1896, the baths consisted of several pools housed within a massive structure made of iron and stained glass. The extraordinary creation eventually lost popularity, and it burned down in a fire in 1967. The concrete pools are all that remain today.

Head back the way you came. Take the wide paved road heading uphill on your right, looping around to the left of the Lincoln Park Golf Course to reach the Palace of the Legion of Honor. This fine-arts museum, specializing in European art and best known for its impressive collection of Rodin sculptures, was built by Alma de Bretteville Spreckels to replicate its eponymous French counterpart and completed in 1924.

Enter the Court of Honor to admire Rodin’s Thinker. After your visit, take El Camino del Mar to return to where you started, stopping at the arresting Holocaust Memorial on the parking lot’s western edge before heading down the hill and turning right on 32nd.

The Golden Gate Bridge to Baker Beach

This trail offers splendid ocean views and passes several artillery batteries, harking back to when the Presidio was not just a playground for locals but also a military base protecting the entrance to the bay. The walk ends at one of San Francisco’s most scenic beaches.

DIFFICULTY: Steep (though mostly downhill)

Begin at the Golden Gate Bridge vista point (via bus #28 or 29).

Walk over to the flagpole, then down to the paved bike trail that loops under the bridge (watch for cyclists here). Just as you begin to ascend on the far side of the bridge, take the dirt footpath leading off to the right. This puts you on the Coastal Trail, which hugs the shoreline all the way to Baker Beach.

You’ll first come upon Battery Boutelle, dating to 1900, then a parking lot; the trail continues straight across the road. Go through the forested area and continue alongside Lincoln. Note the World War II Memorial across the street on your left. Just beyond it, a narrow trail marked by a fence leads steeply down toward the water. This leads to Battery Crosby. Return to the main trail.

You’ll soon come upon another trail with a sign to Baker Beach. This is a steep and sandy descent, but there is a cable to help you. Battery Chamberlin hosts a gun demonstration the first and third Saturdays and Sundays of each month and houses a small exhibit focusing on the coastal defenses of the city.

Just beyond it is Baker Beach; its picturesque location and relative protection from ocean breezes makes it a popular destination.

Cliffs rise to the west, where the mansions of the affluent Seaclifl neighborhood perch on the ocean’s edge. The Golden Gate Bridge soars to the right, and the Marin Headlands loom ahead.

This mile-long beach is great for walking, but it is not suitable for swimming. Note that the northern end is a nude beach, Walk up the street from the main parking lot to catch bus #29.

Fort Mason

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985, Fort Mason has been converted into a thriving waterfront cultural center:

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

Begin at Marina and Buchanan (via bus #28). Originally built as a military compound more than 200 years ago, Fort Mason was headquarters for the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, which sent troops and cargo to the Pacific Theater of War during World War II.

Enter the main gate west of Buchanan beyond the parking lot, and head toward the waterfront warehouses. Building A houses the SFMOMA Artists Gallery. Greens, a long-standing vegetarian restaurant operated by the San Francisco Zen Center, boasts unparalleled views from its floor-to-ceiling windows, and a deli stocked with picnic fare.

Ascend the steps behind Building E. Loop counterclockwise along the pink paved path around the Great Meadow, stopping to pay homage to the statue of Phillip Burton (the congressman responsible for protecting 74,000 acres of city and North Bay land from development).

After completing the loop, head northeast on the main road, veering up and to the right to view the well-hidden Black Point Battery, originally a Spanish cannon emplacement dating to 1797 and later a Civil War fortification set into a bluff overlooking the bay; an original 1860s cannon is still in place. Retrace your steps to the main road and continue toward the Municipal Pier, where anglers and seagulls pluck fish from the bay. Catch bus #19 on Polk.

Telegraph Hill

Coit Tower, perched atop Telegraph Hill, is one of San Francisco’s most recognizable landmarks, and the neighborhood that clings to the hillside is a world unto itself.

DIFFICULTY: Steep

Telegraph Hill and local landmark Coit Tower

Coit tower on telegraph hill, san francisco

Begin at Francisco and Stockton (via bus #15) and head up the hill half a block, turning left onto Pfeiffer, a quiet residential street. Turn right on Grant and left on Greenwich, and head up the steps toward Coit Tower, built to honor the city’s firefighters; the surrounding park is dedicated to the memory of California’s pioneers. The 180-foot tower, completed in 1934, not only offers magnificent views from the top but also houses murals of local Depression-era scenes.

After savoring the glorious views (loop around the tower’s base to reach the vista point overlooking San Francisco to the south-or plan ahead and have a picnic on the grassy knoll there), head down the street east of the tower, looping left onto Filbert, which leads to the Filbert Street Steps. You will find yourself on a magically lush, green, and quiet hillside, flanked by homes hugging the steep slope. It is difficult to believe that this cluster of tree houses can exist in the heart of such an urban area.

If you’re lucky, you’ll hear (or see) the flock of wild parrots that inhabit the trees here. Descend the stairs, and emerge into the real world at Levi Plaza. Cross through the plaza, turn left on Battery to reach the Embarcadero.

Cross the street and head over to the Pier 23 Cafe (at Pier 23), an inviting waterfront restaurant in a small white building tucked between enormous piers. It offers one of San Francisco’s few casual waterfront-dining experiences, with good value and ambiance. Walk off your meal with a waterfront stroll, then catch one of the historic streetcars that rumble along the Embarcadero.

Fort Funston

This oceanfront park- -notable for its views, natural landscape, historic military installations, hang gliding, and popularity with local dog owners–attracts all types. Although it is difficult to reach the park via public transit, once here, you’ll feel as if you’ve left the city of San Francisco far behind.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate (mostly flat, with one steep hill up from the beach)

Begin at the parking lot at the top of the park (exit off Skyline; the closest buses are #19 and 88). This extraordinary park has several claims to fame. It is a premier dog-walking park, a historic site scattered with the ruins of various artillery batteries, an oceanfront area with gorgeous bluffs, beach access, and some of the only remaining sand dunes within city limits, and a popular launching point for hang gliders.

Begin by heading out to the observation platform along the wooden boardwalk west of the parking lot. You’ll be rewarded with outstanding views of the Pacific, dramatic cliffs to the south, Ocean Beach, two former military batteries tucked into the hillside, and, if the wind is right, a fantastic air show as hang gliders take off and soar above.

Return to the parking lot and descend the sandy coastal trail to the south of the boardwalk to the beach. Stroll south along the beach, taking in the sea breeze, the dogs romping in the surf, and the gradually crumbling cliff formations.

Retrace your steps and clamber your way back up. Then take the loop trail that begins north of the parking lot. Head along the paved trail, then take the sandy left fork that hugs the coastline, savoring the views and noting the massive gun batteries built between the two world wars.

On clear days, you’ll see Point Reyes to the north and the Farallon Islands to the west. When you come to the end, head under the battery to connect with the paved Sunset Trail, and turn right to return to the parking lot.

Bernal Heights

This neighborhood retains a cozy village-like atmosphere. A lovely hillside park with glorious views and easy access to San Francisco’s oldest farmers’ market make this a diverting outing.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

Begin at Cortland and Bocana (via bus #24). This is a neighborhood in transition: In the late 1800s it was a land of dairy ranches run by Irish immigrants. It was later inhabited by many working in the naval shipyards during World War II and is now a gentrifying neighborhood full of young families.

Then head up Ellsworth to Bernal Heights Park, a grassy hilltop knoll with magnificent views from its 500-foot peak. Several trails loop around the park at different heights; some are quite precipitous, but there’s no way to get lost. The eastern end is less steep, and the lower trails are wider than the narrow paths around the radio tower at the top.

After enjoying the views, the greenery, and the fresh (often windy) air, return to Cortland. Food buffs should visit the Alemany Farmers’ Market (operating on Saturdays from 6 A.M. to 5 P.M. since 1947). To reach it, continue east down Cortland, turn right on Putnam, and take it over the hill. Less fancy than its Ferry Plaza counterpart, it caters to a more diverse crowd and has better prices. Return to Cortland to catch bus #24.

Twin Peaks

This walk to the top of one of San Francisco’s highest hilltops offers unparalleled views of the Bay Area. It is often windy on top, so plan accordingly.

DIFFICULTY: Steep (includes staircases)

View of San Francisco from Twin Peaks

View of San Francisco from Twin Peaks

Begin at Clayton and Corbett (via bus #33). Walk up the Pemberton Stairway, savoring the greenery. Be sure to look back at the views of downtown as you climb. N

Turn right on Crown at the top of the stairs, left on Clarendon, then left onto Twin Peaks Boulevard. This fairly steep grade continues for three-quarters of a mile to the top. Distract yourself from the difficulty by enjoying the view that becomes increasingly dramatic as the city drops beneath you; on clear days Mt. Diablo, in the East Bay, is visible.

You’ll gradually leave the city behind and come upon a grassy hilltop. At the top, turn left toward the radio towers to reach the official vista point. You’ll be rewarded with outstanding views extending from the Pacific Ocean to the west to the Peninsula to the south, all encircling the city spread out below.

The layout of the city also becomes clear from this vantage point, with Market Street clearly bisecting the city and Golden Gate Park, the Panhandle, and the Presidio all visible.

If this vista isn’t enough, climb one or both peaks (this part of the walk requires climbing up wooden steps and navigating a rocky path). It’s worth it, however, for the exhilaration of standing atop the bald peaks 900 feet above sea level.

Return the way you came, catching the #33 bus at Clayton and Carmel. There’s nowhere to buy food up here (aside from a snack truck), so plan ahead if you want to stay for a picnic.

Walks with a View in San Francisco – Be Prepared!

With 43 hills within its city limits, San Francisco has breathtaking views, and a distinctive skyline. However, the hills also create a cityscape that requires some more forethought. Sensible shoes are always smart when you plan to do a lot of walking, but nowhere is that more true than in the city by the Bay.

One last thing: San Francisco weather is notoriously unpredictable. Although it is rarely very cold, the city is not always basking in California sunshine, and it is often quite breezy. The hills also create distinct microclimates: It can be foggy in one part of town and sunny just one hill over. San Francisco is often cloaked in its trademark fog on summer mornings and evenings, while winter boasts many days of glorious sunshine. Plan accordingly, and always bring along an extra layer.