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 panoramic views.

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 best San Francisco walks 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 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 San Francisco walk through a vibrant area of the city offers a tremendous variety of attractions.


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. On this classic San Francisco walk, 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 San Francisco 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.


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. As you spiral upward on this San Francisco walk, the views appear before your eyes. 

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 over San Francisco. 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 is highlighted on this waterfront walk on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.


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 in San Francisco 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:


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.


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.


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.

If you’re looking to get off the beaten path in Palm Springs, consider taking to the trails! Greater Palm Springs is a hiker’s paradise. Many of the best hikes in Palm Springs feature stunning views of jagged cliffs, waterfalls, and mountain springs fed by ribbons of water racing through the Indian Canyons. And most of the best trails in the Palm Springs area lead to lush plateaus. Whatever your preference, let the landscape work its magic. 

To ensure you have a great hiking experience in Palm Springs, be sure to get the AllTrails app before you go. The app has an extensive list of the best trails for hiking in Palm Springs, with reviews from other hikers to keep you up to date on the latest trail conditions. You can filter by trail difficulty, length, and suitability and download trail maps to help keep you on track even when you’re offline.

Read on to discover some of the best hikes in Palm Springs that can be explored year-round, From canyons to oases, to panoramic views of the valley.

Palm Canyon Trail

Discover a palm oasis on the Palm Canyon Trail, one of the best hikes in Palm Springs

Discover a palm oasis on the Palm Canyon Trail

Palm Canyon in the Indian Canyons is the world’s largest oasis of Washintonia filifera palm trees. It’s also home to hidden hot springs. The small springs are just 2 or 3 feet wide, and can easily be mistaken for a puddle or stream.

There is a moderately graded, paved path down into the canyon that can be used for horseback riding, hiking, meditation, exploring, horseback riding, or meditating near the stream.

Measuring 15 miles long, this trail is best suited as a full-day excursion. Be sure to bring plenty of water with you, especially during the hotter months.

Murray Canyon Path

Murray Canyon Path is consistently rated as one of the best hikes in Palm Springs. Along this 4.7-mile path, you can take in scenic views of the seasonal stream of the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. We’d describe the hiking level as easy to moderate.

Along the way, you’ll see rock formations, a palm oasis, Murray Canyon Creek (which you’ll cross at least 15 times), and the famous Seven Sisters Waterfall.

Andreas Canyon Trail

This tranquil stroll offers a variety of plants and rock formations and the year-round Andreas Creek. The total distance is just 1.2 miles, so is suitable even on hot days. Just be sure to bring plenty of water to get you there and back. Along the way, you’ll see larger-than-life rock formations that once provided shelter for indigenous people.

Tahquitz Canyon

Beautiful and serene Tahquitz Canyon is located a short distance from downtown Palm Springs, making it one of the best hikes in the Palm Springs area. It’s a romantic escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The canyon offers a rare glimpse into the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Discover the amazing scenery along the rugged 2-mile trail loop.

The impressive 60-foot Tahquitz Falls in Tahquitz Valley, one of the best hikes in Palm Springs

The impressive 60-foot Tahquitz Falls

Due to the terrain, this is best suited to those in good shape as the path can be strenuous. Along the way, keep an eye out for rock art, native wildlife, and plants. Find respite at the seasonal 60-foot-tall Tahquitz Falls – a place of power that, according to legend, rejuvenates and energizes.

Bighorn Overlook, Roadrunner, and Chuckwalla Trails

This is the trio of trails behind Rancho Mirage City Hall. The trails are suitable for every hiking level and will provide views over the entire valley. You can enjoy a magnificent sunrise or the beauty of a night hike in Palm Springs shared with friends on a full moon night. The trio of trails runs approximately 3 miles and is dog-friendly for on-leash pups.

Bump and Grind Trail

For those looking for more of a workout, you might want to try out the Bump and Grind Trail, one of the best hikes in Palm Springs. It’s a 3-mile hike that begins behind the Desert Crossing shopping center in Palm Desert. You’ll gain almost 1000 feet in elevation (hence the name) but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the valley.

Homestead Trail

Great views of Palm Desert and the San Bernardino Mountains await on the Homestead Trail, one of the best hikes in Palm Springs

Great views of Palm Desert and the San Bernardino Mountains await on the Homestead Trail

Another photo-worthy trek is the Homestead Trail (also known as ‘The Cross Hike’ because of the huge lit cross at the top) in Palm Desert. This 3-mile round-trip hike is best at sunset: You’ll see the twinkling lights of Greater Palm Springs below once you make it to the peak. Another perk: This trail is also dog-friendly, so your four-legged friend can enjoy the views along with you.

Further off the beaten path from Palm Springs

For those with more time on their hands, don’t miss some of these other fantastic areas just a stone’s throw away from Greater Palm Springs with great hikes to get off the beaten path.

Joshua Tree National Park

Undeniably stunning Joshua Tree National Park

Undeniably stunning Joshua Tree National Park

Well known for the twisted tree trunks sculpted by wind, water, and intense heat, Joshua Tree National Park offers world-famous rock climbing and clear, dark skies for stargazing. You can also experience the 1250-square-mile expanse of wilderness on a short nature walk or hike.

A few favorite spots: Skull Rock, a surreal rock formation that appears to have hollowed-out eye sockets, and Keys Views, a lookout point that affords majestic views of the entire valley.

For more information, check out our post highlighting the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.

Coachella Valley Preserve

The Coachella Valley Preserve

The Coachella Valley Preserve

A lush, 880-acre palm oasis tucked into the northern edge of the Indio Hills, the Coachella Valley Preserve is a well-kept secret. Try the McCallum Trail, which winds thru a rare habitat of palm woodland and desert wetland with creeks and ponds created by the San Andreas springs. Keep an eye out for the threatened Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, which can be found nowhere else in the world.

Lake Cahuilla Recreational Area

Just 6 miles from picturesque Old Town La Quinta lies the Lake Cahuilla Recreational Area, a 710-acre park at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains. The park offers an easy and beautiful escape for those looking to spend a little time with Mother Nature.

Fish n the 136-acre lake, stretch your legs on a hiking excursion or ride your horse on one of the equestrian trails. If you’d like to set your sights closer to town, check out the trails that kick off from La Quinta Cove, just behind Old Town.

Whitewater Preserve

The year-round waters of the Whitewater Preserve one of the best hikes in Palm Springs

The year-round waters of the Whitewater Preserve

The year-round flow of the crystal-clear Whitewater River that runs through the Wildlands Conservancy’s Whitewater Preserve makes this spot a true oasis. It’s not uncommon to see visitors along the bank, dipping their toes.

This vital wildlife corridor between the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains is home to several species of endangered birds, as well as deer, bears, and bighorn sheep. The dog-friendly Whitewater Canyon Loop trail offers stunning views of the natural landscape and is known for its abundance of springtime wildflowers (we’re talking blankets of yellow blooms!)

Greater Palm Springs is home to nine different cities, collectively making up one of the liveliest destinations on the West Coast. From Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Indio, Coachella, and La Quinta, you are bound to find plenty to do during your trip.

In addition to relaxing by the pool and soaking in the vintage vibes of the valley, we hope that you’ll enjoy getting off the beaten path on some of the best hikes near Palm Springs. 

The USA is home to such a variety of ecosystems, but some of the best national parks, like Death Valley, are near-impossible to visit during the summer due to the extreme climate. The good news is, there are some US National Parks that are even more stunning during the winter! On top of that, by visiting these US National Parks in winter, you’ll be avoiding the crowds. Read on to see the best National Parks in the US to visit during the winter.

1. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Visit Joshua Tree National Park in Winter

Beat the heat by visiting Joshua National Park in winter

Joshua Tree National Park in the winter is perhaps the best time of year to go to get the most out of your trip. For one, you can hike for longer since you won’t have to deal with the sweltering heat. However, keep in mind that you should bring plenty of water with you even in winter, since there is a serious lack of shade in Joshua Tree National Park. Plus, even during the winter with cooler temperatures, there is still a risk of sun exposure and dehydration. While the most popular time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is from March to May, or from October to November, we suggest visiting in winter for a unique experience.

2. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion is one of the most popular US National Parks, but with great popularity comes great hordes of crowds. If you want more solitude in this stunning national park, it’s a good idea to visit Zion National Park during the winter. It can get cold, but having more peace and quiet is a fair trade-off.

As long as you have the proper gear and clothing, you can still get the most out of Zion National Park in the winter months. Just be sure to check the weather forecast before planning your trip. From November until February, the weather can range from clear sunny days to full-on winter storms, dumping a couple of feet of snow, so you’ll have to keep an eye on the weather and stay flexible.

Also, be sure to pay attention to posted signs, since some trails like Angel’s Landing might be closed due to icy conditions.

3. Death Valley National Park, California

As the world record-holder for the hottest place on earth, it’s a no-brainer that you should avoid visiting Death Valley during the summer months. But in the winter you’ll have more freedom to explore this stunning National Park.

Death Valley is famous for its other-worldly landscape devoid of all life, which will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Mars. Pro-tip, don’t miss sunrise at Dante’s View if you visit Death Valley National Park during the winter.

4. Yosemite National Park, California

Winter is our favorite time to visit Yosemite for so many reasons

Winter is our favorite time to visit Yosemite for so many reasons

Who are we to judge the crowds of tourists who flock to some of the most beautiful places on earth? Yosemite is one of those places that sits at the top of the US National Park for visitors from far and wide. Sadly, that means that Yosemite can feel more like a theme park than a National Park during peak visiting months. Year-round, tour buses are driving in and out of the park, and it has all gotten a bit commercialized.

Nevertheless, with its unique rock faces, stunning waterfalls, and multiple networks of trails, Yosemite National Park still holds a special place in our hearts. To avoid the peak crowds and to connect more with nature, we highly suggest visiting Yosemite National Park in the Winter.

The climate of Yosemite Valley means that you might get snow if you visit during the winter months, but it’s relatively moderate winter weather. And seeing the valley walls dusted in the snow is a good look for Yosemite. You might even get lucky and score a camping spot right in the Valley of the National Park, but even in winter, you’ll have to battle with the waitlist and lottery system.

5. Arches National Park, Utah

Experience Arches National Park during the winter months

Experience Arches National Park during the winter months

Winter is the best time to visit Arches National Park for a variety of reasons. With a climate that is normally scorching, the winter weather makes it possible to enjoy hiking and overnight camping in this stunning National Park.

Plus, you might be able to see the famous arches dusted in a thin layer of snow. Simply stunning.

Don’t let the colder temperatures deter you from experiencing some of the greatest National Parks in the winter. In fact, we hope that you will agree that some of these National Parks are even better during the colder season! If you’re feeling even more ambitious, check out our summary of the best places in the USA for a multi-day backpacking trip in the winter. Wherever your journey take you, we hope you enjoy!

Santa Barbara, California is one of those cities that feels like an escape every time you visit! You can’t go wrong with year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches and mountains, and the gorgeous Spanish-style architecture throughout the whole city. Beyond the more popular tourist options such as visiting the Santa Barbara Mission, shopping on State Street, and visiting the breweries and wineries in the Funk Zone – there are many unique hidden gems in Santa Barbara to explore.

Here are 11 of the best hidden gems and unique things to do when visiting Santa Barbara:

1. Tangerine Falls

The Tangerine Falls Trail is a true hidden gem in Santa Barbara – I lived there for four years before learning about this beautiful hike! The trail is unique because there are not many waterfalls in Santa Barbara since the area doesn’t get a lot of rain.

The hike is a 2.2 mile out and back trail that starts on a path then transitions to scrambling over rocks for most of the hike, so it is a bit more difficult for some. However, the effort is well worth it when you reach the waterfall.

The rocks behind the waterfall have a beautiful orange tint and the water collects enough at the bottom that there is usually a shallow swimming hole, and it all overlooks a great view of Santa Barbara with views out to the ocean! Plus, you might see some animal life (like newts!) and nature that is hard to see anywhere else in Santa Barbara.

2. Montecito Hot Springs Canyon Trail

Santa Barbara has a few areas with hot springs (naturally heated pools of water that have bacteria and sulphur with amazing health benefits) but these Montecito ones are my favorite.

The Hot Springs Canyon Trail is a 3.7 mile moderately challenging loop trail. The hike itself is lush and mostly shady, but the best part is dipping in the hot spring pools at the end.

The hottest pool is at the top and each gets a bit cooler as the water flows down. Whichever pool you choose, you will leave feeling like you came from the spa! Just make sure to follow the signs closely to choose the right turns to reach the hot springs.

3. Visit the Sunstone Winery

Located 35-minutes north of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Valley, the Sunstone Winery is truly a hidden gem for those looking for a gorgeous California vineyard. It has been voted “Santa Barbara’s Favorite Red Wine” and “Best Santa Ynez Valley Tasting Room” by the Santa Barbara Independent, proving the Sunstone Winery is a local favorite.

With French inspired courtyards, stone barrel-aging caves, and picnic tables under the olive and oak trees, not to mention the wonderful wines that can only be bought onsite… this is the perfect afternoon activity for those looking to get off the beaten path in Santa Barbara!

4. Tour Casa del Herrero

Casa del Herrero Home and Gardens is great for those who want to experience a piece of Santa Barbara’s history by diving into a more unique experience than the typical tours.

This 1920s home is one of the finest examples of Spanish revival architecture in the U.S. and is full of 15th and 16th century pieces from the “Golden Age” of Spain. Plus, the Moorish-style gardens are spectacular.

5. Lizard’s Mouth

Lizard’s Mouth is a rock formation near the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains. It is aptly named for its resemblance to a lizard’s mouth (from a distance) and has some of the best views of the Santa Barbara area.

The distinct silhouette that gives Lizard's Mouth Rock its name

The distinct silhouette that gives Lizard’s Mouth Rock its name

You must do a little walking (~0.3 miles) to see the rock formation, but the area is primarily made up of rocks and does not really have trails. This is a popular spot in Santa Barbara for outdoors enthusiasts and people who like bouldering and rock climbing.

6. Walk Through the Goleta Butterfly Grove

The Monarch butterflies migrate through Goleta from November to February and can be seen at the Butterfly Grove. It’s incredible to see the butterflies come through, but the site itself is gorgeous all year round too.

Hidden gems in Santa Barbara - monarch roosts in the Goleta butterfly grove

At the right time of year, you can see monarch roosts in the Goleta butterfly grove

Situated on the Goleta bluffs, there are a few trails through the trees that take you to the cliffs and some that have beach access. The Goleta Butterfly Grove is a beautiful and lesser-known spot for a stroll, picnic, or to watch the sunset.

7. Visit Santa Barbara’s Most Unique Coffee Chain: Cajé

Cajé is my absolute favorite coffee chain in Santa Barbara! They of course have great coffee, but they are unique because there’s multiple locations across Santa Barbara that each have a distinctly different vibe and slightly different menu.

The Cajé I highly recommend visiting is across from the Arlington Theater on State Street. It’s a stunning location (often used as a wedding venue!) and serves signature coffee cocktails. The Haley St. Cajé also has nice vibes and “fancy” cocktails and even occasionally (it’s not advertised) turns into a speakeasy at night with a full bar.

For a more casual cup of coffee visit the Cajé downtown State Street or in Isla Vista. The original Cajé is in Isla Vista and mainly serves the local UCSB college community, but it has a more extensive breakfast food menu and a casual, fun feel with a 5-minute walk to the beach.

8. Have a Picnic and Watch the Planes at the Santa Barbara Airport

The Santa Barbara Airport is a tiny airport located in Goleta. It’s a very easy airport to fly in and out of when visiting, especially for inexperienced flyers, but it’s also a great place to see unique, old-school airplanes.

A fun, hidden gem activity is to pick up Dave’s Dogs (a nearby place that serves hotdogs with all kinds of toppings imaginable) and watch the planes from the benches in the waiting lot right outside of the airport.

9. Spend a Day in Solvang – “The Danish Capital of America”

Solvang is a town that is 34 miles (~45-minute drive) north of Santa Barbara, but is well worth a day trip. Most buildings have Danish-style architecture, there are plenty of amazing wine tasting rooms, and multiple authentic Danish bakeries and restaurants.

Discover Danish architecture of the nearby town of Solvang

Discover Danish architecture in the nearby town of Solvang

In Solvang Village, you can tour Old Mission Santa Inés, shop at The Book Loft or Rasmussen’s, visit a museum, enjoy an outdoor performance, or pet the alpacas!

10. Hidden Gem in Santa Barbara for Foodies: Zaytoon

Somehow, Zaytoon is rarely mentioned in places to eat in Santa Barbara, which makes it hands down the best hidden gem restaurant in the area and the one place I always have dinner at every time I’m in town again!

Zaytoon is a Lebanese and Middle Eastern restaurant with a delicious gourmet menu and beautiful patio. It’s a hidden oasis full of flowers and greenery with fire pits, live entertainment, and a beautiful fountain and architecture.

11. Hidden Gem in Santa Barbara for Extreme Adventurers: Kayak to Platform Holly

There are plenty of outdoor and adventurous activities for people to explore in Santa Barbara from surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, rock climbing, and more. One that many people don’t know about is kayaking towards Platform Holly.

Platform Holly is a decommissioned oil rig sitting about two miles off Coal Oil Point just west of Isla Vista. Rent a kayak, pack a lunch, and pick a fair-weather day to kayak out to the oil rig. You will get amazing views of the Santa Barbara coast and cliffs and likely see some sea life along the way!

Kayaking by Isla Vista

Kayaking by Isla Vista

It is certainly a challenge and not something to do alone or if you don’t have plenty of water experience. Be aware of the currents and conditions of the day, stay your distance from the sea lions that lay on Holly, and practice utmost safety while on the open ocean water.

Santa Barbara has hidden gems to explore for every type of tourist whether you prefer to stay out in nature or want to explore the ins and outs of the city. There is so much to see and do in Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas, especially when you get off the beaten path!

Hidden gems in Santa Barbara

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