9 Bay Area Hikes to Explore for the Casual Hiker

Very few feelings compare to the sensation of a brisk, Bay Area breeze. It’s a light wind that’s sharp yet soothing at the same time.

That same breeze is also a subtle reminder to slow down. In a place where moving fast and breaking things is the norm, this is important to remember. The breeze is a small nudge to look up and appreciate the external world that surrounds us.

One of the best ways to experience that breeze is by hiking the Bay Area. From wine country in Napa to the coastal cliffs of Marin, there are countless Bay Area hikes to explore.

I’m one of the lucky ones to call the Bay Area home. But for most of my life, I rarely paid attention to the natural wonder that makes it unique. Hiking, though, has given me a new lens for how I see my own backyard. When I’m home, I no longer take it for granted.

Whether you’re from here or just traveling through, below are nine Bay Area hikes to enjoy that brisk breeze for yourself.

Mount Diablo: Mary Bowerman Interactive Trail and Juniper Trail/Summit Loop

Bay Area Hikes: View From Mary Bowerman Trail

For many Bay Area hikes, the reward is the climb to the top. But if you’ve never visited Mount Diablo before, the summit is a great place to start. From there are a handful of simple trails to explore for hikers of any level.

You can start with the Mary Bowerman Interpretive Trail. It’s more of a stroll than a hike, since it’s only a half-mile long. But take your time and learn about the geology of Mount Diablo. You’ll find educational displays offering insights throughout the trail.

You can follow up with a hike through the Juniper Trail/Summit Trail loop. You’ll encounter plenty of brush as you cross through this route. And, it also offers more varied elevation than Mary Bowerman. But on your way to the summit, the path clears to share some spectacular Bay Area views.

How Mount Diablo earned its name is a tale of events lost in translation. The Spanish gave a nearby thicket the moniker “Monte del Diablo” in the early 1800s. They believed that natives they fought with escaped capture with help from the devil. American settlers later arrived, unaware that monte meant both thicket and mountain. And as a result, they called the nearby mountain “Monte del Diablo,” too.

When to Visit This Bay Area Hike

Come in spring or late winter. The gates open at 8 a.m. and close by sunset. Note that there’s a $10 entry fee for cars driving to the summit.

Additional Resources

Mount Tamalpais: Matt Davis/Steep Ravine Loop

Bay Area Hikes: View from Matt Davis Trail

Not only is this one of Mount Tam’s best hikes. But, the Matt Davis/Steep Ravine loop is also one of the most popular hikes in the entire Bay Area. Hike here and find lush forest greenery along with breathtaking views of the Pacific. And when you finish, you can reward yourself with lunch on the beach.

The hike begins in Stinson Beach with the Matt Davis Trail. You can find the trailhead up a narrow road from the local firehouse. This part of the hike has a mix of moderate and steep inclines as you climb your way up Mount Tam. The Pantoll Camping Ground marks the end of this trail and signals that you’ve made it halfway through the loop.

From Pantoll, follow the signs toward the Steep Ravine Trail. Water runoff forms a creek that runs through the forest, making for a few cascading falls. Redwoods tower overhead and provide nice shade as you hike your way back to Stinson Beach.

When to Visit This Bay Area Hike

Any time of year is great, but the beginning of spring is best. But be sure to come early (before 9 a.m.) when you do. You’ll beat the crowds of hikers and beachgoers who fill the parking lot. Mount Tamalpais State Park opens at 7 a.m. and closes at sunset.

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Marin Headlands: Muir Beach Through Tennessee Valley

Bay Area Hikes: Muir Beach

The Marin Headlands is home to some of the Bay Area’s most iconic scenery and wildlife. Hiking from Muir Beach through Tennessee Valley gives you one of the best points of view. It’s only a short drive from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, too.

This Bay Area hike is doable for casual hikers. But with steep and rocky terrain, prepare for a strenuous challenge. The elevation gain reaches close to 2,000 feet, which is something my friends and I weren’t ready for when we hiked here.

Plan to spend an entire day tackling this hike. Depending on which trails you follow, a hike might take around four hours or more. You’ll also want to set aside time to take breaks on the cliffs, where you can enjoy the coastal views.

When to Visit This Bay Area Hike

Any time of the year works, but check the weather forecast before you do. The Marin Headlands can be quite chilly, foggy, and windy – even in summer. Start this hike from the Muir Beach Trailhead, where parking is free. The lot is open from sunrise to sunset.

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Rockville Hills Regional Park

Rockville Hills Regional Park

For most people, the Suisun Valley flies well below the radar. But spend a little time there, and you’ll wonder why you haven’t come before.

The city of Fairfield manages Rockville Hills, which is less than a 15-minute drive from where I grew up. Find the entrance of the park tucked away in the green hills of the valley. With 600-plus acres of grassland and oak, there’s plenty to see by foot.

As its name suggests, some of the trails at Rockville Hills are indeed rocky. But, there are more than two dozen hiking trails that are great for hikers of all levels. Be aware, though, of which path you choose. Though this park is a pleasure to explore, it’s lacking in signs. That makes it difficult to differentiate the right paths from the wrong ones.

When to Visit This Bay Area Hike

Springtime is best, but you can visit the park in late winter when there’s less rain. Rockville Regional Hills is open every day, sunrise to sunset, all year round. It costs $3 to enter per person and an extra $1 if you bring a dog.

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Point Reyes: Palomarin Coastal Trail

Palomarin Coastal Trail

Point Reyes National Seashore is another must-hike region in the North Bay. It has several areas that are all worth exploring. But if you’re having trouble deciding where to begin, the Palomarin Trail is a good place to start.

Like most of the North Bay, this hike treats you to panoramic vistas atop steep, rocky cliffs. There aren’t many things more calming in the Bay Area than the sights and sounds of waves crashing on the beach below. These views of the Point Reyes coastline come early, so be sure to stop and savor them when you can.

There are other routes you can combine with the Palomarin Coastal Trail. But the most popular choice is the way to Alamere Falls. To reach the falls, the National Park Service recommends following the trail to the Wildcat Campground. From there, Alamere Falls is only a one-mile hike south from Wildcat Beach.

When to Visit This Bay Area Hike

Perfect to hike any time of year, but come prepared for cool temperatures. Also, be aware of the tide at Wildcat Beach if you want to visit Alamere Falls. It’s not accessible during high tide. Point Reyes is open to visitors every day of the year from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Additional Resources

Skyline Wilderness Park

Skyline Wilderness Park

One of my favorite Bay Area hikes is in the heart of California Wine Country.

Located in the foothills of Napa, Skyline Wilderness Park is great for hikers of any level. It features a variety of trees, many of which are oak, along with some impressive views of wine country. It also has a small lake that you’ll find as you emerge out of the woods.

Before becoming a park, it was undeveloped land owned by the Napa State Hospital. In the 1970s, the hospital tried selling the land to private developers. But the community intervened, suggesting to preserve it as a volunteer-run park instead. It’s still managed by volunteers today, along with a mix of part-time employees.

When to Visit This Bay Area Hike

It’s great any time of the year, but it does get hot in the summer. The park is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Parking is $5 per vehicle.

Additional Resources

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline East

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline East

Do you want to see another perspective of the Bay Area beyond San Francisco? Then head east to the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline.

The park has a west and east region that are accessible from two cities. The western side is closer to Crockett. Meanwhile, accessing the eastern side is best from Martinez. From there, you’ll enjoy views of the Suisun Bay as well as the city of Benicia.

Dirt roads make up most of the trails at the Carquinez Regional Shoreline. And, dry, grassy brush line the perimeter of hillsides along the water. After your hike, you can cool off in downtown Martinez. There are a few breweries and tap houses (shout out to Creek Monkey) that offer a wide selection of refreshing beers.

When to Visit This Bay Area Hike

I’ve done this hike in the summer, but be aware that it does get hot. The best time to come is in the winter and early spring. The park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Additional Resources

Alston Park

Alston Park

Take a break from wine tasting with a hike in Alston Park. It’s not as big as Skyline Wilderness. But, Alston Park has more unobstructed sightlines of the Napa Valley.

With 30 acres of off-leash area for dogs, this Bay Area hike is great for pet owners. The Prune Picker Circuit is where to go if you have a dog. The plum trees found in its orchard come alive with white blossoms in the winter.

The Dry Creek Trail, meanwhile, offers you much more difficult terrain. But this part of the park has some of the best views of Napa’s many vineyards and rolling green hills.

When to Visit This Bay Area Hike

Spring has milder temperatures. Since there’s very little shade at this park, you’ll feel the heat due to sunshine exposure. Alston Park is open every day from sunrise to sunset.

Additional Resources

Redwood Regional Park

Redwood Regional Park

Redwood Regional Park is an East Bay outlier of sorts. The park is a pocket of fertile forestland amidst miles of Oakland’s brown hills.

Explore this park today, and you’ll notice little evidence of its logging history. In the mid-1800s, loggers cut down most of the forest as construction boomed in the Bay Area. Today, the redwoods that stand are third-generation trees, planted over 100 years ago.

One of the best places to start a hike at Redwood Regional is at the Skyline Gate Staging Area. There are many trails you can explore from there. But prepare to face some steep climbs when you visit. The elevation increases to over 1,000 feet from some parts of the park.

When to Visit This Bay Area Hike

Visit Redwood Regional Park all year round. Due to rainfall, it does get muddy during winter. It costs $5 per vehicle to enter, and it’s open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Additional Resources


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Jon is a freelance writer who authors this site. Learn more about him here. You can also follow Jon on Twitter or Instagram.

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