Whether you’re looking to venture deep into the wilderness or escape the day-to-day grind of your job, the Bay Area has no shortage of amazing trails, vistas and landscapes to tromp through on the weekends. Experience the serenity of walking amongst the giant redwoods, escape the blazing summer sun by plunging into cool lake waters and see some actual stars hanging in the night sky above your campground. True, the traffic getting to a chosen hike may be bad and you might run into a few unfriendly mountain bikers or step in the occasional pile of extraordinarily smelly dog crap that owners have failed to clean up, but exploring new areas and breathing in all of that fresh air will have you saying “life is good” — I promise. So without further ado, here are five awesome hikes right in our own backyard.
Land of the Medicine Buddha/Nisene Marks State Park Location: Soquel Hike: Long Loop Trail Distance: 6 miles Ideal for: Enjoying a long hike through several microclimates, spotting loads of Banana slugs, marveling at all of the Tibetan prayer flags and Buddhist monuments, extremely chill vibes (Be sure to check LOTMB website as public use hours have changed).
Del Valle Regional Park Location: Livermore Hike: Campground Trail Distance: 5.5 miles Ideal for: Beautiful views overlooking the lake, overnight camping accommodations, taking a refreshing dip in the lake or kayaking, uncrowded hiking. Bonus: light to moderate breeze coming off the lake makes that off-trail pee sesh even more delightful.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park Location: Lagunitas Hike: Pioneer Tree Trail Distance: 2.7 miles Ideal for: Walking beneath beautiful old growth redwoods, escaping the blazing summer sun, hangover hikes (it’s easy enough to do after a night of heavy drinking so you still get some refreshing exercise without aggravating that hangover), encountering possible tree musicians (last time I went, I came across a small group of hippy musicians that were playing inside a burnt-out redwood — magical).
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Location: Moss Beach Hike: Bluff Trail Distance: 2.1 miles Ideal for: Exploring tide pools for a unique (FREE) date option, enjoying expansive views of the ocean from various vantage points, beach access, taking photos with an epic ocean backdrop that’ll make your friends jealous of your weekend adventures. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park/Pogonip Open Space Preserve Location: Santa Cruz Hike: Spring Trail to Spring Box Trail Distance: 3 miles Ideal for: Running (the trail is mostly flat), enjoying sweeping views of the mountains and ocean, an impromptu afternoon delight session with your partner in the gorgeous golden meadows (although they don’t provide that much coverage because I did actually see two people having sex on a blanket in the meadow and although they seemed to be having a lovely time, other hikers were checking them out from a distance looking less than stoked).