Stay tuned for an in-depth trail guide. Coming soon.

Stay tuned for an in-depth trail guide. Coming soon.

Stay tuned for an in-depth trail guide. Coming soon.

Stay tuned for an in-depth trail guide. Coming soon.

Trail Guide Coming Soon.

These six San Francisco Bay Area hiking challenges make it easy for you to accomplish your hiking goals.

If you’re anything like me, you start the year full of enthusiasm, ready to kick butt and slay some goals. But, by mid-January you’ve run out of steam because you haven’t been able to check anything off of your list, and you just want to chuck all those goals out the window. Who’s with me?!

If this sounds familiar, you need to check out these six hiking challenges that make it easy to succeed. I love these challenges because they remove the planning overwhelmed by providing maps and routes, and most of them have a handy checklist so you can see your progress in action. The only thing you need to do is choose your challenge and hit the trail!

Santa Clara County Parks #PixInParks

Santa Clara County Park’s Magnificent Seven challenge encourages you to hike seven trails and share your hike on Instagram. Hikers who complete the challenge can receive a free t-shirt or bandana. The trails in this challenge range in distance from 2 miles to 6.7 miles. You can find maps for each trail on the Santa Clara County Parks website.

East Bay Regional Park District 2019 Trails Challenge

The East Bay Regional Park District has been holding a trail challenge for seven years in a row. This year they’ve made entering the challenge super easy. To participate you can download a PDF guidebook, pick-up a printed guide at one of their visitors centers, or find all 20 trails grouped together in All Trails.  You don’t need to register for the challenge and you can even pick-up your free hiking challenge t-shirt before completing the challenge. If you are new to hiking or don’t want to complete this challenge on your own you can join one of the park’s group hikes led by trained naturalists.

Sonoma County Trails Challenge

Sonoma County didn’t update their hiking challenge for 2019, but since I didn’t get around to participating in the challenge last year I’m adding this one to the list. While you won’t get a prize for participating, the downloadable PDF trail book is a prize in and of itself. In the 40-page booklet you’ll find trail maps, alternate routes, and info on 15 parks (they even note which trails are dog-friendly!). You can download the 2018 challenge booklet from the Sonoma County Regional Parks website.

Bay Area Ridge Trail 375-mile Challenge

If you get a trill out of checking big goals off of your list, this unofficial challenge is for you. While the full loop isn’t yet complete, the Bay Area Ridge Trail has 375 miles of multi-use trails in the North Bay, South Bay, East Bay, San Francisco, and on the Peninsula. You can plan your own route to complete the 375-mile trail or you can use the free downloadable trail maps on the website and hike the trail in 65 small sections.

Northern California Six-Pack of Peaks

The Six-Pack of Peaks challenge is for experienced hikers who want to tackle the six most challenging peaks in the Bay Area. The peaks in this year’s challenge are Mount Umunhum, Mount Saint Helena, Mount Tamalpais, Mount Diablo, Mount Sizer, and Rose Peak. While you can do the hikes on your own, the official challenge costs $30-$75. You can register for the challenge on the Six Pack of Peaks website.

San Francisco Stairway Walks

While not an official challenge, this is the perfect goal for San Francisco residents who find it difficult to leave the city.  The hills and stairways make San Francisco the perfect city for urban hiking and these hills and stairways will definitely get your heart pumping. Amy and James of the Doing Miles blog have mapped 11 stairway walks that range from 8-13 miles in distance. The routes cover all of San Francisco and a bit of Marin. To make navigating the routes easy you can download the gpx files for each route and load it into Gaia GPS. You can check out all of the routes on the Doing Miles website.

If you’re new to hiking check out my post on the 10 inexpensive and essential items I always carry with me on day hikes. What challenge are you going to do this year?

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Candle-lit dinners are nice, but I’ll take a romantic hike with my sweetie over dinner at a stuffy restaurant any day. These five romantic hikes in San Francisco are perfect for strolling hand in hand with your special someone and setting your hearts a fire.

Living in the City by the Bay we are blessed with rolling hills, golden sunsets, and fog shrouded valleys. There are plenty of beautiful views to be had- if you know where to look. Head over to these five special spots that are sure to turn up the sparks with your honey or your hunky Tinder date.

Bernal Heights Hike

The dog-friendly 1-mile loop at Bernal Heights Park is the perfect date for pet owners. Because let’s face it, whether or not your dog likes your date is probably more important than how much you like the date. Bernal Heights is great at any time, but it is especially romantic just after sunset, as the sky turns dark the city slowly lights up below you. Just make sure to bring a flashlight or give yourself plenty of time to hike back down the hill before it gets too dark to see the trail. If the date is going well, you can find a secluded nook at Wild Side West’s dog-friendly, sculpture-filled beer garden or check out the live music at the Lucky Horseshoe’s Sunday Bluegrass jam.

Botanical Garden Stroll

A casual stroll through the San Francisco Botanical Garden is perfect for avid travelers or adventurers. The garden is organized into regions, so you can walk through the Bamboo tunnel in Temperate Asia, the succulent garden of Dry Mexico, or the Andean Cloud Forests or gardens of Chile. Each summer the Botanical Garden has a special event called Flower Piano, where twelve pianos are hidden throughout the park. You can impress your date with your best riff on Chopsticks, or if you’re lucky you just may be treated to a private concert by a classically trained pianist. Whenever you visit, be sure to show your ID at the entrance booth because San Francisco residents get free admission.

A flower from the San Francisco Botanical Garden

North Beach Stairway Walk

San Francisco is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Each time I discover one of the city’s hidden stairways and neighborhood gardens I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a secret. Follow the city’s famous stairways and be inspired by sweeping views and lush private gardens as you walk up to Coit Tower from Levi’s Plaza. This one-mile walk travels from the waterfront to Coit Tower before heading into North Beach. At the end of the day, share something sweet with your sweetie. Order some classic Italian pastries from Mara’s Italian Pastries, then head to the Washington Square park to enjoy the rest of your date.

Lands End Coastal Walk

Between the stunning coastal views, a labryinth perched high on the cliff, and rocky, windswept beaches it is impossible to avoid the romance of Lands End. Bring your hiking shoes because you’ll want to explore every hidden gem on this 3.5 mile hike. After the hike you can explore the Sutro Baths or watch the sunset while sipping a cocktail at the Cliff House Balcony Lounge.

Lands End at low tide

Presidio Hike

Discover something new in the Presidio. Art buffs will love the rustic elegance of the many Andy Goldsworthy sculptures hidden around the park while beach lovers will enjoy strolling across the sandy shoreline at Baker Beach or admiring the dramatic cliffs and rocky shores along park’s western edge. Whether you are strolling through lush Eucalyptus forests, marveling at serpentine bluffs, or admiring the wildflowers and wildlife a hike through the Presidio is a natural conversation starter. You can enjoy all the sights on this 8.7-mile loop, or choose to do a portion of the hike as a smaller out-and-back trek.

 

 

If you have a favorite romantic hike we’d love to hear about it!

If this post gave you the feels, you can click below to save it to Pinterest.

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Pinterest image for five romantic hikes in San Francisco

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San Francisco is best explored on foot. There are 47 named hills in San Francisco, and with all of these hills come a large variety of pedestrian staircases. This one-mile Coit Tower walk explores the scenic stairs that lead from the waterfront to Coit Tower before ending in North Beach.

The stairs leading to Coit Tower have inspired visitors and residents for generations. With sweeping views of Alcatraz and the Bay these stairs have inspired moviemakers and set the scene for many events in Armistead Maupin’s literary hits. This one-mile walk leads you up the classic wooden stairs of Filbert Street before continuing on the red brick of the Greenwich steps. Visitors have a chance to take in the views and famous murals of Coit Tower before heading down to North Beach and ending at Washington Square Park.

The Trailhead:

The walk begins at Levi’s Plaza, easily found between Sansome Street and the Embarcadero.

The Route:

From the Embarcadero walk through Levi’s Plaza Park and cross Sansome Street. Begin your stairway walk by walking up the concrete staircase at the end of Filbert Street. The concrete stairs will soon lead you to a wooden staircase surrounded by lush landscaping and private gardens. Make a right onto Montgomery Street, follow the street until it dead ends, and then take the brick Greenwich steps up to Coit Tower. When you reach the tower you will follow the pedestrian path past the tower and to the left to connect with the Filbert Street stairs that lead into North Beach. Make a left on Grant and walk two blocks before making a right onto Green Street. You’ll find Mara’s Italian Pastry on Columbus, near the corner of Green Street. I highly recommend making a right onto Columbus and stopping at Mara’s before ending the walk at Washington Square Park.

Other details:

Parking: Metered street parking is available and there are also parking garages in the area.

Fee: No fee

Restroom: There is a coin-operated bathroom at Coit Tower.

 

 

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As part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is home to a large assortment of marine creatures. The protected coastline nurtures life, and as a result the marine animals are extremely active on this gorgeous stretch of coast.

Harbor Seals (and the occasional otter) frolic in the waves, while Pelicans and other short birds skim the surface of the water. And hidden under the crashing waves the sea is alive with sea stars, crabs, and sea anemones. In fact, most people flock to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve during low tide to gaze at the life below the surface in their healthy tide pools. The marine life here is so diverse that scientists have discovered over 25 new species in these waters since the reserve opened in 1969.

You can check the tide schedule to plan the best time to visit. The small parking lot can get crowded at low tide, so you might want to come a few minutes early and enjoy the trails or the beach until the tide goes out. It is also important to note that while the tide pools are great for older children, the slippery rocks and crashing waves can be dangerous for young children.

Visiting During Pupping Season:

In addition to the amazing tide pools, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve has plenty of pristine, white sandy beaches to enjoy. Just how much beach is available for exploring depends on the tide and the season. Many Harbor Seals make their home here and during pupping season parts of the beach are closed to protect the seals. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of great views and seal-watching to be had. The Bluff Trail overlook is the best place to watch the seals.

During pupping season the female seals return to established safe zones (like Fitzgerald Marine Reserve) to give birth, recuperate, and nurse the baby seals. It is important to respect all boundaries and give the seals plenty of space during this special time. Even though seals can seem playful, they really are shy creatures and being on land during pupping season makes them vulnerable to human interaction. If a mother seal is spooked because a person is too loud or gets too close to her and her baby there is a risk that she will abandon the baby on the shore because she no longer thinks that the area is safe. It is extremely important to stay at least 300 feet away from the seals when they are on the beach.

The Trailhead:

To get to the established trails, head into the neighborhood and take the pedestrian bridge near the intersection of California Street and North Lake Street.

The Route:

Time your hike so that you can check out the tide pools during low tide. Depending on your timing you can start or end your day exploring the tide pools. To start your hike, take the pedestrian bridge and head to the left to follow the Dardenelle Trail. The Dardenelle Trail is part of the California Coastal Trail, follow the trail for about .25 miles until you see the trail marker directing you to the Seal Cove Staircase. The connector trail will lead you through a part of the Cypress grove before meeting up with the Bluff Trail. Make a left onto the Bluff Trail and follow it for a short distance to the Seal Cove Staircase. Take the stairs and enjoy a leisurely walk on the beach before heading back up the stairs and returning to the Bluff Trail.

At the top of the staircase, make a right and follow Ocean Blvd. There is a small trail next to the road that leads to a viewing area with some benches. If I have the time, I follow the road to the Moss Beach Distillery (just down the drive from the benches) and enjoy a drink and a snack while soaking up rays on the Distillery’s patio (and warming up next to the fire pits on a cold, foggy day!) As you wind down your day, head back the way you came, but once you return to the trails, stay to the left and take the coastal Bluff Trail back to the pedestrian bridge.

Other details:

Parking: Parking lot

Fee: No fee

Restroom: Restrooms available at the parking area

Special Events: The Reserve offers private tours for large groups and educational programs for schools. You can learn more about the special programs and events on the park website.

 

 

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Important Note: This Calaveras Big Trees hike is located in the park’s South Grove. The road to the South Grove is closed from mid-November to late-April.  If you are attempting to hike this trail in November or April you should check the park’s website for current road conditions before heading out.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park is home to the tallest trees in the world. You get to admire these giants in this jaw-dropping, nature-filled 4.9 mile Calaveras Big Trees hike.

In addition to being the world’s tallest tree, the Giant Sequoia is also one of the oldest living trees on Earth. Also called Sierra Redwoods, the Giant Sequoia is unlike the Coastal Redwoods that thrive on thick fog and grow only in certain coastal regions. The Sierra Redwoods are taller and wider than the Coastal Redwoods and prefer the mild, wet winters and dry, warm summers found on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

This 4.9-mile loop takes you to the park’s largest and most impressive tree, the Louis Agassiz tree. The Agassiz tree is 250 feet tall and has a diameter of over 25 feet– this tree is larger than most San Francisco apartments!

While the Giant Sequoias may steal the show, they are just one of the beautiful sights on this trail. The rushing water of Beaver Creek, the fragrant Incense Cedars, and the colorful birds that call these big trees home, are just a few other wonderful things on this hike. If you are lucky enough to hike in the spring, you’ll find the forest awash with color from seasonal wildflowers and the Mountain Dogwoods bursting with large white flowers.

The Trailhead:

Once you enter the park it is an 8-mile drive to reach the South Grove. After parking in the South Grove lot, the trailhead is well marked and easy to find. Look for the bulletin board and trash cans (across the parking lot from the bathrooms). At the trailhead, you can also pick-up a wonderful interpretive guide that tells you all about the trail and the big trees that you will see along the way. The guide is also available for download on the park’s website.

The Route:

Signage on the trail is excellent. Follow signs for the South Grove Trail. The trail passes a picnic area before crossing Beaver Creek and starting a climb into the trees. (Shortly after crossing the bridge, you’ll see a sign for the Bradley Grove Trail. If you would like a longer hike, take the Bradley Grove Trail loop for an additional 2.5 miles of hiking before continuing with the South Grove Trail.) Rest assured that the short climb early in the hike is the only bit of elevation on the trail- the rest of the hike is flat and easy.

You’ll follow the South Grove Trail for about a mile before you start seeing any Giant Sequoias. Continue along the trail until you come to a junction, you can choose to continue on the South Grove Trail loop (which I highly recommend) or you can head straight for the Agassiz Tree and shorten this hike to a 3-mile out-and-back hike. If you choose to continue with the loop, follow the South Grove Trail as it loops back to the junction and then follow signs for the Agassiz Tree. After visiting the Agassiz Tree turn around and follow the South Grove Trail back to the parking lot.

Other details:

Parking: Parking lot at the trailhead

Fee: $10 park entrance fee

Restroom: Pit toilets at the trailhead

 

 

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