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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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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