The 6 Best Hiking Spots in San Francisco

San Francisco has become famous for its progressive, technology-obsessed urban landscape; it’s a city’s city, lush with silicon, steel, and high property value. San Francisco’s tech is so sought after that some may forget, at times, that ancient forests, unique ecosystems, and historic landmarks surround the city. These are six of the best hikes to showcase all that the Bay Area has to offer:

For those who have always lamented that science has not yet created a time-traveling machine, the Muir Woods is the National Parks Service’s remedy. The redwoods that tower reverently over the quiet wood create a canopy that will make any hiker feel as though they are in a secluded, mystical realm. The Woods are one of the only old-growth forests left in the Bay Area, which makes them the best natural time capsule for the region. Most of the redwoods in the Muir Woods are between 500-800 years old, forcing visitors to ponder progress, conservation, and the role humans play in the environment. The Muir Woods host several trails, each varying in difficulty and length, so there will always be an adventure waiting there for anyone looking to step back in time.

For those looking for more time-traveling adventures, the Sweeney Ridge Trail is next in line. The trail is located in Pacifica, which is approximately 25 minutes south of San Francisco proper, and features a 1,200 foot-high summit. Along the way hikers will find abandoned greenhouses from the 1950s that were used to grow world-renown orchid hybrids, as well as the nursery that currently occupies the grounds. The most historical point of the Ridge, waits at the conjunction of several trail options. Where the vantage point is clearest and farthest, hikers will find the exact spot where, in 1769, the explorer Gaspar de Portola stood at the moment he discovered, for European explorers, the San Francisco Bay.

The Presidio is expansive, with more than 24 miles of hiking trails and spectacular views, and can cater to the interests of several types of guests. For cyclists, there are 14 miles of paved pathway; for history buffs, there are historic U.S. military buildings; for hikers, The Presidio occupies a section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The Bay Area Ridge Trail section of The Presidio is a breathtaking 2.7 mile hike that showcases the best views in the Bay Area. On a clear day, one can see Land’s End, the Point Bonita lighthouse, and the Farallon Islands. The Presidio is one of the only hikes in the area that provides hikers with a nearly uninterrupted view of the ocean the entire way through. The hike holds additional appeal thanks to the close proximity and looming beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, which will also remain visible throughout.

Bernal Hill, located in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, is the perfect, quick escape for those who don’t have the time to drive out of the city but who still want to take a breath of fresh air. The hike to the summit is short but steep, and the panoramic views of San Francisco make the short struggle worthwhile. In the summertime, Bernal Hill is covered mostly by dried grass but, after the spring and winter rains, the Hill is suddenly and brightly adorned with a magnificent array of wildflowers. Those who live in the city love hiking Bernal Hill not only because of its natural beauty and ease of access, but also because it is just a short walk back to the amenities of the city, allowing hikers to attend lunch at a local diner shortly after they descend.

Marin County is home to many beautiful falls, but the Cataract Falls seem to attract the most attention. The falls can be reached either by a loop-hike along Cataract Trail, which follows Cataract Creek and is approximately 6-miles round trip. However, most prefer the shorter 2.6-mile out and back hike that starts at the Fairfax-Bolinas Road pullout and at West Ridgecrest Road. When the region sees sufficient rainfall, the hike along Cataract Creek is lush and green, surrounding hikers with the likes of ferns, redwood, Douglas firs, nutmeg and hazelnut, and huckleberry. The hike is generally very tranquil and shaded, although the volume of the creek does depend on rainfall, and can often feel mystical, thanks to the large colonies of moss that adorn the rocks and trees along the creek.

Built in 1855, the Point Bonita Lighthouse was just the third lighthouse built on the West Coast. The lighthouse is still active today and is open to the public on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The hike to the lighthouse is only half a mile, but don’t be fooled, as the trail becomes very steep at times. Parking at the trailhead is very limited, but visitors can take a shuttle to the trailhead during operating hours. The hike involves passing through a tunnel built by Chinese laborers in 1876, as well as passing over the water via suspension bridge. Nearby the trailhead is the historic Battery Wallace, an abandoned U.S. Military post, which also boasts gorgeous views and picnic tables.

You can turn your time in San Francisco into an unforgettable adventure. Shop our selection of upscale corporate rentals in San Francisco, CA and spend a few months getting to know this world-class city. It has something for everyone.

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