Hikes in the Bay Area: 11 Trails with Spectacular Endings

by Alex Bevk and Brock Keeling | Curbed San Francisco

Point Bonita Lighthouse. | Photo by Kevin Kipper

From lighthouses to incredible vistas

A warm weekend awaits. If you want to get away from it all, it’s time to prepare for a healthy trek, preferably someplace winding and downright gorgeous.

From historic sites to inspirational artwork, these 11 hikes all offer that little something extra to grab your attention. What’s more, some of these hikes might even have waterfalls begging to be featured on your Instagram.

This list is by no means complete, so let us know about your favorite hikes we may have missed in the comments or via the tip line.

Just be sure to slap on some sunscreen, put on your comfiest boots, and keep hydrated.

1. Point Reyes Lighthouse

While en route to the popular Point Reyes Lighthouse, be sure to take notice of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard along the way. It's a great walk for those who aren't advanced hikers, filled with redwoods, moist air, and spectacular greenery.

2. Cataract Falls

This month’s rain could result in flowing waterfalls. Not to be missed! The most popular (and therefore most crowded) is the Cataract Falls on Mt. Tam. Head down the Laurel Dell Fire Road, then continue to the left on Cascade Trail to the falls.

3. West Point Inn

1000 Panoramic Hwy Mill Valley, CA 94941

Also hidden on Mt. Tamalpais, the West Point Inn was a stop on the “Crookedest Railroad in the World” for beach-bound stagecoaches. The railroad is no more, but the Inn is open to the public (you can still rent a room overnight). The easiest hiking access starts at the Pan Toll Ranger Station at 3801 Panoramic Highway or the Boot Jack trailhead parking lot.

4. Nimitz Way Trail at Inspiration Point

Wildcat Canyon Rd Berkeley, CA 94708

Inspiration Point has lots of (you guessed it) inspirational views, including the stone Rotary Peace Grove lookout and an abandoned Nike missile site. It's best to start at the Inspiration Point parking lot and choose your route from there.

5. Tourist Club

30 Ridge Ave Mill Valley, CA 94941

The Tourist Club lodge, built by Nature Friends on Mt. Tamalpais in 1914, looks like something straight out of Austria. It's a private club for the use of its members, but is open to the public during their festivals in May, July, and September (check their online calendar before heading out). But that doesn't mean you can't take a great hike around the scenic area any other time of the year.

6. Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

6800 Skyline Blvd Oakland, CA 94611

East Bay residents have a volcano in their backyard. Hike up Round Top Loop Trail (elevation 1763 feet) to reach the top, or Volcanic Trail for a self-guided volcanic tour. There's a backpacking campground at the top, plus dogs are allowed on certain trails.

7. Point Bonita Lighthouse

End of Field Rd Sausalito, CA 94965

Point Bonita is still an active lighthouse in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Don't let the short half-mile hike fool you—it requires passing through a tunnel carved by Chinese laborers in 1876 and crossing over the water on a suspension bridge. A free shuttle runs Saturdays and Sundays from a designated drop off/pickup point inside the Marin Headlands, going directly to the lighthouse trail head.

8. Filbert Steps

200-224 Filbert St San Francisco, CA 94133

For city dwellers who don't want to leave the comfy 7x7-mile confines of San Francisco, a good hike up the Filbert Street Steps is ideal. Not only will you get to see Coit Tower and spectacular views of the city, the cottages dotted along the way are truly spectacular. Don't forget to check out Grace Marchant Garden along the way, a verdant garden that's open to the public.

9. Glen Canyon Park

Elk St and Chenery Street San Francisco, CA 94127

Diamond Heights is the city’s worst-kept secret. In addition to a slew of Eichlers, there’s the Glen Park Canyon just on the neighborhood’s border. Take a hike on the trail around the canyon and be sure to gander at the midcentury homes on the verge of a seismic breakdown.

10. Pillar Point Bluff

West Point Ave Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

The 140-acre bluff top has killer views of the whole coast, but also a direct view of the world-famous Mavericks surf break. It's about half a mile offshore from the Pillar Point Air Force tracking station, but you'll probably need binoculars to see anything. A parking lot is near the Jean Lauer trailhead.

11. Pulgas Water Temple

80 Cañada Road Redwood City, CA 94062

Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy feeds SF its water, and the Pulgas Water Temple was built at the end as a monument to the new water system. It’s located within the watershed, just south of Crystal Springs reservoir. The site (and its parking lot) are only open to the public on Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., so plan accordingly.