Hikes in San Francisco
The San Francisco Area offers amazing hiking and outdoor pursuit opportunities, boasting the perfect ratio of inner-city trails to wilderness hikes. From the windy cliffs of the Pacific Ocean to peaceful redwood forests and soaring crests, the area offers a wonderful variety. With a rugged coastline, lofty peaks, and lush valleys, there are trails here to suit everyone. Come and discover the natural beauty of the Bay Area!
The rugged landscape of the Bay Area is the ideal place for a thrilling day hike within close proximity to major population centers like San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland. Seeking something more local? Explore one of the many urban walks and revel in the views of Market Street, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and more.
Many of the hiking trails here are easy to follow and suitable for kids, with little elevation gain. If, however, you’re looking for more of a challenge, the iconic Mount Diablo Hike or Mission Peak Loop will give your legs a good workout! Wherever you choose, you can be sure of one thing – you’ll never be far from a great restaurant where you can kick back with a glass of California’s excellent Napa Valley wine.
If you’re heading for the Golden State, don’t miss the opportunity to do a little hiking. To give you some ideas for your next adventure, we’ve put together a list of our favorite hikes in the San Francisco Area below:
Top 12 Greatest Hikes in the San Francisco Area
The San Francisco Area is packed full of fun hiking trails in some of California’s prettiest coastal scenery. This is the place to come for long coastal walks, heading down to rocky beaches where seals play in the waters of the Pacific, or for pleasant city strolls. Many of these hikes are perfect for families or those looking for easy, low-key trails. However, the San Francisco Area is also a great place for those looking for something a little more strenuous, with plenty of long hikes that offer spectacular views over the coast and hillsides. San Francisco is an outdoor playground, and it offers a little something for everyone.
The Strawberry Hill Hike is a family-friendly adventure in the city that boasts the perfect opportunity to get outdoors. Wander through the park amongst a diversity of flora and fauna, past a mesmerizing waterfall, and up to the summit of the hill that offers wonderful views.
Wander along the pristine beaches of the Pacific along the Shark Fin Cove Loop. This epic expedition offers the opportunity to explore the impressive sea cave before climbing up to the cultivated farmlands atop the cape. This incredible adventure should be moved to the top of your hiking to-do list.
The Muir Beach and Tennessee Beach Loop is a moderate adventure ideal for intermediate hikers and families with older children. Wander atop the fog-shrouded headlands and revel in the beauty of the coastal environment. Located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the city center, this wonderful hike is a must-add to your Bay Area itinerary.
Indulge in the enchanting nature of the temperate forest along the Cataract Falls Trail. Contrary to most hikes in the area, this route is best explored in the rainy winter season when the vegetation is abundant and lush, and the cascades surge over the moss-cloaked boulders. This magical trail presents postcard perfect scenery.
The Mission Peak Loop is a revered adventure on the outskirts of Fremont that attracts hundreds of adventurers daily. This wonderful trail travels through dense communities’ sagebrush, scrub oak, and flowering meadows often grazed by cattle that meander along the mountainside. Enjoy epic views of the Bay Area from the summit.
Hike up to the peak of the mountain that commands the skyline from the Bay Area. The Mount Diablo Trail is a revered adventure that offers famous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sierra Nevada, the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Cascades, and more.
The Fort Funston Coastal Trail is a family-friendly hike that is a must-add to your Bay Area itinerary. Meander atop the coastal headlands, enjoy epic views of the Pacific and explore the remnants of the decommissioned naval defense base.
The Lake Merritt Hike is a family-friendly scenic shoreline walk around the perimeter of the tidal lagoon. Enjoy the encompassing gardens at your leisure and marvel in the wonderful scenes of the cityscape in the backdrop. Merritt Lake is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike in the Bay Area.
The Point Bonitas Lighthouse Trail is an epic coastal experience to a historic lighthouse. Explore the lighthouse that has mitigated thousands of shipwrecks and indulge in the beauty of the dramatic Pacific coastline and Golden Gate Bridge.
Revel in the wonderful coastal scenery along the Mori Point Hike. This epic excursion meanders along the Pacifica State Beach before ascending the fragile coastal prairies that overlook the surf below. Hikers of most skill levels, including children, should be able to manage this route.
Escape the city and head out into Napa County along the Sam the Eagle and Shoreline Loop. Whether you are a hiker or biker, you can enjoy this beautiful route through coast live oak and along the shoreline of Hennessey Lake.
Enjoy views of the bustling city, including Market Street, the Golden Gate Bridge, Corona Heights, Mount Diablo, and much more from the Twin Peaks Trail. This wonderful urban excursion in San Francisco can be enjoyed by hikers of all skill levels and ages year-round.
When is the Best Time to Visit San Francisco?
The Bay Area is a year-round hiking destination, and you’ll find accessible trails in all seasons. However, North Bay is notorious for its varied and unpredictable weather, meaning that whatever time of year you visit, you should be prepared for a variety of weather conditions! The region boasts many different microclimates, meaning that you may not experience the same conditions at the trailhead as you find later on in your hike.
That said, we love hiking in San Francisco in the autumn, when the beautiful forests are at their finest, seeing out the summer in a final blaze of color. Spring can be a wonderful time for hiking in many areas, although you should expect plenty of fog. Summer is typically dry, although there’s always a chance of fog and rain in some areas, and the coastal breeze ensures that things don’t get uncomfortably hot for hiking.
Other Outdoor Activities in the San Francisco Area
San Francisco is an outdoor playground, and in addition to hiking, you’ll find plenty of other fun outdoor activities in the Bay Area. If you’re a cycling aficionado, this area is perfect, with miles of mountain biking and road biking trails to suit all fitness and ability levels. It’s also a wonderful place for horse riding, sea kayaking, sailing, wild swimming, canoeing, wildlife watching, and camping out under the stars. This beautiful, diverse region has a remarkable range of places to explore, meaning that you’re sure to find something that will suit your interests.
Frequently-Asked-Questions About San Francisco
What is San Francisco known for?
San Francisco is famously known for the Golden Gate Bridge, Market Street, Alcatraz, and of course, the series Full House.
Can you see whales in the North Bay?
Yes. The best time for whale watching on the coast of North Bay is during April and early May. The Sonoma Coast and Point Reyes are the best places to spot whales with young calves at this time of the year.
Do you need to book in advance for Muir Woods?
Muir Woods is a protected area, and you need to book in advance to visit. Visitors can take the shuttle bus from the highway to avoid congestion on the road to the woods.
What are the best hiking routes in San Francisco?
We answered that question above, but seemingly the Fort Funston Coastal Trail, the Lake Merritt Hike, and Strawberry Hill Hike are the most popular trails near the city center.
Is the San Francisco Area good for hiking?
San Francisco's year-round temperate climate, dramatic coastline, and hilly terrain make for a hiking wonderland.
Awesome Adventure Tours near San Francisco
If you’ve set your sights on the Bay Area for your next outdoor adventure, refer to our guide on planning a trip to North Bay. We’ve gathered together insider tips on everything from where to stay, when to visit, and lots of fun activities that you shouldn’t miss while you’re in the area. You’ll also find lists of our favorite hikes, with something to suit all ages and abilities! Don’t forget to check out our Point Reyes hiking tour or California and Hawaii multisport self-drive tour for an unforgettable adventure.
Find Other Amazing Hiking Regions in California
Best Hikes in San Francisco
Strawberry Hill Hike
The Strawberry Hill Hike is a wonderful adventure in the Golden State Park that boasts countless photo opportunities. Explore the lovely park at your leisure, enjoying the diversity of flora that hem the trails and the sights of the mesmerizing cascade that adorns the hillside.
Shark Fin Cove Loop
The Shark Fin Cove Loop is a wonderful expedition along the California coast that boasts breathtaking maritime views. Plunge down onto the pristine beaches and explore the impressive sea cave before climbing up to the cultivated farmlands atop the cape. When in the San Francisco area, a trip to this beautiful setting is well worth the detour.
Muir Beach and Tennessee Beach Loop
The Muir Beach and Tennessee Beach Loop beckons the exploration of adventurers seeking a coastal day hike near San Francisco. Meander atop the fog-shrouded headlands and revel in the beauty of the coastal environment. This wonderful hike is a must-add to your Bay Area itinerary.
Mission Peak Loop
The Mission Peak Loop is a revered adventure on the outskirts of Fremont that attracts hundreds of daily adventurers eager to indulge in the unrivaled views of the Bay Area. Not familiar with the hike? You’ll surely recognize the "Mission Peeker '' marker pole at the summit which is a frequently-photographed landmark often featured on the 'gram’.
Mount Diablo Hike
Though not the tallest mountain in the state, the hike to Mount Diablo is a revered adventure in the Bay Area that offers famous views. Hike up through mixed oak woodlands and dense communities of chaparral to the Summit Building, which boasts sights of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sierra Nevada, the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Cascades, and more.
Lake Merritt Hike
The Lake Merritt Hike is a wonderful urban walk in Oakland, CA. Wander around the perimeter of the shimmering tidal lagoon and enjoy the encompassing gardens at your leisure. This revered route is family-friendly and accessible, attracting adventurers of all skill levels and ages year-round.
Twin Peaks Trail
The Twin Peaks Trail is an iconic San Francisco adventure that visitors and locals alike must explore at least once in their lifetime. Ascend the vertiginous path to the overlooks which boast breathtaking vistas of the Bay Area, including Market Street, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and much more.
Alum Rock South Rim Trail
The Alum Rock South Rim Trail is an unassumingly beautiful adventure in the foothills of San José that boasts wonderful scenery. Explore the area’s diversity of flora and fauna while indulging in the unique geological features—such as natural hot springs, rock walls of layered strata, and sandstone outcrops.
Fort Funston Coastal Trail
The Fort Funston Coastal Trail boasts an unrivaled experience, offering breathtaking ocean views and the opportunity to explore the remnants of the decommissioned naval defense base. Adventurers of all skill levels and ages can explore this wonderful seaside trail—including your pup!
Mori Point Loop Trail
The Mori Point Loop Trail, located in the Golden Gate Recreation Area, is an excellent adventure ideal for hikers of all skill levels and ages—including your four-legged friend! Explore the lush coastal headlands decorated with vibrant wildflowers and marvel at the gorgeous maritime scenery.
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