The 5 Best Thanksgiving Weekend Hikes Around Northern California

Killer views, peace and quiet — whether you’re taking a break from family vibes or bringing them along

Best Thanksgiving Hikes Bay Area
You have four days off this week. Spend some of them outside.
By Diane Rommel / November 21, 2019 10:51 am

Thanksgiving weekend offers four solid days of vacation time. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll spend at least one of those days outside.

To make that task a little easier, we put together our five favorite Thanksgiving weekend hikes in the Bay Area — indexed for ease of access, family friendliness and spectacular views (gotta get those out-of-towners on board). 

Coastal Trail
(All Trails)

In town: Coastal Trail

In brief: A killer hike, especially if you have out-of-town guests in tow. The 1,200-mile Coastal Trail links Mexico and Oregon; carve out a small part of that for yourself (turkey-related pun noted) with a particularly scenic section: Lands End to the Golden Gate. If you there’s energy to spare by the time you reach the bridge, keep going — the views from Fort Point (usually of surfers, the Golden Gate, and a good swath of downtown) are, for our money, the best in the city. 

Mt. St Helena
(Nicole St. Mason/The Outbound Collective)

Napa: Mount Saint Helena Trail

In brief: Winter might be the best time to climb Mount Saint Helena’s 4,342-foot summit (with 2,009 feet of elevation gain), since it avoids high temperatures while usually offering the clearest views. It’s a 10-mile round-trip, but man, those views — stretching from Mt. Tam in the west all the way to Lassen in the north — are well worth your holiday weekend afternoon. 

Wildcat Peak
The Hiking Project

East Bay: Wildcat Peak

In brief: The best thing about this terrific, shortish (3.5-mile) hike is that it offers the best of the Bay in a microcosm: solid hills, eucalyptus groves, and next-level views, of Mount Diablo, Mount Tam, and the San Pablo Reservoir (prettier than it sounds) — plus, if you’re lucky, the full bay itself. If you’re bringing kids, make time for environmental center at the hike’s start. 

All Trails

Tahoe: Van Sickle Rim Trail Connector

In Brief: Straddling the boundary with Nevada, Van Sickle’s “bi-state park” offers incredible lake views interspersed with Sierra woodland — it’s gorgeous, and often wonderfully quiet on days when the lake-rim trails are crowded. 

Santa Teresa County Park Trail Loop
(All Trails)

South Bay: Santa Teresa Loop

In brief: Just a few minutes from San Jose, Santa Teresa County Park offers a natural escape without needing to disappear on your family for a full day. If you just want to get in eight miles of nature, make a beeline for the trail loop here — you’ll pass by rolling hills, grass-grazing cattle (newly installed to reduce fire threat), ponds, and some Silicon Valley views.