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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.