These Are the 5 Best Fall Hikes in the Bay Area
Fall foliage and premium Austrian lager > PSL and Netflix
Nobody’s going to confuse Northern California for New Hampshire come fall foliage season.
That said: we have a couple maples, a couple oak trees and more than our fair share of aspen groves. Oh, plus the most beautiful natural landscape on Earth.
Whether you’re looking for California’s best fall color — from brilliant hardwood stands in the Sierras to golden autumnal vineyards in the winelands — the time is now. So grab your hiking shoes and head out, for our pick of the five best fall hikes in the Bay Area, and beyond.
Trail: Lundy Canyon (5.5-mile out-and-back)
Highlights: If you can’t get to New England….
In brief: If you absolutely, positively must have fall foliage but don’t want to fly at least 800 miles east, head to Mono County, and this website, which chronicles its changing colors ( tagline: “Dude, autumn happens here, too.”). Head for Lundy Canyon this weekend (possibly next, check for updates) for maximum brilliance.
Drinks after: Mammoth IPAs at the low-key Epic Café, back toward Mono Lake
Trail: Skyline Park Perimeter Loop (9.1-mile loop)
Highlights: The best time of the year to explore Napa on foot
In brief: Cold (45-ish-degree) mornings and crystal-clear days: October in Napa would be worth it even without the gorgeous harvest-season vines. Here, you’ll have expansive views of the tawny Napa landscape — all the way to the Bay, if you’re lucky.
Drinks after: Take your pick. Black Cat Vineyard is basically right outside the park’s entrance, though tastings are available (a) only scheduled in advance and (b) only for members of its wine club. Caldwell Vineyard offers $75 tastings by appointment.
Trail: Sierra Discovery Trail (.9-mile loop)
Highlights: A family-friendly path with river views
In brief: Gold Country’s Nevada City is home to its share of maples and dogwoods, in the process of turning spectacular colors. This interpretive trail, which runs along Bear River, should give you a look at some; for a longer but still kid-friendly hike, try the Hardrock and Osborn Hills Loop, at the historic Empire Mines State Park.
Drinks after: Absolutely at Golden Era, the 152-year-old craft cocktail spot in Nevada City.
Trail: Parker Lake Trail (3.6-mile out-and-back)
Highlights: Golden aspen groves
In brief: Blow off work today and head to this trail off the June Lake Loop, near Parker Lake, for some exceptionally photogenic aspens. And TBH, the Eastern Sierra views here are incredible year round, foliage or no, thanks to the titular lake.
Drinks after: T Bar Social Club takes the second part of its name seriously, with a full slate of rock shows, comedy nights, open mics, and motivational talks meant to get you talking(/dancing) with your neighbors.
Trail: Shadowbrook Trail (3.8-mile out-and-back)
Highlights: Color among the redwoods
In brief: Big Basins Redwood State Park can have fall foliage until early November — though it’s dominated by redwoods (no surprise there), there are enough oaks and bigleaf maples to add some serious color to all the evergreen. You should see some color on Highway 9 near Boulder Creek, on the way to the park.
Drinks after: You wanted premium Austrian lagers with your post-hike eats? Stop by the Tyrolean Inn for beer on tap, sold by the liter.