You could spend every weekend on a different trail in the Bay Area. For years. Without repeating. And every single one would be worthy of your time and blistered feet.
Compiling this list, then, was like picking our eight favorite children from a crowd of thousands.
What sets these ones apart is a certain je ne sais quoi: whether it's crossing through a tule elk refuge or standing on a perch above the S.S. Tennessee, run aground in 1853 with hundreds of gold seekers on board.
TENNESSEE VALLEY TRAIL
HOOD: MARIN HEADLANDS | TIME: 1-2 HOURS | DISTANCE: 3.4 MILES
NATURAL WONDERS: WETLANDS, SHOREBIRDS, MOUNTAIN LIONS AND A LAGOON
History: Tennessee Valley is named for the sunken S.S. Tennessee, which in 1853 mistook Tennessee Cove for the Golden Gate and beached — though it safely deliveed some 500 passengers, most of whom had come to San Francisco seeking gold.
Post-game meal: Fred’s Coffee Shop
Trailhead: Tennessee Valley trailhead. MAP
DIPSEA TRAIL: MUIR WOODS TO STINSON BEACH
HOOD: MUIR WOODS | TIME: 4-5 HOURS | DISTANCE: 9.5 MILES (OUT AND BACK)
NATURAL WONDERS: WATERFALLS, OCEAN VIEWS, GRASSLAND, ONE SUPER-TOUGH HILL
History: Muir Woods, where you can join the trail, was once the terminus of the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railroad, aka "The Crookedest Railroad in the World."
Post-game meal: Parkside Cafe, Stinson Beach
Trailhead: Muir Woods NM. MAP
BEAR GULCH TO HIGH PEAKS
HOOD: SOUTH BAY | TIME: 4-5 HOURS | DISTANCE: 6.7 MILES
NATURAL WONDERS: LOOK UP AT THE RIGHT TIME AND YOU COULD SEE CONDORS
History: Arrowheads have been found throughout the park, a memorial to 10,000 years of inhabitance by Native Americans. Also, Pinnacles is the newest national park, named so in 2013 by President Barack Obama.
Post-game meal: La Plaza Bakery, Soledad
Trailhead: Bear Gulch parking lot. MAP
MOUNT LIVERMORE SUMMIT: NORTHRIDGE TRAIL TO SUNSET TRAIL
HOOD: THE BAY | TIME: 3 HOURS | DISTANCE: 5.9 MILES
NATURAL WONDERS: LITERALLY THE ENTIRE SPARKLING BLUE BAY, WITH SONOMA AND NAPA VISIBLE IN THE DISTANCE
History: Angel Island is the Ellis Island of the West, and around one million immigrants crossed the Pacific to enter the U.S. here between 1910 and 1940. Before that, Angel Island was a key disembarkation point for troops returning from distant wars.
Post-game meal: The Codmother food truck in Fisherman's Wharf
Trailhead: Angel Island ferry at Pier 41, San Francisco. MAP
RUBICON TRAIL: CALAWEE COVE TO VIKINSHOLM AND BACK
HOOD: LAKE TAHOE | TIME: 4 HOURS | DISTANCE: 8 MILES
NATURAL WONDERS: LAKE TAHOE IMMEDIATELY BELOW YOU, FIR FOREST, SANDY BEACH AT CALAWEE
History: Lora Knight built the Nordic castle Vikingsholm, her summer home, in 1929, after traveling to Scandinavia with her Swedish nephew, an architect, to study local architectural styles.
Post-game meal: Evan American Gourmet Café
Trailhead: Calawee Cove parking lot at D.L. Bliss State Park
TOMALES POINT TRAIL
HOOD: POINT REYES | TIME: 4 HOURS | DISTANCE: 310 MILES
NATURAL WONDERS: TULE ELK HERDS, CRASHING PACIFIC WAVES, OMNIPRESENT COASTAL FOG
History: Coast Miwok people once lived here, harvesting abalone, crab, clams and mussels along the shoreline.
Post-game meal: Mac and cheese at the Cantina at Cow Girl Creamery
Trailhead: Pierce Point Ranch Trailhead, 40 minutes from Bear Valley. MAP
LANDS END TRAIL, CLIFF HOUSE TO CHINA BEACH
HOOD: LANDS END | TIME: 3 HOURS | DISTANCE: 5 MILES
NATURAL WONDERS: WILDFLOWERS, CYPRESS GROVES, GRASSLANDS ABOVE THE OCEAN
History: The Lands End parking lot was, in 1895, home to a fair called Merrie Way, with a Ferris wheel, mirror maze and roller coaster.
Post-game meal: Hunan Cafe
Trailhead: Lands End parking lot. MAP
HOOD: POINT REYES | TIME: 4 HOURS | DISTANCE: 13 MILES
NATURAL WONDERS: COASTAL WATERFALL, OCEAN VIEWS, MULTIPLE LAKES AND VIEWS OF FARALLON ISLANDS
History: Alamere Falls is a “tidefall” that spills straight into the Pacific.
Post-game meal: Piazza d’Angelo
Trailhead: Palomarin Trailhead. MAP