A Guide to the Historic Hikes of San Francisco

Gold Rush shipwrecks and elk migration included

By The Editors

A Guide to the Historic Hikes of San Francisco
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26 January 2016

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. 

Enjoy. 


TENNESSEE VALLEY TRAIL


HOOD: MARIN HEADLANDS | TIME: 1-2 HOURS | DISTANCE: 3.4 MILES


NATURAL WONDERS:  WETLANDS, SHOREBIRDS, MOUNTAIN LIONS AND A LAGOON


SWEAT LEVEL:


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


SWEAT LEVEL:


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


SWEAT LEVEL:


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


SWEAT LEVEL:


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


SWEAT LEVEL:


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


SWEAT LEVEL:


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


SWEAT LEVEL:


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


ALAMERE FALLS


HOOD: POINT REYES | TIME: 4 HOURS | DISTANCE: 13 MILES


NATURAL WONDERS: COASTAL WATERFALL, OCEAN VIEWS, MULTIPLE LAKES AND VIEWS OF FARALLON ISLANDS


SWEAT LEVEL:


History: Alamere Falls is a “tidefall” that spills straight into the Pacific. 

Post-game meal: Piazza d’Angelo

Trailhead: Palomarin Trailhead. MAP

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