Explore the Outdoors: Discover 6 Breathtaking Hiking Spots in the Bay Area

San Francisco is famous for its cultural history, its cable cars, and of course the Golden Gate Bridge. But when you visit San Francisco, you can also immerse yourself in the sort of natural beauty that’s unusual in a city of this size.

The best way to really get to know the Bay Area is to explore it on foot, along hiking trails that take you past towering forests, craggy coves, and wetlands full of thriving wildlife. If you think you already know the San Francisco area, these hikes will show you the Bay from a whole new angle.

So where is the best hiking in the Bay Area? There are plenty of beautiful hikes in the Bay Area to choose from, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker. So here are a few suggestions to get you started:

2 men looking over the sutro baths at Land's End hike, San Francisco

Lands End Hike

At the northwest corner of San Francisco, Land’s End offers miles of Bay Area hiking trails with stunning views over the ocean, the hills of Marin, and the Golden Gate. Even on one of SF’s frequent foggy days, you can enjoy an atmospheric hike along trails that wind through eucalyptus and cypress groves. This Bay Area hike starts at the steps that lead down to the 19th-century Sutro Baths and winds northwards along the Pacific coast. If you have time to spend a full day in Lands End, you can make your way through Seacliff, along the Presidio trails, and eventually reach the Golden Gate.

Stanford Dish Trail

The Stanford Dish area is a great place to hike when you want to get away from it all. There are a few trails of varying difficulty that take in the views over the Stanford campus and Palo Alto, but the most popular trail is the Stanford Loop paved trail. This is open from sunrise to sunset and is very popular with joggers, hikers, and cyclists.

Hikers visit the Stanford Dish trails for the wide open views from the surrounding hills, the birds of prey that soar overhead, and of course the Dish itself, which is still in use. But do be aware that coyotes have been spotted in this area and there aren’t any facilities along the trails.

Dany & Eric hiking the stanford dish trail with the dish in the background
Woman in cap pointing at Pirate's Cove sign with the walkway to the beach behind

Pirates Cove hike

Are you looking for Bay Area hiking with beautiful ocean views and waves crashing on rugged rocks? From the uniquely spooky moan of the cove’s buoy to the beaches that disappear when the tide is high, the Pirate’s Cove Trail is hard to beat. 

Pirate’s Cove Trail is a moderately challenging hike through atmospheric terrain that gets more strenuous as time goes on. Walking poles are recommended for a little help on the steeper parts of the hike, and check the tide times before you start as it’s easy to get caught out.  

The trail takes you through an area that’s popular for walking, hiking, and birding, so you’re likely to come across plenty of people on your hike. Dogs are also welcome on this trail, although they must be kept on a leash.


Castle Rocks Lower Loop hike

The Castle Rocks Lower loop trail in Los Gatos is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around 3 hours to complete. The route has fantastic views, especially at the beginning of the route, and there is a campground with picnic tables and bathroom facilities at the halfway point.

This trail is open all year round and gets pretty popular but there’s still an opportunity to enjoy some solitude along the way. It’s not a dog-friendly trail so leave your pup at home for this one. And make sure you’re wearing good hiking shoes, as you’ll need to scramble over rocks along the trail.

view of the vista of castle rock hike
Muir woods trail with blue sky and woman walking ahead

Muir Woods hike

The calm surroundings of Muir Woods give you the perfect opportunity to clear your mind, whether you are looking for a short walk or a full day of hiking. There are several trails to enjoy at Muir Woods National Monument, from short loops that take less than an hour to complete right up to longer hikes into the surrounding Mount Tamalpais State Park.  Many of the trails are boardwalked or asphalted, but those on the canyon walls are not. But whichever route you choose to take through Muir Woods, you’ll enjoy an atmospheric hike with stunning views of towering redwood trees, the oldest living things on Earth.

Land of the Medicine Buddha 

The Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail at Land of Medicine Buddha is the perfect place to disconnect from the modern world and meditate in serene natural surroundings. The hush of the redwood forest is only broken by the rhythmic burbling of a nearby creek and the distant sound of a Buddhist gong. This is a moderate/strenuous hike that takes around 2.5-3 hours to complete. The path starts in a sunny meadow and is broken along the way by eight verses, each accompanied by a beautiful sign and commentary by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, designed to help you understand the verse better. There’s also a teak bench at each stop so that you can sit and meditate for a while. The Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail is open during daylight hours and dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash. Remember to check the closing time before you start your hike as the gates close automatically.
Land of the medicine buddha sign soquel with redwood tree