The Bay Area is well known for having a vibrant, active community! Residents of all ages participate in a wide range of physical activities, but hiking is especially popular.
Of course, a drawback for living in an area with so much natural beauty is the number of tourists who spend time sightseeing attractions like the redwoods in Muir Woods. While tourism is great for our local economy, it’s less than ideal if you’re looking for a bit of solitude and peaceful connection with nature on your hike.
Fortunately, our communities boast an abundance of opportunities for those who want to get away from the crowds. You can enjoy the serenity offered in such places as:
Little Yosemite Area. This is an easy, one-to-two-mile scenic spot in the Sunol Regional Wilderness Area where you can have a Yosemite-lite experience, without leaving the East Bay! The Little Yosemite is fairly accessible, stunningly pretty, and a great place if you want to bring your four-legged best friend (dogs are allowed off-leash).
The gently meandering trail is canopied in parts by arching trees and the gorge contains a gushing creek, languid pools, and turbulent waterfalls. The large, sprawling boulders especially contribute to the natural beauty of the area.
Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach. A little bit longer than the Little Yosemite at 2.5 miles, this is another fantastic option if you are looking for an easy hike. Crown State Beach runs from Crab Cove to the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary on Shoreline Drive in Alameda. Here you can leisurely stroll along and enjoy the views of fog-shrouded San Francisco or take advantage of the ample opportunities to indulge in some bird-watching.
Pro tip – During fall and winter, low tide is best for sighting sandpipers and egrets and high tide is when to watch loons and grebes close to the shoreline.
Mulholland Ridge Trail. As we move into more challenging trails, you may want to consider heading to the Mulholland Ridge Open Space Preserve for this two-mile hike. This little-known pathway is tucked away on the border of Moraga and Orinda. It is easy to access—about a mile off of Highway 24—and a great spot for wet-weather hiking (since the ridge is paved).
This one-mile ridge walk (a two-mile round trip) is fairly elevated and has a moderately steep grade. The grade does flatten out, however, between the Orinda-side entrance and the water tower. Part of the charm of the Mulholland Ridge Trail is the 360-degree views of Diablo Range, Moraga Valley, and the Oakland hills.
Crockett Hills Regional Park. If you’re looking for another moderate trail that’s a little longer, you may want to consider this five-mile hike that starts at the Crocket Ranch Staging Area. There are a variety of trail options, but we recommend walking up the hill on Edwards Creek Trail, following the Wood Rat Trail, and then using the pedestrian tunnel under Cummings Skyway. Doing so will take you to rolling oak woodlands and grassy meadows, where you will find spectacular views of Mount Tamalpais, Mount Diablo, the delta, San Pablo Bay, and the Carquinez Strait and Bridge.
Briones Reservoir Loop. For those who are looking for more challenge, this Orinda hills excursion is 13.5 miles and considered to be a difficult hike. If you are going to take it on, keep in mind you always want to stay left and high to stick to the main trail. Also, this loop requires a permit ($3 per day or $10 per year). For more information on how to purchase a permit visit www.Ebmud.com.
The cost and difficulty, however, are definitely worth it if you’re up to the challenge—especially during the spring when wildflowers are blooming and the hills are green, or the fall when temperatures are cooler and the trees turn color.
East Ridge Trail Loop. We’re going to end our list by scaling back a little for this five-mile, moderately-difficult trail in Redwood Regional Park. Some consider this to be a hiker’s dream, with the many access points giving you a plethora of opportunities—including rigorous hill climbs, flat strolls along the valley floor, and sunny ridgeline walks.
For the best of the park, start at the Pinehurst Staging Area (on Pinehurst Road near Canyon) and head straight onto the East Ridge Trail. Take a left at Canyon Trail, followed by three right turns on Stream Trail, Prince Trail, and then East Ridge Trail (which completes the loop). At a reasonable pace, the loop will take roughly two hours to complete.