Hiking is undoubtably a Bay Area pastime. When we asked our readers to share their favorite trails for a post-Thanksgiving jaunt, we received a few hundred replies from every corner of the bay — Livermore to Pescadero, Muir Beach to Mountain View, San Jose to Sonoma.
The trails include Little Yosemite, Brushy Peak and Gray Whale Cove. Some of you didn't want to share your secret, "quiet" getaway from the hiking hordes. ("Like I’m telling. I don’t want my place to get overrun like Mission Peak," wrote Paula Baez.) Yeah, we get it. Others quipped that their "hike" was a stroll to the fridge (Jacque Sommers) or that "relatives might get lost" (Winston Fox Nelson). And yet others shared sweet memories of the trails. ("The 8-mile trail to Point Reyes [is my favorite], mostly because it was the first of many hikes I took with the woman I married," wrote Mark Falstein.)
Many of you did share your top picks — and pics (some with horses, dogs and kids in tow) — as well as your own telling names for trails, such as "deer tick trail" in Mount Diablo State Park, and some insider tips on park gems, like a cow named Stella in Rancho San Antonio Preserve, the abundance of banana slugs in Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, and historic Willson Camp in Henry Coe State Park.
"It's so hard to choose; they're all my favorites," wrote Barbara Baksa. Yes, we agree. And we hope some of these hikes will become new favorites for you, too.
"The reservoir loop AND the surrounding steep hills trails at Contra Loma in Antioch. Such a hometown treasure of scenery & wildlife." -- Kathy Martin Barlow
"It's so hard to choose; they're all my favorites! But I'm from Fremont, so I'm going to go with Coyote Hills Regional Wilderness (Fremont, Alameda County), taking the boardwalk through the marsh, out to Alameda Creek Regional Trail, and then looping back around to the visitor center. It's an easy hike (really more of a walk in the park) and we always see lots of pelicans, egrets, cormorants, and so many other birds." -- Barbara Baksa
Moderate 7-mile Bay View trail (cover photo above). "It offers views of the Bay from the Marin Headlands to the Gabilan Range south of Gilroy, the Peninsula west and east to Mt. Diablo, as well as a Native American archiological site. Red Hill is a nice short climb and the levees are tranquil." -- Mark Wagner
"Start with the Sequoia Bayview Trail. Gorgeous views, flat, easy ... add in Palos Colorados Trail in the same park for hills and waterfalls. Moderate-short, but some steep sections. This park and adjoining Redwood Regional Park are just a few miles from downtown Oakland, filled with streams and redwoods, ferns, single track and fire roads. It is an urban oasis, dog friendly, something for everyone!" -- Joyce Hayes
"Finally made it all the way around a few weeks ago, and it’s a marvelous trail.” -- Ben Monroe
"The Volvon Trail loop is a moderate 5-mile hike with plenty of options to make it longer (grab a map in the parking lot). This hike is my favorite because of the quiet, open space, rolling hills, expansive skies, distant views that go on forever, and dogs are allowed. There's hardly a soul on the trail." -- Isabella, Girl With A Truck and a Dog
"Morgan Territory is one of my favorites because of the gorgeous views, wildflowers in the spring, and it's relatively close to my home. The Coyote Trail is almost completely in the shade and has a lovely stream during late winter/spring. Coyote is steep -- great for getting in shape for Yosemite." -- Linda Wingerd Meamber
"Mount Diablo! Hikes can be anything from easy to difficult, depending on where and how far you hike." -- Kendall Paul Oei
The park "in Fairfield (Solano County) is the most accessible park and closest to where I live. Trails range from easy to moderately difficult with some short, steep inclines. There is little excuse not to hike every week when this little gem is right in my backyard!" -- Erika Amaya
"Little Yosemite ... near my hometown Fremont, Alameda County. Real easy amble; beautiful live oaks ending at semi-seasonal waterfalls. Good for the whole family to take a stroll no matter your hiking level!" -- Irina Fox
"Difficult hike in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, from Muir Beach, California, head south up Coastal Trail to Pirates Cove, pick up Coastal again up Coyote Ridge, then back to the beach via Middle Green Gulch Trail." -- Shiloh Shaeffer
"For somewhat urban hiking, Point Bonita Lighthouse. Paved trails from a parking lot, quite a descent, and you do have to pass through a tunnel bored through the rocky hill, and then over a footbridge that sits high above waves crashing against the rocky cliff-face below. Not for those with a fear of heights (or crowds)." -- Jessica Sorenson
Mount Tamalpais State Park
"We love the Matt Davis-Steep Ravine-Dipsea loop on Mount Tamalpais! I’d give it an easy-medium difficulty level." -- John Vanschaemelhout
"Mount Tamalpais to Muir Woods: Start at Mountain Home Inn (parking and bus stop). Take the trail down to Muir Woods. Stop for lunch at the very organic cafe. Stroll along the stream under old-growth redwood trees. Surprise the tourists with your dusty ruggedness. Take a second trail back up to Mountain Home. Bring hiking poles: this is a steep walk both down and up. You’re hiking from a ridge down into a deep valley." -- Janet Basu
"This is a picture from our hike to Samuel P. Taylor State Park, Lagunitas. This park offers the most beautiful hiking trails from easy to hard and you can spend a full day of hiking, exploring, resting and picnicking. Great place for everyone." -- Claudia Mocis
"This particular area had been my place for escape, enjoyment and exercise for years. I have particularly used the following easy access trail entrance from Annadel Heights Road (no fee and easy parking). The main entrance is subtle with a bit of signage and a steep start. Once over the hill and through a quick ravine, the trail splinters to a forested beautiful ravine to the left, or to the right up a beloved mountain bike path/fire road. Depends on your mood. Both wind up at Lake Ilsanjo, which is quiet peaceful. Multiple options to extend your route via map trail posted at the lake. I would suggest printing the trail map out ahead of time. You can start from Spring Lake (Sonoma County park) as well, which is easy walking to slight difficulty after about a mile with a brief incline." -- Julianne Odell
"McNee Ranch's Gray Whale Cove Trail has the best the Bay Area has to offer. It's dog friendly, has mountain and scenic views of the ocean with a good 8-mile climb to the top and back. It is a great place to escape the summer heat and get in a cool hike. You can stop at the overlook bench and admire your surroundings." -- Tracey Myers and the dogs (see below) Maverick and Wyatt Myers
"The forest is surreal and its serenity is magically healing." -- Al Lavassani
"Hard to believe it’s a real place -- so close to civilization. It has everything: ocean views, redwoods, waterfalls, ferns, deer, banana slugs, and is really quiet if you can get there early or on a weekday. ... My favorite hikes there have been super early morning in fog. I start at the top (Skyline Boulevard) hike down North Ridge to Whittenmore (Gulch Trail), back up Purisima, across Craig Britton, and then back up Harkins. ... it's best in fog if you ask me." -- Kate Leigh
"I would also vote for Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve in San Mateo County. You can start from the top at Skyline Boulevard in Redwood City or from the bottom at Higgins Canyon Road in Half Moon Bay. The last time I was there (a couple of weeks ago) I counted 436 banana slugs and 3 newts!" -- Ed Miller
"This photo is from the end of July, and it was taken from Notch Trail (between Sweeney Ridge and Skyline College) looking southwest toward Pacifica/Linda Mar. There are several reasons why I like this hike: Its convenient location/proximity from anywhere in the Bay Area, its connection to history both old (SF Bay discovery site by Portola Expedition in 1769) and more recent (Nike missile control site), and its many great views (SFO, Pacific Ocean, San Andreas reservoir." -- Pavel Jirousek
"Moderate. Good on any day year-round as long as it's not too rainy. We did it just two weeks back. Check the view from top in photo below. We can see from San Francisco/Oakland to South San Jose (whole Silicon Valley) and Mount Diablo range across. Very beautiful. Offering variety (nature, loops, dog/no dog, bikes/no bikes.)" -- Shailesh Sahasrabuddhe
"It's NOT my favorite. My favorite is a secret. This one is a gem as it's accessible by BART yet hidden away and tucked away. While I was there, I talked to many people hiking it, and it sort of was known as a locals-only spot. What makes this nice is it has an amazing vibe, very interesting viewpoints. It offers a good workout, plus it has something that I really love when I hike, and that's rock formations." -- Jeanette Marie
"Park Trail in the Presidio, SF (just outside the WWII cemetery) is gorgeous when you catch the light hitting the trees, easy hiking." -- Arjun Adamson
"There are so many great choices in Santa Clara County Parks: I recommend Sanborn County Park for north county residents (shady, hills, easiest is John Nicholas Trail); Santa Teresa Park for central county (park in the Pueblo Day Use area and walk in any direction); and Harvey Bear-Coyote Lake for south county. If you're in the south, make a family trip to the Martin Murphy Trail -- a 2-mile flat loop with free parking." -- Melissa Hippard
"The Mine Hill/Randol Trail Loop (10 mile) is my favorite. Diverse landscapes and fantastic views on both sides of the hills. The historic quicksilver mining sites along the way also make it interesting to learn about the past of the area." -- Dick Lambrechts
"This (below) is Willson house (camp) located at the intersection of Wagon and Bowl Trails. ... There is a picnic table, running water and modern restroom; makes for a great lunch spot. The hike in is moderate to advanced depending on what trail you choose to get to the house. The main trail, Wagon, is rolling hills with awesome views, other fingers of Wagon can be steep. ... Wildlife is everywhere if you stop, look and listen. Most of the time I ride/ hike with my horse and never see anther person the entire day!" -- Cindy Seminatore
"It is difficult to pick just one! Let’s choose the most recent one ...
Trail: Avenue of the Noble Giants
Park: Joseph D. Grant County Park - San Jose/Mount Hamilton
Difficulty: Moderate to hard (10.7 miles)
It has beautiful views at the top (Lick Observatory, Mount Umunhum, Loma Prieta, South Bay) and the wildlife there is amazing: feral pigs, deers, foxes, bobcats, rabbits." -- Frederic Garzon
"There are days when fog lends an ethereal look to Mission Peak. This picture was taken a couple of weeks before the first major storm hit the Bay Area. I love going up on the mission because besides being a great workout, it offers beautiful views. It's this area's most beautiful natural gym!" -- Ruhi Mehta
"Can range from easy (Lower Meadow to Deer Hollow Farm walking trails) to moderate (Wildcat Loop Trail). There are farm animals, deer, creeks, pretty views, and lots of shade along the paths. And who doesn’t love checking in with Stella the cow after?" -- Cate Smith
"Black Mountain -- Rhus (Ridge) parking to top. 11 miles. Close by my hometown of Menlo Park. Light traffic. Good views. Hard hike." -- Vonnie Estes
The list could go on (and yes, we'll add to it). But for the moment, a final thought from KQED reader Cathy Hagin: "Mount Diablo, Black Diamond Mines, Morgan Territory, Mount Tamalpais ... so many in the Bay Area; we are very fortunate to have so much beauty surrounding us."
Did we miss a trail/park? Share your hiking picks with the reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org
This post has been updated.