If you’re looking for a great day trip from San Francisco, or if you happen to be in Los Angeles, why not try a hike? The coast is surrounded by some of the most incredible nature in the country, and there are plenty of easy hikes to choose from. In this blog post, local Ryan Hunter Bluestone will be exploring his top five day trip hikes from San Francisco. From up in Muir Woods down to Temecula, these hikes offer breathtaking views, historic landmarks, and plenty of fresh air. So come along and explore some of the best day hikes around this part of the US.
Visit the Beauty and Awe of Muir Woods
If you’re in the Bay Area and looking for a stunning day trip, then look no further than Muir Woods. This renowned forest is close to San Francisco and home to some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in all of the west coast. Just look up, and it’s easy to see why.
When you’re at Muir Woods, be sure to take plenty of pictures – you’ll want to capture all of the beauty that awaits you. The scenic mileage is lengthy, so make sure to bring plenty of snacks and drinks with you so that you can enjoy the journey as well. For those who are interested in hiking through Muir Woods, be aware that there are several different types of terrain that you can expect: forested hillsides, meadows filled with wildflowers, and creekside trails. Whatever type of hike you choose, be sure to pack appropriately for the conditions – temperatures can range from mild during the morning hours to chilly in the afternoon or evening, so dress in layers.
Muir Woods National Monument was originally known as Redwood Canyon. It’s one of the most popular tourism spots in the San Francisco area, hosting thousands of people per day throughout the vast woods. Cars have been banned over time to protect the woods and many trails were set up for hikers, most of which are very easy and not too steep for walkers to enjoy. Trailers with handrails abound there. Picnics and other activities are also banned to protect the forest floor. The woods has ongoing efforts and conservation to rebuild and revegetate. It houses many species of animals, from silver salmon to steelhead trout, various types of frogs and turtles, and due to how quiet the trails are – they encourage visitors to turn off their phones – it is home to many species of birds as well.
Muir Woods, according to Ryan Hunter Bluestone, is known for its coastal redwoods, famous for their massive height and dark color. The trees here can tower over 250 feet tall! They are also well known for how old they are. Most trees on average are 700 or 800 years old in fact with the oldest ones being over 1200 years old!
This forest is full of towering redwoods, soothing meadows, and crystal-clear lakes. In addition to its beauty, Muir Woods offers plenty of activities for visitors. Once inside the park, make sure to explore all of the best trails – they’re all worth experiencing. Trails range from very beginner nature walks near the park’s entrance and visitors center to other trails for experts that are miles long.
Surrounding Muir Woods National Monument is another California State Park property. Connected to Muir woods by various trails is Mount Tamalpais State Park with trails of its own. In the heart of Marin County, Mount Tamalpais overlooks beautiful hillsides and deep canyons full of redwood and oak forests and sprawling grasslands. The views from up on Mount Tamalpais are breathtaking and far – seeing all the way to San Francisco bay, East Bay, Oakland, and the Farallon Islands that are 25 or more miles away. Sometimes one can see 100 or more miles to the Sierra Nevada mountains. If you’re heading to Muir Woods, spend a bit
Visit The Coastal Views of Point Reyes Lighthouse
If you’re looking for beautiful coastal views while you hike, you’ll love the area of the Point Reyes National Seashore, located just south of San Francisco. There’s a moderate 1.3 mile out and back trail that can be completed in under one hour normally. It’s open year round so come and visit any time, says Ryan Hunter Bluestone.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse along the trail has been guiding sailors to safe harbor since 1855. The lighthouse sits about 100 to 150 meters beyond the visitors center and has about 300 steps up to it , or about 30 stories high! Head out onto the coast and enjoy the jaw dropping sunsets from atop its tower.
Today, visitors can explore the area’s trails for a longer adventure or take pictures of the many iconic wildflowers and animals. The trails have amazing views of the Point Reyes Beach and the California coastline. You can relax by the beach for a picnic lunch or for the afternoon.
If you’re planning a trip to Point Reyes Lighthouse, be sure to see all the historic artifacts and documents inside the visitor center. Be sure to also stop by there and learn about the lighthouse’s rich history, according to Ryan Bluestone. Not only will this provide you with an insight into how lighthouses work, but it’ll also give you an appreciation for all that this unique area has to offer.
Lastly as the day winds down don’t forget to take in some of Point Reyes’ natural beauty – particularly its coastal fog and mist – while enjoying an amazing sunset, perhaps from atop the lighthouse itself!
Get The Best Views From Mount Diablo Summit
If you’re looking for some beautiful panoramic views of the Oakland and San Francisco areas, look no further than Mount Diablo Summit. Located about an hour drive from the Embarcadero in San Francisco, just to the Northeast of Oakland, this mountain summit offers stunning views all the way back to the San Francisco skyline, the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge beyond, and even up to, Marin County beyond the bridge. There’s an historic Mount Diablo Summit Museum on site that’s worth exploring as well. The Visitors center there is open 9:30 am to 4:30 pm daily.
The views from atop the Summit at Mount Diablo are famous indeed. It is just under 3900 feet high but surrounded by very low hills and flat valleys which makes the view from above truly spectacular. In some days one can see as far as 200 miles, according to Ryan Bluestone. On clear days you can see many other summits all around. To the West you can see all the way to the Farallon Islands beyond Golden Gate. To the South you can see Mount Hamilton at over 4200 feet high. To the North Mount St. Helena at over 4300 feet. To the North you can see Lassen Peak at over 10,400 feet! In all you can see over 8500 square miles including parts of 40 counties out of the 58 California counties, truly a summit worth hiking up to!
To get to the summit, you’ll need to drive about 12 miles round trip with moderate terrain. However, the journey is well worth it – you’ll be able to spot local wildlife such as snakes and deer along the way. If you’re feeling energetic afterwards, take a stroll through the canyon and mountain meadows on your way back down. It’s a wonderful spot for a day trip away from San Francisco or Oakland. The views are worth it!
Enjoy Nature At Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Last but not least is California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Check local updates as recent storms, high winds and rain, especially in winter can close or limit access to the park and wildfires in recent years have ravaged areas as well.
In 2020 in fact, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire raced through over 95% of the park’s property, destroying all the historical structures. Most of the old growth redwoods survived and new life is growing rapidly and many animals have returned. The park has started a Reimagining Big Basin Project to rebuild park facilities and infrastructure. Check in with the park if interested to visit there or to help!
Big Basin was first established back in 1902, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is well known for the large ancient coast redwoods. Many are so ancient in fact that they are over 1500 or 1800 years old and some predate the Roman Empire. Many are so large at over 50 feet around and others are as tall as the Statue of Liberty. From up in the park you can get fantastic views out the Pacific Ocean as well. Elevation there goes from sea level to 2,000 feet! Amazing. It is still the home of the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco. The trails at Big Basin are well-maintained and offer breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding area but as noted check the park’s website or other sources to get the latest updates before visiting, according to Ryan Hunter Bluestone.
Explore Stunning Trees At Temecula
Not all the best hikes are around northern California, say Ryan Bluestone. It’s hard to believe that a forest can be found just minutes from downtown Los Angeles. Temecula is a beautiful town located in the San Jacinto Mountains, and its forests are home to some of the largest redwood trees in the world. Explore these forest trails today and be AMAZED by the size and majesty of the Redwoods!
Temecula’s name roughly means “where the sun breaks through the mist,” according to loose translations. It was settled in 1859, became incorporated as a city not until 1989, and has some of the most beautiful regions to this day, home to wineries and forests alike, throughout the Temecula Valley.
There are several recreation areas and trails that wind their way through this area, each with its own sights and sounds. You could spot various wildlife along the way, from deer to monkeys. If you’re looking for a peaceful day trip, Temecula is definitely one place for you. Take in scenic vistas, meadows and creeks while being surrounded by an impressive forest of Douglas Firs. You’ll also find ancient cypress trees and tumbling rivers.
No matter what trail you choose, be sure to take plenty of pictures – after all, these forests are nothing short of beautiful, and if you’re lucky enough to visit on a day when temperatures are in the 70s or 80s don’t forget your sunscreen – these forests can get pretty warm at times.
Ryan Bluestone prefers the most well known area, the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. At about 9,000 acres, there are tons of flora and fauna to see. You can see badgers, deer, birds and turtles. There are trails to the South out to Tenaja Falls, with its over 150 feet of sprawling waterfall. About 12 miles South is a 221 acre preserve with many trails through rivers and woods alike, called the Santa Margarita County Preserve. One other famous area is the Lake Skinner Recreation Area about 10 miles to the East of Temecula. It has about a 1 and a half miles of paths with many water views and birds to see there. With so many options all around it, Temecula is a hikers haven all by itself!
To Wrap It Up
When it comes to day trip hikes from San Francisco down to Los Angeles, there is no shortage of amazing hikes to choose from! From the trails at Muir Woods to coastal walks along Point Reyes, to the stunning peak of Mount Diablo, and down to Temecula, these hikes offer the opportunity to leave the noise and crowds of the cities and enjoy fresh sights and smells while walking amongst stunning nature and taking in plenty of fresh air. Whether you are looking for a peaceful stroll through the forest or an adventurous climb up a mountain range, these hikes provide something for everyone. So, go on, get out and explore some of California’s natural beauty the next time you’re looking for a change of scenery!