Insider’s Guide to Hiking

Although the Bay Area is generally known for its high-tech industries, there are many places for tourists and locals to appreciate nature and escape our technology-filled world. Many students have begun to take more interest in hiking trips with friends and family because it is a great way to spend time with people you love and exercise in a beautiful setting. Here is a review of several places to hike in the Bay Area to encourage more students to go on local adventures.

Muir Woods

The Muir Woods National Monument is located north of San Francisco. It is a great place to hike on a hot day under the shade of the Sequoia Redwood trees with a variety of trails to explore, from the easy paved roads to the narrow dirt trails for the more ambitious hikers. There is an admission fee of $7 for anyone over 16 years of age. After the hike, it is nice to stop at the Muir Woods Trading Company, a cafe that serves locally grown food. There is also a gift shop to explore at the entrance of Muir Woods. However, since Muir Woods is close to San Francisco, it can get filled with tourists and is busier than other places in the Bay Area.

Arastradero Preserve

Owned by the City of Palo Alto, the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve is a combination of forest and grassland that is rich in wildlife. Arastradero Preserve is also home to Arastradero Lake; while swimming is not allowed, there are beautiful views around the area. It is also open to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Many people enjoy running at Arastradero Preserve because the trails are relatively flat. You can also volunteer on Saturdays to help restore the natural habitat by removing weeds and watering plants. It can get busy on the weekends, so it is better to go early in the morning. The best time of the year to go to Arastradero Preserve is in the spring when the grass turns green and the plants flower. Since there are not many trees, it can get very hot hiking in the summer.

Foothills Park

Located in Los Altos Hills, Foothills Park provides a space for hiking, fishing, boating, picnicking, camping, playing and discovering nature. There are 15 miles of hiking trails and visitors are often able to see deer that come out at sunset. Those with fishing licenses may go to Boronda Lake to catch bass, catfish and sunfish. Foothills Park has several picnic tables in the center of the park, as well as grass fields where friends can gather for a game of football. In addition, between May 1 and Oct. 31, visitors can rent canoes and reserve camping spots in Towle Camp. The Nature Interpretive Center has directions and explanation to help visitors learn more about nature in the park. Although the park has many activities to do, there is a residency requirement, so the park is available only for Palo Alto residents and their guests.

Windy Hill

Windy Hill Open Space Preserve, located in Portola Valley, is a 1,335 acre regional park available for hikers, dogs, mountain bikers and even horseback riders. Although only the first mile is shaded by trees, there is wildlife such as deer, coyotes and snakes along the six mile trek to Skyline Boulevard. Many bicyclists enjoy the Spring Ridge trail, which goes from Skyline Boulevard to Portola Valley. Some trails have steep hills, which is great for the more advanced hikers who want a challenging experience. The best part of Windy Hill is the beautiful view of the Bay along the entire hike. It is also a great place to practice hang gliding, paragliding and remote control gliding if you have a special activity permit.

Mount Tamalpais State Park

Located north of the Golden Gate Bridge with an elevation of 2,574 feet, Mount Tamalpais is the highest mountain in the Marin County.  The Main Hills are part of the Northern California Coast Ranges. At the top of the peak, there is a great view of Mount Diablo, the Farallon Islands, San Francisco and the East Bay. Because of the high elevation, the temperature of Mount Tamalpais  is genereally cooler than that of San Francisco. There are over 50 miles of hiking and biking trails, along with several areas to have a picnic. In addition, the East Peak Summit has a Visitor Center where guests can learn about nature, and the Gravity Car Barn, a museum to discover railroad history.