Home > General Information > Maps for Car-free Hikes, Part 1: Print Maps

Maps for Car-free Hikes, Part 1: Print Maps

Print and online maps are key to planning to car-free outdoor adventures, so I thought I’d take some time to share some of my favorites for those you wanting to plan your own hikes. I use both print maps and online mapping to plan out hikes; in the second part of this article I will talk about the online maps. Eventually, I’ll also write about bike maps.

When I first attempted to plan hikes from transit, I realized that I would need more than park maps. Park maps are, of course, great for planning any hike. Most of the official park maps from Bay Area agencies have accurate distances and are freely available either at park entrances or from the park office. And, most can be downloaded online and printed on standard 8 1/2 x 11 paper. I won’t list them all here, as the individual hike descriptions include links to specific park maps. However, when you want to connect between parks and from street to trail, it is much easier to visualize a route using map with larger coverage.

As with anything else, you could easily spend a bunch of money on maps. If you want to start planning your own longer hikes, I recommend starting with the maps in the region where you live or where you plan to do much of your hiking. I find that in most cases shopping for maps in a physical store is more useful than ordering them online, especially in cases where you want to compare maps from the same region from different mapmakers. REI carries a wide selection of maps in its stores around the Bay Area, as do many of the independent outdoor gear stores.

San Francisco

San Francisco Bike Map & Walking Guide (Rufus Graphics): In addition to its usefulness as a bike map, this one is great for planning walking routes because it depicts the steepness of streets with shading.

Map & Guide to Golden Gate Park (San Francisco Recreation & Parks, Rufus Graphics): There are many online maps showing the locations of well-known spots in Golden Gate Park, but none show all of the park’s many paths in as great of detail as this print map.

North Bay

Southern Marin Trail Map (Tom Harrison Maps): This map shows the Marin Headlands and connections with Mt. Tam, the Bay Trail from the Golden Gate Bridge north through Sausalito, and the Tiburon Peninsula. Additionally, it shows the trails on Angel Island. Because of its scale, the trails in Fort Baker are not shown in great detail, so you will want to use the official park map when planning hikes in that area.

Trails of Northeast Marin County (Pease Press): This is an excellent map for planning Bayside hikes in Marin and in preserves near Highway 101 from San Rafael north to Novato. For easier planning of hikes from transit, I have marked the locations on my map of the Golden Gate Transit bus pads (which are at 101 exits).

Rambler’s Guide to the Trails of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands (Olmsted & Bros.): This is my favorite of the choices for Mt. Tam maps. In addition to Mt. Tam and Muir Woods, the map shows Marin Municipal Water District land to the north and all of the Marin Headlands.

East Bay

Rambler’s Guide to the Trails of the East Bay Hills (Olmsted & Bros.): The Northern and Central East Bay Hills maps are some of my favorites despite the fact that they are older. They show the trails of the East Bay Regional Park District, the city and county parks, and the EBMUD lands, making it easy to plan routes that connect trails in different jurisdictions.

Map of Berkeley’s Pathways (Berkeley Path Wanderers Association): This map clearly depicts Berkeley’s pedestrian paths and stairways, of which there are over 130 for this small city! The map is clear and easy to read, and shows the connections with Tilden Park, the UC trails, and Claremont Canyon Preserve. Additionally, the Bay Trail connections with bordering cities are shown on the map.

Walk Oakland Map & Guide (Rufus Graphics): This is a very useful map for planning neighborhood routes to connect transit with trails in the Oakland hills. It shows neighborhoods, points of interest, street steepness, and BART and major transit centers. The map also shows Oakland’s many walking paths — though I wish the path markings were a bit more prominent and easier to see on the map.

Peninsula

Trails of the Coastside & Northern Peninsula (Pease Press): This map starts with the south end of San Francisco and shows parks and trails down the coast past Half Moon Bay. It actually shows transit routes, but because the map is older many of the routes have either changed or no longer exist. Nonetheless, a great map.

Trail Map of Central San Francisco Peninsula Trails (Wilderness Press): On this map you can see the trails from San Mateo south to Stanford University. This is an invaluable map for planning longer hikes on the mid-Peninsula particularly because it shows the Crystal Springs Trail, which runs north to south and allows connections between parks.

Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula (Trail Center): This is a nice map of the many parks along the ridge from Portola Valley south to Saratoga Gap and Rancho San Antonio and Fremont Older preserves. You can see the trails in relation to Foothill College, which is the nearest public transit access point for much of this area.

Pathways Map, Los Altos Hills: This very detailed map shows the many pathways in Los Altos Hills, which connect with Rancho San Antonio and several smaller preserves and open spaces. Although it covers a fairly small geographic region, it is a great map to have for Peninsula hikes. Many different hikes can be constructed by planning different routes using the paths, which are not represented in detail on any other map that I have seen.

For all regions: If you have one already, the Thomas Bros. maps are actually fairly useful for planning car-free adventures, despite the fact that they are designed for drivers. I use them mostly when trying to figure out the best route through a neighborhood to connect to a trail. The Thomas Brothers. maps will have more street detail than any of the larger hiking maps and sometimes are more accurate than online maps for smaller streets. These maps are fairly expensive, though, and generally too bulky/heavy to bring along for the hike, so again I recommend starting with the map for the region where you will be spending the most time doing hikes.

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