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Get Outside and Take a Car-Free Hike This Summer

July 20, 2010 2 comments

Any time of year is a good time to take a car-free hike, but summer — with additional traffic to outdoor destinations — is an especially great time to ditch the car in favor of taking transit to parks, trails, and beaches. Following is a quick index to car-free hikes by region of the Bay Area:

San Francisco

Southwest San Francisco Nature: Lake Merced, Fort Funston, and More

San Francisco Waterfront: Ferry Building to Fort Point

Mission to Haight Hike: Corona Heights, Buena Vista Park, Golden Gate Park Oak Woodland

Western San Francisco Hike: Presidio, Lands End, and Sutro Baths

San Francisco’s China Basin and Potrero Hill

East Bay

Circling the Lafayette Reservoir

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline: A Trip Along the California Riding & Hiking Trail

Albany Bulb Adventure

Bayside Berkeley: A Stroll Around the Berkeley Marina and Cesar Chavez Park

Around and Above Lake Merritt

North Bay

Secret Sausalito Stairways to the Marin Headlands

Tiburon Tour: Ring Mountain and the Tiburon Peninsula

Headlands for the Holidays (and Sundays): Rodeo Beach to Tennessee Beach

Larkspur Loop: King Mountain, Dawn Falls Trail, Paths and Stairways

Bayside Marin: Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds and McInnis County Park

Angel Island Perimeter Hike

Peninsula and South Bay

Sweeney Ridge and Milagra Ridge Along the Bay Area Ridge Trail

Rancho San Antonio Trails to Black Mountain Peak

Pacifica Coastal Hike: Mori Point and Beaches, Three Ways

Edgewood County Park From Cañada College

San Bruno Mountain Summit

Car-free Outdoors is taking a break, but hopefully with the above hikes you will have plenty of options and ideas for car-free hikes in the meantime!

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Categories: General, Hike

Angel Island Perimeter Hike

May 8, 2010 Leave a comment

View of San Francisco from Battery Drew -- by Joe Reifer
View of San Francisco from Battery Drew — by Joe Reifer

This hike circles the perimeter of Angel Island State Park, visiting many historical and natural points of interest, including the Angel Island Immigration Station, abandoned forts and batteries, and coves and beaches. Despite being a popular tourist destination, the trails and paths on Angel Island are usually not overcrowded, as many visitors spend their time on the island picnicking near the ferry cove or taking the tram tours. On clear days, you will have amazing views of San Francisco from the island.

Places visited: Angel Island State Park
Approximate length:
6 miles (see notes for variations)
Hiking time:
4-6 hours
Map:
Angel Island
Terrain:
Mostly flat with a couple of moderate hills; paved and dirt trails
Transit schedule:
Angel Island Tiburon Ferry, Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry
Start and end point:
Ayala Cove Ferry Dock, Angel Island

Getting to the start point:

From San Francisco, take the Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry from Pier 41 and the Embarcadero to Angel Island. You can take the Muni F-Market to Pier 41 or (my preference) walk from Embarcadero BART/Muni north on the Embarcadero to Pier 41.

From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to Millbrae station. Transfer to BART, and take the San Francisco/East Bay train to Embarcadero station. From here, take the Muni F-Market to Pier 41 or (my preference) walk from Embarcadero BART/Muni north on the Embarcadero to Pier 41. Take the Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry from Pier 41 and the Embarcadero to Angel Island.

From the East Bay, take BART to Embarcadero station. From here, take the Muni F-Market to Pier 41 or (my preference) walk from Embarcadero BART/Muni north on the Embarcadero to Pier 41. Take the Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry from Pier 41 and the Embarcadero to Angel Island.

From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit 19 to the Tiburon Ferry Terminal. (Major transfer points for the 19 are Marin City, Strawberry Village, and the Seminary Drive Bus Pad.) Take the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry to Angel Island.

Notes:

  • Note that you will be taking the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry if you are traveling from Marin, and the Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry if you are traveling from all other destinations. The Angel Island Tiburon Ferry operates more frequently, but it is inconvenient for car-free travelers coming from destinations other than Marin. If you are coming from San Francisco, it is possible take the Golden Gate Transit 10 or 70/80 and transfer at Marin City to the 19 to get to Angel Island Tiburon Ferry. If you are taking the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry, note that cash and checks only (no credit cards) are accepted; make sure to check the current fares ahead of time and bring enough cash.
  • This route is designed for those who want to avoid crowded trails, by taking the steep stairs to the perimeter road and doing a clockwise loop around the island. Taking the first ferry in the morning is also a great way to avoid the crowds and will allow you to explore the island without feeling rushed to make it back for the last ferry. The Angel Island ferries run on a more limited schedule from November through April; May-October will give you more options for your length of stay on the island.
  • You can vary this route in a few places by taking alternate trails or roads. From the Immigration Station, the East Bay View Trail connects with Fort McDowell; it could be muddy in the winter or after heavy rains. A steeper hike is the loop to Mt. Livermore at the center of the island. Although it would be possible to do this hike in combination with the perimeter loop, I recommend doing these as separate hikes so that you have plenty of time to explore along the way and stop to enjoy the views.
  • This route includes many great locations for lunch with a view. I recommend bringing a bag lunch, but you can also eat at the snack bar near the ferry.

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San Bruno Mountain Summit

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Located just south of San Francisco, San Bruno Mountain is a great destination for urban dwellers looking for nature close to home. San Bruno Mountain is a favorite spot for wildflower viewing in the Spring and a year-round hiking option. Starting at Daly City BART, this hike takes a neighborhood route to the park, climbs to the mountain’s summit and back down again via a loop trail, and ends at Balboa Park BART.

Places visited: San Bruno Mountain State and County Park
Approximate length: 9 miles
Hiking time: 4-5 hours
Map: San Bruno Mountain Park (PDF)
Terrain: Mix of flat sections and gradual climbing on paved and dirt trails.
Transit schedule: BART
Start point: Daly City BART
End point: Balboa Park BART

Getting to the starting point:

  • From San Francisco, take BART to Daly City.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to Millbrae station. Transfer to BART, and get off at Daly City.
  • From the East Bay, take BART to Daly City.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80 or 10 to San Francisco. Get off at Hyde and Grove streets (just before Market Street), and walk to the Civic Center BART station on Market Street. Take BART to Daly City.

Notes:

  • A number of variations on this hike are possible. From the mountain’s summit, you can hike out and back along the ridge a ways (note that the Ridge Trail does not connect to neighborhoods in Brisbane, so you will need to return the way you came). For a shorter and less steep hike, take the Saddle Loop Trail from the Old Guadalupe Trail. Or, take the Dairy Ravine and/or Eucalyptus trails with the Summit Loop Trail for a short loop hike.
  • This hike is pleasant even after heavy rains. The muddiest section is a very short section from the small parking lot at the start of the loop. An alternative to this section is to walk along Radio Road  and then turn right to connect to the Summit Loop. Despite its name, the Bog Trail should be passable after wet weather, but feel free to take the paved Old Guadalupe Trail both ways if this is not the case.
  • Be prepared for foggy and/or windy weather at San Bruno Mountain, especially during the summer.
  • Food options are available on Mission Street near the end of the hike. There are several good spots in the park to stop and eat a bag lunch.

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San Francisco’s China Basin and Potrero Hill

April 4, 2010 1 comment

This urban hike visits part of the waterfront that runs south along the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building, turns inland at China Basin and through the park that runs along the Mission Creek Channel. In contrast to the busy northern Embarcadero, this route is generally peaceful and quiet (unless there is a Giants game the day you go). From there, this route takes you  from the flatlands up through Potrero Hill to climb steep stairways — including stairs connecting twisty Vermont Street (“the other Lombard Street”). Sights along the way include birds and butterflies, houseboats, community gardens, unique stairways, and Bay and city skyline views.

Places visited: San Francisco Bay waterfront, China Basin, Mission Creek Channel, Potrero Hill stairways
Approximate length: 7 miles (see Notes for shorter option)
Hiking time: 3-4 hours
Map: see Google Map below
Terrain: Mostly paved; flat to Potrero Hill, steep stairways and streets in Potrero Hill
Transit Schedule: BART
Start Point: Embarcadero BART
End Point: 16th/Mission BART

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take Muni Metro J/K/L/M/N/T or BART to the Embarcadero station.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. If you are closer to Caltrain, take Caltrain north to Millbrae, transfer to BART and take a San Francisco train to the Embarcadero station.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80 or 10 to San Francisco. Get off at Mission and 1st Streets, walk north one block to Market Street, turn right on Market, and to the Embarcadero BART station.

Notes:

  • The first part of this hike is mostly flat, whereas the Potrero Hill section is much more challenging. If you would prefer to take a leisurely stroll, turn around at the end of Mission Creek Park and return the way you came from Embarcadero BART. This walk is approximately 5 miles round trip.
  • Several options for food can be found at the start of the hike and in Potrero Hill, and numerous restaurants can be found near the hike’s end at 16th and Mission. A Safeway is located a block off the route near the start: when you turn right on 3rd Street after passing behind the ballpark, continue straight and turn left at King Street. The Safeway market is on this block. When done, continue on King Street, turn left at 4th, and resume the route as it heads over the 4th Street bridge. A Whole Foods market is located a block off the route in Potrero Hill: After turning left onto De Haro from 16th Street, turn right at the next block, 17th. Turn left at the next block, Rhode Island; the Whole Foods is in this block. When done, continue on Rhode Island, turn left at the next block (Mariposa) and right at De Haro to continue on the route.
  • The Mission Creek Conservancy has some photos of wildlife you might want to watch for along Mission Creek. The Oakland Museum of California has a map and information about the Mission Creek Watershed.

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Categories: BART, Hike, San Francisco

Around and Above Lake Merritt

March 7, 2010 1 comment

This urban hike in Oakland takes you around Lake Merritt, up stairways (including the historic Cleveland Cascade) and around the Morcom Rose Garden. Lake Merritt is a National Wildlife Refuge (the first in the U.S.) with a variety of migratory birds and a nature center. This hike uses paved paths and stairways and is enjoyable any time of the year.

Places visited: Lake Merritt, Oakland paths and stairways, Oakland Rose Garden
Approximate Length: 6.5 miles (see notes for shorter version)
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Map: See Google map of route, below
Terrain: Paved paths and stairways; flat around the lake, steep paths and stairways.
Transit Schedule: BART
Start and end point: 19th Street Oakland BART

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take a Richmond or Pittsburg/Bay Point BART train to 19th Street/Oakland station.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the Millbrae station. Transfer to BART and board the SF/Bay Point train (on weekdays, you will take the SF/Richmond train). Exit BART at 19th/Street Oakland station.
  • From the East Bay, take BART to 19th Street/Oakland station. If traveling from Dublin/Pleasanton or Castro Valley, you’ll need to transfer to a Richmond train at Bay Fair.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 42 (from the San Rafael Transit Center) to El Cerrito Del Norte BART. Take a Fremont or San Francisco BART train to 19th Street/Oakland station.

Notes:

  • For a shorter route (about 4 miles), you could skip the trip up the stairways and to the Morcom Rose Garden, and just walk around Lake Merritt. I recommend the full route, but the shorter route is great if you have limited time or would like a flat route.
  • If you have more time to spend, there are several places to visit around the lake’s perimeter, including a boating center (rents pedal boats, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, and rowboats), Lakeside Demonstration Gardens (including a Japanese garden and a bonsai garden), a nature center, and Children’s Fairyland. The Friends of the Cleveland Cascade website has history, videos, and information about restoration of the stairway. You may also want spend additional time at the lake relaxing in one of the grassy areas with a picnic or a book.
  • Many food options are available at different points along this route, particularly along Grand Ave. and Lakeshore Ave. On Saturdays, the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market operates at Splash Pad Park along Grand Ave. soon after you head away from Lake Merritt toward the Oakland Garden.

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Categories: BART, East Bay, Hike

Bayside Marin: Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds and McInnis County Park

February 19, 2010 2 comments

This bayside Marin hike is a nice option for winter, with plenty of birds and little mud, and also a great summer outing when the temperatures rise at inland parks. A variety of land uses can be observed on this tour, which passes wildlife ponds, sanitary district facilities, remnants of a Nike missile site, an old Air Force base, hunting blinds, an air strip, a skate park, golf course, and other recreational facilities.

Places visited: Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District Wildlife Ponds, McInnis County Park
Approximate Length: 9.5 miles
Hiking time: 5 hours
Map: None online; see Google Map below
Terrain: Mostly flat with a couple of easy climbs, dirt and gravel paths
Transit schedule: Golden Gate Transit 70/80
Start and end point: Lucas Valley Bus Pad

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70 or 80 bus from Mission Street and 1st Street (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission). You can also pick up Route 70/80 at different points along its route along Mission, up Van Ness, and west on Lombard to the Golden Gate Bridge. Check the current San Francisco System map to see if there is a stop closer to you. Take the Route 70/80 to the Lucas Valley Bus Pad.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the final San Francisco stop. Walk on 3rd Street towards Market, turn right on Mission, to the Golden Gate Transit stop at Mission and 1st. Or, from BART, take a San Francisco BART train to Montgomery Street station. Exit the station, walk Market Street towards the water/ferry building, turn right on 1st Street, and walk one block to the corner of Mission and 1st. Take the Golden Gate Transit Route 70 or 80 bus from here (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission) to the Lucas Valley Bus Pad.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. Walk on Market Street away from the water/ferry building to 1st Street, turn left on 1st Street and walk one block to the corner of Mission and 1st. Take the Golden Gate Transit Route 70 or 80 bus from here (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission) to the Lucas Valley Bus Pad.
  • From the North Bay: Take Golden Gate Transit Route 70, 71 or 80 from any of the stops along its route. If you are coming from Petaluma/Cotati/Rohnert Park/Santa Rosa, you will be taking Route 80. From locations in Novato, San Rafael, and Marin City, you can take any of the three buses. Get off at the Lucas Valley Bus Pad.

Notes:

  • This trip includes a full tour of Las Gallinas and McInnis Park. If you enjoy bird watching, you a may want to return and try different routes around the ponds. If you end up spending a lot of time at the ponds, you may with to skip the loop through McInnis Park. To do this after exiting McInnis across the stone bridge, just reverse the beginning of the directions and head back the way you came instead of turning in at the Bay Trail.
  • This hike can be done year-round, with winter being especially good for bird watching. There is one short section at the start of the Bay Trail around McInnis that can be muddy after heavy rains. However, the rest of the route is on graveled and/or raised levee paths that stay relatively dry.
  • This is a good hike for a picnic lunch; there are plenty of benches and picnic tables at different points in this route. There are a couple of restaurants on Smith Ranch Road, but otherwise not too many food options along the route.
  • Getting to the southbound Lucas Valley Bus Pad is a bit confusing due to poor signage. Be sure to read the end of the directions for this route so that you do not make any dangerous crossing of freeway on-ramps.

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Edgewood County Park From Cañada College

February 6, 2010 2 comments

This car-free trip takes you to Edgewood County Park, a favorite spot for wildflower viewing in the Spring and a pleasant hiking spot year-round. Starting at Cañada College, you will hike a portion of the Crystal Springs Trail to connect with Edgewood. After looping through Edgewood and stopping at a viewpoint, you’ll exit the park on a different trail to head back to Cañada College.

Places visited: Edgewood County Park, Crystal Springs Trail
Approximate Length: 9.75 miles
Hiking Time: 5 hours
Map: Edgewood County Park (PDF), Cañada College
Terrain: Mix of flat sections and moderate climbs on dirt trails
Transit schedule: SamTrans 274 (PDF)
Start and end point: SamTrans stop at Cañada College, Redwood City

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take Caltrain south to Redwood City. Walk to the bus stop area adjacent to the train tracks to the waiting area for SamTrans 274. Take the bus to the end of its line at Cañada College.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to Redwood City. Walk to the bus stop area adjacent to the train tracks to the waiting area for SamTrans 274. Take the bus to the end of its line at Cañada College.
  • From the East Bay, take a Millbrae BART train. Depending on the day and time, you may need to transfer to the Millbrae train. At Millbrae, go to the southbound Caltrain waiting area. Take Caltrain south to Redwood City. Walk to the bus stop area adjacent to the train tracks to the waiting area for SamTrans 274. Take the bus to the end of its line at Cañada College.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80 or 10 to San Francisco. Get off at Howard and Fourth Street, and walk south on Fourth Street to the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets. (Note that on the way back you will pick up the Golden Gate Transit bus on Folsom rather than Howard. Take Caltrain south to Redwood City. Walk to the bus stop area adjacent to the train tracks to the waiting area for SamTrans 274. Take the bus to the end of its line at Cañada College.

Notes:

  • Make sure to pack a lunch for this hike, as there are no food options near the start and end point on Saturdays and limited options at campus food vendors during the week. If you take the bus from the Redwood City Caltrain station, the adjacent shopping center has a Safeway and takeout food options. Across the street from the shopping center (on El Camino Real) is a Whole Foods market and deli.
  • The hike as described can be done on weekdays and Saturdays. The SamTrans 274 route does not run on Sundays. As of this writing the last bus leaves Cañada College at 5:05 pm on Saturdays.
  • You can use this basic route to get to Edgewood County Park, but vary your route through the park. The suggested route is ideal for wildflower viewing. The Sylvan Trail loop is a nice shady option during the summer months. It would also be possible to take trail along Cañada Road to or from Edgewood, but I don’t recommend this option. The trail runs right alongside Cañada, which is a very popular bike route on the weekends. Along portions of the Crystal Springs Trail you’ll have some freeway noise, but you may have the trail to yourself save for the occasional equestrian.

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