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Walnut Creek Magazine


Oct 13, 2021 07:46AM ● By Deborah Burstyn

As famed John Muir once said, “Keep close to Nature's heart...and break clear away once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” You can get a rejuvenating boost from a one to three-hour hike. No need to climb a mountain or spend a week trying to do it; plenty of Bay Area trails offer easy to moderate elevation and spectacular views. Here are four of our favorites. Make sure to hydrate.

MARIN— Easy. Tennessee Valley Road Trail. 3.4 miles out and back. This trail is a small slice of Marin Headlands tucked into Mill Valley and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It’s easily reached from the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach/Highway 1 exit off 101. Tennessee Valley Road turnoff is on the left. The trailhead begins at the parking lot and meanders along a stream through a valley that opens onto Tennessee Cove, a pocket beach surrounded by dramatic rocky outcroppings. For an English pub experience after your hike, head to the nearby Pelican Inn for a cheese plate and London Mule. 

ALAMEDA COUNTY—Moderate. Sunol Regional Wilderness Park, Canyon View/Little Yosemite Loop. About 3 miles. Hidden in the hills between Diablo Valley and Silicon Valley is a hiking trail that leads to a spectacular waterfall known as Little Yosemite. Although not exactly Yosemite, it’s a scenic gorge full of boulders and falls. To start, look for a wooden footbridge over Alameda Creek in the meadow near the Visitor Center. Cross the bridge, turn right, and follow signs for Indian Joe Nature Trail. It’s all uphill from here; pause to take in the breath-taking canyon views. The trail drops as you near the falls. From there, it’s an easy downhill stroll on paved Camp Ohlone Road back to the footbridge. To make a day of it, head into historic downtown Niles on your way home for antique shops, cafes, and restaurants.

PENINSULA – Moderate. Mill Ox/Jackson Flats Trail. 5-mile loop. Sometimes you just want redwoods and ferns—an immersion into mystical primordial green. This hike delivers. Be warned, the first 30 minutes of the trail are nonstop elevation through scrub forest. Not for the faint of heart. Turn right onto the flat and placid Old Butano Fire Road with sweeping views. Follow the Jackson Flats Trail back down through the redwoods. You’ll come out at the Visitor Center. Turn left and walk a short way back to your car. When you exit the park, you can drive straight into the parking area for Pescadero State Beach. About 20 miles north on Highway 1 are the popular Half Moon Bay seaside eateries Sam’s Chowder House and Miramar Beach Restaurant.

SAN FRANCISCO — Easy. Kennedy Drive to Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park. 3 miles one way. This is a lovely hike the length of Golden Gate Park from the Haight Ashbury to the sea. Try to go on Sunday when Kennedy Drive is closed to vehicles. Park along the Panhandle and cross Stanyan Street on foot to enter Golden Gate Park on Kennedy Drive. As you walk along the paved walkway, many of the Park’s Victorian splendors—the dazzling white Conservatory of Flowers and the Grecian columns adorning Spreckels Lake—come into view. There’s the De Young Museum’s modern metallic Hamon Observation Tower, the Rose Garden, the Bison Paddock complete with a herd of grazing bison, and two full-size Dutch windmills. Then you hit the beach. To your left is the historic Beach Chalet Restaurant and Brewery To your right is a Safeway and the 5 Fulton bus which will take you back to Stanyan, if three miles is all you’ve got.


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