The San Francisco Bay Area
including selected non-redwood parks
Since I live here in the Bay Area, I've included some of my favorite local non-redwood hikes in this section. These are shown with small tags on the map above.
Old-growth redwood parks
Although it's not publicized, this park actually has a tiny old-growth grove. Of more interest are the trails that climb through dense second-growth redwood forests to grassy ridgetops, where there are some great views of the rolling hills of western Marin County.
Because it's right across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, Muir Woods is by far the most-visited redwood park. The park is in a narrow stream valley and is less impressive than the other major redwood parks. It's surrounded by the very attractive coastal scenery of Mount Tamalpais State Park.
These adjacent parks have a few small patches of old growth. Portola Redwoods was selectively logged in the 19th century and, except for the Peters Creek loop, its redwoods lack the stateliness of true old growth. Pescadero Creek has some surprisingly nice second growth, plus the tiny but attractive old-growth Heritage Grove.
This little-visited park has the feel of a remote wilderness. Its redwoods are mostly second-growth, but there are also a few well-hidden acres of old-growth uplands.
A popular getaway with a mountain resort atmosphere, just an hours' drive from the San Francisco Bay Area. Big Basin has the best redwoods south of Hendy Woods and is the best remaining example of a southern redwood forest. However, compared with the northern forests, the trees here are generally smaller and the landscape is not as lush. Overall, the park is minimally affected by development and is exceptionally enjoyable.
This popular park is centered around a small old-growth grove on an alluvial floodplain. The redwoods are partially hidden behind a dense layer of tanoak. South of the old growth is the main body of the park, which is mostly second growth redwood forest.
Other parks — Peninsula
Although it doesn't have any old-growth redwoods, Purisima Creek is still one of the prettiest parks on the peninsula, mostly because of its sweeping views of redwood-filled canyons, the ocean, and tree-capped coastal hills.
Densely carpeted with second-growth redwoods, Huddart County Park offers a network of cool, shady trails that stretch from just outside the town of Woodside up to Skyline Ridge.
This lush, heavily-wooded park just west of Skyline Ridge is mainly used by mountain bikers. For hiking it can be a little dull, but it does have a remote feel and some nice woodland..
Once open only to residents of Palo Alto, non-residents can now enter Foothills Park by hiking two miles through through the rolling grassy hills of Arastradero Preserve.
The most enjoyable of the many parks that line Skyline Ridge, Windy Hill includes both lush deciduous forest and open grasslands.
Part of the Portola Valley trail system, this small trail network adjacent to Windy Hill has some very attractive woodland.
Hidden Villa is an outdoor education center in a surprisingly scenic little valley. There's a popular farm that's open to the public as well as a network of well-maintained trails.
This extremely popular park near Cupertino and Los Altos includes a challenging hill climb up Skyline Ridge. The park is wooded with the area's typical laurel and oak woodland.
This preserve, the most scenic of the parks atop Skyline Ridge, has two small ponds, a tiny nature center, and a nice view over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Traffic noise and the continuous sound of gunfire detract from the otherwise fine setting.
Long Ridge has some great views and enjoyable wooded trails, but the park should only be visited in the late afternoon when there's less traffic noise and the gunfire has stopped.
This small preserve in the low grassy hills outside Saratoga offers a short and pleasant stroll to a fine viewpoint over Silicon Valley. Longer walks are possible but involve walking through a lot of horse manure.
Resembling Huddart County Park except that it's in the South Bay, Sanborn is a fully developed park with campgrounds and picnic areas. Reaching from the suburbs up to Skyline Ridge, the park is on a hillside that's densely carpeted with second-growth redwoods. A few small old-growth redwoods remain.
Located atop one of the highest ridges in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Castle Rock offers sweeping views over the mountains as well as rock climbing on its tufa formations.
This very popular park is located in the hills above the suburban Almaden Valley. It has a very nice mixture of woodland and open hillsides with views over the Santa Clara and Almaden valleys.
This very scenic park is more remote and much less-visited than neighboring Almaden County Park. With its oak-dotted golden brown hillsides, it looks more like the east bay than the peninsula.
This park, located at the south end of suburban Silicon Valley, sits on a mostly treeless hill between the Almaden and Coyote valleys. The recommended hike is surprisingly rural and has some great views, somewhat marred by electrical lines.
Other parks — East Bay
This tiny park on a hill near the John Muir house has some very nice oak woodland.
Located just outside Berkeley, the attractive and highly-developed Tilden Regional Park is one of the East Bay's most popular parks.
This small Berkeley park has one trail, a short, steep climb to a magnificent view of the Bay Area.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District has opened up some of its watershed lands to hiking, and the little-used trails make some of the best all-day hikes in the East Bay.
The sunny and often hot hike to Mission Peak is relatively short, yet offers outstanding views. It's easy to see why it's one of the most popular hikes in the Bay Area.
Located in an isolated valley off of Highway 680, Sunol is one of the more remote parks in the region. It has a nice mix of open grassland and oak forest with very little nearby development to spoil the views.
© 2005-12 David Baselt