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Trails of the Diablo Valley

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Mt. Diablo State Park Trails

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Great Northern California Trails

While California is a large and diverse state with many natural and scenic wonders, Northern California is particularly blessed with some of the most fantastic scenery in the world. Only 4- and 5-star areas are listed, and as such - if you are in the vicinity and enjoy natural beauty at its finest - should not be missed. Not all trails are located in wild areas, since some of the most spectacular scenery is found in urban settings. California - particularly Northern California - has acted to preserve public access to many areas of scenic significance, and to protect these areas from development which would infringe upon its beauty.

I will only attempt to describe trails that I have personally done. These trails offer only a sampling of what these areas have to offer - there may be other trails that are even more spectacular. You should always check locally for recommendations to fit your specific interests. However, even the 'worst' trail in any of these areas is most likely better than the 'best' trail in many areas!

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods is a 550 acre redwood forest with 6 miles of hiking trails and is surrorounded by 6300 acre Mount Tamalpais State Park providing access to its 50+ miles of trails plus another 150 miles of other public land trails. A legacy of William and Elizabeth Kent, who donated the land to the Federal Government in 1908 to protect the canyon from a proposed dam and logging, the park is a remanent of the vast redwood forest that once covered much of coastal California. The coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) in the park are now up to 250 feet tall, 14 feet in diameter and over 1000 years old.

Location & Directions: Marin County; 17 miles north of San Francisco by way of the Golden Gate Bridge and U.S. 101 and California Highway 1.

Hours: 8AM to sunset year round.

Notes: This is an extreamly popular park and given its proximity to San Francisco is always crowded. Parking can be difficult on weekends and holidays. Pick up a trail map and nature guide at the visitor center. Due to the crowds and the many interesting exibits this is an area for walking, not running. No pets or bikes are permitted in the park.
Trailmap (103K) Open Map in New Window Contact Information

Main Trail - Hillside Trail Loop (2 miles):  ****

The Main Trail begins at the visitor center and follows Redwood Creek on both sides of the creek for .5 miles to Cathedral Grove. Continue past Cathedral grove another .5 miles to 4th bridge. At the Hillside Trail sign walk uphill for about 40 yards, to where the path curves along the Canyon edge and doubles back around a side stream. Take the Hillside Trail 1 mile back to the visitor center.

Related Sites:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is the largest urban national park in the world. The total park area is 76,500 acres of land and water. Approximately 28 miles of coastline lie within its boundaries. It is nearly two and one-half times the size of San Francisco. The park begins where the Pacific Ocean meets San Francisco Bay. Here at the Golden Gate, the park surrounds the narrow entrance to the city's harbor offering a spectacular blend of natural beauty, historic features and urban development. To the north and south of the Golden gate the GGRNA follows the Pacific shoreline creating a vast coastal preserve.

Marin Headlands

Rodeo Beach & Point Bonita from the Coastal Trail
Coastal Trail
Across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco is a vast expanse of rugged beauty that offers a startling contrast to the urban sophistication of The City. Windswept ridges, secluded valleys and sea kissed beaches offer a view of nature at its pinnacle. More than 200 miles of trails are available to explore in The Headlands, adjoining Mount Tamalpais State Park and other adjacent public lands.
Public Transit Information

Notes: Maps and information are available at the Visitor Center (hours: 9:30am to 4:30pm) on Bunker Road. Dogs are required to be leashed unless otherwise posted. Campsite and group camps can be reserved by calling (415) 331- 1540.
Trailmap (115K) Open Map in New Window Contact Information

Coastal - Miwok - Wolf Ridge Loop (5 miles) ****

Trailhead: Rodeo Beach

Directions: From San Fracisco cross the Golden Gate Bridge and exit at Bunker Road (Ft. Baker). Go left (west) on Bunker Road through the tunnel under the freeway and continue all the way to Rodeo Beach.

This is a moderate 5 mile loop with several hundred feet of elevation gain. From the parking lot go south along the beach and pick up the trail on the south side of the lagoon. Follow the trail along the lagoon for about .5 miles, cross the lagoon on the bridge to the intersection with the Miwok Trail and go right. Take the Miwok Trail for 1.8 miles to Wolf Ridge Trail and turn left. Go .7 miles to the Coastal Trail, bear left and take 1.6 miles back to the trailhead. This trail provides a little of everything the park has to offer, a romp on the beach, sweeping views of the Pacific and access to WWII coastal batteries.

Notes: Picnic area, restrooms and drinking water are located at the trailhead.

Related Sites:

Monterey Coastal Trail *****

The Monterey Coastal Trail is a combination of paved multi-use trail and seaside footpath that connects Fort Ord to the north of Monterey with Pebble Beach and the Seventeen Mile Drive to the south. The section that goes from Cannery Row in Monterey to Seal Rock in Pebble Beach provides a spectacular and intimate view of the Pacific as the trail is never more than 100 yards from the ocean!
Trailmap (42K)  Open Map in New Window

(8 miles each way) Pick up the trail in Monterey as it runs parallel to the bay 1/2 block inland from Cannery Row. Go south on the bike path to Pacific Grove where the path becomes a hardpacked sand footpath. Pass Lover's Point Park after 1 mile and then Point Pinos Lighthouse after another 1+ miles. Here the path parallels Ocean View Boulevard and then enters Asilomar State Beach for another 1+ miles. Just past the end of Asilomar Beach look for a path that goes off to the right and through the Beachcomber Inn and Spanish Bay Resort. Take this path, occasionally traveling over wooden walkways, as it winds through the dunes to Spanish Bay Road and Moss Beach along the 17 Mile Drive. An alternative is to take Sunset road past Asilomar Beach to Seventeen Mile Drive and turn right. Sign in at the entrance (free to pedestrians and cyclists) and continue to Spanish Bay Drive where you go right to Moss Beach. At Moss Beach the trail parallels Spanish Bay Drive along the ocean for about .7 miles to Point Joe. From Point Joe to Seal Rock is another 2+ miles with the trail paralleling Seventeen Mile Drive and the ocean. If at any point along the trail it seems to end, or when in doubt, use the bike path along the road and the trail will shortly re-emerge. A note of caution: be aware of the traffic as it can be heavy and most drivers are tourists who are just as overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence of the beauty as you are!

Notes: Restrooms, drinking water and picnic areas located at numerous places along the route. Dogs must be leashed.

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