A Guide to Hiking the Bay Area

There are thousands of miles of hiking trails in the Bay Area. See pictures of national parks.
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The trail starts in a thick jumble of redwood and Douglas fir. Since it's only 5 miles (8 kilometers) long, you're not expecting dramatic changes in scenery. But before long, the path leads you out of the forest and up 1,466-foot (447-meter) Barnabe's Peak, where you're treated to sweeping views of the countryside. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mount St. Helens in the north [source: Bay Area Hiker]. And to think you're not on, say, the mighty (and better-known) Pacific Crest Trail, but a modest path in the San Francisco Bay Area -- a spot that's home to more trails than most realize.

The San Francisco Bay Area is the metropolitan region surrounding Northern California's San Francisco and San Pablo bays. Home to more than 100 cities that contain in excess of 7 million people combined, it encompasses roughly 7,000 square miles (18,130 square kilometers) [source: What Is the Bay?]. While there is no central governing body that oversees all of the Bay Area's hiking trails, it's safe to say there are thousands of miles of trail here. The San Francisco Bay Trail alone makes a 500-mile (805-kilometer) loop around the bay, while the 335-mile (539-kilometer) Bay Area Ridge Trail, which winds along the ridges towering over the bay, will eventually contain more than 550 miles (885 kilometers) when all segments are connected [source: Bay Area Ridge Trail, Bay Trail].

Don't fret that you have to be an expert hiker to enjoy these trails. While the two mentioned above are quite long, you can certainly just hike a short segment of either one. And there are plenty of "regular" trails in the Bay Area that run just a mile or two or 10. There are trails to fit every skill level, too. Keep reading to find one that suits your tastes.