Going for a hike near the city can often feel like you've joined a parade or a conga line. There are certainly the must-see spots, but there are plenty of places to find a breath of fresh air and leave some of the crowds behind. These hikes are close to San Francisco and are often less traveled than their popular neighboring trails. And check out our companion guides for Portland and Seattle if you're planning a trip there as well.
Only 30 minutes from San Francisco, the redwood forests and ocean views make this Mount Tamalpais State Park trail a fun and rewarding hike. Over the course of the 3.4-mile loop you'll climb a total of 950 feet to emerge on Mount Tam’s open western slopes. This glute burner is not recommended for small children, and there is a 14-rung wooden ladder that could prove challenging. Dogs are not allowed.
Also in Mount Tamalpais State Park, this amazing 5.4-mile trail has views for miles. Don't worry, these views only come with 200 feet of elevation gain. This trail travels across the top of Mount Tam’s western slopes, missing the wooded ravine below, but it's much easier on your lungs than the ravine trail. Dogs are not allowed.
Just 25 minutes north of San Francisco you'll find the trail from Rodeo Beach to Muir Beach. This trial is 13.1 miles there-and-back and a bit of a glute burner with about 3,500 feet of elevation gain. The trail ascends and falls consistently over the coastal landscape, but it spends a fair amount of time on the ridges, where you'll be rewarded with views of the entire Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Dogs are allowed.
A short 20-minute drive south of the city will bring you to a set of switchbacks leading to a fantastic city view. Registering at only a mile, the Notch Trail is a perfect place to stretch your legs and show off the city skyline to out-of-towners. Dogs are not allowed.
If you're looking for something a little different, travel about 40 minutes south of the city to the tide pools at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Here you'll have the chance to see sea anemones, sea urchins, starfish, abalone, kelp crab, harbor seals, and various sea birds. Low tide is the best time for creature spotting, but the sunsets can be spectacular as well. Dogs are not allowed.