I have always been attracted to California’s Bay for its scenic shoreline, free-loving spirit and bustling city. In recent years, San Francisco has become the prime spot for tech startups, especially in Silicon Valley. San Fran offers a fast-paced, eclectic city that often feels like you have entered the internet.
For me, the city’s fast paced tempo calls for zen hikes that will help achieve peace of mind and body. Luckily, there are plenty of great hiking spots in the Bay Area that make excellent day trips for visitors and locals to clear their heads and mellow out when city life gets to be too much. Indian Rock, The Sutro Baths, Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, and of course, Berkeley University’s Botanical Gardens are some of my favorite places to unwind and get my happy on in California’s Bay.
1. Indian Rock
Indian Rock is a popular bouldering spot in Berkeley. You will find local rock climbers hitting this spot up on their lunch break and on the weekends — it’s a great location for traversing, offering hundreds of free route variations. Despite the 5-foot drop, it is smart to bring crash pads (you’ll likely be fine without them but you can never be too safe). Indian Rock is an excellent place to climb, but it also offers scenic views of the Bay area. Whether you want to have a picnic, a climb, or both, you will find Indian Rock to be a great spot.
2. Sutro Baths
Built in 1896, the Sutro Baths were an enormous, private saltwater swimming pool complex. When the complex burned down in 1967 the baths became known as the Sutro Bath Ruins. Today, the Sutro Baths are a great place to relax and hike. The baths are located in western San Francisco (in the Lands End region of the Outer Richmond District). Zig-zag your way through the bath’s rustic infrastructure (you may feel like you have fallen into an early 20th century wormhole!) Be sure to check out the Sutro Baths Cave — following the cave to its end and you’ll be welcomed by the majestic mist of the of the Pacific Ocean.
3. Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
Make your way to the Berkeley Hills of San Francisco’s East Bay area to explore the Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. Ten million years ago, the volcanic preserve spewed fiery molten lava creating SF’s east bay ridges. The volcano is no longer active — now the preserve attracts hikers, cyclers, naturalists and families. At this park, you will find superb trails for running and adventuring! Choose to go on a 10-mile hike or a short 1-mile run, you will have plenty of options at the Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve.
4. Berkley’s Botanical Garden
On the first Wednesday of each month you can visit Berkeley University’s Botanical Garden for free. The non-profit research garden and museum provides students and visitors access to more than 13,000 plants from all over the world. The garden organizes its plants by the earth’s continents — making it easy to learn about each plant’s geographical location. With more than 34 acres of naturalistic landscapes you can enjoy a long walk with some of the world’s rarest plants.
5. Take a Hike … Anywhere in California’s Bay!
The Bay Area is known for being outrageously expensive but there are plenty of free hikes and outdoor activities people can participate in. Whether you are visiting San Fran for business, vacation, or simply passing through, take some time to enjoy the area’s gorgeous, abundant scenic landscape.
What hikes help you relax, unwind? Does Northern California speak to your inner zen or does somewhere else in the country help keep you at peace? —Alex