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Seven must-do fall hikes in the SF Bay Area

A child looks through a telescope with San Francisco skyline in the background.
Kayla LaMarche looks through a telescope atop Angel Island State Park in Tiburon on May 21, 2016. | Source: Michael Macor/SF Chronicle/Getty Images

Autumn is one of the best times of year to hike near San Francisco. What the region lacks in terms of extensive fall foliage, it makes up for in clear skies and pleasant—even warm— temperatures. 

Few people know the best hikes of the season as well as Jane Huber. The author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Francisco moved to the area in 1991 after falling “head over heels in love with San Francisco” on a trip to visit college friends.

“When I visited San Francisco, friends took me to Mount Tam. In fact, my first Bay Area trail was Steep Ravine!” says Huber, who at the time was a dedicated walker but not yet a hiker. 

“It took a few years for me to start exploring other areas. I roamed around on my Moto Guzzi motorcycle mostly in Marin County and stopped at trailheads that were interesting. I just got hooked on hiking.”

Bright orange poppies in sunlight against a backdrop of green hills and blue sky.
California poppy wildflowers under the sun atop San Bruno Mountain in Brisbane. | Source: Scott Strazzante/SF Chronicle/Getty Images

Huber’s extensive explorations led to the launch of her Bay Area Hiker website in 1999. The site features routes in and around San Francisco—reaching as far north as Calistoga, as far south as Watsonville, as far east as Livermore, and including the entire San Francisco peninsula. There are short hikes and long hikes, easy and challenging ones, hikes that are best in certain seasons, and others that shine all year.

“I really try to keep the site’s pages up-to-date,” says Huber, who recently reworked her dog-friendly hikes page. “Updating this page took most of the summer, but I really wanted all the dog owners to have a useful resource.”

Hike among the vines and redwoods in Glen Ellen’s Jack London State Park.
Hike among the vines and redwoods in Glen Ellen’s Jack London State Park. | Photo Alexandra Kenin for The Standard

But Huber’s job is never done. There are always new routes to explore. 

“I haven’t been to Foothills Nature Preserve since it was opened to the public. The lower part of La Honda is an area I’m excited about,” says Huber, adding, “I’m always open to suggestions.”

A map showing hiking trails around San Francisco with many icons indicating different locations.
A map of trails on the Bay Area Hiker website.

Huber’s 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco highlights a variety of the author’s favorite routes out of the nearly 300 featured on Bay Area Hiker. 

“I wanted some hikes to be accessible to beginners, those with mobility issues and folks with little kids. Then I chose places that are real destinations for out-of-town visitors and hikes that make a vacation trip memorable,” says Huber. “And I always include some lesser-known places for locals.”

Best Fall Hikes Near San Francisco 

Autumn is one of Huber’s favorite times to hike the trails of the Bay Area. Out of the dozens of seasonal recommendations she shares on Bay Area Hiker, Huber curated this list of seven routes to showcase a variety of fall hikes.  

Castle Rock State Park, Los Gatos 

The variety of gorgeous mixed woods—including massive Douglas firs, redwoods, oaks, madrones and maples—and sweeping views, plus a new staging area make for a great day hike from the Saratoga Gap Trail. 

Rolling forested hills under a hazy sky with clouds nestled between peaks.
Views from a hike through Castle Rock State Park in Los Gatos. | Getty Images

Jack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen

This park offers miles of trails through the Sonoma County woods. Autumn is a wonderful time of year to visit Wine Country, with the leaves of the grapevines changing to brilliant oranges and reds. 

A woman and two children look over a wooden fence at a white historic house and a large tree.
People enjoy the grounds at Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen on Friday, April 5, 2013. | Source: Paul Chinn/SF Chronicle/Getty Images

Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, Oakland

Not wanting to head as far from San Francisco? Hop across the bay to stroll (and picnic) through tall trees at Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park. When the Bay Area’s grassy hillsides are brown and dry, redwood forests are a refuge of green.

Tall, slender redwood trees reach towards a clear sky, their foliage begins high above the shaded forest floor.
Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park in Oakland is a sprawling forest featuring redwood groves, rare wildlife, trails, picnic sites and campsites. | Getty Images

Tomales Bay State Park, Inverness

Point Reyes should be your go-to day trip in the fall, or really any time of year. The tiny Tomales Bay State Park is covered in lush woods and provides a bit of exercise before a picnic at  Heart’s Desire Beach. Post-hike, it’s just a short drive to pick up a loaf of bread at Brickmaiden and stop for a glass of mead at Heidrun to round out the day.

A narrow, grassy trail winds through a dense forest with tall, dark tree trunks and bright green foliage illuminated by sunlight.
A trail on Point Reyes near Inverness. | Getty Images

3 More Hikes with Views Near San Francisco

If you want to wow visiting friends, a great view is a must. And fall is a great time of year to take in vistas topped by pristine blue skies. In the city, it is easy to take a quick whirl around Mount Davidson, San Francisco’s tallest hill. Done that? Move on to the summit of San Bruno Mountain (easier than it sounds), just south of the city, or make a day of it with a trip to Angel Island The former immigration station offers a glimpse of history, and the trails deliver 360-degrees of bay and Golden Gate views from the top of Mount Livermore.

A silhouetted person walks towards a large cross in a foggy, forested area with a ground covered in leaves.
A person walks by the Mount Davidson Cross during early morning fog. | Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images