If you’re enjoying your time in the city of San Francisco but could use a break from the hustle and bustle, these backpacking trips nearby will get you onto the right trails. California’s Coast Ranges, with their high ridgelines, grassy woodlands, redwoods, and Pacific Ocean views, make outstanding backpacking trips in the Bay Area. You don’t have to travel far, either, to find remote wilderness. Here are 11 short backpacking getaways within an hour and a half’s drive of San Francisco.

North Bay

The Bear Valley – Coast Trail Loop is a 22-mile coastal backpack in Point Reyes National Seashore. From the Bear Valley Visitor Center, the loop travels clockwise to the Coast Campground and Wildcat Campground. Both campgrounds have trails leading to the ocean. Reservations/permits required. See Point Reyes’ Backcountry Camping page for details.

Trails in Point Reyes National Seashore lead towards the ocean.

 

Alamere Falls is a 14-mile round-trip hike to a coastal waterfall in Point Reyes National Seashore. Hikers can camp at Wildcat Campground, a short walk from Wildcat Beach. From there, it is just over a mile down the beach to Alamere Falls. Reservations/permits required. See Point Reyes’ Backcountry Camping page for details. Some hikers (and other online hiking resources) have a shorter route to the falls, but this is not a park-designated route and it causes unnecessary erosion and trail damage that may eventually shut down the entire route. Do the right thing and hike the right trail!

Alamere Falls is just over a mile’s beach hike from Wildcat Camp in Point Reyes National Seashore.

 

The Stinson Beach to East Peak Fire Lookout Loop is a 15-mile round-trip hike to East Peak on Mount Tamalpais. You can camp right along the route at the Pantoll or Bootjack Campgrounds (first-come, first serve) or West Point Inn. Either way, be sure to stop in for the Inn’s Sunday pancake breakfast.

Views of the San Francisco Bay from West Point Inn, with hummingbirds

 

The 5.5-mile Angel Island Perimeter Loop circles the entire island, with outstanding views of the San Francisco Bay. Taking the ferry, discovering hidden beaches, and visiting historic sites is half the fun. Multiple campsites are available for staying the night. Reservations/permits required. Visit reservecalifornia.com for details.

Looking north to Tiburon from Angel Island

 

Peninsula

The Black Mountain Loop is a 6.1-mile hike through grasslands, wildflowers, and valley vistas in Monte Bello Preserve and is one of the best backpacking trips near San Francisco for those just getting started carrying tents in their packs. At just 2.1-miles from the trailhead, the Black Mountain Backpack Camp is a great option for beginner backpackers. Reservations/permits required. Visit Midpen’s backpacking site for details.

Monte Bello Preserve’s valley vistas and wildflowers are superb.

 

The Skyline to the Sea Trail is a 30.5 mile, one-way backpacking trip from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. It is mostly downhill, winding southwest through Castle Rock State Park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and Rancho del Oso. Most people budget 3 days/2 nights, camping in Castle Rock and Big Basin. Reservations/permits required. See the California State Park’s Santa Cruz Mountains Backcountry Trail Camps page for details.

The Skyline to the Sea Trail has panoramic views of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

 

The 10.5-mile Berry Creek Falls Loop passes three spectacular waterfalls beneath towering redwoods in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Sunset Trail Camp, just off the Sunset Trail, makes a good basecamp for visiting the falls. Reservations/permits required. See the California State Park’s Santa Cruz Mountains Backcountry Trail Camps page for details.

There’s a reason why Big Basin is so popular. Berry Creek Falls is one of three mega-waterfalls on this loop.

 

South Bay

The Mount Sizer Loop is a 15.2-mile roller coaster of a hike, zooming up and down steep ridges in Henry W. Coe State Park. Dispersed camping is allowed on Blue Ridge, where Mount Sizer tops out at 3216 feet. Designated campsites are also available along the route at fairly regular intervals. Reservations/permits required. See the Pine Ridge Association’s backpacking page for details on one of the best backpacking trips near San Francisco.

Henry W. Coe State Park offers a remote wilderness among steep ridgelines above Santa Clara Valley.

 

The 5.4-mile Frog Lake Loop follows Pine Ridge in Henry W. Coe State Park to a former cattle pond. Just above the lake, Frog Lake Camp makes a great beginner backpack, as it is just 1.6 miles from the trailhead. Reservations/permits required. See the Pine Ridge Association’s backpacking page for details.

Frog Lake with granary trees

 

East Bay

The Ohlone Regional Wilderness Trail is a 28-mile one-way backpacking trip running west/east between Mission Peak Regional Park in Fremont and Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore. This 3-day/2-night backpack is spectacular in spring, when hills turn green and wildflowers bloom. Reservations/permits required. See the park district’s backpacking page for details.

Wildflowers blanket a hillside on the Ohlone Regional Wilderness Trail.

 

The Skyline Trail is a 31-mile National Recreation Trail running northwest to southeast between Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in Richmond and Anthony Chabot Regional Park in Castro Valley. At just under the halfway point, there is a backcountry campsite in Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. Group sites are also available in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park and Anthony Chabot Regional Park. Reservations/permits required. See the park district’s backpacking page for details.

The Skyline Trail in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park features tall redwoods.

West Coast hiker, writer, and photographer. Author of "Moon 75 Great Hikes Seattle."





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