7 Hikes with Breathtaking Views near San Francisco

The Bay Area is filled with breathtaking Pacific coastlines, valleys, ridgelines, bay views, and mountains. Hikers have outstanding opportunities to lose themselves in all kinds of vistas, so many more than just ones from a mountaintop. Whether it’s looking up from a wildflower slope to a mountain ridge, overlooking a foggy valley, or standing at the edge of a mirrored lake, there is a vista to be discovered. Here are seven hikes—and bonus hiking suggestions—for serene and majestic Bay Area vistas.

A beautiful valley and mountain vista looking west from the Gene Sheehan Overlook in Skyline Preserve

San Francisco

San Bruno Mountain Summit Loop 

4.3 mile loop, 2.5 hours hike time, 830 feet elevation gain

San Bruno Mountain, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco in northern San Mateo County, is a wonder of views. Vistas highlights on this hike include the northern reaches of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Diablo Range, and regional peaks like Twin Peaks, Mount Diablo, and Mount Tamalpais. 

Views of San Francisco, The Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco Bay are just a few of the sights on this loop

Glen Canyon Park to Twin Peaks

4.1 miles round-trip, 2.5 hours hike time, 960 feet elevation gain

Glen Canyon Park to Twin Peaks is a remarkably green hike in San Francisco, connecting two green spaces on one Creeks to Peaks Trail. The well-graded trail parallels Islais Creek in Glen Canyon Park,  climbing to 360 degree views of Mount Tamalpais, Angel Island, San Francisco Bay, and San Bruno Mountain from Twin Peaks. The panorama from Christmas Tree Point Overlook is icing on the cake.

The spectacular vista from Twin Peaks spans Mount Tamalpais, the Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco


Alpine Pond to Horseshoe Lake

5.0 miles round-trip, 2.5 hours hike time, 875 feet elevation gain

Alpine Pond to Horseshoe Lake is brimming with serene water and valley views in Skyline Ridge Preserve. The hike circles both ponds at either end, and visits the Gene Sheehan Overlook for a vista of the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can park at either Alpine Pond or Horseshoe Lake, and both have wheelchair and stroller-friendly trails.

Horseshoe Lake’s calm water is a highlight in Skyline Preserve

Castle Rock Loop 

5.1 mile loop, 3 hours hike time, 1300 feet elevation gain

The Castle Rock Loop is a rugged hike in Castle Rock State Park with 180-degree vistas of the San Lorenzo Watershed and the Santa Cruz Mountains. If you time your hike for the rainy season, you can see Castle Rock Falls flowing, too. This hike begins from the newly built Robert C. Kirkwood lot on Skyline Boulevard.

A bird’s-eye view of the San Lorenzo Watershed and Santa Cruz Mountains on the Castle Rock Loop

Montara Mountain

7.8 miles round-trip, 4 hours hike time, 1800 feet elevation gain

Montara Mountain’s perch on the northern edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains gives it a phenomenal vantage point for ocean views. While you can reach it from the coast-side, this route takes the inland side, weaving through green slopes in San Pedro Valley County Park. Brooks Falls, a three-tier waterfall, is an optional detour on the return.

Coastal scrub covers the hillsides on Montara Mountain, with views of the Pacific Ocean and Mount Tamalpais in the distance

East Bay

Quail and Bay View Trail Loop

3.2 mile loop, 1.5 hours hike time, 250 feet elevation gain

Coyote Hills offers fantastic views of the salt evaporation ponds on the southern edge of the San Francisco Bay. Birds and wildlife are a highlight along the accessible loop, as are the opportunities to experience Tuibun culture. If you’ve a hankering for a summit view, add on a short climb to Red Hill.

Vistas of the salt evaporation ponds from the Quail and Bay View Trail Loop are a highlight

Eagle Peak via Mitchell Canyon

8.3 mile loop, 5 hours hike time, 2375 feet elevation gain

When you think of Mount Diablo views, most people envision the summit. In my humble opinion, the Eagle Peak loop has the best of all Diablo views: hiking through the a verdant Mitchell Canyon next to a trickling creek, climbing to Eagle Peak’s 360-degree vistas, and descending along grasslands flickering with jewel-toned wildflowers in spring.

The Globe Lily Trail has beautiful spring wildflowers in Mitchell Canyon

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