To experience one of the most beautiful bike rides in Northern California shift into gear on Fern Canyon Trail in Van Damme State Park. A wide and flat dirt trail takes you deep into this velvety green canyon of dewy bishop pines, redwoods, and thick ferns, bisected by the Little River. Crisscross the river over several perfectly arched wooden bridges that keep the pedaling playful. At 2.5 miles there's a junction where a signed bike-friendly trail veers right. Then it's a 1-mile huff-and-puff climb leading out of the canyon and up to the Pygmy Forest.
Recipe for a sizzling barbecue spot: abundant grilling sites, great views, hiking trails, and a warm swim-friendly waterfront. Heart's Desire Beach in Tomales Bay State Park delivers the goods. There Barbecue at Hearts Desire Beachare a few prime picnic sites right on the sand, but just a couple of minutes up the Johnstone Trail is a secluded grilling nirvana: a dozen picnic tables and barbecues overlooking Tomales Bay.
With the motto "If it's smokin', we're open" Pacifica's Gorilla Barbeque is a glorious dedication to the fine art of grilling meat. Chances are good you'll stand in line for 15 minutes before getting to the order counter. Then, you better be fast! Pork ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, or chicken?! Place your order, and step aside; a whole lotta barbecue is coming your way. Established by two Pacifica natives, the big orange boxcar on Highway 1 has been churning out choice grilled meats since 2006, even landing a spot on the Food Network.
Yurts are traditionally found on the vast steppes of Mongolia. But perched high above the Pacific Ocean, in California's own Big Sur, the quirky Treebones Resort offers all-yurt accommodations—though the Mongols wouldn't recognize the polished pine floors, queen-sized beds, and cozy quilts to keep you warm. All yurts feature wooden decks from which you can watch the water churn below. And the large communal hot tub overlooking the ocean is a nice way to warm your bones while watching the sun sink below the horizon. If you're inspired to explore, Treebones' homemade guidebook offers detailed information on nearby hikes and beach walks. One favorite local pastime is jade-hunting along Jade Cove.
Nearly 15 miles long and about 1 mile wide, Tomales Bay is a finger-shaped waterway burbling with wildlife. Get in the thick of it on a two-hour morning kayak tour with Blue Waters Kayaking. Starting from the Inverness put-in, paddle the western shore over undulating ribbons of thick eel grass, staying on the lookout for lion's mane and moon jellyfish, as well as elusive bat rays.
The Sonoma Coast seems to have more beaches than San Francisco has hills; after Bodega Bay the choices go on for 13 miles. For an easy intro to beach hopping, connect Shell Beach to Blind Beach along the tranquil, bluff-top Kortum Trail. Stroll for 2.3 miles (one-way) across sturdy boardwalks, high above beach coves smothered by crashing waves, and past ancient sea stacks. Raptors like to cruise this coast too—from red-tailed hawks to great horned owls and white-tailed kites. After 1.3 miles you'll notice a giant heap of rocks—actually an ancient sea stack—that adventurous types climb for the king of coast views.
It's supposedly the coldest San Francisco summer in almost 40 years. That means you can pretty much bet that Outside Lands is going to be one foggy, cold music celebration. While you can warm yourself with the festival's galaxy of food and wine offerings, shivering to Al Green classics under four layers of clothing isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Snagging a good campsite among Bay Area redwoods is about as easy as getting a parking spot in North Beach. But head to Butano State Park and, with a little help from a hike, the odds swing heavily in your favor. Butano is a park less traveled, and a 5.5-mile hike-in leads to a sweet reward: a tranquil trail camp among redwood trees. Make your way by heading up lush Jackson Flats Trail and exposed Canyon Trail. It’s a bit of a climb, but the effort is worth the huff and puff. Butano’s Trail Camp was just cleaned spic-and-span by the Boy Scouts (they even added log tables to most of the sites). Most of the sites are the size of a studio apartment—but #8 is more like a two-bedroom!
Try a different kind of liquid refreshment in Napa Valley: a year-round burbling stream flowing through a shaded redwood forest. Ritchey Creek is the centerpiece of Bothe-Napa Valley State Park just north of St. Helena. Miles of hiking trails can be found in the park, including a leisurely 4-mile loop that ambles alongside the creek, far from the traffic noise of Highway 29.
Walk among the easternmost coastal redwoods in the state, as well as maples, oaks, and madrones; the tall tree-cover cools things down when Napa Valley's summer heats up.