Reason number 92 why living in the Bay Area is the best: awe-inspiring redwood hikes.
There's something almost otherworldly about meandering through groves of giant redwoods and breathing in the cool damp air—especially if you can refrain from Instagramming those glistening beams of light just at the moment.
Muir Woods is, of course, the gold standard for hiking amongst the giants without going too far from home—and a recently instated reservations program is helping to keep crowds at bay. But if you've been there done that and are looking to venture farther afield, there are many options from which to choose. Start here.
Armstrong Redwoods Hike (Sonoma County)
This beautiful 3-mile hike is the closest approximation to Muir Woods that you'll find. Located just north of Guernville in Sonoma County, the trail explores the best parts of this coast redwood grove's 750-plus acres. Due to its proximity to Sonoma, we recommend making a weekend out of it and rewarding yourself with some wine tasting in town.
Inside Tip: While you can drive into the park, the best way to experience the dramatic effect of the towering redwoods is to park in the lot at the park entrance and walk in for free. Keep an eye out for the Parson Jones Tree, the tallest tree in the grove. It measures more than 310 feet in height (longer than a football field). Learn more.
Purisima Creek Redwoods Hike (San Mateo County)
If you're going to explore the preserve, this is the hike you should try. This 7-mile loop has it all: towering redwoods, babbling creeks, and sweeping views of the Pacific. This is a great workout that features a decent amount of elevation change, but the challenge is well worth it. On a clear day, the views from the top can't be beat.
Inside Tip: Parking is free, but there are only about eight spots. So try and get there early. On a warm day, tackle the uphill portion of the loop first. Learn more.
Big Basin Redwoods Hike (Santa Cruz County)
Considered one of the more adventurous and beautiful day hikes in the Bay Area, the 11-mile Berry Creek Falls Loop will take you through magnificent redwoods and along numerous creeks. In addition to the redwoods, you'll be treated to three beautiful waterfalls: Berry Creek Falls (70 feet), Silver Falls (60 feet), and Golden Cascade (30 feet).
Portola Redwoods Hike (San Mateo County)
This 7-mile loop (with an option for a shorter 5-mile hike) is wonderful gem tucked away in the middle of the Peninsula. One of the less-traveled state parks in the Bay Area, you'll be pleasantly surprised with its tall redwoods, waterfalls, and creeks running throughout.
Inside Tip: Need a post-hike beer? Head to Apple Jacks to quench your thirst. The nearby food situation isn't ideal, so if you need something more substantive, a bit longer drive will get you to Alpine Inn aka "Zots" for a rustic outdoor beer garden and a burger. Learn more.
Henry Cowell Redwoods Hike (Santa Cruz County)
Looking for an easy, relaxing hike through a grove of giant old-growth coast redwoods? Look no further than the 4.7-mile loop through Henry Cowell, which is tucked in a canyon along the San Lorenzo River. This state park's ample parking, easy viewing promenades, and abundant redwoods make it very user-friendly and perfect for all ages.
Inside Tip: Parking is easy and Redwood Grove Loop wheelchair accessible. During warmer months, you can access a number of fun swimming holes along the San Lorenzo River from the park. Learn more.
Of course, you could always head to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Happy hiking!