What's a great full day hike within 5 hours of San Francisco?
May 7, 2019 9:17 PM   Subscribe

I have the week off and want to get some Nature this Thursday before I start a new job and get super busy. What's the best place to go at the last minute? My ideal scenario is below the fold.

Here's my idea of a perfect trip: Wednesday afternoon I drive less than 5 hours from San Francisco and spend the night in clean, cheap lodgings. I wake up early Thursday and hike most of the day (10 - 15 miles) on an uncrowded trail with plenty of vistas. After the hike I eat chicken fried steak at a diner. Then I look at the Milky Way. Then I go to bed in the clean, cheap lodgings; wake up in the morning; and drive back to life in San Francisco.

Additional info:
- I don't have camping gear
- I do have a national parks pass
- I can push the hike to Friday if need be
- It's gonna rain in Yosemite Thursday & Friday
posted by boghead to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Pinnacles or Lassen Volcanic
posted by raw sugar at 10:16 PM on May 7, 2019

I would go to Big Basin and stay somewhere in the town near the park. Redwoods are awesome. Enjoy!
posted by Toddles at 10:19 PM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: King Range Wilderness Area, part of California's "Lost Coast" -- 35 miles of protected coastline (the longest such stretch in the lower 48, I think). It has beaches, tidepools, redwoods, and douglas fir forested mountains. You don't need a permit for day-use.

It's near the outer edge of your 5-hour drive envelope, but it's remote and uncrowded. Stay in or near Garberville and have dinner at Cecil's New Orleans Bistro or Eel River Cafe. Temperatures will be cool with clear skies expected for stargazing.
posted by theory at 10:35 PM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Pt Reyes National Seashore has a plethora of amazing hikes and should be wonderful on Thursday. The drive is a quick 90 minutes from SF; there may be cloud cover, so no guarantee on the stars; and there is quite a bit of good food in Pt Reyes Station or the surrounding environment. (Nick's Cove is a favorite of mine, about a 30 minute drive north of Pt Reyes Station, and they have lodging as well.) The 15.8 mile Alamere Falls loop might be a good one to consider. You could also start at the Bear Valley trailhead and create your own loop; the trailhead has a well-staffed visitor center with rangers that will sell maps (and also hiking books detailing the area). Pt Reyes is lovely at this time of year, and Highway 1 or Sir Francis Drake are quite pleasant drives up from the City.

Generally speaking, for hiking in the Bay Area I really like two sites: bahiker.com and Gurmeet's hiking page. For paper resources, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles San Francisco (by Jane Huber, author of Bay Area Hiker) and 100 Hikes in San Francisco are good. (And for hikes strictly within the City, Urban Trails: San Francisco is great.) Welcome to the Bay! It's a great place for hiking.
posted by kdar at 3:24 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding Big Basin and the Skyline to the Sea trail. This is not a round-trip hike, so you would need to plan your logistics; when we have done it we've gotten dropped off at the top (Big Basin) and afterwards taken the city bus from the beach at the end of the hike back into Santa Cruz.

From the Great Meadow at UCSC you can see the Milky Way, if the night is clear.

Not sure about cheap lodgings though.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:55 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

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