Where to go for a hike-and-dine weekend trip in Northern California?
April 21, 2021 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning a last-minute weekend getaway, a couple hours' drive north or northeast from the San Francisco area (mid Peninsula). We like moderately strenuous hiking, but also want to stay in a hotel and eat dinner at a nice restaurant afterwards. Where should we go?
posted by serelliya to Travel & Transportation around Northern California, CA (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Additional criteria: my partner hates wine, so I could maybe squeeze in one wine tasting, but a whole day touring wineries is a non-starter.
posted by serelliya at 9:13 AM on April 21, 2021

How about staying and eating at Nick's Cove Oyster Bar and Cottages? Lost of hiking options around too.
posted by biscuits at 9:45 AM on April 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Check out Pt Reyes Station or Inverness. Both have many options for what you are seeking.
Decent hotel also in “downtown” Tomales

And so beautiful and otherworldly... when there, it’s hard to believe your so close to the Bay Area metropolis.
Have fun!
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:00 AM on April 21, 2021

Mendocino is gorgeous. Beautiful botanical garden, great dining (check out Wild Fish in Little River), and several state parks in the area for hiking (Russian Gulch and Van Damme jump to mind).
posted by lovableiago at 10:13 AM on April 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

The Little River Inn, just south of Mendocino (the town), is a great hotel with a great restaurant and bar. I have no idea what the vibe is there during Covid-times but otherwise it's a great get-away spot. They have a dedicated trail to access Van Damme State Park.
posted by niicholas at 10:28 AM on April 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Coming along to third western Marin County. Pre-COVID, we hiked the Coastal Trail on the west side of Mt. Tam, returned to our hotel room and watched quail run around from our back deck overlooking Tomales Bay, then dinner at Sir+Star (closed right now, but there's other stuff around that looked interesting).

Mendocino is also gorgeous and a good center of gravity for nice restaurants in that area. But it depends on how far you mean by "a couple of hours drive north" and if you intend to head up Friday morning vs. Friday afternoon; I've had a Burlingame-Mendocino drive take almost five hours on a Friday afternoon, for example. But there's a lot of beautiful hikes all along that part of the coast.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 10:42 AM on April 21, 2021

Bald Mountain (at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park) is a good moderately challenging hike--I think it's around 8 miles round trip, great views at the top. There's nothing super steep but a long, steady climb so be prepared for that.

There's not much point on recommending just one winery, but I'll mention it's right next to Chateau St. Jean; not the best wine in the world but absolutely beautiful grounds might be selling point to your partner.

From there you can overnight in Sonoma (20 min) or Healdsburg (50 min); both have plenty of excellent food options.
posted by mark k at 11:12 AM on April 21, 2021

Should mention two other nice Sonoma parks in the same area, if you like the area but want shorter hikes, are Jack London State Park and Annadel (specifically hiking out to Lake Islanjo).
posted by mark k at 11:20 AM on April 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Historic Benbow Inn and Humboldt Redwoods hike.
posted by artdrectr at 11:30 AM on April 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Also you could do far worse than Pescadero.
And... Costanoa has some very nice cabins and rooms at their Lodge.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:34 AM on April 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you end up going to Mendocino, Hendy Woods is great for a non-challenging hike if you just want to stretch your legs on your way there or back.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:17 PM on April 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Want to heartily second that we had a great meal at Wild Fish in Little River. We stayed at the Inn at the Cobblers Walk, partner inn to Glendeven, which was lovely (excellent breakfast). The walk directly outside our room was pretty great, lots of sea lions.

Plenty of great hiking in the area. Check out these suggestions.
posted by vunder at 2:44 PM on April 21, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the suggestions! We decided on Fort Braggs/Mendocino this time around, but I'll be revisiting these answers for future trips, for sure.
posted by serelliya at 3:14 PM on April 21, 2021

I'm in Petaluma, so I'm definitely gonna talk up Sonoma County, but for next time, and if you're willing to extend 2 hours to three, three and a half, and a little more east than north, consider heading up into the Sierra for Rainbow Lodge for food and lodging, and Rainbow Lake or Paradise Lake as your hike turn-around. I've done them in fall when the Aspens are in color, and it's enough altitude that that area may still be snowed in, but it's another direction.

(Shameless self-links with scenery from 2 decades ago: 1, 2)
posted by straw at 3:29 PM on April 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Mendocino is a lot more than 2, more like 4 hours. And if 101 is bad (but you live on the Peninsula, so you know the pain) there’s no alternative. Also, Ft. Bragg is named after a Confederate general and that seems not to bother many people up there, if that’s important to you.

Mount St. Helena would be my choice, you can summit it from either the Napa or Sonoma sides and see both valleys and possibly the ocean from there. I’m partial to Sonoma, fewer tourists.

Point Reyes is great but maybe too close for your criteria. But you can follow 1 up and there are a bunch of parks and hiking areas north of there around Bodega Bay.
posted by wnissen at 3:32 PM on April 21, 2021

Response by poster: Good point on Mendocino being farther away than we'd initially planned -- we decided to just make a day of driving up Route 1 on Friday.
posted by serelliya at 3:53 PM on April 21, 2021

If you like moderately strenuous hiking, you might consider biking the coast instead of driving. It's a popular bike tour route.
posted by aniola at 4:24 PM on April 21, 2021

Be aware that there was a one-way-at-a-time section north of Jenner when I was out there a few weeks ago. About 10 minutes' wait, if you do get up that far.

One of my favorite drives is the Sonoma Coast, so I think it's a good plan. Nice to hike the coast from the Goat Rock or Shell Beach parking areas, there's also a moderate climb starting opposite Shell Beach. For a real workout I'd suggest Pole Mountain.
posted by Standard Orange at 10:36 PM on April 21, 2021

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