Where do you go to escape?
April 10, 2008 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Where can I go to escape for a few hours in the Bay Area? I'm searching for Secret spots in the Bay Area. (If you're willing to share)

I'm finishing my Senior year and the mental/spiritual exhaustion is setting in. Recently a friend of mine sympathized and took me up a road in the middle of a residential neighborhood, past the duplexes and model homes. We parked the car, and walked up a service road to a secluded overlook of the entire Monterey bay. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest.
I'm sure that more of these spots exist. For some reason, checking out of society for half an hour really helped me de-stress. I've found a few kinda similar gems through geo-caching, but I feel that geo caching can be hit or miss.
I would love to know about similar spots in the bay area/ santa cruz area that you have found that help vanquish the doldrums, or ideas on how to find such spots. Not necessarily out looks, but rather places of tranquility close to civilization .
GPS coordinates are welcome, as well as indoor spots that fit the bill. (Flexible is good ie cafe's , tea houses, green houses)
Thanks so much.
(throw me a mefi mail/e mail if your gem is too good to lend to the unwashed masses)
posted by JimmyJames to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Dirve over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands. Park the car in one of the byways. Walk the trails. Take a bike. Explore. Unwind.
posted by ericb at 12:40 PM on April 10, 2008

If you didn't go to Twin Peaks already, that seems to fit the bill.
posted by snoe at 12:40 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hike or bike portions of The Bay Area Ridge Trail.
posted by ericb at 12:42 PM on April 10, 2008

Also consider the Shoreline Parks in San Mateo for walking and biking. If you kayak or windsurf they have access ramps for such.
posted by ericb at 12:47 PM on April 10, 2008

Especially in the East Bay, there are parks everywhere. In the Oakland area alone: Tilden is pretty, Redwood is great, and Chabot is apparently so remote-feeling I once crossed paths with a pair of middle-aged nude hikers who thought they were completely alone.
posted by kittyprecious at 12:51 PM on April 10, 2008

Since you're on the SC side, a few of my favorite places are San Gregorio beach (and Old La Honda road to get there), and windy hill & russian ridge (those are obvious ones). There are some beautiful redwoods on Skyline a bit north of the intersection with OLH, but I'm forgetting what they're called (and clearly you already know about Big Basin).

Tunitas Cr. Rd leaves skyline and goes down to 1 just a little bit north of San Gregorio, and is an absolutely beautiful 1 1/2 lane road, if you don't mind sharing the road with cyclists.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:55 PM on April 10, 2008

Take a book, an iPod. Plug in, tune out and sunbathe at Lafayette Park (Pacific Heights -- Gough and Sacramento Street). Take a break and walk down Sacramento to the shops and cafes on Fillmore.
posted by ericb at 12:56 PM on April 10, 2008

If you drive north on hwy 1 out of Santa Cruz, past 4 mile and Bonny Doon and the crop fields, there are a whole bunch of public beaches that no one really goes to. They can be hard to spot, but if you look for openings in the fence and pullouts on the highway (as long as there's not a "no trespassing" sign), you've probably found one. You may have to hike down a bit, but a lot of them are completely deserted and really beautiful (and the hiking's not strenuous at all). Also, Pescadero Marsh is small but great, especially if you like birds, and if you drive up Pescadero Creek Road into the hills there are some really beautiful small parks under the redwoods along the stream. Most people don't stop because they're headed somewhere else, so you can feel pretty isolated. One of my favorite places is on that stretch of road under the trees, sitting amongst the ferns.
posted by doubtful_guest at 1:23 PM on April 10, 2008

Here are some secret spaces in downtown SF.
posted by quarterframer at 1:50 PM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Angel Island is nice. You can hike there for hours.
posted by rhymer at 1:54 PM on April 10, 2008

The Almaden Valley West of San Jose is a forgotten gem of the area. Really close to the city it still feels like it's back in the 50's or so, before SJ got it's major sprawl on. I have yet to spend enough time there, but you should explore and report back on where I should go next time I get over there.
posted by a_green_man at 2:01 PM on April 10, 2008

I'd head to the Delta, it's perfect for this. There are little towns right on the water where'd you swear time stood still since the mid 60s. Go soon- before water-skiing season hits for maximum peace.
posted by fshgrl at 2:02 PM on April 10, 2008

Next to Santa Cruz? Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Bay Area parks and hills are the most inspirational things I have ever experienced. I can name dozens of places next to where I live (San Ramon) that are so beautiful that anything troubling me simply disappears when I go there. Let me know if you want to know about those, but they're kinda far from your place. I'd suggest that you simply start going to local parks at random, try different trailheads, and explore neighborhoods. There are lots of beautiful places everywhere in the Bay Area.

Aside from your immediate neighborhood, I'd also recommend Point Reyes National Seashore.
posted by azazello at 2:31 PM on April 10, 2008

I love Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the Oakland Hills. Check out the labyrinth, or go spy on the cows. For bonus coolness there are opals embedded in the volcanic boulders.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:40 PM on April 10, 2008

If you live in Palo Alto (or have a friend who does), Foothill Park. (Yes, only residents of Palo Alto are allowed in.)
posted by phliar at 3:08 PM on April 10, 2008

My favorite escape is the Moon Rocks in Bonny Doon. At the top you can see the entire Monterey Bay. The Moon Rocks are filled with carvings, some amazingly elaborate, and man-made slides and stairs built into the mountain. It's like a hidden, natural playground.

Directions: From 1, take Bonny Doon Rd. past the winery and it'll turn into Pine Flat Rd. From Pine Flat turn onto Ice Cream Grade, park somewhere on Ice Cream Grade. Continue walking down Ice Cream Grade and turn onto Martin Rd. Walk along Martin until you see an opening in the fence on the left side of the road. Start the short trek up the mountain and then you'll be at the Moon Rocks!

If you plug these coordinates (37.0554°N 122.1399°W) into Google Maps you can see the opening in the fence through street view.
posted by re.becca at 4:16 PM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Hidden Villa Ranch in the Los Altos Hills. You get a bucolic farm and gardens, hiking trails and a hostel if you decide you want to stay the night.
posted by annaramma at 4:34 PM on April 10, 2008

If you're in the city, go to Land's End. Ocean Beach often has a lot of people, but the further you go along the little trail north, the fewer people you'll see - and there are some lovely views of the ocean.

You should be able to find a lot of possibilities at Bay Area Hiker. She specifically omits places that feel too full of hustle and bustle, and most hikes mention whether they're heavily used or not.
posted by kristi at 5:30 PM on April 10, 2008

My favorite place is Sutro Heights and the cliffs below. Sutro Baths.
posted by Riverine at 6:36 PM on April 10, 2008

I like Fort Baker, on the North side of the Golden Gate. Awesome views of SF, quiet, manicured lawns/nice walk, and a pleasant little cafe and bar at the PYC (which I haven't been to for years, so it may not still be there.)
posted by ctmf at 6:45 PM on April 10, 2008

re.becca: Moon Mountain is in an ecological preserve surrounded by No Trespassing signs and you will get (at least) a $200 ticket just for parking anywhere nearby.
posted by rhizome at 9:40 PM on April 10, 2008

Places near Santa Cruz:

My fave "in town" get-away starts at Java Junction on Seabright. With coffee in hand, I walk down Seabright to the water, turn left and walk through the neighborhood to the harbor, or down to the beach. And I remind myself how lucky I am to live here.

Check out the Pogonip. It's a green belt between the High Street neighborhood and the UCSC campus.

Oh - speaking of the campus, if you can find the Performing Arts Center (go in the west entrance to campus and ask at the booth, or just stop someone and ask) there's a great short walk with a gorgeous view of the Bay. When you're in the parking lot of the Center, all the way at the far end is a dirt bicycle trail. Go that way, and head out across the meadows. Giant oaks, soft breeze, ocean, peace.

It's good to walk around in the UCSC arboretum. It's also on the west side of campus, but before you reach the booth/entrance. Lots of Australian plants, tons of hummingbirds.

Just north of town on Highway 1 is Wilder Ranch State Park, on the ocean side of the highway. There's a trail that winds down to the ocean cliffs, and it can be a lovely place to walk. Just stay out of the grass, due to ticks this time of year.
posted by shifafa at 11:51 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

For one in the city - I like the Palace of Fine Arts gardens, but only at night, when there's less people around. The columns make me think of being in Europe, and imagining you're far away can be relaxing.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:44 AM on April 11, 2008

I wonder if I can still post to this thread. Let's see!

rhizome: Not true, I've lived across from the Moon Rocks on Ice Cream Grade for years. You can park on Ice Cream Grade legally, you can not park on Martin Rd. legally.

Update: There was a large fire within the ecological preserve recently. Wouldn't recommend the Moon Rocks anymore. Definitely 2nd everything shifafa mentioned, though.
posted by re.becca at 3:04 AM on September 12, 2008

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