5 Best Hikes With a View — SF Bay Area

Mount Tamalpais Summit. Photo: Nimish Gogri

By Robert Gibson

Everyone enjoys taking in some scenery from up on high, and if you ever find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, these are the five best spots to feel on top of the world:

Mount Tamalpais

Photo: Migeul Vieira

Famous for a reason, “Mt. Tam” deserves a spot on the bucket list of any Bay Area local. At 2,571 feet, the peak offers an unparalleled panorama of the entire bay on a clear day. With multiple trails and roadways to the renowned East Peak, visitors can choose whether to embark on a grueling 2,000 foot elevation-gain hike, a gentle drive to the summit, or something in between.

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Mount Diablo

Photo: Susan Barnes

There’s an astonishing fact that surprisingly few people (locals included) know about this peak: When judged in terms of distance one can see, Mount Diablo has the second best 360° views in the world, behind only Mount Kilimanjaro. On a clear, crisp winter day after a rain (or snow), it’s possible to see the snowy Sierra Nevada range some 200 miles to the east. There are several trails that take you to the top, but it’s a long out-and-back of several miles, so quite a few people just drive. In the latter case, there are plenty of trails around the summit to stretch the legs and take it all in.

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Berkeley Fire Trail

Photo: jhannon1

Designers know that success is a perfect combination of form and function, but it was probably serendipity, not design, that resulted in this practical dirt track having some of the best views of the entire Bay Area. Though the panorama of San Francisco is impressive, particularly at sunset, it’s the vista of the Oakland hills that really steals the show.

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Ridge Trail, San Bruno Mountain State Park

Photo: Rick Ruff

Often overlooked because of its rather uninspiring surroundings, San Bruno Mountain boasts a lovely trail that winds its way up this gently sloping giant overlooking the city and peninsula. Watch out for weather conditions: without many trees to block the breeze it can be quite windy on a bad day. Go on a good day, however, and the reward is a fantastic view in the heart of an urban jungle.

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Brushy Peak Regional Preserve

Photo: Rob Calderwood

Anyone who’s ever driven east of the Bay Area along highway 580 is familiar with the rolling, grassy hills that line the corridor from Tracy to Livermore. Just to the north lies Brushy Peak Regional Preserve, an area unique for its relative lack of development. Old agricultural buildings dot parts of the preserve, but besides these, there isn’t much to cloud one’s vision of this undulating, secluded retreat. Go in the early spring, when the grass is greenest and the wildflowers are blooming.

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