Outdoor San Francisco

A wild­ly pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion year-round, The City By The Bay is more than Fisherman’s Wharf, the Gold­en Gate Bridge, and Alca­traz. The San Fran­cis­co Bay area also stands as a gate­way to some of the most out­stand­ing out­doors expe­ri­ences an adven­tur­er could hope for. Whether you’re into trekking, surf­ing, or even hang-glid­ing, Frisco’s got a lit­tle some­thing for everyone.

Point Reyes Nation­al Seashore
This stun­ning nat­ur­al pre­serve is the quin­tes­sen­tial north­ern Cal­i­for­nia shore: grassy mead­ows, coastal firs, and Bish­op pines, marsh­lands, a fault zone, and rocky shores against which crash the rolling swells of the mighty Pacif­ic Ocean. Watch for migrat­ing grey whales from the Point Reyes Light­house, which has pro­tect­ed mariners and ships from the haz­ards of the windi­est and fog­gi­est point on the Pacif­ic Coast since 1870. Keep your eyes open for ele­phant seals and tule elk from the park’s many trails, such as the pop­u­lar 9‑mile in-and-out Bear Val­ley Trail, or explore the geol­o­gy of the San Andreas Fault in a self-guid­ed inter­pre­tive hike along the Earth­quake Trail.

Muir Woods Nation­al Monument
Ded­i­cat­ed in 1908 to John Muir, the father of the nation­al parks, Muir Woods beck­ons with an almost reli­gious expe­ri­ence. The pres­ence of liv­ing his­to­ry is embod­ied in this old-growth coastal red­wood for­est, streaked in sun­light and fil­tered through lay­ers of the marine fog that encour­ages such vital growth. Many of the trees here are between 500 and 800 years young, although the eldest is around 1,200 years old, a tes­ta­ment to the endur­ing pow­er of nature and the tem­po­ral fleet­ing­ness of human life. Walk the Bohemi­an Grove Trail, two miles of paved path and board­walk that will take you beneath the stun­ning tapes­try of green­ery and through three stands of primeval for­est, includ­ing the incom­pa­ra­ble Cathe­dral Grove.

Cas­tle Rock State Park
Lush forests of coastal red­wood and small­er flow­er­ing trees and shrub­bery riv­en with steep canyons dom­i­nate the land­scape of Cas­tle Rock State Park. How­ev­er, the real appeal lies in the park’s many sand­stone out­crops. Cas­tle Rock’s unique geol­o­gy fea­tures ero­sion­al pat­terns that give the durable stone the appear­ance of Swiss cheese. With rock faces hon­ey­combed with pock­marks, ribs, and ridges called tafoni, Cas­tle Rock is a climber’s haven. Routes include a good mix of top rope, sport, and trad climbs along the rock with a range of dif­fi­cul­ties from a respectable beginner’s 5.7 all the way up to a hand­ful of 5.11d sport routes. And if you’ve brought your crash pad, there’s plen­ty of boul­der­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties as well. Try Groun­da­tion, a pop­u­lar V7 prob­lem on the Cave Boul­der, or Duende, a fiendish­ly dif­fi­cult V12 just around the corner.

Half Moon Bay
Now, grant­ed, there’s plen­ty of adven­ture options offered by Half Moon Bay such as kayak­ing, tide­pool­ing, and “for­est bathing” (think med­i­tat­ing in nature) in addi­tion to the more urban pur­suits of wine tast­ing and food­ie glo­ry. How­ev­er, any­one knowl­edge­able on the surf­ing world knows that Half Moon Bay is famous for one thing: Mav­er­icks. A right-hand reef break with an infa­mous­ly heavy wave (heavy enough to reg­is­ter on the Richter scale!) that reg­u­lar­ly hits twen­ty feet and tops out in the triple dig­its, Mav­er­icks is one of the most pop­u­lar big-wave surf­ing des­ti­na­tions in the world. Ever want­ed to pad­dle in the surf­stream of leg­ends, but not quite ready to take on such rad­i­cal waves on your own? You can always hone your skills with the local surf instructors.

Fort Fun­ston
Inside the Gold­en Gate Nation­al Recre­ation Area lies Fort Fun­ston, a for­mer har­bor defense out­post turned, unex­pect­ed­ly, into the Bay area’s pre­mier hang-glid­ing port. A net­work of trails con­nect­ing the areas from on top of the 200’ bluffs to the shore below pro­vides ample access to the reli­able winds that lift glid­ers and their pilots into the sea breeze. Sand dunes and the wide ocean retreat abrupt­ly as the pilots wing upward, swoop­ing and dart­ing in the wind like the bank swal­lows that nest in the sand­stone cliffs. Reg­u­lars and more expe­ri­enced pilots fre­quent the Fort, mak­ing it an excel­lent place to learn along­side folks who have tru­ly mas­tered the sport. Tan­dem flights may be offered by some mem­bers of the Fel­low Feath­ers of Fort Fun­ston for brand-new fliers look­ing for that intro­duc­to­ry rush.