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.
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.