10 Hidden Places Where You Can Find Outdoor Adventure Near San Francisco

Even those who have spent a lot of time in the Bay Area may not have ventured far outside of the city, wine country, Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe. But Northern California is freaking huge, and so is the potential to get outside and find your own little slice of Golden State heaven. Here’s our list of 10 great hidden places to find outdoor adventure near San Francisco.

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1. Point Reyes Station
 
Only an hour north of San Francisco, Point Reyes Station is a small town that serves as the gateway to the Point Reyes National Seashore. This region’s cliff-lined coastlines, waterfalls, lighthouses, and redwood forests are accessible through a network of hiking trails. There’s also plenty to see for bird and whale watchers in your group.

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2. Mount Tamalpais
 
Okay so Mount Tamalpais is actually pretty famous–it is said to have been where mountain biking was invented–but many don’t know that Tamalpais is also a great place for hiking and camping. Climb to the top to get a spectacular ocean view from 2,571 feet up.

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3. Angel Island
 
Also hidden in plain site is Angel Island, located right out in the San Francisco Bay. You can take a ferry out the bay’s second largest island from Tiburon to access the more than 13 miles of hiking and biking trails. From the top of the island’s highest point, Mt. Livermore, you get a spectacular panoramic view of the city, the Golden Gate, Marin County, and the East Bay.

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4. Hetch Hetchy Valley
 
The other beautiful valley in Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy unusual name is thought to have come from a native Miwok word used by the indigenous tribes up to the 20th century. In 1903, the valley was flooded create Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The surrounding area is as gorgeous and uncrowded as anywhere you’ll find in the park. Of particular note is the 5-mile hike to the 1,100 foot Wapama Falls.

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5. Mono Lake
 
Speaking of second best, Northern California’s second most famous lake is the shallow, very salty, and very alkaline Mono Lake near the Nevada border. A prime spot for birders, the lake and its eerie tufa formations serve as a nesting habitat for two million annual migratory birds.

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6. Inyo National Forest
 
The area around Mono Lake is well-known for being the home of Mt. Whitney but this two-million-acre national forest in the Eastern Sierra is rife with mountain lakes and streams, challenging hiking trails, high mountain peaks, and beautiful views. Less crowded (and just a bit further drive from San Francisco) than Yosemite, Inyo’s reational opportunities include camping, hiking, backpacking, and skiing.

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7. The Inkwells
 
The not-necessarily-marked pools along Lagunitas Creek in Samuel P. Taylor State Park make for a fine place to spend a summer day floating around and jumping off cliffs. This pair of deep, dark pools are located just off of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Lagunitas.

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8. Pinnacles National Park
 
The park is named for the striking eroded leftovers of half of an extinct volcano and the remaining rock formations provide some prime climbing, hiking, and caving access. Pinnacles is actually the nation’s newest national park and is also a release site for hatched-in-captivity California condors.

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9. Travertine Hot Springs
 
Between the towns of Bridgeport and Mammoth Lakes lies an abundance of hidden hot springs. Finding the pools that are open to the public and not scalding hot can be a bit tricky, unfortunately, and locals can be a bit reluctant to give up deets on the best spots. Travertine Hot Springs, however, is easily accessible and is located just east of Bridgeport.

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10. Cataract Falls
 
A steep and strenuous 2.5 mile hike will take you to Cataract Falls but don’t forget to appreciate all of the smaller waterfalls along the way. Local insiders know that the rainy season is the best time to visit.

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Originally published at blog.gociety.com on April 27, 2016.

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