5 Inspired Northern California Hikes

You made it through the holidays, and if your holiday was anything like mine, you also gained a pound or two. Every new year’s day a bunch of friends and I make it a point to summit Mission Peak in Fremont, it’s the only time of year I look forward trekking up its steep dirt paths as the hills are green, the climate cool, and crowds are minimal. Mission Peak is great for a short hike to break up your day, but if you have more time spring is the season you want to chase trails along water or to/from waterfalls. As spring melts, these hikes will be at their peak beauty. Here’s 5 hikes that will inspire you for the new year.

5. Cataract Falls — Marin County

Photo by David Berry

Cataract Falls may be the most popular waterfall trail in Marin County, and for good reason. The most popular trail is a 2.6 mile section to and from the falls, but if you have more time you can combine the Cataract Trail in addition which runs along Cataract Creek to create more of a loop hike and extend distance to about 6 miles. There is plenty of shade the entire length of the trail, but do bring a bag lunch as there are not many dining options nearby.

Time: Approx 3 hours (to and from)
Total Distance: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Dogs: Allowed on leash

More information including directions via EveryTrail.

4. Alamere Falls — Point Reyes

Photo by Brandon Levinger

There are a couple ways to get to Alamere Falls, and although people will tell you to budget 3–4 hours, in our experience we’ll recommend you add at least 2 additional hours if you’re going with a group and to start as early as possible if you want to return before the sun sets. Depending on which route you choose, it’s about an 8–8.5 mile hike with plenty of scenic vistas along the way. Alamere Falls is perfect for those who enjoy hiking out in the open next to the Pacific. The entire trail will follow the coast line until you arrive at the waterfall which empties into the ocean. Again, pack a bag lunch and your camera. You’ll sure to work up an appetite, and want to capture memories to share. Once you finish this trail you can celebrate at Sir and Star just north on HWY1, or if you’re headed south there’s always the charmed Coast Cafe in Bolinas.

Time: 4–6 hours (includes breaks)
Total Distance: 8–8.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Dogs: Not allowed

More information including directions via EveryTrail.

3. Berry Creek Falls — Big Basin

Photo by Miguel Vieira

If you’re looking for a more strenuous hike this is it. Berry Creek is a difficult 10.2 mile loop that ends in a massive and powerful waterfall. Although you can go either left or right at the trailhead, most hikers recommend you start counter clock wise, starting on the Sunset Trail. You’ll walk through giant redwoods, and cross through some of the bay area’s most sought after backpacking trails including the infamous Skyline-to-the-Sea trail. You can bring a lunch, or you can celebrate by buying lunch and beers at the General Store at the park headquarters. Bonus fact: Big Basin State Park is California’s oldest and original State Park!

Time: 4–6 hours 
Total Distance: 10.2 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Dogs: Not allowed

More information including directions via EveryTrail.

2. Uvas Canyon — Morgan Hill

Photo by Elaine with Grey Cats

Uvas Canyon is a real hidden gem in the South Bay. Located in Morgan Hill, it often makes for a easier destination than others mentioned on this list. Spring fed creeks keep water in this park running all year, and the trail allows flexibility from an easy 1 mile (to/from Swanson Falls) to a moderate 7 miles (Waterfall Loop).

Time: 1 to 6 hours 
Total Distance: 1 to 7 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Dogs: Allowed on leash

More information including directions via EveryTrail.

1. McWay Falls — Big Sur

Photo by The Tahoe Guy

Big Sur is one of our favorite escapes from the Bay Area, and McWay Falls is just one of the reasons. McWay Falls is an 80 foot beach waterfall, or a ‘tidefall’ and located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The best part for many is that it is only a short 0.5 mile hike to/from the parking lot, but that’s just fine with us as it leaves time to visit some of our other favorite spots in and around Big Sur such as Point Lobos or Nepenthe.

Time: 1hr or less
Total Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Dogs: Not allowed on actual trail

More information including directions via EveryTrail.

General tips for success:

Dress in layers. Temperature fluctuates wildly in only a few hours depending on if you’re inland or on the coast. Also as you exert energy, your body temperature will rise. Many of these trails will experience rapid temperature drops as soon as the sun starts to set.

Hydrate often. Make sure you bring enough water, and understand if there are any refill opportunities on these trails.

Be courteous to the locals. Mind where you park, noise levels, and be sure to clean up your trash. We often strive to leave a location in better shape than we first arrived, this often means picking up after other people.

Respect Nature. Stay on the trails, pack your trash out, clean up after your dog, watch out for poison oak/ivy, do not feed or harm the wild animals, and take nothing but photographs away.

Hike with a friend or group. If you must hike alone make sure to notify someone before, but we suggest hiking with at least one other to ensure a successful experience. Also, bring a first-aid kit large enough to cover you, your team or your group.

Happy Hiking, and Happy New Year!

Written by Wallace Chane, Founder and CEO of METIS Real Estate

METIS is redefining what a real estate brokerage can be. Premium Quality. Concierge Level Service. Lower Fees. Higher Standards.

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