Late fall hikes around the Bay Area
As we descend deeper into fall and begin to feel the heralding chill of winter, you might be tempted to pack away the hiking boots and hunker down on the couch. But don’t give in! This season still offers a lot to see and explore. Below are some top picks for late fall hikes around the Bay Area and beyond (Your couch and Netflix queue will be there when you get back, we promise).
Owl Trail to Slide Ranch (Muir Woods)
Length: 2.1 miles, out and back
This is a short hike from Muir Beach Overlook to Slide Ranch, a nonprofit educational farm that’s open to the public year-round*. The trail follows an oceanfront path and offers plenty of wildlife-spotting opportunities. This being gray whale migration season, it’s the perfect time to give this trail a try. Bring a snack and a thermos of your favorite hot beverage to enjoy at Slide Ranch’s picnic tables.
*Masks required within 6 feet of anyone not in your household group.
Benicia State Recreation Area, Martinez Regional Shoreline
Length: 1-2 miles each
These areas are flat and marshy. Perfect for winter birdwatching. Walk along the coastline to see local waterfowl and shorebirds such as the Greater and Lesser scaup, Canvasback, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneye. The wetlands are home to Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, several Plovers, Willet, and many more. The rare Black Rail has been spotted along the Martinez Regional Shoreline, specifically. For more information on birdwatching areas near us, visit baytrail.org.
Skyline Park Perimeter Loop (Napa)
Length: 9.1-mile loop
This is a fairly strenuous hike with rolling hills. The route includes Lake Marie, Tuteur Loop, and Sugarloaf Peak. It can get quite cool in the shady areas of the trail, but there are gorgeous views of Napa, in addition to the lake and mountain. If you go early enough in the month, you might catch the tail end of late harvest vines.
Mount Diablo via Summit Trail (near Danville)
Length: 7 miles, out and back
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
This is a trail that offers several options. The full 7-mile hike is strenuous, with a rock scramble near the top, but the views on a clear winter day are well worth it. In addition to stunning views, there is also the opportunity to view a multitude of wildlife and, after the first rains of the season, waterfalls can be found along neighboring trails. If the full 7-mile hike isn’t for you, the summit is also accessible by car. There are multiple camping sites along the way up, for those who wish to gaze upon the dazzling lights of the surrounding area by night or catch an above-the-clouds view first thing in the morning.