It’s Labor Day weekend and you’ve stayed close to home to avoid the crowds and the traffic jams, so where can you go for a little nature adventure? The beach might be cold and foggy; inland might be too warm, with the grasses all brown and spiky. So where to go? Here, some handpicked hikes from the Bay Nature staff to make it easier for you. Or use Bay Nature’s Trailfinder guide to find your own!
NATIVE PLANT IDYLL
“If it’s green you want, you’re guaranteed to find plenty of that at San Pedro Valley County Park in Pacifica, where the plants get ‘watered’ most nights by the coastal fog. But during the day, the fog usually pulls back from this park on the lower northern slopes of imposing Montara Mountain. The Hazelnut Trail is a beautiful 4+ mile loop with benches along the way that guides you up (and then down) the side of the ridge through a sea of coastal scrub trees and shrubs (hazelnut, elderberry, ocean spray, toyon, huckleberry, and, of course, poison oak) up to great views of the top of Montara Mountain on one side and out toward the coast on the other. The vegetation is so thick in places, it seems to form a wall of green on either side of you, and it’s hard to believe you’re only a few miles south of San Francisco. You’ll probably find berries on more than a few of the plants, and maybe even some remnant late season flowers such as pearly everlasting, paintbrush, and coyote mint. Chinquapin, a tree with stiff oak-like leaves, will still be bearing its spiky round fruits.”
Note: A trail map and plant list are available at the Visitor’s Center.
HEADLANDS + HISTORY
DAN (Editorial Director): “For views, wildlife, and interesting human history, you just can’t beat the Marin Headlands. It’s one of my go-to places when I want to show someone just what an amazing place it is we call home. On this short hike, you can see soaring pelicans and swimming newts, blooming wildflowers (a few still hanging on at the cool coast, for sure) and mysterious old military emplacements. It’s often foggy in the morning, of course, so if you want fewer people, go then. Or sleep in, head out midday, then picnic on the beach afterward. Perfect!”
ALISON (Online Editor): “I’m an urbanite. But when I’m ready to get away from San Francisco’s city streets (which are pretty ripe at this time of the dry season) and I don’t want traffic hell to be part of the journey, my go-to spot is the Land’s End Coastal Trail. When you arrive you’ll feel like you made the same decision as everyone else in the city. But keep going and be sure to take some of the detour trails out to the cliffs, where you can bask in the glory of the Marin Headlands and the entry into the San Francisco Bay. You’ll catch glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge, and if you’re lucky see the remnants of a shipwreck below. I like to bring a picnic and set up along the rocks and breath the salty air and forget about everything else.”
HIKING WITH KIDS
JENNY (Office Manager): “Tilden Park is easy to get to, and my kids love going to Jewel Lake. It’s a flat, easy trail that’s less than a mile roundtrip, and there’s always something fun to see. Once we get to the lake we can see all kinds of wildlife including turtles, dragonflies, and birds. We even saw voles under the brush one time! With the Little Farm and the Merry Go Round nearby, we can make a fun day of it.”
Warning: keep your kids away from the blackberry bushes – poison oak is everywhere this time of year.
Caveat when taking very small children: Though dogs are required to be on-leash, some are wandering free.
BETH (BNI Marketing Guru):
“For a very challenging all-day hike with a liquid reward at the end of it, try the Tourist Club Challenge. This hike chugs up Mt. Tam, descends to Muir Beach, climbs back up through Muir Woods and the infamous Dipsea Trail, and finally ends at the Tourist Club, a woodsy private retreat offering welcome refreshments of beer and snacks. Multiple trailheads along the way let you decide your hike’s length and difficulty.”
Shortcut: Start at the parking lot at Ridge Avenue and Panoramic Highway and walk a ¼ mile flat trail to the club. (You don’t have to tell anyone how you got here.)
Caveats I and II:
I. The Tourist Club is closed the 2nd weekend of the month.
II. Very steep in parts. Watch your footing and wear good hiking boots.
HOURS: open 1-5 pm Sat and Sun the 1st, 3rd and 4th weekends of each month, except for special closings.
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Ask the Naturalist | Kids and Nature | Stewardship | Wildlife: Birds, Mammals, Fish