There are many reasons to live in the bay area. One of those reasons is the amazing amount of outdoor activities available all within a few hours drive depending on where you live. From skiing in the mountains of Lake Tahoe, to surfing the waves of Santa Cruz, there are very few places in the world where you can have coffee in the city for breakfast and a fine glass of Merlot in Napa Valley by dinner.

One of the many activities that doesn’t cost you anything (except maybe the gas to get you there and sometimes a small entry fee) is hiking. It has become the “Joie de vivre” for many with so many beautiful trails and open spaces to explore.

Eight well know hiking destination are located on the Peninsula just south of San Francisco.

Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

The first one is the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve just up the hill from Palo Alto. You can use Page Mill Road as one of routes to get you there. Monte Bello means “beautiful mountain” and this area is truly stunning. You will find rolling grasslands, deep river valleys, and, of course terrific views. There are several different hiking trails available dependent on what you’re looking for.

Purisima Creek Redwoods

The next hiking spot, Purisima Creek Redwoods, is located just off Skyline Blvd in Woodside. This area is very peaceful, with a nice mix of covered and exposed trails, redwoods, and stunning views. The trails are wide and you can even use your mountain bike if you would like. This is a perfect hike on a nice warm day.

Russian Ridge 01

Russian Ridge, with just about 2000 acres of open space and trails, dense forest and wide-open meadows is well known with the weekend hikers. You can see views of both the bay and the ocean depending are where you are on the trail. During the early spring, you will experience the beauty of all the wild flowers, which paint the hillside with color. This is a perfect spot to see the sunset on a clear day.

Sam MacDonald to Memorial Park

About 30 minutes from Woodside, CA towards the coast, you will find Sam McDonald Park, which said to be one of the best secret hiking areas in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Once there, you will find 850 acres of dense redwood groves, vast open fields, varied terrains, and stunning views. If you’re an equestrian, this would be a perfect place to ride. It does take a little longer time to get there but worth the drive.

Windy Hill in PV 01

Windy Hill Open Space Preserve is located in Portola Valley and has over 1300 acres of hiking area for you to enjoy. There is a combination of open space and plenty of shade from all the trees. At the top, you’ll find sweeping 360 degree views perfect for pictures. This trail can be a bit more challenging of a hike to the top, but well worth it. The park is dog and horse friendly giving your animal’s ample room to run. The park should be added to anyone’s “Must Hike” list.

Wunderlich Park in Woodside

Wunderlich Park located just 5 minutes from downtown Woodside and conveniently located just off Woodside Road. This park is an amazing place to visit. When at Wunderlich you will find yourself surrounded by beautiful redwood trees amongst the lush green foliage. There are benches scattered around making it perfect for a snack or picnic.

Huddart County Park

Huddart Park in Woodside offers a mixed level of difficulty. Although this is perfect for hiking, it is also excellent if you are a runner. Huddart Park has tall tree covered trails that provide ample coverage to keep you cool on those hot days. You will also find a large open meadow, which is perfect for a picnic. You will see wildlife throughout the area and probably run into a few horseback riders. The park is located just 10 minutes from downtown Woodside off Kings Mountain Road.

Rhus Ridge

Rhus Ridge Trail is a 2-mile long trail located in Los Altos. The hike is a bit steep to the top with some shaded areas along the way. You will definitely find some nice views of Los Altos throughout your hike. If you want to continue your hike, you will find that this trail connects to Black Mountain Trail giving you the opportunity to continue your adventure.

For more detailed information about hiking parks in the Bay Area: click here