Since moving to the North Bay (SF Bay Area) we've taken major advantage of the amazing nature surrounding us. Here are a few hikes that I'd recommend if you are ever in the area.
This 7.3 mile loop (pictured above) starts you off almost at sea level in Stinson Beach, takes you on a 1600 ft. climb up Mt. Tamalpais, and back down again to the ocean. The views are gorgeous with lush, dense forests, vast grasslands overlooking the ocean (or the tops of the clouds if you go on an overcast day, which was still a pretty cool view), tree filled canyons, and flowing waterfalls. The Pantoll Ranger Station is pretty much at the halfway mark so it's the perfect spot to stop for lunch. Learn more.
This was the first hike we took in the North Bay and we were hooked. It was a drizzly day in the middle of July when we went, and with the mist filtering in through the trees on Mt. Tamalpais it felt like something right out of Jurassic Park. We had originally intended to do a loop that didn't even take us by Cataract falls, but by the time we realized we had missed our turn we were over a mile out of the way. We were so glad we got lost otherwise we wouldn't have hiked far enough to see the falls. This ended up being about a 7mi hike for us because we hiked well past the falls, but if you only go out to the falls and back it is 2.6 miles. Learn more.
This is a really mellow trail that doesn't have much elevation change. It is an 8.9 mile hike that takes you out to the Point Reyes coastline and back. It was another misty morning when we did this hike and the way the sunlight was shining through the trees was amazing (see a few photos here). The view overlooking the seashore once you get to the ocean is the perfect spot to stop for lunch. My advice for this hike is to go early in the morning and in the winter (we went at the end of December). This is a pretty popular hike and the trail can get really crowded. Learn more.
What I liked about the Estero Trails was how secluded it was. We probably ran into more wildlife than we did people. The trail is 8.5 miles long and takes you through Point Reyes, out past five estuaries to Sunset Beach, and back. Once we reached the beach we ate lunch and watched otters dip in and out of the water. On our way back we ran into a giant herd of cattle crowding the trail (including one bull, yikes) but no worries, they won't bother you. We got really lucky with an amazing day of weather, but I've read it isn't so fun on gloomier days. Learn more.
I didn't know anything about this trail before we went on it so I was pleasantly surprised with how awesome the falls were at the end. This 7.5 mile hike takes you past Bass Lake and ends at the top of Alamere Falls which empties into the ocean. You then have to scale down a pile of rock shards eroded from the cliffside to reach the bottom. The tide was really high on the day we went and as we were trying to run along the beach to the base of the falls a giant wave snuck up on us and part of our group got pretty soaked, so be careful if the waves are high the day you go. Learn more.