Top 5 Northern California Coastal Hikes


1. Dipsea trail – 7 miles one way

Starting in the heart of Mill Valley stretching all the way to the Pacific Ocean, this trail is a great one for those ready for a bit of a challenge with an elevation gain of around 2,000 feet. You’ll get your fill of the California topography with majestic redwoods and lush forests, culminating in grand views of the Pacific Ocean. Or if you prefer, you can start from the Ocean and head up the trail the other way. You can either leave a car on one end and go to the other to start the hike or take the Marin Transit Shuttle back to where you started. The cozy, beach town of Stinson Beach is a great place to grab a bite before or after the hike and certainly a great place to hang out by the beach. If you want to make a weekend getaway out of it, check out my blog post about a cozy, overnight stay at an airstream right by the ocean, stargazing and falling asleep to the sound of the waves.
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San Francisco getaway

2. Tomales point trail – ~ 10 miles out and back

What can I say? This hike is just absolutely stunning. If you are driving up north along Highway 1, you turn left right onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd right before you hit the town of Point Reyes. You will head up the road past lush, rolling hills dotted with happy black and white cows. You wouldn’t be crazy for thinking you were somewhere in the middle of Switzerland. Drive up to the Pierce Ranch at the end of Pierce Point road and park there.
The hike is pretty flat overall with some patches of slight elevation. In the spring there are stunning wildflowers everywhere. Situated at the Northern end of Point Reyes National Seashore, it follows the coast all the way to Tomales point, the tip of the coast where you are surrounded by the Pacific on one side and Tomales Bay on the other. It is also an elk preserve so don’t be surprised if you run into a few dozen elk patiently grazing and staring at you as you pass by. Since it’s not a hard hike, it’s definitely beginner and group friendly. Just be sure to pack enough snacks and water since it’s going to take you half a day to complete it.
On your way back, stop by Tap Room in Inverness, a roadside restaurant, for a hearty serving of nachos or fries and a cold beer.
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3. Alamere Falls – ~ 8-mile loop

The coastal trail in Point Reyes is a 17-mile long loop with many different hiking options. Start at the Palomarine trailhead. At a certain point, once you pass Pelican Lake, you will reach the Alamere Fall Trail junction. Once you get close to the coast, you will find a path down the ridge to climb down to the ocean. Take care during the climb down but believe me, it is worth it. Once you are at the beach, witness the unique spectacle of waterfalls flowing into the ocean. This hike is a crowd favorite so start early to beat the crowds.
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4. Coast Camp Loop – ~ 6-mile loop

Further up the Point Reyes National Seashore in another great hike that takes you down to the beach and is an easy hike on a sunny day. The beach was pretty empty when we went there, unlike other places on the seashore on a nice day, so we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the beach with no one else around. Coast Camp is a hike-in campsite that looks like a great place for a short backpacking trip. Reservations can be made online.
As with every hiking trip the Point Reyes National Seashore, I love stopping by the town of Point Reyes for a bite to eat. Station House Cafe is always nice for a sit-down meal in their lovely garden but my favorite is Cowgirl Creamery located in a renovated hay barn. Grab a cup of steaming tomato soup and a sandwich featuring cheeses made using milk from the neighboring Straus Family Creamery. Toby’s Coffee Bar is a good place to grab a latte and a croissant in the morning to fuel up.
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5. Tennessee Valley Trail – ~ 5.2-mile loop

Nestled in the spectacular Marin Headlands, Tennessee Valley is an especially beautiful area. This trail starts off with some dusty terrain on Fox Trail but soon opens up to sweeping coastal views on the Coast Trail. Be sure to take the detour down the steep ridge to the hidden beach at Tennesse Cove. On a sunny day, the coolness of the Pacific Ocean is a welcome respite on the hike. Once you are back up from the cove, you climb up a flight of stairs surrounded by blooming wildflowers heading up the Tennessee Valley trail back to the parking lot. The route is Fox Trail > Coast Trail > Loop left on Coastal Trail > down to Tennessee Cover > back up on Tennessee Valley trail.
For a map of the Marin Headlands hiking trails, check here.
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What are your favorite coastal hikes in Northern California? Let me know!

Interested in other getaway ideas from San Francisco? Check out some of other posts:

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