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Easy Coastal Hikes in the Bay Area
Health & Fitness

Easy Coastal Hikes in the Bay Area

These scenic coastal hikes in the Bay Area provide quiet escapes with crisp ocean breezes, fragrant wildflowers, panoramas, and salty air. Team


5 min read

June 09, 2023

We all need a relaxing coastal hike from time to time to get away from the bustling city, refresh, relax, and unwind. Residents of the Bay Area are fortunate to have many great options to pick from whenever they get a pining for nature and the great outdoors. These five scenic coastal trails in the Bay Area provide a quiet escape where you can feel the crisp ocean breeze flow through your hair and breathe in the fresh salty air. 

Let’s explore your options and take a look at some of the best hikes in the Bay Area. These trails will take you to glorious rolling hills of wildflowers and verdant trees, and to new scenic vistas you only see in Instagram reels. All you gotta do is choose your hike, grab your favorite pair of walking shoes, and traverse these gracefully meandering trails while enjoying breathtaking views.

Take in the natural splendor of Point Reyes National Seashore on the popular Chimney Rock Trail, a short and relaxed hike.

Location: Point Reyes National Seashore

Distance: 1.9 miles

Duration: 50 minutes

Elevation: 269 feet

Route: Out and back

Dogs Allowed: No

Situated about an hour north of San Francisco, the Point Reyes National Seashore is a gorgeous getaway featuring beautiful wildlife, unparalleled coastal views, and one of the best hikes in the Bay Area. The best trail in this wonderful park is the Chimney Rock Trail. Considered one of the best hikes in the Bay Area, the Chimney Rock Trail near Inverness makes for an awesome hike. This easy hike in the Bay Area ascends to 500-foot high cliffs overlooking the boundless Pacific Ocean. Beautiful abound on this Cali mountain hike almost from start to end, and there are plenty of elephant seals settled down on the beach below for some unique nature photo ops. 

We recommend bringing a pair of binoculars with you so you can get a clearer look at the amazing sights all around. If you’re on the trail between January and May, you can even catch a glimpse of the gray whales on their way to Alaska. Also, keep a look out for Rock Chimney. Named for a rock outcrop that resembles a chimney, this natural landmark is work checking out and snapping a few photos. 

As you reach the trail's end, take a moment to savor the view from this spectacular vantage point overlooking the ocean cliffs, and admire the rugged yet pristine shoreline spanning miles. Since it’s near the sea, the weather conditions on this trail can change quickly and things can get windy and foggy fast. For this reason, we recommend bringing some warm clothing just in case.

Trek through lush greenery and seasonal wildflowers on the Tennessee Valley Trail, a beloved hiking spot tucked among the hills of Marin County.


Location: Marin Headlands 

Distance: 3.4 miles

Duration: 1 hour and ten minutes

Elevation: 171 feet

Route: Out and back

Dogs Allowed: No

This might not be a waterfall hike in the bay area, but the Tennessee Valley is a spectacular offshoot of the Marin Headlands and one of the best hikes in the Bay Area. Situated just north of San Francisco, the beloved Tennessee Valley Trail is famous for being a beautiful easy hike in the Bay Area. Pack a picnic and start on the pathway to Tennessee Cove Beach at the trailhead parking lot on Tennessee Valley Road. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on this trail, so you’ll have to leave your pooch at home. 

The trail winds between rolling hills but stays relatively level, making it one of the easiest coastal hikes in the Bay Area for little ones or those with mobility issues. The trail also sports plenty of wildlife with ample opportunities to spot rabbits, deer, and owls in their natural habitat. When you reach the end of the route you can relax at the secluded sandy beach and enjoy a picnic. If the tide is low enough, you might even spot the rusted powerplant of the SS Tennessee, a passenger steamliner that ran aground over 170 years ago.

Enjoy a leisurely walk along the Northern California coast at Berkeley's César Chávez Park, while the youngsters flying colorful kites.


Location: César E. Chávez Park 

Distance: 1.5 miles 

Duration: 20 minutes

Elevation: 16 feet

Route: Loop

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Perched on the edge of Berkeley, César Chávez Park is a popular destination among East Bay dwellers seeking a quick weekend getaway—and for good reason. This vast 90-acre expanse of parkland is named after César Chávez, a famous California civil rights activist active in the 1960s. The park sits adjacent to the Berkeley Marina and boasts spectacular vistas to the west and the east. 

Spend the afternoon walking along the paved trail that loops around the park, taking you through the wetlands brimming with wildlife, and soak up stunning views of downtown San Francisco, Angel Island, and (on a clear day) the Golden Gate Bridge. Even Fido can tag along for this dog-friendly hike in the Bay Area. This easy hike in the Bay Area even has a large designated off-leash area where dogs can roam at their leisure, so it's no wonder that this coastal hike in the Bay Area tops the list of dog-friendly hikes.

Once the world's largest indoor swimming complex, Sutro Baths now sits in ruins along the craggy edge of San Francisco, serving as a famed attraction


Location: Sutro Heights Park

Distance: 6.4 miles

Duration: Two hours

Elevation: 167 feet

Route: Out and back

Dogs Allowed: On leash only 

A go-to spot for city slickers from the City by the Bay, Ocean Beach is a 3-and-a-half-mile stretch of white sand tucked away on the city’s westernmost border, right next to Golden Gate Park. The extensive pathway runs from historic Fort Funston to the iconic Cliff House, leading you along the tops of dunes while providing incredible views of the windswept coastline and the famed Golden Gate Bridge. You can park in one of three areas near the trail: on the south end at Sloat Boulevard, across from Golden Gate Park, or next to the Cliff House. 

Watch for groups of snowy plovers on the shore below during this simple hike. These cute little birds are a threatened species, so spotting them is a rare delight and a great photo opportunity. If the tide is really low, you might also catch a glimpse of the remnants of King Philip, another ship that ran aground near the mouth of San Francisco Bay. For a truly unforgettable experience, come here for a sunrise hike and witness the majestic golden hour when the sky transforms into a breathtaking vista of gold, red-orange, and deep purple hues.

Breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean await you at the Gray Whale Cove Trail, one of the most kid-friendly trails in San Francisco’s Bay Area.

Gray Whale Cove Trail

Location: Montara State Beach 

Distance: 2.2 miles

Duration: 55 minutes

Elevation: 269 feet 

Route: Out and back

Dogs Allowed: yes

Located in Montara State Beach is the one-of-a-kind Gray Whale Cove trail, another one of the best hikes in the Bay Area. Situated right above Highway 1, this trail is just a quick thirty-minute drive away for most San Franciscans. The short Gray Whale Cove Trail runs a little over a mile each way, making it an easy hike suitable for children as well. This hike is special because it is yet another majestic natural coastline endowed with verdant rolling hills, striking cliffs, and incredible views. 

If you want to enjoy the beauty of the trail but need more of a challenge, you can always choose to go down one of the steeper singletrack paths that split from it. This unique coastal trail has two trailheads on the east side of Highway 1, a mile apart from each other, with ample parking available at the Gray Whale Cove lot. So bring Fido along on this dog-friendly hike in the Bay Area and get ready to experience the coastal hike you can trek daily.

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