10 Must-Do Adventures In The San Francisco Bay Area

Explore the best of the Bay.

By: Josiah Roe
December 8, 2015

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Like John Muir said, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

From rock climbing and beach chillin' on the Pacific Coast, to hiking in redwood groves and trail running through the Marin Headlands, San Francisco is in immediate proximity to endless adventure potential. Check out this list of 10 of our favorites and start making your weekend plans.

1. Catch a Sunset at Grandview Park

Photo: Josiah Roe

San Francisco is a city of a thousand postcards, and Grandview Park provides some of the best views of the Bay Bridge, Point Reyes, and south down the coast. Take the long(er) road to the top via the 16th Street Steps and you won’t regret it - the stairs are beautiful! Don’t forget a bottle of champagne. Learn more.

2. Crab Fish at China Beach

Photo: Gp Panawek

China Beach is a hidden gem of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Tucked away between the better known (and busier) Lands End and the Presidio, it’s a great spot to lay traps for the delicious local Dungeness Crab (with a permit and during crab season from Nov 2nd to July 30th). Learn more.

3. Camp on Angel Island

Photo: Brian Heifferon

Angel Island, the “Ellis Island of the West”, provides some of the best views of the Bay Area. Explore the old military base and have a glass of wine at the Angel Island Cafe before it closes (3pm on weekdays, 4pm on weekends). Learn more.

4. Beach Bonfire at Ocean Beach

Photo: The Tahoe Guy

The only world-class city that can boast a world-class beach-break is San Francisco. No “best of” list in the Bay Area is complete without including a bonfire at Ocean Beach. Check the Spare the Air website, text your friends, grab some blankets, and pickup wine and firewood at the Safeway on Lincoln. Then head out and snag a fire pit for an incomparable sunset and evening. Learn more.

5. Hike Mt. Diablo

Photo: Christian Arballo

One of the best ways to explore the San Francisco Bay is by climbing to the highest peak in the area, Mt. Diablo. With some of California’s most expansive views and some serious incline, this is a great local spot to train for larger summits in California and across the world. Learn more.

6. Surf Under the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point

Photo: Josiah Roe

When the waves are right, there’s a fantastic break just off of Fort Point on the south end of the Bridge and you can surf, bodyboard, or paddle board. Watch out for the rocks on the shoreline and be respectful of the locals. Even if you don’t surf, you can have a picnic at Crissy Field, then walk down to Fort Point and watch the surfers. Learn more.

7. Rock Climb the Egg

Photo: Liam McNally

The entire California coastline has endless opportunities for bouldering and climbing. The Egg near Stinson Beach is a local favorite, with routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.12c. Checkout the rest of Mickey’s Beach for even more routes, and be sure to talk to the rangers at Steep Ravine Cabins to see if there were any last minute cancellations. Learn more.

8. Explore Muir Woods and Mt. Tam

Photo: Katch Silva

Taken together, Muir Woods and Mt. Tam are the Bay Area’s own mini-Yosemite. If you’re a member or if it’s an open guest day, you can do a mid-day stop at the Tourist Club for lunch and a beer. An alternative is to stop at the Mountain Home Inn about halfway up, which is open to the public. Learn more.

9. Whale Watch at the Point Reyes Lighthouse

Photo: Joel Bear

Point Reyes is a national treasure with endless options for hiking, camping, backpacking, kayaking, surfing, trail running, and wildlife viewing of all kinds. The Point Reyes Lighthouse is at the literal end of the road and is perched precariously on cliffs of Salinian granite that jut dramatically out into the Pacific. Whether heading north or south, it creates an unavoidable object that grey whales must navigate around on their annual migrations north (March & April) and south (December and January). Be sure to call ahead to see if the Lighthouse is open and do check the weather as Point Reyes can often be covered in fog. Alamere Falls is between San Francisco and Point Reyes and definitely deserves an honorable mention on this list. Learn more.

10. Trail Run Slacker Hill in the Marin Headlands

Photo: Clint Sharp

Just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge lies the Marin Headlands, which is criss-crossed with trails running up and down its hills, valleys, and cliffs overlooking the Bay and the Pacific. The views of the Bay Area are incomparable and although Slacker, the tallest hill overlooking Golden Gate Bridge, is particularly memorable, there are others like the Ninja Loop and Hill 88 that are worth checking out, too. Don’t forget a headlamp if you’re going at sunset! Learn more.

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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.