Sunrise Hike at Windy Hill
San Francisco › Anniversary Trailhead
Added by Ali Kim
- Distance: 1-8 miles (depending on route)
- Duration: 1-4 hrs (again, depending on route)
- To get a good viewing point for the sunrise is a quick hike on the Anniversary Trail
- A spectacular sunrise combined with great views of both the Bay Area and out towards the ocean
There are a few options to this hike. Usually I would recommend parking in the lot on Portola Road, but because the preserve doesn't open until 30 minutes before sunrise, it's best to park up on Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35). There are two places to park up on Skyline, but the main parking lot is the easiest to spot and has picnic tables and a bathroom. If you're coming from the north, it will be on the left.
Head out on the Anniversary Trail (to the left from the main parking lot) and find a good hill to summit to watch the sunrise! There are some paths to the top but it may be necessary to go off trail just a little. Get to the top with plenty of time (maybe 30mins) before the scheduled sunrise to enjoy the show. Afterwards, if you want to get an actual hike in, continue along the trail until you reach the Spring Ridge Trail. Follow this down the ridge (it has some good view to the east and out into the bay) for almost two miles. Once you descend about 1000ft you'll reach a trail junction - take the Meadow Trail to the Hamms Gulch Trail and begin to climb. This is the most difficult part of the hike as you have to make up altitude, but it takes you through a much more foresty (and therefore shady) environment. After about two and a half miles you'll reach the top- from here just traverse along the ridge for half a mile until you return to the parking lot!
A few things to consider:
- Check the weather the night before! It would be a bummer to arrive and be surrounded by clouds. That being said, the bay is often filled with fog (especially during the summer) and the ridge is usually high enough to look out over it, which is a pretty cool experience.
- Look up what time the sun is supposed to rise you can time your trip accordingly.
- Alice's Restaurant is a great spot to grab a bite to eat afterwards. Just head north for about 5 mins on Skyline Blvd and it'll be on the left immediately after the intersection with 84.
- Layers (depending on the time of year)
- Blanket (optional)
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Great way to start the day
If you drive up to Skyline Blvd instead of hiking from Portola Valley, this awesome hike can actually be done before you have to be at work. It is an awesome way to start the day. On clear days you can see the ocean.
The hike to the top of the hill was very short, which is good if you're trying to beat the sun. I was in the middle of a cloud for a long time until the sun rose, but then it was incredible. You can see a lot of the valley along with the ocean behind you. Great idea if you are into short hikes for an amazing sunrise. (Bring warm clothes).
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This is a great find. We saw it on the map it was on the way from Mendocino to our next stop, Napa Valley. So glad we took the time to visit.