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The Bay Area’s coastal cycling classics

San Francisco is a bike lover’s paradise. It’s considered one of the most bike friendly cities in America and has a rich history, from Puck—the infamous bike messenger from the Real World—to the monthly Critical Mass group ride.

But if you’re looking for a something a little more independent, here are a few classic Bay Area bike routes that should be on everyone’s to-ride list.

Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach

Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach | Bootprints

Golden Gate Park is littered with gems. From the Conservatory of Flowers to the dense natural foliage and manmade waterfalls, the park remains one of the city’s treasured sanctuaries.

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Short Day/Long Day: Angel Island

Angel Island, one of the 48 islands in the San Francisco Bay, has served many functions in the last two centuries. It’s been a defensive military base, quarantine zone, and immigration port, earning it the nickname “the Ellis Island of the West.”

Now, the 1.2-square mile island is a state park and recreation hub with a 360-degree view of the bay from atop Mt. Livermore. In total, Angel Island has 13 miles of hiking trails, perfect for the history buffs or anyone looking for one of the best views in the San Francisco Bay.

If you go: Angel Island is serviced by ferries from San Francisco, Alameda, and Tiburon. To get there from SF, board the Blue and Gold Fleet at Pier 39. Tickets—$9 for adults and $4.75 for children and seniors—can be purchased online or in person. Bikes are welcome on the island (and available for rent), but dogs are not.

Short Day: North Ridge and Sunset Loop

North Ridge and Sunset Loop | Bootprints

If you only have a few hours to spare, consider a stroll to the summit of the 788-foot Mount Caroline Livermore, which offers panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. Once a missle site, the mountain’s summit has actually been rebuilt with truckloads of dirt and native plants.

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The Bay Area’s best bird hikes

Birding is dorky—there, we said it. There’s nothing cool about donning a big floppy hat and a pair of binoculars and heading into the woods to check a new songbird off of your list.

But we’re into it anyway. Because time spent outdoors isn’t (always) about getting a new Facebook profile picture… sometimes it’s actually about finding a sense of peace through communion with nature. And that’s what birding is all about. So this week, we rounded up our favorite hikes for spotting birds in the Bay Area.

Walk with stilts in Coyote Hills

Stilts in Coyote Hills | Bootprints

Coyote Hills Regional Park is surrounded by cattails and bulrushes, making it a haven for herons, egrets, ducks, and other marshland birds. But the park’s crown jewels are its black-necked stilts: black and white birds with long, bright pink legs. They travel in flocks of 20 or 30, which are a sight to behold.

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Hikes around Santa Cruz’s “Mystery Spot”

You’ve seen the billboards. And the bumper stickers. And the t-shirts. And the tote bags. And we know it’s entirely possible that even though you’ve never been to the famous Mystery Spot, you’re already sick of it.

And maybe you’ll never go. But just in case curiosity (be it yours or your out-of-town guests’) gets the best of you, we’ve rounded up a few of our own favorite spots in the area.

Run the trails of Wilder Ranch

Wilder Ranch Trails

Located right off the coast west of Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State Park is a former dairy ranch turned state park with 30 miles of trails weaving through the coastal hills. Most of the trails here are fire roads, so they’re wide and rise gradually, making them a favorite for trail runners.

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Sweat one out with Mount Madonna

Close to Big Basin but rarely as crowded, the 3,658-acre Mt. Madonna County Park is one of Santa Clara County’s best hidden gems. The park is best known for its redwood forests, but at lower elevations the landscape transitions to oak woodlands and grassy meadows.

It’s also just 10 miles west of Gilroy, the self-described “garlic capital of the world.” So after you tackle one of the hikes below, stop by Garlic World to stock up your kitchen—unless you’re into fresh breath, of course.

Short Day: Meadow Loop Trail

Meadow Loop Trail | Bootprints

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