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Fly like an eagle in the South Bay

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You probably don’t hang glide. But if you do, no doubt you already know about Monument Peak. Thanks to its gentle slopes and a consistent updraft, the 2,594-foot peak is considered one of the best launch points in the Bay Area.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the area around the peak is also popular among thermal-surfing birds of prey like hawks, falcons, and golden eagles. So if you choose to tackle the 7.5-mile hike to the peak’s summit, expect to spend most of your day with your eyes on the clouds.

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Hike Windy Hill

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In the spring and autumn, the peninsula’s 1,335-acre Windy Hill Open Space Preserve is bustling with hikers looking to see the area’s wildflowers or changing leaves. But in the winter months, the preserve is all but abandoned.

That’s not for a lack of scenery, of course. The preserve’s oak, bay and maple trees have an austere beauty without their leaves, and the view from the eponymous 1,905-foot summit is as expansive as ever.

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Hike Big Basin’s Waterfall Loop

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In Northern California, there are a few things we consider staples for any adventure. We’re talking about things like big old-growth trees, the Pacific Ocean, waterfalls, and underground marijuana grow operations.

The 18,000-acre Big Basin Redwood State Park has three of those things (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it). So for this week’s tip, we’ve picked out the park’s challenging but beautiful 10.5-mile waterfall loop.

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Hike the East Bay’s Wilderness

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There is wilderness in the Bay Area. Sure, it’s not the sprawling, untrammeled sort of wilderness protected under our favorite piece of federal legislation. But the 6,859-acre Sunol Regional Wilderness is still nothing to sneeze at.

Our favorite hike in the park is a moderate 5.9-mile lollipop loop around the Maguire Peaks: a grassy massif that tops out 1,688 feet above sea level. The circuit climbs 1,400 feet in one of the more secluded corners of the park.

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The East Bay’s best long hike

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Sure, Pleasanton Ridge sounds like the name of a subdivision—and it probably is, somewhere. But it’s also a 5,271-acre East Bay regional park, and home toone of the best long hikes in the Bay Area. 

This 12.3-mile loop tours the length of the park, gaining 3,000 feet and offering stunning views of Mt. Diablo, Mission Peak, and the Sunol/Ohlone Wilderness. It’s one of the toughest hikes in the area, and follows almost every trail in the park.

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3 one-day Bay Area loop hikes

Sure, city life can be a drag. But we’re not always feeling so keen on driving three hours for a two-hour hike, either. So the next time we need short break from concrete and car horns, you’ll find us on one of these three nearby loop trails.

Castle Park to Cinderella Loop

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This easy 2.5-mile loop through the heart of Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park is for brunch-stuffed bellies that need a light walk-off. The Castle Park trailhead starts under shedding, shady Eucalyptus. The path curves, snaking through the hills, and you’ll catch glimpses of bright bay water far below.

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Spend three days at Carson Pass

webThe Range of Light. The snowy mountains. The Sierra Nevada. Whatever name you prefer, this craggy range beckons to any Bay Area backpacker with a long weekend to spare. But all too often, the call of the Sierra is complicated by the need to obtain wilderness permits and backcountry reservations weeks in advance.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just north of Carson Pass on Highway 88 (about three hours from San Francisco), hikers can find gorgeous scenery, abundant water, and lots and lots of free camping.

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Hike, camp, fish Alpine County

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It’s safe to say that the word is out about the rugged splendor of Lake Tahoe and Yosemite — the destinations see a combined six million visitors each year. But Alpine County, a 743-square mile stretch of mountains sandwiched between the two, goes almost completely unvisited, even by the Northern California crowd.

Not that there’s any lack of available adventure. Car campers and day hikers make use of dozens of campsites line the county’s Highway 4, which winds east from Angels Camp and into the High Sierra. For backcountry enthusiasts, the Stanislaus National Forest offers miles and miles of untrammeled wilderness.

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Hike Nevada’s Mount Rose

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Whether you go for a conference, for a wedding, or as the pawn of a crippling gambling addiction, chances are good that sooner or later you’ll end up in Reno, Nevada. And if you’re not a fan of off-track betting and all-you-can-eat buffets, chances are equally good that you’ll want to get the heck out.

As it happens, escaping into the outdoors is sort our specialty. And in Reno, our go-to is the 10-mile (round trip) hike to the volcanic summit of Nevada’s 10,778-foot Mount Rose. The popular hike rewards climbers with magnificent views of Lake Tahoe, Reno, and much of western Nevada and the northern Sierra.

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Short Day/Long Day: Black Diamond Mines

The miners who first tunneled through the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Contra Costa County more than a century ago weren’t after diamonds at all (or climbing equipment for that matter): they were digging for coal.

Today, hikers and backpackers who visit the mines aren’t looking to fill their coffers, but they often do strike it rich (figuratively). So whether you’re looking for an easy walk or a demanding hike, check out our favorite trips in the park.

Short Day: Old Homestead Loop

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A scenic and challenging 6.6-mile day hike begins at the park office at the end of Somersville Road.  Halfway through you have the option of a picnic and even a swim in the lagoon at the Contra Loma Recreational Area.

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