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Short Day/Long Day: Jack London

We all know Jack London had a killer name, and that he wrote a few books about cold weather, guys with beards, and dogs. But only a few of us have visited his Bay Area estate, which is surrounded by some beautiful crowd-free trails.

Perched in the verdant, rolling valley of Sonoma County, the 1,400-acre Jack London State Historic Park is a draw not only for fans of the adventure writer, but for hikers and nature-lovers of all abilities.

Short Day: The Wolf House



London’s grave and the remains of his mansion can be reached by an easy 1.2-mile hike. Follow a well-marked path from the park’s museum, and you’ll soon find a short trail to the grave site. Take a moment, pour out a martini, feel the sun through the Madrone canopy, and continue to the Wolf House.

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Raft NorCal’s best rivers

River rafting is an American summer tradition (it’s the focus of our greatest book, after all). So whether you’re a leather skinned old river rat or a queasy landlubber, consider spending a day (or two) on California’s best rapids.

See Bigfoot on the Klamath


The wilderness surrounding NorCal’s Klamath River is home to more Bigfoot sightings than any other place on Earth. But visitors more often see deer, bald eagles, and bears (there are more bears in the area than people).

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NorCal’s best stargazing

Light pollution and nighttime fog make stargazing in the Bay Area tough. So if you want to enjoy the Perseid meteor showers Aug. 11-13, we suggest you pack a tent, some wine, and head east to one our hand-picked viewing spots. 

Mount Diablo State Park

Just an hour from San Francisco, Mount Diablo State Park is shielded from the city lights, and home to some of the region’s more strenuous hiking and biking. For the best views, head to the park’s Juniper Campground, or to the Mount Diablo Summit (pictured above).

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NorCal’s best hot springs

Easing oneself into a hot bath is one of life’s great pleasures. But it’s got nothing on a soak in a remote, arbor-hugged hot spring. So the next time you need to melt some stress, consider a stew in one of our favorite NorCal springs. 

Sykes Hot Springs - Big Sur


This one’s for the hikers. The approach to Sykes is a good ten mile hike into the Ventana Wilderness – so you’ll want to bring your backpacking gear. Camp about halfway in on your first night, then set up camp closer to the pools the next day. When you arrive at the stream, follow the slightly beaten path downstream to the concrete lined pool.

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Mt. Tam’s Hidden Peak



In the world of people-who-like-to-stand-atop-things-in-the-Bay-Area, Mount Tamalpais’ 2,574-foot East Peak is a mainstay. But even most locals don’t know that it wasn’t always the true summit of Marin County’s iconic mountain.

The mountain’s nearby West Peak once stood more than 2,600 feet above sea level, but it was bulldozed flat in the 1950s to make way for a Cold War-era radar station and military barracks.

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Easy/Tough: Mountain Bike Marin

Marin County is the birthplace of mountain biking. The sport was conceived in the 1970s, when local gear heads hopped on their (then street) bikes to explore the rolling hills that spill into the bay.

So riding knobby tires is something of a Bay Area traditionAnd even if you’ve only ever pedaled a beach cruiser, we humbly suggest you set aside a Saturday or Sunday to celebrate properly.

 Marincello/Old Springs Trails


For novice riders, the most accessible destination is Marin Headlands, where the very easiest offerings are the Marincello and Old Springs trails. Both trails offer epic views of the sea (and sometimes of whale migrations), and include just enough easy uphill riding to make the trip count as “exercise.”

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Hike Henry Coe’s Lakes


Yes, 2014 has been one of the driest years in California history. But that hasn’t stopped the wildflowers in Henry Coe State Park from putting on a spring spectacular – and if you hurry, you can still catch the show.

Most hikers access Henry Coe from the entrance behind Morgan Hill (which is only 34 miles from San Jose). But the lesser-known entrance at Hunting Hollow is just five miles farther, and offers a much more secluded experience for hikers, bikers, backpackers and equestrians. (Get directions)

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See Muir Woods without the crowd

Northern California’s Muir Woods National Monument is a destination renowned for its towering redwoods, but it’s also an infamous tourist trap. Traffic backs up for miles on the weekends, and the serpentine drive to the parking lot is enough to induce carsickness. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are several lesser-known hiking routes into Muir Woods from the nearby town of Mill Valley. Follow one, and you can enjoy the sky-scraping splendor of sequoia sempervirens the misanthropic way.

Ocean View Trail


A bucolic hillside meadow beckons you into Muir Woods from the ridge above. As the trail switchbacks ever lower, the redwoods amplify in girth, until you find yourself in a shady grove of behemoth arboreals. This 3.5-mile route takes you in the “back door” by circumventing the official entrance – and the entry fee.

Getting there: Just across from the Mountain Home Inn at 810 Panoramic Highway in Mill Valley park in the small lot or along the road. Head left on Panoramic Trail, then veer right at the fork on Ocean View 

The Dipsea Steps


The most rigorous hike into Muir Woods starts in Old Mill Park in downtown Mill Valley and heads up 688 stone and wooden stairs called the Dipsea Steps, then crosses Panoramic Highway and continues on the Dipsea Trail.

This single-track trail heads seaward, paralleling Muir Woods road for most of its descent. When it converges with the paved road at mile 1.8, head right through the official entrance gate of Muir Woods. At this point, you’ve earned your trees.

Getting there: Park near the Mill Valley Library in downtown Mill Valley and look for the first flight of stairs on Cascade Drive, just behind Old Mill Park.

Diaz Ridge Loop


While the suckers are bumper-to-bumper along Muir Woods Road, park at the top of pastoral Diaz Ridge and swoop down to Muir Beach on foot – stopping perhaps at the quaint Pelican Inn for an Arnold Palmer – then follow the trail away from the coast to enter Muir Woods from sea level.

Getting there: From Highway One, turn right onto Panoramic Highway and park soon after the hairpin turn. The trailhead is on the left, across from the fruit truck. 

This issue of Bootprints contributed by Joslyn Hamilton 


Daytrip in Tomales Bay

We don’t know for sure what you’re into this weekend. But if a kayak trip, a hike on a remote beach or an afternoon shucking oysters and sipping microbrew sounds good, we’ve got a trip for you. Below you’ll find three ways to while away your Saturday (or Sunday) afternoon in Tomales Bay State Park: a north Marin hideout just more than an hour’s drive from downtown San Francisco. If that’s what you’re into.  Just remember to dress warm. The weather up there can get pretty moody.

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Short Day/Long Day: Pinnacles NP

A visit to Pinnacles National Park, just south of San Jose, is a moving experience. Literally. Perched along the San Andreas Fault, the park moves north a few centimeters a year. Twenty million years go, the park sat 195 miles to the southeast.

Besides its tenuous perch on the edge of California’s longest earthquake fault (check out the seismograph in the visitors’ center), Pinnacles is known for strenuous hiking, high temperatures and lots of rattlesnakes. So if you take one of our favorite hikes in Pinnacles, make sure you watch your step. Continue Reading…

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