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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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