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Take a soak in Steep Ravine

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A midnight soak in natural, undeveloped hot springs … just within a stone’s throw of the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well it is nice. But it isn’t easy. A visit to Steep Ravine Hot Springs demands keen navigation and expert timing.

Hidden in a cove near the Steep Ravine Cabins in Mount Tamalpais State Park, the springs are only accessible during extreme negative tides, and even then only for a few hours.

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Marin County’s best waterfall

Alamere Fallrs running into breaking waves

Spring is here. And that’s when Marin County’s most hype-worthy footpath – the Palomarin Trail – is at its very best. The dramatic Alamere Falls are in full flow, and seasonal wildflowers pop their heads up to say hello.

The 7.5-mile out-and-back starts off gentle enough for grandparents or young children. The first miles offer oak-shaded views of the Pacific, glimpses of the wildflower-blanketed hills, and sometimes deer or bobcat sightings.

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NorCal’s best campus hikes

You may have swum with the sharks and run with the bulls, but have you hiked with the banana slugs and jogged with the Nerd Nation?

Bay Area college campuses offer a lot more than ivory towers and ivy-covered walls. Some have extensive and challenging networks of trails that draw academics and the general public alike.

Stanford – The Dish

Stanford foothills and the path to the Dish.

Where campus hikes in the Bay Area go, the best-known is easily the trail to the Stanford Dish. On and off-campus visitors throng this four-mile paved loop from sunrise to sunset.

The Dish is a radio telescope, perched on a hill with a spectacular view of most of the Bay Area. The surrounding tree-studded hills provide habitat for myriad native plants and animals, including the California tiger salamanderContinue Reading…

Ride a dogsled on Mt. Shasta

An action shot from a dogsled (taken facing the dogs) during a ride through the woods

Mount Shasta isn’t all about crystals and healers anymore. Not since the Dogsled Express brought their team of Olympian-caliber canines to Etna, strapped them to sleds and invited adventurers along for the ride.

The company offers humans ages three and up the chance to feel the call of the wild with a wind-whipping dogsled ride through the snow. That’s right – even this winter, there is enough snow at Shasta for a sled ride (most days, at least – the company has had to close some days for dry or rainy weather).  Continue Reading…

The treasure of Mount Tamalpais

Some mountains are meant to be summited – others are meant to be explored. At 2,571 feet, Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais is an easy summit. But the real adventure is found nestled among the manzanitas and madrones.

More than fifty miles of trail criss-cross Mount Tamalpais State Park, so you’ll want a guide if you go looking for treasure. Read on for tips on finding the park’s greatest hits. 

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Travel the Bigfoot Scenic Byway

Bigfoot exists - we know that much. But whether he (she?) exists as a figure in our shared cultural narrative or as an actual rotten-flesh scented, campsite-destroying monster? We can’t say for sure. 

Either way, Gigantopithecus has a home along California State Highway 96, which meanders along the Trinity and Klamath Rivers. A verdant land of evergreen trees and lupine flowers, the region boasts more bigfoot sightings than any other in the United States.

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Butterflies by the Bay

Winter means butterfly season in the Bay Area. Tens of thousands of Monarch butterflies from the western United States and Canada flock to the eucalyptus and Monterey pine groves where their ancestors spent the winter.

No one really knows how these butterflies (who can’t even remember a single address) find their way to the greater Bay Area every year. But we know where to find them. Check out our favorite destinations below. 

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The Skyling to Sea trail

You finally did it. You got three days off. In a row. You’re ready to run off to the woods and make the most of it – but what are you going to see? Mountains or the ocean? Redwoods or waterfalls?

You can have it all. Seriously – you can see all that stuff in three days along the Skyline to Sea Trail. The backcountry route begins in Castle Rock State Park (just 20 minutes from San Jose on Skyline Boulevard), and spits hikers out 30 miles later at the Pacific Ocean.

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The Calistoga Tractor Parade

What do you get when you blend vino, old tractors and the holiday spirit? If you guessed a bunch of drunken vintners dressed as Santa, you’re not wrong.

Known as the town that put the posh Napa Valley on the map, Calistoga will let its hair down Dec. 7 for the annual Lighted Tractor Parade. Locals dressed in everything from Santa costumes to hula skirts will tour the town in elaborately costumed tractors, trucks, and construction equipment.

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Hike Mission Peak

Mission Peak is not a secret - thousands of people hike the 2,516-foot peak every year for its sweeping views of the Bay Area. But just about everyone takes the same trail - a steep three-mile path from the Stanford Avenue staging area called Hidden Valley Trail.

And while this is the shortest route to the Mission Peak summit (and the one with free parking), it is far from the only one. Three lesser-known trails also scale the peak – and one even provides a backpacking option.

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