Balcony Table: A PB&J plus salt-and-vinegar chips just taste better at altitude, especially when it’s Tahoe’s Desolation Wilderness. With crystal-clear views of Emerald Bay to the east and the granite wild wonderland to the west, no reservations are required for this ridge-top best seat on the scene.
Urban Legends: We coined it The “Grand Walk” because we think it’s one of the most scenic and stunning trails in the West. And it’s right in San Francisco! This 6-mile Grand Walk, paralleling the coastline from the Cliff House to Fort Mason, connects some of the city’s most magnificent icons, including the Golden Gate.
Total Fluke: A whale-watching adventure to the Farallon Islands turned into such a mega-dose of sightings that the 12th one was almost taken for granted until—surprise!—it was an elusive blue whale, the largest animal on earth. An editor almost missed the moment on a bathroom break, but made it in the fluke of time.
Barnabe’s Version: Just a day or two after heavy rains, only a few other people were out for a hike to the top of Barnabe Peak in Samuel P. Taylor State Park. With a clean sky the vistas swept across nearly all of Marin, from Point Reyes to Mount Tam. Span-tastic!
Damme Lucky: Last-minute camping in Mendocino over the busy 4th of July weekend was a tough nut to crack. After being turned away from many booked-up campgrounds, we discovered a beautiful first-come, first-served hike-in (environmental) campground 2 miles deep in the redwoods of Van Damme State Park—right along Little River. The morning cup of coffee tasted even fresher among greenery so lush it felt like being in a rainforest.
Devil’s Advocate: Trekking around Mount Diablo exploring the Grand Loop was grand indeed, with nonstop panoramas and some of the biggest views in the entire United States. The lack of shade and exposed trails makes this hike best in cooler seasons.
Death Becomes Her: Late fall to early spring is the best time of year to visit Death Valley National Park, where we had a blast hiking to 360-degree views at Wildrose Peak and log-rolling down the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes as the sunset colored the Panamint Mountains pink. Following the full-moon light back to the car capped off a perfect evening.
Classic Perles: Lounging with just a handful of other people at the unmarked Perles Beach on Angel Island was blissful. This south facing slice of sand offers one of the best views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate.