Maybe you’ve strolled the Sausalito waterfront but have you ventured up the staircases—once shortcuts to the town’s brothels and speakeasies—to beautiful bay views and the headlands? The best stairway to start your journey with is Excelsior Lane—it’s the longest and an easy jaunt from the ferry. Follow it up toward the Italianate villas and Arts and Crafts houses clinging to the steep hills. At the church there’s a slight jog to the left before Excelsior picks back up. At San Carlos Avenue, go left, then head up Cooper Lane. From the top of the staircase, it’s a 20-minute walk to the headlands. Follow the “Freeway” sign uphill, and at the service road along Highway 101 turn right and then cross under the overpass to pick up the Morning Sun Trail, which switchbacks a half-mile up through an oak forest. If you decide to head back from the top, you’ve done a very respectable (read: hilly!) 3.5 round-trip. If you’re game for more, a sign points you to the SCA Trail, which travels along a ridge with classic views of the Pacific and the Golden Gate Bridge. Keep an eye out for the rare Mission Blue butterfly. Soak up the scene before returning the way you came.
BONUS: Back at the waterfront, enjoy the town’s Mediterranean vibe from the sidewalk tables at Poggio Trattoria. Sip a Negroni with the fig and pancetta pizza, chased by an affogato (a scoop of gelato drowned in espresso).
From the ferry stop in Sausalito (or the parking lot near the ferry, if you’re driving), walk across Bridgeway. Excelsior Lane is next to Wells Fargo. Dogs are allowed on the steps of Sausalito, but not the headlands trails.