Easing Back Into the Outdoors

(Dipping pinky toe in...) We're easing into the outdoors again. While many of the trails around the Bay Area are loosening restrictions, health ordinances are asking us to keep our outdoor adventures local to our counties, for now. So we put together a list of some hikes (and bike rides) by county that are open as of this date. *Please be sure to check official websites before visiting for status updates and for alternative trails to consider if a particular trail is busy; also, check out our “New Rules of the Trail.” Stay safe, enjoy your parks, and let's keep outside open! 

My Weekend Sherpa:

Want to do it Did it
Week of:

1) Golden Oldie! {San Francisco County}

Bike Golden Gate Park San Francisco

This year is the 150th birthday of Golden Gate Park. So now it’s officially a Golden Girl. Eureka! Now that the parks department has closed vehicle access on John F. Kennedy Drive from Kezar Drive to Transverse Drive and on John F. Shelley Drive in John McLaren Park (at least for the duration of the Stay Home Order, currently until the end of May), there’s a little more room to get some physical distance on walks, runs, or bike rides. Bring plenty of your own water. See the City Health Order of Allowable Activities.

2) Good Morgan! {Santa Clara County}

Rancho Canada

Set in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Morgan Hill’s Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve is remote, wild, and delivers summit views that can make you feel like you’re on top of the world. Reach sweeping vistas of the Diablo Range on a 5-mile (round-trip) loop hike that starts on the Longwall Canyon Trail. Another good option for hiking or mountain biking is Joseph D. Grant County Park, including this 5-mile loop. Stay updated on trail status and guidelines using the Santa Clara County Parks official site. If parking lots are full, trails are full. Bring plenty of your own water.

3) Russian Ridge Open Space {San Mateo County}

We can’t always guarantee timing, but recent rains and warm days can bring wildflowers to the Peninsula’s Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. In spring this park can be a tapestry of colors, but even if the flower power isn’t full-on, the views sure are! This moderate 5-mile hike has amazing views. Visit the Midpeninsula Open Space official website for information and updates during Covid-19. If parking lots are full, trails are full (do not park on the sides of roads). Bring plenty of your own water.

4) Big Time Briones {Contra Costa County}

Hike Briones Regional Park

Epic views don’t always come from bagging peaks. Sometimes it’s all about the loop! There’s a challenging 3.9-mile hike at Briones Regional Park where the reward is some of the East Bay’s best views. Check the East Bay Regional Park District’s official site for park and trail updates. If parking lots are full, trails are full. Bring plenty of your own water.

5) Pleasanton Ridge {Alameda County}

Pleasanton Ridge park

The rolling hills of Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park can bring an extra burst of color in spring—wildflowers hidden in the emerald grasses pop up (give or take rains!). Even if they don’t pop, enjoy a 4.8-mile loop (and loping) hike among this park’s 5,271 acres. Check the East Bay Regional Park District’s official site for park and trail updates. If parking lots are full, trails are full. Bring plenty of your own water.

6) Ring Mountain Open Space {Marin County}

Ring Mountain Open Space

(UPDATE: Currently Ring Mountain is open to hike or bike-in only; there’s no street parking.) When wildflower season starts to wane, don’t tell Ring Mountain. The tiny but mighty open space preserve on the Tiburon Peninsula can often exhibit a wide range of wildflowers late into the season, not to mention one of the most jaw-dropping views of the bay. Take a nice, moderate 2.5-mile hike on the Loop and Phyllis Ellman trails and be glad that its 367 acres weren’t turned into McMansions, thanks in part to the Nature Conservancy. Visit the Marin County Parks official page for updates and information, including links to the status of specific locations. Bring plenty of your own water.

7) The Grape Outdoors {Napa & Sonoma Counties}

Bottles of wine aren’t the only things popping in Napa. Get in a 4-mile (round-trip) hike powered by beautiful views. Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa Valley is 850 acres of wilderness area managed by a nonprofit, and the frills come courtesy of nature’s seasonal gifts; in springtime that means wildflowers. Over in Sonoma County, hidden in the hills south of Petaluma, Tolay Lake Regional Park is 3,400 acres of wide-open space, with a network of hiking and biking trails, along with plenty of grazing cattle. This place gets cracking hot in summer, and is exposed, so spring is a good time to go. Check Sonoma County Regional Park’s official site for Covid-19 status and rules. If parking is full, trails are full. Bring plenty of your own water.


8) Reminder: New Rules of the Trail

It’s not so hard and it’s a way to help keep our parks open during this challenging pandemic: follow your county’s specific ordinance and see our easy online guide, New Rules of the Trail, for remembering some of the top-level basics for being responsible outdoors during Covid-19.

9) New Podcast Episode on the National Parks

Take It Outside podcast

This week on the Weekend Sherpa podcast, Take It Outside, we discuss “mask-phobia” and three national parks in California to put on your ASAP list for when they open (which may be soon!). Listen to our episode “National Parks ASAP” and read our issue all about these national parks.

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