For a hike that’ll transport you back in time—and to a place with legendary panoramas—head to the Peninsula’s Sweeney Ridge. In 1769, Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá trudged over this hilly range and discovered San Francisco Bay. Today there are several well-trodden ways to hike up to Sweeney Ridge, but the 5-mile (round-trip) trail from Pacifica’s Shelldance Orchid Nursery treats with nonstop ocean views. Starting from Mori Ridge Trail, ascend a wide path flanked by short shrubbery that pays out unobstructed views of the Pacific. After about a mile and a half, head right onto the Sweeney Ridge Trail, where you’ll pass the Cold War–era Nike missile site and get views of major Bay Area mountains: Montara, Diablo, Tam, and even the Farallones, 30 miles offshore. A stone monument marks the spot where de Portolá discovered the bay. You’ll feel like you’ve just discovered it, too.
Pacifica’s Shelldance Orchid Nursery trailhead can be reached only from northbound Hwy. 1. If coming southbound on Hwy. 1, go 0.25 mile past the nursery and make a U-turn at Reina Del Mar. Turn right into Shelldance Orchid Nursery and follow the road back 0.3 mile to the trailhead parking area. Dog-friendly!