Take a walk on Alcatraz's wild side: Escape the crowds and head for the Agave Trail, only open for a few months every autumn and winter between bird nesting seasons. The trail just opened last weekend, making now a good time to go on a leisurely half-mile stroll that offers superb southerly views of San Francisco and has many points of interest spinning tales of the prison's colorful past. The original inhabitants of Alcatraz were birds, and today black-crowned night herons, cormorants, and snowy egrets are residents of the Rock. Pass spiky agave originally planted by the Army to thwart invaders (and later became a thorn in the side for prisoners plotting to break free). Continue on to the western slope of the island beside the cell house to see Alcatraz's beautiful, award-winning gardens. Created in the 1930s by the warden's secretary, Fred Reichel, the gardens gave a few lucky inmates the opportunity to work outside the prison, tending to the flora. Today, plentiful plant species fill the landscape, including fig trees, rock roses, seaside daisies, wallflowers, and bachelor's buttons. It's a great escape!
TIP: We Players is performing Hamlet on the Rock through Nov. 21. This unique theatrical event starts the moment you board the ferry, and continues on parts of the island ordinarily closed to the public.
Adult tickets to Alcatraz are $26. Make reservations at alcatrazcruises.com. The Agave Trail starts just south of the ferry dock. No dogs.