Bay Area Thanksgiving Hikes 2011


Shake Your Trail Feathers

Got too many cooks in the kitchen for Thanksgiving, all talking turkey? Round them up for some fresh air on a holiday hike or bike ride. Gobble 'em down!

Cowell-Purisima Trail Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Highroller

There's a new trail on the San Mateo Coast that won't be a secret for long. Just south of Half Moon Bay, the Cowell-Purisima Trail stretches for 3 sea-breezy miles along high coastal bluffs. You can thank the Peninsula Open Space Trust and State Coastal Conservancy, who put in a 25-year effort to secure this open space for the public. The wide gravel-and-dirt trail gently rolls along the edge of the continent: to the east is farmland and to the west is a 100-foot cliff dropping off to uninterrupted views of the roiling Pacific. Fall is a busy time on the coast: watch for harbor seals swimming or lounging on rocks, their only natural predator being the great white sharks that share these waters. Giant brown pelicans and red-tail hawks cruise overhead. The trail is mostly flat, with only one real up-and-down at Purisima Creek, which was home to an Ohlone village thousands of years ago. The trail ends at Cowell Ranch Beach—a fantastic crescent hike-in (or bike-in) respite tucked away from the rest of the world by hulking cliffs. Enjoy the ocean air, keep on the lookout for passing gray whales, and return the way you came. Cowellbunga!

Drive south on Hwy. 1 passing the turn-off for the Ritz Carlton. In less than a mile you'll see the parking area for Cowell Ranch Beach. We recommend continuing south on Hwy. 1 for 3 miles and starting at the southern parking area. Park and ride the trail for 3.5 miles to Cowell Ranch Beach. No dogs.

Tank Hill San Francisco

Tank's Giving

You don't need to leave the city to take a hike up to stellar views. While most people make tracks to Twin Peaks for a classic hilltop vista, less than a mile north is tiny and mighty Tank Hill. Driving right to its base is an option, but it's more fun to include it as part of a 2-mile (round-trip) urban hike that puts the trot back into the turkey. Starting from the corner of Frederick and Cole streets in Cole Valley, walk south along Cole Street. Make a right on Parnassus Avenue and a left on Shrader Street. (To add an extra half-mile to the trip, check out Farnsworth Stairs, which lead up to more quintessential views of the city. Directions below.) Shrader's steep but manageable incline leads all the way to Tank Hill. The final section is on a dirt path with wood stairs. Standing at the rocky outcropping's apex, the scenery thrills visitors and locals alike: Mount Tam and the Golden Gate beam to the north, San Francisco and its parks glint below, and a gleaming Mount Diablo struts its massive profile to the east. On a clear day, Bolinas and Stinson beaches can be seen on the horizon. Feast for the eyes!

TIP: Warm up at the EOS Wine Bar with curried pumpkin soup and a flight of their Old World Wine (901 Cole Street at Carl).

From Frederick and Cole, walk south on Cole for two blocks and turn right on Parnassus. To check out the Farnsworth Stairs, continue on Parnassus for 4 blocks and make a left on Willard. The Farnsworth Stairs will be on your right after about 100 feet. Return back to Parnassus. To get to Tank Hill from Parnassus, head south on Shrader St. all the way. It joins Belgrave Ave. and dead ends at Tank Hill. Descend Tank Hill on the south side heading toward Sutro Tower. Walk down the stairs, which takes you to Twin Peaks Blvd., and turn left. This intersects with Clayton where you continue until Ashbury St. where you veer right. Walk down Ashbury for a few blocks to Frederick where you turn left to reach the starting point. Reach this hike via bus #37 or 43. Dog-friendly!

Red Hill Coyote Hills Regional Park

Red Hill Ramble

Even those who are trypt out on turkey will want to gobble up the East Bay's Coyote Hills Regional Park, where a 2.3-mile (round-trip) easy-as-pie hike traverses bay-hugging hills surrounded by wetlands. Embark north from the visitors center through Main Marsh along the paved Bayview Trail. In about half a mile, take the turn-off that goes up Red Hill Trail. This slinking dirt path dips and surges for the next mile, ascending open hills overlooking nearly 1,000 acres of marshlands stretching to the Dumbarton and San Mateo bridges. When you peak at 270-foot Red Hill, climb a nearby boulder for a view of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Return via the Soaproot and Quail trails, which lead gently downhill through golden grasslands that are beginning to tinge green as the rainy season approaches. Nearing the visitors center, keep an eye out for migratory geese and hawks overhead while minding your step for ground squirrels and jackrabbits scampering across the grounds. Excellent turkey-topper.

TIP: Add 3 miles to your trek by tacking on the remainder of the Bayview Trail, which circumscribes Red Hill.

The park charges $5/vehicle for parking and $2/dog for non-service animals. When you enter, drive all the way down the main road until you spot the visitors center (open 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Wednesday–Sunday). There you can park, start, and finish your journey. Check Coyote Hills Regional Park Web site for park hours, directions, and trail maps. Dog-friendly!

Win the Adventure of a Lifetime

Christmas has come early! Locally based Intrepid Travel, the foremost small-group adventure travel company, is giving away 30 trips throughout the world during November, plus savings of up to 20% off trips in 2012. The hardest part will be choosing which trip to take! Here's a sample of some adventures:

* Camping in Australia's Outback
* Biking from Budapest to Prague to Vienna
* Going gourmet with locals in Spain
* Walking the Great Wall of China (one of the Seven Wonders of the World)

See a complete list of the 30 trips being given away for free this November. Intrepid Travel is all about getting up close and personal. Groups are kept to 12 or less, ensuring true immersion into culture and adventures. 30 incredible experiences are up for grabs this November. Which one will you choose? Explore and enter here.

BONUS: Enter to win one of Intrepid Travel's 30 trips in 30 days through November, and you'll automatically be eligible to save up to 20% on trips in 2012.

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