Sausalito, San Francisco, Berkeley Hikes


Urban Hikes

Secret stairways, yoga with a view, and hilltop parks: here are three hikes to escape the city, within city limits!

Sausalito Stairway Walk

Stairway to Headlands

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. 

Mount Sutro Hike

Sutro Secret

The trails winding up Mount Sutro are one of San Francisco’s best-kept secrets. Most of this land is owned by UCSF, and many don’t know the trails are open to the public. A 2-mile (round-trip) hike here passes through a forest of sky-high, ivy-wrapped eucalyptus that opens up to a meadow of native wildflowers that’s perfect for a picnic. From the Edgewood trailhead, trace your way through the eucalyptus on the Woodland Canyon Trail where on sunny days shafts of sunlight break through the canopy (and even on foggy days there’s a sublime beauty). You’ll come out at Medical Center Way. Pick up the trail marked “Historic/Summit” to head up the West Ridge. Through the trees, you’ll catch peeks of the Pacific and across the Golden Gate to Marin. At the summit, a meadow of yarrow, poppy, artemisia, and California lilac is ringed by forest. That means no view from up here, but it does give the space an intimate feel. This is a great spot to enjoy lunch or a snack. To wind back down the mountain, on the far end of the meadow, pick up East Ridge Trail before descending on Johnstone. At the driveway of 66 Johnstone Drive, take the Fairy Gates Trail back to the Edgewood Trailhead, where you’ll leave the enchanted forest.

We like to start at Edgewood trailhead because, unlike near the hospital, parking here is pretty easy and it’s also accessible by MUNI. By car, take Parnassus Ave. to Willard St., then turn onto Belmont Ave. At Edgewood Ave., turn left and park at the dead-end. Here's a map of Mount Sutro trails. There's also a new 17th & Stanyon trailhead, providing access from Cole Valley. Dog-friendly!

Hiking Yoga Berkeley

Yoga on the Go

Downward-facing dog? How about a tree pose in the trees? Hiking Yoga gets you outdoors with weekend cardio walks punctuated by poses and great views! The Berkeley class meets Saturday mornings at the Cal campus then heads into the hills on art deco sidewalks that connect to lush passageways. (Many of these run between homes designed by famous architects like Julia Morgan and Bernard Maybeck.) Marching up these hills will get your heart rate up, and just when you start breathing heavily the instructor will bust out a warrior or chair pose. The ascent ends with a series of poses in full view of the bay. After tracing your way back down the hill, you’ll cool down with some seated poses at the tower on campus. Om on the range.

BONUS: The class burns lots of calories and conveniently ends at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market. Feel guilt-free while carb-loading on Morell’s seasonal scones, like Valencia orange and strawberry.

Classes last 90 minutes and cost $20. Register in advance to save yourself a spot. Hiking Yoga also leads classes in San Francisco, Woodside, and Los Gatos.

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Hike Whistler’s High Note: Spend a day in Whistler and take the gondola to the top of its namesake mountain for a 5.8-mile round-trip hike on the High Note Trail (pictured).

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