Urban Outings - Hike San Francisco - Berkeley Waterfall - Bike the Los Gatos Creek Trail


Urban Delights

We usually give the scoop on getting out of the city and into the great outdoors, but this week we’re spotlighting a creek-side bike ride, a coastal hike, and a waterfall—all within city limits.

Hike San Francisco Grand Walk

The Grand Walk

One of the most scenic and stunning trails in the West can be traversed without leaving San Francisco. This 6-mile "Grand Walk," paralleling the coastline from the Cliff House to Fort Mason, is like a perfect geographical jigsaw puzzle; it pieces together the jutting cliffs of Lands End, the sands of Baker Beach, and the rugged boulders north of Battery Crosby. Start this city adventure by taking a bus to the Cliff House. From there follow the Coastal Trail through Lands End as the Golden Gate Bridge comes into view, arcing like the North Star in the background and remaining visible almost the entire trip. This portion of the route finishes in the swanky Sea Cliff zip code. Walk the residential sidewalks and take a little-known backdoor route to Baker Beach (described in the directions below). Continue along the beach to the toughest part, a 243-step sand ladder. Red-tail hawks are the hang-gliders of these dunes, so keep an eye out. Next up is the recently renewed Batteries-to-Bluffs Trail (pictured) and spectacular Battery Crosby. Go down the wooden stairs just past the battery and be sure to check out Marshall's Beach—a mini Baker Beach that's a good stop-and-snack destination. The trail climbs back up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Brace yourself for the surge of tourists there, and take a moment to see if there are any surfers braving Fort Point beneath the Golden Gate. Then follow the path that dips to Crissy Field and the Marina Green. Savor the last few steps as you arrive at Fort Mason. Urban mission accomplished.

BONUS: At Fort Mason, refuel at Greens Restaurant. Grab a window table and replay your "Grand Walk" highlights over bay views.

From the Cliff House walk up Point Lobos Ave. and take a left on 48th Ave. to jump on the Coastal Trail in Lands End. This ends in the Sea Cliff neighborhood. Walk along El Camino del Mar, then continue on Seacliff Rd. (don't follow the first "public beach" signs). Make a left at 25th Ave. North; at the dead end, walk through the gate to Baker Beach. At the far east end of the beach, walk up the sand ladder. Continue on a trail beside Lincoln Ave. Turn left at the Batteries-to-Bluffs Trail toward Battery Crosby. There might be detours with well-marked signs along this portion of the trail heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Cross under the bridge through a pedestrian and auto tunnel below the toll booths. Pop out the other side and follow the trail along the waterfront all the way to Fort Mason.

Berkeley Waterfall

Backyard Waterfall

Tucked among the hillside houses of North Berkeley is a stairway that leads to a waterfall. It's not marked; you just need to know how to find it. The adventure starts at the partly hidden stairway behind the playground at Codornices Park (across from the Rose Garden). These stairs lead to a path, which leads to a second set of stairs and then a small gate. Beyond that gate is another world: a lush green canyon with a grove of redwood trees, a rushing creek, and a 40-foot series of cascading waterfalls. Walk across the creek via a wooden slab to get a better perspective on this hidden oasis.

The waterfall is at its best in the rainy months. Park at the entrance of Codornices Park, across from the Rose Garden, on Euclid Ave. and Eunice St. (map). Behind the wooden trolley in the playground are two sets of stairs; take the left set. At the top, continue left. Then look right for a winding concrete staircase; take these up, but not all the way. Twenty feet past the first green lamp post there's a small gate on the left with a "Private Property" sign. Enter the gate (it's OK, they allow you to visit) and veer left at the first junction. Follow your ears to the falls.

Los Gatos Creek Trail

Silicon Dally

Escaping the busy streets of greater San Jose is easy. Just hop on a bicycle and roll along the 8 vehicle-free miles of Los Gatos Creek Trail. March is a great time for this ride: the wild plum trees have white and pink blossoms, birds are splashing in the creek, and there's a vibe of spring in the air. Paralleling Los Gatos Creek, the trail crosses bridges, winds through eucalyptus forests, and passes Little League fields on its way to the Lexington Reservoir. Along the way, the family-friendly Vasona Lake County Park is a nice place to take a picnic break while you watch kayakers and Canadian geese float serenely on the lake.

There are multiple access points to the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Campbell Park in Campbell (at the corner of Campbell Ave. and Gilman Ave.) has adequate parking and is a good starting point. For a map and more information click here.

Spot Me

Nobody plans to get lost on a hike just a few miles outside a major city. But it happens. Nobody plans to have their car break down en route to a weekend getaway, on a road outside cell phone range. But it happens. What's your safety plan? Here's one: SPOT, the world's first GPS satellite messenger and your personal connection to the outside world, including friends, family, and emergency response centers. The little orange SPOT messenger is no bigger than a cell phone but works where cell phones don't. Hit the 9-1-1 button and unlike a regular GPS, SPOT will tell emergency response teams—and your loved ones—exactly where you are. You can also check in with friends and family by hitting the OK button; an email with a Google map of your exact location will be sent to everyone on your pre-programmed list, letting them know you're doing fine. With just four basic communication buttons, there's no fussing to send a message. And at just $169, this is peace of mind you can't afford not to have.

For more information and to buy SPOT, click here.

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