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Today, I received a message from the Sierra Club announcing an upcoming PBS series that launches next week from award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns,  ”The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

In honor of the series (and to spread the word about the importance of protecting our national parks for future generations), the Sierra Club is giving away a trip to Yosemite and San Francisco as part of the 100,000 Champions for National Parks campaign. Their goal is to get to 100,000 names by October 4th - All you have to do is sign the statement of support for parks at www.sierraclub.org/parks. Tell them your favorite national park and your name will be added to the scrolling list of “Champions for Parks” on their homepage and you’ll be entered in the sweepstakes.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that there are a lot of great hiking trails near San Francisco and Yosemite. This area is a paradise for nature lovers. So help out the Sierra Club, support our national parks, and hopefully (cross your fingers) win a trip! Good luck everybody!

It’s my favorite time of the year for hiking…waterfall season, so Closet Granola and I decided to go chase waterfalls in Marin a couple weekends ago. Although lesser known than the ever-popular Alamere Falls in Point Reyes, the Cataract Falls trail is much closer and easier to get to from the city AND it boasts views of the waterfall for pretty much the entire hike, so it has an excellent cost-benefit ratio Alamere Falls, however, has the advantage of ocean views. Tough call.

This hike starts off flat near the lake, but rather quickly we came to the bottom of the falls. For the next 1.5 miles or so, the trail follows the waterfall straight up almost 1100 feet. There are a lot of stairs to help out, but the narrow trail isn’t too difficult for beginners, and nowhere as difficult as the Matt Davis trail. The trail is also dog-friendly, but the narrow trail doesn’t lend itself well to a pack of dogs and we didn’t happen upon any pampered pooches.

The beautiful trail was lush and very green, but had few wildflowers. The waterfall was set against a background of green and we found many places to stop and have our picnic. Every step of the hike, there’s a different view of the falls, ones with massive drops and ones with smaller ones. I absolutely fell in love with the Cataract Falls and this hike just shot up to top 3 on my list.

At the top of the falls, most people turn back, but we continued on to Laurel Dell and then kept going until we got to Bolinas Ridge. We crossed the street and climbed up the ridge. At the top we could see back to San Francisco and Oakland.

On the outbound part of the hike, we took very few pictures because we thought we would do this on the way back. But on the way back, the sun started to set and we were nowhere near out of there. So we started trail running, and since we had hiked all the way up, this meant we were trail running straight down. After a few minutes of “hoofing it” as Closet Granola so kindly put it, I rolled on my left foot and twisted my ankle. Ouch!

Well, it was a lot harder to get out on a very painful ankle and it was way after sunset by the time we did. We swore we would be back one day to take more photos. In the meantime, you all should get out there before those falls dry up.

Bonus: The drive out to this hike literally goes past “our restaurant”, Cafe Sorella in Fairfax. A delicious pasta dinner is mandatory after this hike, even if you’re in pain from a twisted ankle.

Overall Rating: Trailblazers

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Golden Gate Bridge

Here in San Francisco is one of Northern California’s treasure, a hike so stunning that it’s hard to imagine that it’s in right here in our own backyard. Without leaving the city, you are tranported to nature’s finest with views of the ocean, dramatic cliffs, cypress trees, and views of the Golden Gate bridge that rival Crissy Field or Marin Headlands.

Coastal Trail

We started this hike near Seacliff and parked on El Camino del Mar near 32nd Avenue. It was very easy to find the sign for Land’s End and the Coastal Trail, especially since so many others were also entering and leaving the hike. The only downside to this hike is that it is rather crowded. One of the best things about this hike, however, is that it also crowded with dogs. To that end, we had come prepared with one half of the Fluffy Puppies. It was Bianca’s first hike (while Sorcha stayed at home getting ready for the dinner party scheduled for later that night) and she thoroughly enjoyed it.

Coastline

Within minutes of starting this hike, we had beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge spanning from San Francisco to Marin. We thought the views couldn’t get any better, but there are benches from lookout points and cypress trees that perfectly frame the bridge further along on this hike.

The trail is well-trodden and there are steps to help you go down to the beach and lookout points. If you skip these optional parts, the hike is relatively flat and easy. As you approach the second half of the hike, the trail is paved as it heads to Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. Before we reached the destination, we saw a sheet of rain and storm clouds approaching and decided to call it a day and head back to the car. After all, Sorcha and a dinner party awaited.

GG Bridge

This is the perfect hike for this city girl/hiking diva. It’s not far, it’s beautiful, and we can get a hike in and still have brunch and dinner in the city. Perfection!

Overall Rating: Flip-flops (although I did the hike in Pumas)

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip #1: If you have time before or after the hike, stop by the Palace of Legion of Honor. Even if you don’t go into the museum, you can still see Rodin’s Thinker in the courtyard.

Tip #2: Take a drive through Seacliff before or after your hike and see how the rich and wealthy live in San Francisco.

The View

The View

Most weekends we’ll flee the city in search of better weather and greener pastures, but when the weather is finally warm in San Francisco (usually September or October), the best we can manage is a quickie in Marin to satisfy the outdoors bug before heading back and drinking sangria at an outdoor cafe.

The warm weather and lack of fog in San Francisco made it an ideal day for otherwise windy and chilly Marin Headlands. We drove out to Rodeo Beach and had a long lazy picnic with sandwiches and wine. The beach was not overly crowded and we hung out for a while chatting and digging holes in the sand.

Stairs

Stairs

We took the Coastal Trail up to Hill 88. This was by far the most scenic part of the hike and also the most challenging. It’s basically a climb from sea level to the top of the cliff, with views of the beach, the coast and ocean, and the San Francisco skyline including Twin Peaks. We could see the fog start to roll in around Coit Tower. It’s definitely better to watch it roll in than to feel it roll in.

Hill 88

Hill 88

At the top of the ridge, we passed the junction with the Wolf Ridge Trail and continued to the top to see Hill 88. It’s easy to forget that this area used to be a military site, but along the trails, you’ll see some stark reminders. At the top of the hill, we took a break at the former radar station with its eerie abandoned buildings with graffiti.

Coit Tower

Coit Tower

We then turned around and walked back to the junction with Wolf Ridge Trail. This trail then meets up with the Miwok Trail. These trails go around the backside of the ridge and is less scenic. We also came across a snake, but at least this time it was slithering away from me, not towards me (like in the Alamere Falls hike). The Miwok trail took us around the Rodeo Lagoon and back to the parking lot.

If I were to do this hike again, I would probably turn around at the top of Hill 88 and do an out-and-back hike just on the Coastal Trail. The rest of the hike wasn’t scenic enough for me.

Overall Rating: Flip-flops

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.
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