Tennessee Valley Coastal Trail, Marin Headlands
My favorite getaway from San Francisco city, and seemingly endless permutations and combinations of trails. Be sure to check out the abandoned military fort at Hill 88.Directions: On 101N, get off at first exit after Golden Gate Bridge-- the Alexander Dr exit. Take a left at the T-intersection, go through the long tunnel under 101, and then continue on about 5-10 minutes following signs to Fort Cronkhite.
Fitch Mountain, Healdsburg
I used to live a couple of blocks from the Healdsburg town square (in the heart of Russian River Valley California wine country). When not availing myself of the outdoor lap pool by the high school, my weekday workout routine consisted of a brisk climb up Fitch Mountain. It's about 40-60 minutes roundtrip and provides a leafy but 360 lookout at the top.
I know there is another entrance at the base of the hill, but I always drove into Villa Chanticleer, at 1248 North Fitch Mountain Road, Healdsburg, and then past the building to the large "Upper Parking Lot" at the back. Walk a few feet downhill on the parking lot drive to the base of the wooden fence, turn right, and then walk uphill slightly until you see the unmarked trail on your left. (Further up is a sign that says something about private property-- don't go there, obviously!) Follow the narrow dirt trail slightly downhill and then bear right across a streambed, and then slightly uphill until you merge with the main trail, heading up to your right.
Afterwards, stop for a bite or coffee at one of my favorites on the Healdsburg town square: Downtown Bakery, Flying Goat Coffee, or Oakville Grocery.
http://www.villachanticleer.com/ (for the parking lot entrance)
For those who prefer better instructions to a trailhead in the Sonoma County area, you may want to try exploring the Healdsburg Ridge page on the Sonoma Open Space site:
Hood Mountain Regional Park, Santa Rosa
1,750 acres of wilderness
More information:North Entrance: 3000 Los Alamos Road, Santa Rosa, CA
Southwest Entrance: 1450 Pythian Road, Santa Rosa, CA
Mt. Saint Helena, Calistoga
10 miles round trip to summit; 2,400 ft elevation gain. In Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Major bonus: near Calistoga mud baths and hot springs, and spitting distance from a country highway-full of wine tasting opportunities.
Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma
8 miles round trip in Jack London State Park. Relatively flat terrain, but slight elevations lead to fantastic lookouts below. You'll pass through some of the ruins of the old homesteads, and can visit Jack "Call of the Wild" London's sparse but writerly former residence. If you are as lucky as I, you'll catch an impromptu piano recital on the top floor of his home by one of the volunteer docents.
Tomales Point Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore
The first time I walked the Tomales Point Trail at Point Reyes was in the early fall, during elk mating season... a vouyeristic, disturbing, and potentially dangerous experience. But the vista is so awesome that it's not worth being worried.
Here is the National Park Service description: This 9.5 mile open trail through the Tule Elk Reserve offers spectacular views of Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. It is also a prime wildlife viewing trail, as it is remote and the tule elk are enclosed in this reserve. The first 5 kilometers (3 mi.) to Lower Pierce Point Ranch are well marked and maintained, but the last stretch can be overgrown with bush lupine and other shrubs, so long pants and long sleeves are a good idea. The journey all the way to the Point is worth it, for the view is unparalleled. Fog and wind can limit visibility and make this hike more challenging. The Tomales Point Trailhead is at the end of Pierce Point Road, 40 minute driving time from Bear Valley.
Other hikes at Point Reyes: http://www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/hiking_guide.htm
Sky Trail: http://www.marintrails.com/Hikes/hike6.html
Cowgirl Creamery organic, artisan cheese
Hog Island Oyster Farm at Tomales Bay (bring picnic supplies!)