Last year during the holidays, Joan and I visited my mom and her husband in San Francisco. While the city of San Francisco is great for walking, I was surprised how easy it is to find a wilderness experience nearby. I have not hiked much in the Bay Area, so I put out a call to Twitter for suggestions, and got a great suggestion: Hike Angel Island.
Time: ~3 hours
Elevation gain: 1427 ft
Dogs: Not allowed
When to go: Year-round
This loop uses two trails — the North Ridge and the Sunset trails — and is truly the road less traveled — at least of the options available on Angel Island. Once you disembark from the ferry, bear to the left and look for the sign marking the North Ridge Trail.
You will initially climb a set of stairs set into the hillside by the Conservation Corp decades ago, shaded by towering pine and oak trees.
When you reach the perimeter, the trail continues across the road after a short jog to the right. Most people who visit Angel Island take the wide and mostly level perimeter road, shared by hikers, runners and bikers. In contrast, the North Ridge Trail offers quiet solitude and mostly single track — no bikes allowed.
At last you begin to leave the crowds behind and see a part of the island that few visit. The North Ridge Trail is windy; slowly but steadily climbing in altitude as you near the summit of Mt. Livermore. You’ll notice different climate zones as you traverse the island–the cool shade of the oak trees; the sunny exposure amidst red manzanita; aging pines towering over saplings; and the drier, sunnier south side of the island.
As you near the summit, watch for a spur to the right that leads to Mount Livermore. This final section is not long, and the summit has several picnic tables that make it a perfect place to stop for lunch.
On a clear day, you’d see Alcatraz, the San Francisco skyline, the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges from here.
After your break, retrace your steps to the Sunset Trail to your right, following it all the way back to the docks at Ayala Cove. Note that you will cross two roads; don’t follow them, just look for where the trail picks up after a short jog.
When you get back to Ayala Cove, you can stop in the Visitor Center for more information on the history of the island.
Trail Map and Elevation Profile
Click a thumbnail to view a larger image.