San Francisco is known for its culture, charm, food, architecture . . . the list goes on and on! But did you know that SF is also home to hundreds of incredible hiking trails? The trails in and around San Francisco provide a nature escape within an urban environment. If you are looking for a hike while studying English in San Francisco, check out our list of some of the more popular hikes in the Bay Area. This list of short hikes (just 1-3 hours) provides a perfect way to unwind after English classes at CISL. Lace up your hiking boots, grab some water and your camera, and lets go!

Hiking in the Bay Area

Angel Island Perimeter Road

Angel Island port
Ferries to Angel Island arrive in this port in Ayala Cove.

In the past, Angel Island has served as a Mexican land grant, an army artillery post, an immigration station, and even a quarantine area for sick soldiers returning to the U.S. from tropical islands: today it is a beautiful state park and a haven for bird-watchers and hikers. Expect to see beautiful rocky coves, sandy beaches, grasslands, and forests on this small island’s well-developed hiking trails. Old buildings–including soldiers’ quarters and small chapel–pepper the trails (which also provide gorgeous views of the city and the Golden Gate).

Angel Island view
View from Angel Island of San Francisco. Both photos from Wikicommons.

To arrive, you must take one of the two ferries that service the island. The ferry from Tiburon runs more frequently: for information about ferry service to island from Tiburon, call Tiburon Ferry at (415) 435-2131. There is also a ferry service from San Francisco from the Blue and Gold Fleet; however, it runs less frequently: for more information, call (415) 773-1188. Both ferries land at Ayala Cove on the northwest side of the island. Ayala Cove can be found on this Angel Island map.


Batteries to Bluffs Trail

Batteries to Bluffs
Batteries to Bluffs runs along the rock coast and provides a beautiful view of the Gold Gate Bridge. Photo from Yelp.

The Bay Area Hiker, a great website for hiking trails, says of this trail, “Think  of a dream San Francisco hike: a path overlooking the ocean, with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, a peaceful place where you could sit and watch the waves crash, or get your morning exercise running through a scenic landscape while birds sing and flowers bloom.” Not bad for a two-mile hike that takes roughly one hour!

The Batteries to Bluffs trail runs along the rocky coast near the Bay, so you can always expect breathtaking views of the ocean. Although the trail is well-manicured and relatively easy, there are quite a few stairs, so be prepared to climb! There are also very few trees, so make sure to wear sunscreen if hiking on a sunny day (but don’t worry too much about the heat: the ocean breeze does an excellent job of cooling hikers down on hot days).

This little video on YouTube, made by a local hiker, shows some great footage of the trail.

Briones Regional Park

The rolling hills of beautiful Briones are surrounded by towns . . . but you’d never know from its secluded landscape! Photo from Briones Regional Park Facebook page.

Briones is a hidden nature park surrounded by the Contra Costa County towns of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and Martinez . . . but from many points in the park, you would never know: there is nothing but unspoiled land for miles. The hike offers beautiful rolling rolls covered in soft grass and flowers, and from the Briones Peak, the highest point in the park, there are breathtaking views of the area. Because the area is so secluded, wildlife such as foxes and deer are common sights. After spring rains, the wildflowers add a splash of color to the green landscape.

In addition to its hiking trails, Briones has an archery course, Briones Arches, which is accessible from the Crescent Ridge Trail. For more information, visit the Briones Archers website.

Coyote Hills Regional Park: Bayview Trail

Coyote Hills
A view of the marshlands of Coyote Hills. Photo from Wikipedia.

Coyote Hills Regional Park consists of marshlands that are home to much local wildlife–making it a popular hike for birdwatchers and animal lovers–while the flat trails make the park a favorite for bicyclists and joggers. A well-manicured picnic area makes for a perfect stop on your trip: the area has access to picnic tables, water, and barbecues. Campers can enjoy overnight excursions as well.

Those looking to learn more about the area wildlife can check out the Nectar Garden, a butterfly and flower garden located next to the visitor center, and get a free tour from a knowledgeable staff member. Guests can also check out the Coyote Hills Visitor Center, which has several exhibits on local wildlife, or check out the Tuibun Ohlone Village Site that is dedicated to the Ohlone people who once lived here. During a tour, visitors can tour an Ohlone-style family house and see the way of life for the Ohlone people. (Tours are by reservation only: call the visitor center at (510) 544-3220 for information.)


Crissy Field

Crissy Field
The Crissy Field hike takes you through an old airfield. Several historic sites are along the route, along with shops and cafes.

Called “San Francisco’s Best Urban Hike,” this beautiful walk offers views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge while strolling through neighborhoods and nature. Throughout the walk, hikers encounter small shops, cafes, a visitor center and locals fishing, swimming, or enjoying the view. The path is well-marked and well-traveled, making it an easy route.

Land’s End

Nearly every view from Land’s End hike is stunning!

Located in the northwestern corner of San Francisco, Land’s End passes through hills full of cypress and wildflowers. It has views of old shipwrecks, access to the famous ruins of Sutro Baths (at one time the largest bath house in the world) and small beaches. Recently, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservacy added a new Lookout Visitor Center with a great ocean view.

Make sure to check out the labyrinth located at Eagles Point, at the end of the Coastal Trail. The labyrinth was constructed by local artist Eduardo Aguilera and is a great place to stop and take a photo.

The Land’s End Labyrinth was constructed by a local artist. Standing on it, you have a great view of the Bay.

Panoramic Hill-Chaparral Peak-Strawberry Canyon Loop 

Panoramic Hill
Photo from TripAdvisor.

With words like “hill” and “peak” in the title of this trail, it is no surprise that this 6.7 mile trail near Berkeley is quite the workout! Yet there are many rewards to breaking a sweat, including the opportunity to hike through eucalyptus and pine forests and view the Bay, Oakland, and San Francisco from high above sea level. Locals suggest taking this hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon because the view of the Bay with the coastal fog rolling in is breathtaking and serene.

Hiking boots are suggested on this trail because there are several parts with a lot of loose gravel. In addition, local hiking sites note that the trail is not incredibly well-marked, so keep your cell phone with a GPS handy, or print out this guide from

Happy hiking to our CISL San Francisco students! If you go on one of the these hikes (or any of the many others that the Bay Area has to offer) make sure to post a pic to our Facebook page!

To celebrate hiking in San Francisco, we are offering several phrasal verbs with “walk.” How many of these do you know?

Phrasal Verbs with “Walk”

Walk away

Definition: to leave an unpleasant situation.

Example: I won’t fight with you. I’m going to just walk away


Walk in on someone

Definition: to interrupt someone when they are doing something they don’t want you to see.

Example: I walked in on my roommate eating my chocolate! We laughed about it. 


Walk in to something 

Definition: to obtain something easily.

Example: He just walked in to his job. He’s so lucky. 


Walk something off

Definition: to go for a walk in order to stop focusing on something unpleasant.

Example: That was a huge meal. I’m so full! Let’s go walk it off

Example: After I got hit by the baseball, I walked it off