I have been meaning to write up all the trips I take and post pictures, but I am not consistent. Maybe I will get it together in 2004. Nope. Maybe if I blog my trips 2005 will be more complete? Nope. I guess I am hopeless.
There are a number of websites which document hikes in the SF/bay area. The best online journals I have found are Bay Area Hiker and Kevin's Hiking Page. Bay Area Backcountry, Ridgetrail, and Midpeninsula Open Space provide valuable references to a number of destinations in the area. The book Camping and Backpacking the San Francisco Bay Area by Matt Heid provides good coverage of bay area camping. The books Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book and Peninsula Trails will provide you will a long list of hiking destinations. If you don't mind the cost, Trails.COM has a good database of full trail descriptions. JDMCOX Software makes it easy to create maps from the Microsoft Terraserver and Google Earth is pretty cool. Views from various peaks at heywhatsthat. You can do "flybys" using Google Earth or use a nice integration of USGS, MSN Live, and flight simulator. There is also the amazingly detailed aster gdem data.
I will never tire of going to the Sierras. This is my favorite destination and the place I will most likely take my next hike :-)
Good Intro Backpacking and/or Good Destinations for Kids
Recommended Trips (with a California Bias)
Most of the trip descriptions below were written up for group trips I was leading.
John Muir Trail . 222 miles of the prettiest country known to man which also happens to be graced by some of the mildest weather of any mountain range. If you can only do a section, doing South Lake to North Lake can be a really nice loop.
Yosemite National Park: The valley is over-crowded with people and traffic, but you can hardly blame them. The valley is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. If you want to get away from people I would recommend backpacking from any of the trailheads which are not connected to the valley floor, or Tuolumne Meadows to a lesser extent. Jeffrey Schaffer's 100 Yosemite Hikes is the best guide I have found. There is a Yosemite NPS web site. Hikes out of Tuolumne Meadows can be very peaceful after Memorial Day because the crowds are gone. Some pictures taken by Paige on a mellow NCH trip to Youngs Lake. Nice images at extreme resolution: yosemite. The LA Times did a nice Yosemite Guide.
Redwood National Park & Associated State Parks. Simply beautiful. The ocean side of the hills are cool, windy, and mostly fogged in during the summer. Inland just a bit over the hills and you can actually see the sun.
Lillian Lake Loop, Sierra National Forest. 13 mile loop through pretty country. A great way to introduce people to the Sierras. Not nearly as crowded as Yosemite. Good small lake fishing. In the summer some of the lakes are quite warm because they are pretty shallow, perfect for swimming.
Lost Coast , King's Range. One way it's 23 miles, or you can make it in a loose loop by taking the crest trail. Known for rain, wind, and fog, this area can also have wonderful weather. Very pretty with nice views. When it's not cloudily, great night time sky.
Sykes Camp, Ventana Wilderness. A nice walk (10 miles, 3000 ft climb along with a 2000 ft descent ), beautiful and rugged country, mild weather, and a hot springs at the end. What more could you ask for? How's about a stream filled with young trout?
Pt. Reyes : Close in to the bay area. Great place to introduce people to backpacking, with it's short to moderate length hikes. This place is especially great for introductory trips for kids because there are good beaches to play on, tide-pools to explore, and sea mammals to see. Booked during the summer: make reservations three months in advance.
Skyline to the Sea: Maybe the best known trail in the bay area. If you are looking for solitude, this isn't the trail to take. The top section is close to roads and you go right through Big Basin, one of the most used state parks in the area. On the other hand there are some good views and it can be a fun trail to hike.
Henry Coe State Park: Just 1 hour from the mid peninsula... a surprising large park. The 2.4 mile "forest trail" has 28 markers highlighting interesting features of the trail which is perfect for small children . For more serious backpacker there are a number of trails with a lot of elevation change which will give you a good work out. Great in early to mid - spring. Very hot and dusty during the summer which so/so water supplies .
Samuel P. Taylor SP. Nice redwoods reasonably close to the bay area.
Pinnacles National Monument: Very pretty in the early spring. Very hot and dry in mid summer.
Big Basin State Park: Unofficial Big Basin State Park
Henry Cowell State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains: A great place for low-key car camping trip with friends and family . You can walk down to the San Lorenzo River via the pretty Eagle Creek Trail and wading in the water.
Black Mountain, in Santa Cruz Mountains: 4.5 miles up with approx 2500ft gain. The first mile is somewhat steep. A good place to train for climbing hills in the sun. If you continue on just a bit you come to the backpacker camp which is a nice little space. I saw a pair of foxes playing in the grass. I have only once seen the campsites in use.
Other Recommended Destinations (mostly from my distant past)
I did a lot of climbing and backpacking in the 70's through the mid 80's. My favorite destinations were the Bighorn National Forest, Glacier National Park, Grand Teton National Park (especially Teton Crest Trail) , Rocky Mountain National Park, Pacific Crest Trail from Kennedy north, Red River Gorge in Kentucky, Bartram Trail in North Carolina, and sections of the Appalachian trail (though I would have liked less rain in the Blue Ridge Mountains).