It’s well known that San Francisco offers gorgeous views, delicious food, and an exciting nightlife. That’s all most tourists experience, and that’s really too bad because there’s so much more to explore and see just outside of the city.
Natives to the area, we’ve explored the city and beyond countless times. Here are a few of our favorite spots from our most recent trip to the Bay area.
340 Sea Cliff Ave
San Francisco, CA 94121
Plan Your Visit
Small, secluded and boasting gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, China Beach is awesome. It’s surrounded by rock walls and has really cool tide pools when the tide is out. (Note: always check the tide report before you go to the beach). We suggest arriving before noon and hanging out for a few hours to capture the sun before the fog rolls in.
As with all beaches along the North Coast it can be chilly year round so make sure and bring a warm sweater or jacket. My personal favorite is the KÜHL LEA Pullover; it’s lightweight and incredibly warm. Axle prefers the KÜHL SKAR 1/4 zip. Like most KÜHL clothing, you can wear it on the trail, turn around, head to dinner and still look good.
1504 Pershing Dr
San Francisco, CA 94129
Plan Your Visit
Baker Beach is just north of China Beach. About a mile in length, it’s much larger than China Beach and has views of celebrity homes on the cliff side and the Golden Gate Bridge. This beach is more populated with photographers, fishermen and the occasional seal popping up. Parking can get very congested in the area, but park in lots along the roadway for a short walk to the beach. Regardless of parking, this beach is perfect for a picnic lunch.
Note for families: If you venture too far north, you will notice people wearing less and less clothing despite the cool conditions. Avoid the North side if you’re bringing little ones.
Viewpoint for Golden Gate Bridge (North Side)
San Francisco, CA
Plan Your Visit
This is by far the best place we found to capture images of the entire city, Alcatraz, full-length views of the Golden Gate, WWII history and the Bonita Point Lighthouse. As you cross the bridge traveling north, take the Alexander exit and then left to the viewpoints. You will begin traveling up a windy road with many others. Warning: on a sunny day expect traffic delays and difficult parking conditions.
This location will not disappoint you, even on a foggy day. We found it difficult to focus on driving because the views are just that spectacular! Follow the road all the way to the top past the round about, park, and hike a little ways to the top of the hill.
Get ready to feel awestruck as you take in raptors such as bald eagles and golden eagles, whales swimming around the bay, and large ships passing under the Golden Gate. Experience silence in nature while viewing an incredibly busy city below. You’ll almost feel like you’re looking at a picture rather than standing before it all.
Muir Woods/Muir Beach
1 Muir Woods Rd
Mill Valley, CA
Plan Your Visit
Only 12 miles north of the city, Muir Woods is one of the area’s best nature spots. It is part of California’s Golden Gate National Recreation area and has more than 16 miles of park trails. Just north of San Francisco on Hwy 101, you will drive through Mill Valley, a cute little town to visit. Once you reach Muir Woods, find parking along the roadway and walk to the entrance.
Muir Woods is a very popular tourist spot, but don’t let that deter you! Take one of the many trails to escape the crowds. The park offers a gift shop, café, and wheelchair accessible ramps. There’s a small entry fee if you want to go directly into the main section of the park, or you can opt to take other trails like the Muir Beach or DipSea trail.
We traveled down the Muir Beach trail for views of the surrounding hills, interesting plants, and the occasional deer. The trail is easy, but it quickly heats up in the afternoon. Before arriving at the beach, you will pass the Pelican Inn. Stop in to experience an old style pub with delicious food and refreshing drinks. We had the English Dip Sandwich and a pint of Blackthorn Dry Cider. Ask for the daily special, and you can’t go wrong. Although busy, the beach is beautiful and a great spot to relax after your hike.
If you’re limited on time and not up for a long hike, follow the paved and wooden path from the entrance along Redwood Creek to Cathedral and Bohemian Groves. You will find plenty of places to sit down, recharge and take in breathtaking views of the gentle giants.
Our favorite place to sit is right in the middle on the big square bench (you’ll know it when you see it). Lay on your back and look straight up to get a feel for how big these trees truly are. This little hike should only take you about 30 minutes and is well worth the effort.
Axle and Royce began their adventures together in Spring 2017. After serving in the Air Force, Axle found his passion in photography. Royce is an athlete, an outdoor adventurist and a photographer. They’ve combined forces to inspire others to get outside. Living in Northern California, they’re lucky to be in close proximity to mountains, desert and beach. There’s no shortage of adventure where they live, and there’s no destination they won’t explore. Follow their adventures on Instagram @axleethington and @casunshine0508