Monday, September 13, 2010

6 Best Fall Hikes in the Bay Area

This week a reader wrote in to ask for suggestions for a south bay hike which got me thinking - what are my favorite fall hikes in general? Winter and Spring are my favorite months hiking in the Bay Area, and summer has its charms but I often forget about the fall. The colors are generally unremarkable, the weather still probably a bit hot, the creeks dry, waterfalls slow to a trickle, and there are no fabulous displays of wildflowers.

But there is also a lot to like about the fall. The fall is all about the subtle qualities that warm your heart, the occasional cool breeze, rustling through the dry fall leaves, which reminds us of the approach of winter, the changing light which filters in more gently in the mid afternoon and the long shadows which bring out the texture of the rocks and trees. And of course the fall colors, subtle as they may be here are often enough. If you think I missed something be sure to let me know at

Early Fall: September & October

Heat is still a factor, as is the summer fog, the first touches of color are sinking into the trees though, and the days are long enough for extended hikes.

1. Fall Creek Unit (Henry Cowell SP): Lime Kiln Loop

In the fall the redwoods of the Fall Creek unit practically glow. the light of september & October bring out a special quality in the redwood forest. The park's west-facing topography keeps the it bright late into the day. Somehow even the creeks maintain their spring flows well into October just before the rains start coming around again.

2. Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge

The fall does not just bring scores of leaves fluttering through the air, but birds as well. The annual migration of birds can be most easily seen in the bay estuary of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge near Elviso. Hiking and Kayaking are both possiable, and popular methods of exploring the tidelands of the bay.

3. Samuel P. Taylor State Park

Up Sir Francis Drake Blvd between Fairfax and Point Reyes sits miles of rolling marin foothills and redwood canyons. On a warm fall day the cavernous redwood groves offer perfect shelter for an afternoon stroll while later in the season the colors of the parks foothills begin to show.

Late Fall: October & November

4.Castle Rock State Park: Castle Rock Falls Loop

A favorite hike in all seasons, the fall brings colors to the park. The falls may be all but dry but a walk through the forest should keep you thirsty for more hiking. The crest of the trail, near goat rock is perhaps the best location to enjoy the fall scenery while spotting predatory birds from the overlook.

5.Quicksilver County Park: Mockingbird to Bull Run

Don't sleep on the fall in quicksilver, broad leafed trees light up with the colors of fall, and the cooler temperatures allow access back into a park which boils in the summer.

6.Point Reyes: Kehoe Beach & Tomales Point

Between the summer fog and winter & spring rains is a golden period in point reyes when the light seems to hit everything just right, including the tule elk. Fall offers a great chance to photograph the Point Reyes coast or take hikes not totally mired in a marine layer, or battered by oncoming storms.

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