Sometimes you go on a hike because you have friends or family in town. Sometimes you need some exercise for you or the dog after a long work week. And then there are those days when you just want to to get away from it all and take a walk somewhere peaceful. Here’s a list of those hikes — the ones where you can avoid the crowds, not be too challenged, and just find a peaceful spot to sit and relax.
Perimeter Road Trail at Angel Island
The paved 5-mile trail that loops around the outskirts of Angel Island is perfect for getting inside your head. You’ll begin your trip with the scenic ferry ride out to the island — try to sit at the bow of the boat to get the best views of Alktraz, Treasure Island, Oakland and the skyline on your way. Once on the trail, you’ll have 360-degree views of the bay, enjoying a new viewpoint about every half mile.
To think deeper… Reserve a campsite and plan to spend the night. There’s nothing better than a night in the great outdoors to get your brain running wild. Note: Angel Island campsites book out months in advance. To avoid the hassle of the trying to book one at 9am on the day they open, just ask your Scout to grab one for you.
Mitchell Canyon-Eagle Peak Loop at Mount Diablo
Winding it’s way through oak, chaparral and sagebrush, the Mitchell Canyon loop is a tough 7.8 mile hike on the Bay’s most foreboding peak. If you do your best thinking under difficult circumstances, this is the hike for you. The Mitchell Canyon trail is far from the more developed parts of the park, so your hike up to the East Bay’s tallest point will be “peaceful and lonely,” perfect for getting lost in your thoughts. You’ll want to avoid this trail in the summer months though, as temperatures can climb into the 100s.
To think deeper… Stay until nightfall and bring a telescope for spectacular star-gazing on a clear night. You definitely won’t see stars like this in the city. Ask your Scout for the best spot to set up your telescope.
One of our favorite short hikes in the Bay Area, this one mile loop is a great place to watch the city from the outside. The trail is surprisingly (and thankfully) unused for a short hike so close to the city, so you’re likely to have the views of the bridge and the skyline all to yourself. Bring a jacket for the autumn winds, and a bottle of wine for the contemplation…
To think deeper… Do this hike when the fog rolls in. With the bridge and all that’s below you cloaked in fog, you’ll feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Mile Rock Beach
Even though this hike is just off Land’s End’s Coastal Trail, the 112 steps it takes to get down to the beach tends to keep the masses away. Your near-solitude and the sound of the waves crashing against the beach will make for a lovely evening of just you and your thoughts.
To think deeper… Head up to Mile Rock Lookout and walk the path of the labyrinth there. We find that tracing the rock pattern formation is rather soothing, so we’re grateful for this wonderful woman who recently restored the rocks after the labyrinth was vandalized and all the rocks removed.
This 2.8 mile hike will lead you to a lovely little lake surrounded by lush green trees. Our favorite feature is the rope swing on a nearby tree that lets you swing right into the water. The walk itself is also spectacular, and you may be able to spot whales, seals and seabirds along the way. If you keep walking the Coastal Trail past the lake, you’ll reach the beautiful Alamere Falls. There won’t be much water there now with the drought, but the beauty and serenity of the area is breathtaking nonetheless.
To think deeper… Plan to swim when you get to the lake. It’s traditionally been a nudist swimming hole, so if getting closer to nature and stripping down to your natural state helps your mind wander, then take a dip in your birthday suit!