6 best outdoor activities in the Bay Area

Saturday, September 24, 2016 Sightseeing and Landmarks by Anna Sobczak

Silicon Valley is a byword for technology and progress. What is not so obvious is the fact that it is so close to nature. So when the fast pace of living saps away all vital juices of San Francisco Bay Area residents, all they need to do, is to veer off 101 and direct themselves towards the mountains. There, they plunge into the abundance of wildlife and outdoor activities the area has to offer.

outdoor activities in the Bay Area

Hiking in Sunol Regional Wilderness

Sunol Regional Wilderness hides among the knolls of East Bay. In the past, it used to be a range area only. Now, it has transformed into a recreational spot, where you can camp, hike, take a horseback ride, or go picnicking.
The abundance of wildlife makes your head dizzy. Flocks of red-head hawks dominate the skyline, acorn woodpecker knocks on a tree; squirrels hop on the trails, and blue jays peek at the visitors. Early in the morning, a symphony of birdsong floods the valley. If you want to experience all that first-hand, take binoculars with you!

Hiking trails vary from easy to moderate. During a hot, summer day it’s worthwhile to a short hike called Little Yosemite. It leads along the gorge of Alameda Creek towards the waterfall, where you can dip your toes in the icy water and rest for a while.

Kayaking along Russian River

Just a two-hour drive north of San Francisco you can find a serenity haven. You can forget about the world in the small village of Jenner, thrust in-between wavy hills, roaring ocean, and calm river. There’s almost no reception, so if you need a break from work, there you go! Rent a kayak and row along the Russian River until it meets the ocean.

Seals often bask at the mouth of the river, so remember to keep your distance. Nobody wants to disturb their peace. Up the river, you can often encounter free-ranging flocks of cows. Grazing by the banks, they will look at you with curiosity.

When you’re done with kayaking, take a rest in one of the lovely restaurants, or stay for a night in one of the lodges in Jenner.

Surfing and paddle boarding in Santa Cruz or Capitola

It is the most classic of all outdoor activities in the Bay Area. California equals to sunny weather, palms lined along boulevard and surfing. If you want to make your California dream come true, go to Santa Cruz. There you could feel the real laidback atmosphere of a seaside city. Rent a surfboard or a paddle board and surf the waves! Maybe the dolphins or sea otters will become your comrades in water fun? Bask in the mild sun rays and enjoy the moment.

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Santa Cruz is perfect for those, who are already experienced. For beginners, it’s best to head toward Capitola (just 10-minute drive from Santa Cruz), where the beach and waves are less demanding.

Horseback riding in Half Moon Bay

Imagine riding a horse when the sun sinks in the horizon accompanied by crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. A breeze tickles your face; your hair got a little unkempt from the wind. With no aim, you ride ahead, just for the sake of riding. If you want to experience it, you can take part in horseback riding tours in Half Moon Bay. You could ride along the beach and the shore. Plus you don’t have to be experienced to participate!

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Biking along San Francisco Bay Trail

This multi-use trail runs along the marshlands of the Bay. It is 500 miles long and encircles the whole Bay. Take a walk there or bike along the paved route. The area teems with wildlife and is renowned for its 280 species of birds, a countless number of mammals, including endangered species, reptiles, fish. Find the list of the animals here.

The trail connects the inhabitants of the Bay with parks, regional open spaces and schools. It’s accessible from every city in the Bay. Within a stone’s throw from your place, you can find peace and magnitude of flora and fauna.

Whale watching in Monterey

Although not in the Bay Area, Monterey is about an hour and a half drive south from Silicon Valley. It is a tourist venue, but its charming streets make it up to you. If you are into marine life, you have two main options here: Monterey Aquarium or a whale watching cruise with one of the operators.

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When you decide to go whale watching, book your tickets in advance and always confirm if it takes place (sea conditions may change). Remember to take binoculars and set off on an unusual encounter with the biggest creatures on earth!

Off the shores of Monterey, whales migrate from the north to the south and reverse. If you’re lucky, you can meet killer whales, grey whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and more. Biologists, who explain the intricacies of marine life, run the cruises. Depending on the season, you will run across selected species.

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The Bay Area balances technological development with raw nature. It’s surprising how one can exist so close to another. Maybe this is the reason why California pushes the world’s progress?