Best Bay Area Hill Climbs

If you are looking for some E (elevation) in the Bay Area, this post provides a great list of hill climbs, including famous mountains like Diablo and Tamalpais, but also lesser known trails and summits. These ascents will not only get your heart pumping, but will also inspire you with the beauty of nature. The high point is provided in parenthesis.

  • Steep Ravine/Dipsea Mount Tamalpais State Park (1,500 ft): Aptly named, this magical trail on the flanks of Mount Tamalapais traverses through a redwood filled ravine complete with a rushing stream and even a ladder! When this trail is combined with the lower portion of the Dipsea Trail it climbs from Stinson Beach to Pantoll in 3 miles.
  • Black MountainRancho San Antonio Open Space (2,800 ft): Fantastic views of the Silicon Valley are the highlight of this climb with an exhilarating last 1.5 miles to the summit where over 1,000 feet of elevation is grinded out.
Black Mountain Trail, photo courtesy Gary Gellin

Black Mountain Trail, photo courtesy Gary Gellin

  • Mission Peak Mission Peak Regional Park (2,517 ft): Lots of steep up, with ~2,100 ft over 3 miles. Great views can be seen while ascending the aesthetic summit ridge.
  • Kings Mountain via Richards RoadHuddart County Park (2,000 ft): A great climb to gauge hill climbing fitness. From the rock at East Meadow to Skyline Blvd under redwoods; ~1,700 feet of gain over 2.9 miles, virtually all of it coming in the last 2 miles.
  • Kings Mountain via Lonely Trail Phleger Estate (2,000 ft): 4.1 miles from the entrance into Phleger Estate to Skyline Blvd on great single track amongst redwoods and streams with a steep finish.
  • North Peak (Montara Mountain)San Pedro Valley County Park & McNee Ranch (1,898 ft): Gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and pristine coastal scrub is everpresent on this 1,800+ foot climb in 3.5 miles.
  • Rose PeakOhlone Wilderness (3,817 ft): One of the Bay Area big boys, Rose Peak is an arduous 10 mile climb either from Sunol or from Lake Del Valle. A roundtrip will have you running nearly 20 miles with over 5,000 feet of gain either way you go.

Eight more great hill climbs after the jump!

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2009 Adventure Run Ideas – WA

The Southern Picket Fence - August 5, 2008

The Southern Picket "Fence" - August 5, 2008

A selection of adventure run possibilities for 2009 and beyond in Washington State.


  • Ptarmigan Traverse: Tough to pass on this one.
  • Mount Olympus: Shoot to lower my FKT from 2007.
  • Lyman Lakes/Napeequa Valley: An area of astounding beauty covered thoroughly in a 50 mile loop.
  • Mount Shuksan: An iconic mountain that has yet to see speed activity. The Sulphide Glacier would be a quick route.
  • Isolation Traverse: The middle section is an enigma with sparse and conflicting info.
  • Cathedral Peak: Long trail run to reach this extremely scenic area of the Pasayten Wilderness.

2009 Adventure Run Ideas – CA

Merriam Peak from Royce Lake - July 21, 2007

Merriam Peak from Royce Lake - July 21, 2007

A selection of adventure run possibilities for 2009 and beyond in California’s Sierra Mountains. New for this year is a section for the Northern California Coastal Ranges, which features an appealing mixture of old growth redwoods, rugged coastline, and snowcapped mountains.


  • Middle Palisade: This peak lends itself to the fastest time of the Palisade group with a shorter approach and sustained scramble.
  • Mount Sill: Known as the best viewpoint in the Palisades and an interesting route.
  • North Palisade: The highest point in the Palisades subrange has a more technical finish.
  • Clyde Minaret: The Minarets are gorgeous and this is a cool scramble.
  • Mount Stanford: Named after my alma mater – a sweet mountain in the midst of a very rugged section of the Sierra.
  • Arrow Peak via Bench Lake: Famous view of this symmetrical peak from Bench Lake.
  • Mineral King Area: Tons of great scrambles here.
  • South Guard/North Guard/Mount Brewer: Wild and remote; access from Kings Canyon on the westside.
  • Mount Whitney: The Mountaineers Route is a classic.
  • Mount Russell: Sweet scrambling routes on this mountain next to Whitney.
  • Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne: A point-to-point 33 mile trail run through a spectacular canyon.
  • University Peak: A cool looking mountain out of Onion Valley.

See Coastal Ranges after the jump.

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Best Peninsula Single Tracks

Here is a list of my twelve favorite single track trails on the SF Peninsula. The list is generally organized by location from north to south, but they are all located in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a relatively small area that is rich in protected public lands. I can assure you that each one of these is a trail running treat!

Note: mileage listed in parenthesis is the length of the trail, not including mileage required to get to the trail or get back as part of a complete run.

  • Soda Gulch Trail Purisima Creek OSP: One section in meadows and chaparral with views to Half Moon Bay; another section in lush redwood forest with cascading streams (2.6 miles).
  • Chinquapin TrailHuddart Park: A fast descent trail with a cushy coating of leaves and redwood needles (1.6 miles).
  • Skyline Trail Huddart to Wunderlich: This awesome trail is under a thick canopy of Douglas fir and redwoods as it traverses the hillside below Skyline Blvd. – it has a great surface and elevation profile to find a nice rhythm (5.7 miles).
  • Razorback Ridge and Lost TrailWindy Hill OSP: Numerous switchbacks up a ridge under a thick canopy of oak trees leads to a meandering section along the ridge with ancient Douglas firs lining the path and finally views of the entire Bay Area (3.8 miles).
  • Toyon Trail Portola Valley Ranch: Super narrow and fast from top to bottom, watch the sharp turns (2 miles).
  • Los Trancos TrailFoothills Park: Get a great workout on the steep hillclimb along Los Trancos Creek, but also enjoy the lush fern forest along the cascading stream and great views from the high point (7.5 miles).
  • Table Mountain Trail Upper Stevens Creek: A good hill climb in thick fir and hardwood forest give this trail a real wilderness feeling (3.5 miles)
  • Brook LoopPescadero Park: Super views of the Pescadero watershed along with great mileage in redwood and fir forest (5.7 miles).
  • Achistaca Trail Long Ridge OSP: Beautiful forest, meadows, and gorgeous views to the Pacific Ocean (1.7 miles).
  • Ridge TrailCastle Rock SP: Sweeping views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and a magical madrone forest make this trail a delight (1.5 miles)
  • Canyon TrailButano SP: Extremely narrow trail and steep relief off the side characterize this technical trail which traverses in and out of redwood-filled gullies (2.75 miles).
  • Skyline to the Sea Trail and Berry Creek Falls Big Basin SP (from HQ to Berry Creek Falls): Huge redwoods and spectacular waterfalls, including Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls, and Golden Cascade  (5.5 miles).

My List of World Famous Hikes

Here is collection of twelve world famous treks outside the United States that I would like to do at some point. Most of them are in the most rugged, mountainous areas on the planet – I like mountains! These trips would be more relaxed, but I imagine they would still be (much) lighter and faster than standard itineraries. As far as the combination of outrageous scenery, ease of travel, and budget, South America is the winner right now and will likely be my focus in the coming years. For trails on the West Coast of the United States, including the John Muir Trail (340 km) and Wonderland Trail (150 km), check out this blog post.

  • Huayhuash Circuit, Peru (140 km): Amazing loop around the Cordillera Huayhuash Peaks in the Peruvian Andes.
  • Ausangate Circuit, Peru (70 km): A super high altitude hike circling the Ausangate Massif (6,372 m).
  • Paine Circuit, Chile (100 km): A loop around the Paine Massif in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.
  • Fitz Roy, Argentina (38 km): Very photogenic spires as long as the weather cooperates! This is usually combined with the Paine Circuit and the loop seems like it would be a good adventure run.
  • Annapurna Circuit, Nepal (~300 km): Majestic region of the mighty Himalayas.
  • Everest Base Camp, Nepal (92 km): I think I would be too tempted to actually climb Everest, or at least something nearby.
  • K2 Base Camp, Pakistan: The peaks and glaciers in this area look like they are out of control! Unfortunately, the political situation is similar.
  • Haute Route, Alps (180 km): From Chamonix Valley to Zermatt. Either the dollar gets stronger or I will need a lot of dollars for this one!
  • Tour du Mont Blanc, Alps (163 km): There is an ultra race of this route that would be super fun, but it would also be nice to take 3-4 days to do this hike.
  • Milford Track, New Zealand (57 km): A short one that ends at the iconic Milford Sound. This would be a good one-day adventure run.
  • West Coast Trail, British Columbia (75 km): Pristine wilderness coastline and so close to Washington State where I grew up.
  • Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (55 km): Hopefully I’ll make it here before the last cube of ice melts away from the summit plateau.

Cool Ultra Trails

Here are some sweet ultra trails in wilderness settings in California and Washington State. If I am going to be running as far and long as these trails, the scenery better be spectacular and this list delivers! I don’t think I am ready to run the longer trails on this list, but maybe sometime in the future.

  • Wonderland Trail (93 miles): Encircles 14,410 foot Mount Rainier, entailing forest, meadows, alpine lakes, and spectacular views of glacier-clad Rainier.
  • Stevens to Snoqualmie (75 miles): Along the Pacific Crest Trail from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass traveling through the heart of Alpine Lakes Wilderness with some of the best mountain scenery in the United States.
  • John Muir Trail (211 miles): A point-to-point trail from the summit of Mount Whitney to Yosemite Valley covering the most wild and rugged section of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
  • Tahoe Rim Trail (165 miles): Running a complete loop around Lake Tahoe just sounds sweet.
  • High Sierra Trail (72.2 miles): Passing some of the most gorgeous scenery in Sequoia National Park, this point-to-point route goes from Crescent Meadow (West) to it’s official end at the John Muir Trail at Wallace Creek (East) 49 miles from the start. The trip would continue over the Sierra Crest and down to Whitney Portal for an additional 23 miles, hence 72 miles total.
  • Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne (33 miles): Following the Tuolumne River through a spectacular canyon almost to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, this point-to-point starts at the wonderful Tuolumne meadows and concludes at White Wolf Campground.
  • Skyline-to-the-Sea (29.5 miles): From Saratoga Gap at the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, traveling through Castle Rock State Park and the gorgeous redwoods at Big Basin State Park.
  • Rae Lakes Loop (46 miles): From Road’s End in Kings Canyon up to a string of gorgeous lakes in the High Sierra.