Discover Cool Summer Places

Due to late rains and cool temps, summer is shaping up to be great out on the Ridge Trail. The weather can't seem to decide what season it is, the hills are still tinted with green, the creeks are continuing to flow, and flowers haven't yet stopped blooming.

The Bay Area Ridge Trail guidebook, written by Jean Rusmore and published by Wilderness Press, describes all the trail segments, including great summer spots on the trail. Here is a sampling of scenic "cool" places to visit this summer. 

Click on the name to see the trail map and details (opens in a new window).  Pages listed are for the 3rd edition guidebook.

Skip to our Staff Picks: Staff Pick 1, Staff Pick 2

North Bay


Enjoy this cool place, and kick off the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. You live in the Bay Area, but how often do you actually walk/ride over our famous bridge?  As part of the Ridge Trail, take advantage of a hot summer day and enjoy the breezes blowing through the Golden Gate, or enjoy the shrouded mystery of the fog while venturing across the span. Traveling the Bridge in both directions offers a myriad of views or make it a one-way trip with public transit - Transit & Trails can help get you there or back by bus or ferry.  Guidebook pp 21-24


Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve: A cool hike that "follows Hood Creek through forests and meadows, passes several ponds, and climbs to the top of Hood Mountain."  Enjoy the views from Gunsight Rock.  Guidebook pp 83-85


Skyline Wilderness Park: Yes, we recommended this hike for spring wildflowers, but it's great in summer as the "trail ambles through oak forests and high grasslands to views of North Bay marshes and mountains and then continues beside a perennial stream."  Sounds like a cool place to escape the wine country heat. Guidebook pp 95-97

East Bay

East Bay in the summer - it's a little warmer than other places around the Bay.  Enjoy the Ridge Trail at one of the East Bay cool places, including out staff pick.

Solano and Contra Costa

Enjoy the Ridge Trail from above the water over the Carquinez Strait by crossing either the Al Zampa Memorial Bridge or Benicia-Martinez Bridge - both are dedicated Ridge Trail - and cool places.  After the round-trip on the Al Zampa, enjoy a cold one at the Dead Fish - make sure to sit outside on the veranda overlooking the Strait.  In Martinez, browse the city streets for a cool lunch spot.  Guidebook pp 121-122 for Al Zampa; Benicia-Martinez Bridge was dedicated in 2009 and is not in the guidebook - click this link for the most up-to-date map, or see page 124 for the map that connects Martinez city streets to the bridge.

Alameda - STAFF PICK!

Combine two hikes, cool off at two great swimming holes, and discover one of the newest parts of the Ridge Trail!

Abridge the first hike by starting from the END of the EBMUD to Independent School section.  Hike north through Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area, following Cull Creek only until the switchbacks lead up and away from the creek.  Turn around and come back to the Swim Lagoon for a cool off before hiking back to your starting location - but don't leave yet!

Continue south on the Independent School to Five Canyons section.  We definitely recommend hiking from Independent School as it affords you the opportunity to cross three bridges over San Lorenzo Creek, which should still have decent flow this year, plus it's well shaded. Continue on to Five Canyons and venture further than the map in the guidebook tells you.  Last fall we dedicated 2.6 miles of new Ridge Trail in North Garin Regional Park, extending the trail south of Five Canyons. There's a deep shaded canyon to help cool you off as you explore this recently opened East Bay Park.  Oh, and FYI, this hike is the ONLY way into North Garin Regional Park - you can't drive there.  On the way back, stop off at Don Casto Regional Recreation Area for another swim (before crossing the bridges).  The map online is the most up-to-date.  Guidebook pp 160-167

Round-trip mileage:
Independent School north to switchbacks in Cull Canyon: ~3 miles.
Independent School south to the border of Five Canyons and North Garin: 5.4 miles

North Garin: 5.2 miles
To do all of the described is approaching 14 miles, perfect for a long summer day - especially with the swim breaks.  Break it up into two hikes if you prefer or skip the section between Independent School and Don Castro, eliminating 1.4 miles.

South Bay

Santa Clara

Escape the valley floor - it's a lot cooler 3000 feet up!  The Ridge Trail through Sanborn County Park and Castle Rock State Park takes you "through forests of Douglas fir, oak, and madrone."  This classic stretch of Ridge Trail provides views of the Monterey Peninsula and the Santa Clara Valley to Mt. Hamilton and Mission Peak.  It is "ideal for warm days, entirely in shade." Guidebook pp 211-215


San Mateo

Windy Hill Open Space Preserve: Windy Hill is a Peninsula landmark offering fantastic views.  "On a day true to its name, the 1917-foot summit can be a challenge to steady footing, yet a delight for kite flyers and model-glider enthusiasts."  Very cool - and don't worry, you don't have to gain ALL that elevation, only about 250 feet.  Guidebook pp 227-230

San Francisco - STAFF PICK!

Fort Funston to Stern Grove: At Fort Funston "watch hang gliders soar on ocean breezes...Sunsets over the ocean are particularly dramatic from the hang glider viewing deck."  Begin hiking/riding on "foggy, bluff-top dunes," pass by freshwater lakes and grand landscaped boulevards, end at Stern Grove - and on Sundays, enjoy free concerts.  We think this section of Ridge Trail just might be the coolest.  Guidebook pp 256-260

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