After packing in the turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving, the urge to walk off some of that excess weight is no doubt high. Combine that with a long weekend off, and you can leisurely choose from any number of lovely fall hikes in the Bay Area. For me, this particular weekend calls for something pleasant, accessible, and not too strenuous.
In the north bay, the Marin Headlands fills those requirements perfectly – great views of the bay, not-too-taxing elevation, and is 15 minutes or so from the city. In the (north)east bay, the trail that runs from the Richmond marina to Point Isabel Regional Shoreline is flat and scenic, skirting along the bay waters through bird-friendly wetlands. Farther south near Fremont, the Coyote Hills Regional Park along the bay is quite unique, offering a series of hills rising up in an otherwise flat area, wide-open views and trails along bay waters.
But my choice for the best holiday hike/stroll is near Saratoga, at the Montalvo Arts Center and Villa Montalvo Arboretum County Park. The villa itself is worth the trip, an impressive Mediterranean-style manse from 1912, on the National Registrar of Historic Places, and with appropriately lush and manicured grounds to match. Unique tree species include Bunya pine, ginkgo (golden this time of year), Kashmir cypress from the Himalayas, blue needle palm from Argentina and dwarf leatherwood from Chile. But it’s directly behind the villa where you can pick up one of several trails that crisscross the 137-acre arboretum – an official Audubon Society bird sanctuary. It’s quite wooded, somewhat hilly, with well-groomed paths and signage for various tree species. And you can choose to ascend out of a redwood canyon to the 1,200-foot Lookout Point. But mostly it’s one of the more serene and lovely spots in all the Bay Area, and a perfect combination of exercise and relaxation on a long holiday weekend.