One of the best parts about living close to the bay area is the influx of outdoor activities whether it's a leisurely stroll through the presidio or grueling uphill hikes throughout the bay. Each with incredible views at the top or along the way. The bay area has it all. Hundreds if not thousands of trails with dozens of waterfalls throughout the vicinity. I compiled a short list of my favorite day hikes in the bay area. All within an hour drive from San Francisco. If it has a view, I'm there or it's on my list. Enjoy.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Sedona, Arizona then jump on it. The scenery around town is to die for. Stunning red rock formations everywhere. The town is full of local art galleries, craft stores, world-class resorts, I swear every commercial building blended in with the rust-red like landscape, and beautiful southwest style homes line the streets throughout the town.
Despite route 1 being extremely crowded, it is by far one of the best scenic drives in America. The drive is absolutely stunning. From Monterey down to Big Sur, the drive offers multiple vista points and beaches to snap a picture, stare at the gorgeous ocean that looks like a thousanddiamonds strewn across a blue blanket, or if you are like me, people watch. In this case, tourist watch. My favorite spot had to be Bixby Bridge. It may be just a bridge but it had aesthetics with the beach and the turquoise blue waters, it was a stunning view.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was a disappointment to be honest.This was the first stop and the website said they allowed dogs but half the trails in the park did not allow dogs. Our plan was to hike Pfeiffer Falls but with signs everywhere and other places to see before sunset, we didn't take the risk. We walked around for a total of ten minutes along the creek so Joose my dog could get some exercise in. What a waste of $10. No worthy pictures here. Next stop!
Pfeiffer beach was next with a decent crowd. It was so windy it felt like I was in a sandstorm. There was a few natural arch rocks that offered great views which apparently is one of the most photographed spots in Big Sur. How about them apples? In the water along the rocks there were clams and these neon green sea orchids so that was a must to take a picture of. We had to wait in line to park because parking was full but it worth the narrow road you have to take to get there. Make sure you don't miss the turn on Sycamore Canyon road because it is unmarked so you have to pay attention. If you are heading south on route 1 it's after Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park but before the post office on the right hand side. Oh! Make you have that Alexander Hamilton bill because they only accept cash.
Mcway falls was absolutely stunning. Watching an 80 foot waterfall cash into the ocean is something out of this world. This trail was about a half mile roughly stroll on a well kept trail that was crowded out and back. You can not miss this place due to the flock of cars and the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park sign across the road. I wanted to stay here and enjoyed this view for hours upon hours. My goal is to hang my hammock up and sleep overlooking the falls. I found a spot and I'm not telling til I do so:)
A few things to keep in mind while traveling to Big Sur;
- Plan ahead - We barely had any cell phone service (we have Verizon and AT&T) so bring maps, write down phone numbers, etc. (Write down numbers you say? I know we have to go old school here, suck it up you will be fine without Facebook)
- Big Sur = Tourist trap - The shops and gas station will light a fire in your pocket so be sure to bring extra cash for the $6 peanut butter, $3 for that soda you have been craving, $11 for that puny sandwich, or the $50 meals that will make you hungry in an hour.
- Staying overnight? - Don't stay in Big Sur unless you don't mind paying $300-1000 for a double. They do offer campsites but like I said earlier, plan ahead because they book fast.
- Have fun - Stay for a few days and enjoy the trails they offer, the stunning ocean views, and get off the beaten path to enjoy the region from a different perspective.
I don't know about you but I am not a fan of tourists wandering around aimlessly getting in someones way. If you haven't been to Santa Cruz, well its just that. This was my second time visiting and the first time was a complete mess during the summer. People from all over the world walking around with a beer in hand and a funnel cake in the other. (Don't get me wrong, I fucking love funnel cake.) They get in your way because A. They are hammered and stumbling everywhere. B. Foreigners do not know that we as Americans are supposed to walk on the right hand side of the sidewalk. Unfortunately, half of Americans still have not figured this out. :-(
Now, if you want to enjoy the beautiful pristine beaches and natural beauty of coastline, without the hassle of a busy crowd, check out Wilder Ranch State Park. My girlfriend and I decided we wanted to get away from the busy city one day and head south to Santa Cruz. A short hour drive from Oakland. Well, depending who drives right? She is a go-with-the-flow type of girl so I suggested this place and of course she was totally game. No questions asked. Women love the sun, beaches, and the ocean. Win Win!
Wilder Ranch is located roughly five minutes north of Santa Cruz right off the famous Pacific Coast Highway Route 1. One of the most scenic drives in America which I highly recommend to anyone. This is a State Park so there was a $10 Car pass to get into the park. Why can't all parks be free?! There are multiple hiking trails here but the one we hiked which is relatively flat the whole way was the Old Landing Cove Trail which connects to Ohlone Bluff Trail. At 7.6 miles out and back, this a very easy trail to hike with the lil chaps (children) or grand parents.
When you first get to the ocean during the hike, there is Wilder Beach to your left which apparently is privately owned and were not supposed to go there. Rules are meant to be broken and i am not going to let a sign stop me to enjoy pristine views of a beach all to ourselves. The hard part is climbing down which wasn't too bad. Once you get down there, there is a cove that goes about 10-15 feet deep that looks into the ocean (see photo below).
The trail offers astounding views of the cliffs to gaze at along the way. You want to get close to the ocean or get in it safely you say? Well you are in luck my friend. There are a few beaches you are able to walk down a path to catch some rays, have a picnic, roll around in the sand or jump into the bitter cold water. Your choice! Here is the Brochure they offer on the website so you have a better idea of the layout of the park. Another spot to stop at is Natural Bridges State Park as well. Murica!
I remember when I first found out about this bridge. I was surfing the good ole internet for places to see and things to do on one of my favorite site to find stuff; Roadtrippers. The picture they had on the website intrigued me instantly. If you don't know me, I am a visual person. If I like what I see, I am going after it. That can go multiple ways but we will keep it to landscapes and scenery. This was my first stop during my road trip to Oregon.
The Sundial Bridge crosses over the Sacramento River and when you walk to the other side of the river I remember standing at the tip of the sundial shadow and thought this was pretty cool, its hot out let me cool down for a little bit. Then I look behind me and there is this concrete arc that the shadow traced during the day. Every couple of feet or so there was a metal symbol with a time on it. I looked at the time it posted on the concrete arc and then my phone. They were almost identical. I don't know about you, but the small things intrigue me. Back in the day as early as 1500 BC this is how they used to tell time and I was able to see it in action thousand plus years later.
If you live near Redding, California or passing through, this is a great place to check out with the family because if once you are done admiring the walking sundial bridge or taking a dip in the river, Turtle Bay Exploration Park is next door. Exhibitions, a museum, animals, and a coffer bar in case you need that caffeine fix! A few other places nearby I would recommend is Lake Shasta, Mt. Shasta, Waterfall hikes which I will be posting about in the near future, Lake Shasta Caverns, and Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Sometimes plans don't work out the way they should. We found out the hard way this morning when we were about to head to Havasu falls. We get in touch with reservations and they tell us we need a permit no matter what to get into the Indian Reservation. They no longer allow day trip hikes which is 10 miles to the campgrounds and falls. She also told us they are booked for the next 2 weeks. Great! Now what do we do? This was our last stop and our plan failed. Plan b? We didn't have one. Note to self; always have a plan B to plan A. Fuck it I'm pretty floored by now so what does Donny do when he's mad? Eat! Donny hungry! We decide over breakfast that we are just going to wing it and start heading back home and stop if there is anything exciting to see. Looks like Hoover Damn is on the way. The Hoover Dam itself was a great piece of work. An incredible engineering feat for sure. Lake mead on one side that was split between two states then the road you could driver over and then the other side was the river and the view of the Pat Tillman bridge. We drove over the Pat Tillman memorial bridge which was pretty cool because I've always been a fan of what pat was about. I read a book about him and it was probably one of the best books I've read so far. If you are looking for a good recommendation for a book, check that one out. After the Hoover Dam there is not much to see. Desert, bushes, and mountains but we found a Ghost Town in Calico, California bustled up against the calico mountains. An old silver mining town that has been around since 1881. I've always been a fan of abandoned buildings and towns like this so this would be cool to check out. Once we pull up to the gate there was a sign for $8 entry fee. Why does everything have to cost money?! Luckily for us it was about to close so there was no one was collecting money. Woot woot! Everything is better when it's free! When I first walked up the town, it wasn't what I expected. It looked like the town was being renovated and they had actual stores, tours, and a real steam engine that still runs which they used back in the day to get into the mines. It was nifty to see the old blacksmith building and noticing all the tools they used back then. I sat in a bathtub from that Era that was in front of a house. The house which had a bed was no bigger than a modern-day walk in closet. Talk about a tiny home! This is worth checking out since it's right off the interstate 40. Note to self, do not stop at the express gas station in Newberry Springs. I am pretty positive someone died in the restrooms. Bugs flying around everywhere and the stench of urine and who knows what else is unbearable. I had to take a deep breath and dive in and do my duties. If I had to hold my breath underwater for over 20 seconds, I'd totally die! Anyways, I have to say I had a blast with the group of friends I road tripped with. We butted heads and had our differences but we all got along in the end. A few lessons learned but that comes along with road trip. All in all, great success! Murica!
One natural wonder checked off my list. The Grand Canyon is on another level when you think of points of interest or tourist attractions. We decided to enter via the desert view visitor center and drive the south rim stopping at the Vistas along the way to the Grand Canyon visitor center for a fancy dancy magnet and food of course. When i walked up to the Vistas along south rim, I was in shock and awe. I just stared in amazement for a couple minutes and then I finally gathered myself. 18 miles wide and 1 mile deep with 12 visible geologic layers of earth the Colorado River carved it's way over nearly 2 billions years. It makes you wonder, how the hell is that possible?! Well I'm no expert on that kind of stuff but from what I read it's from land masses colliding and drifting apart, mountains forming and eroding away, sea levels rising and falling, and then relentless forces of moving water. This is a land to inspire our spirit. After we enjoyed the stunning views the Grand Canyon had to offer, we headed south so we can get closer to Havasu so we can stay closer before we head there in the am which is still an hour plus drive without including the hike or helicopter ride we decide on. We are searching for hotels and Bedrock City pops up. The Flintstones?! Fuck ya! It'll bring back some childhood memories and take a short tour around what they had to offer. They had everything you could imagine from the cartoon. It was a great 30 mins of fun touring the houses and other buildings they had on display. So worth it for an attraction right off route 66. Murica!
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I woke up to a beautiful sunrise from my hammock on top of Zion. Another beautiful sight to see. Then reality hit and I realized I still have to hike back. Oh! Since JD was complaining about this shoulders being raw because he accidentally bought a woman's backpack, he made me carry this heavy ass tent. Oh great, 10 more lbs to carry on my back. WIDE LOAD! Watch out! The upside of this hike was that it's mostly downhill but still kicked my ass. 5 more miles and it took half the time than the day before. My feet are killing me and my body is physically drained. All I could think coming down the mountain was to roll around in a bed of a medium rare steak, mashed potatoes, and veggies after I shotgun a cool blue Gatorade. Those Fuckers are delicious. If you haven't had one, you are missing out and it'll change your life! If you have disagree, we'll you're drunk. Go home! Unfortunately I had to settle for a chicken quesadilla and a POWERade. It's ok, it's better than snacking on highly processed snacks and purified water from a spring. (lesson learned) Anyways, let's get to the nitty gritty and talk about the journey to Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend which are both minutes from each other in Page, AZ. First off, if you don't mind paying double the price then goto upper antelope canyon where they charge an insane $8 permit to get on the Indian Reservation plus $40 for the tour. Now lower antelope is half the price with basically the same views. I will eventually check the other one out when I make my way down here again. For $28 through Kens Tours this was probably worth every penny because if you look from the ground you don't notice the canyon at all. Then you walk down a ladder into this majestic beauty of smooth and beautiful red weathered rock from flash floods carving it's unique path the past million plus years. We finally finished our guided tour which you must have by the way which sucked because there were so many people in the way for that perfect picture you keep waiting to take but can't because the people in front of you will not get out of the way. If you try and ask them nicely, they don't understand English. Damn tourists! Our last stop for the day was Horseshoe Bend which is right off U.S. 89 just south of Page. We pull up to the parking lot and it's absolutely packed. Mind you this at 7pm. Don't people have to eat or something? Apparently not. Anyways, it's about a quarter mile stroll in the sand with all kinds of foreigners with their selfie sticks and massive iPads. The more you travel, you realize it's more common than you think. I'm not judging but its a sight to see. I got up to the edge to overlook the Colorado River that carved it's way through the earth to create this incredible view. This view was massive, it's one of those views where a cell phone will not capture the whole scene. Thank God for the gopro wide eye. In the photo I share you can see people and a boat. It puts it into perspective on how small they look and how big this place is. I could sit there for hours just staring in the sunset...
Time to hike to our camp site off the west rim trail. Another 5 miles and part of it is the treacherous Angels landing trail in the scorching heat! Hey, can't stop now. Sounds like a blasty blast! Not! But I love it. It's all about the journey. This is why I do it. Along with it, comes peace, tranquility, solitude and my favorite, freedom. After a 2 mile hike to Scouts Overlook. We took a left to continue onto the west rim trail to our campsite which is a other 3 more miles of ascent. For a guy that works out 6 days a week, this is no walk in the park. I'm exhausted, soaked in sweat as I type this part resting under a tree waiting for my 3 hiking companions. Almost 6 hours later we finally made it to the top and I'm cramping so bad. I look at my calves and it looks like a bad chemistry experience going on in my legs. It's crazy looking. I have to say my view from my hammock is fucking awesome. 6500+ ft with an incredible Canyon views. I'm ready for an ice cold beverage and a steak dinner but unfortunately I get to live off of rationed water and snacks from the store until tomorrow morning. I got my photos, my friends,and this view. It was crazy how we encountered deer. They would come up within 10 feet from us. Finally the sun set and the stars came out. Wow what a sight to see! I going on break! Murica!
Its 4pm. It's about time we get started. It's time to hike Angels Landing, one of the most scenic hikes with the best views of zion national park. As we took the shuttle to weeping rock where our trailhead was. Known for being one of the most dangerous hikes in the world because of the 10" path with just a chain to hold onto with a 1000 foot drop off cliff. Here I am, halfway to the top of angels landing. Holding onto chain rails for dear life as I look either to my right or left, it's a frightening thousand plus feet drop on either side. I can see the tiny little shuttle buses on the road and people look like ants. Time to continue. Another break. Wow this is exhausting,but the mission must continue. It's always nice to have small talk with the random travelers. Just talked to some people from Montana doing a thirty day adventure which was pretty sweet. Finally made it to the top! I'm exhausted but it was so worth it to see the incredible views. Now it's time set up my hammock. I have been thinking where I could hang my hammock the whole time and I found a spot at the very top. Perfection! I have to say it was so badass to just relax in my hammock enjoying one of the most amazing views in the world with not a care in the world. As I set up my hammock, someone saw mine and said I beat him to hanging it up. We ended up talking and he was a freelance photographer that's been trying to make it. We talked the whole way down the rest of the trail talking about traveling, solitude, adventures, and life in general. It was pretty sweet, I made a friend today. Murica!
Its 0900, my favorite orange ultra zero monster in hand, backpack ready to roll, and here I am waiting on Jd. Where the hell is he? Oh, he's late. Who would've thunk?! The man that basically got me all hyped up on mountain dew about hiking and going on these adventures. He just got back from his deployment from Jordan and the first thing he tells me when I pick him up from the airport, "Bro! Let's go on a roadtrip!" Well, you don't have to twist my arm to have a good time. I'm easy to please. So we rummaged through Roadtrippers (which I used for my Oregon Roadtrip where I will be posting about it in the near future) and put together a sweet roadtrip from northern California to southern Utah, Grand Canyon and northern Arizona. It looks like we will be picking up his sister and she's bringing a friend. Oh great, two females to slow us down. Jd and I are always on a mission and we don't like being held up by a slow herd of cattle causing traffic. How do I know this? The hike that sparked it all was last year with Jd, his sister that just got back from Japan serving a tour over there, and myself. We decided to hike mission peak which is by fremont, California. Brittany is an awesome girl and we gave her such a hard time about how slow she was and weighed us down but its ok, She can handle the heat so she's allowed in the kitchen. It's all in fun:) After hours of driving through the so exciting central Valley, (insert sarcasm here) we end up taking a detour because death Valley was farther than we expected. We found Red Rock Canyon that had cool rock formations as our first stop. Which was alright but nothing to go crazy over. As we make our way over to Las Vegas for the night, driving through the Mojave desert, it was interesting by itself. Nothing but abandoned homes, desert, extreme blistering temperatures year round, and so much emptiness. We came across Lake Dolores rock-a-hoola Waterpark that has been abandoned for over a decade. Makes me think, what was it like 50 years ago? Was the area prospering? What happened?
Everytime I drove past this place which was across the Bart station in Lafayette, California I was curious as to what it was. A big hill with thousands of crosses along with a sign that indicated a number at the top as you can see in the picture. I did some research and come to find out its called #hillofcrosses or Crosses of Lafayette. A memorial for all the men and women that have been killed in #iraq during the #iraqifreedom #war so it meant a little more than any other memorial since I am still serving in the air force. 6981 have lost their lives of the other day. I may not serve on the front line but I have the utmost respect for these soldiers putting their life on the line to protect our country and give us our freedom. If you are in the area I would recommend stopping by and have a moment of silence for the fallen. Murica!
This pool was carved out of beautiful granite from the years of erosion with cliffs to jump off of to get that adrenaline pump some of us need daily. 15 foot to 25-30 foot cliffs into a deep pool that ranges from 10-20 feet deep. Along the edges of the pool are little "potholes" where you are able to relax and enjoy the view