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From high chaparral to the high Sierras, Northern California offers some of the most varied hiking in the United States. Within three and a half hours from San Francisco Bay you can be climbing up into the glacier sculpted beauty of Desolation Wilderness. Even closer is trout-filled, lake-studded Emigrant Wilderness.
Just north of the city is Point Reyes National Seashore. Here you can hike for several days, rubbing elbows with northern fur seal, California sea lion and the rare Tule elk.
North and east of Point Reyes is Snow Mountain Wilderness. Tucked away in the southern spur of Mendocino National Forest, Snow Mountain peaks at over 7,000 feet and is considered an ecological wonderland.
Traveling southeast of the Bay, find Henry W. Coe State Park. Less than 30 miles from San Jose, Henry Coe is the second largest state park in California. It teems with wildlife and, considering its proximity to the Bay, sees strikingly little foot traffic.
Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, one of the best-loved trails in the Bay Area, runs from the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains down to Waddell Beach, on the Pacific Ocean. It travels through two state parks and great stands of coastal redwood and alder.
In the heart of Big Sur country, the Ventana Wilderness may cause you to trade in your Gore-tex boots and nylon shorts for a pair of flip flops and cut-off jeans. Amazing sunsets play off the steep slopes of manzanita and scrub grass. So go. Grab your boots, your bag, and one very large peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or the like). Leave all responsibilities on your desk: they will be there when you get back -- I promise. There's great hiking in almost any direction you travel.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication