These are my favorite 6 hikes and they are very different by nature. They are all between San Francisco and Santa Cruz.
1. Wilder Ranch State Park. I love to take the Ohlone Bluff Trail for a few miles and see the waves crash onto the cliffs and the beach and then walk back along the unused rail track through farmers land. This hike can be combined with a visit to Santa Cruz boardwalk and warf or a drive along the beautiful coastal highway 1.
2.Russian Ridge. I love this park because of the great views over the Bay and the Pacific Ocean at the same time. When the sky is clear you can see all the way to San Francisco. I also love to drive up to the mountains over the winding roads of Page Mill Road and over Skyline boulevard and stop at Alice’s Restaurant. This is a popular place for motor bikers and owners of authentic cars to meet and show off. It is also a great place to have blue berry pancakes for breakfast.
3. Palo Alto Baylands Park. This is one of the largest marshlands in the bay area and it is full of birds and birdwatchers. At low tide the birds feed in the mud. I often go running 5 miles on the Adobe Creek Loop Trail starting at 2691 Terminal Blvd, Mountain View. It is beautiful around sunset.
4. Big Basin Redwoods State Park. If you love big trees, go here. There are over 80 miles of trails. In summer go early because the parking lot fills up quickly. After hiking we usually went to the beautiful town Boulder Creek for a beer or milkshake and burger in Boulder Creek Beer Brewery.
5. Castle Rock State Park. I loved the unusual rock formations and the waterfalls in this park. The park attracts a lot of rock climbers.
6. Lands End Trail is in San Francisco and goes from the Sutro Baths to the Golden Gate bridge through the forest and over the beach. You will have a series of stunning views. On your way to the trail you will drive passed the Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach.