Fall is one of those seasons in the Bay Area that lasts a lot longer than most places. We are blessed not only with an abundance of trees and foliage, but wonderfully mild weather which allows us to enjoy the fall colors far longer than most areas of the world. Sometimes it’s hard to see, though. When you spend your time raking, bagging, and disposing of leaves you lose sight of the beauty fall brings to our year. So, why not take a little trip or even a hike to see some of our areas most beautiful and colorful sites? There are several areas you can travel to and we’ll go over each area and the best places to stop and take in the view.
Starting with the North Bay, can you name your favorite place to visit for relaxation and scenery? With one of the best viewpoints in Marin County, Samuel P. Taylor State Park is a sight to see with almost 3,000 acres to enjoy. From camping to hiking or leisurely day strolls, the mostly paved trails are accessible to everyone. Stately redwood trees will guide you as you move through the park to relax and watch salmon or hike Barnabe Peak for the splendid view. Along with the beautiful scenery, the park comes with a rich history. According to the California State Parks Division the parks’ namesake came from New York during the gold rush, struck it big, and throughout a series of prosperous business ventures eventually, with the help of the Norther Pacific Coast Railroad, built Camp Taylor, “one of the first sites in the US to offer camping as a recreational pursuit.”
With Vast tracts of land, unrivaled natural beauty, and gorgeous fall foliage, this next location is very similar to Samuel P. Taylor State Park in many ways, however, it is nothing like a state park. When you hear the words Napa Valley, you think wine, right? What if I told you some of the most breath taking natural scenery is nestled right there among the wineries? With different locations such as Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Alston Park, and Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, there is an adventure for every person in your party regardless of age and ability. Walk the beaches or hike into the hills to see the autumn colors this fall and tour the Napa Valley while you’re at it. You won’t be disappointed.
Can you think of any areas that can take your breath away, or just stop your brain for a few seconds to enjoy nature? No? Well, what if I told you, you have a treasure right in your back yard? One of the best Hiking, running, and playing trails is also one of the East Bay’s best places to view autumnal foliage. Sycamore Grove Park, in Livermore, is open to the public 365 days a year. With several entrances, a paved walk way, and plenty of picnic tables and benches, you can meander through the park at whatever pace suits you.
Besides beautiful trees, Sycamore Grove Park is home to a variety of wildlife from hawks to frogs so don’t be surprised if you have company along the trail. The 2.5 mile paved trail is easy to hike, but there are also other dirt paths you can take if you are feeling more adventurous. According to the LARPD you can, “…enjoy a leisurely stroll over relatively flat terrain or climb into the hills for fabulous views across the Livermore Valley.” Whatever suits you needs, you can easily find it in Sycamore Grove Park.
Right down the road in Berkley is another East Bay gem. Tilden Regional Park’s 2,079 acres is not only home to wildlife, insects, and plants, but is a great place for the entire family to enjoy. From their carousel and lake swimming to the regal botanical gardens, Tilden Regional Park has a wide selection of activities for young and old alike. Named for the first president of the Park Districts board, the park boasts a golf course, a merry-go-round, and an education center at its heart. According to the East Bay Regional Park District, “One of the District’s three oldest parks, Tilden has been called the jewel of the system, and its recreational activities have become a happy tradition for generations of East Bay youngsters.” So, why not take a little journey down the road and see what this magnificent park has to offer this fall.
Traveling South we enter the twilight zone…Just joking! Actually the South Bay is quite the opposite; from a throbbing night life to one of the most gorgeous natural settings in Northern California, this diverse area is only a short drive away and offers some splendid fall color viewing.
Unlike most of the other parks and areas we’ve talked about so far, Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell State Park is not for the faint of heart. It’s a hard 7 mile hike through rugged terrain. There are no facilities to stop and rest at, and it’s mostly untouched by modern amenities…so, no bathrooms. If you’re still reading at this point and you haven’t skipped on to the next location then you’re in for a treat. Even though this trail is hard and unrelenting, because of the mostly untouched nature of the area, the fall viewing is unparalleled. A vast array of native plants and trees tower over the trails, wildlife meanders between foliage, and a profound sense of peace can be expected. According to Bay Area Hiker, “The peak time for a visit may be autumn, when trails are stable, temperatures cool, and big-leaf maples put on a show.” So, if you’re feeling adventurous throw on those hiking boots and meet us out there!
Suited to both veteran outdoorsmen (and women) and relatively untested adventurers, the Saratoga Gap Preserve has the concept of fall colors down pat. This location is somewhat smaller than the previously mentioned spots, but that doesn’t affect its ability to provide some of the most brilliant fall foliage viewing in the area. Featuring a diverse mix of both evergreen and oak, this hilly space is open to hikers, bikers, and horse riders alike who wish to partake in the amenities of the park.
In Northern California we are one of the lucky few states to actually boast a peninsula, so it would be fitting to find some of our most beautiful foliage ensconced on it, right?
One of the easiest to reach and more mild viewing spots on our list is Huddart Park. Located only a few minutes outside of San Francisco, Huddart Park offers amenities such as a children’s play area, picnic area, barbecue pits, and well maintained trails for hiking, biking, and riding. Although mild in setting, don’t let the simplicity fool you. Huddart Park is home to a dizzying array of deciduous and evergreen trees which make for stunning fall colors when nestled in the cool canyons of the preserve.
Purisima Creek Trail is a giant in comparison to other preserves at nearly 5,000 acres. Snuggled into the Santa Cruz Mountains, this glorious park is home to redwoods and other deciduous tree species both native and imported. Once decimated by logging, the area was reclaimed and now sits protected and preserved for future generations, although remnants of the damage can still be found throughout the area. If you are looking for a view then this is the park to visit. The Pacific coast and Half Moon Bay can be seen from the Northern slopes of the preserve, and the incredible variations of ferns and wildflower that fill the space between the trees offers an unrivaled viewing experience.
Although the 654 acre estate seems dwarfed by the looming giants that are our wonderful nature preserves, there is a reason I saved it for last. On a guided nature tour, you will be led by streams, guided though fields, and escorted through the diverse ecosystem that is the Filoli Gardens and Nature Preserve. More than just a hike, the historical country home offers events, a learning center, and many other activities for participants willing to join. A shining example of the Georgian Era of Architecture and an almost ancient sense of brotherly compassion and love, Filoli is not just an educational experience, but during the fall it becomes a wonderland of fall colors.
So, weather you live on the peninsula, or one of the other 3 corners of our local world, you are closer than you think to some amazing fall entertainment. Are you feeling inspired to take a hike or visit your nearest historical chapter? I hope so! You never know what you can learn until you go out into the world and take a look, so hop in your car or on your bike and go, go, go! If this segment inspired you to visit our parks, view our lovely fall colors, or just go outside and enjoy your yard, feel free to subscribe to ensure you get the next installment. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter! See you next time!
- California Department of Parks and Recreation. Samuel P.Taylor State Park. [Guide] (November 19, 2015) retrieved from: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=469
- Napa Valley. Napa Valley Parks and Beaches. [Guide] (November 19, 2015) retrieved from: http://www.napavalley.com/businesses/index/filter:parks-and-beaches
- Livermore Area Recreation and Park District. Sycamore Grove Park. [Guide] (November 19, 2015) retrieved from: http://www.larpd.org/open_space/sycamore.html
- East Bay Regional Park District. Tilden Regional Park. [Guide] (November 19, 2015) Retrieved From: http://www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden.htm
- Bay Area Hiker. Fall Creek Unit, Henry Cowell State Park, California State Parks, Santa Cruz County. [Blog] (September 14, 2001) Retrieved From: http://bahiker.com/southbayhikes/fallcreek.html
- Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space. Saratoga Gap. [Guide] (November 19, 2015) retrieved from: http://www.openspace.org/preserves/saratoga-gap
- County of San Mateo Parks Department. Huddart Park. [Guide] (November 19, 2015) Retrieved From: http://parks.smcgov.org/huddart-park
- Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space. Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve. [Guide] (November 19, 2015) Retrieved from: http://www.openspace.org/preserves/purisima-creek-redwoods