Bay Area Recreation Guide

Get Outside with the San Francisco Chronicle Outdoors Columnist and Member of the California Outdoors Hall of Fame

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First Edition
By: Tom Stienstra
Series: Foghorn Outdoors
ISBN-13: 978-1566917407
Pages: 400
Published: 2004

No matter where you are now standing in the Bay Area, this book provides a recreation getaway located within minutes — as well as hundreds of little-known spots across the region.

The Bay Area’s No. 1 outdoorsman, Tom Stienstra, doesn’t just describe a destination, he takes you there.

  • Highlights more than 500 adventures at 150 major locations, including lesser-known destinations to help you beat the crowds.
  • Features Tom Stienstra’s “Top 10” — detailing the best hikes, waterfalls, mountain bike rides, fishing spots, campgrounds, dog walks, wildlife spots, and lookouts.
  • Provides detailed park descriptions infused with Tom’s personal anecdotes – with every line fact-checked and verified by rangers.
  • Contains detailed color maps and intuitive book layout.

No matter where you live, the purpose of this book is to provide you with a getaway located within minutes of where you are now standing – as well as a guide to the hundreds of little-known spots across the region. No matter what your age or orientation to outdoor recreation, this book will provide you with the hundreds of nearby launch points in the Bay Area for hiking, biking, camping, boating, fishing, swimming, wildlife watching and cabin rentals.

It is the only complete guide to the Bay Area outdoors ever published, with 500 adventures at 150 major getaways. It includes 200 hikes, 75 bike rides, 40 campgrounds, 45 lakes, 60 fishing spots, 15 swimming spots, 100 places you can bring a dog, and dozens of places to see wildlife.

Notes from Tom: This book almost didn’t get written. Like so many people, at one time I believed there was no place left to go in the Bay Area. You may have said the same things yourself: “Too many people. All the good spots are gone. Too hard to get there.” That’s the widespread perception.

Here’s the reality: The Bay Area has roughly 150 significant parks with about 7,500 miles of trails, 20 waterfalls, a dozen mountain peaks with stellar lookouts, 10 redwood forests, 45 lakes with public access and 15 providing good fishing, 20 fishing piers, 100 miles of ocean frontage with dozens of secluded beaches, the Bay and its open waters and half-dozen islands, 40 campgrounds, including 20 secluded hike-in sites, 1,000 miles of navigable waterways, and the best salmon fishing, mountain biking and boating tours in North America. In addition, the weather that many take for granted provides for year-round recreation opportunities.

No metropolitan area in the world can offer anything close to this. So what gives? If the Bay Area offers so much, why do residents honor it so little?

I think I get it. Like many, there was a time I felt there was no place left to find, and I was considering quitting my job and leaving the Bay Area to become a guide and bush plane pilot in Alaska. Then something strange and wonderful happened:

In the course of getting certified as a pilot, I took a ride in a Piper Super Cub on a whale-watching trip off the coast of Half Moon Bay. While we saw three humpback whales, what stunned me was the view from the air, and the completely different outlook it provided for such a familiar landscape. Over the months as I learned to fly, I kept looking down at different regions of the Bay Area and seeing places I had never dreamed even existed. I could hardly wait to explore them.

Many people lose sight of the scope of the Bay Area outdoors because of the tunnel vision that occurs when heavy traffic becomes a daily routine. Yet there is roughly 90 percent open space and water, veritable wilderness, and dozens of secret lakes, hidden trails, beaches and mountain tops. Despite strips and pockets where people are jammed and roads are crowded, most of the region is wild, unsettled and beautiful — and waiting to be discovered.

Every time I hear someone say, “Some day when I can afford it, I’m going to move some place where it’s good, like Montana,” I’d like to show them the view from a plane, and so they can see what the Bay Area looks like above the traffic. They would find out as I have: It has the potential to be the best place on earth.

A tremendous plus is the relatively mild weather year-round that keeps parks accessible throughout the year, with just enough rain each winter to keep the foothills fresh and full of life.

But how do you make it work? This is how: Use this book. Find the hundreds of little-known places that have appeal to you, then go out and enjoy your favorite activities. Whether you hike, bike, fish, boat, canoe or kayak, camp or see wildlife, all the spots are in this book. I know because I’ve made it my life to find them.

Another suggestion to try to steal away days during the week, particularly weekday mornings, when you have the opportunity to have even many famous spots all to yourself.

Suddenly, you will find, as I did, that there is no reason to move to Alaska. No reason to move to Montana. It is all right here.

Enjoy your outdoors.
–Tom Stienstra

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